Islam's Ruling on Marriage

All of the scholars are in agreement that marriage is something recommended (Mustahab) and called for in Islam. Some took it to the level of obligatory (wajib) for those with the ability based on the Prophet's statement:

"Whoever has the ability should marry for it is better in lowering the gaze and guarding one's chastity. Whoever is not able, let him fast for it is for him a restraint." [Al-Bukhari]

Without doubt, marriage is part of the social agenda of Islam and the objective it to maximize marriage and to combat "single-hood" as much as possible. This means that if marriage begins decreasing for whatever reason such as exorbitant dowries, economic injustice, etc. then these evils must be combated in defense of marriage. If polygamy is neglected and not done sufficiently, this will create a number of single women and a situation which requires social effort to correct. Likewise, if polygamy is done to excess by some individuals, it will produce an excess of single men another situation which must be corrected. The raising of children must be done in such a way which promotes marriage and raises both men and women knowledgeable of their roles and duties within the family. All of this can be found in Allah's command to the Muslims as a whole to maximize marriage among us:

"And marry off the single among you and the righteous ones among your male and female slaves. If they are poor, Allah will enrichen them from His bounties and Allah is expansive, knowing." [Noble Quran 24:32]

Benefits of Marriage


The love of Allah is sought in seeking to have children. Allah has decreed this as the means by which mankind generally and this Ummah specifically will continue to exist. Allah said:

"Mothers nurse their babies two whole years for those who wish to complete their nursing. Upon the one for whom the baby was born is her food and her clothing in equitable and proper terms. No soul will be emburdened beyond its ability. No mother may be harmed on account of her child nor any father by his child and the heir is chargeable in the same way. If the two [parents] decide on weaning by mutual agreement and consultation, there is no blame on them. And if you decide on a wet-nurse for your children, there is no blame on you provided you pay what you offered equitably and properly. And fear Allah and know that Allah sees well all that you do." [Noble Quran 2:233]

The love of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is also sought in seeking to have children because he (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Marry the loving and the fertile for I will outdo the nations with you [r numbers]. (In another version: "...for I will outdo the prophets with you [r numbers] on Qiyama.")

With seeking children is also the seeking of the great blessing of a righteous offspring who makes du'a for you after your death or the intercession of a child who dies before reaching adulthood.

"When a person dies, his works come to an end (are cut off) except from three sources: except from an ongoing charity which he established or knowledge from which benefit is taken or a righteous offspring who makes du'a for him."

From Abi Sa'id that the women said to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), "Reserve for us a day." So he (peace and blessings be upon him) preached to them and said, "Any woman who had three children die will find them to be a protection for them from the fire." One woman asked, "And two?" He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "And two [as well]."

Other Benefits of Marriage

Protecting oneself from Shaytan by satisfying one's desires and giving oneself rest and relief from the world by the two spouses enjoying each other's company.

Division of labor. When one lives alone, much of his time will be taken up by cooking and tending to his domicile and will not be able to dedicate time to knowledge and other good deeds. A righteous wife is an aid to her husband in this regard. She is primarily responsible for the keeping of the house and children while he is responsible for supplying their needs. In addition to going out to seek their sustenance, he should fulfill his duties in the area of da'wah, enjoining right and forbidding wrong, jihad, etc.

Practice of self-discipline and combating the nafs training it in responsibility and custody by fulfilling all obligations toward one's family, being patient and forbearing with their character and putting up with their annoyances. In addition to this, the Muslim man must struggle and strive for their improvement in Islam and guiding them to the straight path of the deen. He must struggle to earn from the lawful for their sake and to participate in the raising of the children on the best of character. These are acts of very high status and of very high reward from Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Anything you spend on your family will be a source of reward [from Allah], even a morsel of food which you raise to your wife's mouth."

"A dinar you spent in Allah's path, a dinar you spent in freeing a slave, a dinar which you gave in charity to a needy person and a dinar which you spent on your family. The greatest of them in reward is the one you spent on your family."

