marriage

Is marriage compulsory in Islam?

In islam is marriage compulsory or is it a sin if one chooses not to get married. I'm a female and I feel like marriage is not meant for me nor do I think it'll bring me any happiness. I'm always been told marriage completes half of our deen so therefore it's a must in our religion.

Marriage is not compulsory. Please see these two previous answers for more details:

Are Muslims allowed to never marry?

Marriage is not necessarily “half our religion”

Is it forbidden for a Muslim to fall in love with a Christian?

Is falling in love with a Christian is haram?

Falling in love is an involuntary thing and Islam has no rules regarding it. Muslim men are permitted to marry Christian women, while Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men. Therefore if a Muslim woman falls in love with a Christian man, the falling in love in itself is not a sin, but she is not permitted to marry the man if she wants to remain a pious Muslim. Her case would be similar to a man falling in love with a woman who is already married.

Wanting to get married as a Muslim woman but having no suitors

I'm referring to the article on your personal website about the most desirable women for marriage -- well, as it happens, I am in my early twenties, a follower of Islam, fairly intelligent, and decent-looking, but I don't have Muslim men asking for my hand in marriage.. I mean, I am interested in marriage, but how do I go about finding potential suitors?

Setting up a marriage is something that each culture does in its own way. In most Muslim societies each family has hundreds of relatives and acquaintances. Marriages are set up through networking between mothers, sisters and friends (a woman may have a friend who wants to get married and know just the right man for them and try to set things up for them).

Due to the spread of university education in Muslim countries there is today also an increase in marriages between classmates whose families do not know each other. In such cases each family may do things its own way. A man and woman may come to know each other relatively well through being in the same class or working in the same place, and at some point the man may politely mention to the woman his interest in marriage, and she may tell her family, and in this way they may set up an appointment for the man to visit the family. Once their families visit one another multiple times and find that they are comfortable with their son/daughter marrying into the other family, the engagement ceremony may take place.

For Muslim immigrants, the networks that make marriage possible in the home country are often no longer be available to them, and I expect this is how it is in your case. To make up for this, you can build your own networks in the new country, for example by being involved in the mosque/halaqa/charity scene in your town so that you get to know other people. The more people you know the more likely it is that you will find the right person or that someone may refer someone to you.

Getting married is similar to setting up a successful business. A thousand books can be written on it. For some people everything works out for them with little effort, while for others it can be extremely difficult and can take many years. A devout Muslim should do what they can to have a successful marriage then leave the matter to God, knowing that He can do anything He wants and that nothing is impossible with Him. If this year your prospects of marriage seem very low, next year things may completely change.

Getting engaged Islamically without marriage

I have met this non-muslim guy who is willing to change his religion for me and always puts my happiness over his own. Now we both love each other but want to accomplish our personal goals such as uni first before we can marry and live together which would be in almost 8 years. My concern is that we won’t be able to not have sex until then.

In that case you should perform the nikah/engagement ceremony now but put off the wedding. This would make your relationship formal and halal, it would allow you to be intimate without it being sinful, while also allowing you to continue living as you do now. This is done in countries like Iran where culturally the religious engagement ceremony (the nikah) and the wedding are considered two different things that can happen years apart.

I’ve messaged you already because of this non-muslim guy couple days ago and I agree a nikah would make sense. The problem is that in my culture you have a nikah the same day you marry. Therefore my parents wouldn’t agree.

This is a matter between you and God. It is up to you to decide whether God’s pleasure is more important or your desires and parents’ opinion. This world is a testing hall. God asks you to do certain things, but lets you have the freedom to act according to your desires and watches to see what you will do. If you do what you want regardless of His wishes, you fail the test like millions of others do daily.

If you want a blessed life under His protection, you have to put His desires before your own. And if you want to live according to your own desires, God will take His blessings out of your life and your life will become a long string of meaningless inconveniences and failures.

It is in the nature of this world to present us with temptations that go against God’s wishes. This is something everyone experiences almost daily, the point in them is to allow us to prove whether we are loyal to God or to our own desires.

This is your life and it is up to you what you make of it. No one else will be held responsible for your sins.

