Purpose and Obligation
Definition of Marriage
Nikah is an Arabic term used for marriage. It means "contract"
("aqd in Arabic). The Quran specifically refers to marriage as
"mithaqun ghalithun," which means "a strong covenant".
"...and they have taken a strong pledge (mithaqun ghalithun)
from you?" (Quran 4:21)
The seriousness of this covenant becomes obvious when one finds
the same tern i.e., Mithaqun Ghalithun, being used for the covenant
made between Allah and the Prophet before granting them the responsibility
of the Prophethood. (Quran 33:7)
The Quran also uses the Arabic word "Hisn" suggesting "fortress"
for marriage. Marriage is considered the fortress of chastity.
The Purpose of Marriage
As a meaningful institution, marriage has two main purposes:
To ensure preservation of the human
species and continuation of the human race,
"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord, who created you
from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them has
spread abroad a multitude of men and women" (Quran: 4:1)
To provide spiritual and legal
foundation of the family,
"And of His Signs is this: He created for you mates from yourself
that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and
mercy. Lo, therein indeed are portents for folk who reflect".
Through Marriage, the conjugal relationship between a man and
a woman becomes lawful. It provides a legitimate outlet for recreation
as well as procreation. Islam regards sex as natural and good, but
restricts it to the partners of marriage so as to ensure the
responsibility for its consequences.
"Your women are a tilth for you so go to your tilth as you
will, and send (good deeds) before you for your souls, and fear Allah, and
know that you will (one day) meet him. Give glad tidings to believers,
(O Muhammad)." (Quran 2:223)
Marriage provides spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological
companionship. This companionship generates and sustains love, kindness,
compassion, mutual confidence, solace and succor (sakinah). It lays a
spiritual and legal foundation for raising a family. The children born
of the matrimonial union become legitimate and mutual rights of
inheritance are established.
Marriage: A Religious Requirement
Marriage in Islam is recommended as a religious requirement.
"Marry those among you who are single and (marry) your slaves,
male and female, that are righteous" (Quran 24:32)
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared:
"When the servant of Allah marries, he has fulfilled half the
(responsibilities laid on him by the) faith; so let him be God conscious with
respect to the other half". (Mishkat)
Marriage has also been commended as the way of the prophets.
"We indeed sent messengers before you (O Muhammad), and We
assigned them wives and children". (Quran 13:38)
Marriage, in fact, is specifically considered the tradition
(sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he declared:
"Marriage is my Sunnah, whoever disregards my (sunnah) path
is not from among us". (ibn Majah)
Islam discourages celibacy and encourages marriage, as Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) recommended:
"Whoever is able to marry, should marry". (Bukhari)
What Are The Benefits Of Marriage?
Fulfillment of deen (the full practice
of religion) is accomplished through marriage. In Islam, we recognize that
marriage is the state to which we aspire - a situation that supports, in
every aspect, our attainment of the state that will please our
Creator. To fulfill the role Allah (SWT) designed specifically for
us, marriage is important. It is through marriage that these roles
are fulfilled. Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said,
"When a man marries, he indeed perfects half of his religion. Then he
should fear Allah for the remaining half." (Bukhari)
For women, marriage provides support and protection,
"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because
Allah has given one more (strength) than the other and because they support
them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient and
guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard"
Satisfying sexual desires/needs may
only be accomplished through marriage. As Muslims, we understand that sex outside
of marriage is forbidden and considered a major sin. Therefore, sexual desires
may only be satisfied within a marriage. Marriage provides protection
"They (wives) are like garments for you, and you are like
garments for them" (Al Baqarah:187).
Marriage provides companionship,
"...the companion by your side (the wife)." (Al Nisaa:36)
For Muslims, it is clear that the trend to delay or skip marriage is
prohibited, and with good reason. Marriage still remains the trend in Muslim
communities. This provides for the safety and security of women and children. It
provides a safeguard against sexual sin for the man as well as for the woman. It
provides two-parent homes for children and strong ethics that will support a
lifestyle that is consistent with the practice of Islam. It provides loving and
kind companionship. This is the way of Muslims.
