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Marriage in Islam by Adil Salahi


Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh)Last Sermon
Conditions of marriage
The Dower and when to pay it
Fixing of dower.
Marriage without dowry.
Paying dowries to husbands a shameful sin
The dowry system in Indian Subcontinent
Marriage commitment and offering Istikharah
Marriage at an early age
Delaying Marriage
Marriage and parents' consent
Marriage: A girl's dilemma in the absence of parental consent
Marriages that are forbidden
Mit'ah Marriage
Must wife serve husband?
The rights of husband and wife
Woman's responsibilities
When local customs are in conflict with Islamic teachings.
Promises that cannot be fulfilled
To get married to an outsider
Marriage away from home
Second Marriage
Unfaithful wife
Getting married to someone who is far away
Martial Relations in periods
Marrying sister of former wife
Marriage between kin
Marriage of close relatives
Marriage with first cousins: rulings without basis
Unacceptable marriage offer
Validity of Marriage
A marriage that is against Islamic teachings
A marriage that is questionable
Marriage to a non Muslim
Privacy in martial life
A marriage that can never be
Inter faith marriages
Converting ones non Muslim wife
Invalid Marriage
Is this marriage Valid?
Inter faith marriages
Love Marriage
Which woman to marry?
Marriage with a Christian
Marriage with a prospective convert
Where to marry a non-Muslim
Martial relations in the period
Marriage in the waiting period unacceptable
Confusion about the validity of the marriage
Why not allow polyandry?
Dimension of love misunderstood
Polygamy and being fair to man and woman
Marriage and a heavy burden of expenditure
Wrong advice on marriage
Education and Marriage

Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh)Last Sermon

This Sermon was delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H in the Uranah Valley of mount Arafat

"O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I don't know whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (Interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived...

Beware of Satan, for your safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have right over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to commit adultery.

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadhan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to. You know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are all equal. Nobody has superiority over other except by piety and good action.

Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur'an and my example, the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness oh Allah that I have conveyed your message to your people."  

Conditions of marriage

Q). Could you please explain the relative importance of the practices of marriage and which of them are essential for the marriage contract and which are only recommended or voluntary?

Sherfudeen, Madinah

A). Marriage itself is a Sunnah, which means that it is recommended, not obligatory to us. Therefore, if a Muslim does not marry throughout his life, he commits no sin, although he has chosen a course for his life different from that recommended by the Prophet. The recommendation is made in the strongest of terms, as the Prophet says: "Marriage is my way, (i.e. Sunnah) and a person who disdains to follow my way does not belong to me." Yet the emphasis put on the recommendation is only to heighten its desirability. It is not to be understood from this hadith that a person who remains unmarried throughout his life removes himself from the fold of Islam or even commits a sin.

Divorce on the other hand is permissible but described as unsavory or distasteful. It is permitted because of the need for it. In any society, a proportion of marriages are unsuccessful, due to a variety of reasons, the most common among which is the incompatibility between the characters of the husband and his wife. Therefore, a way out is provided for them through divorce.

The most essential aspect of the marriage contract is the commitment and acceptance. One party, normally the guardian of the bride, makes the commitment by stating that he marries away the woman on whose behalf he is acting to the prospective husband according to the Islamic way and for a specific dower. The bridegroom declares then his acceptance of that commitment and that he has married the woman according to the terms specified. That constitutes the marriage contract. Both commitment and acceptance must be done in the same session, and should not be separated by other matters.

Witnesses must be present at the time of the contract and a minimum of two is required for the purpose. The important aspect is that marriage must be publicized. The minimum publicity is provided by the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses must be present at the time when the commitment and acceptance is made, and they should be sane, adults and must hear the contract being made and understand that it means marriage. Therefore, if a child or a mad or deaf or drunken person witnesses the marriage contract being made, the contract is not valid. The presence of such persons is the same as their absence.

The guardian of the woman to be married should also be present. The Prophet says: "No marriage can be made without the presence of a guardian and two proper witnesses." (Related by Ad Daraqutni). The woman's guardian is normally her father. If her father is present, no one other than him may act for her. If he is dead or absent, then one of her closest relatives should act as her guardian, such as her brother, grandfather or uncle.

The dower is also necessary in the marriage contract. It is compensation paid to the bride and it becomes her own property and she disposes of it in the way she likes. Its amount is fixed by agreement between the two partners. If a marriage contract is made without the dower being specified, the contract is valid, but the woman does not forfeit her right to receive a dower. If her husband refuses to give her what she asks, then she can put the case to a Muslim judge who will rule that she must be given the equivalent of what is given by way of dower to women in her social status.

