Muslim-Christian marriages: Are they valid?

The correct (long) title is:  Are Muslim-Christian marriages among previously married and still un-divorced individuals valid?

This is another of my posts that got lost with my blog Reflections on the Bangsa Moro and recently recovered by me, thanks to humans or internet bots who/that saved my blogposts.

Although the post is more than a decade old, this remains an important issue. Many Christian males, like ex-Gov. Leviste and Robin Padilla, convert to Islam in order to marry another woman, without divorcing their wives (since divorce for Christians is not allowed in the Philippines). Is that allowed in Islamic Law or Shari’a? Is that allowed in Catholic canon law? Is that allowed in Philippine civil law?

The post garnered quite a number of comments which made for interesting conversation. It was a pity that the bloghost closed shop and my blog vanished so the discussion was cut off.


reflections blog title

loren reflection post

Senatorial topnotcher Loren Legarda-Leviste must be very happy with the election loren-legarda1results. After all, in spite of her (separated) husband’s incarceration (but recently released on bail) as a murder suspect and her vice presidential loss in the 2004 elections and the subsequent (and still on-going?) electoral protest, she still managed to top the senatorial race. Her performance is so overwhelming that even teammate Nikki Coseteng raised eyebrows when she learned that Loren got 99 % or even more than 100 % of the votes cast in several places. Talk about statistical improbability!

But what I am really concerned about is Ms. Legarda-Leviste’s civil status. Is she married? Divorced? Separated? Or single?

There is no divorce (among Christians) in the Philippines so she could not be a divorcée. Her marriage to Leviste, the former Governor of Batangas could not have been annulled by the Catholic Church because she was not married in the Catholic Church.

Her husband, Gov. Leviste, is still married to his first wife when he married Ms. Legarda. Governor Leviste reportedly converted to Islam and then took Ms. Legarda as his second wife.

Under Philippine laws, Leviste would be guilty of bigamy and concubinage. Apparently, the Levistes are invoking Shari’a or Islamic Law where polygamy is allowed. But is it allowed in the case of the Levistes?

In Islam, everything revolves around INTENT or NIYYAT. What was the intention of Gov. Leviste when he converted to Islam? Was it just to marry another woman? And what was his intention in marrying Ms. Legarda?

When the Governor converted to Islam, it was incumbent upon him to persuade his wife to convert to Islam, too. Failing that, he could divorce the wife and marry a Muslim. This was what the former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali did.

But the Governor neither divorced his first wife nor married a Muslim. Instead, he got another Christian wife.

Presumably, the Governor married Ms. Legarda in Islamic rites. He could not possibly marry her in civil or Catholic rites.

A few Muslim Filipinos marry Christians in Muslim rites. This is very problematic. Common sense dictates that a non-Muslim’s marriage to a Muslim in Islamic rites could not be valid because in the first place, the non-Muslim does not believe in Islam. I believe that existing Islamic jurisprudence supports this assertion.

It is the same case as a Muslim married to a Christian in Christian rites. It would simply be void ab initio.

Since Ms. Legarda is not a Muslim, her marriage to Gov. Leviste might not be valid.

Gov. Leviste and Sen. Legarda are now apparently separated. How did they separate? Did they go to a Shari’a court or to a civil court?

The legal status of Sen. Legarda’s marriage to Gov. Leviste needs to be settled. Being a lawmaker, Sen. Legarda could not afford to be a law-breaker like her husband who is charged for killing his aide.

And since there seems to be an increasing number of Muslim-Christian mixed marriages, there is a need for a definitive ruling on this issue.



  1. PD 1083 or the Muslim personal code applies to marriages where both parties are Muslims, or where the husband/male is a Muslim, and when these marriages are solemnized in accordance with the Muslim Code (i.e. the requisites of the Code have been complied with). Assuming that they indeed got married under Islamic Law, then it would be a valid Muslim marriage for all intents and purposes, and hence, a divorce could be a proper remedy for either party. However, such divorce should be made also in accordance with the Code and only upon grounds sanctioned by Islam.

The religious/spiritual responsibility of the husband to make da’wah to his wife and children to encourage them to convert is an altogether separate issue from the legality of the marriage; but his failure to marry a Muslim wife, or make his wife convert to Islam will not make the marriage void.

                                                            Comment by sabriyya — January 10, 2008 @ 1:48 pm |

2.  PD 1083 is not the definitive Muslim law. The people who made that law precisely put Articles 4 , 5 and 6 to incorporate other sources of Islamic Law.

