Summary of 3.28 “Selection of Spouse and Engagement”

We covered five basic points.’ One was to clarify some of the basic aims and objectives of marriage.’ We indicated that marriage is not regarded in Islam as an inevitable evil nor is it connected with original sin because there is no such thing in Islam.’ We quoted from chapter 30 in the Quran that marriage is a blessing and bounty from God.

The second major point was the discussion of the criteria for the selection one’s future spouse.’ We quoted the sayings and advise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that one should not seek a spouse simply for wealth, beauty or for the nobility of the family but rather on the basis of religiosity and the character of the individual.’ In the case of selecting a future wife they should chose one that is fertile, loving and lovable.

Third the same criteria apply also to a woman selecting her future husband.’ We quoted that she should marry a person with good character so that if he loves her he would be generous to her and if he doesn’t he would not be unjust.’ Fourth, a woman is permitted to seek marriage with a man, even though it is usually done the other way around.’ Finally, there is no objection in Islam that people who are engaged see and talk with each other provided of course that there are certain requirements of behavior and modesty and that they do not have total privacy.

7.26′ Engagement Continued

Host:’ Are there any particular reason behind the precautions that you just referred too?

Jamal Badawi:

To start with an engagement is the first step in the process of marriage but it is not marriage.’ It is only a promise.’ There is a possibility that things may not go through and marriage may not necessarily materialize as a result of this relationship.’ If the couple are allowed total privacy then there may be question of either or both sides because things may have happened during this time.’ This might jeopardize the opportunity for marriage to other people especially in a community or society where chastity is essential.

This is more of a protection for the female.’ It is quite possible that some people who might be unscrupulous may exploit the dreams of a girl to get married by hiding behind the engagement and promise of marriage till they achieve their needs and then abandon the girl.’ Of course this might be quite harmful to her reputation and she may even get pregnant.

We should remember two things.’ In general in Islam, as we indicated under Moral Teachings, even in cases where there is no engagement the couple are not supposed to be left alone in total privacy.’ This is a matter of moral teachings and protection.’ The Prophet (PBUH) said as indicated in Ahmad ‘Let no man be in total privacy with a woman (who is not lawful unto him) because if they do Satan will be their third.” This is just a type of safeguard.’ We should also be emphasized that these precautions do not mean that they should never meet.’ They should meet and talk of their future plans but someone should be present and they should not be alone.

Host:’ Is it permissible for one to see their fiance without their knowledge?

Jamal Badawi:

If there is clear necessity for that there is nothing wrong with it.’ One of the companions of the Prophet, Jabira Ibn Abd Allah narrated after he got married that he used to hide and watch his future wife.’ Some times there is necessity to try to discover the character of the individual.’ The same thing would apply to a woman.

Host: In the case of engagement, are there formal procedures that are to be followed or that are recommended?

Jamal Badawi:

In Islam there are no particular formalities that must be followed.’ It is an informal procedure.’ It is mainly a promise for marriage which is a preliminary approach.

What is most customary the guy would go to the girl’s father or legal guardian (whomever he or she may be) and he would seek the hand of the girl.’ Some people prefer to have a little party which serves as an announcement.’ Or a gift is offered to symbolize the attachment with the family.’ None of these are a must as it could even be an indirect approach towards the individual.

Host:’ What if a person gives a gift to announce the engagement but then the engagement is broken: would the gift be returned?

Jamal Badawi:

In Islam the equivalent of a gift is called hiba which has certain rules in Shari’a.’ There are two kinds of gifts.’ There are gifts which are given with no expectation of it being returned.’ This is just like giving something to a poor person which is just like a donation or gift.’ The rule for this type of gift is that one should not go back on it.’ There are sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) that one should not go back on this type of gift.’ The second type is given in expectation of something in return.’ A gift given by a fiance is understood to be conditional to the fulfillment of marriage.’ Here we have two situations: either that the engagement is broken on the behalf of the female or the male.’ If the engagement is broken by the woman’s side (usually receives the gift) then the jurists agree that he is entitled to have the gifts returned.’ If the thing he gave is still available then he gets it back.’ If the thing is used up or sold (a gift should not be sold) then he is entitled to a compensation equivalent to the price of the gift.’ If however the male breaks the engagement there are two opinions.’ The Maliki jurists say that he is not entitled to anything whether it is the actual gift or the value of the gift.’ The Hanafi jurists feel that he is entitled to get back his gift if it is present; but he is not entitled to it if has been used up or consumed.

Host:’ Is the same true if the woman gave a gift to the fiance and the engagement is broken?

Jamal Badawi:

The same thing applies to the female.’ The only reason I focused on the male giving the gift is simply because this is usually the customary practice.’ It is the customary practice among other cultures also.

Host:’ Other than a gift are there other financial liabilities attached one becoming engaged?

Jamal Badawi:

The basic rule in Islamic jurisprudence is that there is no additional compensation.’ The reason being is that an engagement is simply a promise to get married.’ The obligation is really a moral type of obligation and the person should not go back on it unless something is discovered that is quite essential.

There are some contemporary problems that might arise today that did not in the past.’ For example, in cases where a fiance asks his wife to be that he wants her to resign from her job so that she can giver her full attention to her household and children and she agrees.’ Then she resigns from her job and then he breaks the engagement.’ This is the case that was not addressed by early jurists but within the boundaries of Islamic Law and using the same principles some contemporary jurists address it.’ For example, if after he breaks off the engagement she tries to get he job back and can’t Dr. Sabooni feels that she is entitled to compensation.’ He suggested that this should be equivalent to half of the marriage gift.’ This is a gift given at the time of the nuptial contract whether it is the amount they agreed upon or what is customary.’ The general rule is no but if there is harm then we follow the general rule in Shari’ah that says one should not harm himself or others.