A dower can be a very little amount. At the time of the Prophet, a woman accepted a pair of shoes as her dower. The Prophet asked her whether it was her decision and whether she accepts. She answered in the affirmative and he endorsed the marriage. Another woman came to the Prophet and declared that she makes a gift of herself to the Prophet. A man asked him to marry her to him. The Prophet asked him whether he had anything to give her by-way of dower. The man said that he had nothing except his dress. The Prophet said that if he were to give her his dress, he would have nothing to wear. The man tried to fund something to give her but could come up with nothing. The Prophet said try to send even a ring of iron, but the man could not find anything. The Prophet asked him whether he memorized anything of the Qur'an, the man said he knew several surahs. The Prophet allowed the marriage to go through on the condition that the man would teach his wife the parts of the Qur'an he knew.

Another story from the time of the Prophet, which has been reported by Anas, says that Abu Talhah made a proposal to many a woman called Umm Sulaim. She said: "You are a man whom no woman would refuse, but you are a non-Muslim while I am a Muslim. It is not permissible for me to many you. If you were to become a Muslim, I will accept that as my dower and I ask you for nothing else." He declared that he has accepted the religion of Islam. That was the dower he gave to his wife. All these hadiths show that it is permissible to give a small amount of money as a dower or even to pay it in the form of rendering a service, such as teaching one's wife some parts of the Our' an.

Having said that the dower, or mehr, may be very little in amount there is no maximum limit to what a man may pay his wife by way of dower. The Prophet, however, has strongly recommended us not to demand excessive dowers. He says "The best of women are those with pretty faces and cheap dowers." There is a strong indication in that hadith that the dower should never be related to looks. A woman is not a commodity, which a man buys at a price, which takes into consideration how pretty she looks. She is life partner to him and she gives him a benefit for which she is entitled to have compensation.

When the marriage contract is made, it is recommended, (i.e. sunnah) for someone, preferably the person who instructs the two parties what to say to make sure of the correctness of the contract, to say a few words, reminding the people who are present of Allah and the need to conduct one's life according to Islam. He may quote some verses of the Qur'an, which are suitable for the occasion and remind people that they should always remain God-fearing.

I have already said that it is important to publicize marriage. The Prophet has also recommended that marriage should be celebrated with some singing. The Prophet is also quoted as saying: "The difference between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate is the sound of the tambourine." This again refers to publicity. When people arrange for some singing and music they add to the publicity of the marriage, which confirms that the relationship between the man and the woman is a legitimate one. On the other hand, when they are secretive about the marriage, there may be something suspicious in that relationship which could take it into the realm of what is forbidden.

Another strongly recommended practice is to invite people to a meal. The prophet said to his companion, Abdurahman ibn Auf, when he got married: "Arrange a dinner party even if you can only afford a lamb." Both Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate the hadith reported by Anas which says: "The prophet has not given a marriage party (i.e. Waleemah) for any of his wives better than that he gave when he married Zainab: he provided one lamb." This means that in other marriages, the prophet could not afford a lamb, but that did not prevent him from giving a party. Therefore, the waleemah is a strongly recommended practice, but it need not be anything grand.

The Dower and when to pay it.

Q). Is it compulsory to fix and pay the dower at the time of marriage? Does it remain due at any time, if it is not duly paid when the contract is made? Does a wife have a right to demand its payment at any time? Please comment on practices that are not in line with Islamic teachings on this matter.

S. Ridwanuddin, Riyadh

A). The dower is an amount of money or some other useful commodity paid or given by a man to his wife at the time of their marriage. It is agreed between them, or between their families in consultation with her. It must be understood that it is due to her in return for agreeing to marry her husband and becoming lawful for him. It becomes due and payable at the time when the marriage contract is made.

There is no minimum or maximum for the dower. Any amount may be agreed between the two parties, although a reasonable amount is preferable in order to facilitate marriage for young men and women.

Payment of the whole or a part of the dower may be deferred if the woman agrees to it. She may also forgo part or all of it, if she chooses.

However she must be under no pressure to do that at any time. If payment is deferred, the dower remains payable at any time she demands it. It should be considered as a debt that is already due, or a deferred debt. What a husband must understand is that he actually takes what is due to him under the marriage contract once the contract is made. Hence, his commitment, i.e. the dower, is also due at the same time.

Putting any pressure on the wife to forgo part or all of her dower is forbidden. She may do this of her own accord, but not under any pressure. Yet in many situations, a wife is pressured to forfeit her right to have dower. For one thing, it is often agreed by the bridegroom with no intention to pay it. It is treated a formality or some type of bother.

In some parts of the Muslim world, certain traditions have crept in to deprive the wife of her right to have a dower. She is actually told by her family to tell her husband on the wedding night that she forgoes her dower in full. The poor girl often does not know what she is doing when she says those words. She does not know that she is entitled to a dower or that it is hers by God's order. She simply wastes it because she is told to do so.

In other parts of the Muslim world, the wife is required to pay her husband some dowry, which is often in gold or jewelry. That puts her at a disadvantage, because when her family has gone into the trouble of paying all that, the prospect of losing it all will look dreadful. If things go wrong with her marriage and the poor woman starts to think that a divorce is better for her, she will find her family totally unresponsive.

To them the idea of divorce means only material loss. The woman finds herself in between two types of pressures and she may be very miserable.

