Shia vs Sunni: Is Shia Sunni Marriage Possible?

A well-known point of view amongst Shia scholars is, it’s impermissible for a Shia man to marry a Sunni woman. But a vast majority of scholars have a different opinion of marriage between a Sunni man and a Shia woman. They consider this marriage as Makruh. In this article, we shall provide you in-depth insight into the question, ‘Is Shia Sunni Marriage Possible?’. 

As we already know, for an Islamic marriage to be valid, both the man and the woman have to be Muslims. According to the Shia scholars, ‘obligatory precaution’ is required for the marriage between a Sunni man and a Shia woman. This is because women are easily influenced by their husbands to denounce their actual beliefs during the marriage.

Why the difference in viewpoint?

 There are two different viewpoints on Sunni- Shia marriage amongst the Shias –

  1. Marriage between a Sunni man and a Shia woman – Makruh
  2. Marriage between a Shia man and a Sunni woman – Impermissible

The burning question of a Sunni woman’s marriage to a Shia man –

   The fatwa  

1. Equality in Marriage 

Marriage equality is an age-old issue. This has been properly addressed within the Sunni-Shia fiqh books within a specific chapter. It goes to show how significant this is.

The reason it’s so significant is that of the varying important outcome it warrants. By equality, it means that the man and the woman must be equal according to Islam.

Allah SWT said –

 “And (do) not [you] marry [the] polytheistic women until they believe. And a bondwoman (who is) believing (is) better than a polytheistic woman [and] even if she pleases you. And (do) not give in marriage (your women) (to) [the] polytheistic men until they believe, and a bondman (who is) believing (is) better than a polytheistic man [and] even if he pleases you. [Those] they invite to the Fire, and Allah invites to Paradise and [the] forgiveness by His permission. And He makes clear His Verses for the people so that they may take heed.” –       Surah Al Baqarah; Verse 221  

2. What do the Hadiths mention? 

You will find many Hadiths related to Shia-Sunni marriages. To be considered as a Muslim, you need to recite the Shadah. However, what’s equally important is for you to have Iman. This includes believing in the 12 imams all the way to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

So, as a Muslim, one should marry to a Taher

The two hadiths have been mentioned as follows –

  1. When Imam Sadiq (AS) was asked about the difference between Islam and Iman (Faith), he responded as follows –
“Islam is what the people practice on the outside; by testifying that there is only one God that can be worshipped and that Muhammad (PBUH) is his servant and messenger, praying, giving charity, pilgrimage to Makkah and fasting during the holy month of Ramadhan. This is Islam. Iman encompasses these outer rituals plus believing in this matter (what the imam means by “this matter” is the important matter of wilayah or the authority of the imams and their succession to the prophet (PBUH)). So if a person possesses the first, yet lacks the latter, he/she is both Muslim and astray.”
  1. As narrated by Harman Ibn A’yan from Imam Baqir (AS), he mentioned that –
“Iman settles in the heart and drives the individual towards Allah (SWT) and His obedience… While Islam has to do with the outside of individuals; it is something that all sects and people possess and is the subject of many Islamic laws such as preserving lives, inheritance and marriage…”

The two aforementioned hadiths clearly state that as per Islamic ruling, it is permissible to have intersected Islamic marriage, provided that they have Iman, are not idolatrous Shiahs or perform any Shirk.  

As Imam Sadiq (AS) and Imam Baqir (AS) had clearly mentioned this so, consider this ruling to apply for marriage between Shia-Sunni.

Shia marriage rules and nikah procedure

The marriage ceremony of Shias is known as the ‘Nikah Al Mutah’ which means ‘pleasure marriage’. This is simply a verbal & private contract for marriage. It is practiced within Twelver Shia Islam (this is the largest branch of Shia Islam).

During this ceremony, the marriage duration and the mahr need to be specified.

The private contract is required to be presented either as a written document or verbally. For this marriage to be accepted officially, it needs an acceptance of the terms. Also, the declaration of intent needs to be specified strictly.

 Based on Twelver Shia Islam, the prerequisites of the Nikah Al Mutah, are as follows –

  • The bride cannot be married
  • She needs to be pure
  • She should not be an adulterer
  • She requires to be a Muslim or belong to The People of the Book
  • She needs to have the permission of her wali, provided that she wasn’t married before

Sunni-Shia marriage success

There is a long list of very successful Shia Sunni marriages. ‘The essence of this inter-sect marriage should be to aid in building a bridge. The major problem that exists within a Shia Sunni marriage is, certain values are given precedence by society. 

Families play a crucial role in ensuring that there’s understanding and tolerance among different members of these sects. It is crucial for you to have a ‘correct mindset’ for a successful Shia Sunni marriage. But as per Islamic ruling, Sunnis should not marry Shias if they do not possess Iman and if they perform Shirk.  

