Marriage: What You Ought to Know
By Dr. Mutawalli ad-Darsh
[How to get married, to whom and when is a question that haunts and torments a majority of young British Muslims. The threat facing this core institution could affect very nature and existence of the community. A honest and responsible discussion of the matter is now long overdue, says Dr. Mutawalli ad-Darsh. Sheikh Syed Darsh, graduate of Al-Azhar, Cairo, was Chairman of UK Shari'ah Council and an expert on family matters. Sheikh Darsh has passed away, may Allah have mercy on him. (Article from Q-News, No. 278, 3-16 Oct 1997) ]
As those whom their right hand possess are no more existing, what remains is the wife. Fornication is a great crime and punishable, sometimes to the loss of life in Islam.
It is advisable to get married early in life once the person, male or female, reaches the age of maturity and is not hindered physically and financially to do so. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
`O young people, who of you is able to shoulder the responsibility of marriage let him get married. This will lower his gaze, and keep him/her chaste. Who is not, let him/her keep fast. For fasting will reduce the desire (or the physical pressure).'
If the hadith is making marriage conditional on the ability, financial or otherwise, the Qur'an encourages helping the poor get married, Allah most Gracious said: `And marry those among you, who are single, and those who are fit. If they are needy Allah will make them free from want, out of His grace, And Allah is ample giving, knowing' (24:32)
Another tradition makes it clear that Allah has given a firm promise to help persons who get married despite being needy and those who do so because they want to maintain their chastity.
Choice in Marriage
Marriage in Islam is a long life experience. Muslims do not
get married to "experiment", or because it's "fun
and play". Neither do they marry for a limited period. They
marry to settle down, have children, and cement family relationships.
If the marriage is successful, it is a great social and moral
bond, creating a happy prosperous relationship within the parties
concerned. If it fails, it causes upheaval and results in tension
and a sour relationship. That is the reason why Muslims, male
and female, and the families concerned, are all advised to be
careful and choosy of the parties concerned.
The hadith does not exclude the other motives. It is simply saying, let your first consideration be the last quality.
Equality in Marriage
There is no class system in Islam. The Qur'an speaks about human brotherhood and equality as basic precepts: `O mankind, surely we have created you from a male and female, and made your tribes and families that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous of you.' (49:13)
But Muslim jurists who were considering the implication of marriage and its success, took into account norms and customs of different communities. There are tribal societies as well as class ridden societies too. Custom was their main argument when they talked about equality between the two partners. The woman, in particular, is the one who is with her family most likely to be at a disadvantage. That is why the ulema stipulated that the man is to be equal to her in her social status. A woman of noble family may not marry a commoner. Male royalties are free to marry a commoner. The implication of this is that there is no shame upon him to do that. The family of the woman has a right of objection if she chooses to marry a commoner. She, too, if she is not of age and her father gave her in marriage, has the right to opt out of such an unequal relationship when she reaches the age of puberty. Now, this concept of equality is very important here, particularly with the Hanafi school of thought as we shall see below.
The Hanafi school of thought, to which the overwhelming majority of British Muslim belong, is unique in its concept of guardianship in marriage. They divide it into two categories:
However, shared guardianship means that the girl in that position may give the right to her father to contract marriage on her behalf. This is recommended. In the view of the two Sheikhs the father has no right to force a mature and sane girl into a marriage without her consent. For evidence they refer to the hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) saying that: `the virgin is to be consulted in her marriage.' Hence to marry a person against her will, i.e. forcing her, is a negation of that right.
The argument is further vindicated by another analogy. The
guardian has no right to spend one single penny of the girls
wealth without her permission. If she has a right to determine
how a small amount of her money is to be spent how then can she
not have a say in her marriage one of the most important event
likely to take place in her life?
Ibn Al Quayyim said, "The virgin, sane, mature girl, her father has no right to dispose of any of her wealth without her consent. How can he give her in marriage to someone, who is most hated by her, against her will and make her a prisoner in his house?"
Muslims living in the West are somehow, in a different, sometimes difficult situation. They wish to secure a decent, happy, successful future for their children. As a thinly spread community, the opportunity of finding the right partner for their children is not as wide or easily available as it is when living within a Muslim society. Matters are further complicated by traditional values and concerns. Matching cousins, for instance, is one very widespread way of dealing with the problems of marriage in Muslim societies. A marriage between related people is no threat, glides through many cultural barriers and most of the time has the benefit of community support. Such unions ensure that family name and interests are protected and familial relationships are continued.
The approach leads to the concept of arranged marriages. Whatever its shortcomings this method is the most successful. Partly it is because it is based on sound reasoning and has been practically implemented over centuries. Shared religious outlook, upbringing and the fact that this is the first physical contact between a virgin girl and her partner gives the partnership more chances of being a long lasting and wholesome one. Hence it is quite understandable that many parents opt for this kind of arrangement when it comes to marrying off their children.
However, Muslims living in the West need to re-evaluate such
arrangements having in mind the alien and hostile environment
in which they live in. We must come up with solutions that will
deal with the fact that our young people live lives that are
besieged by a powerful aggressive culture that is both un-Islamic
and anti Islamic. Everyday the onus is upon them to hold on to
the little of Islamic value that they are allowed to implement.
Student Islamic societies at the universities and polytechnics are doing a commendable job in trying to provide moral and emotional support for young university students. But the odds are still too much and the resources to perform such a gigantic task extensively and efficiently are not available.
At the weekend, when other students go after pleasure, the only supporting and protective place for religious minded Muslims are the societies. There, they can talk, study and mix in an appropriate environment and surroundings. There are many instances where such gatherings have led to young people meeting and knowing each other. Basically the attraction is that they have come across a partner who is Islamically oriented something that is a priority to them.
If the parents are well educated and open minded they usually
are supportive of such an association. After all, this type of
relationship satisfies the recommendation given by the Prophet:
`choose the one who is decent and religious and you will be successful.'
The Course of Action
It is not in the interests of anyone to encourage young people to go against the wishes of their parents. Marriage, as explained earlier, is a life long experience. The experience of love in the artistic way of putting it in novels does not live long enough to sustain a long journey in life. It is a down to earth description when people speak about honeymoon. Moons after that God knows what are they! So young people need all the support they can get to help them get over their ups and downs in their lives. They need the good will of everyone involved, their parents, close relatives, their friends and everyone interested in the success of their marriage. So it is not a good omen to start life with fighting against the parents.
There are a number of cases in front of the Shari'ah Council, where girls rushed into marriage against the wishes of their parents, went through a great sacrifice, had a child or two, did everything they could to sustain marital relationship, but finally had to give up because what they called love was simply a passing passion and infatuation. Some of the parents overcome the grief and humiliation they felt at the beginning and stand in support of their children. Some could not forget the trauma of their experience and left their loved ones to face the future on their own.
The sincere advice for young people in this dilemma is to
use all the powers available to them. Talk it through with your
mother as she is normally the soft spot in the family and the
one who is more likely to appreciate the problem. Try to enlist
the support of different members of the family and elderly respected
members of the community.
It went on to say, `No one, not even her father or the ruler can lawfully contract a woman into marriage, who is adult and of sound mind, without her permission, whether she be a virgin or a widow or divorced. And if anyone should take upon himself to do so, the marriage is suspended on her sanction. If agreed to by her, it is lawful, if rejected it is null.'
However, for the honour and respectability of the girl and
her estranged family, it is advisable for her to authorise a
person of integrity and good position, who may be an acquaintance
of both her and her would be husband to give her in marriage.
This is not the ideal solution, but is it the most that can be
achieved in these circumstances.