Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Excerpts from "Al-Halal wal-Haram fil Islam"

Al-Halal Wal-Haram fil Islam

by Yusuf al-Qaradawi


  1. No Monasticism in Islam
  2. Seeing the Woman to Whom One Proposes Marriage
  3. Prohibited Proposals
  4. The Consent of the Girl
  5. Women to Whom Marriage is Prohibited
  6. Marriages Prohibited by Reason of Fosterage
  7. In-Law Relationships
  8. Sisters as Co-Wives
  9. Married Women
  10. Mushrik Women
  11. Marriage to the Women of the People of the Book
  12. The Prohibition of a Muslim Woman's Marrying a Non-Muslim Man
  13. Fornicatresses
  14. Temporary Marriage (Mut'ah)
  15. Marrying More than One Women
  16. Justice Among Wives - A Condition
  17. Why Marriage to More than One Woman in Permitted in Islam

1. No Monasticism in Islam

The stand of Islam is, on the one hand, against sexual license; consequently it prohibits fornication and adultery, and blocks all ways leading to them. On the other hand, Islam is also against suppressing the sexual urge; accordingly, it calls people toward marriage, prohibiting renunciation and castration. (Renunciation means remaining celibate and renouncing worldly activity for the sake of devoting oneself to the worship of God. Castration denotes suppressing sexual desire by removing the testicles.)

As long as he possesses the means to marry, the Muslim is not permitted to refrain from marriage on the grounds that he has dedicated himself to the service or the worship of Allah and to a life of monasticism and renunciation of the world.

The Prophet (peace be on him) noted a tendency toward monasticism among some of his Companions. Declaring this to be a deviation from the straight path of Islam and a rejection of his sunnah (recommended practice), he thereby rid Islam's conceptual framework of such a Christian notion. Abu Qulabah narrated "Some of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) decided to relinquish the world, forsake their wives, and become like monks. The Prophet (peace be on him) told them with asperity, People before you perished because of their asceticism; they made excessive demands on themselves until Allah brought hardships on them: you can still see a few of them remaining in monasteries and temples. Then worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him, perform the Hajj and the 'Umrah, be righteous, and all affairs will be set right for you." (Reported by 'Abdur Razzaq, Ibn Jarir, and Ibn al-Mundhir.)

Abu Qulabah said the following verse was revealed concerning them: O you who believe! Do not make haram the good of things which Allah has made halal for you, and do not transgress; indeed, Allah does not like transgressors. (5:90 (87)) Mujahid narrated, "Some people, including 'Uthman ibn Maz'un and 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, intended to renounce their wives, castrate themselves, and wear coarse clothing. Then the above verse and the verse following it were revealed." (Reported by Ibn Jarir in his Tafsir.)

It is reported by al-Bukhari and others that three people came to the Prophet's wives and asked how the Prophet (peace be on him) conducted his worship. When they were told about it, they seemed to consider it but little, saying, "What a difference there is between us and the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him), whose past and future sins have been forgiven him by Allah!" One of them said, "As for me, I will always pray during the night." The other said, "I will have nothing to do with women and will never marry." When the Prophet (peace be on him) heard about this, he explained to them their error and deviation from the straight path, saying, I am the one who fears Allah the most among you, yet I fast and I break my fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. He who turns away from my sunnah has nothing to do with me. S'ad ibn Abi Waqqas said, Allah's Messenger (peace be on him) objected to 'Uthman ibn Maz'un living in celibacy. If he had given him permission (to do so), we (others) would have had ourselves castrated. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Addressing the young men of all times, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, 'Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at women and preserves your chastity.' (Reported by al-Bukhari.) From this statement some scholars have inferred that marriage is obligatory for the Muslim who is able to support a wife and that the avoidance of it is not permissible, while other scholars add the further condition for its obligatoriness that he should be afraid of falling into sin.

In fact, it is not befitting that a Muslim should refrain from marriage out of fear of poverty or of not being able to meet his obligations. He should make every possible attempt to find employment, seeking help from Allah, for He has promised to help those who marry in order to protect their chastity and purity. Says Allah Ta'ala: "And marry those among you who are single and the virtuous ones among your slaves, male or female. If they are in poverty, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty".... (24:33) And the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, "There are three who have a right to the help of Allah: the one who marries out of the desire to live a chaste life, the slave whose master has agreed to his buying his freedom when he wishes to pay the sum, and the one who fights in the cause of Allah." (Reported by Ahmad, al-Nisai, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim.)

