23 نوفمبر, 2017 - 4 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

Islam and Marriage

Islam and Marriage

Who is it for?

The institution of marriage has been an institution that has withstood the test of time. Islam calls the Muslim community to preserve this sacred and beautiful tradition and to make it a conduit of coming closer to God. In fact, it should be understood that marriage itself is an act of worship, and when done correctly with consciousness of God and with strict adherence to the rights that God sent down, can lead a person to Paradise. “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear God, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed God is ever, over you, an Observer” (Quran 4:1).


Narrated by Anas bin Malik:
A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) asking how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) worshipped (God), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said, "Where are we from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as his past and future sins have been forgiven." Then one of them said, "I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever." The other said, "I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast." The third said, "I will keep away from women and will not marry forever." God's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) came to them and said, "Are you the same people who said such-and-such? By God, I am more submissive to God and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers).


The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had to explain that his way of life was the middle path, and that those who do otherwise are neglecting this perfect way of living. He, May God’s peace and blessings be upon him, tells us clearly that marriage is a path to the Divine and there are those who should take it. The ability to marry does not simply mean having the money to care for a spouse as some men may believe, but it also includes physical ability, and having the emotional capability among other aspects (as someone who has mental health problems may not be fit to emotionally care for another). Without these mental, physical, and financial capabilities it can become impermissible for someone to marry, and for others it might become obligatory that they marry as soon as they find the means, and this will be a barrier between them and the impermissible.

Mankind was created innately forgetful and so due to this forgetfulness some forget the rights of others, others may not forget but instead decide to follow their own personal desires which cause them to lose the justice that they would otherwise display, “So follow not [personal desires] , lest you not be just” (Quran 4:135). This is why God reminds us to remember those rights, this is why the Quran was revealed to be a guidance, “And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers” (Quran 51:55). And this is why God-consciousness, the fear of the Divine assists the believers in being just in their marriages.

The rate of divorce has skyrocketed and domestic abuse has seemingly become a norm. In underdeveloped, developing and the developed countries you find among some people a vehement disrespect for women. You find it in countries with a strong presence of religion and in countries where religion is seen as an impediment to progress. You also find in some countries where the women are those that commit the crimes against their husbands, taking their children from them, emotionally abusing them, and in some cases even physically. In some countries it is seen as manliness to raise your hand to your wife and to do so in a harmful way, and some women believe that a man is not a man if he does not do so, but this belief is a foolish one. For some Muslims, there is a belief that Islam allows for them to harm their wives, though there is a consistent and explicit theme in the Quran of not harming others. In fact, one of the legal maxims in Islam is that we do not cause harm or return it. So then how do they come to such skewed understandings of physically or emotionally harming their spouses? Some believe that God has allowed for this behavior based on the verse, “But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, God is ever Exalted and Grand” (Quran 4:34). Classical scholarship says that this is an option granted to a husband after several other prerequisites are taken. Some scholars state that the context is in severe cases such as a woman committing the haram, not to be confused with a woman who due to being tired, or having a long day after caring for her children has made a meal not to the liking of her spouse. In such a case as the previous, the man is not fearing arrogance or a woman falling into the impermissible, in fact he is an oppressor and God is with the oppressed. It should also be mentioned that not a single narration exists of the Prophet beating his wives, “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of God an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in God and the Last Day and [who] remembers God often” (Quran 33:21), so what example do these men follow?

Who to marry?

One of the questions the believer must ask themselves is what do they look for in a spouse? There are two vital narrations that benefit both the female and male believers of God. For the women, the Prophet says,

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of God said: "If there comes to you one with whose character and religious commitment you are pleased, then marry (your daughter or female relative under your care) to him, for if you do not do that there will be fitnah in the land and widespread corruption.'"

This narration not only gives women a very important character trait to look for, but it also highlights a problem that occurs when that important character trait is ignored. This narration is also backed by the story of Moses (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him). In his story you find that he leaves Egypt and finds himself helping two women who are in need of assistance; here he displays the good character that all men should ultimately have, the good character mentioned in the above narration, and as a result he is rewarded. “He said, "Indeed, I wish to wed you one of these, my two daughters, on [the condition] that you serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten, it will be [as a favor] from you. And I do not wish to put you in difficulty. You will find me, if God wills, from among the righteous” (Quran 28:27). Good character and a connection to God is the key to not only finding but keeping a strong marriage. As for men, there is another well-known narration that too ends with a strong warning.


Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a losers.

In this narration the believing men are reminded of the various reasons that women are married. While this narration recognizes the importance of beauty, wealth and family lineage, it ends with the Prophet giving a strong suggestion and advice to marry those of religion. Why? For without a woman of religion you will have loss. What will a person lose? This depends of course on the person and the circumstances they are in, so for one to speak definitively would be foolish, but what one can say is that a woman of religion is like a pearl that adorns this world, and when a man has secured one, they have become rich, they have attained one of the bounties of God, a blessing they should immediately be thankful for, “So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny” (Quran 55:13)? So choose your spouse with the guidance of the Quran and the life of the Prophet if success in this life and the next is your goal!


Women can propose as well

Some within the faith community believe it is unbecoming of a woman to propose to a man, but Islam says different. No woman was more beloved to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) than his first wife, Khadijah, and this was a woman who would have been the antithesis of what most men look for today. She was a business owner and had two divorces and children from a previous marriage. She was the one to both hire and pay the Prophet Muhammad for his work that he did for her company. She also was the one to propose to him. In Khadijah, Islam has given us one of the greatest examples of a woman.

As if that example is not sufficient, there is an example of another woman who came to propose to the Prophet, highlighting the permissibility of this action.


Narrated Thabit Al-Banani:
I was with Anas while his daughter was present with him. Anas said, "A woman came to God's Apostle (peace and blessings be upon him) and presented herself to him, saying, 'O God's Messenger, have you any need for me (i.e. would you like to marry me)?' "Thereupon Anas's daughter said, "What a shameless lady she was! Shame! Shame!" Anas said, "She was better than you; she had a liking for the Prophet so she presented herself for marriage to him.”


Divorce


Some also go to extremes in the faith when they discuss the concept of divorce, some make it an action that is impermissible while others seemingly make it a recommended action, going from spouse to spouse as though they were clothing. They are both incorrect, but the latter is committing a disgusting act. Marriage is a sacred act before God and it should be taken as such. In the Quran, God mentions in Surah Al Talaq, “Oh Prophet, if you divorce your [wives]…” (Quran 65:1). Scholars of exegesis mention that God uses the word “if” here to denote that though this action is a permissible action, it is one that is disliked by Him. In fact, there is a well-known narration that portrays Satan’s lust for breaking apart the family.

Jabir reported that God's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension); the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: "I did such-and-such." And he says: "You have done nothing." Then one amongst them comes and says: "I did not spare so-and-so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife." Satan then goes near him and says: "You have done well." A'mash said: “He then embraces him.”

What this narration also shows us is that marriage truly is an act of worship, and through marriage one gets closer to God (if the rights are observed). If it was not an act of worship and a way to gain God’s pleasure, why then would Satan praise his henchmen with so much praise?! In this is a lesson to those who contemplate and who have clean hearts.

When taking a glance through this surah you will find that God advises everything possible to keep marriages together. He uses language to quell the fears of men, such as reminding them that He is the source of provision (a common fear and excuse for men). Scholars have understood from these verses that a man should never push a woman out of the home, and that even when divorce takes place she should remain in the home until her period of waiting is complete. Not only is this to ensure her needs are met and that she is not forced upon her family as some men would like done, but that the love might be rekindled between them and he may turn back to her in love and mercy. God understands the minds of men and that in most circumstances these decisions of divorce are made out of anger, and not always from sound judgement and rationale. At the end of the first verse God mentions, “You don’t know, that perhaps God wishes to bring from this a different matter” (Quran 60:1). Imam Qurtubi mentions that God is talking about the power that God has to change hearts, and that with patience, and by following the commands that He has set forth in this matter of divorce, it may be that God causes the hearts to once again incline towards one another.

 

Family First

Time and time again one will hear words that characterize women as being the caretakers of the home, and while the Islamic tradition does not disagree with this concept, it also does not absolve men from also taking part in the home. In fact, the Islamic tradition prides men on being part and parcel of the home and in the growth of children. If we were to speak on the subject of children in this article it would become too long winded, and so for the sake of brevity we will mention a few narrations on the joint partnership of husband and wife in the home.


Narrated Al-Aswad bin Yazid:
I asked `Aisha "What did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) use to do at home?" She said, "He used to work for his family, and when he heard the adhan (call for the prayer), he would go out.”

