Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Marriage in Islam

Part Eight

By Adil Salahi

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

Why not allow polyandry?

Q) Why is a man in Islam allowed to marry up to four wives but woman only one husband? Is this not sexiest bias against women. Surely they must also enjoy the same right.

(Name withheld), Jeddah

A) Biologically a man can perform his duty as a husband even if he has more than one wife, which, if a woman has more than, one husband, will not be able to perform her duty as a wife.

The lady, during her menstrual period, undergoes certain behavioral and psychological changes and therefore the majority of marital quarrels occur during the menstrual period. According to reports of criminal record of women in the US, ladies commit crime during this period. For a wife, if she has more than one husband, to mentally adjust, will be more difficult. Medical science also tells us that if a lady has more than one husband she had chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases as well as venereal diseases as she can transmit it back to the husband. Which is not the case of a husband who has more than one wife.

The identification of both the parents is possible if children born from a union between one man and more than one wife. The father can be identified as well the mother can be identified. However, m the case of polyandry (the union of one wife with more than one husband) it is possible to only identify the mother; not the father. Islam accords utmost importance to the identification of the parents. And psychologists tell us if child cannot identify his parents he undergoes mental trauma.

Dimension of love misunderstood

Q). Some western friends argued that polygamous marriages can never be just as it is impossible to love two women at the same time. Their understanding of the concept of love seems to differ from ours. I tried to explain but I am not sure I myself understand the true dimension properly. I was not able to reply, as I do not know what the correct answer to this point is. What should my reply be?

A). Many of us seem to think that love is an abstract feeling and thus cannot be controlled or divided. Love, however may be an abstract feeling, which can either be controlled, divided, increased or decreased. This is, in fact, a divine gift from Allah, as seen in the following verse: "And among His signs is that He created for you mates among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts."

In the practical sense, flexibility of one's love depends on the situation. In practical life, a person simultaneously loves Allah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his parents, children, husband/wives, friends, teachers and so on. This proves that love can be divided and shared! Thus it's up to the person to control, increase or decrease his/her love towards others.

However, a husband can control his affection and love among his wives and share it among them if he wishes. The Prophet himself had shared his love and affection with all of his wives, as they required. The flexibility of one's 'love is further highlighted in the following Hadith: Narrated by Anas who said: The Prophet (pbuh) said: "One will not be a (perfect) Muslim unless he loves me more than himself, and his father, and his children, and the human kind as a whole."

In the light of the above tradition, the idea of love has been classified by the mohaddithin into various categories.

According to Maulana A.E.M. Yusuf, a religious scholar of Bangladesh, 'love can be divided as follows:

Muhabbat Ikhtiary: Optional love such as love for wife/husband, common people, friend, teacher, students, etc. Such love can be controlled shared, increased, or decreased.

Muhabbat Idtirary: Natural love such as love for parents, children, own brothers, and sisters, etc. Such love comes naturally and no matter how extremely a person is upset or angry with them, his love will not decrease.

Imam Abu Solaiman Al-Khattabee said: "The word al-Hubb' does not refer to natural one but refers to optional one."

Ibn Battal, Qadi Al-lyadh and the others said: "Love is divided into three categories: Mohabbat Ajlal-wa A'zam, such as to love father; Mohabbat Shafqatun Mashakilatun wa-lstihsanun, such as to love all human kind."

Allama Badruddin Ainee classified love into three categories, he said: "The classification of love is three: Mohabbatul Ajlal-wa A'zam such as to love one's father, Mohabbat Rahmah-wa Ashraq, such as to love your son; and Mhabbat Mushakilatun-wa Istihsanun such as the love of people for each other.

Hence it is extremely important to draw our attention to a question: Why has Allah permitted the practice of polygamy in the Qur'an if love can not be divided.

The real fact is that Allah, Who created human beings knows that man has the capacity to divide and share his love with his wives and that is why polygamous marriage had been permitted.

Polygamy and being fair to man and woman

Q). I refer to an answer you have given earlier in which you corrected the translation of a verse from the Qur'an as referring to "spouses", not merely "wives." Another topic you tackled on the same date was 'polygamy and the consent of the first wife." Should we not read "spouse" in this context also? Or is it that Allah's message has been interpreted through a man's point of view, which read "man" in place of "spouse", to make it easy for men to encroach upon the rights and privileges of women, or rather "first wives.” Would any man consent to his wife taking a second, third or fourth husband? May I point out that all educated Muslim men to whom I talked have interpreted the concept of fairness among one's wives as being limited to the material aspects of life. They agree that no man can be equally in love with two women simultaneously. How is he expected to be fair?

