MARRIAGE IN ISLAM:
In Islam, marriage is a blessed contract between a man and a woman, in which each becomes “permitted” to the other, and they begin the long journey of life in a spirit of love, co-operation, harmony and tolerance, where each feels at ease with the other, and finds tranquillity, contentment and comfort in the company of the other. The Quran has described this relationship between men and women, which brings love, harmony, trust and compassion, in the most moving and eloquent terms:
“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts] . . .”
This is the strongest of bonds, in which Allaah unites the two Muslim partners, who come together on the basis of love, understanding, co-operation and mutual advice, and establish a Muslim family in which children will live and grow up, and they will develop the good character and behaviour taught by Islam. The Muslim family is the strongest component of a Muslim society when its members are productive and constructive, helping and encouraging one another to be good and righteous, and competing with one another in good works. The righteous woman is the pillar, cornerstone and foundation of the Muslim family. She is seen as the greatest joy in a man’s life, as the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “This world is just temporary conveniences, and the best comfort in this world is a righteous women.”1 A righteous woman is the greatest blessing that Allaah can give to a man, for with her he can find comfort and rest after the exhausting struggle of earning a living. With his wife, he can find incomparable tranquillity and pleasure.
SHE CHOOSES A GOOD HUSBAND:
One of the ways in which Islam has honoured woman is by giving her the right to choose her husband. Her parents have no right to force her to marry someone she dislikes. The Muslim woman knows this right, but she does not reject the advice and guidance of her parents when a potential suitor comes along, because they have her best interests at heart, and they have more experience of life and people. For example the report quoted by Imam Bukhaari from al-Khansa’ bint Khidam: “My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allaah , sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He said to me:
“Accept what your father has arranged.”
‘I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.’
“Then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.”
‘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).'”
At first, the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, told al-Khansa’ to obey her father, and this is as it should be, because the concern of fathers for their daughters’ well-being is well-known. But when he realized that her father wanted to force her into a 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.
Islam does not want to impose an unbearable burden on women by forcing them to marry a man they dislike, because it wants marriages to be successful, based on compatibility between the partners; there should be common ground between them in terms of physical looks, attitudes, habits, inclinations and aspirations. If something goes wrong, and the woman feels that she cannot love her husband sincerely, and fears that she may commit the sin of disobeying and opposing this husband whom she does not love, then she may ask for a divorce. This is confirmed by the report in which the wife of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas, Jamilah the sister of ‘Abdullaah ibn Ubayy, came to the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, and said:
‘O Messenger of Allaah, I have nothing against Thabit ibn Qays as regards his religion or his behaviour, but I hate to commit any act of kufr when I am a Muslim.’
The Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said:
“Will you give his garden back to him?” – her mahr had been a garden.
She said: ‘Yes.”
So the Messenger of Allaah sent word to him:
“Take back your garden, and give her one pronouncement of divorce.”
According to a report given by Bukhaari from Ibn `Abbas, she said:
“I do not blame Thabit for anything with regard to his religion or his behaviour, but I do not like him.”
Islam has protected woman’s pride and humanity, and has respected her wishes with regard to the choice of a husband with whom she will spend the rest of her life. It is not acceptable for anyone, no matter who he is, to force a woman into a marriage with a man she does not like.
There is no clearer indication of this than the story of Barirah, an Ethiopian slave-girl who belonged to `Utbah ibn Abu Lahab, who forced her to marry another slave whose name was Mughith. She would never have accepted him as a husband if she had been in control of her own affairs.
‘Aa’ishah (RadiyAllahu Anha) took pity on her, so she bought her and set her free. Then this young woman felt that she was free and in control of her own affairs, and that she could take a decision about her marriage. She asked her husband for a divorce. Her husband used to follow her, weeping, whilst she rejected him. Bukhaari quotes Ibn ‘Abbas (RadiyAllahu Anhuma) describing this freed woman who insisted on the annulment of her marriage to someone she did not love; the big-hearted Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, commented on this moving sight, and sought to intervene.
Ibn `Abbas (RA) said: “Barirah’s husband was a slave, who was known as Mughith. I can almost see him, running after her and crying, with tears running down onto his beard. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said to ‘Abbas:
“O `Abbas, do you not find it strange, how much Mugith loves Barirah, and how much Barirah hates Mughith?:
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said (to Barirah):
“Why do you not go back to him?”
‘O Messenger of Allaah, are you commanding me to do so?”
:I am merely trying to intervene on his behalf.”
‘I have no need of him.'”
The Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, was deeply moved by this display of human emotion: deep and overwhelming love on the part of the husband, and equally powerful hatred on the part of the wife. He could not help but remind the wife, and ask her why she did not go back to him, as he was her husband and the father of her child. This believing woman asked him, whether he was ordering her to do so: was this a command, a binding obligation? The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, this great law-giver and educator, replied that he was merely trying to intercede and bring about reconciliation if possible; he was not trying to force anybody to do something they did not wish to. Let those stubborn, hard-hearted fathers who oppress their own daughters listen to the teaching of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam!