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
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 see 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
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
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
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.
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:
- I have no job security and I am not in a position to support
a family on my modest salary.
- 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 fathers 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 daughters 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
What you 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
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
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
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 mothers
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 Gods law in this
way is not religious, no matter what he appears to be like.
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.