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Conversion to Islam

For many expatriate men wishing to marrying a Muslim Indonesian woman, they will find that she, her family, or their religious leaders will insist that the expat fiance convert to Islam before the marriage.

In a recent series of postings on the Expat Forum, the following bits of advice were shared by those "in the know":

For more information on various legalities involving Interfaith Couples, please see the Mixed Marriages article

If you have sufficient money I've heard of emergency conversions done in a matter of days, not months.

The process of converting is simple. Schedule an appointment with the Imam of a mosque. You will need a couple passport-size photos of yourself as well as two tax stamps (Rp 6,000 meterai), and some other documents. They'll give you a list. Go there, preferably dressed in Muslim garb, with a Koran if you have one. You will need to recite two things which the Imam can help you with. One is "Bismillahi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim".

The other is a statement that says Allah is the only god and Mohammed is his prophet, "Asyhadu anla ilaha illa Allah, wa asyhadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah." The Imam will preside with witnesses (usually another Imam and/or a clerk, plus your family and friends). He will exhort you to follow the faith, do the things required as a Muslim, read the Koran, etc. If I remember correctly, expect the ceremony to take about 30 minutes to 1 hour. At the end of it all you, the Imam, and some witnesses will sign a huge (perhaps bigger than legal-sized paper) certificate. Two, actually, one for you and one for them. Tears are shed by the faithful, congratulations given, further chastisements from the Imam, and you're done. That's it in a nutshell.

It only takes a few days to convert and get married in Indonesia. Nine years ago I prepared my marriage in a matter of two weeks. From helping my fiance (at that time) to convert in Islam and having the ceremony was only a few days apart. So, if you have someone in Indonesia that can help you to prepare all the documents and formalities, then everything will can be completed in a flash.

You do NOT have to convert to Islam. Islam allows a man to marry a woman from any of the five "true faiths". However, you will have to raise your children, if you have any, as Muslims. A friend of mine is Christian, married to a Muslim. I would recommend you keep your own religion. Don't give up such an important part of who you are for someone else.

Sounds like there are different methods of converting to Islam for marriage. I married a Javanese girl in Bali last September and converted to Islam as a part of the wedding ceremony. Just a matter of reciting a few lines and signing away. My wife probably knew (and paid) the right people. Looks like it can be flexible depending on where you are, your partner's family, and who you know.

Well, if your woman wants to marry you in the Islamic way, you have to convert to Islam. No need to go to Islamic centre to get the certificate. When you visit the Office of Religious Affairs, you can ask the village chief (RT) to issue a letter stating that you are Muslim together with the other required paperwork.

I married a Muslim Indonesian woman a couple of years ago and if I remember correctly I needed to bring a letter from my Embassy to state that I was who I said I was and about my intention to marry. I had to say under oath that I wasn't already married and then they gave me a letter (it costs about 1 million Rupiah) to hand over to the authorities.

Under the current laws inter-faith marriages are not recognized, if they take place here in Indonesia. But if you marry for example in Singapore and return here with the marriage certificate the authorities will recognize your marriage. Just be sure to register your marriage soon after your return at the Kantor Catatan Sipil. But if you want to marry in Singapore (and I considered it) one of you has to go and live in Singapore for at least 14 days continuously before you can apply for permission to marry there. When you become a Muslim you should ask for a certificate. Mine was needed by the religious department. (KUA or Kantor Urusan Agama). But I am still not circumcised! If you look on the Internet you will find some experts that say that circumcision is compulsory but others who say that it is advisable but not essential. Fortunately my wife and her family were understanding. I found a website that said that it was better for a person to become a Muslim without being circumcised than not become a Muslim at all because of a fear of circumcision.

If you marry in Canada all you need to worry about is whatever the laws are there. If not...:

If you marry in Indonesia you must both be of the same religion and it must be one of the government's recognized religions (Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian if I remember correctly). In your case your gal's family will probably insist that you have a Muslim wedding. So there's not much choice cuz they can veto the wedding. Also, getting a certificate beforehand at a mosque (masjid) is the best bet. You can ask the KUA (Kantor Urusan Agama) Imam to do it on the spot during the wedding - one of my associates did that - but there's always a chance they won't want to do it during the wedding. I'm getting married here in Indonesia in February and I'm circumcized and no one has asked me for a certification letter of that fact. If ya love the gal, aren't circumcized, and don't have a medical condition that makes it messy then get it done. Hygienically speaking it's healthier for your member. Bite the bullet my friend.

Also, you'll need to get a letter stating you're single from your government. Your gal will need to get one from the chief of the area she lives in. A US letter costs $30 but I don't know the cost of a Canadian one. Check with the Canadian Embassy and email them for the info. If she's been divorced or a widow she must provide documentation that she's no longer married and/or a widow.

I don't recall the other documentation your gal must provide but it's posted here on the website if you just look a little. In fact, most of this is. See Mixed Marriages

You, however, will need to provide a copy of your passport, applicable visa, the Muslim certificate, the single letter...I think that covers it. It must be submitted to (I forget who) in the area in which you plan to be married. It is strongly recommended that it be submitted months in advance if you are marrying in a ruralarea (ie: kampung) as there may be red tape for a mixed marriage (ie: bule and indo). The more time the better. Your gal, if here, should be able to take care of all this. Costs for the documentation she needs will vary depending on which one it is and how corrupt the people she's dealing with are. I've heard of rushed marriages arranged in days or weeks but they're generally arranged with lots of bribes to the right people.

You should also read previously in this forum about the comments on pre-nuptials cuz otherwise Indo laws make it really crazy, in some ways, for foreign/indomarriages.

Don't forget a muslim marriage is not recognised in many countries, I don't know about Canada but it's certainly not recognised in the UK. My wife received a visa to go to UK for the purpose of marriage and our certificate saya we previously underwent a form of marriage in Indonesia. The reason for non-recognition is that a Muslim wedding does not convey equal rights onto the women and technically the man can still have other wives.

The US recognizes Muslim marriages. Also, technically, at least in Indonesia, a Muslim woman can have multiple husbands, too. Whichever way it is, man or woman, you must treat every spouse exactly the same.


The Australian govt. recognizes Muslim marriages as well. I only needed to get the marriage book officially translated and went to the BDM (Birth/Death/Marriages) dept. in Oz.

I am surprised about the UK government although not too surprised as I worked there for a while and they do have some confusing rules on foreigners.

Don't get married in Indonesia. You can get married in another country (like Canada or Singapore or Australia) without converting.

Our thanks to those people who posted this advice on the Expat Forum in October 2002 and January/ February 2003!

A search of the Expat Forum will bring up other postings.