The Family in Islam II: Marriage

“And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may

dwell with them in serenity and tranquility. And He has put love and compassion between your

hearts. Truly in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Qur’an 30:21)

Marriage is the most ancient of human social institutions. Marriage came into existence with

the creation of the first man and woman: Adam and Eve. All the Prophets since then were sent

as examples for their communities, and every Prophet, from the first to the last, upheld the

institution of marriage as the divinely-sanctioned expression of heterosexual companionshipi

Even today, it is still considered more right and proper that couples introduce each other as:

“my wife” or “my husband” rather than: “my lover” or “my partner”. For it is through marriage

that men and woman legally fulfill their carnal desires, their instincts for love, neediness,

companionship, intimacy, and so on.

“…They (your wives, O men) are a garment for you and you (men) are a garment for them…”

(Qur’an 2:187)

Over the course of time, some groups have come to hold extreme beliefs about the opposite sex

and sexuality. Women, in particular, were considered evil by many religious men, and so contact

with them had to be kept to a minimum. Thus, monasticism, with its lifetime of abstention and

celibacy, was invented by those who wanted what they reckoned to be a pious alternative to

marriage and a life more godly.

“Then, We sent after them, Our Messengers, and We sent Jesus son of Mary, and gave him

the Gospel. And We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him, compassion and mercy.

But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves; We did not prescribe for them, but

(they sought it) only to please Allah therewith, but that they did not observe it with the right

observance. So We gave those among them who believed, their (due) reward, but many of them

are rebellious sinners.” (Qur’an 57:27)

The only family that monks would know (Christian, Buddhist, or otherwise) would be their

fellow monks at the monastery or temple. In the case of Christianity, not only men, but also

women, could attain the pious ranks by becoming nuns, or “brides of Christ”. This unnatural

situation has often led to a great number of social vices, such as child abuse, homosexuality and

illegitimate sexual relations actually occurring among the cloistered – all of which are considered

actual criminal sins. Those Muslim heretics who have followed the non-Islamic practice of

abstention and hermitage, or who have at least claimed to have taken an even more pious path

to God than the Prophets themselves, have similarly succumbed to these same vices and to an

equally scandalous degree.

The Prophet Muhammad in his own lifetime made clear his feelings at the suggestion that

marriage could be an obstacle to drawing closer to Allah. Once, a man vowed to the Prophet that

he would have nothing to do with women, that is, to never marry. The Prophet responded by

sternly declaring:

“By Allah! I am the most God-fearing amongst you! Yet… I marry! Whoever turns away

from my sunnah (inspired way) is not from me (i.e. not a true believer).”

“Say (to the people O Muhammad): ‘If you love Allah then follow me, Allah will (then) love

you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’” (Qur’an 3:31)

In reality, far from viewing marriage as bad for one’s faith, Muslims hold marriage to be an

integral part of their religious devotion. As mentioned before, the Prophet Muhammad explicitly

stated that marriage is half of the Religion (of Islam). In other words, perhaps half of all Islamic

virtues, such as fidelity, chastity, charity, generosity, tolerance, gentleness, striving, patience,

love, empathy, compassion, caring, learning, teaching, reliability, courage, mercy, forbearance,

forgiveness, etc., find their natural expression through married life. Hence, in Islam, God-
consciousness and good character are supposed to be the principle criteria that a spouse looks for

in his or her prospective marriage partner. The Prophet Muhammad said:

“A woman is married for (one of) four reasons: her wealth, her status, her beauty and her

religious devotion. So marry the religious woman, else you be a loser.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Undoubtedly, the social malaise and decay that is prevalent in many parts of the non-
Islamic world also finds expression in some parts of the Muslim world as well. Nevertheless,

promiscuity, fornication and adultery are still roundly condemned throughout Islamic societies

and have yet to be decriminalized to the level of merely “fooling around”, “playing the field”

or other such trivial pursuits. Indeed, Muslims still recognize and acknowledge the great

destructiveness that pre-marital and extra-marital relationships have on communities. In fact the

Qur’an makes clear that the mere accusation of impropriety carries very severe consequences in

this life and the next.

“And those who accuse chaste women, and do not produce four witnesses (to unequivocally

prove their accusation), flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever; for they

are truly wicked sinners.” (Qur’an 24:4)

“Verily, those who slander chaste women, innocent, unsuspecting, believing women: they are

cursed in this world and the next. And for them will be a great torment.” (Qur’an 24:23)

Ironically, while it is unmarried women who perhaps suffer most from the consequences of

promiscuous relationships, some of the more radical voices of the feminist movement have

called for the abolition of the institution of marriage. Sheila Cronin of the movement, NOW,

speaking from the blinkered perspective of a fringe feminist whose society is reeling from the

failure of the traditional western marriage to grant women security, protection from sexually

transmitted diseases, and many other problems and abuses, opined: “Since marriage constitutes

slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this

institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.”

Marriage in Islam, however, or rather, marriage according to Islam, is in and of itself a vehicle

for securing freedom for women. No greater example of the perfect Islamic marriage exists than

that of the Prophet Muhammad, who told his followers: “The best of you are those who best

treat their women. And I am the best of people to my women.”ii

A’isha, attested to the freedom her husband’s treatment afforded her when she said:

“He always joined in the housework and would at times mend his clothes, repair his shoes and

sweep the floor. He would milk, tether and feed his animals and do household chores.” (Saheeh

Al-Bukhari)

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for whoever hopes in

Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.”

The Prophet’s beloved wife,