Marriage in Islam

Some of the content in this post were adapted from Ustaz Noor Deros’ talk on marriage dated 5 Apr 2015

I’ll start this post with the following hadith:

Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension). The nearer to him in tank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: I did so and so. 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. The Satan goes near him and says: ‘You have done well.’ A’mash said: He then embraces him. [Sahih Muslim, 2813]

Why does shaytaan love to wreck marriages?

Recall that Allah loves worshiping in a group. The strength of Islam comes from the strength of the ummah. This is why we get more rewards when praying in congregation, when we greet fellow Muslims with salam, etc.

When a man and a woman marry, they form the basic group and the nucleus of a community. This is part of the reason why marriages are so treasured in Islam and why marrying is encouraged without delay, once both parties are ready.

Society tells us that we need to be with someone for a number of years before we marry them. We need to be rich, own a house, be “successful” first before marrying. I disagree.

Narrated by ‘Abdullah:

We were with the Prophet while we were young and had no wealth whatsoever. So Allah’s Apostle said, “O young people! Whoever among you who can marry, should marry because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power” (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 4)

There is also a story of a poor man who wanted to marry a particular woman, but he was not able to offer any material gifts as mahr – not an iron ring or even a complete set of clothing. Narrated by Sahl bin Sad As-Sa’idi:

The Prophet said, “How much of the Quran do you know?” He said, “I know such Sura and such Sura,” counting them. The Prophet said, “Do you know them by heart?” He replied, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “Go, I marry her to you for that much of the Quran which you have.” (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 24)

The Malay society, in particular, tells us that you need to have rizqi (or in malay, rezeki) first before marrying. But Allah says marry and He will give you rizqi.

Marry those among you who are single, or the virtuous ones among your slaves, male or female: if they are in poverty, Allah will give them means out of His grace: for Allah encompasses all, and he knows all things. (Quran 24:32)

“Marriage is the basis for blessings and children are an abundance of mercy” (Hadith-Al-Kabaair by Az-Zahabi)

Now, rizqi does not necessarily have to be in monetary terms. There is so much blessing in a marriage – through fulfillment of your amanah (obligations) to one another, through continuation of the ummah via your children, etc.

Marriage should not be delayed. Narrated by Sayyiduna ‘Ali RA:

Do not delay in three things: 1) Salah when its time arrives, 2) Offering the janazah salah when the bier is present and 3) Marriage of a woman whose match is found (Sunan Tirmidhi, hadith: 171 & 1075 , Declared as sound (hasan) by ‘Allamah ‘Iraqi (rahimahullah). See Takhrijul Ihya, hadith: 1371)

However this does not mean that you enter a marriage blind. Narrated by Abu Huraira:

The Prophet 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. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 27)

The process by which potential spouses get to know each other is called ta’aruf. I will not elaborate much on this as it is a vast topic, but to my knowledge this process generally will not take more than two months.

So, marry. Once you are ready and have found a match, get to know each other through permissible means, do the solat istikhara and introduce the families to one another to discuss marriage.

The term “ready” is subjective. How does one know if he or she is ready for marriage?

Society’s standards of “ready” are stringent. You need to be filthy rich, be a master chef, or be a “perfect Muslim” before you are deemed ready to marry. Again, I disagree with society.

The most important criteria is that both the groom and bride recognize the intention of the marriage – to be closer to Allah swt. Once this intention is firmly grounded, everything else comes naturally (I will elaborate more on each spouse’s responsibilities later on).

What if one or both of them are not mu’mineen (practicing Muslims)?

As long as their intention is pure and strong, Allah will guide them down the straight path if He wills it. After marriage, they can learn about Islam together and start praying together.

Actions are by but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended (Bukhari & Muslim)

There is clear-cut job-delegation in a marriage in Islam:

“A man is the leader of his family and he is held accountable for his position; a woman is (also) a leader to her husband’s household affairs and children, and she is held accountable for her state. Therefore each of you is a leader and will be held accountable to what (and who) you lead” (Bukhari & Muslim)

“(Husbands) are the protectors and maintainers of their (wives), because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard …” (Quran 4:34)

Generally, the responsibility of each spouse is as follows (Source: See Note 1):

A husband’s responsibilities towards his wife:

  • Physical needs
  • Intellectual & spiritual education
  • Accommodation & security
  • Protect his wife’s self-respect and moral well-being
  • Fulfill her sexual needs

A wife’s responsibilities towards her husband:

  • Be faithful as long as it is within the confines of Islam
  • Care for the property, good name and respect of her husband
  • Manage the house and children’s education
  • Fulfill his sexual needs

*Note that “protecting the wife” and “caring for the husband’s good name” also includes keeping problems in the marriage within the marriage, no matter how ‘broken’ your relationship is. You may confide, with your spouse’s permission, in a close friend or a counselor. Do not, however, expose problems in your marriage on social media.