2. Seeing the Woman to Whom One Proposes Marriage

It is permissible for a Muslim man to see the woman to whom he intends to propose marriage before taking further steps so that he can enter into the marriage knowing what is ahead for him. Otherwise, if he has not seen her before marriage, he may not find her looks to his liking and may have regrets after he is married to her.

The eye is the messenger of the heart; when the eyes meet, the hearts and the souls of man and woman may meet as well. Muslim reported Abu Hurairah as saying that a man came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and told him that he had contracted to marry a woman of the Ansar. "Did you look at her?" the Prophet (peace be on him) asked. "No," he said, 'Then go and look at her,' said the Prophet (peace be on him), 'for there is something in the eyes of the Ansar,' meaning that some of them have a defect of their eyes

Al-Mughira ibn Shu'bah said, I asked for a woman in marriage and Allah's Messenger (peace be on him) asked me whether I had looked at her. When I replied that I had not, he said 'Then look at her, for it may produce love between you.' I went to her parents and informed them of the Prophet's advice. They seemed to disapprove of the idea. Their daughter heard the conversation from her room and said, 'If the Prophet (peace be on him) has told you to look at me, then look.' I looked at her, and subsequently I married her. (Reported by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, and Darimi.)

The Prophet (peace be on him) did not specify either to Mughirah or to the other man how much of the woman they were permitted to see. Some scholars are of the opinion that looking is limited to seeing the face and hands. However, it is permissible for anyone to see the face and hands as long as no desire is involved; therefore, if asking for woman in marriage is an exemption, obviously the man making the proposal should be able to see much more of the woman than that. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "When one of you asks for woman in marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so." (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

Some scholars have gone to one extreme or another in relation to this permission, but the best course seems to be the middle one. One researcher considers it quite appropriate in our time that the man who is proposing be allowed to see the woman as she normally appears before her father, brother, and other muharramah. He says: In the context of the above hadith, he may even accompany her, together with her father or some other mahrem as chaperone, on her usual visits to relatives or to public places, while clad in full hijab. (Hijab denotes the proper Islamic dress. (Trans.)) In this way he will have the opportunity to get an insight into her reasoning, behavior, and personality. This is a part of the meaning of the hadith, " look at what will induce him to marry her." (Al-Bahee al-Khooly, Al-Mar'ah Bain al-bayn al-bait wal-Mujtamah'.)

If the man's intention of marriage is sincere, he is permitted to see the woman with or without her and her family's knowledge. Jarir ibn 'Abdullah said concerning his wife, "(Before marriage) I used to hide under a tree to see her."

From the hadith concerning al-Mughira we understand that the father of a girl cannot, out of deference to custom and tradition, prevent a suitor who is in earnest from seeing her, for customs and traditions must be governed by the Shari'ah. How is it possible that the Divine Law should subjected to the whims of human beings? On the other hand, however, neither the father, the suitor, or the fiancee can stretch this permission to such an extent that the young man and woman, under the pretext of betrothal or engagement, go to movie theaters, clubs, and shopping places together without being accompanied by a mahrem of hers, a practice which has become common today among Muslims who are fond of imitating Western civilization and its customs.

3. Prohibited Proposals

It is haram for a Muslim man to propose to a divorced or widowed woman during her 'iddah (that is, the waiting period during which she is not allowed to remarry), for this waiting period is part of the previous marriage and may not be violated. Although one may, during this period, convey his desire for marriage through indirect hints or suggestions, it may not be done through an explicit proposal. Says Allah Ta'ala: And there is no blame on you in what you proclaim or hide in your minds concerning betrothal to women....(2:235)

It is likewise forbidden to the Muslim to propose to a woman who is already betrothed to a brother Muslim; the one whose proposal has already been accepted has acquired a right which must be safeguarded in consideration of goodwill and affection among people, especially among his brother Muslims. However, if the first suitor terminates his betrothal or gives the second suitor his permission, there is no harm in proceeding with it.

Muslim reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, "A Believer is a brother to another Believer. It is therefore not lawful for him to outbid his brother in buying something or to propose to a woman when his brother has done so, unless he gives him permission." And al-Bukhari reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "A man must not propose to anther man's betrothed unless he withdraws or gives him permission."