My own conclusion is that Allah, being so just, would not consider "fair to women" what is not "fair to men." I leave to you the choice to answer this letter or not, since I have not converted to Islam yet.

Marianne D. Szoke, OBE, Dhahran

A). Thank you for leaving me this choice of answering your letter or not but I have not considered that choice on the basis of your religion. It is on the merit and nature of the question raised that I determine the space I give to each letter.

Let me first put your mind at rest: The Qur'anic verse which permits polygamy and allows a man up to four wives does not speak of spouses" or "wives'' but refers to women. It says: "Marry from among women who are allowed to you two, three or four.'' This is not to be construed as an order but a permission. Moreover the terms "spouses" 'wives'' and ''women" are used in the Qur'an as appropriate. Mistakes of interpretation may be made in a variety of ways such as reading wives for spouses and making the reverse interpretation applying to both men and women by alims in successive generations have twisted what IS intended for women only. When I corrected my reader, he was simply restricting a statement, which should have been understood as having a wider application. We cannot take that as a rule and claim that Muslims in all generations have misunderstood Allah's message or interpreted it in a restricted way simply because this is a man's world. Such a suggestion has two highly objectionable implications: the first is that Allah has not put his message clearly and precisely, and the second is that Muslims

have restricted Allah's teachings. Neither implication is acceptable. The Our'an is a divine book which uses the most clear, lucid and precise of styles. Allah certainly allows a measure of flexibility in His teachings and laws, so that they may be implemented in different societies as suits them best. That applies only to issues where flexibility is required. There are other matters which are applicable universally in the same degree, method and form.

This second implication is equally impossible. It accuses all Muslims particularly scholars, of having deliberately narrowed the significance of Allah's commandments. That takes them out of the boundaries of Islam altogether. No one can support such a claim with any sound evidence. Indeed, the reverse is true. The Muslim nation takes pride in its wealth of scholarship, which is unsurpassed by any other culture. The aim of this scholarship is to understand the divine message correctly and to implement it conscientiously.

You also raise the point of fair treatment. The first point you raise is that of fairness between man and woman, in which you imply that if it is fair for a man to have four wives, a woman should have also been allowed to marry up to four husbands. May I suggest that this is a very narrow view of fairness. What is wrong with it is that it puts both man and woman on absolutely equal footing paying no regard tthe fact that they have different roles in life and they have been equipped with the appropriate talents and abilities which enable them to fulfill their roles in the most suitable manner. To deny them that difference is to be unfair to either or both of them. Absolute fairness requires that duties and responsibilities should be commensurate with roles and abilities. If it is unfair to pay different wages to men and women who are doing the same job, it is also unfair to ask men and women to do the same job if, by their very nature they are not equally equipped for the job they are being asked to do. Thus, when Islam makes it a duty of a man to support his wife and immediate female relatives, and does not require women to work in order to earn their living. Islam is not being unfair to man. It is only a matter of defining roles, duties and responsibilities according to abilities. Allah's legislation is, in its entirety, fair to both man and woman. We must not forget that both of them are Allah's creation who is the Most Just.

The fact that polygamy has been permitted by Allah when polyandry is not is not due to any favoritism toward man but to the fact that polygamy has certain benefits for society while polyandry has none. It is not because no man would consent to his wife having a second, third or fourth husband that polyandry is forbidden. There are in Islam so many issues and legislation, which people would not have consented to if they were asked in the first place. Yet, they have been included in Islamic legislation. The reason is that they are beneficial to individual and community alike. Had polyandry been beneficial, Allah would have certainly allowed it because He has allowed us everything that is good for us

As for being fair to one's wife, I am afraid that the answer that you have been given by Muslims to whom you have talked is correct. It is fair treatment that is required of men who have more than one wife. What they must do is to provide their wives with the same standard of living and the same care and kindness, which people normally, show to their wives. As for equal love, this is not required as a duty. This should not be surprising to you or to anyone. There are two reasons for this: Ability and accountability. As for ability, human beings do not love others by choice. There are many reasons, factors and reactions involved in the sentiment of love which are not all under the control of man. Moreover, a man may be married for twenty years to one woman and he does not love her, although he may treat her with all the kindness expected of a husband after going through life together with his wife for such a long time. There may be many reasons for the lack of love between them, and some of these may he due to him while others may be due to her yet they may live happily together, with each one of them fulfilling the duties expected of a married couple. Nobody will find much wrong with their marriage because love, in the Western sense, is not an essential requirement for a happy married life. If this is true, when one is married to one wife, it is even more so when he has two or three wives. He cannot love them equally even if he tries. This is referred to in the Qur'an when Allah says: "You will not be able to maintain fairness between wives, keen as you may be to do so. Therefore, do not be totally inclined toward the one leaving the other, as it were, in suspense. This is a statement recognizing that it is not possible for human beings to love two or three or four women equally. Moreover the Prophet himself expressed his inability to love his wives equally when he prayed "My lord I have done my best in what I can do. Do not blame me for that over which I have no power." Yet the Prophet was exemplary in his fair treatment of his wives.

