Just like any other religion of the world, an Muslim marriage is the union of two individuals who become each other’s closest companions for life. The male companion provides financial support and protection while the female companion is the in-charge of the household. Through a marriage, the human race continues in a legitimate way. This is what marriage means all around the globe regardless of religion.
Marriage in Islam
In Islam, the method through which a bond is created between a male and female is one of the differences which distinguish marriage in Islam from that of other religions. Moreover, there are certain guidelines and rules laid down by the Holy Quran and Ahadeeth for a legitimate and successful matrimonial life.
Muslim marriage is not just a social norm; it has immense value in all aspects of life for a married couple. Although it is not a compulsion, but it has been strongly recommended by the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him):
“Oh young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty. And whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power”. (Al-Bukhari)
Let’s take a look at what a Muslim marriage is, what are its virtues and what are the features which distinguish it from the wedlock in other religions.
Distinguishing Characteristics of Marriage in Islam
In Islam, a marriage is termed as Nikah. It is a legal as well as a social contract formed between the bride and groom which gives them the legal status of a husband and a wife. The most distinguishing characteristic of this Islamic contract is that it protects the rights of a woman in the form of Mahr. It has been stated in the Noble Quran:
‘And give the women (on marriage) their Mahr as a (Nikah) free gift” (Quran 4:4)
Mahr is considered as a gift which the groom has to give his bride when he marries her. It can be gifted immediately after the Nikah or a later date can also be fixed. This gift can be in the form of money or a valuable asset such as jewelry or property.
Every man must pay Mahr to his wife depending on whatever he can afford. As narrated by one of the respectable companions of the
Holy Prophet (PBUH), Sahl bin Sad As-Sa’idi:
‘The Prophet (PBUH) said to a man, “Marry, even with (a Mahr equal) an iron ring.”’ (Bukhari)
However, if a person is well-off and can afford a more valuable gift, he should not refrain from doing so.
Although the different cultures around the world celebrate Muslim weddings differently, the Islamic wedlock comprises only the Nikah in a mosque and a feast given by the groom. There is no burden placed on the bride and her family for entertaining the wedding guests.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) advised his followers to announce their marriage publicly by inviting people to a feast. But, this wedding party does not have to be extravagant. A person should serve his guests according to what he can afford.
“Give a wedding banquet, even if with one sheep.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet (PBUH) himself announced his marriages by inviting people on the occasion. It is reported by Anas, a devoted companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH):
“The Prophet did not give a better wedding banquet on the occasion of marrying any of his wives than the one he gave on marrying Zainab, and that banquet was with (consisted of) one sheep.” (Al-Bukhari)
These Ahadeeth shed light on the significance of a wedding feast given by the groom. On the other hand, the other members of the Muslim community should attend the feast if they are invited.
“If anyone of you is invited to a wedding banquet, he must go for it (accept the invitation).” (Al-Bukhari)
The Holy Prophet’s Companion Anas bin Malik Narrated:
‘Once the Prophet saw some women and children coming from a wedding party. He got up energetically and happily and said, “By Allah! You are the most beloved of all people to me”. (Bukhari)
These Ahadeeth prove the importance of a wedding feast and its position in the eyes of the Apostle of Islam (PBUH).
These feasts are different from the wedding banquets in other cultures and religions as the Muslims have been advised to invite the poor along with their well-off friends and acquaintances. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) declared those wedding feasts in which the poor were left out as the worst wedding banquets.
Another feature which sets an Muslim marriage apart from marriages in several other religions is that the Nikah contract is revocable. In case a couple fails to find compatibility with each other or faces any other issues in the relationship, they have the right to annul the matrimonial contract.
In other religions, such as Christianity and Hinduism, a man and woman are married to live together for their entire life. The right of divorce is given to them only by a country’s law.
Virtues of Marriage in Islam
Islam has not made marriage a compulsion but encourages all adult and mature individuals to marry.
“And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly, in these are signs for those who reflect”. (30:21)
The above stated Quranic verse shows that Allah Almighty has created males and females as each other’s companions. Therefore, finding an appropriate partner and marrying will earn us the blessings and reward of Allah Almighty.
Allah’s apostle, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) himself married and encouraged his followers to do the same. One of the most honorable companions of the Prophet (PBUH), Saad bin Jubair has narrated:
Ibn Abbas asked me, “Are you married?” I replied “No”. He said, “Marry, for the best person of this (Muslim) nation (i.e Mohammad) of all other Muslims had the largest number of wives. (Al-Bukhari)
Therefore, the status of marriage is elevated in Islam owing to the fact that the best human being among us, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) married and lived a peaceful and happy life with his family.
The Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him) encouraged his Ummah to marry in the following words.
“Marriage is my Sunnah. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me”. (Al-Bukhari)
As the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), all Muslims should follow his custom and marry upon finding a suitable match. The Prophet (PBUH) discouraged monasticism. All Muslims are advised to let themselves enjoy the pleasure of a married life instead of depriving themselves of it.
