Marriage and Family in Islam

Marriage is the path of the prophets, the custom of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), the wellspring of new generations, the honor of man and woman, the castle of chastity and the privilege of human beings over the rest of creation.

Q – We might begin by asking: Do people have to live socially and start families at all? Can’t they just as well live alone?

Being alone is only truly appropriate for Allah the Almighty. The Creator has reserved oneness for Himself alone, while He has created all of existence in pairs. Thus all creatures are in need of each other and at the same time, since they are created, they have intrinsic deficiency and weakness in their nature.  Ma siwa Allah, “the other-than-Allah”  – all beings except Allah the Almighty  – are continuously in need of both each other and Allah the Almighty.

Out of all creation, human beings need each other the most. People have so many needs and requests, compared to other beings! Because people always want to live in material and spiritual comfort, their needs constantly increase and never come to an end. Problems, privation, pains, sufferings and disasters all present us with difficulties. In times of trouble, we look for a soul to take shelter with and a hand to hold.

Thus the descendant of Adam is indicated in Arabic by the word insan, which is derived from the word uns or unsiyya, meaning intimacy. Even philology demonstrates our need to be close to our fellows! This need is our first quality and humans are distinguished by this quality.

The clearest manifestation of intimacy is the togetherness that joins a man and a woman. This matter is necessary, even obligatory, for the continuance of human generations.

The necessity of togetherness manifests itself in living beings through the existence of males and females and in inanimate beings though the existence of positive and negative poles. This situation is stated in the Qur’an in many verses:

“And of everything We have created pairs: that ye may receive instruction.” (51: 49)

“Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.” (36:36)

“And (have We not) created you in pairs?”(78: 8)

To possess the nature of being created in pairs means to be created as man and woman, complementary, not in twos of the same kind. In such a case, the creation of one of the two would be redundant and redundancy cannot be attributed to Allah the Almighty. Therefore Allah created the creation in gendered couples. Yet each individual created is unique in itself. Allah does not create duplicate beings, exactly the same. Even identical twins have many physical and spiritual differences.

So Allah the Almighty created all beings in complementary pairs and simultaneously placed His divine law of attraction between them in order to make them come closer to each other. For He has assigned the spiritual and material development of all these pairs to the unification possible between them.

Although the need and attraction a man feels toward a woman and a woman toward a man essentially serve the continuance of progeny, this is not their only purpose. One of their most significant functions is to form the basis for stable families, which create an environment that allows individuals to achieve spiritual and social peace and balance. This goal can be achieved only through mahabbat Allah, the inclination of the heart to Allah the Almighty with love.

At times the love for God can be attained through earthly love: the lover ascends from Laila (the archetypal human beloved) to Mawla (the Lord – the divine beloved). But for this journey to be possible, there has to be a Leila in the first place! Then love between a man and a woman may constitute the first step in coming closer to Allah.  Even if attraction begins with the arousal of selfish desires, it cannot turn into true human love until it is freed from the selfishness of those desires. When the mutual beholding of divine attributes is manifested in the lovers, only then do we call attraction, love.

The heart, which is the subtle center of attraction, is exercised and strengthened through couples’ affection for each other and thus gains capacity for the love of Allah. The ability to sustain Divine love is further developed through love for one’s children, the natural fruit of a family.

In order to be encompassed by love for Allah, a marriage must be founded upon divine principles. A marriage undertaken purely for the sake of carnal desires and inclinations usually does not create love. The spiritual development and training of the heart through love that may be expected from an Islamic marriage cannot be realized in families established on lust alone, because in such marriages couples become slaves. Forget spiritual progress: such couples may even lose the spiritual levels they had enjoyed while single.

A desirable marriage is one which matures us and helps us to spiritually improve. A marital relationship that functions in such a way manifests an ideal perfection.  It is this kind of marriage that is called, in the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “half of religion.”  Attaining half of something does not mean we give up seeking the other half!  We should do everything we can to realize the ideal attributes of a marriage. Only then can we achieve the maturity, peace and tranquility we aim for.