The second point is accountability. When Allah assigns a certain duty to us, we are accountable for it. It is not difficult to gauge fairness of treatment. How can we guide fairness in feeling? That is difficult even for the person himself. If you have several children, you may have one of them as your favorite. Yet, you treat them equally and try not to show your favoritism. However, most people will tell you that they love their children equally. When you press them hard, you may discover certain favoritism toward one of their children. Are they accountable for that'' if they treat their children equally then certainly they are not accountable for loving one a little more than the others.

Marriage and a heavy burden of expenditure

Q). How important is it that a person who wishes to get married should have a permanent job and enough savings to give en expensive wedding? How about a person, who has enough to pay a dower and lead a decent standard of living, but cannot afford a luxury wedding? What is needed to change the social view that only wealthy bridegroom is worth considering? May I also ask if a person feels that he needs to get married but finds himself unable to arrange that should he resort to fasting? If so, for how long?

M A Rahman,Riyadh

A) Islam encourages marriage and recommends early marriage for both young men and women. It lays down criteria for choosing the right spouse. In the case of a wife, the Prophet says:" a woman is sought in marriage for one of four things; Her wealth, beauty, family and faith. Make sure to choose the one with strong faith." In this hadith, the Prophet makes it clear that most of the considerations to which people attach great importance when choosing a wife, such as wealth, beauty and family, are of little value.

The important consideration is that she should have strong faith, because that is the one, which shapes her character, and make her a good wife.

Similarly, when a father receives a proposal of marriage for his daughter, he should consider the character of the suitor, not his wealth or family connections. The Prophet says: "Should a man whom you find satisfactory with regard to his honesty and strength of faith propose to you for marriage, then give him (your daughter) in marriage. Unless you do that, there is bound to be strife and much corruption in society." Again the Prophet does not attach any importance to the wealth or position of the man who comes with a marriage proposal. He only speaks of the man's honesty and strength of faith: The Prophet also warns that if we choose different criteria, our society will soon suffer from corruption.

Having said that, I should also explain that these criteria which the Prophet outlines are the ones to be given priority. Other considerations also have their importance, although they must never pre cede the ones the Prophet has outlined.

For example, if a family has to choose between two proposals from two persons who both meet the proper standard of honesty and strength of faith, then other factors such as the age of the suitor and his type of job or trade may be given their due importance. Hence, scholars have stressed compatibility as an important basis for accepting or rejecting a marriage proposal.

It is certainly against the teachings of Islam to make marriage difficult for young people by making excessive demands of dower, housing and furniture. These should always be of reasonable standard so that we do not discourage young people from marriage and cause a general delay in the marriage age in society.

This is unfortunately the case in some Muslim countries, where you find most people unable to get married before they reach their late 20s or early 30s.

In some cases, people reach 40 years of age before they have a realistic chance of getting married. That is a situation, which leads to much corruption.

Fasting is recommended to young men who feel the urge to get married but is unable to marry for any reason. He is the one to decide how often to fast.

There is no specific recommendation on this point. It is when a person feels that he is liable to slip into sin that he should resort to fasting. That weakens his desire and strengthens his resolve to resist any temptation he may be facing.

Wrong advice on marriage

Q). I wish to marry agirl from my hometown, but my parents want me to marry a different one. Their objection is based only on seeing her photo and the advice of their Pir who claims that the girl's nature does not fit with mine. I am at a loss what to do because my parents are strictly following the Pir's advice. They insist that if I do not do as the Pir says, then I am not a true Muslim. Please advise.

