and Answers on Muslim Marriage
Syed Darsh, graduate of Al-Azhar, Cairo, Chairman of UK Shari'ah Council
and expert on family matters, answers some frequently asked questions
about marriage. These questions are taken from the magazine called "Trends".
it a sunnah/recommendation to marry one's cousin or is the reverse true
- marry from afar to produce strong progeny?
is not a sunnah or a recommendation to marry one's cousin nor is the reverse
true;to marry from afar to produce strong progeny. This whole question
is left to the social customs or norms.
am told by a Muslim scholar from a traditional-tribal society that the
cousin has the social right upon his female cousin and that she is not
to be offered to him first. No one may propose to her until he has expressed
his wish not to marry her. In a way, within the Arab, particularly tribal
societies, they consider marrying within the family, more honourable,
more protective; keeping lineage pure and well established.
there is a statement which is attributed mistakenly to the Messenger of
Allah, "Marry from outside the family, otherwise your offspring will
be weak." In fact this, or something similar, is correctly attributed
to Umar ibn Al-Khattab saying to the family of As-Saib, "Your offspring
are becoming so thin and weak. Marry outside your close of kin."
In discouraging this marriage, Al-Ghazali in his Ihya Ulum ad-Deen says,
"Familiarity and close family tie weaken the sexual desire in both
of them. As a result, children become weak." This is not a good reason.
For surely, when partners marry, after a few months they become familiar,
there may be nothing new to attract as they know each other inside out,
but the natural desire is there.
research nowadays is showing that the marriage of close relatives leads
to the accumulation of negative inherited qualities. For scientific reasons
therefore it may be advisable to marry from afar.
a girl/boy choose her/his own partner?
girls were the passive partners in such matches. The possibility of meeting,
becoming acquainted with or familiarising oneself with the male partner-to-be
was not widely available. It was left to families, who know one another
in static immovable communities, to arrange such a proposal. Al-Islam
has given each party the right to see the family setting. If they like
one another, the match may go further and marriage preparation proceed.
of the companions of the Prophet (SAW) told him one day that he proposed
to a girl. The Prophet (SAW) said, "Have you seen her?" He said,
"No". He said to him, "See her. For this would bless your
marriage with success". The same is true as far as the girl is concerned.
The messenger of Allah has given the girl the right to express her views
on the proposed person. He said, "The permission of the virgin is
to be sought. And if she does not object, her silence is her permission."
As for the divorced or one who is widowed, no one has a say with her.
is, she has to express very clearly her desire in accepting or rejecting.
This is the traditional old fashioned way. Nowadays girls go to school
and proceed to universities. They meet with boys in classrooms, Islamic
societies and at universities up and down the country. They get to know
one another in a decent moral environment. They are mature, well educated,
cultured and outspoken. These factors have to be taken into consideration.
Once a decent, good mannered Islamicly committed young Muslim attracts
the attention of a like minded Muslimah, their parents have to be reasonable.
Of course, they are interested in the happiness and success of the marriage
of their son or daughter, but they have to realise that they are not buying
or selling commodities. Their care, compassion and love for their children
should not make them extra protective or act as a barrier between their
children and their children's future. In the words of the hadith "If
a person with satisfying religious attitude comes to seek your daughter
in marriage, accept that. If you do not, there will be great mischief
on earth and a great trouble." At the same time young people who
are blessed with education have to show patience, understanding and should
argue their case in a rational and respectable manner.
should we look for in a partner?
is very difficult to give general guidelines, as people are individuals
and as such have different priorities when selecting a life long partner.
However, the hadith of the Prophet(SAW) has given us some clues as to
what is to be desired most in both men and women. Because it is usually
the male who proposes, the address in the hadith is directed to the male
would-be-suitor. He said, "A woman maybe be sought in marriage either
for her beauty, nobility, wealth or religious inclination. Seek the last
and you will be the more successful." The same holds for the female
in the choice of a partner.
the hadith does not exclude beauty. It is one of the qualities satisfying
and protecting the hungry gaze. If that is required in the young woman,
it is required in the man too. Al-Qurtubi reported the Prophet(SAW) as
saying, "Do not give your daughters to the ugly or nasty looking.
For they desire of men what men desire of women."
wife of Thabit ibn Qays said to the messenger of Allah, "My face
and his face will never look at one another" He asked her, "Why?"
