Marriage in Islam

On Marriage in Islam

by Dr. Sherif Mohammed

By getting married you are not just getting a wife, you are getting your whole world. From now until the rest of your days your wife will be your partner, your companion, and your best friend.

She will share your moments, your days, and your years. She will share your joys and sorrows, your successes and failures, your dreams and your fears. When you are ill, she will take the best care of you; when you need help, she will do all she can for you;

When you have a secret, she will keep it; when you need advice, she will give you the best advice. She will always be with you: when you wake up in the morning the first thing your eyes will see will be hers; during the day, she will be with you, if for a moment she is not with you by her physical body, she will be thinking of you, praying for you with all her heart, mind, and soul; when you go to sleep at night, the last thing your eyes will see will be her; and when you are asleep you will still see her in your dreams. In short, she will be your whole world and you will be her whole world.

The best description that I personally have ever read describing the closeness of the spouses to each other is the Qur'anic verse which says: "they are your garments and you are their garments" (Surah Al Baqarah 2:187).

Indeed, spouses are like garments to each other because they provide one another with the protection, the comfort, the cover, the support, and the adornment that garments provide to humans. Just imagine a journey in the winter of Alaska without garments! Our spouses provide us with the same level of comfort, protection, cover, and support in the journey of our lives on this earth as garments would do in the Alaskan journey.

The relationship between the spouses is the most amazing of all human relations: the amount of love and affection, intimacy and closeness, mercy and compassion, peace and tranquillity that fills the hearts of the spouses is simply inexplicable. The only rational explanation for these most amazing of all human feelings is that: it is an act of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, "And Allah has made for you Mates (and Companions) of your own nature ..." (Surah Al Nahl 16:72) Only our Almighty Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala in His Infinite Power, Boundless Mercy, and Great Wisdom can create and ingrain these amazing and blessed feelings in the hearts of the spouses. In fact Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala is reminding those who search for His signs in the universe that these feelings in the hearts of the spouses are among the signs that should guide humans to His existence as He says in the Qur'an, "And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: verily in that are signs for those who reflect." (Surah Al Rum 30:21)

But Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala knows that the human heart is not a static entity, it is sometimes weak and at times dynamic. Feelings can and do change with time. Love may wither and fade away. The marital bond might weaken if not properly cared for. Happiness in marriage cannot be taken for granted; continuous happiness requires constant giving from both sides. For the tree of marital love to remain alive and keep growing, the soil has to be sustained, maintained, watered and nurtured.

Remember that our Prophet Muhammad Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam had found the time to go out to the desert and race with his wife Aisha. She out ran him but later after she had gained some weight, he out ran her.

Remember that the Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam took his wife to watch the young Ethiopians playing and dancing their folk dances. The show of emotions is necessary to keep the marital bond away from rusting and disintegrating.

Remember that you will be rewarded by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala for any emotions you show to your wife as the Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam said "one would be rewarded for anything that he does seeking the pleasure of Allah even the food that he puts in the mouth of his wife."

Never underestimate the importance of seemingly little things as putting food in your wife's mouth, opening the car's door for her, etc. Remember that the Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam used to extend his knee to his wife to assist her up to ride the camel.

Try to always find some time for both of you to pray together. Strengthening the bond between you and Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala is the best guarantee that your own marital bond would always remain strong. Having peace with Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala will always result in having more peace at home.

Remember that the Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam gave glad tidings for those couples who wake up at night to pray together. The Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam even urged the spouse who rises up first to wake the other spouse up even by throwing cold water on his/her face.

Always try your best to be good to your wife by words and by deeds. Talk to her, smile to her, seek her advice, ask for her opinion, spend quality time with her and always remember that the Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam said "the best of you are those who are best to their wives."