S. Khan, Jeddah

A). This is largely a social problem, but certain aspects have a religious overtone because of the authority claimed by the people involved. It is important then, to determine what authority each of them has. The first is that claimed by the Pir, whom is normally a spiritual guide looked upon with great respect by his followers. I have often spoken about such people and the authority they exercise. Without going into a great deal of discussion, I would like to make it clear that according to Islam, there is no such position for anyone. We are not required to have such a guide or to listen to his advice. If we do, then we have to evaluate that advice and make sure that it is within Islamic law.

The point is that most, if not all, of those Pirs' enjoy their positions by a hereditary process. In other words, they inherit the position from their father and ancestors. As a result they lead a very comfortable life and enjoy a position of great respect. It is often the case that they have little knowledge of Islam. Indeed they recommend practices which are unIslamic such as paying respect at the graves of saints' and asking them to Intercede with God on behalf of the living. This is a very serious Violation of Islamic teachings and it runs against the Prophet's guidance.

Besides, they are often unqualified to give advice on ordinary affairs. Take your own case with the Pir advising against a marriage on the basis of seeing a photo of the woman and claiming a conflict of nature between the two of you. How can he say all this and on what basis? This is a wide claim, which needs to be substantiated before one starts to think about listening to it.

I have often advised my readers to abandon pirs and not to visit them. If they want to follow Islam, then they the have to learn it from scholars and books, not from those who make a lucrative business of adopting a religious guise and claiming a religious position which is not theirs and which Islam does not approve.

On the other hand, your parents claim of absolute authority over your marriage is not valid.

They may give you advice. But the decision is finally yours. You should try to make them happy, but if they take an unreasonable attitude, you try to come to terms with them in a proper way. If you keep arguing with them, it is likely that attitudes will harden and you will get no where. It is important for your future happiness that you gain your parent's acceptance of the woman you want to marry now, before marriage. That is easier than putting them face to face with the reality of having married her against their will.

What you have to do is to agree first with the woman concerned to adopt a long-term strategy to win their consent. Then you may give your parents the impression that you are postponing the whole idea of marriage for the time being. Tell them that you do not wish to go against their will, and since they have not agreed to your choice, you will leave the matter for a while until you find someone who will win their approval. At the same time you may be able to recruit the help of someone in your family who has influence on your parents, perhaps your grandfather or eldest uncle. You should choose someone whom you know to be broadminded. Let him argue your case with them, preferably in your absence. Gradually you may be able to win them over to agree to this marriage. In this way you avoid long-lasting friction in the family. However it is important to know that if their disagreement is unreasonable and they will not budge, and the woman is a virtuous one whom you believe will make you a good wife, then you may marry her even if they do not agree. That they say you will not be a true Muslim in this case is simply wrong.

Education and Marriage

Q). I am a student of medicine, having three years to complete my studies. I have recently accepted a proposal of marriage from a man whom I find very suitable as a husband. He wants our marriage to take place without delay, while my father prefers that I should complete my university degree first. I am torn between my desire to finish my studies and my thoughts that if I allow this proposal of marriage to fall through, I may not wish to marry anyone else in future, because I feel that I will not be able to do my duties toward my husband wholeheartedly. In this respect, I would like to ask what Islam says about long engagement and about girl's education. Further, is it permissible for a girl to pursue her studies abroad, if she is not accompanied by any member of her family? She may have all the protection she needs if she stays in a student’s hostel.

I have been reading about my problem and two hadiths which I have come across seem to me as if to contradict to each other. In the first one, the Prophet is reported to have said that when a girl or a boy reach the age of puberty, they should be bound in wedlock. In the other, he encourages pursuit of studies, even if it takes one to China. If one wishes to pursue his or her studies to the university level, they are bound to finish long after reaching the age of puberty. How can thee two hediths be reconciled? I would like further to ask about istikharah. I have read that if one sees in one's dream green and white colors, then the result is positive, while red and black colors indicate a negative result. Please comment.

(Name and Address withheld)

A). It seems to me that your problem can easily be solved if everyone involved shows a willingness to cooperate and accommodate the desires of the others. There is no reason to stop you completing your studies after getting married to this gentleman, if he is truly a suitable husband. You will not be either the first or last student to be married during her course of study. You put the two choices as if they were mutually exclusive when they are not. There may be some reasons which have caused you to do so, but which you have not explained in your letter. If it is practically possible for you to get married and complete your studies, then all you have to do is to ask your prospective husband to assure your father that you complete your degree.