Good luck and I hope things will turn out well for you inshaAllah.

Dealing with the aftermath of a husband’s cheating

Assalamu Alaykum. I feel so helpless right now. I don't know what to do. I have a husband, and we are married for almost 2 years. We don’t have a child yet. But my husband has a baby who was just born last month from other woman. They committed zina. The girl secretly hide her pregnancy until she gave birth and now he wants my husband to marry her but my husband said he don’t love her but he is willing to provide for the baby. My husband is receiving death threats. What I should I do?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That situation will have to be resolved by discussion between your family, his family and perhaps that woman’s. There is no quick solution to such a situation. We have to be patient and trust God to take care of us in the end.

There is the danger of your husband maintaining a relationship with that woman in secret, since he doesn’t have sufficient self-control to not sleep with other women while married. Islam strictly forbids you from staying with a husband who commits adultery and does not repent (who plans to do it again). The Quran says about such people:

The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress; and the adulteress shall marry none but an adulterer or an idolater. That has been prohibited for the believers.1

Therefore the situation must be resolved one way or another, whether it is through divorce or his promising to never see that woman again. And if he breaks his promise, then difficult as it will be, you will be required to divorce him. There is no toleration in Islam in any way for staying with a cheating spouse.

May God ease your situation and grant you patience and consolation.

Question from a reader

What does it mean that the adulterer should marry the adulteress or the idol worshiper. Aren't these things entirely different? And if a person strives to become better (if that's the main goal of Islam) then why marry someone who errs Just like you do? Aren't they by the hadd law supposed to have a death penalty so how can they have time to marry? I'm really confused about the answer.

Regarding the first part of your question, the verse is defining the boundaries between the believers and the non-believers. It is saying that marrying or staying married to an adulterer is not something a believer would do, it is only something a pagan or an adulterer would do. It is basically telling Muslims to stay away from known (unrepentant) adulterers in their societies. If they strive to be better (if they repent), then the verse does not apply to them.

As for the ḥadd punishment for adultery, this is a matter for the authorities (the police and the courts) to implement. The Quran does not assume that such an authority would exist. The Quran assumes that there will be unrepentant adulterers living in societies that Muslims also live in.

The great Egyptian scholar of Islamic law Muhammad Abu Zahra (1898 – 1974) rejected the death penalty for adultery. He based his reasoning on various arguments, such as the fact that we do not know at what point in the Prophet’s career the stonings recorded in  hadith took place; they may have taken place long before the verses on adultery in the Quran were revealed, meaning that they may be narrating events that took place at a time when the Prophet had no guidance except Jewish law. InshaAllah I will write an article to translate his full reasoning.

But even scholars who believe in the death penalty for adultery say that this is a matter for the government to carry out, so that someone who commits it may repent and go on with their lives.2 So the husband dealt with in this article, since his case did not go to court, may repent and stay married to his Muslim wife.

Can a Muslim woman marry an uncircumcised man?

How if I marry a converted man & he haven't circumcised yet. I mean, I've read it somewhere that u can't get married before circumcised first. Like, can we do the Ijab qabul first & few days after that the husband will be circumcised. Well, people who get circumcised need other people to look after them right? So what I try to say is I want to look after him during the recovery but obv it's haram before the marriage. That's why I want we get married first so I can look after him

Male circumcision is a matter of difference among scholars. The Hanafi and later Maliki opinion, and the opinion of al-Hasan al-Basri, is that it is recommended but not obligatory, while the Shafi`i and Hanbali view is that it is obligatory. According to the modern Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, there is no conclusive evidence in Islam to make it obligatory, but that it is close to being obligatory and that it should not be abandoned by a society as a whole.

In your case, you can do whatever is most convenient. Here is an answer from a Mufti in Trinidad and Tobago saying:

Being Uncircumcised does not prevent you from becoming married. There is absolutely no statement that it is haram for a Muslim woman to marry a non circumcised man. When you intend to marry, it is good to tell your spouse that you are not circumcised, so that this does not create problems in your marital relationship.

Why Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims

Why are Muslim men allowed to marry a non-Muslim but Muslim women are not allowed?

