Imam an-Nawawi explains that apostasy invalidates the marriage contract

Title page of alMajmu'Page 470 volume 15

Imam an-Nawawi said, in his fiqh book al-Majmu‘  (which is 18 volumes), in volume 15 page 470:

Chapter: If both spouses -or one of them- commits apostasy, if it happened BEFORE the consummation of the marriage contract [i.e. before any sexual intercourse], the separation has taken place. And if it was AFTER the consummation of the contract, the separation takes place after the post-marital waiting period has elapsed [ ‘ iddah]. Thus, if they are united in Islam [meaning: if they both go back to Islam], then they are still within their [original] marriage contract. However if they do not, then separation has occurred.

Points to remember from this quote:

  • Imam an-Nawawi died in 676 after Hijrah, i.e. more than 700 years ago.  He was from Nawa, a village approximately 80km away from Damascus. He was a Shafi‘ i scholar and wrote several  jurisprudence manuals in this school.  The book al-Majmu‘, from which this quote is taken, is one of those fiqh books. It comprises 18 volumes.
  • He is the author of “The Gardens of the Righteous” ( Riyaad as-Saaliheen) and the collection of 40 hadiths which is so well-known nowadays. He has always been considered as a great scholar.
  • Here he explains that committing apostasy invalidates the marriage contract under certain conditions.  This issue is a fiqh issue, not a belief issue which is usually the focus of our articles, however we have chosen to add this quote to emphasise the important consequences of having a wrong belief  such as believing that God would be in a place, which the scholars have clearly identified as a blasphemous belief. On top of that, scholars of al-Azhar have also mentioned that having this belief invalidates the marriage contract (click here to see).
  • The ‘ iddah is the post-marital waiting period of a woman who has just been divorced. In Shafi‘i fiqh it is three “gaps” between two periods (i.e. usually a divorced woman has to let three gaps between two menstrual periods pass before being allowed to remarry). In this case, if the one who committed blasphemy (whether the husband OR the wife), goes back to Islam within what would be the equivalent of a  ‘ iddah period, then they can consider that they are still married. If this does not happen, then they are no longer married. This is the case if they had had at least one sexual intercourse when one of them committed blasphemy. If they had not yet consummated the marriage contract at the time when one of them committed blasphemy, then the marriage contract is invalidated immediately. 
  • Dear brothers and sisters, be careful to choose as a spouse a person who has learned their creed, their fiqh, and good manners.

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