If a husband dies without having paid his wife's dower, she remains entitled to receive it. It is payable from his estate as a debt. It is well known that debts are the first thing to be paid out of the estate of any deceased person. Again if she is pressured at this stage to forgo it, she is deprived of her right. The importance of a dower may be properly understood when it is remembered that if a marriage contract does not specify any amount of dower, and the two parties do not agree such an amount between them, it remains payable. They may agree its amount after marriage.

If they do not come to an agreement, the woman may put the matter to an Islamic court which will give her an amount equal to the average dower of girls in her social status.

Fixing of dower.

Q). Is the dower, or mehr, calculated on the basis of one's earning? If so how much should one who receives onethousand three hundred riyals per month pay as dower? Or is it calculated on the basis of the expected earnings in the future?

A). The dower, or mehr, is an amount of money which is paid by the bridegroom to his bride as one of the conditions for the validity of the marriage. It is a right to which every bride is entitled. Its amount is not calculated on the basis of any particular criterion. It is simply agreed upon by the parties concerned. Normally, the amount is fixed through negotiations between the two families or the bridegroom and the guardian of the bride. Her agreement to its amount is essential. It has no minimum or maximum amount. The income of the bridegroom at present or what is expected in the future is immaterial. If the marriage contract is made without fixing the amount of dower, for any reason, the wife does not forfeit her right.

She can still claim it and it can be fixed by mutual agreement between her and her husband. If they fail to agree, she can refer the matter to an Islamic court which will fix the amount of dower on the basis of the average for girls in her social status. Moreover, she need not forgo any part of her dower, or mehr, to her husband on the wedding night or subsequently. This amount of money is hers and she is fully entitled to dispense with it the way she likes.

Marriage without dowry.

Q). I know that paying dowry is necessary for marriage. If a man cannot afford to pay a dowry, is he expected to remain single for the rest of his life? Is this not contradictory with the teachings of Islam?

R.Aniff, Dammam.

A). While the payment of a dowry is essential for Islamic marriage, the Prophet recommends us not to ask exorbitant dowries for our daughters. He praises in clear terms a woman who marries for a small dowry. He is absolutely clear on this point, showing that those who receive high dowry need not take any pride in that.

Islam encourages all Muslim men and women to get married. This is not contradictory with the imposition of a dowry, because dowry is simply a compensation for the bride in return for her becoming the wife of her husband. By marrying him, it is she who sacrifices more. Hence, the compensation is needed. If she chooses, to accepts a small dowry that should endear her more to her husband.

The prophet makes the criteria for selecting a husband for one’s daughter very clear. He tells us: "If someone with a satisfactory standard of faith and honesty comes to seeking marriage, then give him (your daughter or sister) in marriage.” If you refuse, that will lead to spread of great corruption in the land.

What a person of limited means needs to do in order to be married, then, is to score highly on the more important points of good character, strong faith and genuine honesty. If he does that, he will soon find the family, which appreciates his virtue more than people normally, appreciate his money. They will be glad to give him their daughter in marriage.

Paying dowries to husbands a shameful sin

Q) I am thoroughly disgusted. I come from a poor family in a predominantly Muslim state in India. My family received a proposal for marriage for me to a well off family. However, I learnt from your Column that giving dowry by the bride to the groom is un-Islamic, When my father pointed this out to them, they immediately cancelled the proposal. I don't care about that; perhaps it is better so. But what about the Islamic nature of such people!

Name withheld, Hyderabad (Living in Jeddah)

A). Marriage is a social contract between a man and a woman. Islam requires the man to give a dowry to his wife The Our'an stipulates that it should be offered "as a gift." that is out of good will and with the conviction that it is her right. As is the case with everyone who owns property, no one else, neither her husband himself nor guardian can make use of it or tell her what she should do with it. Thus, Islam establishes the woman's right to ownership, which is free from control or dominance on the husband's part. This applies as well to anything else she might own, whether she obtained it as a gift, through inheritance or through work or investment.

The dower is not a "bride price," nor does it reflect the value of the woman in any way. It is based upon mutual agreement between the man and his bride, usually through her father or guardian. No amount is specified by law, and it varies according to the man's financial ability as well as recognized custom. Once when a poor man told the Prophet that he had nothing to give as a bridal gift. He was told. "Look for anything, even if only an iron ring.'' On failing to produce even that. It was agreed that the dower would be his teaching her what he knew of the Our'an. Thus, Islam emphasizes the necessity of the dowry without stipulating its material value.

While the husband is encouraged to give generously according to his means. It is totally contrary to the teachings of Islam for parents or guardians to demand such dowries for their daughters as to cause hardship on prospective husbands.

The most blessed of marriages are those without financial burden. In Islam husbands are to be chosen for excellence in religion and moral character, not for social status or wealth. Just as a wife is to be chosen for her moral character and not for her wealth or her beauty.

Islam grants women equal rights to make contracts, launch enterprises, earn and possess wealth and property independently. No matter what the source, any wealth in a woman's possession is hers alone, and her right of ownership cannot be contested. She has full control and authority over her own property and money, the right to keep or spend, to buy, sell or invest: to give or bequeath.

