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    Importance of Marriage in Islam

    The Holy Quran says,
    "And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing". (Surah an-Nur, 24:32)

    The above ayat begins with the words Wa Ankehoo (And marry…). The imperative form of the word 'nikah' implies that either it is obligatory or highly recommended. 1 According to scholars, though marriage is a highly recommended act, it becomes obligatory when there is a chance of falling into sin.
    The Prophet (S) says, "No house has been built in Islam more beloved in the sight of Allah than through marriage." 2 On another occasion the Prophet (S) said, "The best people of my nation (Ummat) are those who get married and have chosen their wives, and the worst people of my nation are those who have kept away from marriage and are passing their lives as bachelors." 3 Imam 'Ali (A.S.) exhorts, "Marry, because marriage is the tradition of the Prophet (S)". The Prophet (S) also said, "Whosoever likes to follow my tradition, then he should know that marriage is from my tradition". 4

    A. Importance of Sex in Marriage

    In Islam, marriage is not restricted to a platonic relationship between husband and wife, nor is it solely for procreation. The Islamic term for marriage, "nikah" literally means sexual intercourse. 5
    So why has Islam provided extensive rules and regulation regarding sex? This was because Islam has fully understood that sexual instincts cannot and must not be repressed. They can only be regulated for the well being of human beings in this life and for their success in the hereafter.

    Sex in married life has been openly recommended in Qur’an, "…when they [i.e., the wives] have cleansed themselves [after menstruation], you go into them as Allah has commanded…" (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:222)

    B. Fulfillment of Sexual Urge

    The Holy Prophet (S) and the Holy Imams (A.S.) also encouraged their followers to marry and to fulfill their sexual urges in lawful ways as can be seen from the following: The Prophet (S) said, "O you young men! I recommend marriage to you". 6 Imam Reza (A.S.) said, "Three things are from the traditions of the Messengers of God (A.S.): using perfume, removing the [excessive] hair and visiting one’s wife". 7

    C. Celibacy and Monasticism is Forbidden

    Islamic is totally opposed to monasticism and celibacy. 'Uthman bin Maz’un was a close companion of the Prophet (S). One day his wife came to the Prophet (S) and complained, "O Messenger of God (S)! 'Uthman fasts during the day and stands for prayers during the night". In other words, she meant to say that her husband was avoiding sexual relations during the night as well as the day. The Prophet (S) was angered. He did not even wait to put on his slippers. He went to ‘Uthman’s house and found him praying. When ‘Uthman finished his prayers and turned towards the Prophet (S), he said, "O ‘Uthman! Allah did not send me for monasticism, rather He sent me with a simple and straight [Shariah]. I fast, pray and also have intimate relations with my wife. So whosoever likes my tradition, then he should follow it; and marriage is one of my traditions". 8

    D. Beneficial Effects of a Married Life

    Various studies prove that married people remain healthier, physically and mentally. Islam has always maintained that marriage is beneficial for us in many ways. Islam also regards marriage as a way to acquire spiritual perfection.
    The Prophet (S) said, "One who marries, has already guarded half of his religion, therefore he should fear Allah for the other half." 9 How true! A person who fulfills his sexual urges lawfully would rarely be distracted in spiritual pursuits.

    E. Marriage Enhances the Value of Prayers

    The Prophet (S) said, "Two rak‘ats (cycles) prayed by a married person are better than the night-vigil and the fast of a single person." 10 A woman came to the Prophet (S) and said that she had tried everything to attract her husband but in vain; he does not leave his meditation to pay any attention to her.
    The Prophet (S) told her to inform her husband about the reward of sexual intercourse which he described as follows: "When a man approaches his wife, he is guarded by two angels and [at that moment in Allah’s views] he is like a warrior fighting for the cause of Allah. When he has intercourse with her, his sins fall like the leaves of the tree [in fall season]. When he performs the major ablution, he is cleansed from sins". 11

    F. Marriage increases Sustenance

    The Holy Prophet (S) remarked, "Give spouses to your single ones, because Allah makes their morality better (improves it) (under the shadow of marriage) and expands their sustenance and increases their generosity (human values)". 12

    When Must We Marry?

    The proper time and age of marrying is when the individual reaches sexual as well as mental maturity. Mental maturity may mean the capability of establishing a cordial family life and the ability to fulfill rights of family members.
    The need of a spouse and family is a natural and instinctive need which Allah through His Wisdom has placed in human beings and is awakened at its particular time and season, and makes its demand. If it is answered on time and its requirement fulfilled, it traverses its natural course and makes the person perfect. If it is delayed or answered in an incorrect and unnatural mode, it deviates from its natural course, rebels, and not only becomes corrupt itself, but also corrupts the man.

    Who Is Eligible To Marry?

    For man to become eligible for taking a woman’s hand in marriage, Islam has several recommendations. According to Islamic laws, when a boy attains the age of fifteen, or becomes sexually potent, he is baligh, and has attained puberty. But this is not enough for entering into a contract of marriage.
    Apart from the laws related to puberty, there is a concept of Rushd 1 which can be translated as 'capability of a sensible conduct' or maturity. A husband has to be Rashid and a wife Rashidah; so that the responsibilities of married life are sensibly discharged. Books of Islamic law may be referred to for exact details on physical and mental maturity.

    Recommendation for Early Marriage

    Islam highly recommends an early marriage. Even those who feel they would not be able to bear the expenses of family are urged to repose faith in Allah, as He is the Giver of Sustenance (Rizq), and go for an early marriage.