Nobody is talking of da’wah here. Only legalities according to Islamic, Catholic and Philippine laws.

Was there even a valid marriage to begin with in the case of Loren and the ex-Governor?

Article 15 enumerates the essential requisites of a marriage contract. But it excludes one very important requirement – the presence of the Guardian of the bride. In Shafi’i and Maliki schools of thought, a marriage without the Guardian is invalid. It doesn’t matter whether the bride is of legal age or not.

I know one Maliki and several Shafi’i Muslims who married Christian females without Guardians. Technically speaking, their marriages were invalid.

Also, the first requirement for marriage according to Art. 15 is the “Legal capacities of the contracting parties.” The groom was a married man. He was married presumably under Catholic laws and Philippine civil laws. Did he therefore have the legal capacity to marry another Catholic Filipina?

By converting to Islam, does a person’s action (like marriage) under Catholic and Philippine laws become null and void?

Polygamy in Islam may be permitted but there are conditions. Some Muslim countries put stringent conditions for a second marriage.

Marrying Jews or Christians (al-Kitabi) is also frowned upon. Depending on one’s Madhab, it can be forbidden or permitted. What mahdhab does he belong?

While marriage to Jews or Christian women is permitted by some schools, some jurists believe that the Qur’anic verses allowing marriage to al-Kitabi women had been superseded (and thus repealed) by later verses according to the Abrogator and the Abrogated Doctrine (al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh).

Allowing a Muslim man to practice polygamy by marrying 2 or more Christian women is quite contrary to Islamic teachings and to the concept of marriage where women should undertake the (Islamic) upbringing of the children.

Moreover, if Islam respects the People of the Book, then it can be logically concluded that Islam respects the Book or its Church. The Catholic Bible does not allow divorce – what God has put together, let no man put asunder. Therefore, Islam should respect the Book’s teachings.

Leviste and his first wife were married presumably in the Catholic Church where divorce is not allowed, as well as adultery or concubinage. By marrying Loren, Leviste was guilty of adultery or concubinage under Catholic laws. Even Loren would be guilty of adultery in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I believe adultery, polygamy and concubinage are considered SINS by the Catholic Church.

And since Gov. Leviste had left the Catholic Church, he would be considered a heretic by the Church. His two wives therefore could not claim to be in good standing with the Catholic Church. They, too, would be considered sinful, if not heretical.

And what about Philippine laws – the Civil Code of the Philippines? Is a married Christian Filipino allowed to practice polygamy by simply converting to Islam? What then are the rights of the Christian wife? And what about the second wife? Isn’t she guilty of adultery? Since both wives remain Christian, shouldn’t they be ruled by the Civil Code of the Philippines and not by the Muslim Personal Code?

Art. 3 par. 3 of the Code states: “The provisions of this Code shall be applicable only to Muslims and nothing herein shall be construed to operate to the prejudice of a non-Muslim.” To me, this means that if a Christian husband converts to Islam and marries another Christian woman, the first wife has all the rights in Philippine law to sue the husband for concubinage and bigamy and sue the other woman for adultery.

The question here really goes beyond the particular case of the Levistes. There must be a definitive legal decision on whether a married Christian man can marry another Christian woman without having his first marriage annulled by simply converting to Islam and having his second marriage solemnized according to PD 1083.

Muslims learnèd in fiqh should argue this case in Islamic courts and Filipino lawyers should argue this in civil courts. That would be interesting.

                                                Comment by jamalashley — January 18, 2008 @ 2:40 am |

3. Sir:

thanks for this opportunity to have an authority on the subject enlighten us on a very delicate problem.
i read about the case of the levistes….married man converted to Islam and married a Christian.

what about when a married filipino Christian guy converted to Islam and marries his pregnant single Filipina partner , who also converted to Islam, in Islamic rites in a Shariah court in the Middle East? can they be considered under Islamic law here legally married? what happens to the 1st wife, a Christian, who was informed about the situation only after everything has been finished? obviously, they both converted, because the guy had no legal capacity to enter into a 2nd marriage, being married, to escape punishment for what they were into.

this is not new to OFWs in the Middle East and many families have suffered, because of this and they get away with it somehow.
hoping for your kind attention.

                                                            Comment by jay lanao — October 1, 2008 @ 7:04 pm |

4. Hi Jay,

First, the Muslim convert couple should register their Islamic marriage in the embassy and then here in the Philippines.

