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Marriage in Islam - Part 1

by Hussein Khalid Al-Hussein, Ph.D.


The Qur'an and Hadith address the family structure in Islam in great detail covering all aspects of family life. Marriage, divorce, inheritance, provision, rights and duties, and marital relationships in Islam are the main issues that are covered in the parts of the Qur'an and Hadith addressing the family structure in Islam.

The family is the main cell in the society, and its structure affects the structure of the whole society. This is why Islam paid so much attention to protecting and taking care of the family. Islam has established rules that govern relationships between different families, as well as guidelines for relationships between members of the same family.

Islam does not allow people to give way to bodily desires or to be dominated, controlled, or enslaved by them. If everyone became a slave to his passions, life would run in the wrong direction, and humans would become like animals.

Humanity aims at development and improvement; it can never achieve such aims as long as it is dominated by unruly passions which exhaust all one's energy and lead downward to animalism. Islam prevents people from descending to the level of animalism.

Islam, however, does not advocate repression or support the belief that such passions are dirty in themselves. This would drive people to abstain from even entertaining such feelings in the name of purification and elevation.

Muslims are strongly encouraged to get married. Marriage provides Muslims with the comfort and tranquility that help them become better believers and also raise a new generation of believers.

In its treatment of the human soul, Islam recognizes, in principle, all the natural emotions and does not repress them into the unconscious; it permits the practical performance of such instinctive acts, allowing a reasonable degree of pleasure, without causing any harm or injury to the individual or the community.

Al-`Alaqat Al-Mubahah (Allowed Relationships)

Islam shows, quite clearly in the Qur'an and the Hadith that all intimacies outside the legal marriage are prohibited. Among the prohibited acts are adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, incest, child molestation, sodomy with animals, and masturbation. In many places in the Qur'an, Allah warns those who transgress and seek such unlawful ways.

Masturbation is prohibited according to most Muslim scholars, but is allowed according to some scholars when it saves the person from falling into adultery or fornication.

The rule of taking the less harmful choice when one has to choose between two harmful things applies here. When a person is under the control of the bodily desire to an extent that would lead to adultery or fornication, masturbation is the less harmful choice.

However, one should not exceed the limits and make masturbation a habit, since it is harmful both physically and psychologically.

For those who are interested in the opinions of the major four schools of law in Islam about masturbation, I will briefly mention them here. It is prohibited all the time according to the Maliki and Shafi`i Mazhabs.

It is generally prohibited according to the Hanafi and Hanbali Mazhabs, unless one fears adultery or fornication, or is under the desire pressure, in which case, it is permissible to seek a relief through masturbation.

Temporary marriage (Mut`ah)

In which the period of marriage is specified at the time of performing marriage, is prohibited in Islam.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "And who guard their modesty. Save from their wives or whom their right hands possess, for they are not blameworthy. But those who crave beyond that are transgressors." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Mu'minun (23:5-7) and Al-Ma`arij (70:29-31)].

Al-Hishmah (Decency and Modesty)

Islam introduced many laws of decency to protect Muslims from unlawful relationships. Muslim men and women are told to lower their gaze avoiding temptation that could lead them into unlawful relationships.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "at is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or whom their right hands possess, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women's nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that you may succeed." [Al-Qur'an: An-Noor (24:30-31)].

Muslim men and women are also ordered to dress decently when going out in public or when with other people. Women can wear any fashion and any color as long as it is not transparent, tempting, or tight, and as long as it covers their bodies except the hands and the face.

This applies only in public and in the presence of foreign men. Muslim women are also told by the Prophet (s.a.w.) to refrain from using makeup or perfume in the presence of foreign men if the smell reaches the men.

When Muslim men are in public or in the presence of foreign women, they are required to cover themselves at least from the knees to the navel, wearing clothes which are not tight or transparent.

Islam also prohibits any man from being in complete privacy or touching a woman with whom he is not a Mahram .

A Mahram is a man that a woman can never marry, like a brother or a father. A brother-in-law is not considered a Mahram in Islam since he can marry her after the death or divorce of his wife (her sister).

A man can also marry his sister-in-law after the death of his brother (her husband) or after they get divorced. If the man and the woman get divorced because one of them accused the other of adultery in the court without proving it (Li`an), the man is not a Mahram here, even though he can never marry her again.

Islam taught men and women how, when and where to coexist without exceeding the limits that Allah defined for us. For example, Muslim men and women go to Salah and Hajj together.

These two are among the five pillars of Islam that make us Muslims. However, if we were to exceed the limits and break the laws of decency, then it would be prohibited for men and women to coexist even in these two occasions, let alone in other more informal gatherings and occasions.

Islam prohibits loose and open forms of socialization between men and women, in which the above laws are not observed. Gatherings that bring about direct contact between men and women, such as dancing together, riding overcrowded buses together, and playing games together are prohibited.

Ahammiyyat Az-Zawaj (Significance of Marriage)

Marriage is an essential part of life, and the Qur'an stressed its importance in many places.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "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. Indeed, in this are signs for those who reflect." [Al-Qur'an: Ar-Rum (30:21)].

Allah (s.w.t.) also said: "O you people! Be careful of your duty toward your Lord, Who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from them twain scattered countless men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah, in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you." [Al-Qur'an: An-Nisa' (4:1)].

Marriage provides the whole society with comfort and tranquility. protecting it from adultery and fornication, while providing the right environment for raising a new generation of good Muslims. Marriage is a legal and organized way for people to enjoy the love and passions given to them by Allah.

Marriage strengthens the mutual relationships between the family of the bride and the family of the groom, thereby strengthening the bonds of society as a whole.

The family is the basic unit in society, and for this reason, Islam introduced many rules to protect the family from anything that could disturb its peace, tranquility, and stability.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) encouraged the Muslim youth to get married once they could afford it, and emphasized the importance of marriage in the lives of people when he addressed them.

The prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said: {Young men, those of you who can afford to get married should do so, for it helps you lower your gaze and preserves your chastity; but those who cannot should fast, for it is a means of cooling the sexual passion.} (Al-Bukhari).