4. The Consent of the Girl

It is the girl's right to make a decision concerning her marriage, and her father or guardian is not permitted to override her objections or ignore her wishes. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, A woman who has been previously married has more right concerning her person than her guardian, and a virgin's consent must be asked about herself, her consent being her silence. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ibn Majah and some other transmitters report the following hadith: A girl came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and informed him that her father had married her to her cousin against her wishes, whereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) allowed her to exercise her choice. She then said, 'I am reconciled to what my father did but I wanted to make it known to women that fathers have no say in this matter.'

The father of a girl must not delay marriage of his daughter if a proposal is received from a man of equal status who is of sound religion and character. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Three matters should not be delayed: salat when its time comes, burial when the funeral has arrived, and the marriage of a single woman when a man of equal status has proposed." (Reported by al-Tirmidhi.) He further said, "When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks for your daughter in marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so there will be corruption and great evil on the earth." (Reported by al-Tirmidhi.)

5. Women To Whom Marriage is Prohibited

It is permanently haram for a Muslim to marry a woman who belongs to one of the following categories:

(1) The father's wife, whether divorced or widowed. During the period of jahiliyyah such marriages were allowed. Then Islam prohibited them, for once a woman is married to a man's father she acquires the status of his mother, and this prohibition is out of honor and respect for the father. Moreover, as this inviolable prohibition leaves no room for sexual attraction between the son and his step-mother, they are able to develop a relationship of respect and honor.

(2) The mother, including the grandmothers on both sides.

(3) The daughter, including the granddaughters from the son or daughter.

(4) The sister, including the half, and step-sisters.

(5) The paternal aunt, whether she is the real, half, or step-sister of the father.

(6) The maternal aunt, whether she is the real, half, or step-sister of the father.

(7) The brother's daughter, i.e., his niece.

(8) The sister's daughter, i.e., his niece.

All these female blood-relatives are a man's muharramat and he is mahrem to his corresponding female relatives. Marriage to any mahrem whomsoever is permanently prohibited. The reasons for this prohibition are as follows.

(A) Entertaining any sexual thoughts concerning such close relatives as one's mother, sister, and daughter is instinctively abhorrent to human nature; there are even certain animals which avoid mating with such closely-related animals. The respect a man feels for his aunts is like the respect he has for his mother, and likewise uncles are regarded as fathers.

(B) Since the family must live together in intimacy and privacy but without incestuous relations, the Shari'ah intends to cut at the roots of any sexual attraction among such close relatives.

(C) Since there is natural love and affection among such close blood relatives, the intent of the Shari'ah is to expand the circle of love and kinship by prohibiting incest and thereby directing the man's search for women outside the family. Thus each marriage extends the sphere of love, bringing new people within this ever-expanding network of affection: "And He has put love and mercy between you." (30:21)

(D) The natural sentiments of love and affection between a man and the above-mentioned female relatives must be kept strong forever. If marriage were permitted between such relatives, it would cause jealousies, dissensions, and the disruption of families, destroying the very sentiments of love and affection which give cohesiveness and permanence to the family structure.

(E) The offspring of marriages to such close blood relatives would most probably be defective and weak. Moreover, if physical or mental defects are present in the members of a family, they would become more pronounced among the children of such marriages.

(F) The woman needs someone to champion her rights and support her case against her husband, especially when relations between the two of them become strained. If those women who could defend her became rivals, how would this be possible?

6. Marriages Prohibited by Reason of Fosterage

(9) The foster mother: It is haram for a Muslim to marry a woman who has suckled him during his infancy, for suckling makes her like his real mother, since milk has gone into the making of his flesh and bones. Nursing consciously or unconsciously produces feelings of motherhood in a woman and of kinship in a child, and although these feelings might seem to disappear as the child grows and becomes a man, they remain hidden in the unconscious.

However, the prohibition of marriage based on fosterage is effective only if the suckling occurred before the time of weaning; that is, when milk was the primary source of food. Another condition is that the child has suckled his fill on five separate occasions, a fill being defined as when the child leaves off suckling of his own accord. After a survey of all the ahadith on this subject, the fixing of five sucklings as the minimum seems to be the preferred view.

