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The “Jihad” in Love Jihad: A Quran-Sunnah-Centric Inquiry – Part 1: Hindu Women in Sharia

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Part 1 of a series of articles analyzing the alleged “love jihad” phenomenon through the Islamic legal framework.


The use of the term “Love Jihad” for the numerous recent cases of religious conversions through marriage involving members of a particular faith has been challenged as bigoted and intended spread “Islamophobia” by inventing an extraneous religious motivation where none exists. While many critics deny the truth of the incidents entirely, some are willing to accept it as a social issue and not a religious one. To resolve this, we have decided to analyze the topic through the lens of the Quran and the Sunnah (the way of life of the Prophet, the best of all creation, the exemplary man all Muslims are supposed to imitate). According to Islamic Law, these two are the only authentic sources of Islam. Everything else – Tafasir (exegeses), Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet collected a few centuries after his death), Fiqh (interpretations of law), Fatawa (legal rulings/loosely “verdicts”/”judgements”), and opinions are secondary. In our study of the issue, we have therefore minimized references to the latter group of sources, and wherever they are cited, they are given the appropriate importance. The Quran is the literal word of God and thus unquestionable and thus takes precedence over everything else. We begin by understanding the Islamic law on marriage.

The Purpose of Marriage

The purpose of marriage in Islam is best understood through Quran 30:21:

وَمِنْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦٓ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَٰجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
(And among His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves so that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He put love and mercy between your hearts.)

Thus, faithful companionship with someone you love is the foremost goal of marriage. An authentic hadith (Sunan Ibn Majah 1846) further comments on the theme, quoting the Prophet as saying:

النِّكَاحُ مِنْ سُنَّتِي فَمَنْ لَمْ يَعْمَلْ بِسُنَّتِي فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَتَزَوَّجُوا فَإِنِّي مُكَاثِرٌ بِكُمُ الأُمَمَ وَمَنْ كَانَ ذَا طَوْلٍ فَلْيَنْكِحْ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَجِدْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصِّيَامِ فَإِنَّ الصَّوْمَ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ
(Marriage is my sunnah [tradition/example to follow], and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me. Get married, so I will boast of your great numbers before the nations. Whoever has the means, let him get married, and whoever does not, then he should fast for it will diminish his desire.)

This hadith adds two other dimensions to the purpose of marriage – (1) as a lawful way to satisfy sexual desires, and (2) to raise Muslim children, ideally in large numbers, as alluded to in the words “I will boast of your great numbers.” (Maulana Mawdudi, who we shall meet again below, takes it a few steps further to say that “the basic purpose of marriage is procreation.”)
The first is understood also in the literal meaning of the word “nikah,” which means “coition” or “sexual intercourse.”
The second perhaps explains the general prohibitions regarding interfaith marriages. Quran 5:5 says

وَٱلْمُحْصَنَـٰتُ مِنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ وَٱلْمُحْصَنَـٰتُ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَـٰفِحِينَ وَلَا مُتَّخِذِىٓ أَخْدَانٍ
(And [lawful in marriage] are chaste women from among the believers and those who were given the Book before you [Jews and Christians], as long as you pay their dues, desiring chastity, neither fornicating, nor taking them as mistresses.)

which allows Muslim men to marry a subset of non-Muslim women. There is no equivalent commandment allowing Muslim women to marry any group of non-Muslims, because the children take after the father’s faith, so it directly goes against one purpose of a Muslim marriage, that is to raise Muslim children.

The Place of Hindus 

It is interesting that Islamic law has a blanket prohibition on marrying idolaters and polytheists (which would mean Hindus in India). Quran 2:221 says

وَلَا تَنكِحُوا۟ ٱلْمُشْرِكَـٰتِ حَتَّىٰ يُؤْمِنَّ ۚ وَلَأَمَةٌ مُّؤْمِنَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن مُّشْرِكَةٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ ۗ وَلَا تُنكِحُوا۟ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتَّىٰ يُؤْمِنُوا۟ ۚ وَلَعَبْدٌ مُّؤْمِنٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن مُّشْرِكٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكُمْ ۗ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى ٱلنَّارِ ۖ وَٱللَّهُ يَدْعُوٓا۟ إِلَى ٱلْجَنَّةِ وَٱلْمَغْفِرَةِ بِإِذْنِهِۦ ۖ وَيُبَيِّنُ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
(Do not marry polytheist women until they believe; a slave would be better than her, even though she may please you. [Likewise,] do not marry your women to polytheist men until they believe; a believing slave is better than him, even though he may please you. They invite you to the Fire, while God invites you to Paradise and His forgiveness. He makes His revelations clear so that people may take heed.)

This is primarily meant to make explicit what verse 5:5 above says implicitly – that even Muslim men cannot marry polytheist/idolater women. The idea is that shirk (polytheism) and tawhid (monotheism) cannot live together under one roof, for the former is too corrupting an influence even in the (traditionally) subordinate position as the woman’s belief. This creates an interesting situation in the study of alleged “love jihad” as a phenomenon, and seems to suggest (prima facie) that it is indeed forbidden in Islam. However, a look at the fourth chapter of the Quran, devoted entirely to women and how to deal with them, leads us to verse 4:24, which begins with

وَٱلْمُحْصَنَـٰتُ مِنَ ٱلنِّسَآءِ إِلَّا مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُكُمْ
(And forbidden are married women, except those your right hands possess.)

The phrase “those your right hands possess” (مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُكُمْ) needs some explanation, so we turn to two different tafsirs (commentaries), one by a classical scholar (Ibn Kathir, considered the most authoritative Quranic commentator), and a modern one (Maulana Mawdudi, an authority regarded highly in South Asia). We are using a digital copy, so readers are requested to look up the commentary on verse 4:24 in each case.

Ibn Kathir explains this phrase as “except those whom you acquire through war, for you are allowed such women after making sure they are not pregnant.”
Mawdudi explains it as “the bondwomen you come to own,” adding that “this happened when Muslims had to carry out jihad against the infidels of Dar-al-harb (a non-Muslim state without a treaty of peace with the Muslims). As a result of a valid war with them women prisoners might have been brought to the Islamic state.” He goes on to comment on the legality of any of her previous marriages and rules on waiting for at least one menstrual period before sexual intercourse is permissible with her.

As far as the historical context of the verse is concerned, it is noted by Imam Ahmad that Abu Said Al-Khudri said that this verse was revealed when some of the Prophet’s soldiers expressed a dislike for having sexual relations with female captives that were already married. This verse effectively says that married women are forbidden, except those you capture in war. This is the theory behind the Pakistani law that annuls a woman’s previous marriage if she converts to Islam and marries a Muslim – a law that is much-misused to convert Hindu and Christian women.

In any case, in an Islamic framework, it is perhaps more accurate to understand that Hindu women fall in the category of “those that your right hands possess” than legal wives, as captives in conflict with Darul Harb (of which India is a part). A Hindu girl has a place either as (to use the blunt word instead of the mouthful “those your right hands possess”) sex slave and as a wife only if she converts to Islam (see verse 2:221 above).

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