Marriage in Islam
Islam, unlike other religions is a strong advocate of marriage. There is no place for celibacy like, for example the Roman Catholic priests and nuns. The prophet (pbuh) has said "there is no celibacy in Islam.Marriage is a religious duty and is consequently a moral safeguard as well as a social necessity. Islam does not equal celibacy with high "taqwa/Iman". The prophet has also said, "Marriage is my tradition who so ever keeps away there from is not from amongst me".Marriage acts as an outlet for sexual needs and regulate it so one does not become a slave to his/ her desires.It is a social necessity because through marriage, families are established and the family is the fundamental unit of our society. Furthermore, marriage is the only legitimate 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 dignified and not become like animals.
The purpose of Marriage
The word "zawj" is used in the Qur'an to mean a pair or a mate. In general it usage refers to marriage. The general purpose of marriage is that the sexes can provide company to one another, love to one another, procreate children and live in peace and tranquility to the commandments of Allah.
Marriage serves as a means to emotional and sexual gratification and as a means of tension reduction. It is also a form of Ibadah because it is obeying Allah and his messenger - i.e. Marriage is seen as the only possible way for the sexes to unite. One could choose to live in sin, however by choosing marriage one is displaying obedience to Allah.
Marriage is "mithaq" - a solemn covenant (agreement). It is not a matter which can be taken lightly. It should be entered into with total commitment and full knowledge of what it involves. It is not like buying a new dress where you can exchange it if you don't like it. 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 his bride.
3. Witnesses- 2 male or female.
4. The marriage should be publicized, it should never be kept secret as itleads to suspicion and troubles within the community.
Is Marriage obligatory?
According to Imams Abu Hanifah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Malik ibn Anas, marriage is recommendatory, however in certain individuals it becomes wajib/obligatory. Imam Shaafi'i considers 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 fornication, then marriage becomes "wajib". If aperson has strong sexual urges then it becomes "wajib" 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 or she does not possess the means to maintain a wife and future family, or if he has no sex drive or if dislikes children, or if he feels marriage will seriously affect his religious obligation.The general principle is that prophet (pbuh), enjoined up in the followers to marry.
He said "when a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half." This hadith is narrated by Anas. Islam greatly encourages marriage because it shields one from and upholds the family unit which Islam places great importance.
Selection of a partner:
The choice of a partner should be the one with the most "taqwa" (piety). The prophet recommended the 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 are permitted to look at each other with a critical eye and not a lustful one. This ruling does not contradict the ayah which says that believing men and women should lower their gaze.
The couple, however are not permitted to be alone in a closed room or 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 concept of courtship in Islam as it is practised in the west. There is no dating or living in defacto relationship or trying each other out before they commit to each other seriously. There is to be no physical relationship what so ever 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 rate in the west 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 and love simply do not equal a everlasting bond between two people.Fact: Romance and love die out very quickly when we have to deal in the real world.The unrealistic expectations that young people have is what often contributes to the failure of their relationship.
The west make fun of the Islamic way of marriage in particular arranged marriage, yet the irony is that statistically arranged marriages prove to be more successful and lasting than romantic types of courtship. This is because people are blinded by the physical attraction and thus do not choose the compatible partner.
Love blinds people to potential problems in the relationship. There is an Arabic saying: which says "the mirror of love is blind, it makes zucchini into okra". Arranged marriages on the other hand, are based not on physical at traction or romantic notions but rather on critical evaluation of the compatibility of the couple.This is why they often prove successful.
Consent of parties.
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.
The wifes rights - the Husbands obligations.
The husband is responsible for the wifes maintenance. This right is established by authority of the Qur'an and the sunnah. It is inconsequential whether the wife is a Muslim , non-Muslim, rich, poor, healthy or sick. A component of his role as "qawam" (leader) is to bear the financial responsibility of the family in a generous way so that his wife may be assured security and thus perform her role devotedly. The wifes maintenance entails her right to lodging,clothing, food and general care, like medication, hospital bills etc. He must lodge her where he resides himself according to his means. The wifes lodge 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. "M a h r"
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 Qur'an. "Mahr" is a gift from the groom to the bride.This is theIslamic law, unlike some cultures whereby the brides 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 Allah to treat his wife with equity, respect her feelings and show kindness and consideration, especially if he has another wife.The prophet last sermon stresses kindness to women.
The Wife Obligations - The Husbands Rights
One of the main duties of the wife is to contribute to the success and blissfulness of the marriage. She must be attentive to the comfort and well being of her husband. The Qur'anic ayah which illustrates this point is: "Our lord, grant us wives and offspring who will be the apples of our eyes and guide us to be models for the righteous"
The wife must be faithful, trustworthy and honest she must not deceive herhusband by deliberately avoiding contraception. She must not allow any other person to have access to that which is exclusively the husband right i.e. sexual intimacy. She must not receive or entertain strange males in the house without his knowledge and consent. She should not be alone with a strange male.She should not accept gifts from other men without his approval.This is meant to avoid jealousy, suspicion and gossip. The husband possessions are her trust. She may not dispose of his belongings without his permission.
A wife should make herself sexually attractive to her husband and be respon sive to his advances. The wife must not refuse her husband sexually as this can lead to marital problems and worse still - tempt the man to adultery. The husband of course should take into account the wifes health and general consideration should be given.The angels curse women who refuse their husbands, for this is one of the wifes most important roles. A hadith states, " A wife must run to her husband if he calls her, even if she is occupied at the oven.
The purpose of obedience in the relationship is to keep the family unit running as smoothly as possible. The man has been given the right to be obeyed because he is the leader and not because he is superior. If a leader is not obeyed , his leadership will become invalid - Imagine a king or a teacher or a parent without the necessary authority which has been entrusted to them. Obedience does not mean blind obedience. It is subject to conditions:
1. It is required only if what is asked from the wife is within the permissible categories of action.
2. It must be maintained only with regard to matters that fall under the husband rights.
Here are some example of the types of things that wife must be obedient in:
1. Receiving male guests or accepting gifts.
2. Disposing of his property.
3. Leaving the house without his permission. This includes going out to work.
4. She must accept that if there is a dispute between them he has the final word - i.e. she must accept his "qawamma" (leadership). Authority is not the equivalent to power, much less absolute power, so men should not consider their position as one of power and the womans as subservience or submission. The office of leadership is not founded for the man. It is allocated to him and he is appointed to it because he is better qualified for the position. The man as partof the family unit is bound by the rule of the office. He is answerable to Allah at all times - so he is not given free reign to rule as he pleases. His leadership is not unquestionable. If he does something unislamic the wife is entitled to tell her husband that his behaviour is unacceptable in Islam. The rights and obligations of each of the sexes are complementary. These rights and obligations are set out to give the marital relationship the best chance of success and survival. It is Allah who knows what is best for his creation. If we have true iman we will accept Allah Shariah so that we can prosper in this life and in the next.