Careful consideration of the Qur'anic injunctions and the traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) clearly show that marriage is compulsory (wajib) for a man who has the means to easily pay the mahr (dowry) and to support a wife and children, and is healthy, and fears that if does not marry, he may be tempted to commit fornication (zina). It is also compulsory for a woman who has no other means of maintaining herself and who fears that her sexual urge may push her into fornication. But even for a person who has a strong will to control his sexual desire, who has no wish to have children, and who feels that marriage will keep him away from his devotion to Allah, it is commendable (mandub).
However, according to the Maliki school, under certain conditions it is obligatory (fard) for a Muslim to marry even if he is not in a position to earn his living:
- If he fears that by not marrying he will commit fornication (zina).
- If he is unable to fast to control his passions or his fasting does not help him to refrain from zina.
- Even if he is unable to find a slave girl or a destitute girl to marry.
However some jurists suggest that if a man cannot procure a lawful livelihood, he must not marry because if he marries without any hope of getting lawful bread, he may commit theft, and in order to avoid one evil (his passions) he may become the victim of another (theft).
The Hanafi school considers marriage as obligatory (fard) for a man:
- If he is sure that he will commit zina if he does not marry.
- If he cannot fast to control his passions or even if he can fast, his fast does not help him to control his passion.
- If he cannot get a slave-girl to marry.
- If he is able to pay the dowry (mahr) and to earn a lawful livelihood.
Marriage is forbidden (haram) to a man, according to the Hanafi school, if he does not possess the means to maintain his wife and children or if he suffers from an illness, serious enough to affect his wife and progeny.
It is not desirable (makruh) for a man who possesses no sexual desire at all or who has no love for children or who is sure to be slackened in his religious obligations as a result of marriage.
In a beautiful tradition the Prophet (peace be upon him) has given the most important point that should weigh with every Muslim in selecting his bride:
"Whoever marries a woman solely for her power and position, Allah will only increase him in humiliation. Whoever marries a woman solely for her wealth, Allah will only increase him in poverty. Whoever marries a woman because of her beauty, Allah will only increase him in ugliness. But whoever marries a woman in order that he may restrain his eyes, observe cautiousness, and treat his relations kindly, Allah puts a blessing in her for him and in him for her."
In order that problems should not arise after marriage the Prophet (peace be upon him) recommended that, in the selection of his bride, a man should see her before betrothal lest blindness of choice or an error of judgment should defeat the very purpose of marriage. But this "seeing" is not to be taken as a substitute for the "courtship" of the West. The man should not gaze passionately at his bride-to-be, but only have a critical look at her face and hands to acquaint himself with her personality and beauty. However, if a man so desires, he may appoint a woman to go and interview the proposed bride, so that she may fully describe the type of girl she is.
Since believing men and women are referred to in the Qur'an, a woman also has the right to look at her potential husband.
The special permission for men and women to see each other with a view to matrimony does not contravene the code of conduct for believing men and women to lower their gaze and be modest which is laid down in the Holy Qur'an.
Two Suitors Seeking to Marry the Same Girl
The Prophet (peace be upon him) disapproved of two persons competing with one another to secure marriage with the same girl. This is because such a situation is likely to develop bitter enmity between two Muslim brothers.
The Prophet said,
"A believer is a brother of a believer. Hence it is not lawful for him to bargain upon the bargain of a brother, nor propose for (the hand of a girl) after the marriage proposal of his brother, until the latter (voluntarily) withdraws the proposal."
Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi'i, and Imam Malik, all hold the view that it is a sin to put a proposal of marriage against the proposal of another Muslim brother. However, if a marriage is contracted in this wrongful way it will be sufficient if the second suitor who was successful seeks the forgiveness of the first suitor and of Allah. But Imam Dhahiri considers such a marriage void. It is respectfully submitted that the former view is more rational and sound.
The Free Consent of the Parties
There is a halal arranged marriage and a haram one. It is OK to arrange marriages by suggestion and recommendation as long as both parties are agreeable. The other arranged marriage is when parents choose the future spouse and the couple concerned are forced or have no choice in the matter.
One of the conditions of a valid marriage is consent of the couple.
Marriage by definition is a voluntary union of two people.
The choice of a partner by a Muslim virgin girl is subject to the approval of the father or guardian under Maliki school. This is to safeguard her welfare and interests. The prophet said "the widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until she has consented and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained. The prophet did revoke the marriage of a girl who complained to him that her father had married her against her wishes.
The Qur'an (4:21) refers to marriage as a mithaq, i.e. a solemn covenant or agreement between husband and wife, and enjoins that it be put down in writing. Since no agreement can be reached between the parties unless they give their consent to it, marriage can be contracted only with the free consent of the two parties. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
"The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained." (AlBukhari)
This aspect is greatly emphasized by Imam Bukhari. He, in fact, gave one of the chapters in his Sahih the significant title:
"When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be annulled." Once a virgin girl came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said that her father had married her to a man against her wishes. The Prophet gave her the right to repudiate the marriage. (Abu Dawud).
Divorced women are also given freedom to contract a second marriage. The Holy Qur'an says,
And when you divorce women, and they have come to the end of their waiting period, hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair manner. (2: 232)
With regard to widows, the Qur'an says,
And if any of you die and leave behind wives, they bequeath thereby to their widows (the right to) one year's maintenance without their being obliged to leave (their husband's home), but if they leave (the residence) of their own accord, there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves in a lawful manner. (2:234)
Thus widows are also at liberty to re-marry, even within the period mentioned above; and if they do so they must forgo their claim to traditional maintenance during the remainder of the year. However, it must be remembered that the power of ijbar given to the a father or the guardian by the Maliki school over their selection of life- partner obtains in all the situations considered above, namely, whether the daughter or the ward is a virgin or divorcee or widow.
Ijbar: A Safety Valve
The consent of both the man and the women is an essential element of marriage, and the Qur'an gives women a substantial role in choosing their own life partners. It lays down:
Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner. (2: 232)
However, Imam Malik, one of the four great Imams of the Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, gives a slightly restrictive interpretation to this verse and makes the choice of partner by a Muslim girl subject to the over-ruling power or ijbar of her father or guardian in the interests of the girl herself.
It may sometimes happen that in her immaturity or over-zealousness, a girl may want to marry a man about whom she has distorted information or who does not possess good character or who lacks proper means of livelihood. In such a case, it is better, or rather incumbent upon the girl's father or guardian, that, in the wider interests of the girl, he restrains her from marrying such a worthless man and finds a suitable person to be her husband. Generally speaking, such marriages arranged by fathers and guardians work better than a marriage brought about through western courtship.
The case of Abu Juham bin Hudhaifah and Mu'awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan is relevant here. They proposed marriage to Fatimah bint Ghaith. The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised Fatimah not to marry either of them on the grounds that Mu'awiyah was then a pauper and Abu Juham was cruel and harsh. So she married Usamah.
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