Although intimate relationship between a man and a woman is one way to achieve the capacity for Divine love, it is not the only way. Single people can and do make spiritual progress. There are many pious single people mentioned in the Qur’an, starting with Mary[1] and Jesus (may Allah be pleased with them). This fact confirms that not everybody is created with the same natural abilities. Environment, too, has differing effects on people. In some people’s destiny the paths to marriage are closed; obstacles preventing marriage may constitute a divine test for them. For others, marriage can be a source of suffering and disappointment. Allah the Almighty bestows certain special capabilities upon those servants who endure such tests and through these capabilities they can obtain the spiritual benefits to be expected from a normal marriage. Some single servants of Allah made great spiritual progress through their mercy and compassion to animals and plants. Others ascended the steps of spirituality by bearing with the tests of their marriages. The Companions of the Bench, who comprised Companions of the Prophet who were too poor to get married, reached the peaks of spirituality through knowledge and learning. It should not be forgotten, however, that these are exceptional and special cases. The general rule is that human beings should get married and start a happy family.

It is a fact that a heart without love and affection is like an unplanted field, left idle for a long time. The relationship between man and woman will cultivate this land. Of course, to be successful, such a relationship cannot be based on selfish desires. Success can be achieved only by getting rid of selfish motives. As we have said, an intimate natural relationship must turn its direction to divine love, because only when the connection between man and woman attains this divine quality do souls ascend in the love for Allah. To have children in this state constitutes the second level in reaching the love for Allah. Next comes love for relatives, friends, teachers and others.  So the heart matures, step by step drawing closer to its highest goal, divine love. After becoming one with divine love, a servant joins the friends of Allah the Almighty. This is the purpose of the creation of humanity.

In short, our need for family and for togetherness between man and woman is a reality embedded in our natures by our Creator in order to realize a lofty goal. The more we realize this goal, the more the tree of family branches out, bearing sweet fruits of social peace, tranquility and balance.

Therefore the establishment of a peaceful family environment comes at the head of the list of the most important endeavors for raising society to a civilized level. Man and woman make their pledges to each other in the name of Allah the Almighty because that promise marks their intention to make love a reality in accordance with of the purpose of their creation. Of course mutual respect, trust and sincerity must nurture their efforts!

Q – What do the traditions of Islam say about family?

Because of the aforementioned reasons, the thinkers of Islam have attributed great significance to family. Families are like the seeds of a society. As a matter of historical fact, families built on strong bases protect and embellish the structure of their society, while families established by spiritually unequal partners, destroy it.

The principles and measures of Islam work to establish a happy and balanced family. One might say that Islam aims at peace and tranquility through family. That is why it is said that “home is the Paradise of the living.”  As a matter of fact, a home set up according to divine rules is like Paradise on earth.

Because such a noble ideal and institution can only be achieved through exalted measures and lawful foundations based on love, Islam begins this spiritual journey with mutual vows.  Islamic law requires both parties to give certain promises to each other in the name of Allah the Almighty.

The old saying “marriage works miracles” points out the significance and benefits of the marriage agreement in establishing a peaceful family. The value of our acts depends on our intentions. The outcome of living as partners without being married, without an explicit exchange of vows expressing our intentions, is disappointment and collapse not only on the personal level but also at the level of society as a whole. That is why cohabitation without a marriage agreement is prohibited by Islam and accepted as one of the grave sins. There will be harsh divine punishment for such practices in the Hereafter.

Q – Since marriage is so significant, could you please elaborate the issue a little more?

Marriage is the way of the prophets, the custom of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon them), the dignity of man and woman and the privilege of human beings over other creatures.

It is necessary to have two male witnesses to a marriage agreement in order to announce it to society. The togetherness of man and woman is the basic element of socialization and so the onset of this togetherness should be made known to the public. Demonstrating our intentions does not always require having witnesses; however, witnesses are required for a marriage agreement in order to make the union an accepted fact throughout the community. A single man or woman may always receive proposals. But when a couple announces their marriage, proposals stop and the spouses commence to belong to each other. This is the foundation of a healthy family and a healthy society. That is why there is a usually a wedding feast: it makes the whole community witness to the marriage, even though two formal witnesses are sufficient for the contract to be valid. Marriage ceremonies are celebrated not just to share the joy of the marrying couple, but also to declare their status to the community. So we see that the marriage agreement, with all its features, is a divine command intended to protect human dignity.