Afflictions of Marriage

Marriage can also represent a test or be afflicted with some harmful situations.

The worst of them is failing to seek sustenance from the lawful. If that becomes difficult, the husband may become tempted to reach his hand into the haram.

Falling short with regard to the rights of women and being patient with their character and their annoyances. In that there is a great danger because the man is the "shepherd" in the household and is to be questioned about those under his care. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Verily, woman was created from a rib and she will never stay for you on a straight way. If you get enjoyment from her, you get enjoyment while she still has her crookedness but if you insist on straightening her you will break her. And "breaking" of her is divorce."

All of you are custodians and will be asked about your charges. The Imam is a custodian and will be asked about his charges. The man is a custodian of his family and he will be asked about his charges. The woman is a custodian of her husband's house and she will be asked about her charges. The servant is a custodian of his boss's property and he will be asked about his charges ... So all of you are custodians and will be asked about your charges. [Al-Bukhari]

For ones family to be a distraction from the remembrance of Allah such that he spends his days and nights enjoying his family and fails to make time for his heart to ponder the hereafter and to work for it. Allah said:

"O you who believe, let not your wealth nor your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that are indeed those in loss." [Noble Quran 63:9]

Summary: Benefits and Harms

We have now summarized the possible harms and benefits in marriage. So, the ruling regarding marriage for each and every individual - as to which is better for him, marriage or staying single - is measured against these harms and benefits. Each seeker of Allah should measure himself against these factors and conditions. If none of the harmful issues are present and the benefits are all apparent such that he possesses [sufficient] wealth and good character, is a young person with a need for companionship, then there is no doubt that marriage is preferable and must be sought. On the other hand, if many of the harms are suspected or feared and not all the benefits will occur in any case, then staying single may be preferable for a particular individual.

Considerations in Choosing a Wife

Her religion. This is by far the most important consideration and above all others. If she does not have good Islam, she will corrupt her husband. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Women are married for four: her wealth, her family, her beauty and her religion. So succeed with the one with religion, may your hands be in the dust (i.e., may you be impoverished if you ignore this warning).

Character. Bad character is harmful to the individual and those around them.

Beauty. This is something desirable, even if it ranks after religion in importance, because it is one of the things which makes the marriage strong and protects the man from wrongdoing. For this reason, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered men seeking marriage to get a look at the woman before marrying her. Some people used to refuse to consider this nor intend it. It is reported that Imam Ahmad chose a cross-eyed woman over her sister. But this is rare and human nature is at odds with it.

From Al-Mughira ibn Shu'ba that he sought to marry a woman and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to him: "Look at her for it is more assuring that it should last between you."

An easy (smaller) dowry. Said ibn Al-Musayyib married his daughter for two dirhams (about $2.00). The Prophet's dowries were generally much larger than that and there are no specific limits put on the dowry other than that they should be reasonable and not represent an undue obstacle to marriage.

From Umm Habibah that she was under Ubaidullah ibn Jahsh when he went to Ethiopia ... and he died [there]. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) married Umm Habibah while she was in Ethiopia. An-Najashi married her to him and her dowry was four thousand and he gave her provision from his wealth and sent her to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) with Sharhabil ibn Hasana and all of her provision was from An-Najashi, Allah's Messenger did not send anything to her. And the dowries of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were four hundred dirhams.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab said: Do not become excessive in the dowries of women for if it (i.e., high dowries) were an honor in this life or piety with Allah, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) would have been the first of you to do it. But I never knew Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) to have married anyone of his wives nor to have married any of his (peace and blessings be upon him) daughters for more than 12 ounces of gold. Abu Isa (i.e., At-Tirmidhi) said, This is a good, sound hadith ... and the "ounce" is known by the scholars to equal 40 dirhams, so 12 ounces is equal to 480 dirhams.

Just as excessive dowries are disliked from the wife's side, it is equally disliked for the man to inquire about her wealth. Ath-Thawri said: "If a man is marrying and he asks, "What does she have?", know that he is a thief."