Finally, it is common that spouses vow to love and honor their spouses until death do them part. I do believe that this vow is good or even great, but not enough! It is not enough that you love your wife. You have to love what she loves as well. Her family, her loved ones must also become your loved ones. Don't be like my colleague who was unhappy about his wife's parents coming to visit for few weeks. He candidly said to her "I don't like your parents." Naturally, she angrily looked at him straight in the eye and said " I don't like yours either"... Also, it is not enough that you love her until death do you part. Love should never end and we do believe there is life after death where those who did righteousness in this world will be joined by their spouses (Surah Al Zukhruf 43:70) and offsprings.

The best example in this regard is the Prophet Salallaahu 'aliahi wa'sallaam whose love for Khadija, his wife of 25 years extended to include all those she loved and continued even after her death. It was many years after her death and he never forgot her and whenever a goat was slaughtered in his house he would send portions of it to Khadija's family and friends and whenever he felt that the visitor at the door might be Khadija's sister Hala, he would pray saying "O Allah let it be Hala."

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MARRIAGE IN ISLAM.

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Islam is a strong advocate of marriage. There are no religious clerical appointments where one must be celibate like for example a priest or nun. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said "There is no celibacy in Islam." The prophet has also said, "Marriage is my tradition whosoever keeps away from it is not from amongst us".

Marriage is a moral safeguard as well as a social building block. Through marriage, families are established and the family is considered to be the fundamental unit of our society. Furthermore, marriage is the only valid or halal way to indulge in intimacy between a man and a woman.

Islam takes a middle of the road position to sexual relations. It neither condemns it like certain religions, nor does it allow it freely. Islam urges us to control and regulate our desires, whatever they may be, so that we remain civilized and equity reigns in society. Marriage also acts as an outlet for physical needs and regulates it as well.

The purpose of Marriage.

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The word "Zawj" is used in the Quran to mean a pair or a mate. In general it's usage refers to marriage. The general purpose of marriage is so that men and women can love one another, provide company to each other, procreate and live in peace and tranquility to the commandments of God.

* Marriage serves as a means to emotional and physical gratification. It is also a form of worship because it is obeying God and His messenger - i.e. Marriage is seen as the only possible way for the sexes to unite under God. One could choose to live in sin but by choosing marriage one is displaying obedience to God.

Marriage is a "Mithaq" - a solemn covenant or agreement. It should not be taken lightly. It should be entered into with total commitment and full knowledge of what it involves. Your partner should be your choice for life. One should be mature enough to understand the demands of marriage so that the union can be a lasting one.

For a marriage to be valid certain conditions must be met:

1) Consent of both parties.
2) "Mahr" - a gift from the groom to the bride.
3) Witnesses.
4) The marriage should be publicized. (It should never be kept secret as this can lead to suspicion and troubles within the community.)

Is Marriage obligatory?

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According to Imams Abu Hanifah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Malik ibn Anas, marriage is recommended, however for certain individuals it becomes Wajib (obligatory). Imam Shaafi'i considered it to be nafl or mubah (preferable). The general opinion is that if a person, male or female fears that if he/she does not marry they will commit Zina (sex outside of marriage), then marriage becomes obligatory. If a person has strong sexual urges then it becomes obligatory for that person to marry. Marriage should not be put off or delayed, especially if one has the means to do so.

A man, however should not marry if he does not possess the means to maintain a wife and future family, if he will not consummate the marriage, if he dislikes children, or if he feels marriage will seriously affect his religious obligation. The general rule is that the Prophet (pbuh) enjoined people to marry. He said "When one marries, they have fulfilled half of their religion , so let them fear God regarding the remaining half." This Hadith is narrated by Anas ibn Malik. Islam greatly encourages marriage because it shields one from wrongful actions and upholds the family unit.

Selection of a partner:

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The choice of a partner should be the one with the most "Taqwa" (piety). The Prophet recommended suitors see each other before going through with marriage. It is unreasonable for two people to be thrown together and be expected to relate and be intimate when they know nothing of each other. The couple is permitted to look at each other with a critical eye and not a desireful one. This ruling does not contradict the Ayah which says that believing men and women should lower their gaze.

- The couple, however is not permitted to be alone in a closed room or to go out together alone. As the hadith says "When a man and a woman are together alone, there is a third presence i.e. shaitan.