One theory is due to genetic and psychological differences between men and women, Muslim men will be better able to  remain practicing Muslims and to bring up devout Muslim children even if their wives are Christian or Jewish, while Muslim women will be less likely to accomplish these.

Scientific studies are needed to prove whether the above is true, but it seems to be true from anecdotal evidence. It is probably true that some Muslim women will be perfectly capable of remaining practicing Muslims and bringing up practicing Muslim children when married to non-Muslims, but these will be the exceptions, not the rule. It is similar to drinking wine; some people are able to enjoy it without becoming drunkards, but Islam forbids it to all Muslims since this is better for everyone. So that fact that I or you can drink wine without it causing us noticeable harm does not mean that it is halal for us and haram for others. It is haram for everyone.

If Muslim women who are married to non-Muslims are twice as likely to stop practicing Islam compared to Muslim women married to Muslim husbands, and/or if their children are twice as likely to abandon Islam, then these can be considered sufficient justification for prohibiting it.

So in this case, as in the case of wine-drinking, a person has to refrain from it for the sake of the greater good.

There might be many other reasons for forbidding such marriages, I’m mentioning only two potential explanations.

In Islam, everything is allowed unless explicitly forbidden. In the matter of sex, however, the Quran reverses matters; everything is forbidden, as numerous verses say, unless explicitly allowed. The Quran commands the believers to “guard their privates” (abstain from sex) in five places (23:5, 24:30, 24:31, 33:35, 70:29), then in the contexts of two of these verses it makes exceptions for cases of lawful relationships (23:6, 70:30). The picture that the Quran draws is that all sexual activity is forbidden, except when it is expressly allowed. Since the Quran expressly allows men to marry non-Muslim women belonging to God’s other religions, while it does not expressly allow women to do its counterpart, this can be considered strong evidence for considering the latter forbidden.

Those who want to legalize marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men say that such marriages are in a gray area, even though they are not expressly allowed, they are not expressly forbidden either. The reasoning offered by such people is that it is in the best interests of Muslim women to be allowed to marry outside the faith, that this is more likely to ensure their long-term good, and that the prohibition may have made sense in certain societies, but does not make sense in Western-style diverse and multi-religious societies.

But as I mentioned above, if such women and their potential children are more likely to abandon Islam, then that is a very good reason for prohibiting such marriages, and it is a weak argument to say that it is materially better for women to marry outside the faith if their spiritual and eternal life is harmed by this.

Islam is not forced on people, so a Muslim woman should be free to marry outside the faith from a civic law perspective, so it is ultimately a matter between the woman and God. Marriage is one of the most important decisions in life, and a Muslim woman who truly fears God and wishes to please Him will never base her marriage on what is at best in a gray area, since she cannot be sure if God will be pleased with her.

What to do when your spouse is less religious than you

A question I received recently:

I am in my early twenties and have married a woman who comes from a Muslim family. After marrying her, I have found that religion is not very important to her. I had wished to marry a woman who was my equal in faith, so that we could create a faithful family together. I feel like I have made a mistake in marrying her, and I don't know where to go from here. Why did God allow me to marry her?

My answer:

It is normal to start having doubts after marriage when you have no previous experience with it. Many ideas and assumptions about the other sex will be proven false or inaccurate once you are living the reality of marriage.

Women are generally more liberal than men and laxer when it comes to religion. I come from a conservative Muslim family but I’ve had trouble convincing close female relatives to stop engaging in negative gossip about people (i.e. backbiting, ghaibah). I know a woman who is a civil engineer (so she is educated and intelligent enough to know better), and even though she went to an Islamic boarding school where they recited Quran every night and sometimes stayed up all night for prayer, she continues to think it is her every right to gossip about people.

When dealing with women, always remember Imam al-Shafi`i’s saying: “Be harsh on yourself, easy on others.” You shouldn’t hold your wife to the same standards as yourself, and if she does the minimum that is requested of her by religion, you should be thankful for that.

I grew up knowing many great men in my extended family, highly religious, kind and observant men. But almost none of these men had wives who could match them in faith, and some had wives who only did the minimum and didn’t care about religion at all. This hasn’t stopped them from bringing up good religious families.

