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Marriage

The Virtues of Marriage

 

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) described the importance of marriage to having completed half of one?s religion. The Qur?an describes the virtues of marriage in several passages:

 

"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, Chapter 30 Verse 21)

 

Elsewhere in the Qur'an describes the essential union of husband and wife in this beautiful simile:

 

 ?They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.? (Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter 2 Verse 187)

 

Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage they secure each other's chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body, so does the husband find comfort in his wife's company and she in his. The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them.

 


Sexual morals

 

Islam does not shy away from discussing sexual ethics and morality, on the contrary this is a subject discussed in depth. Islam aims at teaching its followers not to suppress their sexual urges, rather to fulfil them but in a responsible way. Islam recognises the sexual needs of human beings and believes that the natural instincts should be nurtured, not suppressed. No text in Islam can be found to equate sex with inherent evil or sin, indeed the Qur?an and Sunnah point in the opposite direction. Islam highly recommends marriage as a good deed and not as a lesser of two evils. It strongly opposes celibacy and monasticism, and believes that marriage is not a hindrance in spiritual wayfaring, on the contrary it helps the wayfarer.

 


 

The Wedding

 

A wedding is always a happy time for families to celebrate. In the Muslim world, wedding traditions maintain some similarities based on faith. However, there are also colourful, cultural variations from place to place. The various wedding traditions reflect the diversity of the Muslim world.

 

In Islam, the groom is required to give his new bride a ?mahr? or marital gift. The mahr usually has a monetary value; it can either be money or something of worth, usually jewellery. The mahr is entirely for the bride?s personal use, as opposed to the concept of a dowry; which is money exchanged from the bride?s family to the groom.

 

The bride may keep her own family name rather than adopting her husband's and this is a common custom seen in Muslim countries.

 

The actual marriage contract between groom and bride may often be performed in private, away from the guests with only the witnesses and Imam present. In some cases the bride may even be separated from the groom to complete her side of the contract. This is to avoid any possible coercion and allow her the opportunity to refuse the groom.

Islam advises that there should be no doubt as to one?s marital status. Muslims are encouraged to have both a religious and legal ceremony. Some Muslims living in non-Muslim countries may only have the religious ceremony, and fail to ensure that they are legally married dismissing the importance of this ?formality?. However this ambivalence may cause future difficulties both for the wife and children who would be illegitimate in the eyes of the law.



 

Marital Rights

 

 

Empowering women

 

Marriage in Islam by no means diminishes a woman?s rights as a Muslim or as a legal personality. The great French sociologist Maurice Guadfroy Demombynes said??The Qur?anic Law gives the wife a status which is in many respects more advantageous than that bestowed by modern European laws??Even modern commentators such as Germaine Greer have commented favourably on Islam?s treatment of the married woman.

 

In Islam a woman is a completely independent personality. She can make any contract or bequest in her own name. She is entitled to inherit in her position as mother, as wife, as sister and as daughter. She has perfect liberty to choose her husband.

 

Women have the right to consent in marriage ? it is not valid until she has done so. It is said that the Prophet Muhammad offered to dissolve the marriage of a woman who had been married against her will; she decided to remain married to him but said, ?I complained only that other women might know that they have a say in this matter?.

 

There is much Islamic legislation concerning marital rights, especially of the wife. The reason for this reflects back to the pre-Islamic era in Arabia where some women were considered a commodity that could be bought, sold, or even inherited. For instance it was common place for a step- son, or brother to take possession of a dead man?s widow(s) along with the rest of his goods and chattels. This practice was forbidden in Islam.

 

Marital rights in Islam exist for both husband and wife. However it is the rights of the wife that is mentioned so frequently in the Qur?an and Hadith because the pre-Islamic woman?s marital rights were denied.