But even so, I think that the first wife can still file bigamy and/or adultery charges. In the first place, she is not covered by the Philippine Muslim Code. And certainly the marriages done under the Phil Muslim Code cannot supersede the Philippine Civil Code.

I am not a legal expert, but a good lawyer can easily win the case for the first wife.

These illegal marriages really should be stopped.

                                                            Comment by jamalashley — October 1, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

5. sir,

i just wanna ask if its possible for a christian filipina and a muslim man to get married under muslim ceremony wihout the legal capacity to get married taking into consideration that the guy has already a wife. thanks

                                                            Comment by josie — December 7, 2008 @ 7:47 am |

6.  Dear sir
iam egyptian muslim man married to Phillipina “Newly converted to islam” under muslim law in saudi
what we can do to register our marriage in phillipines
but we have one problem
when she was christian she was married to Christian Husband in phillipines but as u know no divorce in phillipines so what we should do to make our marriage lgal in phillipines
“she is Muslim now but what about the man in phillipines” iam confused about what to do
Thanks for your help and support
is it possible to got divorce in phillipins from the Christian Guy after she is converted????

                                                            Comment by Doctor — December 14, 2008 @ 4:42 pm |

7.  The married Filipino/a can petition Philippine courts for “nullity of marriage”. The ff. can be grounds for annulment: 1) underage or if below 21, no parental or guardian consent. 2) Insanity or unsound mind during time of marriage, 3) Consent to marriage was done by fraud or force (”shotgun marriage”) and 4) Impotence or incurable venereal disease.

Failing that, the Filipino/a is deemed married to the spouse. The aggrieved spouse can sue the wife/husband for bigamy and/or adultery.

Whether the Filipino/a became Muslim, Jew or atheist is immaterial in Philippine law. Or any law in the world, for that matter.

I believe that even according to Saudi law, the aggrieved party can go there and sue the spouse and his/her lover. All s/he needs is a good Shar’ia lawyer.

I want to ask all those who sent me email, those who commented and all readers of this post. If a person is married under any non-Islamic law (American, British, Philippine, European, etc.) and WITHOUT getting a divorce or annulment, can he/she just marry a Muslim (whether she/he converts or not)?

What law in the world would agree to that? A non-Muslim married person can just leave his/her spouse and children because he/she wants to marry a Muslim, without even getting a divorce or annulment? Where is the logic there? Or fairness? Or morality?

What about the rights of the non-Muslim spouses and children that would be left behind?

And I don’t think that Islam allows Muslim men (married or not) to wed MARRIED women (whether Muslim, Jew or Christian).

If a Muslim male wants to marry a Married woman, he must first wait for the woman to divorce the husband or have the marriage annulled. Converting the woman to Islam and marrying her do not invalidate the woman’s non-Islamic lawful marriage.

In the same vein, a Christian or non-Muslim married man cannot just convert to Islam and marry other women without being held accountable by the first legally married wife.

                                                Comment by jamalashley — December 15, 2008 @ 12:41 am |

8. My wife (Pilipina) was able to get an uncontested legal divorce from her Pilipino husband in the courts of Los Angeles, California. She and I were legally married thereafter in the USA, and now have three children. Is she considered legally married to me in relation to Philippine law? Is there some additional legal step in the that we need to take in the RP to fully ensure that our marriage is legal under Philippine laws? My assumption was that a legal divorce in California would be considered binding in the RP, so our subsequent marriage would not be a legal problem in the RP. Please clarify.

                                                Comment by Anthony — January 15, 2009 @ 1:47 pm |

9. Hi Anthony,

First of all, I must reiterate that I am not a lawyer. This is not a LEGAL blog. Nevertheless, to answer you, the question you need to answer is: Where did your wife and her ex-spouse marry? If they were wed in the Philippines, tough luck for all of you. There is NO DIVORCE in Philippine law.

But if your wife and her ex got married in the US, then there is no problem. She would be considered divorced by Philippine Law.

Better ask Filipino lawyers just to make sure.

Comment by jamalashley — January 16, 2009 @ 10:49 am |

10. Dear All,

If a Christian man married two (2) times to a Christian woman (this is the problem of civil registry in the Philippines not to check carefully previous records of man) and he converted to Islam. Can the 1st and 2nd wife file bigamy against him? Both with 1st & 2nd wife are now separated and he enjoyed single after converted to Islam. Note the Christian marriages took place without any divorce filing before he converted to Islam.

