Q/A on Marriage (western Pov)

Sheikh Syed Darsh, graduate of Al-Azhar, Cairo, Chairman of UK
Shari’ah Council and expert on family matters, answers some
frequently asked questions about marriage. These questions are
taken from the magazine called “Trends“.

*********Is it a sunnah/recommendation to marry one’s cousin or
         is the reverse true – marry from afar to produce strong

It is not a sunnah or a recommendation to marry one’s cousin nor
is the reverse true;to marry from afar to produce strong
progeny. This whole question is left to the social customs or

I am told by a Muslim scholar from a traditional-tribal society
that the cousin has the social right upon his female cousin and
that she is not to be offered to him first. No one may propose
to her until he has expressed his wish not to marry her. In a
way, within the Arab, particularly tribal societies, they
consider marrying within the family, more honourable, more
protective; keeping lineage pure and well established.

However, there is a statement which is attributed mistakenly to
the Messenger of Allah, “Marry from outside the family,
otherwise your offspring will be weak.” In fact this, or
something similar, is correctly attributed to Umar ibn
Al-Khattab saying to the family of As-Saib, “Your offspring are
becoming so thin and weak. Marry outside your close of kin.” In
discouraging this marriage, Al-Ghazali in his Ihya Ulum ad-Deen
says, “Familiarity and close family tie weaken the sexual desire
in both of them. As a result, children become weak.” This is not
a good reason. For surely, when partners marry, after a few
months they become familiar, there may be nothing new to attract
as they know each other inside out, but the natural desire is

However, research nowadays is showing that the marriage of close
relatives leads to the accumulation of negative inherited
qualities.  For scientific reasons therefore it may be advisable
to marry from afar.

******* Can a girl/boy choose her/his own partner?

Traditionally girls were the passive partners in such matches.
The possibility of meeting, becoming acquainted with or
familiarising oneself with the male partner-to-be was not widely
available. It was left to families, who know one another in
static immovable communities, to arrange such a proposal.
Al-Islam has given each party the right to see the family
setting. If they like one another, the match may go further and
marriage preparation proceed.

One of the companions of the Prophet(SAW) told him one day that
he proposed to a girl. The Prophet(SAW) said, “Have you seen
her?” He said, “No”.He said to him, “See her. For this would
bless your marriage with success”. The same is true as far as
the girl is concerned.  The messenger of Allah has given the
girl the right to express her views on the proposed person. He
said, “The permission of the virgin is to be sought. And if she
does not object, her silence is her permission.” As for the
divorced or one who is widowed, no one has a say with her.

That is, she has to express very clearly her desire in accepting
or rejecting. This is the traditional old fashioned way.
Nowadays girls go to school and proceed to universities. They
meet with boys in classrooms, Islamic societies and at
universities up and down the country. They get to know one
another in a decent moral environment.  They are mature, well
educated, cultured and outspoken. These factors have to be taken
into consideration. Once a decent, good mannered Islamicly
committed young Muslim attracts the attention of a like minded
Muslimah, their parents have to be reasonable. Of course, they
are interested in the happiness and success of the marriage of
their son or daughter, but they have to realise that they are
not buying or selling commodities. Their care, compassion and
love for their children should not make them extra protective or
act as a barrier between their children and their children’s
future. In the words of the hadith “If a person with satisfying
religious attitude comes to seek your daughter in marriage,
accept that. If you do not, there will be great mischief on
earth and a great trouble.” At the same time young people who
are blessed with education have to show patience, understanding
and should argue their case in a rational and respectable

************ What should we look for in a partner?

It is very difficult to give general guidelines, as people are
individuals and as such have different priorities when selecting
a life long partner. However, the hadith of the Prophet(SAW) has
given us some clues as to what is to be desired most in both men
and women.  Because it is usually the male who proposes, the
address in the hadith is directed to the male would-be-suitor.
He said, “A woman maybe be sought in marriage either for her
beauty, nobility, wealth or religious inclination. Seek the last
and you will be the more successful.” The same holds for the
female in the choice of a partner.

However, the hadith does not exclude beauty. It is one of the
qualities satisfying and protecting the hungry gaze. If that is
required in the young woman, it is required in the man too.
Al-Qurtubi reported the Prophet(SAW) as saying, “Do not give
your daughters to the ugly or nasty looking. For they desire of
men what men desire of women.”

The wife of Thabit ibn Qays said to the messenger of Allah, “My
face and his face will never look at one another” He asked her,
“Why?” She said, “I looked at him coming in the company of other
of his friends and he was the shortest and the ugliest.” The
messenger asked her, “Will you return to him the dower he has
given you?” She replied, “Even if he asks more, I shall give it
to him.” The Prophet(SAW) told the husband, “Take what you have
given her and release her.” He did.