 

 

Kindness toward ones Wife

 

The Prophet (pbuh) was most emphatic in enjoining upon Muslims to be kind to their women when he delivered his famous Khutbah on the Mount of Mercy at Arafat in the presence of one hundred and twenty-four thousand of his Companions who had gathered there for the Farewell Pilgrimage. In it he ordered those present, and through them all those Muslims who were to come later, to be respectful and kind towards women. He said:

 

"Fear Allah regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have got (rights) over them, and they have got (rights) over you in respect of their food and clothing according to your means."

 

The Prophet (pbuh) also said:

 

"The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife."

 

The Qur?an also forbids harshness towards wives. Another pre-Islamic custom was to treat the wife harshly and force them to agree to a divorce, thereby claiming back the dowry. In response to this the Qur?an states:

 

?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 dowry you have given them - except when they have become 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 something and Allah will bring about through it a great deal of good. ? (Surah An Nisa, Chapter 4 Verse 19)

 

 

In summary the Muslim wife has the following marital rights:

 

  • The same rights as her husband to satisfaction when it comes to intimate relations
  • The right to be treated with love, fairness and compassion
  • The right to keep the mahr (or marriage gift) which is a pre-requisite of the marriage and this may never be taken by her husband, unless it is freely offered to him
  • Her rights as economic independence remain in marriage and furthermore she has the right to be totally supported by the husband in all her needs ? food, clothing, lodging, medication, entertainment... There is a specific directive that if a woman of wealth is married, her husband must provide for her according to the standard she is accustomed,  providing that he can afford this. If a husband is miserly, the wife has the right to take this property without his permission to satisfy the economic needs of herself and her family.

 

 

Arranged Marriages

 

Intimacy between opposite sexes is forbidden in Islam and although mixed social interaction is allowed, there are restrictions placed on this. For instance Islam discourages a man and woman, who are not married and not related by close family ties such as brother and sister, to be alone in a private room together. The reason for this requirement is to protect against forming sexual relationships outside of marriage.

 

These restrictions may therefore place difficulties on meeting a prospective spouse, so the families of single Muslims will try and find a suitable match. It is important to emphasise that neither the man nor the women can be forced into a marriage.

 

It is generally recommended that prospective husband and wife meet prior to marriage; although some couples choose not to, leaving it to the judgement of their families. There is no time restriction or limitation as to how many times the man and woman may meet in order to get to know one another. Many arranged marriages are happy ones with an overall lower divorce rate in Britain than their counterparts.

 

Not all Muslims will have an arranged marriage. There is increasing popularity of an ?introduction? by family or mutual friends, after which the man and women may meet many times to see if they are compatible. Some Muslims may take matters into their own hands into the search for a spouse by use of singles groups on the internet or otherwise. Any of these methods may be acceptable but it is expected that they would follow Islamic etiquette of behaviour between the sexes and not meet alone. In contrast to western marriages, parents of the couple must be involved in the process and they must give consent for their daughter to marry. However in the case of divorced or widowed women this consent is not needed. It is recommended that the families are involved however, as marriage is seen as a union between the families as well as the couple.

 

Muslims are encouraged to look for a spouse on the grounds of compatibility through piety, rather than for good looks, or wealth, or prestige. People from very diverse backgrounds can be very happy together if their understanding and practice of Islam is compatible.

 

 

Divorce

 

Islam is a religion for humans rather than saints and so it is realistic regarding human relationships. It recognises that marriages may break down, and so although divorce is discouraged it is permitted. Both the husband and the wife may request a divorce.

 

The procedure of divorce in Islam is such as to encourage reconciliation where possible. An arbitrator to counsel the couple is recommended as stated in the Qur?an:

 

"And if you fear a breach between the two, then appoint a judge from his people and a judge from her people; if they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them, surely Allah is Knowing, Aware." (Surah An Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 35)

 

If the couple do agree on divorce, the woman should wait three monthly cycles during which her husband remains responsible for her welfare and maintenance. He is not permitted to drive her out of the house during this period. She has been advised not to leave the house of the divorcing husband, in order to enhance the chances of reconciliation, as well as to protect her right of sustenance during the three months waiting period. This waiting period serves two purposes;

 

1. to clarify whether the divorced wife is expecting a child

 

2. to use is as a cooling-off period during which the relatives and other members of the family or of the community may try to help towards reconciliation. Even if divorce is decided on, the good treatment referred to before is still required. The Qur'an says:

 

"Then keep them in all decency or part from them decently. It is not lawful for you to take anything you have given them" (Surah Al Baqarah Chapter 2 Verse 229).