If she has a job or business, the husband and other family members have no right to any of her income unless she offers it willingly or has entered into an agreement. If she is harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in her position would get.

It is with these facts of Islamic personal law in mind that we wish to remind our fellow Muslims, particularly from the Indo-Pak subcontinent that the totally unacceptable practice where the bride has to pay a dowry (or whatever its protagonists wish to call it) is against God's law, invites the wrath of God and those who continue to be involved in such anti Islamic activities while knowing that it is against the Shariah, are committing a grievous sin

The dowry system in Indian Subcontinent

Q). In India there is a traditional dowry system which is payable by the bride to the bridegroom. Please clarify whether this is totally forbidden or only discouraged in Islam. If forbidden, does it affect the validity of the marriage? Suppose that the bride's father willingly and without any compulsion gives gold, money or property to the bridegroom, can the bridegroom accept that?

In certain areas, the authorities of a mosque charge ten to twenty percent of the dowry as a penalty and use this to meet the expenditure of the mosque. Is this correct?

M. Abdolkareem, Hofuf- Alhassa

A). We have been recently making a distinction between dowry and dower. By dowry we mean the practice which exists in certain Muslim communities under which a bride gives to her bridegroom an amount of money in gold, cash or property. Dower, on the other hand, is the English equivalent of the Arabic "mehr " which means the amount of money paid by the husband to his wife at the time when the marriage contract is made.

The dowry system is unknown to the majority of Islamic countries and communities, which suggests that it could have been borrowed from other cultures. There is nothing extraordinary in this since different cultures have always borrowed practices and traditions from each other. The dowry system, for example, is practiced in the Indian Subcontinent where Hindus form the majority. The cultural study of that society would reveal that Muslims have borrowed this practice from Hindus.

This is not to say that Islam has been influenced by Hinduism in India. It is often the case that when a new religion spreads in a new area or country, Muslims in that area retain some of their old traditions which they have been practicing for centuries. No one suggests that Islam creates a uniform society in all environments and all periods of history. Islam, however, stops certain practices and traditions which are opposed to its principles. But there are many reasons for a tradition to survive a fundamental social change like that of adopting a new religion. One of these is the poor economic situation of the country concerned. There are other reasons and social pressures, which can be identified if a case study is undertaken in the case of dowry. The poverty of a large spectrum of a very large population is perhaps the major reason for the system to continue among Muslims. It is very difficult for a young man to save enough money to establish a new home and to look after a family of his own. Therefore the two families need to collaborate together in establishing a home for a newly married couple.

Whatever the reasons, Islam does not approve of the dowry being a condition for marriage. It is in fact the opposite of the Islamic system, which requires the bridegroom to pay "mehr" or dower to the bride. That dower becomes a wife's property and she has sole discretion over how she spends it. It is open to her to give back to her husband any part of that dower after the marriage has taken place, provided that she does so without any pressure being exercised on her, explicitly or implicitly.

It may be said that this is what is done in the Muslim community in the Indian Subcontinent. A dower is agreed between the two parties, but then it is forgone by the wife at a later stage. The fact is that the dower is treated as an awkward technicality. It is mentioned in the marriage contract but on the wedding night, the bride is taught by her family that she must tell the bridegroom that she has forgone every part of it. In other words, she is not doing it out of her own free will. She has no choice in the matter. The bridegroom expects that she would do that. If she does not do it, there may be trouble within the family, especially if the figure named is high. Perhaps neither the bride nor the bridegroom know why they have to go through this process of naming a figure and forgoing its payment. Islam provides for a dower to be paid as a compensation for the woman in return for the obligation marriage imposes on her to be a good bed fellow to her husband. In other words, she is giving ouof herself something to her husband, in consideration of which she is entitled to receive an amount of money in cash or kind, which she deems to be appropriate. Therefore, a woman's right to a dower is not lost unless she herself relinquishes it. For this reason, if the dower is not specified in the marriage contract, the woman does not lose her claim to it. She may ask her husband to give her something, which she deems to be satisfactory. If they can agree on a figure, then she may apply to an Islamic court, which will specify an amount, which is normally given to a bride in her social status.

It is now clear that the dower payable by the bridegroom is the one, which Islam requires in marriage. The dowry system is merely a tradition in certain societies. We cannot say to a man who wants to see his daughter married and, therefore, gives her suitor a dowry that he has done something forbidden. We simply say to him that this is not the way Islamic marriage is arranged. It does not affect the validity of the marriage. Nor is it forbidden for the bridegroom to accept the gifts given to him by his father-inlaw. But we should try to explain to the community that the dowry system impedes marriage and is not sanctioned by Islam. When people are aware of this the tradition of the dowry may weaken within the Muslim community and it may give way to the proper Islamic tradition.

