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 tranquility, contentment and comfort in the company of the other. The Qur’an 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 tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts] . . .) (Qur’an 30:21)
This is the strongest of bonds, in which Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) 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 behavior 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 (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
She chooses a good husband
One of the ways in which Islam has honored 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. ................
“My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). He said to me: ‘Accept what your father has arranged.’ I said, ‘I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.’ He said, ‘Then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.’ I said, ‘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).’” 2
At first, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘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 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. ‘A’ishah (radhiallahu 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. Bukhari quotes Ibn ‘Abbas describing this freed woman who insisted on the annulment of her marriage to someone she did not love; the big-hearted Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commented on this moving sight, and sought to intervene. Ibn ‘Abbas said:
The true Muslim woman devotes herself to taking care of her house and husband. She knows her husband’s rights over her, and how great they are, as was confirmed by the Prophet’s words:
“No human being is permitted to prostrate to another, but if this were permitted I would have ordered wives to prostrate to their husbands, because of the greatness of the rights they have over them.”10
“If I were to order anyone to prostrate to anyone else, I would have ordered women to prostrate to their husbands.”11
‘A’ishah (radhiallahu anha) asked Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “Who has the greatest rights over a woman?” He said, “Her husband.” She asked, ‘And who has the greatest rights over a man?” He said, “His mother.”12
A woman came to ask the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, “Do you have a husband?” She said, “Yes.” He asked her, “How are you with him?” She said, “I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me.” He said, “Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell.”13
How can the Muslim woman complain about taking care of her house and husband when she hears these words of Prophetic guidance? She should fulfill her household duties and take care of her husband in a spirit of joy, because she is not carrying a tiresome burden, she is doing work in her home that she knows will bring reward from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
The Muslim woman does not forget that her obedience to her husband is one of the things that may lead her to Paradise, as the Prophet
(sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“ Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Any woman who dies, and her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise.’” 15
When these hadith refer to the husband being angry with his wife, they refer to cases in which the husband is right and the wife is wrong. When the opposite is the case, and the husband is wrong, then his anger has no negative implications for her; in fact, Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) will reward the wife for her patience. But the wife is still required to obey her husband, so long as no sin is involved, because there should be no obedience to a created being if it entails disobedience to the Creator.
Concerning this, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
She is obedient, kind and loving towards her husband, ever eager to please him. She does not disclose his secrets or upset his plans
. She stands beside him at times of hardship, offering her support and wise advice. She shares his joys and sorrows. She endears herself to him by the way she looks and behaves, and fills his life with joy and happiness. She encourages him to obey Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) in different ways, and motivates him by joining him in different activities. She respects his mother and family. She refrains from looking at other men. She keeps away from foolish and worthless talk. She is keen to provide an atmosphere of peace, tranquility and stability for her husband and children. She is strong of character without being rude or aggressive, and is kind and gentle without being weak. She earns the respect of those who speak to her. She is tolerant and forgiving, overlooking errors and never bearing grudges.
Thus the Muslim wife deserves to be the most successful wife. She is the greatest blessing that Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) may bestow upon a man, and an incomparable source of joy in this life. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) indeed spoke the truth when he said:
“This world is nothing but temporary conveniences, and the greatest joy in this world is a righteous woman.”73