She said, "I looked at him coming in the company of other of his
friends and he was the shortest and the ugliest." The messenger asked
her, "Will you return to him the dower he has given you?" She
replied, "Even if he asks more, I shall give it to him." The
Prophet(SAW) told the husband, "Take what you have given her and
release her." He did.
age difference between potential partners should not be too great. It
is not fair to give a young girl to a man who is twenty or thirty years
her senior. If she, for one reason or another, accepts, or he accepts,
then it is their choice. But they should be aware of the future of their
relationship and the implications of such a marriage.
grey haired man passed by a young black haired girl and he proposed to
her. She looked at him and said, "I accept, but there is a snag".
He enquired to which she answered, "I have some grey hair."
The man passed on without a word. She called out, "My uncle, look
at my hair!" She had hair as black as coal. He said to her, "Why
did you say what you did?" She answered, "To let you know that
we do not like of men what they do not like of women."
is not for fun or experience. It is a life long relationship. For that
reason, any factor detrimental to the relationship should be avoided as
much as possible. Highly educated males and females should seek partners
of similar educational background. Cultural and family background is very
important. Common language is an essential way of communicating. Such
things help the two partners to understand, communicate and relate to
one another and are factors of stability and success.
independence and the ability to provide a decent acceptable level of maintenance.
Again, this is a way of insuring that outside influences do not spoil
an otherwise happy life.
ways and means should be considered giving a solid bases for new human
experience which is expected to provide a framework for a happy, successful
and amicable life. All this is to be considered within the context of
Muslims living in Britain today.
Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man. A Muslim man has
to think very seriously indeed before marrying a woman from the people
of the book and conversion just for the sake of marriage may not be a
genuine reason. In a non-Muslim country a Muslim man has no right to bring
up his children as Muslims, and this obligation particularly if love gradually
dries up and the relationship begins to show signs of strain.
question of common language, background, education and age etc. are meant,
in an ordinary stable context, to maximise the chances of success and
stability in a very important Islamic institution - that of marriage.
However, considering the particular position of Muslim communities living
in minority situations, young Muslims, male and female, are exposed to
all sorts of challenges be they cultural, linguistic, racial or social.
The most fundamental question when choosing a partner is a religious one.
As far as language, background, or social position are concerned, these
are not significant factors that absolutely must be fulfilled before a
marriage can take place, indeed such considerations may not be relevant
to young Muslims living in Britain as they have common language - English,
and the social positions of their families in their countries of origins
may well be equalised living in Britain. If the prospective partner is
of a good character, strong religious inclination and the two young people
are happy and feel compatible with one another other considerations are
not of such importance.
a parent refuse a proposal from a good Muslim for his daughter on the
basis that the suitor is not of the same race/caste?
is no concept of caste in Islam. Racial background is a fact of life.
The Qur'an considers the difference of race, colour or language as signs
of the creative ability of Allah: "And of His signs is the creation
of the heavens and earth and the difference of your language and colours.
Lo! Here indeed are signs for men of knowledge."(Ar-Rum:22).
chapter 49, verse 13 is the most universal doctrine of human equality
and brotherhood: "Oh mankind! We have created you from a male and
a female, and then rendered you into nations and tribes so that you might
know one another. Indeed the most honourable among you in the sight of
Allah is he who is most pious."
is a wealth of ahadith quoted by Al-Qurtubi in his commentary on this
Qur'anic verse where the messenger of Allah condemned outright any racial
impact on the Islamic society. For the very reason we come across many
examples of people who, from a racial view, were not considered equal
to Arab women marrying among the high tribal class. Bilal married the
sister of AbdurRahman ibn Awf. Zayd was married to one of the noble ladies
of the tribe of Quraysh and so on.
customs die hard and no sooner are they abolished, they start to reappear
again. Salman al-Farsi proposed to the daughter of Umar, the khalifa.
He accepted. His knowledgeable, pious son and great companion of the Prophet(SAW)
was upset. He complained to Amr ibn Al-Aas. Amr said, "Leave it to
me and I will get him to retract from that." When Amr met Salman
he said to him, "Congratulations. It came to my knowledge that the
Commander of the Faithful humbled himself and accepted to give you his
daughter in marriage." Salman felt slighted by this and thought and
retorted, "By Allah, I will never accept to marry his daughter!"
the brute of the Ummayyad era married the daughter of Muhammad ibn Ja'far,
Abdul Malik, the Ummayyad king was furious. He said to Muhammad, "You
gave one of the noble of Qurayshite women to a slave from Thaqif!"
and he ordered Al-Hajjaj to divorce her.
