Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Marriage in Islam

Part Seven

By Adil Salahi

Subject Index
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight

Which woman to marry?

Q). My wife died two years ago. I wish to marry a non-Muslim woman who has promised to adopt Islam if the marriage goes through. After our marriage, can she keep her relationship with her parents and relatives? On the other hand, my parents want me to marry a certain widow who is a relation of mine. I am rather confused and I would be grateful for your advice.

(Name and address withheld)

A). I am afraid I cannot give you any advice in this matter. That is entirely your decision. What I can tell you is that if the non-Muslim woman you wish to many will only be a Muslim because she wants to get married to you, then you have to think twice before-marrying her. To start with, if she is a Christian or a Jew, then she need not adopt Islam for the marriage to be valid. But if she follows a religion, then she should adopt Islam before you can marry her. In this case, you have to be absolutely certain that she adopts Islam, knowing that it is the faith to follow. You must on your guard against a situation where her conversion to Islam is viewed by her simply as a device to facilitate marriage. She has got to understand what believing in the Oneness of God and the message of the Prophet Muhammad means.

If she becomes a Muslim, she can certainly maintain a good relationship with her parents and relatives. A woman companion of the Prophet asked him whether she should be kindly to her mother who had visited her, although her mother remained totally unwilling to adopt Islam. The Prophet told her to be kind to her mother. On the other hand a Muslim woman who has a good character and has good knowledge of Islam and its principles is a very suitable woman to marry. The Prophet has recommended us to choose for our marriage partner, a woman who Fears God and practices her faith.

Your choice must be based on the character of each one of the two women, not the type of relationship you have with the widow or the physical appearance of the non-Muslim woman. Marriage is a very serious affair and the partner should be properly selected.

Marriage with a Christian

Q). A man wants to marry a Christian woman and the parents of both are reconciled to the idea but the mosque in their country are refusing to register the marriage. The people there say that verses 6 of surah 5 refers to the Christians of the Prophet’s time, who were Unitarian. Please comment

(Name and address withheld)

A). The argument given by the imam in the mosques is quite wrong. The Christians at the tires of the Prophet were not Unitarian. In fact the Christian beliefs at the Prophet's time were the same as they are today. The Qur’an denounces their claims of Trinity and their elevation of Jesus and his mother, Mary, to a divine status. It also states clearly that the Christians claimed that Jesus was Son of God, and refuted their argument. Yet there remains a sufficient common area between us and the Christians and the Jews to allow the marriage of Muslim men with the followers of either of these two faiths. This means that the marriage of this person to a Christian woman is allowed in Islam, although it may not be recommended on other grounds.

Marriage with a prospective convert

Q). A Christian from my home country, the Philippines, has repeatedly asked me to marry her, she says that she will become a Muslim if our marriage is successful. Is it, proper for me to marry her on this condition?

A). Normally a marriage between a Muslim man and a Christian or a Jewish woman is acceptable and valid. The woman does not need to change her religion and become a Muslim for the marriage to go through. Indeed she may retain her faith for the rest of her life. Her husband is not required to put any pressure on her to embrace Islam. The basic principle, "No compulsion is admissible in matters of faith", applies.

The above ruling is qualified by another Islamic principle, which asserts that it is infinitely better for a Muslim to marry a Muslim. This is better for both the couple and their children. Therefore, you may marry this lady if you are convinced that she will be a good wife for you. Her promise to become a Muslim if the marriage is successful should not be taken literally. What you should do, if you decide to marry her, is to explain Islamic teachings and values to her at leisure using suitable chances whenever they present themselves. You should let her come to the decision of whether to become a Muslim or not at her own time, without any pressure from you.

There is, however, another aspect to the question of inter-faith marriages. That is the social and family aspect. It is needless to say that the social conditions in which one lives has a great influence on one's habits and practices. It does not take any great stretch of imagination to realize that the habits, practices and attitudes of a Muslim married to a Christian and living in a Muslim society will be differed from those of the same couple if they were to live in a predominantly Christian society. For an interfaith marriage to succeed both husband and wife need to make many more compromises than required if they belonged to the same faith.

If they live in a Christian country, these extra compromises will always have to be made by the Muslim husband. All this and its bearing on the upbringing of children must be taken into account before deciding to go ahead with an interfaith marriage.

Where to marry a non-Muslim

Q). Being aware that a Muslim man can marry a girl of any other belief, we are at odds with our prospective wives over what arrangements to make for the marriage ceremony. They are insisting on ending the ceremony at a church, or, failing that, they insist that a signing ceremony at the city municipality should be prepared. We are demanding that we should have a proper Islamic marriage, i.e., Nikah. The problem is that they will certainly refuse to say the declaration that they believe in the oneness of Allah and in the message of Prophet Muhammad. Is there any way to have this marriage performed without displeasing Allah?