Saad bin Abi Waqas reported that ‘Allah’s Apostel (PBUH) forbade
“Uthman bin Maz’un to abstain from marrying (and other pleasure)”. (Bukhari)
Muslim Marriage is, therefore, a means of seeking physical pleasure in a legitimate way. Moreover, the company of a spouse makes life more delightful and convenient as both the partners share responsibilities and act as an emotional support for one another.
‘It is He Who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her. And when he covers her, she carries a light burden and continues therein. And when it becomes heavy, they both invoke Allah, their Lord, “if You should give us a good (child), we will surely be among the grateful.”’ (7:189)
Marrying ensures that all Muslim males and females stay away from illegitimate relationships. In other cultures of the world, particularly the west, living without a marriage contract is not considered an illegal act. However, Islam strongly forbids such relationships and provides marriage as the solution for the fulfillment of natural physical needs.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) forbade illegitimate affairs by stating that a believer who indulges in such temptations ends up hurting his self-respect and annoying the Creator, Allah-Almighty. Similarly, as described by the Holy Prophet (PBUH), an individual who lacks modesty has a serious deficiency in his religious faith. Both of these sayings have been quoted in Sahi Bukhari, the most authentic source of Ahadeeth.
Islam values the bond created through Muslim marriage also because it safeguards the rights of women. In the words of Allah’s Apostle (Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him),
“The most worthy condition which must be fulfilled is that which makes sexual intercourse lawful”. (Muslim)
In the absence of a Nikah Contract, a woman can easily be deceived. In a society full of individuals with ill-intentions, a man might seek a woman merely for lust and leave her in the middle of nowhere after the fulfillment of his own desires. Muslim Marriage, therefore, ensures that a woman does not lose her dignity and respect in the society. Moreover, the gift of Mahr also strengthens her financially.
Islamic View on the Benefits of Marriage
As mentioned before, the most significant benefit of Muslim marriage is that it prevents one from going astray towards the temptations of illegitimate sexual relationships. Marriage, therefore, is a means through which the purification of one’s heart and thoughts is carried out. When a person’s physical needs are fulfilled in a legitimate way, lustful thoughts do not disturb him anymore. Husband and wife both are a shield for each other against sins.
Secondly, this legal relationship between a male and female is a way for the continuation of the Muslim Ummah.
“And Allah has made for you mates of your own nature, and for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best.” (16:72)
Muslims are encouraged to marry not only to stay away from sinful deeds, but also to increase the population of Muslims who will serve our Creator as His worshipers and vicegerents on earth.
After you die, your Muslim progeny will continue to seek repentance on your behalf from the Lord. The following prayer is recited during the obligatory Salat by all Muslims.
“Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and the believers on the Day of Judgement”.
Another benefit of marriage, from the Islamic point of view, is a respectable place in the society.
“They (your wives) are as a garment to you as you are a garment to them”. (2:187)
Therefore, according to Islamic teachings, Muslim marriage is more than a means of fulfilling the natural physical desires. It provides a companion who takes care of you, stands by you during hard times and shares the happy moments of life with you. You create a family which becomes your most cherished possession in this entire world.
Conditions for Marriage in Islam
There are certain conditions which must be fulfilled in order to make a Muslim marriage valid in Islam. These conditions are also the traits of an Islamic matrimonial bond which set it apart from similar relationships in other religions and cultures.
Firstly, Muslim marriage can only be valid between two non-Mehrams. Relations such as brother/sister, uncle/niece, and father/daughter are known as Mehrams. Marrying a Mehram is forbidden. Moreover, all suckling relations also fall into the category of Mehrams, making it ‘forbidden for foster siblings to be married to one another.
Forbidden to you (for Muslim marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your foster mother who gave you suck, your foster milk suckling sisters, your wives’ mothers, your step daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom you have gone in – but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in them (to marry their daughters), – the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed; verily, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving , Most Merciful.” (An-Nisa 4:23)
Moreover, it is also not allowed for a man to marry two sisters at the same time or a woman and her aunt. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) strictly forbade this practice.
The other obligatory conditions for mMuslim marriage include the timely payment of the Mahr and the presence of at least two witnesses at the time when the Nikah takes place. A virgin, marrying for the first time, should also be accompanied by a guardian in order to look after her affairs in the marriage contract. Finally, the Nikah takes place through a formal proposal by the groom and its acceptance by the bride in front of the witnesses.
There are certain other conditions for a Muslim marriage which are not obligatory, but highly recommended. For instance, a marriage should not be carried out forcefully. Both the groom and the bride must enter the Nikah contract with a complete happy state of mind, accepting each other wholeheartedly.
A Nikah should not be carried out secretly. It is highly recommended to make it public. The purpose of a wedding feast given by the groom is to fulfill this condition. In this way, other individuals of the community will never cast doubt on a couple as they would know that their relationship is legitimate.
As we come to the conclusion of this discussion, it can be observed that marriage gives rise to one of the most respectable relationships in the eyes of Allah Almighty. All the rules and guidelines provided to us for an Islamic marriage ensure the rights of both the male and female partners and raise their status in the society. Following the custom of the Apostle of Islam (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him), marriage should be preferred over a bachelor life. It closes the doors of the sin of temptation and leads to a satisfying life in which both the husband and wife act as a source of happiness and support for one another.