Marital conversion

Marital conversion
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Religious conversion
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Marital conversion refers to the concept of religious conversion upon marriage, either as a conciliatory act, or a mandated requirement according to a particular religious belief. Endogamous religious cultures may have certain opposition to interfaith marriage and ethnic assimilation, and may assert prohibitions against the conversion ("marrying out") of one their own claimed adherents. Conversely, they may require the marital conversion of those who wish to marry one of their adherents.



Islam frowns upon marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, with a provision allowing the marriage of a Muslim man to a Jewish or Christian woman (or women). This is provided that the children from that marriage be raised as "believers," a common Islamic term for Muslims. The Qur'anic verses generally quoted are:[1]

"Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe. A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you.... Unbelievers beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the garden of bliss and forgiveness. And He makes His signs clear to mankind, that they may receive admonition" (Qur'an 2:221).

On marriage to Jews and Christians ("People of the Book"):

"This day are all things good and pure made lawful to you.... Lawful to you in marriage are not only chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when you give them their due dowers, and desire chastity not lewdness. If any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost" (Qur'an 5:5).

Muslim women are expressly forbidden to marry a non-Muslim man, and conversion to another religion, considered to be apostasy, is, according to some interpretations of Sharia punishable by death:

"Nor marry your girls to unbelievers until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever...." (Qur'an 2:221)

Although marriage to Jews and Christians was permissible, the second caliph discouraged it completely and as a result is frowned upon because of the authority of Umar in Sunni Islam (in Shia Islam Umar is viewed as an usurper and therefore he is not authoritative to them).


Jewish views on religious conversion due to intermarriage are largely in opposition to such marriage, even if such marriages are tolerated. If a non-Jew wishes to become a Jew —in the sense that they practice Judaism and thus are accepted as a Jew — they are, depending on the Jewish religious tradition, typically welcome. On the other hand, if a Jew desires to leave Judaism, they are regarded as apostates, or "assimilators" into a non-Jewish religion or culture. Non-Jewish cultures, tend to be regarded and portrayed as negative; being idolatrous, or rejecting of God (as Jews conceive God).

Some Jewish leaders have called Jewish intermarriage a "Silent Holocaust," particularly in 20th-21st century America where as many as 47% of American Jews have intermarried with non-Jews in past two decades. Such cultural and religious assimilation is said to represent a slow destruction of the Jewish people. Others have expressed a different view, accepting or tolerating such marriages, instead focusing their attention towards the concept that the children of a Jewish parent be raised Jewish, with some sense of their identity rooted in Judaism and in Jewish culture.


Historically, in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, Catholics were obligated to marry only other Catholics, and marital conversion of the non-Catholic party was considered almost obligatory. However, it was permissible for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic baptized in a manner recognized by the Catholic Church as valid (i.e., mainline Protestants such as Episcopalians or Lutherans, and Eastern Orthodox), but a dispensation had to be granted by a bishop and the non-Catholic party had to agree to raise the children as Catholics. Marriage to unbaptized persons, meaning all non-Christians and members of some Christian denominations (such as Unitarians or Mormons), was forbidden.


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