(10) Foster sisters: Just as a woman become a mother to a child by virtue of suckling, likewise her daughters become his sisters, her sisters his aunts, and so on. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: "What is haram by reason of genealogy is haram by reason of fosterage.'' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Thus the foster-sisters, foster-aunts, and foster-nieces are all muharramat and marriage to them is permanently prohibited.

7. In-Law Relationships

(11) The mother-in-law: Marriage to the wife's mother is permanently prohibited from the time a man enters into a marriage contract with a woman, whether he and his wife have engaged in sexual intercourse or not. The act of marriage itself gives the mother-in-law the same status as the mother.

(12) The step-daughter: A man cannot marry his step-daughter (his wife's daughter by a previous marriage) if sexual intercourse has taken place with her mother, his wife. However, if a man divorces his wife without having had intercourse with her, it is permissible for him to marry her daughter by a previous marriage.

(13) The daughter-in-law: That is, the wife of the real son, not that of the adopted son. In fact, Islam abolished the permissibility of the system of legal, formalized adoption, because this is contrary to fact and to reality, resulting in the prohibiting of what is essentially halal and the permitting of what is essentially haram. Allah Ta'ala says: ...Nor has He made your sons by adoption your (real) sons. Those are simply words from your mouths....(33:4) meaning that it is merely an expression of the language which does not alter reality nor transform an outsider to the family into a blood relative.

These three types of female relatives are forbidden in marriage in order that peaceful relationships may be maintained among the in laws.

8. Sisters as Co-Wives

(14) As opposed to the practice of the period of jahiliyyah, Islam forbade taking two sisters as co-wives at the same time, because the feeling of love and sisterliness which Islam wants to maintain between sisters would be destroyed if one sister became the co-wife of the same husband. While the Qur'an mentioned the two sisters, the Prophet (peace be on him) added, "A man may not be married to a woman and her paternal aunt (at the same time), nor to a woman and her maternal aunt". (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) and he said, "If you do this, you will sever your ties of kinship." (Reported by Ibn Hibban.) And how could Islam permit the breaking of such kinship ties when it places so much importance on them?

9. Married Women

(15) As long as a woman is married, her marriage to any other man is prohibited. She may marry another man only when two conditions are fulfilled:

1. Her marriage tie is broken either because of the death of her husband or because of divorce;

2. She has completed the period of waiting ('iddah) ordained by Allah. For a pregnant woman this period ends when she delivers the baby. If she is widowed but not pregnant, the period of 'iddah is four months and ten days, while if she is divorced and it is not known whether or not she is pregnant, the 'iddah is three menstrual cycles. This 'iddah relates to the woman who has menstrual periods; for a woman who does not menstruate, the 'iddah is three months. Allah Ta'ala says: "And divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. And it is not permissible for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day." (2:228) "...and As for those who have no further expectation of menstruation among your women, if you are in doubt, the waiting period is three months, as well as for those who have no menses. And for those who are pregnant, their period is until they deliver their burdens." (65:4) And, "For those of you who die and leave behind widows, they shall wait concerning themselves for four months and ten days..." (2:234)

Of these fifteen categories of female relatives to whom marriage is prohibited, fourteen are mentioned in Surah al-Nisa: "And do not marry those women whom your fathers married, except what is past; indeed, it was an indecency and an abomination, and an evil path. Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters, and your sisters and your father's sisters and your mother's sisters, and your brothers' daughters and your sisters' daughters, and your foster mothers and your foster sisters, your wives' mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship born of your wives to whom you have gone in—and if you have not gone into them there is no blame on you—and the wives of your sons proceeding from your loins, and that you should marry two sisters at one time, except what is past; indeed Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (4:22-23) The prohibition against being married to a woman and any of her aunts at the same time is derived from the hadith cited above.

