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Purpose of Marriage

The word "zawj" is used in the Qur'an to mean a pair or a mate. In general its usage refers to marriage. The general purpose of marriage is that the sexes can provide company to one another, love to one another, procreate children and live in peace and tranquility to the commandments of Allah.

Marriage serves as a means to emotional and sexual gratification and as a means of tension reduction. It is also a form of Ibadah because it is obeying Allah and His messenger - i.e. marriage is seen as the only possible way for the sexes to unite. One could choose to live in sin, however by choosing marriage one is displaying obedience to Allah.

Marriage is "mithaq" - a solemn covenant (agreement). It is not a matter which can be taken lightly. It should be entered into with total commitment and full knowledge of what it involves. It is not like buying a new dress where you can exchange it if you don't like it. Your partner should be your choice for life. One should be mature enough to understand the demands of marriage so that the union can be a lasting one. For a marriage to be valid in Islam certain conditions must be met.

1) consent of both parties.
2) " Mahr" a gift from the groom to his bride.
3) 2 adult witnesses.
4) The marriage should be publicized, it should never be kept secret as it leads to suspicion and troubles within the community.

Alternatively, these conditions can be split into Primary & Secondary requirements according to excerpts taken from Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini's Marriage and Family in Islam. These requirments are;

Primary Requirements
1) Mutual agreement (Ijab-O-Qubul) by the bride and the groom
2) Two adult and sane witnesses
3) Mahr (marriage-gift) to be paid by the groom to the bride either immediately (muajjal) or deferred (muakhkhar), or a combination of both

Secondary Requirements
1) Legal guardian (wakeel) representing the bride
2) Written marriage contract ("Aqd-Nikah) signed by the bride and the groom and witnesses by two adult and sane witnesses
3) Qadi (State appointed Muslim judge) or Ma'zoon (a responsible person officiating the marriage ceremony)
4) Khutba-tun-Nikah to solemnize the marriage

Is Marriage obligatory?

According to Imams Abu Hanifah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Malik ibn Anas, marriage is recommendatory, however in certain individuals it becomes wajib/obligatory. Imam Shaafi'i considers it to be nafl or mubah (preferable). The general opinion is that if a person, male or female fears that if he/she does not marry they will commit fornication, then marriage becomes "wajib". If a person has strong sexual urges then it becomes "wajib" for that person to marry. Marriage should not be put off or delayed especially if one has the means to do so.

A man, however should not marry if he or she does not possess the means to maintain a wife and future family, or if he has no sex drive or if he dislikes children, or if he feels marriage will seriously affect his religious obligation. The general principle is that prophet (pbuh) enjoined up in the followers to marry. He said "when a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half." This hadith is narrated by Anas. Islam greatly encourages marriage because it shields one from and upholds the family unit on which Islam places great importance.


The Qur'an lays out clear guidelines for marriage. One of the main traits you should look for in a potential spouse is a similarity in religious outlook. For the sake of compatibility, and the upbringing of future children, it is most recommended for a Muslim to marry another Muslim. However, in some circumstances it is permissible for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim.

Muslim Man and Non-Muslim Woman

In general, Muslim men are not permitted to marry non-Muslim women.

"Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe. A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you.... Unbelievers beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the garden of bliss and forgiveness. And He makes His signs clear to mankind, that they may receive admonition" (Qur'an 2:221).

An exception is made for Muslim men to marry chaste or pious Jewish and Christian women, who are referred to as "People of the Book." (See further guiding rules below). This comes from the understanding that Jews and Christians share similar religious outlooks - a belief in One God, following the commandments of Allah, a belief in revealed scripture (Books), etc.

"This day are all things good and pure made lawful to you.... Lawful to you in marriage are not only chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when you give them their due dowers, and desire chastity not lewdness. If any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost" (Qur'an 5:5).

The children of such a union are always to be raised in the faith of Islam. This should be discussed thoroughly by the couple before they decide to marry.

Muslim Woman and Non-Muslim Man

Under no conditions is a Muslim woman permitted to marry anyone but a Muslim man. The same verse cited above (2:221) mentions,

"Nor marry your girls to unbelievers until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever...."

No exception is given for women to marry Jews and Christians, so the law stands that she may only marry a believing (Muslim) man. As head of the household, the husband provides leadership for the family. A Muslim woman does not follow the leadership of someone who does not share her faith and values.

The general rules and laws for the Muslim man and woman.
It is not permissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man.

It is permissible for a Muslim man to marry a Christian/Jewish woman strictly under these two conditions:

She is a true Christian/Jew – not by name and/or ancestral background.
She did not renegade from Islam and become a Christian/Jew.
NB. Due to some threatening factors, it is discouraged to marry a Christian/Jewish woman. It is perhaps for these factors that Hadhrat Úmar (Radhiyallaahu Ánhu) stopped Muslims during his reign of power to marry Christian/Jewish women.

If there is a difference in religion after marriage then four possibilities may arise.

Both spouses were non-Muslims and both simultaneously accepted Islam.
Both were Muslims and both simultaneously became Murtads (renegade from Islam).
In the above two situations the Nikah remains intact.
One becomes a Muslim and the other remains a non-Muslim. This situation is of two types.
The husband accepts Islam and the woman remains a non-Muslim. If the woman is an Ahlul-Kitaab (Christian or Jew as described above) then the Nikah is intact but if she follows some other faith then in an Islamic state the following procedure will be adopted:
The Qaadhi will invite her to Islam: if she accepts then the Nikah will be intact, but if she refuses or maintains silence then the Qaadhi will annul the marriage. If this situation occurs in a non-Islamic State then upon the woman spending three menstrual cycles, the Nikah will be instantly annulled.
The wife accepts Islam and the husband remains a non-Muslim.
If it is in an Islamic State the Qaadhi will invite him to Islam. If he accepts then the Nikah will remain. If he rejects or maintains silence then the Qaadhi will effect a separation. In a non-Islamic State the woman will be divorced upon three menstrual cycles. The woman will then have to observe another three menstrual cycles on observing Iddat.

In the situation where one of the spouses renegades. This is of two types.

If the husband renegades then the marriage is instantly annulled.
If the wife renegades then - according to the preferred opinion - this does not affect the Nikah. She will still be his wife. However, until she does accept Islam the husband cannot cohabit with her.


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