Islam provides clear and ideal direction for all aspects of life.
This is a perfect example of those directions. The religion tells
Muslims to marry early. It provides clear guidelines for husbands and
wives and, as they become parents, for parenting and for the behaviour
of children. There is no guesswork in the process.
6 Etiquettes of Seeking a Spouse:
An Islamic Perspective
1. Ask yourself: "Why am I getting married?"
"Because all of my friends are" is not a legitimate reason. This is
a good question to ask even if you are meeting the person to make a
final decision because it will be a reminder about the real purpose of
marriage from an Islamic perspective.
Marriage, from an Islamic perspective, is part of faith and it is
part of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). As well, “my intention
should be I am looking for someone with whom I will build a family,”
says Imam Muhammad Nur Abdullah of St. Louis, Missouri, a member of the
North American Fiqh Council. He has conducted pre-marriage counseling
in the U.S. for the last 20 years.“Marriage is a commitment and
relationship that starts in this Dunya (world) and will continue Insha
Allah in Paradise together,” he adds.
2. Ask yourself: What am I looking for in a spouse?
Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet Muhammad said: “Men choose
women for four reasons: for their money, for their rank, for their
beauty and for their religion, but marry one who is religious and you
will succeed (Bukhari, Muslim).This of course, applies to women as
well. However, religion it seems, is not always foremost in the minds
of many people. In fact, it is probably the last factor on many Muslims’
According to Tasneem Qadeer, one of the seven volunteers who runs
the Islamic Society of North America’s matrimonial service, being a
doctor or a lawyer is much more important to many Muslim women than
piety.And the men are not any better. Many matrimonial advertisements
for instance, demonstrate a key demand for a wife who has to be fair,
slim and beautiful.
If we want to have healthy Muslim families then Deen has to be
first, says Aneesah Nadir, Director of Social Services for the Arizona
Muslim Family Health and Social Services in Tempe.She is one of the
co-developers of the program Marriage the Islamic way, which teaches
various aspects of marriage such as how to find a spouse, the wedding
and the post-wedding marriage relationship with your spouse.
3. If you’re looking for a spouse, lower your gaze.
This may seem like a contradiction, but it’s not. Looking for a
spouse who has the right qualities and whom you are physically
attracted to does not mean throwing out the obligation to lower the
gaze for both sexes and leering or oogling the person.
"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That
is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do." (Quran 24:30)
"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..." (Quran 24:31)
This perspective would not be Islamically acceptable. Imam Nur
Abdullah noted that looking at a potential mate is recommended
according to the Hadith. Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah the Prophet said:
“When one of you asked a woman in marriage, if he is able to look at
what will induce him to marry her, he should do so....” (Abu Dawud).
This means the two potential spouses can look at each other but
not ogle or stare. Abdullah also noted that there is no limit on the
number of times the two people can look at each other. However, both
should fear Allah and remember the purpose of this is to satisfy the
need for physical attraction to the person you are marrying. He also
notes it is not permissible for a man to see a potential wife without
Hijab, since he is not her Mahram (a relative with whom marriage is
not possible, or legally her husband). Abdullah says seeing her face
and hands are enough to determine attraction.
4. Get someone to help.
Marriage is not something to throw yourself into all by yourself.
Getting the help of someone, especially parents, relatives, an Imam,
and/or respected and trustworthy members of the Muslim community to
either look for the right spouse and initiate and participate in a
communication process is very important.
In fact, even some non-Muslims have come to see this as a more
viable way of meeting someone instead of getting involved in the
disappointing dating game or picking someone up in a nightclub or bar.
Involving others, by the way, does not mean signing over your right to
say yes or no to a marriage proposal. It simply increases the
likelihood of finding out important information about a prospective
partner in a way that maintains rules of Islamic modesty (i.e. not
meeting alone, see next point).
Getting that third party involved also helps verify if the person
you are interested in is decent, honest and respectful. This person(s)
often checks out references, asks about the individual’s character and
behaviour, and looks out for your best interest in general.
