Social System of Islam- Selection of Spouse & Engagement

Summary of 7.24 “Islam’s View of Sex”

We started a new segment int this series which deals with the family life in Islam.’ We started by introducing Islam’s attitude and view towards the matter of sex.’ We tried to indicate that Islam does not see sex in-itself as something which is negative or evil.’ However, evil may occur in the way a person seeks to satisfy this basic instinctive human need.’ We said that Islam regards marriage as the only legitimate for the satisfaction of this need.

It was also indicated that Islam does not only sanction legitimate satisfaction of this need but it even considers marriage as a commendable act and something that a person is spiritually rewarded for.’ In addition we find several sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his teachings which indicate that sex is not only a matter of physical activity as it has to be done within the context of mutual love and affection.’ We sighted explicit words of the Prophet in which he recommends that a person should be considerate and loving to the needs and situation of their spouse.

7.25′ Selection of Spouse and Engagement

Host:’ Can you explain the basic significance of marriage in Islam and Islamic philosophy?

Jamal Badawi:

Marriage in Islam is related to the overall human solidarity and social cohesiveness.’ It also relates to the broader family structure just as much as it relates to the intimate circle of husband and wife and their relationship.

On the broader level we find in (25:54) in the Quran it says ‘It is He Who has created mankind from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things).” We notice here that it does not only talk about husband and wife but it talks about the human being in general’ who was created from a basic substance then He spread them into networks of relationships.

On the second level regarding marriage as the basic part of the broader family structure in society we find in (16:72) ‘And Allah has made for you mates (and companions) of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best: will they then believe in vain things, and be ungrateful for Allah’s favors?” The emphasis here is on the role of marriage in expanding family relationships and having children and grandchildren and as such keeping the continuity of the human race.’ There is a hint of procreation being a function of marriage.

In addition to this, marriage as an intimate relation between husband and wife is a soothing state that provides humans with comfort and tranquility.’ A a key verse from the Quran regarding this is (30:21) ‘And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.’

First of all, the verse starts by indicating that marriage is one of the signs of God.’ It is a sign of his love, compassion, interest in our needs, human nature and our basic welfare.’ We find that this attitude stands in sharp contrast to the views that marriage is just symbolic or is a reminder of the fall of mankind from Paradise and relates to the sinful nature of human being.

Second it uses the term azwajan in Arabic which can be used for both male and female which shows that it is a mutual matter.’ Ofcourse the term zawjat is the term for females only.’ This broader term is used to indicate that this is a mutual matter.’ In fact in the Quran in (66:3-5) it refers to the plurality of females using the term azwajan.’ This is a significant point as the matter is mutual.

The other point is that it says ‘He created for you mates from among yourselves’ which puts the basic foundation for human and spiritual between men and women.’ One verse says that one proceeds from the other.

Another significants is when it says that God created them so that ‘ye may dwell in tranquillity with them.” The original Arabic says litaskono illiha which comes form sakan and could mean a number of things.’ It could refer to tranquility from an emotional sense, to find psychological gratification, legitimately through marriage.’ This does not exclude the emotional physical tranquility by reduction of tension and satisfaction of the basic human instincts.’ It could also mean another type of sakan, tranquility, of faith or joining together in something that has a spiritual sanction.’ This is a very beautiful word that reflects on different shades of meaning.

One can clearly see from this verse that Islam regards the mutual attraction of males and females as something healthy and natural.’ The verse does not condemn that God has ordained between you love and mercy.’ The attraction between husband and wife is not condemned at all so long as it is channelled through the appropriate way of satisfaction through marriage.’ We contrast this with the example that marriage or pregnancy is something that is related to the fall of mankind from Paradise and that woman gets pregnant by way of punishment for eating from the forbidden tree.’ There is no such notion as we have described in greater detail in the twelfth program in this series.’ In fact the Quran describes pregnancy, in itself, as something which is looked at and anticipated with a great deal of excitement.’ For example in chapter (7:189) it says ‘It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.” This is presented as a gift from God rather than something connected with original sin.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that Islam does not encourage or permit celibacy or monasticism.’ In fact in (5:87) of the Quran God forbids a believer from making unlawful the things that God made lawful which includes marriage and legitimate satisfaction of human needs.

