Sins of the Father

Asked by Lineage Dilemma on May 19, 2024 Topic: Marriage & Relationships

Dear Hadi,

I recently proposed to a devout Muslim woman whom I deeply admire. To my joy, she accepted my proposal with tears of happiness and gratitude. However, as we began planning our future together, she confided in me that she was born out of wedlock, and her parents married only after her birth.

While I understand that her parents' actions are not her fault, this revelation has left me feeling confused. I still love her dearly, and I believe any hesitations I have will fade with time. However, I am concerned about potential challenges, particularly regarding my family's acceptance of her if they were to find out about her situation.

Additionally, I find myself questioning my respect for her father, despite his kindness towards her. On a practical level, I am unsure if her father can act as her wali on our marriage contract. I want to ensure that our union is blessed by Allah SWT.

Any advice you can give to navigate this situation will be helpful in calming my negative thoughts. I want to address my concerns respectfully and ensure that our marriage is conducted in accordance with Islamic principles.

Thank you!

Dear Lineage Dilemma,

Thank you for your thoughtful question.  Alhamdulillah you have found a devout Muslim to be your partner in life.  This is a tremendous blessing that insha’Allah will bring you both joy and comfort throughout your lives together. 

You are correct of course that your fiancée’s parents’ actions are not of her making and are not her fault, and should put no cloud on your marriage.  This topic has been dealt with in Islamic jurisprudence, and to the best of our knowledge, no major juristic opinions would forbid such a marriage, since people are judged on their faith and not their lineage.

To give a concrete example, Shaykh Ibn Baaz was asked about a man who married his daughter to a person who was apparently illegitimate. He answered as follows:

“If he is Muslim, then the marriage is sound, because the sin of his mother and the one who committed zina with her does not rest on him. Allah says ‘and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another’ [Quran, Surat al-An’aam 6:164].  And there is no shame on him because of their action, if he adheres steadfastly to the religion of Allah and develops good characteristics…”

Therefore, this situation in and of itself should not lead to hesitation on your end vis-a-vis your future wife, who by your attestation is devout and pious. 

With regard to potential challenges you mention, particularly related to your family’s acceptance, we firstly would encourage you and your fiancée not to divulge this information to others.  There is a well-known hadith in both Bukhari and Muslim that, in part, tells us that “whoever covers (the faults and sins) of a Muslim, Allah will cover his (faults and sins) in this world and the hereafter.”  If your family did somehow find out about the situation with her parents, we would hope that they also would be able to separate the actions of her parents from her, and their acceptance of her.

With regard to your feelings about your fiancée’s father, we understand the natural human tendency to judge others; however, it is important to also remember that we must check ourselves when we realize we’re doing that.   We are in no way trying to minimize the sin of the parents, but it is just that, a sin which can be repented from.

Your future father-in-law may have sinned many years ago, but if he has turned to God for forgiveness and has tried to live a righteous life, we should guard against letting our natural tendency to judge impact our interactions.   This can be easily supported Islamically.  For example, there is a reported hadith narrated by Umm Hani, who stated, "The Messenger of Allah said: (About saying) La ilaha illallah - no deed takes precedence over it and it does not leave any sin."  (Sunan ibn Majah).

Even more to the point are the verses toward the end of Surat al-Furqan, where-in a grievous punishment is promised to those who commit major sins such as associating partners with God, murder and fornication, except for those who repent:

“As for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 25:70).  Therefore, repentance not only erases the bad deeds, it converts them into good ones.

On a practical level, with regard to your marriage contract, the role of the wali (guardian) stems from a desire to protect the interests of one’s child, particularly daughters who historically have been at a disadvantage in marital relationships.  Generally, the wali is the Muslim father of the bride or another close Muslim male family member (e.g. uncle or brother).  Based on what you have shared, it doesn’t appear that your future father-in-law’s current character is being called into question, and you have noted that he is kind towards his daughter – given this, along with what we have noted above, we see no reason why her father could not act as her wali for your marriage contract. 

We pray that God blesses you and your fiancée with His mercy and tender loving care.

In peace.