Ex Muslim Marriage


Dear Brothers and Sisters.

I searched the forum for a similar question yet couldn’t find one so apologise if it has already been covered.

I am a Catholic and currently in a relationship with an unbaptised woman (long story but I won’t go into that right now). Praise God that she is responding to the Gospel and with his continued grace I hope someday she will join his true Church.

Years ago she was in another relationship/marriage with a Muslim man. She ‘converted’ to Islam for the sake of marriage. She was never married civilly, only through a local Mosque. They separated many years ago and since then she doesn’t identify as any religion.

My question is about her previous marriage and if it would effect us should she become Catholic and we wish to get married? I have a limited understanding of the Church’s teaching on this. I understand it could be considered a natural marriage but not a supernatural marriage.

In the end if she gets baptised and becomes a Catholic would we be able to marry?

Appreciate your help and advice. Thank you.

God Bless.


If you are seriously considering marriage to this woman, then you need to make an appointment with a priest concerning her previous marriage. He will be in the best position to advise you and start any paperwork, if needed. It could be a matter of just filling out a form or it could be more complicated; the priest will know and be happy to help you.


As you’ve already been advised, you need to meet with your priest about this. She will need to be free to marry in order for the two of you to wed and your priest can advise you.

Assuming that it is determined she is free to marry, she does not need to be baptized or become Catholic for the two of you to marry. A Catholic who wants to marry a non-baptized person needs a dispensation, but this is something your priest can handle as part of your marriage preparation. If you marry a non-baptized person, you will have a natural marriage, not a sacramental marriage. If she is baptized sometime in the future it will become sacramental as well.


When two non-Catholics exchange vows, the Catholic Church presumes it to be a valid marriage. If the parties are unbaptized (athiest or Muslim, for example), the marriage is considered “good and natural.” If both parties are baptized (for example, two Methodists), the mariage is sacramental.

Because your friend is not a Catholic, the Church would presume that her marriage to the Muslim man is valid and it would need to be established that she is free to marry before you would be permitted to marry her. That is, a tribunal would need to establish that there was some essential element of marriage missing at the time she exchanged vows with the Muslim man.

If she receives a declaration of nullity she would be free to marry in the Catholic Church, even without becoming Catholic. If you married her in the Catholic Church (or with a dispensation to marry elsewhere), you would have a natural marriage. If she were to be baptized later, the marriage would automatically become sacramental.

As advised, see your priest to discuss. God bless.


When a Catholic marries in the church, he marries both religiously and civilly.
I am uncertain what you mean that the woman was “only” married in the Mosque; if there was a civil marriage license, then the Catholic Church would consider it valid. Very rarely would non-civilly recognized marriages be recognized in the church. The annulment investigation would have to be performed before she would be allowed to marry you.


People are saying contradictory things. You ought to speak with your parish priest about this. I presume that since you haven’t proposed you would go yourself to talk with him. You could go to the parish office or see him after mass to ask for an appointment.
I hope this all works out well.


Her marriage would be presumed to be valid, but there are a couple of avenues since she is unbaptized. There is a declaration of nullity or dissolution of the bond via the Pauline or Petrine Privilege depending on circumstances. None of these is a “sure thing” so it is best to establish freedom to marry before becoming too involved.

Make an appointment with your pastor.


The Catholic Church recognises Muslim marriages. Therefore, the Church will consider her as being married. Consequently, her former marriage needs to be evaluated by the Church. There are several possibilities but you should speak to a pastor about this. He can give you full advice and delve into the circumstances more deeply as will be required.

Where did her Muslim marriage take place? If it was in a Muslim country it might have been enough for her to be married according to civil law too. For example, people in England can get married in the Church of England or in the Jewish community with no involvement of the state. The state considers such marriages legal and valid.


Thank you for all your replies. I will no doubt speak with my Father yet just wanted to see what the forum members thought and advised.

As for her not being married civilly. Here in Australia many Muslims are married by local clergy and that is as far as it goes. It is never registered or recognised with the state. In her case a Sheik attended her home, married them and they got a peice of paper. Nothing more was done.

The relationship was extremely abusive as well which resulted in them separating. In saying this he didn’t live up to the role of a ‘Husband’.

I will talk to my Priest.

Thank you for your replies.

In Christ.


It sounds like a strong case for an annulment - a declaration that no marriage existed. I would image the Bishop’s Conference in Australia has special procedures for such “religious only” weddings if they are common as you say.


I would not jump quickly to this conclusion.




This sounds like there should be no need for her to obtain a civil dissolution of marriage (divorce). However, the only way to be completely sure would be legal advice from a lawyer from your jurisdiction.

You will need to continue to proceed with having the Church evaluate the validity of her previous marriage.


That it was an abusive relationship, in which she may have been manipulated into both converting to Islam and into marrying him.


Yes it would depend on when the abuse occurred. If it started during the marriage it might point to his pre-marital state of mind. It it was present in the period leading upto the marriage that could be more indicative of coercion into marrying.


Well, we only have a vague and second or third hand account of things.

Not really enough to make such an emphatic statement regarding the likelihood of a decree of nullity case being “strong”.



If that is the case, there is a chance this marriage would be seen as non-existent as is one attempted by a Catholic who marries “outside the Church.” The Church expects those who are not baptized to follow the laws of their country in regard to the “form” of marriage. The unbaptized can’t just follow religious “law” when marrying because the Church does not see any Muslim (or Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) religious authority as being capable of legislating anything for anyone.

At any rate, it appears that this couple did not observe civil law. If so, the state would not recognize this as being a marriage and would not even issue a decree of divorce/dissolution. The ecclesiastical court could see it the same way and wouldn’t deal with it as a formal nullity case because there is no “lawfully manifested consent” (canon 1057.1) and therefore no presumption of validity. It would only be an administrative procedure. If, however, the civil authorities recognize such a marriage in any way (maybe there is such a thing as “common law” marriage) and have issued a divorce decree, the case would be a formal one. Besides that, the local tribunal might typically deal with such marriages differently. For those reasons, I offer no definitive opinion but just say here that an administrative case seems possible.

It would be interesting to hear how this case turns out.



Basically, there’s two things here you need to know:

(1) Marriages are presumed valid until found otherwise. You would need to speak to your priest about an annulment.
(2) If she converts, there is what is known as Pauline Privilege. This would allow her to petition to have her marriage dissolved, as a marriage between unbaptized people is a natural marriage and can be dissolved to make room for a sacramental marriage.


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