Host:’ Are there any other basic rules to observe during engagement?

Jamal Badawi:

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said as quoted in Muslim and Ahmad ‘One should not engage a woman who is already engaged to someone else.” First, its a social curtsy if a man has already engaged a woman no other person should intervene at a time when they are still discussing and there are some preliminary agreements between them.’ It is a matter that will help to prevent disputes or bad feelings between individuals or between families that are involved.’ I would say that the same thing applies to the woman even the Hadith speaks about the man but in every respect there is no reason that this would not apply to the woman.’ If a woman is initiating engagement she should not engage a man who is engaged to another woman.’ In addition to this a Muslim man should not engage a woman who is going through a waiting period.’ By this we mean a woman who is divorced a revocable divorce.’ This woman would have to wait for three months, which we will get into when we talk about divorce.’ During the three months following divorce a Muslim woman is not supposed to get married.’ This also could block the way for reconciliation.’ In Islam, during the three month waiting period there is an ample opportunity for reconciliation.

A similar situation is the case of a woman who’s husband recently died, a widow.’ According to the Quran she should wait for 130 days before she can get married.’ A person should not openly engage such a woman.’ However, in this case as well as the case of a woman who is divorced irrevocably, after the third time, jurists agree that they can get engaged but not openly.’ This is called ta’reed which is giving a hint of some interest but waiting till the waiting period finishes.’ The man can tell the widow that he hoping to get married soon or that he is praying to God to give him a pious wife like herself which is a permissible hint.

There are other things that one should keep in mind during an engagement.’ One is to observe for the basic need for compatibility.’ Second, one should not engage a woman who is illegitimate unto him.

Host:’ What is the importance of compatibility and its effects on selection of a’ spouse?

Jamal Badawi:

One of the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) says that a woman should only be married to a person who is compatible to her.’ In interpreting what compatibility means there have been different opinions.’ Some jurists went into greater detail just by using their own judgement to include in the conditions for compatibility things like: similarity in financial status, social status, some even mention similarity in profession or type of education.’ These are their opinions of course and it does not come from a specific text from the Prophetic tradition.

A better interpretation given by many jurists is that compatibility simply means that one tries to make sure that there is a reasonable chance of success in marriage between the two individuals involved.’ As one knows success in marriage is not contingent on financial status, social status or any other factor.’ These may be contributing factors, but they are not conditions for the success of marriage.’ They say that any Muslim believer is compatible with any other Muslim.’ This in itself is what is meant by compatibility.

In chapter (49:10) ‘The Believers are but a single Brotherhood.” In (49:13) it says ‘Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.” This removes any barrier aside from the distinction of piety.

The other evidence is found in the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) narrated in Al Tirmithi ‘If a person comes to you to seek the hands of your daughters sisters: give him if you are comfortable and assured of his religiosity and character.’ If you don’t do that there will be a lot commotion and corruption on earth.” He did not mention anything about social or financial status just a person who is good in character.’ The Quran supports this in (2:221) ‘A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you.” This again emphasizes on faith.

In the behavior of Prophet Muhammad he consented to marriages of a free person to a person in bondage or slavery.’ He also consented to a person who was a former slave and a noble woman of Qurish like in the case of Zaid and Zainab (who was a relative of the Prophet).’ Looking at all these points it would appear that the main compatibility feature is piety.’ However we should add for the interest of balance even if this is taken as the fundamental basis for assessing the individual for marriage it does not mean that one should totally ignore things that may threaten the stability of marriage (that is not wealth or social standing).’ If a man who is seventy years old is married to a twenty year old girl there is a problem of compatibility.’ Islam does not say that age must be within so many years, but if there is a big gap like that it may not be a very successful marriage.’ In some cases if there is a big gap in the educational level which would prevent communication.’ If in this particular case there is a risk that marriage will not succeed then we must look into this as an additional factor.

Host:’ Who are women that one can not become engaged to or marry?

Jamal Badawi:

Whatever remark I make on this issue applies equally to male and female.’ I am going to assume that the male in this case is seeking marriage, even thought the same rules apply to both.’ Basically there are two major categories of prohibitions.’ One is the category of people who are prohibited from marriage to the individual on a permanent basis and two those who are prohibited on a temporary basis (if certain conditions change it may become lawful).

Among the permanent prohibitions or mahram there are three subcategories.’ First, there are those whom the individual is prohibited from marrying because of lineage (includes four categories).’ One can not marry his mother or grandmother.’ Second one can not marry his descendants such as his daughter or granddaughter.’ Third one can not marry to the branches of his parents like his sister (whether she is his full or half sister).’ Fourthly one can not marry the branches of his grandparents (aunt from mother’s or father’s side).

Second, there are those who are those who are unlawful because of marital relationship.’ From example a person can not marry his mother in law, his step daughter or a woman who was married to his father (widow or divorcee).’ Nor can he marry a widow or divorcee of his son.

Third, prohibition is in the case of suckling.’ In some societies it is customary to give her child to another woman to suckle.’ Even though the baby is not her own is regarded as a mother to the child.’ So when he grows up he may not marry her or any girl who suckled from her.’ The Prophet says that anything that is prohibited because of lineage is prohibited because of suckling.’ A boy can not marry a sister that suckled from the same mother or her aunt.

As far as the temporary prohibition it includes categories such as a woman who does not believe in any reviled religion until she becomes a believer, a woman who is in the waiting period (because of a divorce or because she was widowed).