Virginity. Because the Law-giver encouraged that and human nature favors it. This is because she will love her husband more and feel closer to him than a previously married woman. Human nature is inclined toward closeness to the first object of love or familiarity. It is also more favorable to his love for her because there is something which repels one from she who has been touched by others.

Fertility. That she be capable of bearing children. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Marry the friendly and fertile, for I will compete with the other nations with your large numbers."

Family. She should be from a family of good religion and character.

That she be not too closely related to her husband. 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab is reported to have said:

"Marry afar and do not become sickly."

As we saw in the hadith, it is desirable for the man to look at the woman before marrying her. Also, the guardian of the woman should investigate the religion of the suitor, his character and his conditions for if he marries her to a man of corrupt character or of innovation in his deen, he will have transgressed against her and against himself.

A man said to Al-Hassan Al-Basriy: "To whom should I marry my daughter?" Al-Hassan said, "To one who fears Allah for if he comes to love her, he will honor her and if he dislikes her he will not oppress her."

A Look at the Obligations upon the Husband and Those Upon the Wife

As for the man, he must maintain justice and good character in twelve issues.

Al-Walima. The marriage celebration/feast. This is a strong sunnah and something desirable in Islam.

Good character with his wife and patience with her irritations due to her weaknesses. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

Take care with regard to women. Verily, the woman was created from a rib and the most crooked part of the rib is the top. So, if you insist on straightening it you will only break it and if you leave it, it will remain crooked. So take care with regard to women.

From Ibn Abbas who said, "I wanted for a long time to ask Umar regarding the two wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about whom Allah said {If you [two] repent to Allah, your hearts are indeed so inclined...}" ... he said, "They are Hafsah and Ai'shah", then he told the stories saying: "We people of Quraish were a people who controlled our women. But when we came to Al-Medina we found a people controlled by their women. Our wives began to learn from them. One day I became angry with my wife and she began arguing with me. I criticized her for this arguing of hers and she said, Do you condemn me for arguing with you? For by Allah the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) argue with him and one of them may boycott him (peace and blessings be upon him) the whole day until the night. So I set out and went to Hafsah's house and said to her, "Is it true that you argue with Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him)?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Is it true that one of you may boycott him for the whole day until the night?" She said, "Yes." I said, "She is surely in shame who does that among you and in loss. Does one of you feel safe from Allah's anger upon her for the anger of His Messenger. What if she were to die [in that state]? Do not argue with Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and do not ask him for anything. Rather, ask me for anything that occurs to you and do not be misled by the fact that your neighbor may be more pleasing to and more loved by Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) than you. (He means Ai'shah).

To be friendly with one's spouse including playing around with them and joking with them. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) had a foot-race with Ai'shah on more than one occasion and he used to joke with his wives. He said to Jabir upon hearing that he had married a mature woman (because he had been left with nine sisters as orphans):

"... Choose a [young] virgin that she may play with you and you with her..."

That the husband be moderate in such matters avoiding both being stern and unfriendly but also avoiding being so "loose" as to fall short in his obligations as head and leader of the family or to lose respect as such.

Moderation with regard to jealousy such that he does not become unmindful of basic principles and the dangers of temptation but also not to go to extremes in suspicion and thinking evil of his mate.

"If you stay away for an extended period, do not return to your family at night."

Moderation with regard to expenses and spending on his family. He should avoid both extremes of israf (excess) and taqtir (miserliness).

The husband should study and learn all of the rulings of the Shari'ah having to do with marriage, married life and women's periods. He should make sure his wife knows all that she needs to know in this regard and remove any innovations or deviant beliefs or practices that she may have. He should teach her what she needs to know about her monthly periods such as that if it ends one rakat (of time) before Maghrib that she must make Dhuhr and Asr and if it ends one rak'at before Fajr that she should pay back Maghrib and 'Isha. It is rare for women to take care of such rulings.