The age difference between potential partners should not be too
great.  It is not fair to give a young girl to a man who is
twenty or thirty years her senior. If she, for one reason or
another, accepts, or he accepts, then it is their choice. But
they should be aware of the future of their relationship and the
implications of such a marriage.

A grey haired man passed by a young black haired girl and he
proposed to her. She looked at him and said, “I accept, but
there is a snag”.  He enquired to which she answered, “I have
some grey hair.” The man passed on without a word. She called
out, “My uncle, look at my hair!” She had hair as black as coal.
He said to her, “Why did you say what you did?” She answered,
“To let you know that we do not like of men what they do not
like of women.”

Marriage is not for fun or experience. It is a life long
relationship.  For that reason, any factor detrimental to the
relationship should be avoided as much as possible. Highly
educated males and females should seek partners of similar
educational background. Cultural and family background is very
important. Common language is an essential way of communicating.
Such things help the two partners to understand, communicate and
relate to one another and are factors of stability and success.

Financial independence and the ability to provide a decent
acceptable level of maintenance. Again, this is a way of
insuring that outside influences do not spoil an otherwise happy

All ways and means should be considered giving a solid bases for
new human experience which is expected to provide a framework
for a happy, successful and amicable life. All this is to be
considered within the context of Muslims living in Britain

A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man. A
Muslim man has to think very seriously indeed before marrying a
woman from the people of the book and conversion just for the
sake of marriage may not be a genuine reason. In a non-Muslim
country a Muslim man has no right to bring up his children as
Muslims, and this obligation particularly if love gradually
dries up and the relationship begins to show signs of strain.

The question of common language, background, education and age
etc.  are meant, in an ordinary stable context, to maximise the
chances of success and stability in a very important Islamic
institution – that of marriage. However, considering the
particular position of Muslim communities living in minority
situations, young Muslims, male and female, are exposed to all
sorts of challenges be they cultural, linguistic, racial or
social. The most fundamental question when choosing a partner is
a religious one. As far as language, background, or social
position are concerned, these are not significant factors that
absolutely must be fulfilled before a marriage can take place,
indeed such considerations may not be relevant to young Muslims
living in Britain as they have common language – English, and
the social positions of their families in their countries of
origins may well be equalised living in Britain. If the
prospective partner is of a good character, strong religious
inclination and the two young people are happy and feel
compatible with one another other considerations are not of such

******* Can a parent refuse a proposal from a good Muslim for
        his daughter on the basis that the suitor is not of the
    same race/caste?

There is no concept of caste in Islam. Racial background is a
fact of life. The Qur’an considers the difference of race,
colour or language as signs of the creative ability of Allah:
“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and
the difference of your language and colours. Lo! Here indeed are
signs for men of knowledge.”(Ar-Rum:22).

In chapter 49, verse 13 is the most universal doctrine of human
equality and brotherhood: “Oh mankind! We have created you from
a male and a female, and then rendered you into nations and
tribes so that you might know one another. Indeed the most
honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is most

There is a wealth of ahadith quoted by Al-Qurtubi in his
commentary on this Qur’anic verse where the messenger of Allah
condemned outright any racial impact on the Islamic society. For
the very reason we come across many examples of people who, from
a racial view, were not considered equal to Arab women marrying
among the high tribal class.  Bilal married the sister of
AbdurRahman ibn Awf. Zayd was married to one of the noble ladies
of the tribe of Quraysh and so on.

But customs die hard and no sooner are they abolished, they
start to reappear again. Salman al-Farsi proposed to the
daughter of Umar, the khalifa. He accepted. His knowledgeable,
pious son and great companion of the Prophet(SAW) was upset. He
complained to Amr ibn Al-Aas. Amr said, “Leave it to me and I
will get him to retract from that.” When Amr met Salman he said
to him, “Congratulations. It came to my knowledge that the
Commander of the Faithful humbled himself and accepted to give
you his daughter in marriage.” Salman felt slighted by this and
thought and retorted, “By Allah, I will never accept to marry
his daughter!”

Al-Hajjaj, the brute of the Ummayyad era married the daughter of
Muhammad ibn Ja’far, Abdul Malik, the Ummayyad king was furious.
He said to Muhammad, “You gave one of the noble of Qurayshite
women to a slave from Thaqif!” and he ordered Al-Hajjaj to
divorce her.

