Qur'an 5:5 permits Muslim men to marry chaste women of the book. However, according to IslamWeb, there is an exception: a Muslim man may not marry a woman who is an ex-Muslim (a.k.a., an apostate). They quote:

Ibn Qudaamah said: “It is prohibited to marry an apostate woman, no matter what religion she adopts; because it is not proved for her the ruling of the people of the religion to which she converted by one's approval of her doing so. Based on this, it is not lawful for him to marry her with greater reason.” [Al-Mughni 7/131]

The English in this translation is not clear, so I'm not sure what "it is not proved for her the ruling of the people of the religion to which she converted by one's approval of her doing so" actually means.

This leads me to my question:

Question: What evidence is there that a Muslim man can not marry a chaste woman of the book if she is an ex-Muslim?

I think IslamWeb refers to Ibn Qudamah on Wikipedia, who was around hundreds of years after the Prophet. If this is correct, what IslamWeb presents is just one scholar's opinion. However, it's possible this scholar had other justifications for making this ruling.

  • 1
    I believe what he was saying is that you cannot apply the ruling of the People of the Book to her without approving her change to their religion. And based on that you cannot marry her lest you approve of her apostasy.
    – The Z
    May 8, 2018 at 2:25
  • 1
    Because apostasy is punishable with death\imprisonment. Islam does not recognize her marriage, be it with a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
    – UmH
    May 8, 2018 at 3:42
  • Apostasy is considered as different than kufr or shirk and can only be "repaired" by turning back to Islam.
    – Medi1Saif
    May 8, 2018 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


Some evidences

I'll quote in the following a few evidences that can be used to describe and deduce rulings for apostates.

From the Qur'an:

  • ... . And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever - for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally. (2:217)

  • And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember. (2:221)

  • Indeed, those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief - never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a way. (4:137)

  • And do not pray [the funeral prayer, O Muhammad], over any of them who has died - ever - or stand at his grave. Indeed, they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger and died while they were defiantly disobedient. (9:84)

From the sunnah

  • 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'" (see for example in sahih al-Bukhari)

  • A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu'adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism." Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle".
    (See for example in sahih al-Bukhari and sahih Muslim which is close to a version in sunan abi Dawod showing that it is essential to ask them to repent before applying the hadd)

  • Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims." (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Some Conclusions

  • apostasy is among the biggest sins and will not be forgiven if one dies without repentance.
  • apostates might be of different kinds, but if they should be punished by the prescribed had one is asked to ask them to repent before applying the ruling.
  • An apostate who reverts to a religion (even if he'll become from among ahl al-Kitaab) is still considered an apostate.
  • once one of two Muslims spouses becomes an apostate their marriage is invalid/ends, unless he/she repents within the 'iddah (according scholars, however they differ on qualifying it as a divorce or faskh).
  • once a person became an apostate the ruling of disbelievers apply on him/her (for example no heritage see for example in sahih al-Bukhari etc.).

The fiqh views

Maybe the statement of ibn Qudamah is among the strongest one may find. I could only find statements of other scholars and schools of fiqh supporting it without covering the identical topic -maybe due to lack of time or good research-!

The so called Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta gave the following fatwa on a question asking about a man who married a Christian (woman) who in first place converted to Islam, but with the time decided to leave the prayers and leave Islam and turn back to Christianity as follows (My own translation take it carefully):

لا يجوز لمسلم أن يبقي على زوجته المسلمة التي خرجت عن دين الإسلام، سواء إلى غير دين أو إلى ما كانت تعتنقه من قبل من الأديان الأخرى؛
It is not permitted for a Muslim (man) to keep his (former) Muslim wife which has left Islam, to whatever religion else or to whatever she religion she was following earlier among the other religions.

لأنها بخروجها من الإسلام ولو اعتنقت اليهودية أو النصرانية لم يبق لها حكم الكتابية، وتعتبر مرتدة تجري عليها أحكام المرتدين. (Source: Answer ج3 here)
This is because once she left Islam and even if she reverted back to Judaism or Christianity the ruling of people of the book is no more applied on her, but she is considered as an apostate and only the rulings of apostates are applied on her.

Note that marrying an apostate is not only prohibited for Muslim apostates this ruling even applies for a Jew who became a Christian etc. (A Muslim man wouldn't therefore be allowed to marry a chaste Christian who was a former Jew unless she accepted Islam) as Islam is the final message and Muhammad () the last prophet and messenger according Qur'an reverting back to a former or different religion is not accepted and is set equal to disbelief or shirk! An apostate who left Islam even is not allowed to marry anybody according scholars, so chastity doesn't play any role here.

In his book the Islamic Jurisprudence and its proofs الفقه الإسلامي وأدلته of Sheikh Wahbah az-Zuhaili you may find among the prohibited marriages the following statements (My own translation take it carefully):

  • المنتقلة من دين إلى آخر: لا يحل نكاحها، ولا يقبل منها إلا الإسلام.

  • The woman who has switched from one religion to another: It is not permissible to marry her, and nothing else but Islam would be accepted from her!

  • زواج المسلمة بكافر، وزواج المرتدة: فلا تحل مسلمة لكافر بالإجماع، لقوله تعالى: {ولا تُنكحوا المشركين} [البقرة:221/ 2] ولا تحل مرتدة لأحد، لا لمسلم؛ لأنها كافرة لا تقر على ردتها، ولا لكافر لبقاء تعلق الإسلام بها.
    The marriage of a Muslimah with a disbeliver (kafir) and the marriage with an apostate: a Muslimah is not allowed to be married by a kafir by consensus, due to (2:221) "And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women]" and an apostate is prohibited for anybody; not to a Muslim because she is a disbeliever who is not admitting her apostasy, nor for a disbeliever as the faith of Islam is still hang on her.

    وإن ارتد أحد الزوجين أو كلاهما قبل الدخول، بطل النكاح، وإن كان بعد الدخول ينتظر: فإن جمعهما الإسلام في العدة دام النكاح، وإن لم يجمعهما الإسلام في العدة، فلا يدوم النكاح.
    And if one of the spouses apostates or both before the marriage was consummated, the nikah is nullified, if the marriage was consummated, if they turned back to Islam before the end of the 'Idah then the nikah goes on, else the nikah has ended.

The last statement (about marriage of apostates and the rulings) can also be found in ibn al-Maqris شرف الدين إسماعيل بن المقري روض الطالب ونهاية مطلب الراغب rawd at-Talib (See in volume 2 here) and it's commentary of Zakaria al-Ansari زكريا بن محمد بن زكريا الأنصاري (See here in asna al-Matalib -Arabic)(shafi'i) a similar statement can be found in nosb ar-raya of the hanafi scholar az-Zayla'i الزيلعي according partly my own research and the fatwa on islamweb #74039. And you may find similar statements in fiqh books of the other schools of Jurisprudence.

Some sources:

  • on the rulings of riddah (apostasy) al-eman (in Arabic) and on islamqa #14231.
  • A fatwa on the qualification of a separation in case of the apostasy of one of the spouses (islamweb #25611 in Arabic) the mufti here considers the maliki view, saying it is a talaq as stronger than that of the majority saying it is faskh! The shi'a marji' as-Sistani in these fatwas -Arabic link- also holds the opinion that a marriage ends once one of the spouses apostates and he considers that there's no difference between an apostate who just leaves Islam or reverts to another monotheistic religion after being a Muslim!

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