As for imposing a tax or a penalty on a bridegroom who receives a dowry, which is then spent in meeting the mosque's expenditure, this is an innovative way of resisting a bad tradition. It is not forbidden for the Muslim committee to do so, but the bridegroom who receives the dowry can easily refuse payment. The committee will have no way of enforcing its regulation. The payment of the penalty does not make dowry in any way more acceptable, from the Islamic point of view. It remains a burden on the bride's family, which need not be there. Islam advocates that marriage should be made easy. The dowry system makes it difficult.

Marriage commitment and offering Istikharah

Q). A few years back I proposed to marry a young lady whom I had known for sometime, and her parents were agreeable to the marriage, but they preferred to wait until I had finished my studies and get a job abroad.

However, I started two business concerns while I was studying, but unfortunately both made heavy losses, and I failed in my final exam. I was in no position to get married and I told her family of the facts. Now I have cleared much of my debts and I am thinking again of marrying her, as we are very much in love. She is prepared to wait for me. The problem is that my parents have spoken about my marriage with a relative of mine whom I do not fancy as my wife. I am in a dilemma and I would be grateful for your advice. Is it appropriate to do the istikharah, offering two rakahs of voluntary prayer and Weighing the two options on two pieces of paper and drawing one of them?

M. Irfan,Riyadh

A). My clear advice to you is to marry that girl as soon as you can. She has been waiting for you for eight years and she has sacrificed much for your sake. You do not pay her back by abandoning her after she must have missed many chances of good marriage in order to be married to you. Besides, you have promised her that you would do so when she put to you the question in very clear terms. Muslims do not go back on their promises. You have to honor that promise.

The fact that your parents are planning your marriage with a relative of your should not be allowed to stand in your way. You have to inform your parents that you do not wish to marry that relative of yours. Do this now, when the question of your actual marriage is not being discussed. If necessary, write to that relative of yours and tell her that you do not see a chance of the two of you getting married, as you are engaged to someone else.

Your parents cannot force you to be married to someone whom you do not wish to marry. You will not be disobedient or undutiful if you approach the situation in a clear manner. You do not need to involve the girl you wish to marry at this stage.

Keep her out of the discussion for the time being so that your parents realize that you are only objecting to marrying your relative because you do not like her to be your wife. If you are inviting your parents to do the pilgrimage this year, then you may wish to take the opportunity of their presence and make it clear to them that you do not wish to marry your relative and that they should forget about this for good. Be kind to them when you tell them that.

I do not sea a reason for doing the istikharah now, as the case should be approached on its merits. Breaking a promise without a compelling reason is not permissible. You do not seek God's help to choose to do what He does not permit. Besides, the isrikhsrah is not done in the manner you have mentioned.

Istikharah means to seek God's help in choosing between alternatives that are unclear, or that involve results that cannot be determined. You pray two voluntary rakahs and then say a supplication seeking God's help in making the right choice. You then let the matter resolve itself.

If you find within you that you are happier with a particular choice, you take that. If you find that things are moving easily in one direction, you let them move and take what comes easily.

You do not draw one of two papers, because that is not istikharah. That is drawing lots, which is permissible but has nothing to do with istikharah.

Marriage at an early age

Q). I have a nine year-old girl who is married to a person at the age of 20. The marriage contract was made a year ago but the girl is refusing to live with her husband or even to look at him. In addition to that she requires him to divorce her. Could you please advise me what to do? Should I separate them or force my daughter to live with him?

(Name and address withheld)

A). It is certainly possible for a father to get his daughter married to someone who he thinks is suitable for her. Whether he should force her into any marriage is something totally different Let me relate this to you: A woman companion of the Prophet came to him and said: "My father has married me away to one of his relatives without asking my opinion. I do not wish to stay with this man as his wife." The Prophet ordered their separation. When she realized that she was free and that she was no longer married to the man, she said to the Prophet: "I now accept what my father has done and I am marrying this man. I only did this so that women may know that it is not up to men to marry them away against their wishes."

Scholars have discussed at length the marriage of a young girl who has not attained puberty and whether her father may marry her away without her permission. If such a marriage takes place it is valid. However, it is perhaps best if the marriage is not allowed to be consummated until the girl attains puberty, when she is given the choice whether to continue with this marriage or not. Moreover her father may not marry her away to someone who is of a lesser status than hers. If he does and she objects, the marriage is not valid. Generally speaking, however. a girl must be asked to express her opinion in any proposed marriage. If she has been married before, then her verbal consent should be requested. If she has not been married previously, then her consent is also to be requested, but if she keeps quiet, her silence is taken as approval.

To say that the marriage is valid is not to say that people should go ahead and make such marriages. There may be certain circumstances, which make it desirable or advisable that a very young girl should be married away in this manner but this must not be taken as the normal situation. In marriage, the normal thing is that people should marry when they are of marriageable age. That does not include girls of nine or ten years of age, although some girls may attain puberty that early. Marriage involves certain responsibilities and a very young girl could not be expected to shoulder these. There are also other problems, which the may face, as she grows older. If things go wrong with her marriage, she will always blame her father for having messed up her life, well intentioned though he may be. If you take the example of your own daughter, and you force her to go and live with her husband despite her protestations, you will never be sure whether the marriage will work out well or not. If it does, then well and good. But there is an equal chance that problems may arise especially with your daughter behaving like the child she is. While her husband expects from her the attitude of a married woman. How could you expect her to overcome the feeling that she has been thrown into this situation without being allowed the slightest say in the whole matter which is to affect the rest of her life?