Having said that, I have a suspicion that this is not the real question. What bothers you is your future attitude to any man you may marry, other than the one who has already proposed to you when your thoughts continue to be attached to this particular person. You may feel that you cannot be sincere in your thoughts to your future husband. This is a romantic view of things, which we sometimes try to magnify. If we look at things realistically, then we recognize that life does not conform to our thoughts. At times, we value a certain attachment as something so precious that we cannot survive without it. We may develop a certain friendship to the extent that we become inseparable from our privileged friends. Events may take place to separate us, such as a friend moving with his family to another city or going abroad to pursue his or her studies. When the separation approaches, we view it as an inevitable calamity. A few weeks or months later, we may stop to look at ourselves and we are surprised that we have coped with the separation without difficulty. Your case is the same, if you want to view it realistically. If, however, you want to look at it in a romantic light and you persist with doing so, then you will continue nursing your sense of loss and perpetuating the pain you may feel at the time of the separation. This is something which is largely your own to deal with. What I have to say is that if this proposal does not lead to marriage, it should not be viewed by you as the end of the world. You should try to overcome the problem and begin to look forward to a happy future. If you are mto someone else later, then you have to do your best to give him what he is entitled to have of your attention, care and love. If he is the right sort of person, you will soon find out that you are more intimately attached to him than you could ever have thought possible. That is the nature of life. Romantic ideas have very little effect in practice. There is

nothing in Islam to forbid a long engagement. From the practical point of view, a long engagement is not the ideal thing to do. It may have the advantage of stopping new proposals, but it ushers an unnatural situation. The two fiances think of each other while they continue to live apart. This goes on for several years, it may have a negative effect on marriage, since we always try to paint in our minds an idealistic picture of the other party. When this picture has been for long in our minds, then marriage takes place, we find that the reality differs from what we have imagined. A difficult process of readjustment is then required. That could involve problems.

From another point of view, if the engagement is short of making the actual contract of marriage, then the two fiances are not supposed to meet alone, either at home or in public. In other words, a Muslim may not take his fiancee out for a meal, unless they are accompanied by one of her parents or brothers. Some people may object to this saying that a man and a woman who have declared their intentions to get married can be trusted to keep themselves within the proper limits if they go out. The answer is simple. To start with, problems may take place and the engagement may be broken. The reputation of the girl should not be blemished by her relationship with her first fiancée. Secondly, Islam lays down these restrictions for the benefit of its followers. The simple fact is that it is wrong to bring together a young man and a young woman, leaving them alone in a cozy, intimate atmosphere and then ask them to struggle with their feelings and passion in order to keep themselves within the Islamic limits. There is no denial that there is mutual attraction between them, and leaving them alone means exposing them to the danger of being overpowered by that mutual attraction.

Islam encourages every parent to provide their children with a good standard of education. That applies equally to boys and girls. It is unfortunate that educational systems nowadays require both sexes to take the same subject. Islam would have made girls' education rather different from that of boys so that it is tailored to help the girls, who are future mothers, to cope with their problems of life. For example, a course of nursing is highly beneficial to every mother. That does not mean that every girl should become a qualified nurse. It means that she should be able to look after her family in a proper way.

When it comes to taking a scholarship abroad, this is subject to the Islamic restriction on women traveling alone. As you realize, Islam does not allow a woman to travel alone even to perform the most important religious duty of pilgrimage She must be accompanied by her husband or a relative whom she cannot marry. It is definitely less permissible for a girl to stay alone in a foreign country for several years. To say that she is well protected in a students' hostel is unrealistic.

As for the hadiths to which you have referred, the first one does not seem to be authentic. There is no requirement on parents to bind their children in wedlock when they have attained puberty. Early marriage is certainly preferred by Islam, but marriage is left to the individual to determine its time according to his or her circumstances. Nowadays, only a few men marry before they are twenty. Many do not marry until they are twenty-five or even older. Early marriages are preferred by Islam because it provides a chance to satisfy natural needs in a legitimate way.

It is true that the modern system of education does not allow most people to marry before they have completed their education and started work. In effect this takes them to about twenty-five years of age. Marriage places new responsibilities on both partners and they have to choose the time for taping up these responsibilities according to their circumstances.

What you have mentioned about seeing certain colors in one's dream after praying for Allah's guidance in a certain problem, i.e. the prayer of istikharah is not correct. None of these colors have any significance. What happens after a prayer of istikharah is that one finds oneself more inclined to a certain choice. The fact that he has prayed Allah to help him choose correctly should make him overcome his worry and take the choice which becomes easier or more attractive to him, feeling that Allah will certainly respond to his prayer and give him the choice which is better for him, sparing him the problems of the worse choice.

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