Bint Ahmed Sulaymaan – Cii Radio | 22 Rabi uth Thani 1436/13 February 2015

People don’t have sell by dates and do not sit on shelves, milk and cookies do. Kittens are not associated with spinsters and success with bachelorhood. Marriage is not a prison but a union. And the modern world of dating and intermingling is haraam.

The Shari’ah is simple and uncomplicated. Yet Muslim societies continue to impose its own set of guidelines when it comes to this union and align themselves with cultural and modern practices.  One of the biggest impositions is the understanding amongst people that there is an ideal age to marry, especially for women.

“Regarding the issue of age and marriage it is quite simply put by Muhammad (sallallhu alayhi wasallam), you and I know that we follow the guidance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and we take instructions from him. He said to the youth when he was speaking to them, ‘O youth whoever from amongst you is able and capable to get married then he should get married.’ He should not delay in doing so. This would obviously apply to both and male female,” explains Mufti Ismail Menk.

Obviously, the instruction being more for the males, because of the fact that the steps initially would most likely come from males in a lot of the customs and culture. That’s not against Islam but what is against Islam is for us, even in the case of females, not to make the first step when we have perhaps the correct person in mind and the correct situation has arisen.

The correct age would be once you are ready says Mufti. “That would mean there is nothing specific to say, 12 or 15, or 25 and so on. There is no exact figure. But there is a guideline which says when you are ready then go for it. And readiness would refer to, number one is maturity. The ability to handle the responsibilities of a home, to handle a spouse and at the same time minimum financial capacity.”

But there are people who sometimes delay marriage for specific reasons, sometimes valid ones and others not. Some men delay marriage to reach a better financial footing, others to be able to provide a house, car and money to their future wife and others to complete their studies. It is also common for men to delay marriage simply because they are having fun, their desires are fulfilled and they do not want the responsibility of a wife and family. Women, too delay marriage for similar reasons.

“It’s not wrong to give priority to studies but I feel from an advice point of view, if the correct person comes about it is far important to take the opportunity than to prolong it for another three years.”

There is definitely much more pressure on women who are older and unmarried. Sometimes  it is much better to say no to proposals

“I would think from an Islamic perspective we’ve been give guidelines on how to select a spouse. If for example people have not proposed to us of a good decent person there is no harm in turning down as many number of proposals as need be if they do not meet the criteria that the Shari’ah has taught us. Rather than marrying a drug addict or a person who is really out of hand just to get on with it, it would be advisable to hold on until a more suitable suitor comes.”

Mufti stressed that parents and peers should not put pressure on someone to get married based on the fact that they are getting older. “That is actually un-Islamic.” A person can easily be pushed into making the wrong choice based on this pressure whereas there is clear guidance in the Shari’ah to look at the Deen, Akhlaq and compatibility when choosing.

“If you have found a person who is on a beautiful level of akhlaq, a responsible individual, fit to be the father or mother of your children and they have in them the Deen and the khuluq then why delay. This is an important guideline.”

If people finds themselves turning down proposals but basing their decision on the conditions of Islam being met ” then there is no need to fear”.

“If you are still alone and your age happens to have clocked slightly more, don’t worry Allah is with you and Allah knows that you have not defied Him in any way. You have used Allah’s rules, the rules set by Him through Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to actually make decisions.”

There is also a natural fear that arises after turning down a certain number of proposals. The question that nobody else will come along starts to affect the mind and some then feel compelled to make a decision as they feel they will face a life of solitary existence.

“The crux and the core is that you will have to accept a few compromises. There is a sense of fear in most cases and this is why it is a Sunnah, and it is quite a stressed Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) through his instruction, to see the person before you marry them.”

Aside from their own fears playing on their emotions, those unmarried and getting older are also faced with the stress and anxiety that comes from those people around them using references such as “they have reached their sell by date”.

“To use those terms to refer to people who have not yet married is not only hurtful but it is un-Islamic and a major sin. Major sin as in you are hurting someone and defying the Will of Allah SWT because obviously it’s in the Hands of Allah SWT if this person has turned down 20 people based on some guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah.”

While Mufti adivised parents not to put undue pressure on their child if they are getting older and are not married, he also said, “The hadith does not say when you are able and ready then hold on and wait for a while. One of the purposes of us being here on earth is to reproduce. We need to try and get married once we can and the correct person has come along.”

Don’t give up hope and always keep the door open and dua going says Mufti. “As we progress in age and there is a person who is not yet married it does not mean that they will not find a spouse. Sometimes they will find a spouse who will be such a beautiful match that they wouldn’t have minded having waited for so long. This is something we must remember and consider.”