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Importance of Marriage in Islam

Allah has created men and women as company for one another, and so that they can procreate and live in peace and tranquility according to the commandments of Allah and the directions of His Messenger. The Quran says:

"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. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect." [Noble Quran 30:21]

"And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best." [Noble Quran 16:72]

These verses of the Noble Quran clearly show that in contrast to other religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism etc. which consider celibacy or monasticism as a great virtue and a means of salvation, Islam considers marriage as one of the most virtuous and approved institutions. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) declared, "There is no monasticism in Islam." He further ordained,

"O you young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty." [Al-Bukhari]

Modesty was regarded as a great virtue by the Prophet. He said, "Modesty is part of faith." [Al-Bukhari]

The importance of the institution or marriage receives its greatest emphasis from the following Hadith of the Prophet,

"Marriage is my sunnah. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me."

With these Quranic injunctions and the guidance from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in mind, we shall examine the institution of marriage in the Shari'ah.

The word Zawaj is used in the Quran to signify a pair or a mate. But in common parlance it stands for marriage. Since the family is the nucleus of Islamic society, and marriage is the only way to bring families into existence, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) insisted upon his followers entering into marriage The Shari'ah prescribes rules to regulate the functioning of the family so that both spouses can live together in love, security, and tranquility. Marriage in Islam has aspects of both 'Ibadah (worship) of Allah and mu'amalah (transactions between human beings).

In its 'Ibadah aspect, marriage is an act pleasing to Allah because it is in accordance with his commandments that husband and wife love each other and help each other to make efforts to continue the human race and rear and nurse their children to become true servants of Allah.

In its mu'amalah aspect, marriage being a lawful response to the basic biological instinct to have sexual intercourse and to procreate children, the Shari'ah has prescribed detailed rules for translating this response into a living human institution reinforced by a whole framework of legally enforceable rights and duties, not only of the spouses, but also of their offspring.

These aspects are beautifully explained in a tradition of the Prophet. It is narrated by Anas that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

"When a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half."

The Prophet considered marriage for a Muslim as half of his religion because it shields him from promiscuity, adultery, fornication, homosexuality etc., which ultimately lead to many other evils like slander, quarreling, homicide, loss of property and disintegration of the family. According to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) the remaining half of the faith can be saved by Taqwa.

Conditions of Marriage

Careful consideration of the Quranic injunctions and the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings 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 order that problems should not arise after marriage the Prophet (peace and blessings 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 Quran, 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 Noble Quran:
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