Celibacy is not a way of worshipping in Islam, as is the case in some religions. When a Muslim man considered celibacy a way of devoting his life to worshipping Allah, the Prophet (s.a.w.) rejected the idea. He told him that getting married is part of following the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and hence is part of practicing Islam.

The companion Anas reported: {Three men came to the houses of the Prophet (s.a.w.) to inquire about his worship. When they were informed by his wives, they tended to belittle its quantity. They said to one another: How can we compare ourselves to the Prophet (s.a.w.) when Allah has forgiven him all his sins, past and future? One of them said: I shall pray all night every night, for the rest of my life. The second one said: I shall fast all day every day of my life. The third said: As for me, I shall remain celibate and never get married. When the Prophet (s.a.w.) arrived, he asked them: Are you the ones who said so and so? By Allah, I am the one who fears Allah most and worships Him most among you, yet I pray at night and sleep; I also fast on some days and do not fast on others; and I also get married. Whoever turns away from my way of life is not a follower of mine.} (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Hukm Az-Zawaj (Marriage in Jurisprudence)

Islam encourages marriage in general, but marriage can, on certain occasions become Fardh (obligatory), Mandub (recommended), Mubah (allowed), Makruh (hated), or Haram (prohibited).

Marriage is obligatory (Fardh) if a person fears he/she will commit unlawful acts (i.e. adultery, fornication, or be unable to lower his/her gaze) and he can afford marriage (for men).

Marriage is strongly recommended (Mandub) when a person can afford it (for men), but there is not a fear of committing unlawful acts caused by not getting married.

Marriage can be prohibited (Haram) if the person knows with certainty that he/she will not be able to fulfill his/her biological or physical obligations, or when the man cannot fulfill his financial duties toward marriage. It is also prohibited when the woman is prohibited to the man for any reason.

Marriage is hated (Makruh) when the man does not fulfill some of his main duties toward his wife and she does not feel harmed or complain that he has not fulfilled all of his duties. This can happen if the wife is rich and does not require him to spend on her, or if she does not have a strong desire for intercourse. Marriage is also hated when there is a great possibility that they cannot fulfill their duties toward Allah. This may be the case with marrying a certain person, but may not be the case when one seeks a different person to marry. Marrying a certain person is also hated when there is a great possibility that the children will not be raised as good Muslims.

Marriage is allowed (Mubah) in all other cases.

Al-Khitbah (Engagement)

Islam recommends that a man see and talk to the woman he wants to marry, but in the presence of her Mahrams. The Prophet (s.a.w.) told his companion Al-Mughirah Ibn Shu`bah to see the woman he wanted to marry, so that they may develop feelings toward each other.

However, engagement to a woman does not give a man permission to do more than see her and talk to her in a safe Islamic environment; the laws of decency in Islam must be strictly followed. Current practices in which a man is alone with the woman he wants to marry or touches her are against Islam. They are a result of not understanding Islam, and mixing Islam with foreign traditions. The man and the woman should know that they are not allowed at all to do such things before the marriage covenant is signed.

A Muslim man may not propose to an engaged woman before her first fiance withdraws or gives him permission.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {A man must not propose to his brother's fiancee unless he withdraws or gives him permission.} (Al-Bukhari).

A Muslim man may not ask a woman who is already married to another man to divorce that man and marry him. The marriage contract may not be concluded when the woman is in her `Iddah (the period that follows divorce). The length of `Iddah is three menstruation periods, three months if the woman does not have a period, until the woman gives birth if she is pregnant, or four months and ten days if she is a widow, unless she is pregnant, in which case it will be until she gives birth. In the case of Al-Khul`, it is one menstruation period (or one month) to make sure that she is not pregnant. There is no `Iddah if the man marries a woman and then divorces her before having an intercourse with her.

`Aqd Az-Zawaj (Marriage Contract)

Marriage in Islam is a civil contract based on offer and acceptance, and on witnesses. It can be performed anywhere, and does not need to take place in the mosque or with a certain scholar. The Muslim man, however, is not allowed to have a Christian religious wedding service. The contract does not have to be written; the practice of writing down the marriage contract was adopted later on, and has proven to be beneficial, preserving and proving the conditions of the marriage.

These are the conditions of the Islamic marriage:

Wali Al-Amr (Guardian): This is the male relative who is the woman's guardian, usually her father. If the woman's father is not present or available, another relative like a brother, uncle, or grandfather can be the Wali. If none of these relations is available, the Muslim ruler or the Muslim judge can be the Wali. If this is not possible, a prominent or trustworthy member of the Muslim community can be the Wali.

Imam Abu Hanifah and Al-Qadhi Abu Yusuf did not require the Wali but according to them it is recommended that the bride be represented by her own Wali.

Al-Ijab wal-Qubul (Offer and Acceptance): This refers to the offer and acceptance between the two sides. The offer is made by the Wali of the bride, and the acceptance by the groom in the same sitting. Both of them should be explicit in stating the word marriage or any of its explicit synonyms. Some of the Arabic words used are Nikah and Zawaj.

The Bride's Agreement: When the Wali asks the bride to marry the man, she must say yes or no to the offer if she has been married before. If she has not been married before, her silence indicates her acceptance; she may be too shy to say that she accepts. If she does not want to accept, she must say no.

Ash-Shuhud (Witnesses): At least two good Muslim male witnesses or one good Muslim male witness and two good Muslim female witnesses are required to witness the agreement. All must have reached the age of puberty. A good Muslim witness is someone who is known to have good conduct, and who has not been known to commit great sins For example, a drunkard or a slanderer are not acceptable.

Al-Mahr or As-Sadaq: This is the bride's marriage portion paid to her by the groom. It represents his commitment to take care of all the family expenses, including her personal expenses. It should be specified and any value is acceptable.

Islam recommends that the requested amount of Mahr or Sadaq be as small as possible so as not to discourage men from getting married. When marriage becomes a burden, society is harmed.

The Mahr or Sadaq may be paid in total at the time of the agreement or before the agreement. Part or all of it may also be postponed to a definite or indefinite future date. The indefinitely postponed Mahr or Sadaq becomes due upon divorce or death.

Walimah (Wedding-Feast)

Walimah is a food reception which follows the consummation of the marriage, to make it public. It is offered by the parents of the married couple, by their friends, or by the newly married couple themselves. Friends, relatives, and neighbors are usually invited.

The companion Anas reported that: {The Prophet (s.a.w.) saw a trace of yellow on `Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf, and asked: What is this? He answered: I got married. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: May Allah make it a blessing for you. Make a Walimah, even with only a sheep.} (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmizi, Abu Dawood, and Malik).

Announcing the marriage is a Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

`A'ishah reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {Announce this marriage and make it in mosques, and play with tambourines in its celebration.} (At-Tirmizi).

Since marriage is such a joyful event for the whole Muslim neighborhood, playing the tambourines and having some decent and allowed singing are recommended during the celebration.

`A'ishah reported: {We accomplished a woman to her wedding with a man from Al-Ansar. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: `A'ishah, won't you have some entertainment? Al-Ansar like entertainment.} (Al-Bukhari).

The marriage celebrations, however, should not violate any Islamic law, and the word entertainment in the above Hadith, should not be misinterpreted. People who attend the celebrations should not mix in any un-Islamic way. Both men and women should wear proper Islamic dress during the celebrations, and the songs they sing should not contain any obscene words or words that violate the Islamic code of decency and manners. Islamic standards must be upheld regardless of what occasion one is participating in.

Some people have begun practicing traditions which are completely against Islamic teachings. The tradition of bringing a musical band and female dancer to dance before the men is prohibited in Islam.

Another un-Islamic tradition is the use of a gold ring by the groom; this was prohibited by the Prophet (s.a.w.). Silver rings are allowed for men and women, while wearing gold ornament is allowed for women only. The tradition of trading rings is borrowed from other societies, and Muslims are told not to imitate non-Muslims in such traditions.

A groom should not feel obligated to have an extravagant marriage celebration, as this is a financial burden which could leave him in debt for years to follow. This could in turn discourage men from getting married.

Marriage is an occasion for presenting the new family with gifts by relatives and friends. Gifts that are given with sincerity and consent strengthen the love between people.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {Exchange gifts, strengthen your love of one another.} (At-Tirmizi).

One should always keep in mind the real reason behind giving gifts - to strengthen the mutual relationships between people. Therefore, gifts should be affordable and given to others voluntarily. Unfortunately, most people have forgotten this and the gifts have become burdens on those who give them; this weakens relationships between people instead of strengthening them. People today write down what others have given them and the prices of such presents and then feel obligated to buy that person a gift equal in value. This is completely un-Islamic, and it does not follow the teachings of the Prophet (s.a.w.). People vary in their social positions and have different financial statuses, and feeling obligated to buy a gift equal to that presented would soon end close relationships between people of different economic backgrounds. This will in turn build social barriers.

Congratulations are offered to the bride by the women around her and by her relatives and friends; the groom is congratulated by other men.

The best of congratulations is that reported by Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said to people who got married: {May Allah make it a blessing for you and a blessing to you, and bring you together with all that is good.} (At-Tirmizi, Abu Dawood, and Al-Hakim).

Al-Huquq wal-Wajibat (Rights and Duties)

The rights and duties of the husband and the wife may be classified into three categories: mutual rights, rights of the wife on her husband, and rights of the husband on his wife.

Mutual Rights

Kindness and tenderness toward each other.

Intercourse and enjoyment of each other.

Inheritance rights as detailed in Shari`ah.

Prohibition of marriage between in-laws, as explained consequently in this booklet.

The confirmation of fatherhood by the husband to children born by his wife.

Rights of the Wife

Sadaq: Mahr or Sadaq is the right of the wife on her husband. It must be paid in accordance with the agreement in the marriage contract. If the contract did not have a clause about the Mahr, the wife has the right to a Mahr which is equal to that of other women who are considered equivalent to her in social status.

Living and Household Expenses: The wife has the right to be provided all her living needs, including housing, clothing, food, etc. The husband is required to provide his wife and children with all of their needs, however, he is not required to provide any of the expenses of her children from previous marriages unless it was a condition in the marriage contract. Household spending should be in accordance with the financial capacity of the husband.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "The duty of feeding and clothing nursing mothers in a seemly manner is upon the father of the child." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Baqarah (2:233)].

Allah (s.w.t.) also said: "Lodge them (the women) where you dwell, according to your wealth, and harass them not so as to restrain life for them. And if they are pregnant, then spend for them till they give birth. Then, if they breast-feed them for you, give them their due payment and consult together in kindness; but if you make difficulties for one another, then let some other woman breast-feed for him (the father of the child). Let him who has abundance spend of his abundance, and he whose provision is measured, let him spend of that which Allah has given him. Allah asks naught of any soul save which that He has given it. Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease." [Al-Qur'an: At-Talaq (65:6-7)].

Kindness and Good Treatment: The wife has the right of kindenss and good treatment from her husband.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "and treat them with kindness." [Al-Qur'an: An-Nisa' (4:19)].

A'ishah and Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {The best among you is that who is best to his family (wife), and I am the best of you to my family.} (Ibn Majah and Ibn Habban).

Protection: The husband must provide protection to his wife against anyone who threatens her chastity, humiliates her, or seeks to defame her.

Sa`d Ibn `Obadah said: {"If I saw a man with my wife, I would hit him with my sword." Then the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: "Are you surprised from the Ghayrah of Sa`d? I have more Ghayrah than he does, and Allah has more than I do; and because of the Ghayrah of Allah, He prohibited all the concealed and revealed debaucheries.} (Al-Bukhari).

The Arabic word Ghayrah is sometimes translated as jealousy or watchfulness, however, it does not mean that exactly. Jealousy in English implies fear of loss of affection, and has thus acquired a bad connotation in non-Muslim English speaking societies. Ghayrah in Arabic implies hating wrong, unlawful things to happen. This is why the same word can be used to express Allah's feelings, as well as Muslims' feelings toward prohibited things. Allah hates when people exceed the limits He made for them.

Other Qur'anic verses and Hadiths also emphasize this right of women.

Providing Sexual Satisfaction: The husband should make sure that he satisfies his wife's needs by having intercourse with her at intervals which suit her.