10. Mushrik Women

(16) A woman who is mushrik (mushrik denotes someone who commits shirk, or ascribes partners to Allah by his polytheistic beliefs or idolatrous practices. - Trans.), that is, who worships idols or associates other deities with Allah, is also among those who are prohibited. Allah Ta'ala says, "And do not marry mushrik women until they believe, for a believing bondmaid is better than a mushrik woman, even though you may admire her. And do not marry (your girls) to mushrik men until they believe, for a believing bondsman is better than a mushrik, even though you may admire him. They (mushrikeen) invite you to the Fire, but Allah invites you to the Garden and to forgiveness by His grace....(2:221)

This verse proclaims that a Muslim man may not marry a mushrik woman nor may a Muslim woman marry a mushrik man, because there is a great, unbridgeable gulf between the two systems of belief. Islam invites people to the Garden of Paradise, while shirk (idolatry or polytheism) leads them to the Fire of Hell. While Muslims believe in God, His messengers, and the Hereafter, mushrikeen associate others with God, reject His messengers, and deny the Hereafter. Marriage means living under one roof in harmony and love; how then would it be possible for such conflicting beliefs and practices to co-exist peacefully together in one abode?

11. Marriage to the Women of the People of the Book

Islam has made marriage to Jewish or Christian women lawful for Muslim men, for they are Ahl al-Kitab, that is, People of the Book, or people whose tradition is based upon a divinely revealed Scripture. Although they have distorted and altered it, they do possess a religion of divine origin, and hence Islam has made some exceptions in dealing with them. The Qur'an says: ...And the food of those who were given the Scripture (before you) is permitted to you and your food is permitted to them. And (lawful to you in marriage are) chaste women from the Believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture before you, when you give them their due cowers, desiring chastity, not lewdness or secret intrigues....(5:6: (5) )

Tolerance of such a degree is a characteristic of Islam which is hardly to be found among other faiths and nations. Despite the fact that Islam takes the People of the Book to task for their unbelief and error, it permits the Muslim to marry a Christian or Jewish woman who may, as his consort, the mistress of his house, the mother of his children, the source of his repose, and his companion for life, retain her own faith—all this, while the Qur'an says concerning marriage and its mystique, "And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell with them in tranquility, and He has put love and mercy between you....(30:21)

However, a warning is in order here. In order of preference, a believing, practicing Muslim woman who loves her religion is preferable to a nominal Muslim woman who has inherited Islam from her parents. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Get the one who is religious and prosper." (Reported by al-Bukhari.) It is also obvious that a Muslim woman, regardless of who she is, is better suited to a Muslim man than a woman of Christian or Jewish faith, regardless of her merits. If a Muslim man has the slightest suspicion that a non-Muslim wife might affect the beliefs and attitudes of his children, it becomes obligatory on him to exercise caution.

If the number of Muslims in a country is small—for example, if they are immigrants residing in a non-Muslim country—their men ought to be prohibited from marrying non-Muslim women because, since Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men, their marriage to non-Muslim women means that many Muslim girls will remain unmarried. Since this situation is injurious to the Muslim society, this injury can be avoided by temporarily suspending this permission.

12. The Prohibition of a Muslim Woman's Marrying a Non-Muslim Man

It is haram for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, regardless of whether he is of the People of the Book or not. We have already mentioned the saying of Allah Ta'ala, ...And do not marry (your girls) to idolaters until they believe....(2:221) And He said concerning the immigrant Muslim women, ...Then if you know them to be Believers, do not send them back to the unbelievers. They are not halal for them (as wives), nor are they halal for them (as husbands). (60:10) No text exists which makes exceptions for the People of the Book, hence, on the basis of the above verses, there is a consensus among Muslims concerning this prohibition.

Thus, while a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish man. There are many sound reasons for this difference. First, the man is the head of the household, the one who maintains the family, and he is responsible for his wife. And while Islam guarantees freedom of belief and practice to the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim, safeguarding her rights according to her own faith, other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, do not guarantee the wife of a different faith freedom of belief and practice, nor do they safeguard her rights. Since this is the case, how can Islam take chances on the future of its daughters by giving them into the hands of people who neither honor their religion nor are concerned to protect their rights?

A marriage between a man and woman of different faiths can be based only on the husband's respect for his wife's beliefs; otherwise a good relationship can never develop. Now, the Muslim believes that both Judaism and Christianity originated in divine revelation, although later distortions were introduced into them. He also believes that God revealed the Taurat to Moses and the Injeel to Jesus, (Taurat refers to the original scripture revealed to the Prophet Moses by God, and Injeel to the Prophet Jesus. These are not to be confused with either the existing Torah or Old Testament, or the four Gospels of the New Testament. (Trans.)) and that both Moses and Jesus (peace be on them) were among the messengers of Allah who were distinguished by their steadfast determination. Accordingly, the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim lives under the protection of a man who respects the basic tenets of her faith, her scripture, and her prophets, while in contrast to this the Jew or Christian recognizes neither the divine origin of Islam, its Book, or its Prophet (peace be on him). How then could a Muslim woman live with such a man, while her religion requires of her the observance of certain worships, duties, and obligations, as well as certain prohibitions. It would be impossible for the Muslim woman to retain her respect for her beliefs as well as to practice her religion properly if she were opposed in this regard by the master of the house at every step.