- There is no dating or living in defacto relationships with each other before they commit to each other seriously. There is to be no physical relationship before marriage. The romantic notions that young people often have, have proven in most cases to be unrealistic and harmful to those involved. We only have to look at the alarming divorce rates to understand this point. e.g. the couple know each other for years, are intimate, live together and so on yet somehow this does not guarantee the success of the future marriage. "Romance" often dies out very quickly when we have to deal with the real world. Unrealistic expectations often contributes to problems within relationships. It is better to focus on compatability of the couple and critical evaluation than solely physical attraction.

Consent of parties.

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There is a halal arranged marriage and a haram one. It is OK to arrange marriages by suggestion and recommendation as long as both parties are agreeable. The other arranged marriage is when parents choose the future spouse and the couple concerned are forced or have no choice in the matter.

One of the conditions of a valid marriage is consent of the couple. Marriage by definition is a voluntary union of two people.

The choice of a partner by a Muslim virgin girl is subject to the approval of the father or guardian under Maliki school. This is to safeguard her welfare and interests. The Prophet said "The Widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until she has consented and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained. The Prophet did revoke the marriage of a girl who complained to him that her father had married her against her wishes.

The husband/wife relationship.

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The wife's rights - the husband's obligations.

(1) Maintenance

The husband is responsible for the wife's maintenance. This right is established by authority of the Quran and Sunnah. It is inconsequential whether the wife is a Muslim , non-Muslim, rich, poor, healthy or sick. A component of his role is to bear the financial responsibility of the family in a generous way so that his wife may be assured security.

The wife's maintenance entails her right to lodging, clothing, food and general care, like medication, hospital bills etc. He must provide for her where he resides himself according to his means. The wife's lodging must be adequate so as to ensure her privacy, comfort and independence.

If a wife has been used to a maid or is unable to attend to her household duties, it is the husbands duty to provide her with a maid if he can afford to do so. The Prophet is reported to have said: "The best Muslim is one who is the best husband."

(2) "Mahr"

The wife is entitled to a marriage gift that is her own. This may be prompt or deferred depending on the agreement between the parties. A marriage is not valid without Mahr. It does not have to be money or gold. It can be non-material like teaching her to read the Quran. " Mahr" is a gift from the groom to the bride. This is the Islamic law, unlike some cultures whereby the bride's parents pay the future husband to marry the daughter. This practice degrades women and is contrary to the spirit of Islam. There is no specification in the Qur'an as to what or how much the Mahr has to be. It depends on the parties involved.

(3) Non-material rights.

A husband is commanded by the law of God to treat his wife with equity, respect her feelings and show kindness and consideration, especially if he has another wife. The Prophet's Last Sermon stresses kindness to women.

The wife's obligations - the husband's rights.

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One of the main duties of the wife is to contribute to the success and happiness of the marriage. She should be attentive to the comfort and wellbeing of her husband and vice-versa. The Quranic Ayah which illustrates this point is:

"Our Lord, grant us wives and offspring who will be the coolness of our eyes and guide us to be models for the righteous"

The wife should be trustworthy and honest. She cannot deceive her husband by deliberately avoiding conceiving. She should not have any sexual intimacy with anyone other than her husband. She should not receive or entertain strange males in the house without his knowledge and consent. She should not accept gifts from other men without his approval. This is meant to avoid jealousy, suspicion and gossip. She shouldn't dispose of his belongings without his permission.

A wife should make herself attractive to her husband and be responsive to his advances. The wife should not refuse her husband without reason as this may lead to marital problems and worse still - tempt the man to adultery. The husband, of course, should take into account the wife's health and consideration of circumstances.

"Obedience."

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The purpose of 'obedience' in a relationship is to keep the family unit running as smoothly as possible. Obedience does not mean blind obedience. It is subject to conditions:

(a) It is required only if what is asked from the wife is within the permissible categories of action.

(b) It must be maintained only with regard to matters that fall under the husband's rights.


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