Rights of the Husband:

Providing Sexual Satisfaction: The wife should always be ready to offer her husband sexual enjoyment when and as pleases him (except of course during the prohibited times).

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {If a man calls on his wife to his bed, and she did not come so that he slept feeling angry with her, the angels keep cursing her till morning.} (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nasa'i, and Abu Dawood).

Obedience: It is the duty of all members of the family to obey the head of the family, the husband, in all general affairs. This obedience is always within reasonable limits and in matters that are lawful according to the Shari`ah.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) mentioned that it is a duty of the woman to obey her husband in several authentic Hadiths (see "At-Targhib wat Tarhib" by Al-Munziri). Obedience is especially referred to in going out without the husbands consent, or in receiving anyone whom he does not like to be received at his home.

Reward of Provision and Raising Children

Raising children is a great mission in this life and should hold a place of high priority. Spending on one's family to cover their essential needs is more rewarding than spending in any other cause.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {When the human being dies, his/her deeds will come to an end except three kinds: Sadaqah Jariah (continuous charity), beneficial knowledge, and a good child that will pray for him/her.} (Muslim).

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said: {A dinar (currency unit from gold) you spend in the sake of Allah, a dinar you spend to free a slave, a dinar you donate to the poor, and a dinar you spend on your family, the most rewarding among them is the dinar that you spend on your family.} (Muslim).

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said: {The best dinar a man spends is a dinar he spends on his family, a dinar he spends on his animal, and a dinar he spends on his companions in the sake of Allah.} (Muslim).

Whoever offers or loses three or two children in the sake of Allah, they will protect him/her from the Hell fire, as the Prophet (s.a.w.) told us.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {When three children die for a Muslim the Hell fire will not touch him except for fulfilling the oath.} (Muslim). The oath fulfillment refers to the Qur'anic verse that declares that every human being will touch the Hell fire.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "There is not one of you but shall approach it (Hell). That is a fixed ordinance from Allah. Then We shall rescue those who kept from evil, and leave the evildoers crouching in it." [Al-Qur'an: Maryam (19:71-72)].

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri narrated: {A woman from Al-Ansar came to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and said: "The men have got all your speeches, so, make a day for us on which we come to you to teach us from what Allah taught you." He said: "Meet on such and such day". They met, and he came to them and taught them from what Allah taught him, and then said: "Every woman among you offers (in the sake of Allah) three children they will be protection for her from the Hell fire." A woman asked: "How about two?". The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: "And two".} (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Raising children, especially girls, is very important in Islam. It is a good way to seek more rewards in the hereafter. Many people tend to discriminate between their sons and daughters, and tend to favor the boys. The Prophet (s.a.w.) emphasized the reward of raising daughters and showed that it is a protection from the Hell fire.

Imam Al-Bukhari narrated these four Hadiths in his book Al-Adab Al-Mufrad (not to be confused with his famous book of Hadith called Sahih Al-Bukhari):

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {Whoever had three daughters and was patient on raising them, and clothed them from his substance, they would be a protection for him from the Hell fire.}

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said: {Any Muslim has two daughters, and be a good companion to them, will enter Heaven because of them.}

Jabir Ibn `Abdillah narrated: {The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) "Whoever has three daughters that he provides a dwelling for, supports, and has mercy on, Heaven is his guaranteed reward." A man asked: "How about two?". The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: "And two".}

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: {Whoever has three daughters or three sisters and supports them will enter Heaven.}

Rights of the Infant

It is recommended for the father to fulfill the following duties toward his new child:

Make Azan (call for prayer) in the infant's right ear and Iqamah (call for prayer said immediately before the prayer) in his/her left ear, right after the child is born.

Chew some dates or sweets and put them in the infant's mouth, and rub his/her mouth and palate with them to train him/her to eat. This is called Tahnik (dental palate).

Clean the infant's body, and shave his/her head. It is also recommended that you donate to the poor an amount of silver equivalent to the weight of the shaved hair.

Give the infant a good name. The Prophet (s.a.w) had changed the bad names of some people to better ones.

If the infant is a boy he must be circumcised. This is called Khitan. It is recommended for this circumcision to take place on the seventh day of his birth. If this is not possible, any other time is fine.

On the seventh day after the infant's birth, slaughter two lambs if the infant is a boy, or one lamb if the infant is a girl. One lamb is also acceptable whether the infant is a boy or a girl but the first opinion is stronger in Sunnah. This is called `Aqiqah, and its conditions are similar to those of the Audhhiah. Some of the uncooked meat can be distributed, or it can be cooked and shared with other people at a meal. The family of the infant can also keep some of the meat. If it is difficult or a hardship to do the slaughtering on the seventh day, it is recommended that it be done on the fourteenth day. If this is not possible, then on the twenty-first day. Otherwise, any day after the birth of the infant is acceptable.

Az-Zawaj Al-Muharram (Prohibited Marriage)

A Muslim man can only marry unmarried chaste Muslim, Christian, or Jewish women who are not among those listed in the Qur'anic verses below. A Muslim woman can only marry chaste Muslim men who are not close relatives. The following Qur'anic verses list the women that a man cannot marry:

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "And do not marry those women whom your fathers married, except what had happened in the past (before Islam). Lo! it was ever lewdness and abomination, and an evil way. Forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your father's sisters, and your brother's daughters, and your sister's daughters, and your foster mothers, and your foster sisters, and your mothers-in-law, and your stepdaughters who are under your protection (born) of your women unto whom you have gone in - but if you have not gone in unto them, then it is no sin for you (to marry their daughters) - and the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins. And (it is forbidden unto you) that you should have two sisters together, except what had already happened (of that nature) in the past (before Islam). Lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those whom your right hand possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned, so that you seek them with your wealth in honest wedlock, not debauchery. And those of whom you seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what you do by mutual agreement after the duty (has been done). Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise." [Al-Qur'an: An-Nisa' (4:23-24)].

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who have received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when you give them their marriage portions and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denies the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Ma'idah (5:5)].