If he has more than one wife, he must do justice between them. The justice which is required is in nights spent with each and what is spent on or given to each. Equality with regard to love, affection, etc. is NOT required of the husband for that is not within his control. If he is going on a trip and wishes to take one with him, he can "draw straws" to decide which one.

"Whoever has two wives and favors one of them will come on Qiyama with half is body twisted (or out of line)."

From Ai'shah that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to divide betweenhis wives and was just between them and he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "O Allah, this is my division in that which I control (or "own") so do notblame me regarding that which you control and I do not control."

Nushuz (rebellion or turning away). If Nushuz originates from the woman, the husband can reprimand her and require her to return to obedience. However, he must move slowly and in steps only after being sure with himself that it is not he himself who has transgressed bounds and become the cause of her misbehavior. If he is certain of this, then he should begin with only reminders and good words with guidance from the Quran and the Sunnah. Only if this is of no avail should he escalate to the other measures such as sleeping separately, boycotting (no more than three days), etc.

Etiquettes of having children:

Never rejoice at getting a boy or a girl instead of the other one. You have no way of knowing in which Allah may place the greatest good.

Pronounce the adhan in the babies right ear and the iqamah in its left right after it is born.

Give them a good name. The sunnah is that an individual has only a single name. The rest of his name consists of his father's name which may be followed by his grandfather's name and then by the family or clan name. Nothing but the first name should ever be changed. If the name has a bad meaning such as "'Abdush-Shams" (slave of the sun), it should be changed, but ONLY if it is the individual's FIRST name. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) changed the names of several of the sahabah because of their negative meanings, but there was never any case where the father's name was omitted or changed even where it has a completely reprehensible meaning. Harb ibn 'Abdush-Shams was one such case. His name became 'Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Abdush-Shams.

Al-Aqiqah. Sacrifice two lambs for a boy and one lamb for a girl. Prepare the food and invite the Muslims to eat.

At-Tahnik. Place some mashed date or other sweet item on the roof of the baby's mouth and moving it around with the finger to stimulate eating and make du'a for the baby. This is at 7 days, the same time as the Aqiqah.

From Asma': I became pregnant from Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair. I left when nearing full term and went to Al-Medina. After arriving at Quba, I gave birth there. I brought him to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and put him on his (peace and blessings be upon him) lap. He (peace and blessings be upon him) called for some dates, chewed them and then put them from his (peace and blessings be upon him) mouth to the baby's mouth. So, the first thing to enter his stomach was the saliva of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Then he did the Tahnik with dates, made du'a for him and asked for blessings upon him. That was the first baby born in Islam. (i.e., in Al-Medina and among the Muhajirin.)

Circumcision of boys.

Divorce. Divorce is allowed in Islam but not encourage nor to be taken lightly. Divorce is the sole prerogative of the man. If a woman desires to end the marriage but the man is unwilling to do so, she must resort to khul'a before the imam or a qadhi. A man should not surprise his wife with a divorce without any misdeed on her part. It is not allowed for the woman to force her husband to divorce without any misdeed or corruption on his part.

From Thauban that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Any woman who asks her husband for divorce without any wrongdoing, forbidden to her is even the scent of Paradise." (This hadith is authentic.)

If he must divorce, he must adhere to the following:

He must divorce her after her period is complete and before they have been together.

He should pronounce only one divorce and take advantage of the period of ruj'a during which he can easily reverse his decision.

To be easygoing and generous during the process, as Allah said {... or separate from them in a goodly manner...}. It is narrated that Al-Hassan ibn Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both) divorced his wife and sent ten thousand dirhams to her. Upon receiving them, she said, "A small provision from a departing lover."

Do not disclose any of her secrets to anyone else.

"Among the most evil people before Allah on Qiyama is a man who shares intimacy with his wife and she with him and then he exposes her secrets."

It is reported from some of the early generations that a man wanted to divorce his wife. It was said to him: "What is the problem with her?" He said, "An intelligent man does not violate secrets." After he had divorced her, they asked him, "Why did you divorce her?" He answered, "What business have I with another's woman?".