By Shaykh Muhammad Salim Ghisa
Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and woman, which makes each other permissible for them to enjoy and live happily. Allah has described, in the most moving and eloquent terms, this eternal, natural relationship between man and woman, which is filled with security, love, understanding and compassion:
And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Quran 30:21)
“And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Quran 30:21)
Marriage is also an important part of the Sunnah. The Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “The Nikah is my Sunnah (way), whosoever leaves my Sunnah is not from amongst me” (Kitabus Sunan – Mishkat)
The Prophet of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) has also said as narrated by Ibn Masud (May Allah be pleased with him)
“Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at non permissible females and protects you from immorality. However, those who cannot should devote themselves to fasting, for it is a means of suppressing sexual desire.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
However, we also find that in today’s day and age that there are many marriages that are improper or unfair and can make a person’s life miserable. These marriages are either forced or arranged against a person’s will. Islam does not support in any way a marriage where either the man or woman is unhappy with the set up.
We find that some people use their power of authority and cultural understanding (baradarism) to arrange such forced marriages and then hide behind the religion of Islam to justify their actions.
Arranged marriages are allowed and promoted in Islam as long as they are accepted by both the bride and the groom. One of the conditions for the Nikah (marriage ceremony) to be valid is both the man and woman are asked independently of each other as to whether they agree with the marriage or not. If either of them say ‘no’ then the Nikah cannot continue , however, silence is regarded as consent. (Radd ul Mohtar).
The parents have a responsibility to ensure that both couples are compatible and do not arrange a marriage merely for their own social or personal reasons (i.e. 'she's my brothers daughter, lets get our son married to her'!). If the latter is the case then they will have to answer to Allah. The Prophet of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) gave the strictest orders with relation to the rights of others. He said
“'Truly Allah has totally forbidden disobedience (and the subsequent hurt) to mothers, burying alive daughters, with-holding the rights of others, and demanding that which is not your right.” (Hadith Muslim 4257. Recorded by Mughirah b. Shuba).
When a suitable partner is chosen then four things are considered, out of which one should take importance and this is the religious practice of their prospective partners. Whilst the following Hadith is in relation to choosing a woman, it refers to both sexes: the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) said
“A woman (or man) may be married for four things: for her wealth, for her noble descent, for her beauty or for her religion. Choose the one who is religious, lest your hands be rubbed with dust!” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Although the Prophet advised the young Muslim to look for a religious partner, it does not mean that they should ignore their preferences regarding the physical beauty. The Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) encouraged seeing a prospective partner before finalizing the marriage, so that a Muslim does not find his/herself trapped in a marriage with a woman/man he/she finds unattractive.
Al Mughirah Ibn Shaibah said “I got engaged to a woman at the time of the Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). He asked me “Have you seen her?” I said “No”. He said “go and have a look at her, because it is more fitting that love and compatibility is established between you.” (Nasai)
Therefore, in the above situations we find that Islam promotes love and compatibility between husband and wife and recognizes that these are vital ingredients in a successful marriage.
Whilst we understand the importance of love and compatibility we must also ensure the approval of both parties. However, one must also recognize that forced marriage is a problem occurring today and Islam condemns it to the highest degree. The issue of forced marriages is not one that is limited to some Muslims, but Hindus, Sikhs and other religions also acknowledge it as a problem.
As explained above, Islam regards marriage as a right of the individual and therefore others cannot make the decision for them. If a woman/man is forced in marriage then the marriage would not be valid and would therefore need to be cancelled. However, daughters and sons should also recognize the rights of their parents and come to an agreed solution before the marriage takes place.
If this does not happen then those who forced the marriage and those who allowed it are both guilty and have committed a major sin. The following incident clarifies the position of forced marriages in Islam;
Khansa Bint Khidam said “My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). He said to me “accept what your father has arranged.” I said “I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.”
He said “then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.” I said “I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them). (Fathul Bari Sharah Al Bukhari 9/194, Ibn Majah Kitabun Nikah 1/602)
At first, the Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) told Al Khansa to obey her father, and this is as it should be, because the concerns of fathers for the well being of their daughters is well known. But when he realized that her father wanted to force her in to marriage she did not want, he gave her the freedom to choose, and saved her from the oppression of a father who wanted to force her into an unwanted marriage.
Marriages that are done due to a couple falling in love with one another are acceptable but are usually an unlawful way of approach. Meaning, that two people of the opposite sex start a relationship and then decide they want to marry. However, one must also realize that this is happening and therefore if a couple are in a relationship they must either get married immediately and save themselves from sin or separate.
If the father/ mother is aware then they should ensure that there is a successful outcome and if there is compatibility between the couple, they should try and ensure that the marriage takes place as soon as possible. Mere excuses, such as they are from a lower cast etc are not acceptable. However, valid reasons such as religion must be taken in to account.
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) said “when one with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks your daughter in marriage then accede to his request. If you do not do so then there will be temptation in the earth and extensive corruption”. (Tirmidhi)
Secret marriages whilst recognised are severely disliked in Islam and even Haram when it goes against the will of the parents. The reason for this is that it means that those who are responsible for them are not advised of it and the couple will go against their parents by doing so. The Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) has clearly stressed that the will of the father is the will of Allah (Bukhari) also how important it is to obtain the dua of one’s parents.
Whilst we recognise that sometime parents need to be advised, this should be done by asking relatives to intervene, or the local Imam or anyone who may have an influence over one’s parents and they can agree. Insha Allah a marriage can only ever obtain spiritual comfort if the dua of one’s mother and father is with them.
Whilst the secret marriage may be valid it does not mean it is right and blessed.
May Allah give us the ability to understand the sacred concept of marriage and the Islamic approach towards it.
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