In a household, men and women are not equal when it comes to authority. The Quran gives men a degree of authority over women (Quran 2:228, 4:34), and perhaps part of the reason for that is that men are, in general, more observant and more conservative, though a minority of women can be found who are like this too. It is a man’s duty to keep standards high in his household, preventing lax behaviors like not praying, not fasting or eating what is not halal, though he must do this with love and kindness, not with authoritarianism:

"Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and debate with them in the best possible manner."1

If your wife does the obligatory deeds (praying, fasting, etc.) and avoids haram (alcohol, interest, etc.), then this is the most you can expect of her, and leave it to her as a free-willed human being to make up her mind to do more if she wants. If she doesn’t do the obligatory deeds or engages in haram, then you have a clear right to give her an ultimatum, for her to come back to the Straight Path and do the minimum of what’s requested of her in Islam. If she doesn’t, then in effect she is refusing to do what the Quran asks of her, meaning that she is denying its truth, and in a way she is a non-believer. There is no obligation for you to stay married to her in such a case.

If she does the minimum required of her, then the Quran encourages you to be patient and to rely on God to steer your destiny for you. The Quran says in 4:128 that when a (devoutly Muslim) husband and wife are in disagreement, making peace is always the best option, and warns them to be wary of their ego’s greedy desire for better things.

One of the companions of the Prophet didn’t like his wife. The Prophet told him to fear God and keep her, this advice of the Prophet to him is recorded in the Quran in verse 33:37. The companion (Zayd, the only companion mentioned by name in the Quran) ultimately decided to divorce her. So, while Islam teaches that a man should hold onto his wife, a man’s right of freedom of choice is respected.

A man’s role in life is to acquire worth, marry a woman, have children, take care of his family, and in this way continue Islamic civilization. For this to be successfully done, it is not necessary for the woman to be as religious as the man. Ideally, of course, that’s what we want, but in reality, the nature of men and the nature of women is different, and you will have a very hard time finding women who cares about religion as much as you do.

It is better to be practical. To be thankful for what God has given you and to try to make the best of it. Do your best to be kind, generous, patient and forgiving, rather than judgmental and demanding. Some men mistakenly try to force their women to become what they want, only to give up after years of futile effort. You must learn to trust God and leave it to Him to steer your destiny. If you do separate in the end, you should be able to say “I did my best to make things work, but it didn’t work out.”

I am not saying to be like a feather in the wind, going wherever life throws you. You must rather always face God, working to please Him. You must not face your wife constantly trying to change her. She is only a small part of the big picture. You are a servant of God and you were made to serve Him. He recommends that you try to make your marriage work even if you are not pleased with your wife. Since you are facing God and aiming to please Him, you will be kind, generous and non-judgmental toward your wife as long as she does the minimum that Islam asks of her. Whether you think she deserves this lenient treatment or not, you are not doing it for her, but for God, and you expect your reward from God.

Having an unsatisfactory wife is a difficult test since you might be thinking that maybe this is how things will be for the rest of your life. You do not want to be stuck with someone who doesn’t live up to your standards. You probably wish to get in charge of your destiny, get rid of her and get a far better woman in her place.

The problem with this is that 1. It is not your job to manage your destiny and 2. No matter how good the imaginary new woman is, assuming you can find her and marry her, you could run into new and unexpected problems that could make your life with her miserable, she may develop an illness, she may suffer an accident and go blind, she may have a bad family who constantly interfere with your life.

As a Muslim, you believe that God is the King of the universe, and that He has the power to do anything He wills. He had the power to prevent your marriage from taking place. He had the power to make you marry the perfect woman. But He didn’t. And today He has the power to swiftly end your marriage with little effort on your part, and He has the power to give you the type of woman you desire. But He doesn’t.

It is God who manages your destiny, taking you from one stage of life to another, testing you, helping you learn, helping you grow in wisdom, understanding and kindness. Your focus should be on God, He can take your life anywhere He wants, and He has the power to do it this instant if He wanted to. Since He is not doing it, that should tell you something. You must do your best in the current test you are in, you must follow His advice that trying to make your marriage work is better than separation, and the Prophet’s advice to fear God and hold onto your wife, and leave it to God to change your situation if and when He wants. You must expect only from God and ask only of Him.