Ahmed G.A. Raya and S.N.Nauray.

Q). In one of your answers, you indicated that it is allowed for a Muslim to marry a Christian or a Jewish woman. You are undoubtedly aware of the Qur’anic verse, which states that no Muslim, man or woman, may marry a polytheist. Now that Christians claim that Jesus was the son of God and the Jews, or some of them at least, make similar claims about Ezra, do they not become polytheists whom we are not allowed to marry?

A.Ahmed, Dhahran & M.A.sirajuddeen,Najran.

A). The first letter makes the error of giving a Muslim man permission to marry a woman of any other faith. This is not true. The only interfaith marriages allowed in Islam are those in which a Muslim man marries a Christian or a Jewish woman. He is not allowed to marry a woman of any other faith or belief. A Muslim woman, on the other hand, must marry a Muslim. Even Christians and Jews are not allowed for her to marry.

The question raised in the second letter is whether we can still consider Christians and Jews to be recipients of divine revelations when they have deviated from these revelations so far that they ascribe divinity to Jesus Christ or other beings. In answering this point, we have to remind ourselves that what Allah has made lawful, no one can make unlawful. Similarly, what He has forbidden, no one can make lawful. It is only when a divine commandment or rule is made conditional on something in particular that the ruling may be changed on the basis of the condition being met or not. When Allah has allowed us to marry Christian and Jewish women He did not make that conditional on their having any particular concept other that believing in Christianity or Judaism. In other words, it is sufficient that a woman professes to believe in Christianity or Judaism in order for a Muslim man to be able to marry her.

Moreover, at the time the Qur’an was revealed, Christians and Jews interpreted their religions in the same way as they interpret them today. In other words, their religions did not go through any real change in their basic concepts. We find Qur’anic references to Christians claiming that Jesus was son of Allah and Jews claiming that Ezra was son of Allah. Moreover, the Qur’an refers to Christians ascribing divinity to Mary, mother of Jesus. But in spite of all that, Islam had made it lawful for Muslims to marry Christian and Jewish women. That permission remains valid, because there has been no subsequent legislation to cancel it.

I can understand the worry the two second readers express in their separate letters about this permission. To a Muslim mind, the idea of a divine nature being attributed to anyone other than Allah is nothing less than plain polytheism. But we have to take Islam as it has been conveyed to us by our Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. He has convit to us correct, complete, and with everything taken into consideration. It is Allah who has given us this legislation and He knows what He has legislated for us. What we can say however, on this point is that being aware of all the distortion that has crept into the ideological concepts of both Christianity and Judaism, Allah considers that both of these two divine religions still retain a measure of the belief in the Oneness of Allah which is enough to justify the permission of inter marriage with them on a limited scale. We accept this legislation as it is and do not try to argue against it with the aim of canceling it. For no man is allowed to cancel legislation made by Allah.

Having said that, I must repeat what I have frequently said in the past that although marriage with a Christian or a Jewish woman is allowed to a Muslim man, we should not consider it except in cases where no practical alternative offers itself. We have to think of Muslim women who will be left unmarried when many of us marry women of other faiths. We have also to remember that Islamic legislation is suitable for Islamic society. This has considerable bearing on the case in question. When a Muslim man marries a Christian or a Jewish woman and takes her to live in an Islamic society, she is bound to be influenced by the society around her. Her own influence on her husband and his approach to his faith will be limited.

The situation is entirely different when a Muslim man lives in a non-Islamic society and marries a woman who does not believe in Islam. There, the pressure of society will be great on him. He may find himself having to give in on points of great importance in his faith. Examples abound nowadays when Muslims have immigrated to all European and American countries, where they are in a minority. Without giving due thought to the permission given by Allah for Muslim men to marry Jewish and Christian women, and without trying to understand the reasons for this permission and the likely effects of inter faith marriages on them, they rush into marrying women in the countries they have settled in. Soon they discover that they have made a grave mistake. Living in her own society, close to her own relatives, the woman in question does not feel any need to modify her habits and practices. She feels that it is up to her husband to try to adapt to the norms of her society. In doing so, he finds that he has to sacrifice some values, which are basic to his faith. Once he starts, the road ahead is very slippery. He will soon discover that he has moved far away from the basics of his Islamic faith.