I emphasized “generally” because these may be subject to changes; each couple is different. It is important to discuss these responsibilities before marriage. In Singapore, these discussions can be facilitated through the Marriage Preparatory Course.

But you’ve only known this person for such a short amount of time! How do you know that this person won’t change?

We don’t. Only Allah knows. This is why I keep emphasizing on doing the solat istikhara – this is how we pray to Allah for his knowledge and guidance, because he is the All-Knowing, the Al-Aleem. We pray that the decision we make will be good for us in this world, and more importantly, in the hereafter.

People change. That’s a fact. There are high and low periods of our iman. However the purpose of your marriage remains unchanged – to be closer to Allah swt.

This is why I’m stressing so much on this intention. Don’t base your intention on something that is temporary or varying. Your intention for marriage may be “to be closer to my spouse”, “to achieve my (worldly) goals with my spouse”, “to travel the world with my spouse.” These are weak goals – people change, your job may change, and the world changes every day.

Instead, base your intention on something that is eternal and constant. Strengthen your marriage with an intention linked to God.

Love is overrated. The fact is that feelings may fade. But this does not weaken the marriage at all, if your intention is pure.

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity (Sakinah) with them, and He has put love (Mawaddah) and mercy (Rahmah) between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. (30:21)

When love and attraction fades, mercy and respect can remain. “I will fulfil my pact to her, even if I don’t love her anymore. I will protect her, I will not abuse her. If I leave, who will protect her dignity? Who will clothe her, feed her?” Through this, in shaa allah love rekindles.

Of course, there are cases whereby the spouse may change drastically to the point whereby he (or even she) may become abusive. Islam does not condone abuse in any way. If one fears Allah, he would not even consider resorting to abuse.

“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives” (At-Tirmidhi)

After the aqd nikah i.e. the Ijab (Offer) and Kabul (Acceptance), (or, akad nikah in malay), the taklik has to be read if the couple is following madhhab Shafii. This taklik attaches talak (divorce) to conditions – such as negligence (in giving nafaqah) or abuse. The main purpose of the taklik is to protect the wife.

Therefore, in the event that the husband is abusive and this problem is unable to be resolved, the wife can use the abuse as grounds to ask for divorce. Islam also has clear guidelines and etiquette when it comes to divorce.

Nobody wants divorce. However, society seems to fear divorce so much that people fear to marry in the first place. This needs to be changed. If you think about it, marriage followed by divorce is halal, though undesirable. Zina, on the other hand, is clear-cut haram.

Society fears divorce so much. But, does society fear zina?

And mind you, when we speak of zina, we don’t just mean pre-marital sex. There is also zina of the eyes and of the heart.

Again, I emphasize that if a man fears Allah, he would not even think about abusing Allah’s creation, even more so his lawful wife. However there are cases whereby a man may seem to be pious before marriage, but his true colours change after marriage.

If you do the istikhara but your marriage ends up disastrous or ends in divorce, tawakkal (trust in Allah’s plans). It may be that you lose in the Dunya, but through this trial you gain in the Akhira. Feel contented with the fact that any man who has wronged you will have to answer to Allah sooner or later.

Remember the meaning behind the du’a for istikhara; you are asking Allah to guide you for what’s good for you in the hereafter, and not just for the dunya.

“… But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows, and you know not.” (2:216)

I re-iterate that marriage is a beautiful thing in Islam. If your marriage is treated as an act of worship, with the intention to get closer to Allah swt, then Allah swt will bless your marriage and guide you closer to Him. With that being said, no marriage is without trials. Allah tests those He loves with trials. However, keep in mind how complete Islam is.

Islam is not a religion whereby you simply pray five times a day, then live the rest of the day in a completely un-islamic manner. No. You practice Islam in any act that you do; you show your love to the Prophet (saw) by following his sunnah.

Therefore, when faced in any troubles, always fall back to the sunnah; there are various tips on resolving conflicts and managing your anger. At the start of this post, I stated a hadith which mentioned that a shaytaan can be the reason for conflict between a married couple.

However, if a third party causes discord between a married couple (for example, in the case of extra-marital affairs), this does not necessarily mean that the third party is the shaytaan. Shaytaan causes the conflict itself. Shaytaan may cause the cheating spouse to stick to his or her bad habits. On the other hand, shaytaan may also cause the wronged spouse to refuse to forgive.

It is human to err. However, if your spouse seems sincere in repentance, then forgive. It may be difficult to let go of the past and the broken trust, but take steps towards reconciliation. Allah has the capacity to forgive all sins – imagine how we were to answer in front of Allah if we bore a grudge against a fellow Muslim for a sin that Allah has already forgiven him or her for?

Remember that both love (mawaddah) and mercy (rahmah) constitutes a successful marriage; one that is full of tranquillity (sakinah). Forgiveness is an essential part of mercy.

Notes:

  1. Retrieved from the Marriage Preparatory Course (Singapore) notes published by MSF in 2014. This handbook has been reviewed by representatives from ROMM, Syariah Court, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Yayasan Mendaki, among others.

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