This person should be a trustworthy Muslim, since you are seeking
a Muslim in marriage, and would want someone familiar with the Islamic
way of doing things.For those blessed with Muslim parents, remember
that they are probably your best allies and helpers in seeking the
right husband or wife. They have known you all of your life, and have
your best interest at heart.
However, parents must be open and attentive to what their children
are looking for, and never forget the element of choice. Ultimately,
it is their son or daughter who is going to make the final decision.
They must never become too pushy or aggressive, whether this pressure
is being applied on their own son or daughter, or on the person s/he
is interested in.
If parents, other family members, an Imam or members of the
community are not available, you can also try seeking a husband or
wife through the matrimonial services offered by a number of different
Always ask for references
This is also where your “third party” comes in handy. Not only
will they be able to be your reference. They can also check out a
prospective mate’s references.A reference can include an Imam who knows
the brother who proposed to you, a sister who knows the woman you may
want to marry well, a family friend, a boss, a co-worker, and/or business
A note about honesty and references: the people you ask may know
something not very nice about your prospective spouse. Remind them that
if they reveal this information, they would not be backbiting from the
Islamic perspective. In fact, in the case of seeking marriage, complete
information should be given about an individual, both good and bad.The
advice of one of the companions of the Prophet, Umar Ibn al-Khattab
can help in this regard:
A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and spoke in praise of another.
Umar asked him: “Are you his nearest neighbor such that you know his goings and his comings?”
“Have you been his companion on a journey so that you could see
evidence of his good character?”
“Have you had dealings with him involving dinars and dirhams
(money) which would indicate the piety of the man?”
“I think you saw him standing in the mosque muttering the Quran
and moving his head up and down?”
“Go, for you do not know him...”
And to the man in question, Umar said, “Go and bring me someone who
(quoted from Islam The Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid, p. 66)
This gives you three types of people you can ask about a prospective
mate’s character: a neighbor, business colleague or someone who has
traveled with them.
5. When you meet, don’t be alone.
Umar related that Rasulullah said: “Whenever a man is alone with a
woman the Shaytan makes a third” (Tirmidhi).Also, Ibn Abbas related that
Rasulullah said: “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is
accompanied by a relative within the prohibited degrees” (Bukhari,
Meeting alone, in the hotel room of one or the other potential
spouse for example, is forbidden.The two cannot be in a situation where
no one else can see or hear them. Instead, a discreet, chaperoned
meeting should be set up. The chaperone, while allowing the two to talk,
is in the same room, for example. As well, parents or guardians should
set a time limit, recommends Winnipeg-based social worker Shahina
Siddiqui. A whole day, for example, is too long for this kind of a
6. When you speak, be businesslike and to the point.
The purpose of meeting and talking to each other must also remain
within Islamic guidelines. That means no flirtatious speech of a sexual
nature on either side.
Imam Nur Abdullah says some of the topics discussed can include each
other’s interests, financial situation of the man, who is Islamically
responsible for providing for his wife and children, and the two
potential spouses’ relationship with their parents.
He notes that conversations between potential mates cannot be
talking just for the sake of talking. There should be a firm and clear
intention of either pursuing engagement and marriage, or, if one of the
`two or both the man and woman feel they are not compatible, a quick
end to the relationship. This ensures both sides are safe from getting
hurt more than they could in this kind of a situation and remain within
the bounds of Islam, Insha Allah.
With regards to questions pertaining to a person’s sexual history
(for example, has s/he had a boy/girlfriend, does s/he have any type
of sexually transmitted diseases), Imam Nur Abdullah says these things
have to be investigated at the very beginning, when the communication
for marriage begins. This is not something that should be brought up at
the last stage.
Other topics that should also be discussed at the early stages
include level of Islamic knowledge and practice, future career and
education plans, home making skills and where the couple will live
right after marriage and in the future (state and/or country). The Imam
also says the couple can even get a blood test to ensure both are
healthy. Some states even require this before marriage.
Seeking marriage is something highly recommended in Islam. While
looking for a potential mate should be something Muslims help each other
with, this cannot be done at the expense of Islamic rules pertaining to
modesty and respect between the sexes.