According to Islam, marriage is the indispensible foundation of a family. It furthers the raising of progeny, their formation and discipline, as well as the conservation of the values and dignity of humanity. Islam gives such great importance to this foundation that it refuses all miserable and contemptible relations attacking it. In this respect Islam prohibits adultery, which is the worst of all out-of-wedlock relations, because adultery is an attack on the refinement, beauty and legality of the marriage agreement, as well as being a cruel crime, which destroys progeny. There cannot be a more foolish and ignorant act than preferring the indecency of adultery over the peaceful and tranquil world of marriage. Hence, the streets of a country should not be polluted with scenes of immorality glorifying this disaster.

It should not be forgotten that the basis upon which a nation stands or falls is the strength of its moral and ethical structure. The marriage agreement is the most effective method of protecting this structure. For this reason, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) warned Muslims not to make marriage difficult, saying: “The best marriages are those which are most simple.” (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 32) Therefore all customary expenses which load an additional burden on a marriage agreement are completely null and void; they are the remnants of the age of ignorance before Islam.

Allah the Almighty wants His servants to live in chastity and tranquility. The most effective way to protect chastity is marriage. Those who have enough means to marry should marry and the Muslim community has the responsibility to help those who do not have the means to get married. This is stated in the following verse:

“And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.”(24:32)[2]

In the Ottoman Empire, special religious foundations were established for this purpose. Their founders were well aware that the morality and order of a society depend on chaste and peaceful individuals.

Muhyiddin ibn ‘Arabi (may Allah bless his soul) says about the merits of assisting people to get married: “The best continuous charity is to help people to get married; because for those who help, there will be a share in the rewards of the good deeds of the progeny of the couples they helped to get married.”

The family life which began with Adam and Eve (peace and blessings be upon them) in Paradise has been transferred to the children of Adam through the divine laws of marriage and Islam has made this explicit. As a matter of fact Islam set some specific principles for family life and thus brought the peace of Paradise into its families. In order to attain such happiness, we should abide by the rules of Allah the Almighty and live our family life like Adam and Eve. We should embrace each other with love and be of one soul and one heart, as our father Adam and mother Eve were.

Though we often treat it lightly, there are deep wisdoms in the amazing union that takes place between two strangers through the act of marriage. Two young souls leave their parents’ house and grow attached to each other with a love and affection set by Allah in their hearts. What a lofty divine manifestation it is, to see such an incredible closeness develop between two strangers!  The mystery of it is indeed a sacred lesson, deserving of contemplation.

Allah the Almighty has made marriage a gate of blessings for the Muslim community and He makes each marriage established according to Qur’an and Sunna a paradise of happiness on earth.

Islam, which aims to create a dignified life for humanity, gives the highest importance to women and points out the possible problems if they are neglected. Women are like crystal chandeliers. When their marriage experience is full of blessings and light, they illuminate society. They protect the dignity and chastity of family. They stand like lighthouses against the whirlpools of sin. When things are otherwise, whole generations are lost. Losing generations breaks the bonds of interpersonal relations and the transmission of wisdom; the process ends in the destruction of a society. Mischief becomes common; sensitive and humane feelings cease to exist. Troubles and scandals rise up. These are all signs of a community in collapse.

Women’s happiness is made possible when marriage is gentle. When it is not, a woman sometimes looks elsewhere. If a woman directs herself away from her principal object, her unhappiness will destroy peaceful family life. A woman’s participation in the employment world follows necessity; if she works, she needs to work at a job that suits her nature. The degree of necessity should be judged objectively, with the needs of the whole community taken into consideration. Employment must be within reasonable and lawful limits. Anything else is self-deception, which ends in disappointment and frustration. Many Muslim girls have been lost to the whirlpools of heedlessness.  Many eyes, deceived by illusory worldviews, have been blinded to divine truth and destroyed their own possibilities for happiness.

The religious thinkers of Islam have tied women’s moral and social identity and glory to their marital welfare. Woman enters into a whole new world through marriage. Maybe she begins to live with a complete stranger, maybe with his relatives. However, with the special blessing bestowed upon marriage by Allah, these two stranger souls become so attached to each other that they become the closest people in the world. In fact it is stated in the following verse that:

“And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.”(30:21)

Therefore, the most important factor for happiness in a family is the love, sincerity and mercy that exist between husband and wife.

Q- It is not always possible to attain such happiness in all families. It is a sign of great blessing to reach this happiness and tranquility. Yet if we hope to reach this level of happiness, what should we be careful about?