A foster sister is one who was breast-fed from the same mother. Foster mothers are those who breast-fed a foster daughter or son. This means that a person breast-fed from a woman who is not his/her mother cannot marry his/her foster relatives; they become forbidden as if they were direct blood relatives. For example, a foster sister or aunt cannot marry a foster brother or uncle. However, brothers and sisters of the person who was breast-fed from a foster woman can still marry his/her siblings foster relatives.

The above verses show that one is not allowed to marry a woman and her sister, and the Hadith below shows that a man cannot marry a woman and her father's or mother's sister (aunt).

Abu Hurairah reported: {The Prophet (s.a.w.) prohibited that a man be married at the same time to a woman and the sister of either her father or her mother.} (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, At-Tirmizi, An-Nasa'i, and Malik).

It is also important to mention here that marrying first cousins is allowed in Islam, since in some non-Muslim societies, this is not allowed.

A man may not marry a woman whom he had divorced three times, unless she marries another man (for the purpose of marriage) and divorces him for a good reason (not for remarrying the former husband). Allah knows well their intentions; it would be adultery if the originally divorced couple tried to go around the laws of Allah by marrying and divorcing in order to marry the first husband again. This is explained in the divorce section in this document.

A man may not marry a former wife if they had gone through the process of Al-Li`an (double testimony concerning accusation of adultery between them), as explained in the section of Al-Li`an in this document.

In addition, a woman may not marry a non-Muslim man, or a Muslim man to whom she is related by one of the relationships mentioned in the above Qur'anic verses and Hadiths. A Muslim woman may not also marry a non-Muslim man.

Interfaith Marriages

Muslim men and women are told to seek faithful spouses with a strong, good belief, and not allow non-Muslim standards of selection influence them.

Muslim men can marry only Muslim, Christian, or Jewish chaste women, while Muslim women can marry only chaste Muslim men.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who have received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when you give them their marriage portions and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denies the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Ma'idah (5:5)].

A Muslim man is discouraged from marrying a non-Muslim woman if there is no Islamic State or if he is not living in an existing Islamic state, since the non-Islamic states do not recognize his rights as head of the family to raise the children Islamically. On the contrary, the children will most likely be brought up in their mother's religion, since the Muslim husband does not have his Islamic rights in his non-Muslim wife's country.

There are many tragic examples of Muslim men who tried to take their children to their Muslim countries after they divorced non-Muslim wives. The women in many of these cases succeeded in bringing the children back to be raised in the non-Islamic societies as non-Muslims.

The fathers are referred to as kidnappers (of their own children) in the non-Islamic media. Unfortunately, even the governments in Muslim countries these days help the non-Muslim wives to get custody of the children. This is due to the absence of an Islamic state which would protect Muslim children from being kidnapped by non-Muslim wives to be raised as non-Muslims.

Muslim men should consider these issues before they marry non-Muslim women, especially when the man is strongly influenced by her physical appearance.

A Muslim man should look to the future and consider his duties toward his children. The cases mentioned show clearly the damage that can be done to children in interfaith marriages, and while a personal sin may be easy to forget and repent from, one may never overcome the problems that arise because his children were raised as non-Muslims as a result of his negligence concerning providing the right spouse and community for them. Children have the right to be brought up in an Islamic environment by good Muslim parents.

The benefits of marrying a non-Muslim woman are minimal when both live in a non-Islamic state. The woman and her relatives would not see how Muslims live as a community, nor would they have close contact with family, should the Muslim man decide to marry her and live outside the Islamic State.

Marrying a chaste Christian or Jewish woman in a non-Islamic state should be considered as a last resort and as the only alternative to keep him from falling into adultery.

Men, however, should be aware of the fact that most women in non-Islamic societies do not qualify as chaste women in Islam, (i.e. abstention from unlawful sexual activities). Some Muslim men ignore these conditions and ignore the commands of Allah when they are misled and fooled by a smile from a non-Muslim woman.

Abdullah Ibn `Abbas, a famous companion of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and a famous scholar, said that Muslim men should not marry Christian or Jewish women from people who are enemies of Islam.

Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, a contemporary Muslim scholar, said that the Christian or Jewish women can be married only if the four conditions summarized below are satisfied:

She must be Kitabiyyah, i.e. Christian or Jewish by faith, and not by virtue of birth into a Christian or Jewish family. Many women who live in Christian or Jewish societies today are atheists, Buddhists or Bahai's. These women are prohibited for Muslim men. A woman who commits apostasy, by becoming a non-Muslim after being a Muslim, would not be allowed to marry a Muslim man, since apostasy is much worse than unbelief.

She must be Muhsanah, which means chaste and virtuous. Women who are involved in illicit relationships with men are prohibited for Muslim men. Most non-Muslim women these days do not qualify as Muhsanat (chaste and virtuous women who abstain from sexual activities outside marriage), and Muslim men should fear Allah and keep this condition in mind.

The woman should not be from people who are fighting Islam or are helping others to fight Islam. Since Israel is at war with Islam, all Jews around the world are helping Israel, Muslim men should not marry Jewish women is she is from people who help Israel.

There should be no threat or possible harm from marrying her. For example, if a man's children would not be raised as Muslims, he should not marry her. If the courts in a non-Islamic society would give the children to her in the case of divorce, then he cannot marry her, unless she agrees that he would have the children in the case of divorce.

Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi also said that Muslim men may not marry Christian or Jewish women if the Muslim community is a small minority in a huge non-Muslim society, and such marriages would make it impossible for Muslim women to find Muslim men to marry. This is classified under "limiting the allowed" in the Islamic jurisprudence.

Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi used the example that if all people grew cotton instead of wheat, the government would have the right to stop them from doing so, since wheat is a necessary food ingredient, even though growing cotton is allowed in normal cases.

Non-Muslim women who repent and accept Islam are treated as any other Muslim if their acceptance of Islam is sincere and not merely for the purpose of marrying Muslim men. Islam forgives all that was before it.

Some people, however, accept Islam by name only to marry a Muslim, without showing the least change in their lifestyles to prove that they are following Islam. One should not marry from such people.

There are many Muslim girls of a marriageable age who are living in non-Islamic countries, and it is the duty of the Muslim men to protect these girls from marrying non-Muslim men, which is absolutely prohibited in Islam.