So this social attitude is very difficult to abolish outright. It does not make a difference whether the parents are well educated or unlettered. In the new environment of living in Britain the situation may ease gradually. However, young educated people who find themselves locked in such situations have to be patient to advance their case. Failing that, I would advise them to read my article, "Guardianship in Marriage'.
children deliberately go about altering the views of their parents/relatives
by marrying in a manner they know is allowed but frowned upon by the others?
should be the last resort if they really are very emotionally attached
to one another. Marriage is a solemn, important bond. It cannot be played
about with as a means of changing die-hard customs. The marrying couple
will be the first victims of such a deficient gesture. I am saying, if
they really love one another, so that this love may sustain them until
they are able to change the attitude of their parents, then well and good.
Though, it will not change the attitude of the whole community.
it would be suicidal to jump into this type of relationship just to change
people. It may prove that the couple do not have the common cause to sustain
this gesture of rejection. They themselves may reject the attempt. The
consequences of such actions can be far reaching.
are no such rituals in an Islamic marriage. It is a simple form of expressing
the commitment to live as husband and wife. The procedure is as follows:
There is a young man wishing to get married and a young woman who is ready
for marriage. Their families know one another and so the man's family
approaches the woman's family - (The opposite is also appropriate). If
there is acceptance, the two persons have the chance of seeing, talking,
exploring - in a chaperoned, not in a private manner - with one another.
If they choose to settle down, some gifts may be exchanged and a date
set for the announcement of the match and working out of the marriage
preparations. The families may arrange the civil ceremony first, then
go to the mosque or house where the formal Islamic agreement may take
woman's guardian, usually the father, will say to the would-be-husband,
"I give you my daughter, (the girl in my guardianship), in marriage
in accordance to the Islamic Shari'ah, in the presence of the witnesses
here with the dowry agreed upon. And Allah is our best witness."
young man, or his father, will reply by saying, "I accept marrying
your daughter, guard, giving her name, to myself" - repeating the
other words. Thus, the marriage is concluded.
is good Islamic practice to announce the ceremony, to hold it in a mosque
and to have some form of entertainment. In the words of the Prophet(SAW),
"Declare this marriage, have it in the mosque and beat the drums."
This is used to be the best the way of establishing that great, sacred
is dowry and who gives it to whom?
question of dowry is one of the rights of the Muslim woman as part of
the correct contract of marriage. The Qur'an states in chapter 4, verse
4: "And give the women their dowries as a free gift, but if they
are pleased to offer you any of it accept it with happiness and with wholesome
dowry is defined in the legal text books as: "the wealth the wife
deserves upon her husband as a result of the contract of marriage on the
the dower is to be given by the husband to his correctly wedded wife.
It is enjoined by the Qur'an, the practical examples of the Messenger
of Allah and the consensus of the companions of the Prophet(SAW).
is no specific minimum or maximum. The customs of the community play a
great part in deciding the agreed amount to be given as dower. In the
past, families would ask of a dower which reflects the social status of
them. After the spread of education and the maturity of age of both husband
and wife, families began to relax this custom, taking into consideration
that young people who start work after graduation do not have much money
to offer for the girls they have going to marry. Families have come to
the realisation that dower is a symbolic gesture. It is good to start
building their family life without incurring a debt which may ruin their
happiness and future prospects. If both husband and wife are working,
the families may prefer that the young couple build their life from scratch
together, rather than burdening them with hefty dower which they cannot
is not Islamic to ask the woman to give dower to the husband. This is
not a noble thing to ask a woman. The Islamic requirement is not because
the man is going to buy the woman, it is to express his love, care and
the dignity of the woman. Whatever expresses these sentiments, great or
small, is considered to be an acceptable dowry, simply because it expresses
it necessary to have a civil marriage?
is important to have a marriage registered with the civil authority so
that it may be recognised. There are many legal implications as a result
of such a registration. Firstly, it is the recognised marriage in this
country. The civil marriage if it is attended by at least two male Muslim
witnesses amounts to a correct Islamic marriage. It is only the social
aspect which leads to another ceremony in a mosque with an imam officiating,
although these things are not required Islamicly.
without the civil marriage, the entitlement to inheritance, pension and
legal documentation are not accepted by the authority. For the sake of
legality it must be registered.