The first condition is to follow Islamic guidelines for selecting a suitable spouse. The essence of these guidelines is that believers should not select their spouses based on the temporary beauties of this world, like physical appearance and wealth.  Instead, their selection must be based on spiritual qualities such as faith and morality. In this respect, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:

“A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. Try to marry the one who is religious; may your hand be scented with goodness!”(Bukhari, Nikah, VI, 123; Muslim, Rada, 53)

Even though this tradition is about the qualities of an ideal wife, it is also applicable for choosing an ideal husband, because to have a righteous spouse is the second most valuable thing for every Muslim to have, after piety. A righteous husband is the unshakable pillar of the family palace and a righteous wife is the most valuable adornment of that palace. This is expressed in the following saying of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

“People’s rank is hidden in their religion; their dignity is hidden in their reason; and the beauty of their progeny is hidden in the goodness of their morality [protected by marriage].”

The second important thing is to be careful about is equivalence between the spouses. Equality must be assessed according to qualities such as wealth, manners and cultural levels. The steps after these two depend on maturity and willpower. Maturity develops through seeking perfection in faith and practice; willpower can be achieved through embracing the Divine Law’s orders and prohibitions.

A peaceful family, in which the commands and prohibitions of Allah are observed, is the foundation of felicity in this world and one of the greatest blessings of our Lord. Continuation of this felicity and blessing is contingent upon togetherness of the spouses in a spiritual atmosphere, which relies on mutual understanding and willing sacrifices.

In the present day, the most significant source of erosion of the traditional family is womenwho try to resemble men and men who try to resemble women. Allah the Almighty has bestowed different qualities upon men and women. These qualities are shaped in order to give all the ability to do their best in society. The natural qualities of the sexes, from their physical appearances to their spiritual features, are formed according to the responsibilities assigned to them by Allah the Almighty.

Men require spiritual and physical strength in order to provide for the family and to lead it. Women are not held responsible for the provision of livelihood. If they are forced to provide, it is oppression and hardship, because women are not created to earn a family’s sustenance, but rather to raise and protect its children. However if the environment and conditions are suitable, then women can work in positions that are favorable to their natures, such as being a teacher at Qur’anic schools for girls, or a gynecologist .

It is their natural abilities that make men and women different but complementary to each other. When spouses transgress the limits of these characteristics, the family’s felicity suffers.

We should also mention that male authority in the family does not give any man the right to use brute force and that female obedience should not be tantamount to slavery. If both man and woman pursue their traditional roles in accordance with the principles of Islam, there will be neither an oppressor nor an oppressed in the family.

A woman’s defiance of her husband by violating the principles of chastity and obedience and a man’s abuse of his authority for his selfish desires, can each destroy a family. A man may sometimes experience stressful circumstances during the day at work.  When he does, it is not just his need but also his right to find an understanding and consoling wife at home. On the other hand, it is both the need and the right of a wife who waits for her husband at home all day long to find sympathy and warmth in him when he arrives. Each person in a family must know his or her rights and responsibilities in the presence of Allah the Almighty.  The only principle that can maintain felicity and joy in a family is mutual love and respect.

We should not forget the saying of our ancestors, “The female bird builds the nest.” Women do have a more effective role in protecting a family. That is why women’s intuition, understanding and efforts in this regard carry more significance than men’s. Allah has bestowed greater emotional wisdom and capability upon mothers than upon fathers.

 İsmail Hakkı Bursevî says about the interpretation of the term “al-tara’ib” from Sura 86 of the Quran, “When a child falls into a stream, its mother jumps into the stream, no matter how dangerous it is and does everything she can to save her baby.  The child’s father, on the other hand, does not act like this. If there is no hope from the baby, its father just sits on the shore and weeps.”

Of course, such heroism shows itself in mothers who have not lost their spiritual qualities. It is not seen in those heartless women who abandon their children in front of mosques or at the edges of cemeteries. They are like ruined souls who have destroyed all the good qualities of their creation.

The compassion of motherhood is visible even in the animal kingdom, sometimes remarkably so. It was recorded that a mother lion and a baby deer grew amazingly close to each other in Kenya’s Samburu National Park between December 21, 2001 and January 2, 2002. Their relation was like that of a mother and child. The fawn’s umbilical cord was still attached to it when its existence was first captured by cameras. Did the mother lion feel sorry for the lost baby deer?  In any case, she adopted it. The fawn, too, behaved as if the lioness were its real mother. Because the fawn could not nurse on lion’s milk, the mother lion was feeding it with green leaves, not meat – as if she recognized that it was not a lion cub.