How to Help Muslims Get Married:
Tips for Parents and Imams
Sad but shocking reality: the divorce rate amongst Muslims in North
America is one of the highest in the world. According to New York-based
Muslim sociologist Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Muslims in Canada and the U.S. have
a divorce rate of 33 percent. The world’s highest is the general U.S.
population’s of 48.6 percent, followed by the United Kingdom’s of 36
Many assume divorce means problems began in the course of the
marriage, whether it was communication breakdown or irreconcilable
But there are many difficulties that lead to divorce which could
have been avoided right from the beginning. This could have happened if
individuals, parents, guardians and Imams had played their role right
when communication between two Muslims seeking marriage began. Below, we
give you some tips and advice of what you can do:
HOW PARENTS CAN HELP:
The older woman noticed her instantly.
The twenty-something girl was an American Muslima, her white skin and
Caucasian features bore testimony to that. She was perfect for her dear
son Muhsin. As she walked closer to her, she noticed the young woman
talking to someone of a darker complexion. The woman rushed up.
“Assalamu alaykum,” she said smiling at the American Muslima.
“Wa alaykum as Salaam,” replied the sister and her friend in unison,
both a bit startled by the enthusiasm and ardor with which they were
“I would like you to marry my son,” said the woman barely inches
away from the American Muslima, and making no eye contact at all with her
“But, but why,” she stammered.
“Because you are white and you are wearing a Jelbab. You will make a
perfect wife for my Muhsin!”
(This is based on a true story, in which the ethnicity of two of the
people involved has been changed)
While some would be surprised at the candor and bluntness of the
older woman in the above-mentioned scenario, such scenes are not
uncommon. Many parents seem to think approaching a prospect out of the
blue will “reserve” this person for their son/daughter. If you as a
parent want to play an effective role in helping your children seek the
right mate, things have to be done differently.
1. Understand your role.
Your role as a mother or father is not to be the final arbiter of
your child’s marriage. This may be how marriages were arranged “back home”
in a Muslim country, but it is not the Islamic way. Nor is this way acceptable to most Muslims who have grown up in the West.That said, the parents have a tremendous responsibility in the process. They:
2. Talk to your kids about what you both want.
Winnipeg, Canada-based Muslim social worker Shahina Siddiqui says
parents have to sit down with their kids and openly discuss what kind
of husband or wife s/he is looking for.You may live in the same
household as your children and think you know them inside out, but many
parents are shocked to find their kids’ ideas about who they want to
marry can be drastically different from what they expected.
Marrying cousin X or Y from “back home” may just not be acceptable.
Or the nice boy or girl from the local cultural community who is highly
educated and very well-off financially may be of little interest to a
son or daughter because of their lack of Islamic knowledge and practice.
Open-mindedness and clear communication may reveal a side of your
kids that may be hard to swallow. However, you must remember that
marriage primarily affects the two people involved in the relationship.
They must like the person they are marrying.
3. Clearly outline the rules of meeting a potential mate.
Siddiqui says parents must set boundaries as to how and when they
will meet prospective candidates. Too often, Muslims stray by thinking
seeking a mate is an excuse to engage in dating. Dating occurs when a
man and a woman spend time alone together. This is usually not with the
intention of getting involved in a long-term or serious relationship.
It is just to “have fun”. There is little to no serious discussion of
future plans and/or the intention to marry.
Dating can occur amongst two Muslims seeking marriage if they want
to go out alone, with no third party present to “get to know each other”. This can also develop through hours of unnecessary phone or e-mail conversations.
Setting the boundaries of meeting a prospective mate is your responsibility as a Muslim parent.The rules to remember include the following:
the meeting must be chaperoned so the two are not alone together,both
prospective partners are lowering the gaze and both are sticking to the
topic in the course of discussions.One suggestion Siddiqui gives in
this regard is to avoid late night meetings between prospective
candidates and chaperones because at the end of the day, people are
tired, their defenses are down. For this kind of a meeting, all parties
need to be very alert.