Shia and Sunni marriage differences

The major differences are as follows – 

  1. The Nikah ceremony for Shias is significantly longer than that of the Nikah ceremony of Sunnis
  2. During the Nikah ceremony of Sunnis, it is mandatory that two witnesses are present. Whereas, Shias have no such requirements.
  3. Shias have a preference towards ‘Nikah Al Mutah’, Sunnis are strongly against it.
  4. Sunnis has a ceremony that is known as ‘Nikah e Misyar’.
  5. There are certain differences in the traditional & ritual practices of the Shia & Sunni Nikah ceremony.  

How to convince parents of Shia Sunni marriage?

You can do the following things for Shia Sunni marriage –

  • It is crucial that you discuss the possibility of inter-sect marriage with your siblings – preferably brothers.
  • If you take this decision independently, you must be open to facing the consequences of severing your family ties and cultures.
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُون”And We have enjoined (on) man to his parent’s goodness, but if they both strive against you to make you associate with Me what not you have of it any knowledge, then (do) not obey both of them. To Me (is) your return, and I will inform you about what you used (to) do.”-       Ayah Al Ankabut; Verse 8
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلً “O you who believe[d]! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those (having) authority among you. Then if you disagree in anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Day [the] Last. That (is) best and more suitable (for final) determination.”-       Surah An Nisa; Verse 59

Major difference between Sunni and Shia marriages 

Shias comply with a marriage arrangement that’s temporary. Based on this arrangement, it is acceptable for the groom and the bride to agree to marriage depending on a pre-agreed duration. Once this duration has passed, the marriage ends. But the groom and the bride may choose to remain together. Shia marriages do not require any divorce.  

This type of arrangement is not present in Sunni marriages. Sunnis enter marriage intending to stay together permanently. But in case of a separation between the husband and the wife, a divorce is required in Sunni marriages.

To summarize

Marriage between a Sunni man and a Shia woman or a Shia man and a Sunni woman is impermissible if Shias call upon Ali Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn. This makes them Mushrikeen, meaning they are guilty of shirk (association of Allah SWT with other deities). Neither should you eat meat slaughtered by them. And by default, it is impermissible for a Shia man to marry a Sunni woman. 

The aforementioned viewpoint has been expressed by Shia Islamic scholars.  

Many Shia scholars said it is not permissible for a Shia woman to marry a Sunni man because they fear that the Shia woman may become influenced by her husband’s beliefs. It may cause the women to denounce her beliefs. This is exactly why scholars have mentioned to maintain ‘obligatory precaution’. Otherwise, the marriage between a Shia woman and a Sunni man is considered Makruh.  

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the ruling according to Islam for marriage between Muslims and Non-Muslims and also the ruling for marriage between Sunni-Shia?

As explained by the late Ayatullah Fazel Lankarani

Marriage between Muslims and Non-Muslims is treated as void. Whereas, marriage between a Sunni man and a Shia woman is Makruh. Also, the marriage between a Shia man and a Sunni woman is impermissible. By calling upon Ali Al-Hasan and al-Husayn, Shia men perform shirk.

As explained by the Ayatullah Bahjat –

Any marriage between a Muslim and a Non-Muslim is only permissible if the Non-Muslim individual belongs to the People of the Book and this marriage has to be temporary. Whereas, the marriage between a Shia woman and a Sunni man is not permissible because of obligatory precautions.

As explained by Ayatullah Makram Shirazi –

Marriage between Muslims and Non-Muslims is not permissible if the non-Muslim does not belong to the people of the book. For marriage between Shia men and Sunni women, it is not permissible. But any marriage between a Shia woman and a Sunni man is makruh, because she may deviate from her faith. 

2. What is the Islamic ruling if a Shia man desires to marry a Sunni woman by following the Sunni rituals?

You should keep in mind that Shias practice Taqayaa (conceal their true beliefs). So, as a Sunni woman, according to the Islamic ruling, it is not permissible for you to marry a Shia man. If the Shia man repents about his beliefs, you must still maintain precautions upon considering marrying a Shia man. However, if the man is practicing and is a religious Sunni, then you should not have any issues to marry him. 

3. Would marriage be valid if it is conducted online through telephone or over video call?

Yes, it is valid.

Conclusion  

Shias and Sunnis both appreciate & recognize the individual relationship they have with Allah SWT. Rather than focusing on differences, Shias and Sunnis should focus more on improving their relationship with Allah SWT. Settling their differences and working as one can go a long way in solving any conflict that arises. They can start by making Shia Sunni marriages a norm. We hope this answers the burning question ’Is Shia Sunni Marriage Possible?’ We will be happy to answer your queries in case you have further questions related to Shia Sunni marriages.

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