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The Meaning of Marriage in Islam

 

Qur'an-marriage ring

Marriage in Islam is regarded first and foremost as a righteous act, an act of responsible devotion.

Muslim scholars have interpreted the Qur’an to mean that marriage is a religious duty, a moral safeguard, and social commitment. As a religious duty, it must be fulfilled; but like all other duties in Islam, it is enjoined only upon those who are capable of meeting the responsibilities involved.

Challenging Commitment

Whatever meanings people assign to marriage, Islam views it as a strong bond (mithaq ghaleez), a challenging commitment in the fullest sense of the word. It is a commitment to life itself, to society, and to the dignified, meaningful survival of the human race. It is a commitment that married partners make to one another as well as to God.

It is the kind of commitment in which they find mutual fulfillment and self-realization, love and peace, compassion and serenity, comfort and hope. All this is because marriage in Islam is regarded first and foremost as a righteous act, an act of responsible devotion. Sexual control may be a moral triumph, reproduction, a social necessity or service, a sound health and a gratifying state of mind.

Yet, these values and purposes of marriage would take on a special meaning and be reinforced if they are intertwined with the idea of God, conceived also as religious commitments, and internalized as divine blessings. And this seems to be the focal point of marriage in Islam. To paraphrase some Qur’anic verses, the call is addressed to mankind:

O mankind! Be dutiful to God, Who created them from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the two of them scattered abroad many men and women. (An-Nisaa’ 4:1)

It was God Who created mankind out of one living soul, and created of that soul a spouse so that he might find comfort and rest in her. (Al-A`raf 7:189)

And it is a sign of God that He has created for men, of themselves, mates to seek in their company peace and tranquility, and has set between them mutual love and mercy. Surely, in that are signs for those who contemplate. (Ar-Rum 30:21)

strong bond

Even at the most trying times of married life, and in the midst of legal disputes and litigation, the Qur’an reminds the parties of God’ s law.

Dutifulness

Even at the most trying times of married life, and in the midst of legal disputes and litigation, the Qur’an reminds the parties of God’ s law; it commands them to be kind to one another, truly charitable toward one another, and above all dutiful to God.

It is noteworthy that the Islamic provisions of marriage apply to men and women equally. For example, if celibacy is not recommended for men, it is equally so for women. This is in recognition of the fact that women’ s needs are equally legitimate and are seriously taken into consideration.

In fact, Islam regards marriage to be the normal, natural course for women just as it is for men. It may even be more so for women because it assures them, among other things, of relative economic security.

This significant additional advantage for women does not, however, characterize marriage as a purely economic transaction. In fact, the least focal aspect of marriage in Islam is the economic factor, no matter how powerful this may be. The Prophet is reported to have said that

“A woman is ordinarily sought as wife for her wealth, for her beauty, for the nobility of her stock, or for her religious qualities; but blessed and fortunate is he who chooses his mate for piety in preference to everything else.” (Muslim)

The Qur’an commands marriage to the spouseless and the pious even though they may be poor and slaves:

And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, All-Knowing. (An-Nur 24:32)

On the other hand, whatever dowry (marriage gifts) a man gives his prospective wife belongs to her; and whatever she may have acquired prior to or after marriage is hers alone. There is no necessary community of property of husbands and wives.

Furthermore, it is the husband who is responsible for the maintenance and economic security of the family. He must even provide the wife with the kind of help and service to which she was used before marriage, and, according to some scholars, she is under no legal obligation to do the routine housework, although she may do so, and usually does, for some reason or other, e.g. cooperation, economy, etc.

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The article is excerpted from Dr. Hammudah’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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Family New Muslims

Rights of the Muslim Woman: The Daughter and the Wife

By Dr. Jamal Badawi 

Woman as a Daughter

1- The Qur’an ended the cruel pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide(wa’d):

Rights of the Muslim Woman- The Daughter and the Wife

Parents are duty-bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters.

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed…. (At-Takwir 81:8-9)

The Qur’an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitude of some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy:

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame he hides himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on! (An-Nahl 16:58-59)

3- Parents are duty-bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Whosoever has a daughter and does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into paradise. (Ahmad)

Whosoever supports two daughters until they mature, he and I will come on the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together). (Ahmad)

4- A crucial aspect in the upbringing of daughters that greatly influences their future is education. Education is not only a right but a responsibility for all males and females.

Prophet Muhammad said, “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim”. (Al-Bayhaqi and Ibn-Majah)

(The word “Muslim” here is inclusive of both males and females.)

As a Wife

1- Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love and compassion, and not the mere satisfying of human sexual desire.

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Ar-Rum 30:21)

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Ash-Shura 42:11)

Marriage and Divorce

2- The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals.

Her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the martial contract, according to the Prophets’ teaching. It follows that if an “arranged marriage” means the marrying of a female without her consent, then such a marriage may be annulled if the female so wishes:

Ibn `Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of Allah, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice… (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it. (Ahmad)

Another version of the report states that the girl said: “Actually, I accept this marriage, but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them.” (Ibn-Majah)

3- The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection, and overall leadership (qiwamah) of the family, within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutuality and complementarity of husband and wife does not mean “subservience” by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad helped with household chores although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced in his community were immense.

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear.  No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child, nor father on account of his child. A heir shall be chargeable in the same way. If they both decide on weaning by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If you decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided you pay (the mother) what you offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what you do. (Al-Baqarah 2:233)

Prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims regarding women,

“I commend you to be kind to women.” (Al-Bukhari) He said also, “The best of you is the best to his family (wife).” (An-Nawawi in his book Riyad As-Saliheen)

The Qur’an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives, even if a wife falls out of favor with her husband or disinclination for her arises within him. It also outlawed the pre-Islamic Arabian practice whereby the stepson of the deceased father was allowed to take possession of his father’s widow(s) (inherit them) as if they were part of the estate of the deceased:

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them, except when they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing through which Allah brings about a great deal of good. (An-Nisaa’ 4:19)

4- Should marital disputes arise, the Qur’an encourages couples to resolve them privately in a spirit of fairness and probity. Under no circumstances does the Qur’an encourage, allow, or condone family violence or physical abuse.

In extreme cases, and whenever greater harm, such as divorce, is a likely option, it allows for a husband to administer a gentle pat to his wife that causes no physical harm to the body nor leaves any sort of mark. It may serve, in some cases, to bring to the wife’s attention to the seriousness of her continued unreasonable behavior  (refraction), and may be resorted to only after exhausting other steps discussed in endnote.

If that mild measure is not likely to prevent a marriage from collapsing, as a last measure, it should not be resorted to. Indeed, the Qur’an outlines an enlightened step and a wise approach for the husband and wife to resolve persistent conflict in their martial life: In the event that disputes cannot be resolved equitably between husband and wife, the Qur’an prescribes mediation between the parties through family intervention on behalf of both spouses.

5- Divorce is a last resort, permissible but not encouraged, for the Qur’an esteems the preservation of faith and the individual’s right – male and female alike – to felicity. Forms of marriage dissolution include an enactment based upon mutual agreement, the husband’s initiative, the wife’s initiative (if part of her martial contract), the court’s decision on a wife’s initiative (for a legitimate reason) and the wife’s initiative without a “cause” provided that she returns her marital gift to her husband (khul` or divestiture).

6- Priority for the custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later may choose the mother or father as his or her custodian.

Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and the well-being of the child.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s “Gender Equity in Islam: Basic Principles”.

 

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