Then the mother deer appeared, looking for her baby. When she saw her baby with a lion, she became confused, but she did not run. She started to make noises as if she were communicating with her baby. The baby deer came to her real mother and they grazed together. However, the mother lion did not allow them to go far away. If the deer started to move away, the lioness would intervene. Did the mother lion love the baby deer so much that she could not let it go with its real mother? She licked the fawn and played with it as if it were her own offspring. However after awhile, for some reason – maybe because she recognized that the baby deer needed its real mother – she let it go with the mother deer. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for a male lion to notice the weak and unprotected fawn and kill it.  The mother lion appeared to mourn by the place that the fawn was killed.

What an amazing scene this was! It was a great manifestation of the divine gift of motherhood overcoming even the natural enmity between predator and prey. This is one of the signs of Allah the Almighty, for motherhood is the manifestation of a divine miracle.

There are many lessons for us in this incident. A mother is a truly a mother not because of her physical qualities, but because of her spiritual qualities. If a woman gives up these spiritual qualities, then she is no longer a mother and a monument of mercy.  Instead she becomes a hunter – and she destroys many young souls. Therefore women should value and protect the blessing of motherhood as more than simple animal reproduction. For other creatures there will be no questioning about their offspring in the Hereafter. But for humans, there will be.

Our children will count either for us or against us in the on the Day of Reckoning. They should be raised carefully, for they are means of entering Paradise. A good religious education, good manners, morality and consciousness of divine service come at the head of the things which should be taught to children.

Q – In our society, young people who plan to get married first spend time being engaged.. They face several problems during this period. What do the parties need to be careful about during their engagement?

The central issue, as we have been trying to explain, is the necessity of building a family upon a strong and healthy foundation. This principle must be kept in mind not just during the engagement period, but in every phase of the establishment of the family. Divine rules and measure must be observed at every stage. Unfortunately, in our time some couples see the engagement as permission to act as if they were already married. This leads to a number of irreparable mistakes and to broken hearts.

We do need to remember that the engagement stage is just the period of agreement to marriage. It is not marriage itself and during the engagement period parties are still unlawful to each other. Therefore they must be careful about the divine limits. In short, engaged couples should not meet privately in secluded places and talk more than they are supposed to before the marriage! Today we witness the devastation caused by this type of carrying on.

In this regard I would like to remind you of the following narration of Ibn `Abbas:

Allah the Almighty created Eve from a rib from the left side of Adam. During her creation Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) was asleep. When he woke up and saw Eve next to him, he fell in love with her and wanted to hold her. Angels said, “O Adam! Do not touch her. You have not been married yet.” Then they got married and for her marriage portion they agreed upon uttering three praises for the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

This was the beginning of the marriage agreement before Allah. Thus with the praise of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the marriage agreement gains a sublime meaning and teems with blessings and manifestations of mercy.

Q – Would you share your observations about the marriage ceremony?

The marriage ceremony is a means to share the happiness of a marriage with friends and relatives. It also serves as a way to carry out the requirement of publicizing a marriage. In addition, it is also a fine thing to turn such an important institution into an opportunity for joy and entertainment, which are part of our nature.

However, we should remember that ceremonies that are too extravagant, which reach the point of financially devastating the families involved, are never approved by Islam. Islam is a religion that urges moderation even in taking water from a river when performing ablution.  It encourages its followers to be frugal. Therefore even if the parties are rich, they should act in consideration of the poor and needy of their community. Turning marriage ceremonies into theatres of ostentation, like many of today’s rich families do, is a manifestation of madness and a proof that Islam is not properly internalized.

Marriage ceremonies should properly be performed with Islamic grace and refinement. They should stay away from every kind of lavishness. People should have modest ceremonies appropriate to their financial situations. But using the event as an opportunity to show off one’s financial status contradicts the object and the spirit of a marriage ceremony.

In particular, to launch such a blessed institution with unlawful acts and customs, such as drinking alcohol, leads people to error and ignorance. Only those marriage gatherings which observe the laws of Allah and His Messenger are blessed places where prayers are accepted. Some types of entertainment are harmless, so long as the men and the women are not mixed. Women can entertain each other and men can do the same among themselves without committing any forbidden act.