This may be the most famous of narrations on the subject. It shows us that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was not only a man of religion as we all know, but that he was also a man of service, and that service was not only to community members, a congregation of a masjid, co-workers at a job, but first and foremost to his family. In fact, it should be said that service is religion and that one cannot separate the two. This point is one that is lost on many men, both those who practice the religion with fervor and those who do not. Many times everyone aside from the wife and the home gets their deserved time and love. To make matters worse, some will justify this lack of time and love by stating it is because of their careers, or due to religious acts of worship such as prayer or calling people to the religion. Here we find a man who was the perfect example to all of us, he did all that he was commanded to do by the Creator, served the people, served His lord by fulfilling the rights of God upon him, and was still in the service of his family. Let it be known as well that while some may state that the Prophet was an exception and that not all men can be like him, do we use that exception for everything else in life? Do we excuse ourselves from prayer because we are not like the Prophet, do we say we cannot marry because we are not like the Prophet? The answer is an emphatic no, and neither should we excuse ourselves from the dutifulness that we should have to our spouses.

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
It was narrated that Ibn 'Abbas said: "When the Messenger of God died he had nine wives; he used to be intimate with all of them except one, who had given her day and night to 'Aishah."

As the narration states, it should also be noted that the Prophet was married to several women, and even in this case he was able to fulfil their physical rights upon him. Yes we are aware that he was the best of mankind, but what does this say about the average man of today’s time? Should the Muslim men of today not strive to be a better version of themselves every day? The vast majority of men in the Muslim world have a single wife and due to a lack of time management and passion may not fulfil either the emotional or physical rights of their wives, some even fail at fulfilling both. Some don’t even feel that their wife has the right to physical satisfaction. Meanwhile some may quote scripture claiming their ability to marry again, all while being aware that their wife is unhappy and unfulfilled in their present situation. These men should fear God, buckle down and begin to put in the work that is required of Muslim men.

Narrated Abu Hurairah:
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: "It was said to the Messenger of God: 'Which woman is best?' He said: 'The one who makes him happy when he looks at her, obeys him when he commands her, and does not go against his wishes with regard to herself nor her wealth.'"

And for the women of our world, when one is blessed to be in a relationship with a good man, then there is not a single book on marriage in the Western or Eastern world that doesn’t advise a woman to make her husband feel as though he is the leader in the relationship. To trust him and to follow him, to shower him with praise and to allow him to be the head of the household as God has dictated for him to be. Does this mean to absolve herself of all common sense? Does this mean for her to suffer from abuse, either physical or emotional? No! During the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when a woman came to complain to him about her husband, we find that Surah Mujadila was revealed and it is the only Surah in the entire Quran where God’s name is mentioned in every verse. Why? As some scholars mention, it is to show that God is with this woman and all women that go through circumstances of physical or emotional abuse.

So this narration is speaking of a woman who is married to an upright man, a man who of course will make mistakes (as all people do, but the best of those are who turn back to God asking for forgiveness). This woman should do her best to please her husband, to listen to him when he asks of her and to serve him to the best of her ability, this is also an act of worship for her. Denying him that which is his right and things that he may lean towards has no benefit aside from causing friction in the relationship. Once when the Prophet out of love for his wives decided he would no longer indulge in eating a certain sweet anymore, and as such God revealed the verse, “O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what God has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And God is Forgiving and Merciful” (Quran 66:1). What then of women who deny their husbands far more important rights that would only cause their relationships to be stronger?!

Closing

The subject of marriage is a lengthy one but these points are important for every believer to take away and to digest in their mind—the importance and virtue of marriage, how to determine the best person to marry, what divorce is about and how to preserve a marriage. The world is built upon this institution, our children and future generations will be stronger when our marriages are stronger, and they will continue to weaken as our marriages weaken. Those who are in service to the Creator and want to ensure a world where Islam is strong, understood, and loved by all of those who come into contact with it will first ensure that their spouses are happy with the Islam that they practice. They will ensure that their marriages are strong and based upon love and happiness. By doing so they will solidify Islam for tomorrow. Instead of some looking toward a physical Jihad of the sword, believing that by fighting and killing they will have secured Islam for tomorrow, they ought to first look in their home and take up the spiritual sword, the sword to cut the ego and the shield to protect themselves from temptations, and journey for the sake of God to a relationship that will earn the pleasure of God through a life of service to their spouse. And God knows best.