 

 "Once you divorce women and they have reached the end of their waiting period, then either retain them in all decency or part from them in decency. Do not retain them unjustly so that you exceed the limit; anyone who does that merely hurts himself" (Surah Al Baqarah Chapter 2 Verse 231)

 

The law of Islam does not therefore compel unhappy couples to stay together, but its procedures help them to find a basis on which they can be reconciled with each other. If reconciliation is impossible the law does not impose any unnecessary delay or obstacle in the way of either partner's remarriage.

 

 

Polygyny

 

Polygyny, rather than polygamy, is the practice of having more than one wife simultaneously. This allowance in Islam is one that is greatly misunderstood. Actually this concept may not be so alien to Western societies as initially supposed - it may be likened to the practice of having a mistress or mistresses by  some. The difference is that while the non-Muslim male has no legal obligations or responsibilities towards his second, third or fourth mistresses and their children, a Muslim husband has complete legal obligations and responsibilities towards his second, third, or fourth wife and their children. There are strict obligations that a man must follow before he can have more than one wife.

 

In pre-Islamic Arabia it was a normal custom for men to have more than one wife, and there was no limitation on this. Islam placed a limitation of up to four wives simultaneously. Muslim women may only have one husband at one time, but may marry more than one man consecutively, for instance after divorce or on becoming a widow.

 

 

Why is polygyny allowed in Islam?

 

As for possible reasons why polygyny is allowed in Islam, one should keep in mind that Islam is very practical in the way that it addresses life?s problems.

 

In the early years of Islam, the Muslims were involved in battles to defend themselves from their enemies. It was important to look after the widows who were left behind, and may not be financially able to look after themselves or their children. Polygyny provides a solution to this problem of a male shortage.

 

 A man who discovers that his wife is barren or is chronically ill, but who wishes to have children of his own or satisfy his natural instinct in a legitimate way, while still caring for his first wife, could turn to polygyny as a solution. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur?an:

 

"? then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one...." (Surah An-Nisa, Chapter 4 Verse 3)

 

Conditions that must be met: Certain conditions are attached to plural marriage in Islam, in order to protect the women involved. Some of these conditions are mentioned.

 

  • The first wife must agree to her husband marrying another. If he wishes to marry again afterward, then both wives must again be consulted.
  • A man may not have more than four wives at a time and each marriage contract is legal and binding, involving the same rights, responsibilities and obligations as the first contract. That is, wife number one is not the mother or chief of all subsequent wives, nor is wife number four allowed preferential treatment at the expense of the other wives.
  • Each individual marriage contract carries the same amount of weight in an Islamic court of law and thus men are not allowed to openly attach greater importance to one at the expense of the other. Such behaviour would not be equitable treatment and might even be construed as oppression.
  • So the man must live with all of his wives on a footing of equality and kindness. In fact, the whole question of permissibility of plural marriages in Islam is tied to a given man?s ability to deal unjustly with all his wives in terms of his time and wealth. If a man feels unable to treat his wives fairly with kindness and love, then he is commanded by God not to take more than one wife. To fulfil all these conditions is no easy task and so rarely would a man marry more than one wife.

 

The Prophet Muhammad?s (pbuh) wives: A notable exception to rule of four wives, was seen in the marriages of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For some time in the western literature, these marriages were misunderstood. The marriages of the Prophet are not at all signs of his lenience toward the flesh. Multiple marriages were not so much enjoyment as responsibility and a means of integration of the newly founded society. Many of these marriages were for political reasons, in order to strengthen the fragile early Muslim community. The wives of the Prophet were treated with great honour and respect by the Muslim society and he treated each one fairly and with kindness.




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