As we see it, your choice is either to get her divorced now, before the marriage is consummated or to keep her with you until she has attained puberty and she is in a position to express her opinion about this marriage. If she still objects to it, then you divorce her without any compulsion to go through with it. If, on the other hand, if she approves of this marriage, at that time, then you go ahead with it. Perhaps it is better for you to consult with the young man to whom you have already married her. He should be understanding and accommodating. Between the two of you should work out the best solution which ensures that he is not lumbered with marriage which is forced on a young girl who cannot be expected to give an opinion about such a matter.

Delaying Marriage

Q). Ever since I came to Saudi Arabia in 1983 to work, my parents have been urging me to get married. I have so far resisted their pressure for two reasons: (1) I have no job security and I am not in a position to support a family on my modest salary. (2) I do not have a house of my own. My elder brother has taken the whole of the family house and I envisage that there will be problems if I were to stay in the same house. I feel that I should have a house of my own, in which I will live with my parents after getting married. I am 28 and serious about getting married as early as possible. The above-mentioned reasons, however, force me to delay marriage. What worries me now is that my parents are nevertheless insisting that I should not delay it any further. I will be grateful for your advice.

R. Ahmed, Jeddah

A). Your parents, attitude is quite understandable. They feel that at 28 you should not delay your marriage much further. They feel that they are growing older and they want to see you settled. However, the reasons that you have mentioned for delaying your marriage must be taken into account. Maybe your parents do not give due importance to the fact that if you try to settle in the family house alongside your brother after your marriage, there could he much friction. They may feel that they could prevail on your brother and his wife to make you and your wife's presence welcome. That may be over simplistic in the circumstances you have mentioned. You seem to have a more realistic grasp of the situation. Therefore, you should make your decision on the basis of your outlook.

Having said that, I must add that I am always in favor of early marriage. It is the recommended Islamic practice. Moreover, it is the normal course of action, which fits with the needs of human nature. You say that you are 28 and to my mind that is on the higher side of the appropriate marriage age. But if circumstances make it necessary to delay marriage, then one should not take a rash decision.

An important factor which you should take into account is whether you will be able to bring your wife to live with you here in Saudi Arabia or you will be leaving her to stay with your family and see her only during vacations. If you are going to bring your wife here and you think you can keep during vacations only. If you are going to bring your wife here and you think you can keep your job for a few years, then I would recommend you to get married without delay. The fact that you are getting a modest salary should not deter you, if you deem that it is sufficient to meet your needs when yet are married. The point is that your marriage may motivate you to get an additional job in your spare time or work harder in your present job so that you get promoted. Do not forget that Allah provides for all his creatures, through their work. When you work for a family, Allah provides you with what He has proportioned to that family

If, on the other hand, you are going to leave your wife in your home country and see her only for a month each year, then in the circumstances, it may be wise to delay your marriage for the time being. Many problems affect marriage when the husband and wife live far apart. In the family situation you have described, such problems are likely if your wife will be staying together with your parents and your brother's family in the same house, while you are working in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, you will not get the benefits of marriage, except for a brief period every year. That is not the proper way to raise a family. I realize that many people have to do this, but if you do not have to do it, then it may be better to wait

In this latter case, you should perhaps set yourself a timetable, which you should explain to your parents. You have to reassure them that you are serious about getting married but you want to establish your marriage on solid basis, by having a house of your own first. Involve them in your project to get a house. If you are planning to build house, perhaps you may find it appropriate to buy a plot of land and start the preliminary work. When they feel that something is happening, they may be reassured. If you are thinking of buying an existing house, perhaps you can start by looking for a suitable house and negotiating payment of the price on the basis of a substantial down payment and installments spread over a period of time. If your parents feel that you are moving in the right direction, they may be satisfied. If you cannot do either of these now, you have only to reassure them that you are building for the future and that you will be getting married at the right time

You may be worried about no compliance with your parents’ wish. In these circumstances, Islam does not make it an absolute duty that one does as his parents tell him, when the general circumstances he finds himself in do not make that wish very wise. Your intention is not to disobey your parents, but to make your right decision after careful study. You will not be disobedient if you delay your marriage in these circumstances but you should comfort your parents and assure them that you are serious about the whole thing.

Marriage and parents' consent

Q). In March 1995, my marriage was solemnized by my father without my knowledge and against my wishes. The marriage is still only on paper. I want this marriage to be dissolved but my husband refuses. I have at present a suitor who wants to marry me. If I marry my present suitor without my parents' knowledge, would that be legal from the Islamic point of view?