4. Give an allotted time for the meeting.
Meetings between prospective spouses must not last for an extremely
long time, like being away most of the day to meet this person. Parents
should give an allotted time for the two to meet and talk.
5. Investigate thoroughly.
One of the reasons for many divorces is the lack of proper
investigation of a prospective marriage partner before marriage.
Parents have this heavy responsibility of finding out as much as
possible about the individual who will possibly spend the rest of their
life with their son or daughter.Investigation does not mean just asking
two or three family friends or community members. Deeper digging is
The case of one Imam’s daughter in the U.S. serves as a chilling
example.This Imam asked a Muslim brother to check out a boy who was
seeking marriage with his daughter. On the surface, all seemed fine.
But upon further investigation it was discovered that he drinks alcohol.
This fact was also confirmed by two other Muslims. The mediator in this
case told Sound Vision that he never would have guessed, looking at the
boy, that he drinks.
Aneesah Nadir, Director of Social Services for the Arizona Muslim
Family Health and Social Services in Tempe provides another good way of
fact checking on a proposal.
One sister she knows received a proposal from a brother who lived in
a different city. To check this prospective mate out, one of her
relatives went to the mosque this person attends and observed and
talked to him without him knowing he was her relative. Her relative
found the brother unsuitable and let her know about this.
6. Be honest.
Parents as well as individuals looking for a spouse must be honest
with regards to their credentials, background and other pertinent
details about their personal lives.
Inflating your son or daughter’s educational credentials, for
example, will only backfire when checking reveals this is untrue.
7. Take your time.
Siddiqui stresses the importance of not rushing a son or daughter
into marriage. If you find someone for your son or daughter at a two-day
Islamic conference, for example, and this is the initiation of the
process, more time must be given to checking facts and references.
Ideally, she says references should always be asked for and checked
out before meeting in person. And this goes for boys and girls.
8. Never be pushy.
Another true story
A young Muslim sister, practicing, Hijab-wearing, bright (she was
studying at one of America’s most prestigious universities) stepped in
front of a moving train in Chicago and killed herself.
Because her parents refused to listen to what she was looking for in
a husband. They wanted to hand pick and completely decide who she would
spend the rest of her life with.
This incident is an extreme example of the kind of pressure some
parents apply to get their kids to marry the “right one”, often in
complete variance with what the young man or woman is looking for.
Needless to say, this is not condoned by Islam. Neither is suicide
as a way out of difficult situations.
Another form of pressure is put on those who are given a proposal.
It is not uncommon to see sisters or their parents pursued by the parents
of others who are interested in their son or daughter. This can even
reach the level of harassment at times.
Forced marriages are not only unIslamic. They pose a danger to your
children’s future, as well as that of your grandchildren. Would you want
your grandchildren to experience the pain and emotional turmoil of a
divorce which could have been avoided if both parties had had more say
in the choice of a partner?
HOW IMAMS CAN HELP.
Imams in North America do more than deliver a weekly Khutbah and
lead prayer. They are, whether they and others realize it or not,
responsible for their community’s emotional and psychological well-being
So Imams don’t just officiate marriages. They have to become
involved with them as well. This role can take three main forms.
1. Being a guardian for sisters.
Alhamdulillah, a large number of those converting to Islam are
women. Most of these sisters should and do seek marriage with a Muslim.
The problem though, is that they don’t have the family support needed in
seeking the right mate. In most cases they have been cast out of their
families because of their conversion to Islam, or they just don’t want
non-Muslim family members involved in their marriage decisions.
This is where you, as an Imam, must step in .These sisters need to
have a third party to advise and mediate on their behalf. Being new to
the Muslim community, they don’t usually know who is who and can be
easily deceived. These Muslim women must be protected against abuse and
deception on the part of men who may take advantage of their lack of
knowledge of the community.
Imams should not wait for a sister to approach them. Once you see
such a Muslima inquire discreetly if you can help in this important area
of her life. She may feel shy asking you directly, so you may have to
take the first step.
