Allaah has permitted us to marry Jewish and Christian woman, on condition that they are chaste and avoid zina (unlawful sexual relations), and that the wali (guardian) of that Christian woman is a Muslim.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Made lawful to you this day are At‑Tayyibaat [all kinds of Halaal (lawful) foods, which Allaah has made lawful (meat of slaughtered eatable animals, milk products, fats, vegetables and fruits)]. The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time when you have given their due Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girlfriends. And whosoever disbelieves in Faith, [i.e. in the Oneness of Allaah and in all the other Articles of Faith i.e. His (Allaah’s) Angels, His Holy Books, His Messengers, the Day of Resurrection and Al‑Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], then fruitless is his work; and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers”
What is meant by chaste is refraining from zina (unlawful sexual relationships).
Ibn Katheer said:
This is the view of the majority, which the most correct opinion, so as to avoid the combination of her being a non-Muslim with her being unchaste, which would mean that she is totally corrupt and thus her husband will get, as the Arabic proverb says, “Bad goods and cheated on the weight.” The apparent meaning of the aayah is that what is meant is those who are chaste and refrain from zina.
Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 3/55
The condition of the woman’s wali being a Muslim is indicated by the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“And never will Allaah grant to the disbelievers a way (to triumph) over the believers”
However, we do not advise you to marry a non-Muslim woman, nor do we advise you to marry just any Muslim woman. For married life is not based only on beauty and attraction, rather the wise Muslim must look with insight at what is beyond that, because he needs to be sure that his house will be looked after in his absence, and he needs to bring up his children, and he will not be able to find that or other things which every wise husband seeks, except with a religious Muslim woman. This is the advice of our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her religious commitment. Choose the one who is religious, may your hands be rubbed with dust [i.e., may you prosper].”
(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4802; Muslim, 1466).
The correct meaning of this hadeeth is that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was describing what people usually do, for they seek these four characteristics, the last of which in their view is religious commitment, but you, the one who is seeking guidance, should look for a wife who is religious. But this is not an absolute command.
This hadeeth encourages keeping company with people who are religiously committed in all things, because the one who keeps company with them will benefit from their good attitude and morals, their blessing and their good ways, and he will be safe from mischief at their hands.
Sharh Muslim, 10/52
But marriage to women of the People of the Book leads to a great deal of mischief and trouble, such as:
1.He may have to be courteous to this wife of his at the expense of his religion, especially if she is “very committed” to her own religion. This may mean that she will hang up crosses and go to the church, and the children will not be safe in this environment.
2.She is not going to wash properly after finishing her period, or tell him not to have intercourse with her when she is menstruating; she is going to make him do something that is wrong according to sharee’ah and cause him physical harm.
3.He is going to be put in an embarrassing situation because of her careless attitude concerning dress and her mixing with men and speaking to them.
4.The states and governments of these women of the Book will be on their side and will give them custody of the children if differences arise and divorce takes place. This will cause these children to be lost and to fall into kufr. Such cases are too well known to need mentioning here and too many to count.
One of the poets said:
“Marriage to a Christian is an abhorrent action which leads to the kufr of the children for sure.
Whoever accepts for a child of his to be a kaafir is himself a kaafir, even if he claims to be a Muslim.
A man may become a kaafir, following his wife, and enter the Fire of Hell forever.
You must look for one who is religiously committed, if you want a sound marriage.
Forget about the people of kufr and beware of marrying them, for that will lead to a lot of evil.
The children of such a marriage will not be guided; they will swell the ranks of evildoers.
It is not permissible for you to force your Christian wife – if you do marry her – to become Muslim. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taaghoot [falsehood, false gods] and believes in Allaah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allaah is All-Hearer, All-Knower”
Ibn Katheer said:
Allaah says: “There is no compulsion in religion” meaning: do not force anyone to enter Islam, for it is obvious and clear, and its proof and evidence are apparent. There is no need to force anyone to enter it, rather whomever Allaah guides to Islam and opens his heart to it and illuminates his insight will enter it with conviction; but whoever Allaah makes blind in his heart and seals his hearing and insight will not benefit from being compelled to enter the religion by force. They said that the reason for the revelation of this verse was concerning some people among the Ansaar, even though this ruling is general.
Tasfeer Ibn Katheer, 1/311
We advise you – once again – to leave this woman and to pray to Allaah to guide your heart to that which is in the best interests of your religion. So long as you give her up for the sake of Allaah, then you should be certain that Allaah will replace her for you with someone better, for whoever gives up something for the sake of Allaah, Allaah will compensate him with something better.
And Allaah knows best.