If Muslim men loosely practice their right to marry Christian or Jewish women, the Muslims girls in non-Islamic societies will be forced into unwanted circumstances and Muslim men will be at least partially responsible and will get their share of the punishment from Allah.

In considering marriage to a non-Muslim woman a man should remember that marriage is more than the private marital relationship. A good Muslim woman would provide her husband with total security, comfort, trust, tranquility, and happiness, and would raise the children as good Muslims.

A man would not have to see his children taken to a church every Sunday without being able to prevent it or live with the concern that his wife would teach his children un-Islamic traditions.

It is much easier to trust a Muslim woman than to trust a non-Muslim woman who does not fear Allah, and know that He is watching her all the time. And certainly a woman who does not fear Allah, who sees and knows everything, will not fear or obey her husband who is only home in the evenings.

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said: {A woman is chosen as a wife for her wealth, beauty, family, and faith. Win the one that has the faith or you would ruin your life.} (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

The following verses from the Qur'an beautifully give us the guidelines for selecting the right spouse:

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "Do not marry Mushrik women (idolatresses) until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than a free woman who does not believe, even though (the idolatress) woman may appear very attractive to you. (Likewise) Do not marry (your girls) to Mushrik men (idolaters) until they believe; a slave man who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he (the Mushrik) may attract you. These Mushriks invite you to the fire, but Allah, by His Grace, invites you to His Jannah (Heaven), and forgives by His leave, and (Allah) makes clear His messages to people so that they might bear them into mind." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Baqarah (2:221)].

Problems and Diseases

Islam provides solutions for moral and social problems in an effective and successful way by prohibiting extramarital relationships. Islam always deals with the cause of the problem first, while other societies spend their time and effort dealing with the symptoms.

When the leaves of a plant start dying, people water the roots not the leaves. Many problems could also be solved by this method of treatment, rather than trying to find separate solutions for separate symptoms. This is obvious from the cases of sex and drinking.

Most societies that allow free sex are struggling with many social diseases related to sex outside marriage. These are some examples of social diseases provoked by free sex:

Sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.D.'s), Unwanted pregnancies, Teen-age pregnancies, A high incidence of rape, A high crime rate, Abortion, A high rate of runaway children, A high rate of high school dropouts, A high divorce rate, Unhappy marriages, Problems of finding the right spouse, Absence of satisfaction between the husband and the wife, Mutual mistrust in marriage, Exploitation of women and Pornography.

Psychological problems among the "illegitimate" children of adultery. A lack of decency and shyness. Broken ties within the family and loss of extended family ties. Extravagance in spending on unnecessary tempting fashions. and entertainment enumerate

A major problem caused by free sex is the absence of satisfaction between the husband and the wife. Having too many partners can make it impossible to feel satisfied with one's spouse, as a person will feel that they cannot have all the good qualities they have observed in others. Society is also struggling with venereal diseases like herpes and AIDS.

These kinds of sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.D.'s) have slim chances of spreading among Muslims. As the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, whenever immorality spreads among people, Allah will cause many diseases they never heard of to spread among them. Even if such cases penetrate to a Muslim family, they will be limited to the infected couple and will be easily contained.

Indecent exposure and the exposure of peoples' sexual life in public can cause other people to be tempted and aroused. Since not everyone has a spouse to go to when he/she is tempted, this problem of exposure can result in a person seeking illicit sexual relief, or can cause psychological problems when ones' fantasies and imagination are repressed.

These problems are not restricted to single people, as even married people are sometimes separated, (for instance while one person is traveling).

The divorce rate is very low in societies where sex outside marriage is not practiced. After the sexual revolution, people started to live together before marriage, claiming that it would help them find better spouses. Statistics have proven the opposite, but people seem to have forgotten the goal and still insist on the method.

For example, in the U.S.A., the divorce rate is 50%, and in California, it is 67%. This indicates that even with more people living together before marriage, finding the right spouse has become harder than ever before.

Tanzim Al-Haml (Birth Control)

Birth control is allowed in Islam when necessary, provided its aim is not to prohibit pregnancy indefinitely, unless permanent contraception is valid for medical reasons or other good reasons.

One good reason for using contraception exists when one fears that the pregnancy or delivery might endanger the life or the health of the mother. Past experience or the opinion of a trustworthy and reliable physician determine this possibility.

Another valid reason for using birth control exists when one fears that the children's health or upbringing may suffer. If a new pregnancy or a new baby might harm a previous suckling child, then one has a valid reason for using contraception.

The ideal spacing between two children, from the Islamic point of view, is thirty months. If a woman wants to nurse the baby for two full years, which is the maximum period of the suckling of an infant in Islam, this spacing becomes thirty-three months.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "And We have commended unto man kindness toward parents. His mother bore him with reluctance, and brought him forth with reluctance, and the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months."" [Al-Qur'an: Al-Ahqaf (46:15)].

Coitus interruptus (`Azl) was prescribed for a Muslim man when he asked the Prophet (s.a.w.) about how he would regulate the conception. However, this method should only be used when there is a necessity, since it deprives the woman from part of her fulfillment. It is reported that Khalifah `Omar forbade the practice of coitus interruptus without the consent of the wife.

This method prescribed by the Prophet (s.a.w.) is not the only allowed method; other good and appropriate ways can be adopted as well. Nevertheless, not everything available today is allowed, since many methods imply things that are not consonant with the teachings of Islam.

Only methods that go along with the Islamic teachings can be adopted. One should ask a scholar about the particular method he or she is considering before using it, to see if it is consonant with the Islamic laws and etiquette.

The case, method, and necessity should be explained to the scholar, since the verdict may change from case to case and from method to method. For example, in normal cases, the woman's private parts may not be exposed to or touched by a male doctor for the sake of birth control.

There is no need for birth control for unmarried people, since abstinence from sexual relationships outside marriage is mandatory.

Al-Ijhadh (Abortion)

Provoked abortion is prohibited in Islam, unless it is done to save the life of the mother, since the life of the "trunk" is preferred to the life of the "branch", and because choosing the lesser of two evils is a principle in Islam. Islam also prohibits infanticide. The practice of burying baby girls alive was practiced before Islam came and Islam prohibited it.