Host:’ What is the criteria that one should follow in the selection of a spouse?

Jamal Badawi:

In one saying narrated in Bukhari and Muslim he says that a woman is sought for marriage for four reasons : for her wealth, the nobility of her family, her beauty and for her religiosity.’ Then he adds ‘Blessed and fortunate is he who wins a religious woman.” This shows that even though people look for wealth nobility of family or beauty that the best the most important criteria is that of character.

In a similar saying he says ‘Do not marry women simply because of their beauty, because that beauty could be a cause of their fall, nor should you marry a woman simply because their wealth, because they can exceed the limits and become arrogant, but you should mary them because of their religiosity, a slave woman who has good character than anyone who might be flashy before your eyes.’

He even warned as narrated in Ibn Habban and he said ‘Whoever marries a woman simply because of her property or wealth God will increase him in poverty and whoever seeks to marry a woman simply because of the nobility of her family Allah will increase him in lowliness but whoever seeks marriage to a woman in order to help himself lower his gaze and to protect his chastity or to be kind to his relatives then God will bless him for her and her for him.” Of course this doesn’t say that beauty is not something to consider, its just a matter of priority and one should not be mislead by one aspect in the character of the individual while forgetting what is more essential.’ We have to remember that beauty is not just physical appearance there is inner beauty, and there is radiation that comes from the individual regardless of what he or she looks like which reflects a different type of beauty which more lasting.

To indicate that there is nothing with beauty in itself Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as narrated in Nassa’ai and other sources has been quoted as saying that ‘The best thing that a person can get after obedience and faith in God is a good woman: when he looks at her she pleases him (because of her beauty, character and cheerfulness), if he asks her to do something she obeys (of course this obedience is fare and reasonable as there is no arrogance or rebelliousness but understanding), third if he has an oath from her she would fulfill it and fourth if he is absent she guards him (protects her chastity and looks after his property).” Also, in another saying he says that ‘God is beautiful and He loves the beautiful.” Again beauty is not something that is pushed aside.’ In addition to this the Prophet (PBUH) recommended that one marries one that is loved, lovable and fertile.’ There is a Hadith that says marry ‘The one who is fertile, gives birth to children and a woman who is loving and lovable.

Host:’ This is guidance that is given to men but what about guidance for the woman in her choice of a partner?

Jamal Badawi:

There is not much difference because even though the points that the Prophet mentioned were in the context of a man looking for an appropriate woman to marry (it is customary for the man to seek the hand of a woman) the same basic criteria are applicable to both male and female.’ There are sayings of the Prophet which address the woman’s choice in a mate.’ Some of the Ahadith are directed to her directly and some are directed to her father or guardian (who is usually approached to seek the hand of the girl).

One saying narrated in Ibn Hiban he says ‘Do not give your girls in marriage to someone who is wicked, fasique, because whoever does that destroys their future family connections” In one instance the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Al Hassan, was asked by one man: ‘I have a daughter, I don’t know who to giver her to in marriage?” He said ‘Giver her in marriage to someone who is God conscious because if he loves her he would b every generous with her and if he doesn’t like her or if he hates her he will not commit injustice to her.” In addition to this the Prophet (PBUH) says in one narrated by Al Tirmithy, Al Hakim and Ibn Maja ‘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.” This is a lesson that people should not just give their daughters in marriage to someone because they are rich or have social status but that the individual should have piety and character regardless of his financial state.