So this social attitude is very difficult to abolish outright.
It does not make a difference whether the parents are well
educated or unlettered. In the new environment of living in
Britain the situation may ease gradually. However, young
educated people who find themselves locked in such situations
have to be patient to advance their case.  Failing that, I would
advise them to read my article, “Guardianship in Marriage’ (See
page 11 for details).

******* Should children deliberately go about altering the views
        of their parents/relatives by marrying in a manner they
    know is allowed but frowned upon by the others?

This should be the last resort if they really are very
emotionally attached to one another. Marriage is a solemn,
important bond. It cannot be played about with as a means of
changing die-hard customs.  The marrying couple will be the
first victims of such a deficient gesture. I am saying, if they
really love one another, so that this love may sustain them
until they are able to change the attitude of their parents,
then well and good. Though, it will not change the attitude of
the whole community.

However, it would be suicidal to jump into this type of
relationship just to change people. It may prove that the couple
do not have the common cause to sustain this gesture of
rejection. They themselves may reject the attempt. The
consequences of such actions can be far reaching.

*******  What are the rituals of marriage of that are the
     sacred/important ones?

There are no such rituals in an Islamic marriage. It is a simple
form of expressing the commitment to live as husband and wife.
The procedure is as follows: There is a young man wishing to get
married and a young woman who is ready for marriage. Their
families know one another and so the man’s family approaches the
woman’s family – (The opposite is also appropriate). If there is
acceptance, the two persons have the chance of seeing, talking,
exploring – in a chaperoned, not in a private manner – with one
another. If they choose to settle down, some gifts may be
exchanged and a date set for the announcement of the match and
working out of the marriage preparations. The families may
arrange the civil ceremony first, then go to the mosque or house
where the formal Islamic agreement may take place.

The woman’s guardian, usually the father, will say to the
would-be-husband, “I give you my daughter, (the girl in my
guardianship), in marriage in accordance to the Islamic
Shari’ah, in the presence of the witnesses here with the dowry
agreed upon. And Allah is our best witness.”

The young man, or his father, will reply by saying, “I accept
marrying your daughter, guard, giving her name, to myself” –
repeating the other words. Thus, the marriage is concluded.

It is good Islamic practice to announce the ceremony, to hold it
in a mosque and to have some form of entertainment. In the words
of the Prophet(SAW), “Declare this marriage, have it in the
mosque and beat the drums.” This is used to be the best the way
of establishing that great, sacred relationship.

*******  What is dowry and who gives it to whom?

The question of dowry is one of the rights of the Muslim woman
as part of the correct contract of marriage. The Qur’an states
in chapter 4, verse 4: “And give the women their dowries as a
free gift, but if they are pleased to offer you any of it accept
it with happiness and with wholesome pleasure.”

The dowry is defined in the legal text books as: “the wealth the
wife deserves upon her husband as a result of the contract of
marriage on the consummation.”

So the dower is to be given by the husband to his correctly
wedded wife. It is enjoined by the Qur’an, the practical
examples of the Messenger of Allah and the consensus of the
companions of the Prophet(SAW).

There is no specific minimum or maximum. The customs of the
community play a great part in deciding the agreed amount to be
given as dower.  In the past, families would ask of a dower
which reflects the social status of them. After the spread of
education and the maturity of age of both husband and wife,
families began to relax this custom, taking into consideration
that young people who start work after graduation do not have
much money to offer for the girls they have going to marry.
Families have come to the realisation that dower is a symbolic
gesture. It is good to start building their family life without
incurring a debt which may ruin their happiness and future
prospects.  If both husband and wife are working, the families
may prefer that the young couple build their life from scratch
together, rather than burdening them with hefty dower which they
cannot afford.

It is not Islamic to ask the woman to give dower to the husband.
This is not a noble thing to ask a woman. The Islamic
requirement is not because the man is going to buy the woman, it
is to express his love, care and the dignity of the woman.
Whatever expresses these sentiments, great or small, is
considered to be an acceptable dowry, simply because it
expresses these feelings.

******* Is it necessary to have a civil marriage?

It is important to have a marriage registered with the civil
authority so that it may be recognised. There are many legal
implications as a result of such a registration. Firstly, it is
the recognised marriage in this country. The civil marriage if
it is attended by at least two male Muslim witnesses amounts to
a correct Islamic marriage. It is only the social aspect which
leads to another ceremony in a mosque with an imam officiating,
although these things are not required Islamicly.

Secondly, without the civil marriage, the entitlement to
inheritance, pension and legal documentation are not accepted by
the authority. For the sake of legality it must be registered.