Muslim countries nowadays they have made it an administrative obligation
to register the marriage. This is to officiate and recognise all aspects
that come from the marital relationship. So, if for nothing else, it is
a must for the sake of the children.
these days seem such costly ventures. Is one required to spend huge sums
on a wedding?
are a social expression of the occasion of marriages. Moderation is the
Islamic concept in all aspects of a Muslim's life. Weddings should not
be ostentatious nor are they supposed to be expressions of pride and competition.
It is not fair for the parents or the young couple to start their life
debt ridden as a result of an occasion which lasted a couple of hours
or a little longer. Expenses in all steps leading to marriage should not
be a burden. Big cars, fancy wedding costumes, big parties, expensive
hotels or halls, all such expenses should be avoided. But at the same
time, it should not be a dull and gloomy occasion. It is an occasion of
great joy and happiness and should be celebrated as such.
most important is the walima - the dinner party. It is the sunnah so that
relatives, friends and acquaintances may come to share the joy of the
occasion, to give thanks to Allah and to entertain needy people within
was a pre-Islamic custom which Islam accepted. It was the responsibility
of the husband or his family. The Prophet(SAW) saw some coloured perfume
on AbdurRahman. He asked him about it and AbdurRahman replied, "I
got married". The Prophet(SAW) told him, "Make a walima with
at least one lamb." The Prophet(SAW) himself made a number of walimas
each time he got married. The walimas differed according to the financial
position of the time. The best walima recorded was that of Zaynab. Nearly
three hundred people were entertained and fed meat and bread. On other
occasions the Prophet(SAW) asked his companions to bring whatever food
important part is the coming together, sharing the happiness and advertising
the new relationship in a moderate and inexpensive manner.
secret marriages allowed? Like at universities where girls or boys marry
without parental consent, knowledge or approval?
word used in the question, `secret', is anathema to the concept of marriage
which is a relationship built to secure peace, happiness and tranquillity.
There are many rights and obligations resulting from agreement of marriage.
These include the honour and integrity of the woman concerned, her family
and relations and most importantly, offspring. In so many instances, even
with use of precautions, women get pregnant. How can they face this situation?
Where lies the blame? And what if the young couple tire of one another
after taking what they want from one another? Who loses in such situations?
That is why Muslim scholars frown upon secretive arrangements even though
other basic formalities were satisfied. They argue that the Shari'ah has
made it mandatory to publicise marriage in every available way. They quote
a number of statements of the Prophet(SAW) to that effect. For example
the statement, "There is no valid marriage without a guardian and
two witnesses. Any arrangement short of that is invalid, invalid, invalid."
Another statement quoted by the Hanafi texts, "Any marriage not attended
by four people is not a marriage, it is a fornication. They are: the suitors,
the guardian and two witnesses."
differentiate between two types of what is known as common marriage. Common,
here, stands in contrast to well documented marriage. The first is when
marriage takes place without being officially recorded. But it takes place
within the family, is known among the friends and neighbours but for other
reasons it is not registered. Maybe the couple are drawing unmarried benefits
or whatever. This is an acceptable religious marriage even though there
are unethical motives behind it.
other type is exactly the one referred to in the question. When the two
parties agree to keep it secret. They ask two friends to witness the marriage
with the understanding that they do not talk about it. And they did not,
I repeat, they did not register it. This does not amount to a secure,
tranquil marriage. It is simply satisfying their physical need. The comment
of a scholar, who was a judge before taking the chair of the Islamic Shari'ah
in the Faculty of Law, Cairo University, is that "We do not condone,
nor accept such an arrangement. It is far from the real concept of marriage.
Families and girls' honour should not be treated so flippantly. In my
life as a judge I came across so many miserable, depressing cases resulting
in acrimonious disputes. Allah's Shari'ah has to be respectfully followed.
Any so called legal fictions in this particular matter must be shunned."
Allah says the Truth and guides to the right way.
in Marriage" by Sheikh Darsh Available from Amanah Publications FAO
Ashfaq Ali, 841 Barkerend Road, Bradford, BD3 8QJ