In the Quran in (24:32) it says ‘Marry those among you who are single, or the virtuous ones among yourselves, male or female: if they are in poverty, Allah will give them means out of His grace: for Allah encompasseth all, and he knoweth all things.’ Poverty should not be an obstacle for a successful marriage.’ As I mentioned earlier generally speaking whatever applies to the man inn terms of his choice of a wife also applies to the woman’s choice in a husband.’ She should chose a person based on his character and religiosity.

Host:’ Is it possible under Islamic Law for the woman to take the initiative and propose marriage to the man?

Jamal Badawi:

I don’t know of any text that prohibits this and in fact there may be some text that shows that it is permissible.’ Before Prophet Muhammad was given the mission the proposal for marriage to his wife Khadijah (his first wife of 25 years) the proposal came from her.’ She did it in a decent way: she sent one of her lady friends to talk to the prophet.’ Her friend asked him why don’t you get married he replied that he doesn’t have enough.’ She told him how about if you are invited to marry one who has the wealth, nobility and character and she mentioned to him the name of Khadijah.’ It was done in an indirect suggestive way.’ There is no problem if it is done in a decent way like that.

Even after Islam there is a case where a women offered herself in marriage to the Prophet.’ He did not accept but he did not condemn her for offering herself in marriage and he tried to find her another person who would be interested.’ There is nothing wrong with this but in most cultures and in consideration of the nature of the woman (some women might be shy and feel more dignified if someone seeks their hand) but this doesn’t mean that a woman is forbidden from sending a feeler or making proposal for marriage.

Host:’ How can a spouse be selected since dating and courting is not permissible in Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, as has been indicated in the series on Moral Teachings in Islam that Islam does not except dating as is practiced in the West (people living together or going out alone).’ This is not permissible in Islam and is unlawful.’ When people talk of dating and courting as something that is necessary in order to make a choice when deciding on a mate they make a subtle assumption that having this loose relationship before any commitment contributes to the future stability of the family.’ This is hardly understandable in view of the very high rate of divorce in societies which have this free unrestricted dating.’ Divorce rates are around 40-50% in these places.’ This shows that all these trials (dating) do not necessarily’ contribute to stability in the family.’ We always hear about people who get married and after a few months their baby is born.

Marriage is not like buying things from the store; where one has to try things on before they can be sure if they made a good choice.’ Marriage is more noble and more humane than that.’ Indeed not only is premarital sexual relations forbidden and the doors before it (freely dating) are closed but it may also contribute to the lack of confidence and comfort in the future.’ A male or female who knows that his/her spouse allowed themselves to have intimate relationship before commitment and marriage would not have much trust that extramarital relations would not continue after marriage.

I think this question is related to another extreme that is found in the practice of some people which is practiced by some Muslims.’ This extreme is preventing people who are engaged to each other to at least see each other or talk to each other.’ This practice is contrary to Islam.’ In Ahamad, Ibn Maja and Al Tirmithi it was narrated that one of the companions of the Prophet, Al Mughira Ibn Shuba, came to the prophet and he told him that he was getting married.’ The Prophet told him ‘Look at her because this might generate a feeling of closeness and compassion and a relationship between you and her.” In Bukhari and Muslim it was said that a man came to the Prophet and told him that he had a marriage contract with a woman from Al Ansar and the Prophet said ‘Did you look at her?” He said no.’ The Prophet said ‘Go look at her because there is something special in the eyes of people of Al Ansar.” Again he encouraged having this experience before getting married.’ Of course when the prophet talks about ‘seeing’ he doesn’t mean what happens today with people dating or seeing each privately.’ Islamic Law provides that he has the right to talk to her and see her but not alone, it should be in the presence of some of her relatives who are not lawful for her to marry (like her mother, he sister, her brother or father) provided that the girl is wearing Islamic dress.

There are some Islamic jurists like Yousif Alkaradawi and Albahi Al Khuli who relate this Hadith of the Prophet as narrated in Abu Dawwood as meaning that they have the right to talk and to go out in the presence of other to find out more about each other.

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