There are certain misunderstandings about Islamic marriage in the first letter. The term “Nikah” means “marriage.” To read or say nikah is to go through the marriage contract verbally. It is not a condition that the declaration of believing in the oneness of Allah and the message of the Prophet, i.e. the kalimah which signifies acceptance of Islam be said by either man or wife in that ceremony. All that it consists of is a proposition of marriage and an acceptance of that proposition in the presence of the woman’s father or guardian and witness. An Islamic marriage contract may be performed anywhere, although we are recommended by the Prophet to have it in a mosque. This is only a recommendation, not an obligation.

The question is raised whether it can be performed in a church. The answer is a clear and firm “no”. It is in fact forbidden for a Muslim to have his marriage performed in a temple, where worship of any sort other than Islamic worship is offered or practiced. When the marriage of a Muslim man is made in a church, he allows himself to run the risk of becoming an apostate, since he may find himself in a position of having to take part in non-Islamic worship.

There is no harm in having the marriage contract made in the city municipality. In fact, if the girl’s father or guardian is present and Muslim witnesses are also present, then the marriage performed in the city municipality is sufficient for Islamic purposes. In other words there is no need to have a further Islamic marriage contract.

Martial relations in the period

Q). Many of us, expatriates, go home for vacation after an absence of one year or more. On arrival or just before departure one may find his wife in her period. What is permissible for him and what is not?

M.A. Salama,Riyedh

A). A companion of the Prophet, still a young man, asked one of the Prophet's wives this very question. Her reply was "All except intercourse." This is confirmed by a report by Aisha that when she was in her period the Prophet might ask her to tie up her underwear before he would do some of the preliminaries of sex, always stopping short of intercourse.

This is an example of the middle attitude of Islam. It does not go to the extreme of banishing a woman from her husband's bed when she is in the period, like some other religions do, nor does it allow intercourse because of the uncleanness that attends the mensrual period.

To be more specific, when a woman is in her period, she may have sex play with her husband. They may be undressed with the exception of the area round her private parts. In the situation you have explained, when one is with his wife after or before a long absence, one should guard against exceeding this limit.

Marriage in the waiting period unacceptable

Q). I have got married to a lady after the court ordered the dissolution of her former marriage. She had been married to a man who left her soon after the marriage to live and work in the Kingdom. For six years she did not receive any communication from him, and he did not send her any money to look after herself. An Islamic court in our country granted her application for the dissolution of her marriage. Three days after the court decision, we got married. Is our marriage proper and valid?

A.U.A, Makkah

A). I would have thought that such a question should have been put before the marriage rather than after it had taken place. Marriage and divorce are very serious matters because they mean the difference between a legitimate and an illegitimate relationship. Hence it is very important to know the rules that affect the validity of each one of them in order to ensure that our family relationships are of the type that God permits. If we do not know the rules, then we are likely to make mistakes, which would land us in trouble as they may make a relationship, which we so dearly wish to have unattainable, or they may make a break of a relationship final and impossible to mend. It is extremely important to realize that the rules God has laid down for marriage and divorce are simple and straightforward. It is we who introduce difficulties into them by choosing to ignore God's rules and doing things our own way without observing what God wants us to observe. I have repeatedly emphasized to my readers the importance of knowing the Islamic law relating to marriage and divorce before embarking on either step. I cannot make the emphasis too strong, because, judging by the type of letter I receive people continue to ignore these roles, mostly through ignorance at their own peril

The writer of this letter says that he has married his wife only three days after the court had ordered the dissolution of her marriage to her first husband. Has he never heard of the need to observe a waiting period during which the divorced woman may not marry a man other than her divorcing husband?

In other words, she may be reunited in marriage with the man who has divorced her, but cannot be married to any other man until her waiting period is over This obviously applies if the divorce has taken place for the first or second time, but not if it is an irrevocable divorce which is the third one. The difference is made because an important purpose of the waiting period is to make sure of the parenthood of any child the woman may have conceived from her first marriage, or may conceive early in her second marriage.

I am afraid I do not have any comforting news for this couple, because they made a 'marriag' at a time when no such a step could be right. When a marriage comes to an end, either through divorce or the death of the husband, the wife has to observe a waiting period during which she may not get married.

This waiting period is of different duration according to the circumstances of the woman, but in the case of this particular lady, it should last until she has had three menstruation periods after the court decision dissolving her marriage it is only when the waiting period is over that the lady may get married again.

Nothing can waive this restriction because it is ordered by God Himself. When the couple violated this rule by getting married after only three days, they have precipitated something that could not be lawful until its appointed time. Hence there is a penalty which has to be imposed on them. I will explain.

