Marriage is a relationship and an act of worship, it is not an auction to the highest bidder or the one who appears to be able to provide the most lavish lifestyle.
Today’s generation of young American Muslims is a dynamic and diverse group. They are successful, proud, and generally very active in both dawah and community service. They are proud of their Muslim identities and carve a unique space for themselves in the fabric of American society. But there is one common complaint that I hear often from both the youth and young professionals in the Muslim community no matter their age, gender, ethnic background, or status as a born Muslim or convert: the majority of them lament that getting married is difficult. Marriage is a core element of a thriving Muslim society, and therefore its importance cannot be stressed enough. The fact that the majority of today’s Muslims of marriageable age find this process difficult to navigate means that we have an issue within our communities that must be addressed.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“The best of marriage is that which is made easiest.”Narrated by Ibn Hibaan, classed as Sahih by al-Albani in Sahih al-Jaami’ 3300
And in Surat al Noor (24:32) of the Holy Quran Allah says:
“And marry those among you who are single (i.e. a man who has no wife and the woman who has no husband) and (also marry) the Saalihoon (pious, fit and capable ones) of your (male) slaves and maid-servants (female slaves).”
As Muslims, we know that for every problem in our Ummah, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has provided us with a solution. We live in a time where it seems that our communities look towards easy answers by looking towards their own cultural traditions, personal biases, and societal influences to create a framework for marriage which is incorrect. The further we stray from the correct teachings of Islam on any matter, the more difficult we make our own affairs.
Here are some common roadblocks to marriage today, and the guidance that our deen has provided us. May Allah make us among the pious and among those who choose to adhere to His guidance in all matters.
We have all heard at least one story of young Muslims finding a potentially suitable spouse and the marriage being prevented from moving forward due to finances. Oftentimes, families will prevent such a marriage based on the groom’s inability to provide a large mahr (dowry) or an extravagant wedding. Another factor may be his lack of acceptable secular education or being in a low-paying position. While we may seek a spouse for many reasons, the primary factor that should drive our selection of a suitable partner is their religiosity and commitment to Islam. Let us reflect on the message we are sending to our children and community when demanding excessively high mahr or demanding a particular income bracket for a man. What are we teaching them to value if the sole motivator for rejecting a suitor with good character who may treat them well and improve their deen is money?
Islam does not treat women as commodities and does not measure the wealth of a man in terms of his financial status only. Fathers may claim that they don’t want their daughters to be “devalued” by accepting mahrs below the average in their respective culture, but this is inadvertently reducing women to objects with a price tag and demeans the true symbolism of the mahr itself. Marriage is a relationship and an act of worship, it is not an auction to the highest bidder or the one who appears to be able to provide the most lavish lifestyle. We must remember that Allah is the provider and that our sustenance comes from Him alone.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“The best of mahrs is the simplest (or most affordable).”Narrated by al-Haakim and al-Bayhaqi, classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih al-Jaami’ 3279
Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that Imam Ali said:
“I married Fatimah (may Allaah be pleased with her) and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, let me go ahead with the marriage.’ He said: ‘Give her something.’ I said: ‘I do not have anything.’ He said: ‘Where is your shield?’ I said, ‘I have it with me.’ He said, ‘Give it to her’.”Classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih al-Nasaa’I 3160
If such a simple, non-monetary gift was acceptable for the daughter of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), then it is extremely presumptuous and arrogant to think that our daughters must reject a marriage solely based on whether a man can provide more money or gold.
Similar to financial requirements, families also often have a cultural requirement for the future spouse of their children that may lead them to outright reject any Muslim of good character based on this fact alone. It may even lead the family to choose someone of a less pious nature over a more pious Muslim based on ethnic background only. This is a dangerous practice that reduces the marriage pool significantly for young Muslims and makes it very difficult for many others in the minority ethnic communities to seek marriage.
In his farewell sermon to the Ummah, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated:
“There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white except by piety.”
In Surat al Hujarat 49:13 in the Holy Quran, Allah tells us in the interpretation of the meaning:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is all Knowing and acquainted with all things.”
To be clear, I am not suggesting that cultural compatibility may not be a factor that is considered in the process of choosing a spouse. It may be that for issues of understanding one another, it is preferable for some people to marry people of the same background. This preference is not inherently bigoted or even wrong. What I am cautioning against though, is the act of preventing a son or daughter from moving forward with a marriage based on this consideration alone. Many families take it to such an extreme level that they may make their children feel they will be cut off from the family, ostracized, or even disinherited based on their refusal to comply with their parents’ cultural stipulations. Interracial marriages are perfectly acceptable in Islam. However, cutting off the ties of kinship based on un-Islamic principles is not, and parents must be aware that these threats and manipulation of their own children is an abuse of the power that Allah has given them.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) encouraged parents to deprioritize social class and tribal affiliation in favor of religious commitment, even equating failure to do so with corruption. He instructed the believers:
“If someone comes to marry and you are pleased with his deen and his character, then marry him. If not, there will be chaos and widespread corruption in the earth.”(Narrated by At-Tirmidhee in ‘Nikah’ 1085)
We may even interpret the Prophet’s own marriage as an example of this. Safiyah bint Akhtab came from Bani Nadir, a Jewish tribe, and therefore the Prophet was involved in an inter-tribal marriage of his own.
The third and final social taboo this article will address is that of preventing or discouraging the marriage of widows, divorcees, and single parents. Often, parents will discourage their children from marrying such people. If their own children are in such a situation, they may shame them or make them feel like they are now “damaged goods”.
We must remember that our primary example in behavior and practice is that of the Prophet himself and his companions. All of the Prophet’s own wives except Aisha and Zainab were widows or divorcees, some with even children. There is even an example of the Sahabah “competing” for such a woman. When Umm Salamah was widowed, Abu Bakr, Umar, and the Prophet himself all proposed to her. These were the best of men and none of them had any qualms with marrying her.
Perhaps the most compelling example of such a union is the beautiful marriage of the Prophet and Khadijah who was a twice-widowed single mother. She was also the only woman with whom he stayed monogamous, the first convert to Islam, and the woman who he received the most support from in the early years of his Prophethood.
It is again important to clarify that a preference for someone who has never been married is not wrong, as there are some hadith that support the choice to marry a virgin as well. But there are also enough examples in the practices of the Prophet and his Sahabah to make it clear that there is no shame attached to these individuals who do happen to be widowed or divorced, and that their desirability for marriage is not diminished by anything other than their level of religiosity or lack thereof. The deliberate prevention and non-consideration of partners who have been previously married therefore become un-Islamic.
It may even be argued that individuals in such circumstances are in more need of the protection of marriage than the single person and that hastening to marry them to suitable partners is a good and honorable deed.
Marriage itself is a beautiful institution, especially from the Islamic perspective. It aids in the continuance of a religious community and assures that children are raised with proper examples of Islam in their homes. It is a crucial element to a happy life and the spiritual development of ourselves and our children. Muslims who are able and ready should seek marriage for themselves, and should not have so many unnecessary barriers in attaining it. It is a beneficial thing for the Muslim Ummah to perpetuate and advocate for marriage among all single people of good character, and for us to return to the examples of Islamic history to guide our decisions in this and all matters.