(Name and address withheld)

A). There are two separate points in this question. The father’s action and the second is what this lady intends to do in return. On the first point I would like to say that the father is wrong in solemnizing his daughter’s marriage without her consent. A woman said to the Prophet that her father married her to a relative of his in order to improve his own social standing. He did not ask her views on this marriage before he did it. The Prophet ruled the marriage to be dissolved immediately. The woman said: "Now, messenger of God, I approve of what my father has done. I only wanted that women should know that men have no say in their matrimonial affairs."

What you should do first of all is to put the matter to a court of law, seeking the annulment of your marriage. If you prove that it was a forced marriage, then the court will rule in your favor and the marriage will be annulled, leaving you in a position to start a new marital relationship if you so desire.

Whyou must not do on any account is to "marry" another man or to have any relationship with him before you terminate the relationship with your present husband, even though your marriage is only a paper marriage, as you say. If you ignore this advice you may be guilty of polyandry, which is to be married to more than one man at the same time. You do not want anything like that to happen.

Moreover, you must not marry anyone without the knowledge of your parents. Marriage is meant to start a family, and it is far better for the woman to have her family by her side when she is about to start a new family. Most scholars agree that the woman's guardian should act for her on her marriage contract. If her father is available then he is her guardian. Your father has acted wrongly when he solemnized your marriage without your knowledge. Do not repay his mistake with a mistake of your own. Your proper approach is to try to win him over to your side, and make him see that your happiness is not something to be trifled with. You have the first say in all that, but he should be on your side.

Marriage: A girl's dilemma in the absence of parental consent

Q). A man from a Gulf country has proposed to me, but my parents refused on grounds of different cultures, as we come from Pakistan. He tried to talk to them, but my father refused to meet him. He only managed to talk to my mother and she refused his proposal. Is it possible that we get married without their consent?

S. Khan,Riyadh

A). Islam makes it clear that a girl's father or guardian must act for her marriage. She may not act for herself, according to most scholars. That is because Islam views marriage as a union, which establishes a family, so it must be organized between families. This enhances a girl's position and protects her rights.

However, in order not to let parents and guardians’ abuse this authority God has given them, the Prophet enjoins them to exercise it to the benefit of girls under their supervision. He says: "If someone whose strength of faith and honesty are satisfactory comes to you with a proposal of marriage, then give him your daughter in marriage. Unless you do, much conflict and corruption is likely to be the result."

The criterion is thus well defined. People must make their judgement of any marriage proposal to their daughters or girls under their care in the light of this criterion. It is not right that class or difference of culture or status should be given paramount consideration. The basic issue is faith and honesty.

There is no way you can get married to this gentleman unless your father acts for you, with your consent in the marriage contract.

If a girl's father is alive and present, no one else can act as her guardian. A marriage without the presence of a guardian is not valid. Hence your only way is to persuade your parents that this marriage is viable and likely to give you the happiness they undoubtedly want for you. You have to determine how you can achieve that, but make sure that your approach is not one of confrontation, because confrontation is likely to produce the wrong result. May be if your suitor makes his approach a family approach, you stand a better chance of persuading your parents to accept. That would mean that members of his family come to see your father, or women from his family come and see your mother first. If she is convinced then she may be able to persuade your father to moderate his stance. Whatever you do, make sure of remaining dutiful to your parents.

Marriages that are forbidden

Q). Is it permissible to be married to two sisters at the same rime? There is a case of a person who is bound to have two sisters as his wives, and he seems to be very religious. What is the result of his action?

A). It is forbidden for any man to be married to two sisters at the same time. It is well known that Islam allows a man to have up to four wives at the same time, but there are restrictions on marriage, which prohibit certain marriages. Among these prohibitions we find the marriage to two sisters at the same time. This prohibition is stated clearly in Verse 23 of Surah 4. The Prophet has added to this a prohibition on marriage to a woman and her aunt, whether on her father's or mother’s side, or the reverse situation of being married to a woman and then to try to marry her niece. Such marriage is not permissible.

However, if one's wife dies, one may marry her sister or her aunt or niece. It is often the case that such a marriage is found helpful, particularly when the man has young children who need to be looked after. Their aunt or another close relative to their deceased mother may care for them better than any stepmother.

I do not understand your other point about a person who is bound to be married to two sisters at the same time. Why is he bound to do something, which God has prohibited? To whom is he obliged to do such a thing? Anyway, the first of these two sisters whom he married is his wife, while the other is not. His relationship with her is not a marriage, even though there is a marriage contract between them. You say he appears to be religious, but a person who violates God’s law in this way is not religious, no matter what he appears to be like.

Mit'ah Marriage

Q) Is the marriage known as mit'ah permissible? Could you explain the reasons for the verdict you give.

S. A. Anwar , Al-Khafji

A). No, the mit'ah, which is a temporary marriage, is not permissible. It is indeed forbidden. The Prophet has made this clear on his way back from the expedition of Tabuk. What such an arrangement involves is that a man proposes to marry a woman for a specified period of time, such as a month or a year or whatever. She may agree and they also agree on a dower and bring in witnesses.