Provoked abortion without good reason is a sin committed by those who perform it, mothers who accept it, and fathers who approve it or ask for it. The degree of sin increases with the life of the fetus in the womb. The scholars agree that abortion performed without reason is prohibited if the fetus is more than 120 days old.

However, there are different opinions about performing it before the fetus is 120 days old. One group prohibits it just as if it were an abortion done without cause after 120 days. The other group considers it only Makruh (hated) when done without reason before the fetus is 120 days old.

Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, a contemporary Muslim scholar, said, in response to a a question about abortion just after a woman is raped, that rape is a case in which the woman has a good reason for abortion if done soon after rape, before the fetus is 120 days old.

At-Tabanni (Adoption)

Before Islam, the Arabs practiced adoption, naming the child after the person adopting him or her, as if the adoptive parents and the child were related by blood.

Islam prohibits adoption but allows Muslims to raise children that are not theirs. Muslims can fully raise these children, look after them, and support them, but the children must be named after their real fathers. It is not a sin if a person is named after the wrong father by mistake.

For some of the same reasons, Islam prohibits any method of conceiving or delivering babies other than the traditional and natural method. Artificial insemination with sperm from a man the woman is not married to, surrogate mothers, the donation of sperm or eggs, and mothers' milk banks are all prohibited. These methods produce illegitimate children.

In a case when the father is not known, as with abandoned babies, the child should still not be named after the person raising him or her. In a case such as this, the children may be called brethren in Islam, or clients (Mawali).

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "Allah has not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body, nor has He made your wives who you declare (to be your mothers) your mothers, nor has He made those who you claim (to be your children) your children. This is but a saying of your mouths. But Allah says the truth and He shows the way.

Proclaim their real parentage. That will be more equitable in the sight of Allah. And if you know not their fathers, then (they are) your brethren in the faith, and your clients. And there is no sin for you in the mistakes that you make unintentionally, but what your hearts purpose (that will be a sin for you). Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Ahzab (33:4-5)].

Islam, changed other pre-Islamic traditions related to this issue as well. The raised child cannot inherit from the people who raised him/her, and is not forbidden from marrying what used to be called relatives by the bond of adoption.

Before adoption was prohibited, the Arabs had prohibited the man from marrying the divorcee of his adopted son. Islam prohibits a man marrying the divorcee of his son.

However, in Islam, a man can marry the divorcee of the man he raised, who is not his son by blood; this is declared explicitly in the Qur'an. People would have felt uncomfortable practicing this new permission, if Allah had not selected the Prophet (s.a.w.) to demonstrate its acceptability, a very heavy duty before people, even for the Prophet (s.a.w.).

Zaid Ibn Harithah was adopted by the Prophet (s.a.w.) before Islam prohibited adoption. He used to be called Zaid Ibn Muhammad (son of Muhammad) until adoption was prohibited, when he was again called after his real father.

Zaid married Zainab Bint Jahsh, the cousin of the Prophet (s.a.w.). Later on, he had problems in his relationship with her. Allah (s.w.t.) inspired to the heart of the Prophet (s.a.w.) that she would get divorced and he would marry her, something that was hard for him to face other people with. Whenever Zaid complained to the Prophet (s.a.w.) that his marriage was going from bad to worse, the Prophet (s.a.w.) always told him to stay with his wife, which is a postponement of what the Prophet (s.a.w.) learned was going to happen.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) would not have tried to postpone such matter had it been explicitly said to him as an order from Allah (s.w.t.) or as a revelation from Him. It was only an inspiration to his heart. He never hesitated in applying any command from Allah (s.w.t.) no matter what the issue was.

Zaid eventually divorced Zainab, and neither one of them knew what Allah (s.w.t.) had inspired His Prophet (s.a.w.) to do. After the `Iddah (the waiting period of three menstruations after the divorce) of Zainab was over, the Prophet (s.a.w.) was told to marry her.

He sent Zaid himself to ask Zainab to marry him. Zainab said that she would not take such a step without a revelation from Allah (s.w.t.). When she went to the Mosque the verses that commanded the Prophet (s.a.w.) to marry her were revealed, and she married the Prophet (s.a.w.).

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "And when you said unto him on whom Allah has conferred favor and you have conferred favor: Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah. And you did hide in your mind that which Allah was to bring to light, and you did fear people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him.

So when Zaid had performed the necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We gave her unto you in marriage, so that (henceforth) there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of those they raised, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled.

There is no reproach for the Prophet in that which Allah makes his due. That was Allah's way with those who passed away of old -- and the commandment of Allah is certain destiny. --

Who delivered the messages of Allah and feared Him, and feared none save Allah. Allah keeps good account.

Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is Aware of all things." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Ahzab (33:37-40)].

The unbelievers and the hypocrites used this event to attack the Prophet (s.a.w.) and Islam, saying that the Prophet (s.a.w.) married the divorcee of his son. Even today, this incident is used by the unbelievers to misinform people about Islam and Muhammad (s.a.w.) These people do not realize the importance of the rule introduced by Islam through this incident. For them adoption is acceptable, and so they find these revelations difficult to grasp or accept.

Adoption is widely practiced in many non-Muslim western societies. Babies are taken from their parents and named after those adopting them. The children grow up having no idea who their real parents are. In a mobile society like the U.S.A. for example, an adopted boy may end up marrying his sister from his original parents without knowing that she is his sister. These cases have actually happened.

This harmful consequence is one of the reasons that Islam places such importance on the use of the child's real name. A person's name is important in Islam because many social rules like marriage, inheritance, custody, provision, and punishment, are contingent upon the blood relationship. This is a reason for women to retain their own names after marriage as well.

Adoption in non-Muslim societies is practiced for many reasons. Non-Muslim societies have many illegitimate babies as a result of extramarital sexual relationships. Very young mothers of these babies do not keep them because they cannot support them and devote time to raising them.

So these young women give the children to other parents who have no children, or abandon them in the streets where people can pick them up. Worse than that, some of these babies are killed, put in trash bags, and then thrown in garbage cans.

In other cases, these children are sold to parents who cannot have children.