Another significant issue is the importance of inviting poor, needy and homeless people to the walima, the marriage feast. This is expressed in the following hadith:

“The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited while the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Apostle.”(Bukhari, Nikah, 72; Muslim, Nikah, 107. See also Ibn Maja, Nikah, 25)

It should be remembered that the Muslim community receives divine assistance because of the prayers of the weak. Therefore destitute and needy people particularly need to be invited to the walima. On one occasion Moses (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed to Allah the Almighty and asked, “Dear Lord! Where should I look for You?”

Allah the Almighty responded, “Look for Me by the broken hearts.” (Abu Nu`aym, Hilya, II, 364)

The prayers of those who are destitute and have broken hearts are acceptable in the presence of Allah. This is why all Muslims should take care to merit their prayers, especially during those times when we begin an important undertaking like marriage. Neither should we neglect to ask for the supporting prayers of the devout.

Q – To what issues should young Muslim men and women pay particular attention in order to safeguard the soundness of their family?

We should know that a society rises on the shoulders of its male members, but that its female members also produce its ascension. Without the help of men and women alike, no development or ascent can be achieved. A man who is unhappy at home cannot be successful at work. Consequently we can say that a nation develops through the maturity and experience of its women. The opposite of this is also correct:  a nation loses its power and value through the degradation of its female members. History teems with examples. That is why every community needs healthy families.

Although human beings are created with the most perfect of natures, the manifestation of our perfection in a developed personality can be achieved only in a healthy family environment. The family is the primary place where the human personality is educated. Only with a proper education can souls reach lofty spiritual states and stations. We can take lessons from the lives of the prophets and from the lives of the saints.

Felicity and joy in a family depend on mutual respect and understanding between the parties and on the observation of each other’s rights.  It is also very important to comprehend the meaning of the verse ittaqu Allah – “be mindful of Allah![3] – if happiness in the family is to be achieved.

Our world can become a paradise if the rights of women are observed; and it can also turn into a hell as a result of the violation of their rights. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) expressed the significance of women’s rights in his farewell sermon:

“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”(Bukhari, Mukhtasar, X, 398)

Preventing women from raising righteous generations by forcing them into unsuitable occupations is a great mistake. Happiness in a family can be achieved only by employing and protecting both men’s and women’s abilities in the occupations that best fulfill their natures.

Islam affirms the importance of marriages undertaken for the sake of lofty ideals. Marriage has two dimensions, worldly and spiritual. We must be serious and careful in order to make our families functional in both dimensions. It is all too easy for marriage to become one-dimensional. Unfortunately, this kind of marriage often ends up in an unhappy divorce, or continues as a chain of agony until the end of life. Naturally these are not the results we desire when getting married!

 Divorce is depicted in one of the sayings of the Prophet as an incident which shakes Allah’s throne:

“Marry and do not divorce, for verily divorce causes the throne of Allah to shake…” (`Ali al-Muttaqi, IX, 1161/27874)

For a man to divorce a woman merely for his own convenience and pleasure is oppression and great sin, which is certainly prohibited in Islam. It is violating another servant’s right, which will lead to eternal disappointment and destruction.

Divorce often follows from arbitrarily and carelessly performed marriages and it has countless pitiful results. The worst and the severest of these results befall the children. Children who see no warmth in their families and are exposed to frequent abuses from their parents, who are supposed to be their role models, live at the mercy of the streets. Sometimes they run away from their homes and start living in the streets; they shortly fall into the web of alcohol, narcotics, prostitution and crime. This prepares the ground for social destruction.

Of course, there are times when divorce is the only reasonable option. Catholic marriages can never be annulled and must be continued no matter how miserable the parties are. Islamic marriages, by contrast, are contracts and there are legal provisions for terminating contracts when necessary. Every agreement can be superseded by another agreement. If there were no way out of a failed marriage, the couple’s life would be torture. Family unity would be no better than slavery.

Spouses who cannot find solutions to their problems become desperate and may not see situations clearly. This is why Islam allows divorce, but in principle assigns the right of divorce to men, on the theory that they are likely to act more resolutely than women.  However, if it has been previously stipulated in the marriage contract, there is no obstacle to giving the right of divorce to women as well. This is known in Islamic law as tafwid al-talaq. Even if the right of divorce has not been given to the wife in the marriage contract, under some circumstances she can still appeal to a court for divorce.

