Sunday, February 27, 2011

Muslim Marriage - A contract and a religious obligation

Islam is generally construed as a backward religion with old and barbaric customs, with biases against women. Muslim marriage is generally seen as 'man with four wives', though one hardly finds such cases. Though, Islam allows it under certain conditions, people know that it's not feasible nor are the conditions prescribed easy to meet. But God forbid, in queer or unforseen circumstances if a man happens to marry again or does so to help someone, both the man and the woman are secure. And the man cannot take a woman for a ride. In fact, its sad to see few non-Muslim women who've become the target of men, who were already married without disclosing such a thing. These women who unknowingly become second wives or girlfriends with marriage in mind, have no legal claim on the man for maintenance. So, how is Islamic Marriage Laws different here ? What are the conditions of marriage ? And who can marry ?

Let us understand what is the importance of a marriage in Islam ?

What is Marriage ?
A marriage is a mutual contract/ agreement between a man and a woman (bride and groom). Both bride and groom have the liberty to define various terms and conditions of their liking and make them a part of this contract. The marriage contract in Islam is not a sacrament. It is revocable.
The consent of the girl is of great importance in Islam (whereas in some religions or cultures, a girl's consent is not often sought). The Qazi especially asks both the boy and the girl for their verbal consent, followed by their signatures on the 'Nikaah Naama' (marriage certificate). A copy of the 'Nikaah Naama' is retained at the local mosque, while one copy is handed over to the family / bride n groom, for further registration according to local laws if residing in non-Islamic country.

What is the Importance of Marriage ?
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."

What do the Hadeeths state about marriage ?
Prophet Mohammed SAS 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]
Another Hadeeth specifies : "Marriage is my sunnah. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me."

What are the Requisites of Marriage ?
Primary Requirements
1) Mutual agreement (Ijab-O-Qubul) by the bride and the groom
2) Two adult and sane witnesses
3) Mahr (marriage-gift) to be paid by the groom to the bride either immediately (muajjal) or deferred (muakhkhar), or a combination of both.

Secondary Requirements
1) Legal guardian (wakeel) representing the bride
2) Written marriage contract ("Aqd-Nikah) signed by the bride and the groom and witnesses by two adult and sane witnesses
3) Qazi (State appointed Muslim judge) or Ma'zoon (a responsible person officiating the marriage ceremony)
4) Khutba-tun-Nikah to solemnize the marriage

Who Can Marry ?
Every man who has the means can marry.
Amongst the women, the divorcees and widows can also re-marry.
With regard to divorced women, Quran says :
"And when you divorce women, and they have come to the end of their waiting period, hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair manner." [Noble Quran 2:232]
With regard to widows, Quran says :
"And if any of you die and leave behind wives, they bequeath thereby to their widows (the right to) one year's maintenance without their being obliged to leave (their husband's home), but if they leave (the residence) of their own accord, there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves in a lawful manner." [Noble Quran 2:234]
Widows are at liberty to re-marry, even within the period mentioned above; and if they do so they must forgo their claim to traditional maintenance during the remainder of the year.

The wrong practices of taking dowry from brides and later hurting them for it, forced marriages (without consent), Sati or 'confinement of widows' or 'shunning of divorcees' are practices which have no room in Islam. In fact, women have rights like choosing their husbands, getting 'Mahr' on marriage as her right and even right to re-marry after a divorce or on the death of her husband. And these rules were laid down 1400 years back! Who says Islam is a backward religion?

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