It will be realized from this that Islam is consistent with itself in prohibiting the Muslim man to marry a mushrik woman, for since Islam is absolutely opposed to shirk, it would obviously be impossible for two such people to live together in harmony and love.

13. Fornicatresses

(17) Here "fornicatresses" (al-zaniyah) denotes women who earn money through prostitution. It is reported that Marthad ibn Abu Marthad asked the Prophet's permission to marry a prostitute named 'Anaq with whom he had relations during the pre-Islamic period. The Prophet (peace be on him) did not give him an answer until Allah revealed, "The fornicator shall not marry anyone except a fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress shall not marry anyone but a fornicator or an idolater, and that (marrying them) is haram for the Believers." (24:3)

The Prophet (peace be on him) then recited this verse to Marthad and said, "Do not marry her." (This story is reported by Abu Daoud, al-Nisai, and al-Tirmidhi.)

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala has permitted Muslims to marry chaste believing women or chaste women of the People of the Book. Similarly, He has made marriage lawful to men on the condition that they seek it "in honest wedlock, not in lust." (4:24). Accordingly, if someone does not accept this command from the Book of Allah, nor considers it binding, he is a mushrik (As we saw in Chapter One in the discussion concerning Allah's sole right to legislate the halal and haram for His servants, anyone who disobeys or disregards this explicit command of Allah Ta'ala is considered a mushrik or an associator), and no one will agree to marry him except another mushrik. If someone accepts this command as binding, but despite this he marries a fornicatress to whom marriage has been prohibited, he becomes a fornicator himself.

This ayah just cited comes after the ayah prescribing the punishment of flogging for fornicators (This punishment has been prescribed for the unmarried fornicator and his partner, while the punishment of death by stoning, if the crime is proved either by four male adult eye witnesses to the act or by self confession, has been prescribed for the married adulterer and his partner. (Trans.)): "Flog the woman and the man guilty of fornication each with a hundred stripes....(24:2)

While this is a corporal punishment, the punishment mentioned in 24:3 is a civil punishment, for depriving fornicators of the right to marry chaste women is like depriving someone of citizenship, nationality, or some other civil right as a punishment for a crime.

Ibn al-Qayyim, after explaining the meaning of the previously-cited verse goes on to say: "This explicit injunction of the Qur'an is what human nature and reason demand. Allah Ta'ala prohibits His slave (the Muslim man) to become a pimp to his wayward wife, as He made man's nature with an instinctive abhorrence and contempt for acting as a pimp. This is why, when people want to abuse someone in the most disparaging manner, they call him 'the husband of a whore;' and Allah does not permit the Muslim to be like that. Further light is thrown on this prohibition by considering the crime of the woman against her husband and society. She defiles the bed of her husband and perverts the lineage which Allah desires to preserve for the integrity and smooth functioning of society, which He counts as one of His favors upon mankind. Adultery leads to the confounding and doubting of parentage. It is thus one of the beauties of the Islamic Shari'ah that it prohibits marriage to a prostitute until she repents and demonstrates that she is not pregnant (that is, until she has a menstrual period in order to ascertain that she is not carrying a child)." (lghathat al-Lahfan, vol. 1, pp. 66-67.)

Moreover, a prostitute is a vile and degraded woman. Allah has ordained that marriage be a source of affection and mercy between the spouses. How then could a vile woman be the object of love of a virtuous man, since the partners in a marriage must be akin in their ideas, attitudes, and characters if true love and understanding are to develop between them? As vileness and virtue are antithetical to each other both by nature and by considerations of morality, there cannot even be a sympathy, much less love and affection, between the two. Indeed, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala has spoken truly in His saying, Vile women are for vile men, and vile men are for vile women; virtuous women are for virtuous men and virtuous men are for virtuous women. (24:26)

14. Temporary Marriage (Mut'ah)

Marriage in Islam is a strong bond, a binding contract, based on the intention of both partners to live together permanently in order to attain, as individuals, the benefit of the repose, affection, and mercy which are mentioned in the Qur'an, as well as to attain the social goal of the reproduction and perpetuation of the human species: "And Allah has made for you spouses of your own nature, and from your spouses has made for you sons and grandsons....(16:72)

Now, in temporary marriage (known in Arabic as mut'ah), which is contracted by the two parties for a specified period of time in exchange for a specified sum of money, the above-mentioned purposes of marriage are not realized. While the Prophet (peace be on him) permitted temporary marriage during journeys and military campaigns before the Islamic legislative process was complete, he later forbade it and made it forever haram.

The reason it was permitted in the beginning was that the Muslims were passing through what might be called a period of transition from jahiliyyah to Islam. Fornication was very common and wide-spread among the pre-Islamic Arabs. After the advent of Islam, when they were required to go on military expeditions, they were under great pressure as a result of being absent from their wives for long periods of time. Among the Believers were some who were strong in faith and others who were weak. The weak ones feared that they would be tempted to commit adultery, a major sin and an evil course, while the strong in faith, on the other hand, were ready to castrate themselves, as stated by Ibn Mas'ud: "We were on an expedition with the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) and did not have our wives with us, so we asked Allah's Messenger (peace be on him), 'Should we not castrate ourselves? (The reason for this request was the desire to maintain their purity of mind and body, which was in danger of being affected by their unmet needs. (Trans.)) He forbade us to do so but permitted us to contract marriage with a woman up to a specified date, giving her a garment as a dower (mahr)." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Thus temporary marriage provided a solution to the dilemma in which both the weak and the strong found themselves. It was also a step toward the final legalization of the complete marital life in which the objectives of permanence, chastity, reproduction, love, and mercy, as well as the widening of the circle of relationships through marriage ties were to be realized.

We may recall that the Qur'an adopted a gradual course in prohibiting intoxicants and usury, as these two evils were widespread and deeply rooted in the jahili society. In the same manner the Prophet (peace be on him) adopted a course of gradualism in the matter of sex, at first permitting temporary marriage as a step leading away from fornication and adultery, and at the same time coming closer to the permanent marriage relationship. He then prohibited it absolutely, as has been reported by 'All and many other Companions. Muslim has reported this in his Sahih, mentioning that al-Juhani was with the Prophet (peace be on him) at the conquest of Makkah and that the Prophet (peace be on him) gave some Muslims permission to contract temporary marriages. Al-Juhani said, "Before leaving Makkah the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) prohibited it." In another version of the hadith we find the Prophet's own words, "Allah has made it haram until the Day of Resurrection."

The question then remains—Is temporary marriage (mut'ah) absolutely haram, like marriage to one's own mother or daughter, or is it like the prohibition concerning the eating of pork or dead meat, which becomes permissible under real necessity, the necessity in this case being the fear of committing the sin of zina ?

The majority of the Companions held the view that after the completion of the Islamic legislation, temporary marriage was made absolutely haram. Ibn 'Abbas, however, held a different opinion, permitting it under necessity. A person asked him about marrying women on a temporary basis and he permitted him to do so. A servant of his then asked, "Is this not under hard conditions, when women are few and the like?" and he replied, "Yes." (Reported by al-Bukhari.) Later, however, when Ibn 'Abbas saw that people had become lax and were engaging in temporary marriages without necessity, he withdrew his ruling, reversing his opinion. (Zad al-Mi'ad,vol.4,p. 7. Bayhaqi transmitted it and Muslim as well.)

15. Marrying More Than One Woman

Islam is a way of life consonant with nature, providing human solutions to complex situations and avoiding extremes. This characteristic of Islam can be observed most clearly in its stand concerning the taking of more than one wife. Islam permits the Muslim to marry more than one woman in order to resolve some very pressing human problems, individual as well as social.

Many peoples and religions prior to Islam permitted marriage to a host of women, whose number reached tens and sometimes hundreds, without any condition or restriction. Islam, on the other hand, laid down definite restrictions and conditions for polygamy.