In order to avoid unnecessary divorce, men and women should appreciate each other’s significance and respect each other. Memories, happy moments, welfare, tranquility and all the pleasurable things in life can be achieved under the shadow of divine wisdom. Success will manifest itself through mutual fidelity and sincerity. It is stated in the sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

“When a man wakes up  at night, wakens his wife and they pray two cycles of formal prayer together, they are recorded among the men and women who make much mention of Allah.” (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu`, 18; Witr, 13)

“May Allah show mercy to a man who gets up during the night and prays, who wakens his wife and she prays; if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. May Allah show mercy to a woman who gets up during the night and prays, who wakens her husband and he prays; if he refuses she sprinkles water on his face.”(Abu Dawud, Tatawwu`, 17; Witr, 12)

According to the aforementioned Prophetic sayings we can conclude that happiness in a family depends on two great principles:

1. Sincerity of the both parties

2. Mutual encouragement to piety.

Q – Considering all the things you have stated so far, is there any ideal, exemplary family you might point out to us?

Of the many examples that might be given, undoubtedly the family of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stands at the forefront. As was true in every other aspect of life, the Prophet displayed the finest behavior in family life. He was the perfect husband and the best father. His blessed wife, our mother Khadija, was the most excellent example of a wife and mother. His other wives were good examples, too. No negative incidents can be found in his family life, although there were some small quarrels between his wives. Even those small incidents were solved and ended up well, thanks to the exemplary character of the Prophet and they set an example for the whole Muslim community.

Just as the personality of the Prophet was the best of personalities, his home was also the most ideal and exemplary home. His home was such a peaceful and tranquil place that even though his household might have no hot meal on the table for days, every visitor could feel its happiness. There was no trace of luxury: none of his wives had more than a modest room. Yet the most delicious meal for them all was contentedness, patience and submission. The method of discipline which the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) applied in his home filled the hearts of his household with endless love and loyalty. No woman can love her husband as much as the Prophet’s wives loved him; no husband can love his wife as much as the Prophet loved his wives. No child can love its father as much as Fatima loved her father; and no father can love his children as much as the Prophet loved his.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) paid utmost attention to doing justice to all his wives. Even though he did his best in this regard, because of the difficulty of ensuring absolute justice, he prayed to Allah:

“Dear Lord! Unwittingly I may love one of them more than the others and that is inequity. Lord! I take refuge in Your mercy concerning this matter that I am incapable of preventing.”[4]

Dear Lord! Bestow upon us and upon our families a pious life with which You are content. Make our homes a Paradise of felicity and blessings. Protect our homes from being a scene from Hell.


[1].     The name of Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an 34 times and also 23 times as part of the phrase “Jesus son of Mary.” In addition, the nineteenth chapter of the Qur’an is named after her. She is the only woman who is mentioned in the Qur’an by her personal name.  Some of the wise intentions behind this special treatment, as divined by Qur’anic exegetes, include:

1. The previously debased image of women was exalted through our mother Mary.

2.            Her being continually mentioned as the mother of one of the greatest prophets shows the value given to motherhood in Islam.

3.            The emphasis on the chastity of our mother Mary shows the importance of protecting the chastity of women; protecting chastity is obligatory in Islam.

4.            Distinctive feminine virtues are highlighted through Mary’s personality. Though her we learn that qualities such as chastity, dignity, patience, submission, resistance and courage, are characteristics elevating the station of women before Allah the Almighty.

[2].     For English translation of the verses, I have benefited from Shakir, M.H. (trans.), The Qurʾan  [al-Qurʾan al-ḥakim], Elmhurst, N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 1997 and Pickthall, M. W. (trans.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: An Explanatory Translation, New York, N.Y.: Dorset Press, 1988.

[3].     Qur’an 2: 194

[4].     There are many lessons behind the Prophet’s confession of his weakness. One of them is to ensure that his followers do not forget that he was a human being, since some previous religious communities went so far in their respect to their prophets that they considered them to be gods. The same precaution  explains why, in the second statement of the Islamic testimony of faith, the declaration that the Prophet is Allah’s servant comes before the declaration that he is Allah’s Messenger. Of course, considering him to be merely a servant and forgetting his prophethood is a great manifestation of ignorance!