2. Vouching for good brothers.
An Imam is a great reference for a brother who regularly attends a
mosque and is Islamically involved. Helping practicing, honest and
decent brothers marry with your “stamp of approval” will possibly
increase their chances of getting married. Many Muslim women’s parents
and third party will feel a sense of assurance if an Imam vouches for a
brother than if a friend or relative does.
3. Providing the right information.
The Imam is also the best person to ask to confirm someone’s Islamic
practice. A brother may say he attends Mosque X in city Y, but this can
only really be confirmed by the Imam there, who knows, for example who
attends which prayers in congregation, who comes only at Juma or only on
As well, Imams are often asked for help by Muslims in their mosque
and are keenly aware of their problems at some level. This can also help
a third party seeking information about a prospective candidates who
attends your mosque.
4. A note about Gheebah (backbiting).
While backbiting is generally forbidden by Islam, marriage
investigations are an exception to this rule. As an Imam, you may be
told information about a person in confidence: financial problems,
family abuse, drug and/or alcohol consumption, etc. While these and
other problems should remain the business of the individual who has
told you in general, in the case of marriage, you must provide complete
information about someone you know has a problem.
If a father wants to know about the character of a brother who has
proposed to his daughter, and you as an Imam know this brother does
drugs, drinks, lies or steals, you must tell this father. His daughter’s
life is at stake here.
Seeking the right husband or wife is something to be commended for.
It is also the responsibility of the Muslim community to help those who
are seeking marriage in fulfilling this Sunnah and part of our faith.
- Suggest individuals as prospective spouses.
- Thoroughly screen and check proposals, call references.
- Act as the third party between the two candidates.
Selecting Marriage Partner
Marriage is recommended for partners who share a common way of life.
The matrimonial partners should be able to fulfill their purpose of
creation as defined by Allah. They should be able to effectively carry
out their responsibility as care-takers (khalifah) of earth. They should
share the common goal of building a well integrated Muslim community and
be able to work harmoniously towards it.
Criteria for Selecting a Marriage Partner
Normally the criteria for selecting matrimonial mates are many:
wealth, beauty, rank, character, congeniality, compatibility, religion,
etc. The Quran enjoins Muslims to select partners who are good and pure
"Women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for
women of purity." (Quran 24:26)
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) recommended Muslims to select those partners
who are best in religion (din) and character.
"A man may married for four reasons: for her property, for her rank,
for her beauty, and for her religion (and character). So marry the one
who is best in the religion and character and prosper". (Bukhari and
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) assured the bounty of Allah to those who
wish to get married and live a pure and clean life.
"Three groups of people Allah obliged Himself to help them:
Mujahid in the cause of Allah, a worker to pay his debt, and the one who
wants to marry to live a chaste life." (Tirmidhi)
Freedom to Choose a Marriage Partner
Islam has given freedom of choice to those who wish to get married.
The mutual choice of the would-be-spouses is given the highest
"Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree
between themselves in a lawful manner." (Quran 2:232)
The process of mate selection should be a function of a healthy
balance between the freedom of choice of the would-be-spouses and
consideration of the influence and consent of the parents/guardians.
The freedom of choice of those who wish to get married should not
preclude the influence and consent of the parents/guardians nor should
the parents/guardians ignore the wishes and consent of the would be
Falling in love is not a pre-condition for marriage in Islam.
However, for the purpose of selecting an appropriate mate, the would-be-
spouses are allowed to see and/or talk to each other.
Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended:
"When one of you seeks a woman in marriage, and then if he is able
to have a look at whom he wishes to marry, let him do so". (Abu Dawood)
The would-be-spouse are allowed to see each other for matrimonial
purposes under the direct supervision of their mahram relatives. This
provision is expected to be conceived and executed with piety and modesty.
Prophet Muhammad (S) instructed:
"No man has the right to be in the privacy with a woman who is not
lawful for him. Satan is their third party unless there is a mahram".
The would-be-spouses residing in non-Muslim societies are
recommended to enter into a pre-nuptial commitment to safeguard Islamic
values and Muslim personal law.
Parenting Course - Marriage