Thank you.                                          Comment by Khalid — February 10, 2009 @ 7:43 pm |

11.  Hi Sir,
Pls enlighten me on this complicated case… my Christian friend is married (Civil rites)to a muslim man years back (they have 2 children)then after 5 years a muslim man met another married christian woman who then eventually converted to islam coz they want to get married in islamic rites(not yet annulled that time, I don’t know recently if the woman got her annulment? During that time their life was miserable, financially, emotionally and all the stress…coz the man was not even financially capable to support his family. Under the muslim law, the husband should support the first family “well” before he can can get another wife. right? Up to this time, the ist wife receive nothing from his muslim husband… and they have 2 children now with that 2nd wife(?). no support, No contacts, address and where abouts of the man up to the present. My questions are the following: a) Can the first wife charge the man with bigamy? maybe definitely not, coz he’s a bonafide muslim, but what about if the reason for conversion of the woman was just for them to get married? Is it legal? either in muslim or civil law. b) Is conversion to islam of a married woman automatically her 1st marriage become null and void? c)What are the possible legal charges that the 1st wife can bring to court if ever? d) what are the legal implications of this matter in the Office of the Ombudsman, coz they are both Government employee? What are specific grounds if the 1st wife will file annullment? e) What will happen to Non – support status? f) Is the Muslim husband has the right to the properties acquired by the first wife after that separation?

Thank you very muah and more power!                  Comment by len — February 22, 2009 @ 6:22 pm |

12. sir,

Assalam alykum! I would like to inquire if a converted Muslim woman can file for a divorce to her non-Muslim estranged husband? Can a converted Muslim woman invoke the PD 1083? Looking forward to hear from you soon…Jazakallahu khayrn…Wa salam.

Comment by wahida verzales — June 27, 2009 @ 8:49 pm |

13. To All,

Everyone wanting to invoke PD 1083, article 13 paragraph 2 says it all. Both parties must be muslims for the law to be applicable.

Hence, a husband cannot divorce his Christian wife by simply converting to Islam and then divorcing her. Unless..

                                                Comment by badboy — November 20, 2009 @ 9:58 pm |

14. salamalaikum…i just wanna to ask if bigamy ang adultery case can be sue to the converted man & woman (couple)? the case was filed by the first wife which is a christian. another question is, what is the rights of the second wife to her husband? and about their child, is it legal or illegal? is their marriage from Islamic is valid or invalid? What can you advice for this converted to Islam couple as they were facing the bigamy/adultery case? Thank you very much.

Comment by concerncitizen — February 21, 2010 @ 7:42 pm |

15. Greetings,

Nice article. However, please clarify paragraph 3 of your article where it says there is no divorce in the Philippines. I maintain that we do have divorce in the Philippines, and it is contained in PD1083. So to say that there is no divorce in the Philippines would technically be incorrect.

Kind thanks.

Comment by Ricky — July 17, 2010 @ 12:41 am

16. Ricky,

It is obvious from the article and the comments that I meant NO DIVORCE AMONG CHRISTIAN FILIPINOS.

Par. 3 referred to Ms. Legarda and her first husband, who are both Christians.

Comment by jamalashley — August 18, 2010 @ 7:48 am

17.  Dear All

A newly converted muslim man and woman contracted marriage under Islamic rites in Manila. Previously, the man has been married to a Christian woman and have 2 grown up children; he has been ‘technically’ separated from his first wife for more than ten years (ie, not sharing the same bed.

Can the newlyweds’ union be considered valid under Philippine laws because both of them are muslims before they married?

Comment by maria — September 15, 2010 @ 11:50 pm |

18.  sir,
my female Christian friend married a muslim and her husband get another muslim wife without her consent and my friend doesnt want to live wid her husband anymore for the reason that he abandoned her and thier 3 kids without any financial support for more than 2 years to this present. thier marriage has no consent with parents of my christian female friend. Is it possible thier marriage could be annulled?

Comment by letty — December 27, 2010 @ 7:14 pm |

CITED in the Philippine Election Journal Blog:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

…However, like Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas, I’m also concerned on Senator Loren Legarda’s civil status. When discussing with friends on who can be voted for in 2010, Senator Legarda is deemed as very competitive, then the discussion would sooner or later end up with her civil status, whether she is properly annulled or divorced, with her estranged husband.

If not and if she wins, will that make him her legal First Gentleman? Furthermore, if her husband will take in more wives, what will they be referred to? I agree with Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas‘s suggestion that Senator Legarda should settle this concern at the earliest time.



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