Another reason for adoption in these non-Muslim societies is that many women do not like or want to get pregnant, for fear of ruining their beauty.

Many of these people claim that adoption is a humane service. They do not realize that Islam preserves the humane part of this practice by allowing people to raise children that are not theirs, while it prevents the negative consequences of adoption which can harm society by calling the child after the adoptive parents.

Ta`addud Az-Zawjat (Polygyny)

The word "polygamy" means having more than one mate. Having more than one wife is called "polygyny", while having more than one husband is called "polyandry". A mixture of men and women is called "group marriage" or "communal marriage". Islam prohibits polyandry and group marriages, but allows polygyny with conditions that restrict the number. In this section, the common word "polygyny" is used, with an explanation of the Islamic conditions which pertain to it.

Islam allows Muslim men to consider marrying up to four wives at the same time, but there is a necessary condition for this permission. The man must be just to them, and must treat them equally in all matters that are under his control; like provision, and the amount of time he spends with each one. If the man cannot provide for them with justice and equality, he must restrict himself to one, as the Qur'an states.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "And if you fear that you will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if you fear that you cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or that your right hands possess. That is more likely that you will not do injustice." [Al-Qur'an: An-Nisa' (4:3)].

Islam restricted the number of wives a man may have to four; people before Islam used to marry many women. When Islam was revealed all Muslim men were ordered to divorce any wives above the limit.

Only the Prophet (s.a.w.) was allowed to exceed this limit; this was a special right given by Allah. Polygyny was organized and limited by Islam rather than left open in number and conditions. It should be noted that many prophets before Muhammad (s.a.w.), like Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), had more than one wife.

In polygamy, each wife has the right to have a separate house of equal quality, or separate apartments in the same house. The husband has no right to force them to live in one house with separate bedrooms unless his wives agree.

Many people think that Islam requires every man to marry four women. If people considered this for a moment, they would find that a society of 80% women and 20% men is needed to make this possible.

Islam is a way of life for all people at all times that provides solutions for all problems that arise among those who follow it. Society benefits from polygamy in many ways, and these should be mentioned here, however, the reader should not perceive this as a justification for the permission, as the laws of Allah do not need defense or justification.

A man who wants children may marry a woman who turns out to be barren. In this case, he does not need to divorce her to marry another wife and have children. In a non-Islamic society, the first wife would be divorced, and nobody who wants children would marry her; this leaves her in a worse situation than the Muslim woman who would have the advantage of being able to stay married and be equal to the second wife.

A woman with a permanent illness which prevents her from fulfilling her duties as a wife and a mother, would not be left. The man can remain her supporter and husband, and at the same time marry another wife.

In a non-Islamic society, when a man meets a woman that he likes, he may divorce his wife to have her. Islam, reduces these chances of socializing with other women, but still leaves the door open for a man to marry a second wife without leaving the first wife. Not divorcing the first wife is a privilege for her, though she can still seek divorce if she prefers.

The permission to marry up to four women is also the only alternative to adultery and fornication in wars, where many men die, leaving the ratio of women to men unbalanced. Even in normal societies when there is no war, there are around 3-5% more women than men. How could these women have husbands, security and fulfillment if polygyny were prohibited?

The permission also protects men from adultery, if a man is unable to wait for an allowed time to be with his wife.

Many other benefits exist, but once again it must be emphasized that these are not explained to justify what Allah said. When Allah and then His Prophet decide something, no Muslim believer is left with a choice concerning the matter. The Qur'an states.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "And it becomes not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His Messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest." [Al-Qur'an: Al-Ahzab (33:36)].

Many people addressing this issue speak as if one is not allowed to marry a second wife unless his case falls in one of the exceptional cases mentioned above.

This perspective is wrong, and makes a woman think that if her husband marries a second wife without the existence of one of the situations, then there must be something wrong with her. The first wife has no reason to feel less than the second wife. Islam made it clear that equality is a necessary condition, and the second wife has no privileges the first wife does not also have.

People argue about whether the rule is one and the exception is more, or vice versa. There is no place for such an endless argument here.

Marrying one, two, three, or four women is allowed, as long as the condition of justice is satisfied. However, the person should choose whatever serves Islam better, and do what helps him become a better Muslim and enables him to do more Da`wah in a time when we need a lot of Da`wah.

Thus much depends on the time and the environment. It may serve Islam better to limit oneself to one wife at certain times, and it may serve Islam better to have more than one wife at other times.

A Muslim man should fear Allah in making his choice, and should not base his decision on his own inclination. Many men these days do not fear Allah and use this permission loosely, forgetting the conditions attached to it.

They may leave the first wife in limbo, deprived her of her rights, and treat her differently than the second wife. Even her children may be treated badly compared with the children of the second wife. Such behavior is a transgression against the laws of Allah and is absolutely prohibited.

Many people ask why a woman cannot marry more than one man. Naturally, if it had been a good thing, Allah would have allowed it; and nobody is permitted to allow what Allah has prohibited.

In examining such a situation, we find that (since the man is the head of the family) there would be more than one leader of the family, an impossible situation.

Paternity is very important in marriages and inheritances, and it would be impossible to keep track of this if the woman were married to many men at the same time.

Besides these factors, a woman's marriage to more than one man would not increase the number of children conceived (in cases when they could be needed), while the opposite is true.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "O people! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain has spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you." [Al-Qur'an: An-Nisa' (4:1)].

Nushuz Az-Zawj (Husband's Desertion)

If a woman fears that her husband will desert her and divorce her because she is sick, too old, or ugly, people may make peace between them in order to resolve the problem. This solution may mean that the wife may forfeit some of her rights, such as provision, to prevent divorce.

Allah (s.w.t.) said: "If a woman fears ill-treatment from her husband, or desertion, it is no sin for them twain if they make terms of peace between themselves. Peace is better. But greed has been made present in the minds (of men). If you do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever informed of what you do.

You will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much you wish (to do so). But turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense. If you do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

But if you separate, Allah will compensate each out of His abundance. Allah is ever All-Embracing, All-Knowing." [Al-Qur'an: An-Nisa' (4:128-130)].

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