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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taio said...


sk said...

Islamic marriage is one of the greatest example highlighting the fact that how practical Islam is. In fact no other religion really has a place for divorce. Islam has clear cut guidlines on this issue. Shagufta, I must say you have explained a very important issue "marriage" and the guidelines according to Islam. Many of the muslims in India are ignorant on this issue or tend to ignore these guidelines for their own selfish reasons.

Shagufta said...

Yes SK, sadly many Indian Muslim women do not even know their rights in Marriage. No wonder then that even Indians settled abroad prefer a wife from their homeland as elsewhere (especially Arab countries) women know their rights and can be very demanding! But funnily, non-Muslims depict them as a oppressed lot!

And divorce is a provision only in Islam, but practiced by all now.

sk said...

I totally agree with you Shagufta. I have seen in Islamic countries how the women have an upper hand over men. In fact I used to pity these men. I have seen men struggling to collect mehar in order to get married. Also, in the nikah(contract) all terms and conditions are written and the girl's father is dominating the scene. In India, it's just the opposite and the marriages are not according to Islam. In fact some husbands never even give the mehar.

Shagufta said...

Hah ! Non Muslims have the wrong impression and think that Muslim women are suppressed... in fact they have many rights and covering self from head to toe is just a sign of modesty and not to tie down the women.. the Asian (India and its neighbours, originating from India) Muslim women are lagging behind because we partly follow law of the land! :-)