Lecture 7 Marriage Related Issues: Islamic Pers pectives Islam views marriage as a sacred contract; as such, the selection process for a suitable spouse must be considered carefully both by man and woman. Even though Islam prescribes specific guidelines on marriage related issues, oftentimes many Muslims give local customs and cultural practices precedence over those guidelines. Unfortunately, many un-Islamic customs namely dowry (given to the husband), female genital mutilation, honor killing are deeply rooted in many Muslim societies, which, instead of giving women security and peace, bring humiliation and mental agony to them. However, such practices are not peculiar to Muslims; they go across religions in many cultures. While millions of Muslim women are being abused by their fathers/brothers/husbands or by their community, we believe it is crucial for us to know what Islam says about pre- and post- marital duties and responsibilities of both men and women. In search of these answers, we will first look into issues that potentially lead to the solemnization of marriage. The Selection of Spouse With regard to spouse selection, our Prophet (SAWS) said, "Do not marry only for the beauty, maybe the beauty becomes the cause of moral decline. Do not marry e ven for the sake of wealth, maybe the wealth becomes the reason of disobedience; marry rather on the ground of religious devotion and piety." How many Muslims really take this hadith seriously while choosing their partners? How many of us really give preference to piety over wealth or beauty? The shocking reality of many Muslim societies goes against the teachings of the Prophet. In the Quran, marriage is described as a sign of Allah. Allah says in Ch.30 V.21: “And of His Signs is this that He has created for you wives from your own species that you may find peace with them, and created love and mercy between you. Surely in this there are many Signs for those who reflect.” The use of the word azwajan in this verse is important as it means “spouse”, which is a neutral term referring to both male and female. This shows that marriage is a matter of mutual consent; and it is not simply a question of man finding his mate. This implies that there is both human and spiritual equality between the sexes, and woman has the same right as man to choose her spouse. In one hadith, addressing the guardians of the girls, the Prophet (SM) said, “Do not give your daughter in marriage to someone who is no good, because whoever does that is destroying her family connections”. He also said, “If a person comes to you to seek the hand of your daughter in marriage […] you should give her to him only if you are comfortable and assured of his piety and good character. Because if you do not follow this criterion, there will be commotion in the land”. So it seems that the criterion to choose a compatible spouse is the same for both man and woman. It should be remembered that that if the prospective spouse the parents have selected is not compatible and is not Islamically sound, then the girl has the right to ignore parents‟ choice and to reject the proposal. Sometimes people ask if Muslim woman can initiate a marriage proposal to a man! Traditionally, a man takes the first step to make his proposal to a girl or to her family. But in Islamic law, there is no prohibition against a woman making the first move to propose. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) himself was proposed by Khadija (RA) before their marriage. In another instance, a woman came to Prophet (SAWS) and offered herself in marriage to him. Though he did not accept it, he also did not disapprove of her action of making the proposal. Prohibition of dating and courting The moral teaching of Islam prohibits any dating or courting between the prospective husband and wife before marriage. We earlier mentioned a hadith regarding the presence of Shaitan when two unrelated man and woman meet in privacy. However, that does not forbid them to meet and talk before making a decision regarding marriage, provided they are not alone in privacy. It is encouraged that they should talk to each other to see if they find each other compatible or not. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) is recorded on several occasions to have commanded prospective bridegrooms to go and look at the prospective brides so that „feelings of love, companionship and closeness‟ is engendered. It is reported that a companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Al-Mughirah Ibn Shoabah came to the Prophet and said that he was getting married. The Prophet (SM) said to him, “Look at her in order to generate feelings of love, companionship and closeness between you”. What this hadith implies is that prospective bridegroom and bride should present themselves to each other in a nice manner (maintaining Islamic etiquette and dress code) so that it becomes easier for them to make the right decision. Prohibition on marrying different categories of man and woman The prohibited categories of women whom a Muslim man may not marry are detailed in the Qur'an in CH.4 v.22-24: And marry not those women whom your fathers married, excep t what hath already happened (of that nature) in the past. Lo! it was ever lewdness and abomination, and an evil way. Forbidden unto you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your father's sisters, and your mother's sisters, and your brother's daughters and your sister's daughters, and your foster- mothers, and your foster-sisters, and your mothers- in- law, and your step-daughters who are under your protection (born) of your women unto whom ye have gone in - but if ye have not gone in unto them, then it is no sin for you (to marry their daughters) - and the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins. And (it is forbidden unto you) that ye should have two sisters together, except what hath already happened (of that nature) in the past. Lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned, so that ye seek them with your wealth in honest wedlock, not debauchery. And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what ye do by mutual agreement after the duty (hath been done). Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise. Taking each prohibited category in turn, it is easy to see the logic behind the se prohibitions: a) The prohibition against marrying a step- mother, or a widow or divorcee of one's father ended a pre-Islamic practice which was based on the idea that a wife was part of the property of her husband and hence could be inherited along with his other possessions. Islam asserts that a woman cannot be an object of inheritance; on the contrary, she is entitled to inheritance from what her husband left. A step- mother – widowed or divorced – is to be respected as a mother; and therefore may not be married to her son or step-son. b) In almost all cultures, mothers, daughters and sisters are not considered for marriage because the natural love, adoration and respect one has for these close relations should not be marred by the love engendered by sexual desire. c) Aunts – both paternal and maternal – are like mothers and so may not be married; equally, nieces are like daughters, and for the same reason cannot be married. All these categories of women are maharim, irrevocably and totally prohibited for marriage. Equally, a woman may not marry her step- father or the widower of her mother or her paternal or maternal uncle or her nephews. In this respect, one jurist, Al Ghazali, said that it was not recommended to marry one's cousin considering the medical harm which results from inter- marriage amongst close relations, even though the Qur'an does not prohibit this. Research is still going on in this field to find out the correlation between some genetic diseases/abnormalities and the blood relationship between the spouses. Also, Islam prohibits marriage to these categories of relatives because marriage is supposed to expand the circle of relations in order to strengthen Islamic society. A Muslim is also prohibited from marrying: d) A close relative through the relationship of suckling: the woman who suckled a baby is regarded as its mother, therefore a boy may not marry his foster- mother, any other children she suckled (because they are regarded as his sisters), or the sisters of the foster- mother. e) His daughter-in- law because in Islam she is considered to be like his daughter. f) Two sisters at the same time. The sisters' relationship would obviously be strained if they were both married to a man simultaneously. g) A woman who is already married. Other Prohibitions In the Qur'an (CH.5 v.6., CH.22 v.17; CH.98 v.l., CH.60 v.89; CH.58 v.22), Allah says that those guilty of adultery or fornication should not be permitted to marry those who are chaste and innocent of such actions. This prohibition is a manifestation of the following concerns: a) Islam's moral teachings prohibit all types of illicit sexual relationships. This restriction ensures that those guilty of breaking Islam's moral code in this respect will not get the reward of having chaste spouse. Conversely, the chaste are rewarded with the privilege to marry those who are chaste like themselves. b) These serious consequences act as a deterrent to those who are susceptible to such illicit relationships. c) The purpose of Islamic marriage is engendering tranquility and building fellowship between husband and wife. One cannot attain this if one partner is God- fearing and chaste whilst the other is not. Therefore, Islam ensures that those who are incompatible in this respect will not be in marital union. d) Concern for the medical harms which result from illicit relationships, such as venereal disease. But if the guilty person is truly repentant, then in Islam there is a chance of forgiveness from Allah. It is not clear from the Qur'an whether the prohibition against marrying those guilty of fornication or adultery is irrevocable or not. By and large, Muslim jurists agree that since sins which are greater than adultery and fornication can be forgiven, with true repentance, adulterers and fornicators may be forgiven too by Allah. If a Muslim wishes to marry a woman who has been guilty of involvement in illicit relationships, jurists advise that, as a safeguard, the man should wait for between one to three months to see whether she is pregnant by those illicit relationships. If she is pregnant, then he must wait until she has delivered her baby before he can marry her. Permissibility of marriage with a woman from the People of the Book The Qur'an specifically permits Muslim men to marry „[…] the chaste women from among the People of the Book'. The term People of the Book is usually interpreted as meaning Christians and Jews. The jurists maintain that it also applies to people who sincerely believe in God and His prophets and revelations. This concession is not a recommendation; it is simply a gesture of tolerance and goodwill towards this group of people. Some people argue that the Christians are not really the People o f the Book since they now associate partners with God. Jamal Badawi refutes such arguments and says that at the time of the Prophet (SAWS), some of his contemporaries such as Abdullah ibn Umar argued along the lines that the Christians of their time were not true followers of Jesus (AS) because they believed that he was God incarnate, or the son of God. In spite of this, Allah revealed to Muslims that there is a distinction between the polytheists and idolaters, and Jews and Christians. The Qur‟an repeatedly addresses the Jews and Christians of Prophet‟s time as the 'People of the Book'. It is clear that the Qur'an makes it lawful for Muslim men to marry chaste women from among them. However, many jurists and scholars such as Abdullah ibn Umar discouraged it, or at least advised Muslims to take precautions before marrying Jewish and Christian women. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, arguably the most competent jurist of contemporary times, says in his Fatwa Muassira that: The Jewish or Christian woman one is interested in marrying should be a believing/practicing member of her faith. She should not be an agnostic who happens to be from a so called 'Christian'/'Jewish' community. The woman should be chaste - the Muslim should investigate whether her moral upbringing has been reasonably in line with Islam's moral teachings as far as possible. For instance, if the woman has not been married before she should be a virgin. She should not be from a people who are enraged in hostility towards Muslims, as the Qur'an warns against befriending such people. It should be ascertained that there will be no major negative consequences from such marriages - either for the Muslim concerned, or for other Muslims. However, some possible, minor harms in this kind of marriage may include: The fact that Muslim women, who may marry Muslim men only, will suffer from the fact that Muslim men have chosen to marry non-Muslims. It poses a threat to family stability if the Muslim man is not capable of bringing up his children in an Islamic way because of the dominating influence of his non- Muslim wife. If there is a possibility of these or other negative consequences from marriage to a non-Muslim, then it is not advisable for the Muslim man to marry non-Muslim woman, especially in an environment or society vitiated by Islamophobic trends. The prohibition against Muslim women marrying non-Muslims The Qur'an specifically prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims. The verse of the Qur'an which contains this injunction was revealed when there was an influx of Muslim women into Medina who had fled from their non-Muslim husbands and families in Mecca. In CH.60 v.10 of the Holy Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad is advised to scrutinise if they have indeed fled for the sake of Allah and if they have, '...then send them not back to the unbelievers for they are not lawful for them'. From then on, all non-Muslim men were prohibited to Muslim women for marriage (including men from among the People of the Book). The prohibition against Muslim women marrying men from amo ng the People of the Book is also clear from the fact that CH.5 v.6 does not say that chaste men as well as chaste women from the People of the Book are permissible to Muslims as spouses: only chaste women from amongst the People of the Book are permitted. Reason for the prohibition on Muslim women marrying men from among the people of the Book First1y, this injunction is not man- made, it has Divine origins. Allah wants to guide and protect the Muslim community through this prohibition. Since it is the role of the husband to be the leader and director of his family, the religious freedom of the Muslim woman would be at stake if she was married to a non-Muslim husband. A Muslim man who is married to a Jewess or Christian woman would a) recognize her religio n as being divinely inspired, b) acknowledge the prophethood of Moses or Jesus (AS) and the scriptures that they received from God and c) respect the religious freedom of his wife. A non-Muslim husband, however, may fail in these three, and in many other, respects. Therefore, there is a real danger that a Muslim woman's commitment to her faith and her religious freedom would be undermined by her marriage to a non-Muslim man. Answer to those who say that this same risk applies to Muslim men who marry Christian or Jewish women Islam does acknowledge that Muslim men may be at risk in terms of their own faith and more importantly the faith of their children, if they marry non-Muslim women. That is why it makes it unlawful for them to marry non-Muslim women if there is any indication of negative consequences resulting from such marriage. In Islam the basic purpose of any marriage is fellowship and partnership in the spiritual and intellectual as well as physical areas. The basic rule is that a Muslim should marry a fellow Muslim because they will enjoy sharing the same beliefs. When Islam allows Muslim men to inter-marry with Jews and Christians, this is a gesture of good will and tolerance. However, this is also a qualified gesture. It is important to bear in mind that something which in general might be permissible can be unlawful if it is harmful and if the harm outweighs the benefit. Perhaps, inter- marriage is in this category. The Marriage Contract The Islamic marriage contract is not simply a 'sacrament' or 'sacred'; and hence it is not a requirement that marriages be officiated by a priest or a religious official. This is because in Islamic law, there is no distinction between the sacred and the mundane, the civil and the religious. Also, there is no aversion to sex and marriage in Islam. As a result, there is no necessity for a priest to officiate at an Islamic wedding. In fact, there is no clergy in Islam. Traditionally, however, families like to have an Imam or a religious scholar to supervise the conduct of the marriage ceremony. The Islamic marriage contract is 'sacred' in the sense that it is something which is based on Divine decrees: it is a solemn covenant between two people. The main conditions for the validity of the marriage contract are: a. Acceptance of, and agreement to, the marriage contract by both parties: the husband- and the wife-to-be must consciously agree to the contract in a direct and unequivocal way. b. There must be two competent witnesses to the contract. If the Muslim is marrying a non-Muslim woman, a witness from her side is acceptable according to some jurists such as Abu Hanifa. c. The wife- and husband-to-be must not be from among the categories prohibited in Islamic law. Permissibility of Muslim woman to marry without the permission of her guardian According to some jurists such as Imam Abu Hanifa, a woman may marry without her guardian's consent. However, the majority of jurists disagree with this view because the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet (SAWS) indicate quite clearly that a marriage contracted without the consent of the girl's guardian is void. Those who take the opposite view say that there are verses of the Qur'an and prophetic traditions which show that marriage is in the hands of women; and, since she is free to negotiate a financial agreement, she should also be eligible to negotiate a marriage contract for herself (Ref: CH.24 v.32; CH.2 v.232).
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