You could of course ask, “What if this test is not intended for me? What if I will needlessly suffer for nothing?” If you put your focus on God, since you know that He has the power to take you out of any unwanted situation, then you will know that there is no such thing as needlessly suffering. If you keep your wife for the sake of God, God will reward you for it, both in this life and the next. And if He doesn’t want you to keep her, He will make it easy to separate.

If your marriage somehow naturally falls apart, with both of you, or at least you, trying your best to keep it together through non-judgmentalism, forgiveness and generosity, and you reach an agreement to separate without any negative emotions, without guilt and without fearing that you might be doing the wrong thing, then you can take that as a sign that God approves of the separation.

But if things go along normally, if things are good enough, if the thought of separation contains tremendous amounts of uncertainty, guilt and fear, then that is your sign that it is not time to separate, that if you were to work toward separation, you’d be going against the flow of the destiny God has chosen for you. You can do it, like Zayd did, since God respects your freedom. But it is better for you to accept it and do your best, constantly asking God for forgiveness and betterment. If you reject this test, God will give you an equally demanding test, because God will never stop testing you.

Until the day you die, if God loves you, He will constantly give you new opportunities to prove your patience, your generosity, your worth. If He gave you the perfect life, you’d have no opportunity to prove these things.

What I would do in your situation is this: I would do my best to improve myself as a Muslim, reading as much Quran as I can, praying tahajjud and constantly asking for God’s forgiveness. I would do my best to be kind and forgiving toward my wife no matter how distasteful I find her behavior. I would do more than what is strictly necessary to make the marriage work, for God’s sake, even if it displeases me to do this. I would always try to be the bigger person. I would put my focus on God, recognizing His power to change my wife and my life in any way He wishes, recognizing that all good things come from Him, not from my own efforts.

And if after all of this, I receive a clear sign that my marriage should end (she decides she wants divorce and is intent upon it), then I would do what is necessary in that situation. Maybe you will stay married to her for the next ten years, and after that separate to enjoy the type of life you desire. Or maybe in some years she will change into someone with as much faith as yourself, and then you may be glad that you stayed with her.

So my advice is the Prophet’s advice, : Fear God and keep her.

And leave it to God to take care of your destiny. Trying to steer your destiny is a heavy and exhausting burden. Free yourself from that burden. Enjoy the life that God has given you, do your best, constantly ask for God’s forgiveness, and know that God can put you in a better place anytime He decides. If you want to speed this process up, you can do it through worship, asking for forgiveness, and avoidance of sin.

To improve your situation in life, raise your status in God’s eye, and He will do it for you better than you ever could. Trying to improve your situation in life through your own efforts, rather than through God, will always lead to new situations that are as equally difficult as the one you left.

Patience means to go against your desire for the sake of God. If you patiently keep your wife despite your wishes, you will be rewarded for your patience. Patience might possibly the greatest virtue of a believer. The angels commend the believers on their patience when they are about to enter Paradise, as the Quran describes in Surat al-Ra`d:

22. And those who patiently seek the presence of their Lord, and pray regularly, and spend from Our provisions to them, secretly and openly, and repel evil with good. These will have the Ultimate Home.

23. Everlasting Gardens, which they will enter, along with the righteous among their parents, and their spouses, and their descendants. And the angels will enter upon them from every gate.

24. “Peace be upon you, because you endured patiently. How excellent is the Final Home.”

And do not try to push your wife to change for the better, or to buy her Islamic books, forward her Islamic articles or make her go to lectures hoping she will be better guided. Calling people to Islam should never be inflicted on people. They must seek Islam themselves.

It is God Who guides people, it is not people who guide people. Therefore no matter how hard we try or wish that someone was guided, our efforts and wishes may never come true.

You cannot guide whom you love, but God guides whom He wills, and He knows best those who are guided.2

God will not leave all the tests to you and neglect your wife. He will continue testing her too to help her grow and to guide her, but the stage she is in could be very different than yours, and the types of lessons she needs could be nothing like you imagine.

Leave it to God to guide her, He will do it in the best way possible.