With regard to the restriction, it limited to four the maximum number of wives a man might have. When Ghailan al-Thaqafi accepted Islam, he had ten wives. "Choose four of them and divorce the rest,'' the Prophet (peace be on him) told him (Reported by al-Shafi'i, Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Shaybah, al-Darqutni, and Bayhaqi.). Similarly, some men who had eight (Reported by Abu Daoud in his Musnad.) or five wives at the time of embracing Islam were told by the Prophet (peace be on him) to retain only four (Reported by Ahmad, al-Darimi, Ibn Hibban, al-Hakim, and the compilers of Sunan (Abu Daoud, al-Nisai, and Ibn Majah).)

The case of the Prophet (peace be on him), who himself had nine wives, was exempted from this by Allah for the sake of da'wah (the propagation of the message of Islam) during his lifetime and because of the need of the Muslim ummah after his death.

16. Justice Among Wives - A Condition

The condition which Islam lays down for permitting a man to have more than one wife is confidence on his part that he will be able to deal equitably with his two or more wives in the matter of food, drink, housing, clothing and expenses, as well as in the division of his time between them. Anyone who lacks the assurance that he will be able to fulfill all these obligations with justice and equality is prohibited by Allah Ta'ala from marrying more than one woman, for Allah Ta'ala says: ...But if you fear that you will not be able to do justice (among them), then (marry) only one....(4:3) And the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Anyone who has two wives and does not treat them equally will come on the Day of Resurrection dragging one part of his body which will be hanging down." (Reported by the compilers of Sunan and by Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim.)

The equal treatment mentioned here pertains to the rights of the wives, not to the love the husband feels towed them, for equality in the division of love is beyond human capacity and any imbalance in this regard is forgiven by Allah Ta'ala who says: And you will not be able to do justice among (your) wives, however much you may wish to. But do not turn away (from one of them) altogether....(4:139) This is why the Prophet (peace be on him) used to divide his time among his wives equally, saying, "O Allah, this is my division in regard to what I can control. Then do not take me to task regarding what Thou controllest and I do not control" (Reported by the compilers of Sunan.), referring to the attachment and affection which he felt for one particular wife. And when he planned to go on a journey, Allah's Messenger (peace be on him) would cast lots among his wives, and the one who was chosen by lot would accompany him. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

17. Why Marriage to More Than One Woman is Permitted in Islam

Islam is the last and final word of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, ending the series of His messages to mankind. It therefore came with a general law suitable for all times and places, and for the whole of humanity. It did not legislate for the city dweller only, while neglecting the nomad, nor for the cold regions while ignoring the hot ones, nor for one particular period of time, forgetting later times and the generations to come.

Islam recognizes the needs and interests of all people, of individuals as well as groups. And among human beings one finds that individual who has a strong desire for children but whose wife is barren, chronically ill, or has some other problem. Would it not be more considerate on her part and better for him to marry a second wife who can bear him children, while retaining the first wife with all her rights guaranteed?

Then there may also be the case of a man whose desire for sex is strong, while his wife has little desire for it, or who is chronically ill, has long menstrual periods, or the like, while her husband unable to restrain his sexual urge. Should it not be permitted to him to marry a second wife instead of his hunting around for girlfriends?

There are also times when women outnumber men, as for example after wars which often decimate the ranks of men. In such a situation it is in the interests of the society and of women themselves that they become co-wives to a man instead of spending their entire lives without marriage, deprived of the peace, affection, and protection of marital life and the joy of motherhood for which they naturally yearn with all their hearts.

Only three possible alternatives exist for such surplus women who are not married as first wives:

(1) to pass their whole lives in bitter deprivation, (2) to become sex objects and playthings for lecherous men; or (3) to become co-wives to men who are able to support more than one wife and who will treat them kindly.

Unquestionably, the last alternative is the correct solution, a healing remedy for this problem, and that is the judgement of Islam: And Who is better than Allah in judgement, for a people who have certain faith? (5:53 (50) )

For this is the Islamic "polygamy" which people in the West consider so abhorrent and to which they react with such hostility, while their own men are free to have any number of girlfriends, without restriction and without any legal or moral accountability, either in respect to the woman or to the children she may bear as a result of this irreligious and immoral plurality of extra-marital relationships. Let the two alternatives—plurality of wives or plurality of illicit affairs — be compared, and let people ask themselves which is the proper course of action, and which of the two groups is correctly guided!


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