There is only one of two alternatives. The couple might have been totally unaware of the need to observe the waiting period. It is very difficult to imagine that a Muslim couple living in a Muslim country are unaware of the requirement of a waiting period after divorce. Yet it may be that they might have overlooked the requirement because of the dissolution of the first marriage by a court order. Anyhow, if they were totally unaware or ignorant of the requirement, then they must be separated straight away and the woman has to observe her waiting period indeed what she has to observe now is two waiting periods one for her marriage which has been dissolved by the court and another for the second 'marriage' which is not valid.

Each waiting period lasts until she has had three menstruation periods. The first one counts for the first marriage and the second for the invalid marriage, unless she happens to be pregnant at the time of her separation from the second man. In this case, she observes the second waiting period first in this case; it lasts until she delivers her baby. Then she must observe the other waiting period for the first marriage. It must be clear that the two waiting periods cannot nun concurrently. In other words they cannot be counted at the same time. Each must run its course separately. When she has completed her two waiting periods, they may get married. To do that they must have a fresh marriage contract, because the first one is invalid and of no value whatsoever. The other situation is that the couple was aware of the need to observe a waiting period but they nevertheless went ahead and arranged for their marriage despite knowing this requirement. Their action in this case is very grave indeed. Their marriage is not valid at all. They would be considered adulterers and they deserve the punishment of adultery because their action is taken deliberately in defiance of God's law. Moreover, they must separate immediately.

When they have separated, they may not be married to each other for the rest of their lives That is because they have precipitated what they would have had in good time, but the precipitation constitutes a deliberate violation of Islamic law. The woman will still need to observe her two waiting periods, in the manner outlined above, before she could marry a different man. For their sake, I hope that this does not apply to them. However, it is only they who can tell whether it applies to them or not, because they are the ones who can tell whether they were truly unaware of the need to observe a waiting period or not

Confusion about the validity of the marriage

Q). After one and a half Years of being married, a woman obtained a ruling from an Islamic court nullifying her marriage. The basis of the ruling was the ill treatment she received from her husband who used to beat her up and demand money from her. Her former husband was sent several notices with at least one of these notices published in the Local paper but he failed to appear in court. The court then granted her the nullification.

The woman is now married to another man but recently that husband was told by a scholar that such a khula is not valid Without the consent of the first husband which means that the woman is still married to the first husband and her second marriage is null and void. That caused the couple no end of distress. Particularly since they have had a child recently. Please comment.

(Name and address withheld)

A). Sometimes I get very angry when I receive a question like this. My anger is not directed at the parties concerned in the problem, but at the outsider who voices an opinion which has a far reaching effect on the lives of several people without paying due regard to the circumstances of the case or studying the problem in depth.

The reader speaks of a scholar telling him that such a khula is not valid without the consent of the first husband. What he did was to look at the question from the specific point of view of khula and then he voiced his opinion on the basis of his school of thought. This means that there are two limiting factors in how he has dealt with the problem which involves the legitimacy or otherwise of a marital relationship. That is very bad indeed. I do not know the man or the country where he comes from but I can guess his school of thought and I feel that he might have not studied anything outside it. That is not the way a good scholar should look at a problem like this with all its practical limitations.

This is not a case of khula in the first place. Khula is a nullification of the marriage at the request of a wife which may not have a reason other than the wife feeling that life with her husband does not give her the fulfillment a woman expects from a happy married life. In khula the woman pays back her dower to her husband and her waiting period lasts only for one menstruation period according to the weightier opinion to ensure that she is not pregnant. When the khula takes place, it does not count as a divorce.

Here the case is one of divorce by the judge on the basis of ill treatment. In such cases the judge has to make sure that there is undoubtedly ill treatment which means life with the man is intolerable. The judge determines what sort of proof to demand in order to satisfy him that the claims of the wife are true. Here we are told that the man beats up his wife. If he acknowledges that, then that is the best proof, but this could also be proven by other means, such as witnesses who may be neighbors or relatives? We are also told that the man used to demand money from his wife. He sent her to her parents frequently to get him that money. This is again another form of ill treatment, which could easily make life intolerable.

The judge in this case has done what is required when he sent repeated notices to the husband to attend the hearing, and when he published an announcement in the local newspaper. If the husband does not attend the court after all this and the judge is satisfied that the ill treatment is a fact, then the judge is within his jurisdiction to order the nullification of the marriage. That nullification is considered as a divorce by the judge, which is a single divorce. This is another difference between this sort of nullification and khula.

The second husband of this lady may rest assured about the validity of his marriage. He need not worry or ask any one’s opinion since the nullification is ordered by a court of Islamic law. What is the purpose of asking anyone when no one would give the case the sort of in-depth study and consideration as the court would do?

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