Should I marry a woman whose family is Muslim?
I’ve discussed the issue with her, but she said once we get married, she’s free to be a Christian. Even when it’s time for us to get married, our wedding will be conducted in a Muslim way. I’m confused and need your advice.
I need a lady who is a devoted Christian that will be there for me and our kids, someone that will complement the work of God in my life. Should I continue the relationship with her or what?
Thanks for your question. As I’m sure you know, there at least two questions wrapped up in what you are asking, so let me try to take them in order. The bottom line is this: Although there is nothing wrong with marrying someone whose family is Muslim (or whose family holds to any other non-Christian belief system), you need to make sure that the woman you are pursuing is genuinely a believer in Jesus and the Gospel. I’ll explain.
First, the fact that this woman’s family is Muslim is not necessarily a bar to marrying her. Although the importance and cultural authority of a single man or woman’s immediate or extended family differs in diverse cultures around the world, when it comes to marriage decisions and family life, the Bible simply requires that single Christians choose a spouse who is a believer himself or herself (1 Corinthians 7:39).
Many Christians marry people whose families follow another religion or who, for whatever reason, do not believe that God exists, or that Jesus is His Son, or that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient Word of God. The contours of a particular family’s Muslim faith — and the fervor with which they pursue them — can present very difficult issues, but as a theological matter, it is fine for you to pursue this woman even though her family is Muslim.
It is critical, however, that before you pursue marriage with this woman, you be as sure as you can be that she herself believes in Jesus and understands the Gospel. You seem confident in your question that she does, but I want to mention this for clarity’s sake.
In many parts of the world, religious and cultural identities overlap and can become confused. (This used to be true to a much greater extent in the United States, but secularization has led to a huge decrease in so-called “cultural Christianity” in the U.S.). I don’t know exactly how prevalent such a phenomenon is in your community in Nigeria. In your question, you wrote that your girlfriend is “not … that spiritual of a person,” that she will be “free to be a Christian” once you are married and that she appears willing to have a Muslim wedding rather than standing against her family on the issue and insisting on a wedding that honors Christ.
Obviously, all I have to go on is what you wrote in your question, but those parts of it give me a bit of pause. I don’t want to put too much weight on the exact phrasing of your questions, but normally a believer would understand the fact of her Christianity — her belief in the Gospel — to be true or not true and not subject to being “allowed” by another human being.
Does the woman you are pursuing understand that there is one God and that He is Yahweh, the God of the Bible (and that Allah is not simply another name for the same god)? Does she understand herself to be a sinner who is utterly incapable of earning God’s favor and therefore is in need of the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ? Has she consciously repented of her sins and turned to Jesus for salvation? I hope she has and that this warning is totally unnecessary, but remember that the Bible clearly calls Christians to marry “in the Lord” only (1 Corinthians 7:39), in other words, only to marry other believers.
If you are at all uncertain of your girlfriend’s spiritual state, then have a conversation with her in which you lovingly ask her the questions I wrote above, and make sure that this woman believes the Gospel and is actually a believer rather than merely willing to stop practicing Islam and to live with you in a culturally Christian way.
You appear to recognize your need of a truly Christian wife in your question, so I hope what I’ve written will help you discern whether the woman you are pursuing would be such a spouse. If you discern that she is not a woman who is a believer and can serve God together with you, then, to somewhat bluntly answer your question, you should end the relationship.
I will pray for the Lord to give you wisdom and discernment as you weigh these issues.
Copyright 2015 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Scott Croft served for several years as chairman of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he wrote and taught the Friendship, Courtship & Marriage and Biblical Manhood & Womanhood CORE Seminars. Scott now lives in the Louisville, Ky., area with his wife, Rachel, and son, William, where he works as an attorney and serves as an elder of Third Avenue Baptist Church.