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Why did some Sahabah Consider Marrying Women of the Book Haram?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by DarulIftaBirmingham

Answered by: Alimah Nasima Umm Hamza



Is it true that some companions considered marrying women of the Book haraam? Are the following narrations authentic?

It is narrated that Umar (R.A) wrote another letter to Huzaifah (R.A) saying, ‘I hereby put you on oath that you would before you put down this letter from your hands, divorce and release her because I fear other Muslims start following you and begin choosing women from amongst the People of the Book because of their beauty (bypassing Muslim women in the process). What greater trial there could be for Muslim women.’ (Kitabul Athaar – Ma’ariful Quran Volume 3 page 81 – Farid book depot).

Abdullah bin Umar (R.A.) said, ‘Certainly Allah has made the polytheist’s women Haram for Muslims, and I do not know of any shirk more grave than a woman should say that her Lord and God is Jesus the son of Mary.’ (Ahkam Al Quran by Abu Bakr Al Jasas. Suhail academy Lahore Pakistan.)

A similar event also occurred with two other companions who got married to women from the People of the Book. When Umar (R.A.) heard about this, he became very angry and displeased with them for what they did. Upon this, the companions divorced these women. (Fathul  Qadeer – Ibn Al Humam – Tafseer Mazhari Volume 3 Page 255 Darul Ishaat Karachi 2010)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


Allah (swt) in the Quran informs us that marrying women of the Book has been made permissible.

Allah (swt) says-

وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ

“And lawful in marriage are chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you…” (Surah Al-Mai’dah, Verse 5)

It is important that we understand that the permissibility to marry women of the Book does not come in an unrestricted manner and that the fuqaha have laid down guidelines regarding what is allowed and what isn’t in regards to this.

Allama Ibn Abideen discusses this in his fiqh work ‘Raddul Muhtaar Ala Durrul Mukhtar’. He says that marrying a woman of the Book is permitted, although it is disliked (makruh tanzeehan). A woman of the Book is defined as someone who believes in an accepted prophet sent with a revealed book.

He clarifies that it is disliked (Makruh Tanzeehan) to marry a woman of the Book (kitaabi), but it is forbidden (Makruh Tahreeman) to marry a harbi woman of the Book – i.e. a woman of the Book who the Muslims are at war with.[1]

We know that our Prophet (pbuh) also encouraged marrying a woman for Deen and religious virtue, so it is expected for a Muslim man to marry a Muslim woman.

Therefore, we can see that the views of the sahabah have grounding when they disliked for someone to marry a woman of the Book, even asking for her to be divorced.

The narration of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab asking Hudhayfah to divorce his Jewish wife is authentic. Ibn Kathir quotes it in his tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah, verse 221. Umar (ra) did not say it was haram, but rather disliked due to fear of fitna.

Ibn Kathir also mentions that the narration from Umar (ra) that he asked 2 companions to divorce their wives, is a ‘ghareeb’ narration, meaning it only has one narrator for it.

Ibn Kathir also quotes the narration that Ibn Umar (ra) disliked a person marrying a woman of the Book. Bukhari narrates that Ibn Umar said he does not know greater shirk than her saying Jesus is her lord.[2]

We can conclude that the two companions Umar and Ibn Umar (ra) did not say it was haram to marry a woman of the book, but rather they disliked it.

Only Allah knows best

Written by Alimah Nasima Umm Hamza

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham


[1] Raddul Muhtaar, Volume 3, Page 45

[2] Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Surah al-Baqarah, verse 221

This answer was collected from DarulIftaBirmingham.co.uk, which is run under the supervision of Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah from the United Kingdom.

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