    Selection of Spouse

    Now that we have seen how much importance Islam has accorded to marriage and marital life you would perhaps ask, "How do we select a spouse? What are the guidelines provided by Islam in this regard? Do we look for some particular characteristics or just try to get the best from the worldly point of view?"

    Are Pre-Marital Contacts Necessary?

    Ali Akber Mazaheri writes:
    "The notion that a man and a woman must 'know' each other before they decide to marry, so that they may then be able to live happily together is an illusion. Had there been any element of truth and validity in this, the divorce and separation rates in societies which practice it would not have shown a steady rise. Similarly, the marriages which take place without such pre-marital contacts would not have been known to last happily". 1
    The Shariah permits the intended spouses to see each other for the purpose of selection and also permits asking and giving opinions if asked (without it being considered as gheebat under certain conditions.)
    We should never resort to deceive the opposite party or conceal a defect during the selection process. Such things can have serious ramifications if exposed after marriage.
    The school of Ahle-Bait (A.S.) has not left us to follow our whims and fancies. We have been taught the best method of selecting a suitable spouse. The most important criterion is piety or religiousness.

    A. Religiousness

    The author of Youth and Spouse Selection says, "The person who does not have religion, does not have anything". 2 When a man came to the Prophet (S) to seek guidance for selecting a spouse, he (S) said, "It is binding upon you to have a religious spouse". 3
    Knowing the human weakness for beauty and wealth, the Messenger of Allah (S) has forewarned, "A man who marries a woman for the sake of her wealth, Allah leaves him in his own condition, and one who marries her (only) for her beauty, will find in her (things) which he dislikes (unpleasing manners) and Allah will gather up all these things for one who marries her for the sake of her faith (religiousness)". 4

    B. Good Nature

    The next important criterion is good nature.
    Imam Reza (A.S.) wrote in reply to a person who had asked him if it was advisable to marry his daughter to a person known for his ill nature, "If he is ill-natured (bad tempered), don’t marry your daughter to him". 5
    The same will apply where the bride-to-be lacks a good nature. Such a woman, though she may be beautiful and rich, would make the life of her husband miserable. She can never be patient in the difficulties that arise in married life.

    C. Compatibility

    The Prophet (S) gave no recognition to class distinction, but in marriage, he stressed upon compatibility. The marrying partners must be Kufw of each other, so that there are no unnecessary misgivings later.6 It is better for a religious woman who is committed to laws and principles to marry a man like herself.
    The Prophet (S) gave no recognition to class distinction, but in marriage, he stressed upon compatibility. The marrying partners must be Kufw of each other, so that there are no unnecessary misgivings later. 6 It is better for a religious woman who is committed to laws and principles to marry a man like herself.
    A man questioned the Prophet of Islam (S), "Whom must we marry?"
    He replied, "The suitable (matches)".
    "Who are the suitable matches?"
    The Prophet (S) responded, "Some of the faithfuls are match for others". 7
    Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said, "An intelligent and wise woman must not be matched except with a sage and wise man". 8

    D. Decent Family

    The Messenger of Allah (S) has given great emphasis on taking into consideration a good family background when we intend to marry.
    He said, "Marry in the lap of a decent family, since the semen and the genes have effect". 9
    The Holy Prophet (S) also said, "Look very carefully and minutely as to where you are placing your child because genes and hereditary qualities are transferred in a concealed and unintentional way and have their effect". 10

    E. Reason

    The Commander of the Faithful, 'Ali (A.S.) strongly forbade marrying a foolish and insane person. "Avoid marrying a stupid woman, since her company is a woe (distress) and her children too get wasted". 11

    F. Physical and Mental Health

    Though religiousness and piety are most important, it does not mean that we totally disregard the physical appearance and beauty of the prospective spouse.
    The Holy Prophet (S) says, "When one intends to marry a woman, he should ask about her hair, just as he asks about her face (beauty), since the hair is one of the two beauties (of women)". 12

    G. Whom can you Marry?

    "Islamic law has placed certain restrictions on the choice of your spouse depending upon blood relationships and religious affiliations". Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi has summarized these laws in a beautiful way:

    Restrictions based on Relationship

    There are certain blood relations which are considered haraam for you as far as marriage is concerned. (As a general rule, anyone who is your mahram is forbidden to you for marriage.) The list of such relatives is given in the Qur’an as follows:
    For Man: mother, daughter, paternal aunt, maternal aunt, niece, foster-mother, foster-sister, mother-in-law, step-daughter, daughter-in-law, all married women, sister-in-law (as a 2nd wife) (See Surah an-Nisaa’ 4:23-24)
    For Woman: father, son, paternal uncle, maternal uncle, nephew, foster-mother’s husband, foster-brother, father-in-law, stepson, son-in-law.

    Restrictions based on Religion

    A Shi’ah Muslim man can marry: a Shi’ah Muslim woman and a non-Shi’ah Muslim woman. However, if there is danger of being misled, then it is haraam.
    He can also marry a Jewish or Christian woman in mut’a only. But he cannot marry a woman of any other faith.
    A Shi’ah Muslim woman can marry: a Shi’ah Muslim man or a non-Shi’ah Muslim man, although it is better not to do so; and if there is danger of being misled, then it is haraam. But she cannot marry a non-Muslim man. 13

    Cousin Marriages

    Though Shariah does not forbid marriage between first cousins, but there are opinions advocating against them mainly due to a probable risk of the offspring inheriting genetic defects/diseases.

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