In Muslim countries nowadays they have made it an administrative
obligation to register the marriage. This is to officiate and
recognise all aspects that come from the marital relationship.
So, if for nothing else, it is a must for the sake of the

**********  Weddings these days seem such costly ventures. Is
            one required to spend huge sums on a wedding?

Weddings are a social expression of the occasion of marriages.
Moderation is the Islamic concept in all aspects of a Muslim’s
life.  Weddings should not be ostentatious nor are they supposed
to be expressions of pride and competition. It is not fair for
the parents or the young couple to start their life debt ridden
as a result of an occasion which lasted a couple of hours or a
little longer. Expenses in all steps leading to marriage should
not be a burden. Big cars, fancy wedding costumes, big parties,
expensive hotels or halls, all such expenses should be avoided.
But at the same time, it should not be a dull and gloomy
occasion. It is an occasion of great joy and happiness and
should be celebrated as such.

The most important is the walima – the dinner party. It is the
sunnah so that relatives, friends and acquaintances may come to
share the joy of the occasion, to give thanks to Allah and to
entertain needy people within the community.

This was a pre-Islamic custom which Islam accepted. It was the
responsibility of the husband or his family. The Prophet(SAW)
saw some coloured perfume on AbdurRahman. He asked him about it
and AbdurRahman replied, “I got married”. The Prophet(SAW) told
him, “Make a walima with at least one lamb.” The Prophet(SAW)
himself made a number of walimas each time he got married. The
walimas differed according to the financial position of the
time. The best walima recorded was that of Zaynab. Nearly three
hundred people were entertained and fed meat and bread. On other
occasions the Prophet(SAW) asked his companions to bring
whatever food was available.

The important part is the coming together, sharing the happiness
and advertising the new relationship in a moderate and
inexpensive manner.

********** Are secret marriages allowed? Like at universities
           where girls or boys marry without parental consent,
       knowledge or approval?

The word used in the question, `secret’, is anathema to the
concept of marriage which is a relationship built to secure
peace, happiness and tranquillity. There are many rights and
obligations resulting from agreement of marriage. These include
the honour and integrity of the woman concerned, her family and
relations and most importantly, offspring. In so many instances,
even with use of precautions, women get pregnant. How can they
face this situation? Where lies the blame?  And what if the
young couple tire of one another after taking what they want
from one another? Who loses in such situations? That is why
Muslim scholars frown upon secretive arrangements even though
other basic formalities were satisfied. They argue that the
Shari’ah has made it mandatory to publicise marriage in every
available way. They quote a number of statements of the
Prophet(SAW) to that effect. For example the statement, “There
is no valid marriage without a guardian and two witnesses. Any
arrangement short of that is invalid, invalid, invalid.” Another
statement quoted by the Hanafi texts, “Any marriage not attended
by four people is not a marriage, it is a fornication.  They
are: the suitors, the guardian and two witnesses.”

Scholars differentiate between two types of what is known as
common marriage. Common, here, stands in contrast to well
documented marriage. The first is when marriage takes place
without being officially recorded. But it takes place within the
family, is known among the friends and neighbours but for other
reasons it is not registered. Maybe the couple are drawing
unmarried benefits or whatever. This is an acceptable religious
marriage even though there are unethical motives behind it.

The other type is exactly the one referred to in the question.
When the two parties agree to keep it secret. They ask two
friends to witness the marriage with the understanding that they
do not talk about it. And they did not, I repeat, they did not
register it. This does not amount to a secure, tranquil
marriage. It is simply satisfying their physical need. The
comment of a scholar, who was a judge before taking the chair of
the Islamic Shari’ah in the Faculty of Law, Cairo University, is
that “We do not condone, nor accept such an arrangement. It is
far from the real concept of marriage. Families and girls’
honour should not be treated so flippantly. In my life as a
judge I came across so many miserable, depressing cases
resulting in acrimonious disputes. Allah’s Shari’ah has to be
respectfully followed. Any so called legal fictions in this
particular matter must be shunned.”

And Allah says the Truth and guides to the right way.

Guardianship in Marriage by Sheikh Darsh Available from Amanah
Publications FAO Ashfaq Ali, 841 Barkerend Road, Bradford, BD3

[Makashfa Request 2 Readers: Kindly promote marriages with ease instead of making it problematic and promoting adultery which washes all goodness from the society and make birth to illegitimate children which not only became a kind of curse and sin without having something to do with that sin but also to the society bcz these children may not perform good deeds and actions in a healthy society bcz of such things. Woman is always protected in ISLAM as a respect, and marriage is a good way instead of committing sin of adultery and making society more divided thanks]