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I recently reverted to Islam. The girl I'm dating is ok with that. We have talk about marriage and she's Evangelical Christian. I know Islam allows for Muslim men to marry Christian and Jewish women, however it does specifies that they must be "chaste" (as per what the Quran says as I understand). And she's not, she as me was sexually active before we met, and also she was molested as a child thus loosing her virginity in a non-consensual way to begin with. But I wonder if the chastity part in the Quran refers to the idea they should be virgins before marriage or just that they should be celibate (as for example a rape victim is not virgin but can't be consider that she choose to have sex). Thank you.

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  • Doesn't sound like she's actually an evangelical Christian. Unless you mean "evangelical" in the American political sense (where it has very little to do with religion)? Nov 29, 2023 at 11:37
  • We're not Americans and we do not live in the US
    – Abel
    Nov 29, 2023 at 12:13

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In general it is permitted but not recommended to marry a non-muslim: Are inter-religious marriages encouraged in islam? All Christian denominations are the same in this respect, however political affiliation can matter as some madhabs such as the Hanafis consider it forbidden (makruh tahrimi) to marry a woman who is not a dhimmi (resident of an Islamic state).

As for your question, note that the interpretation of محصنات in 5:5 varies. One, which you have mentioned, is that it means chaste - this does not mean virgin or celibate rather it means that she must not be having illicit sexual relations outside marriage, so for example a widow or divorcee can be chaste while not being virgin. Being molested against her will does not make her unchaste as that is not within her control, but willingly engaging in sexual relations outside marriage does make her unchaste, especially if this is ongoing and not something which she regrets.

Another interpretation is that it means free i.e. not a slave. As marriage of a free man with a slave women is not permitted except in exceptional circumstances, and even then it is not permitted with a non-muslim slave according to some madhabs. This is the same as conveyed in verse 4:25. And one interpretation is that it means that she must perform the ritual bath for purification after sex and menstruation.

اختلفوا في معنى " المحصنات " فذهب أكثر العلماء إلى أن المراد منهن الحرائر ، وأجازوا نكاح كل حرة ، مؤمنة كانت أو كتابية ، فاجرة كانت أو عفيفة ، وهو قول مجاهد ، وقال هؤلاء : لا يجوز للمسلم نكاح الأمة الكتابية لقوله تعالى : " فمن ما ملكت أيمانكم من فتياتكم المؤمنات " ( سورة النساء ، 25 ) جوز نكاح الأمة بشرط أن تكون مؤمنة ، وجوز أكثرهم نكاح الأمة الكتابية الحربية ، وقال ابن عباس : لا يجوز وقرأ " قاتلوا الذين لا يؤمنون بالله " إلى قوله " حتى يعطوا الجزية عن يد وهم صاغرون " ( التوبة ، 29 ) ، فمن أعطى الجزية حل لنا نساؤه ومن لم يعطها فلا يحل لنا نساؤه . وذهب قوم إلى أن المراد من المحصنات في الآية : العفائف من الفريقين حرائر كن أو إماء وأجازوا نكاح الأمة الكتابية ، وحرموا البغايا من المؤمنات والكتابيات ، وهو قول الحسن ، وقال الشعبي : إحصان الكتابية أن تستعف من الزنا وتغتسل من الجنابة .

There is difference on the meaning of "al-Muhsanat". The view of most scholars is that it means free women and that it is permitted to marry any free woman be she a Muslim or from the People of the Book, be she immoral or chaste, and this is the saying of Mujahid. They said: It is not permitted for a Muslim to marry a slave from the People of the Book as Allah has said: "then [marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls" (4:25) which permits marriage to slaves with the condition that they be believers.

And many have permitted marriage to a Harbi woman from the People of the Book while Ibn Abbas said: It is not permitted and he recited: "Fight those who do not believe ... until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled." (9:29), so whoever pays Jizya their women are permitted to be married and those who do not their women are not permitted

And one faction said that Muhsanat in this verse means those who are chaste, be they free or slaves. And so it is permitted to marry a slave from the People of the Book and it is forbidden to marry the prostitutes from the Muslims and the People of the Book. And this is the saying of Hassan.

And Ash-Sha`bi said the Ihsan of a woman from the People of the Book is that she is abstains from fornication and performs ghusl of Janaba

Tafsir al-Baghawy

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  • Thank you, my only question if that if we both choose to remain celibates till marriage from now on, is there a period of time until that can be considered chaste again? And would repeteance is enough if is done according to her own religion?
    – Abel
    Nov 30, 2023 at 11:20
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A Muslim man may marry a Christian woman; the denomination or sect that the Christian woman follows does not make a difference. What does make a difference is whether the woman in question respects Islam. It would not be permissible to marry a woman who is hostile or disrespectful to Islam in any way. Especially, you should be mindful that she would be the mother of your future children; and if you care about the Islamic upbringing of your children, you should marry a woman who respects Islam (and preferably, is Muslim herself).

Chaste and virgin are not synonymous; only a woman who has engaged in illicit sexual relations willingly would be considered unchaste; and the same is true of men.

In Islam, marrying a woman who has not abstained from illicit sexual relations is at least discouraged, unless she has repented, which is characterised by the following key signs:

  1. She feels a deep sense of regret for the sin/s committed.
  2. She immediately stops committing the sin.
  3. There is a strong and sincere intention not to return to the sin.

In the context of a Christian woman, her repentance could be in accordance with her own faith; but it should be sincere and genuine. It is not permissible to marry a woman who has committed zina and does not show remorse, or a firm resolution not to return to the sin.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal says:

ولهذا ذهب الإمام أحمد بن حنبل - رحمه الله - إلى أنه لا يصح نكاح المرأة البغي حتى تتوب ، وما دامت كذلك لا يصح تزويجها من رجل عفيف ، وكذلك لا يصح عنده عقد الرجل الفاجر على عفيفة حتى يتوب ويقلع عما هو فيه من الزنا

It is not permissible for an unchaste woman to marry a chaste man, unless she repents; and likewise it is not permissible for an unchaste man to marry a chaste woman unless he repents and stops committing the sin of zina. [*]

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