When becoming a Muslim, a person may be in an existing relationship or marriage. This often brings with it personal concerns and worries. Worries such as: how will my relationship now work?, is it religiously valid?, and more. Much of the worry may be unnecessary, however.
Islam places a strong emphasis on honouring existing agreements and accommodating cultural norms. As a rule, relationships that are recognised by English or Scottish law are also recognised by Islam. Past relationships are not suddenly nullified because of someone’s conversion. This would also extend to a common law or living-together arrangement, although it has been observed that conversion to Islam does accelerate marriage plans a couple may have been thinking about.
Is should be said that poor and short-sighted advice is freely offered ‘out there’ and online or by well-meaning people, and even by institutions. Women who convert have to be especially aware of this. The Qur’an addresses such issues in the masculine voice, and this has seen very different advice being given to men and women who become Muslim. Learned Islamic scholars have clarified that existing relationships are recognised for women as they are for men.
Islam sees marriage as seen as a beautiful and wholesome practice, as does society generally. That does not mean there is, or should be, a heavy burden upon people who convert to get married (soon). In days gone by, marriage was for many (and especially women) the only means of protection and essential welfare. It can be a very sensible approach to take one’s time before committing to a marriage. A great many ‘older’ converts who today have years of life-experience would eagerly advise the same.
Some couples choose to re-register their relationship as an Islamic marriage by effectively taking vows and signing new paperwork again. This is an entirely personal choice and can be of real value if not married in UK law and travelling to countries like Saudi Arabia. But this only works for a Muslim man marrying a Christian or Jewish woman, and not for a Muslim woman (because that reflects the literal wording stated in the Qur’an).
Cases of same sex-relationships are more complicated, and this will not be a surprise. There are no easy answers here, community emotions and prejudices can run high, and Islamic scholars are not adequately trained to deal with such cases. These matters are essentially private and individual: a person who has converted will no doubt seek to find their peace with any conflicts they might be feeling. Supportive, empathetic voices do exist.