So, it fulfills all the conditions of a legal marriage except that the couple agrees in advance to terminate marriage at a particular time in future. Nevertheless, the introduction of such a condition invalidates the whole arrangement.

The whole point of introducing conditions into a marriage contract comes for extensive debate among scholars with a significant number of leading scholars rejecting any added condition. But a condition of time limit changes the very nature of marriage from one, which establishes a family to one, which satisfies a temporary desire. Hence, it is rejected altogether and the marriage is not recognized.

Must wife serve husband?

Q). Is it a must for a wife to serve her husband by preparing food for him, Washing his clothes, etc. or is it not a Must?

A). The Islamic scholars say that this issue depends on the customs and traditions in the community. If the wife serves her husband just like what her relatives do, then she must serve him. The wives of the Prophet (pbuh) used to serve him, prepare his food, clean his clothes, etc.

Also the Prophet's daughters and the wives of the Prophet's companions did the same to their husbands.

If the wife is not accustomed to serve in the house of her own family but depends on house-maids and domestic servants, like the daughters of the well-off people, then it is not a must for her to serve her husband, but it is recommendable.

The rights of husband and wife

Q). Different problems arise in different marriages, I should be grateful if you would kindly comment on the rights and duties of a husband and wife when the following problems arise.

      1. If the wife is disobedient in both domestic and religious matters.
      2. If she misuses the money given to her by her husband and gives it to her relations although they may be rich.
      3. If she refuses to move to her husband’s home, where he wishes to live permanently.
      4. If she passes offensive remarks against her husband, claiming that she is only joking.
      5. If she refuses to resign from her employment.
      6. If she refuses to give their child the name her husband wants to give him
      7. Is a husband within his rights to talk to his friends about his wife?

(Name and address withheld)

      1. Islam views marriage as a relationship, which brings two persons together in frieand compassion. Problems and quarrels arise in almost every marriage. Rare indeed is a marriage, which is free of them. It is when such problems and differences arise that compassion, consideration and affection are most needed in order to overcome the difficulty, reconcile the partners and ensure the safety of the marriage and the family, and above all to safeguard the interests of the children. It is important, therefore, to make the rights and limits of each of the two partners absolutely clear in order to reduce the effects of these problems to the minimum. It is also important that authority in the family should be well defined. Islam gives that authority to the husband, on the basis that it is he who earns the money and is required to look after his wife and children. Islam, however, does not neglect the other half of the marriage, namely, the wife. It ensures that the wife is treated with respect and honor and makes it clear that she is entitled to exercise her rights, which are commensurate with her duties. The prophet says:” The best among you is the best in his treatment of his household, and I am the best of you in my treatment of my household” The prophet was not boasting about his treatment of his wives when he said so. Far is it from him to boast about anything he does. The prophet said that only because he is the example Allah expects us to follow. When we know that he has extended to his wives the best treatment a woman can dream of, then by following his example, we are practicing our religion, earning reward from Allah and ensuring our own happiness.
      • Having said that, I realize that not all marriages can be happy. Some of them are stormy, and some always suffer form the incompatibility of the personalities of both partners. Problems which in the beginning may be small are soon compounded and family life becomes a continuous misery. In order to solve problems of the type mentioned in the reader’s letter, it is important to know what are the rights and the duties of each in every situation. Taking these cases one by one, let us consider the Islamic answer to them.
      1. It is the duty of a wife to obey her husband in all matters which affect the family, provided that his wishes and what he tells her to do does not contravene any Islamic law or regulation. Having said that, I should perhaps add that life in the family should not be treated as life in a military camp, with orders issued morning and evening and differences of opinion treated as disobedience leading to mutiny. If the husband, however, expresses a certain wish or expects something from his wife which he makes clearly understood, then his wife should endeavor to fulfill that as long as it does not badly affect her or their family and it does not constitute a disobedience of Allah. The Prophet says: ”No creature may be obeyed in what constitutes disobedience to Allah.” If the wife is habitually disobedient in ordinary matters, her husband should counsel her that her attitude is bound to leave adverse effects on both of them and their children. The Qur’an speaks of three different stages of dealing with such disobedience. Allah states in the Qur’an: As those women whose rebellion you have reason to fear, admonish them first: then leave them alone in bed: then beat them(lightly): and if they subsequently pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Allah is indeed most high, great. (4:34) It must be clearly understood that the physical punishment mentioned in verse is treated as the last resort and it must not be severe or on the woman’s face. It should be viewed only as a corrective measure, which is not used except in extreme cases. Admonition and staying away from bed must be tried first. As for the disobedience in religious matters, the Qur’an advises us Bid your family to pray, and be patient with them. This divine instruction may be carried over so as to include all religious duties. One has to tell his wife and members of his family to attend to their religious duties and treat them wisely so as to encourage them to fulfill those duties. He should explain to them their duties toward Allah, quoting always from the Qur’a

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