In light of modernity, what is marriage? What does it mean? The Collins Paperback English Dictionary states under the heading of marriage: ‘The contract made by a man and a woman to live as husband and wife’.
The Hutchinson Encyclopedia states: ‘..legally or culturally sanctioned union..’. So, according to the dictionary and the encyclopedia marriage is supposed to be a relationship that joins a man and a woman together via a contract. When one looks at what marriage actually is in this modern era of the world one finds a completely different picture. It seems as though modern couples sign the contract with a get-out-whenever-you-like-upon-trivial-matters clause, which enables both the husband and the wife to scrap their marriage contracts and break their marriage oaths whenever they feel like leaving their partner and move on.
Marriage is supposed to tie a man and a woman together and strengthen their relationship. Today the world is seeing a new era where marriage is no longer considered necessary or even significant for a relationship. Islam has laid down rules and regulations for marriage and has considered marriage an important and essential part of a Muslim’s life. This lack of understanding has in itself caused behaviour prohibited in Islam such as masturbation, sexual relationships/encounters outside of Nikah (marriage), etc which are increasing day by day. I will attempt to unfold these issues using The Holy Quran and the saying of the messenger of Allah: Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).
Marriage in Islam
Marriage is a vital part of a Muslim’s life. In fact marriage is so important in the religion of Islam that it is declared to be one half of one’s faith. As a Muslim one should live in accordance with the Islamic Jurisprudence in the way shown by the greatest of creations and the person who was the greatest impact on mankind in the existence of the universe, The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him). The Prophet himself married and also encouraged others to marry. It has been reported that The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) said,
‘A person who possesses the means to marry (i.e. he is able to work etc. to support a wife and children) and does not marry then he is not from amongst us (i.e. the believers).’
In another narration the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) has been reported to have said,
‘Do not delay in three things; 1) The offering of the obligatory prayer. 2) The offering of the funeral prayer when the deceased’s body is present . 3) The marriage of a woman when her couple is found’
One can see from this statement that to become a complete and true believer one must act upon the advice given by The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him). This means marrying when the partner is found and not delaying it for too long.
The Creator of the Universe – Allah – has stated in the Quran,
‘And wed the single among you’.(C24 : V32)
One can see from the above verse that the Creator of mankind himself has ordered us to marry. The scholars of Islam have stated that when Allah states an order in the Quran like the above-mentioned one then this order becomes compulsory on man hence marriage is an obligatory act. The big question must be why? Why has Islam emphasised marriage so much and why has the best of creations encouraged it so much. Surely there must be a reason. Well there are a number of reasons why Islam has emphasised marriage so much. A few of which I will mention.
Marriage makes an incomplete human being a complete one. It makes him/her a grown up and gives him/her responsibilities whether those responsibilities are to feed and clothe the wife or to assist the husband. Marriage is supposed to take a person out of the hectic lifestyle that one is in and place him or her in an organised environment giving them a path to follow in life and a shoulder to lean on. In short marriage arranges one’s life. In Islam a man cannot have relationships with those he can marry unless it is within marriage. In other words Islam gives the right to a woman to be a wife of a man independent of the marriage relationship the man may have with another woman. This is a key difference because in the modern era a man is not guilty if he has relationships with a woman outside of marriage but the moment he contracts to treat this woman equally as his wife, he is criminalised for illegal behaviour. This is odd as the current common law does not criminalise the actual relationship of the man with another woman but punishes the solemn promise/affirmation in writing to continue. Any offspring would be illegitimate as the courts would not recognise polgamy even though it exists and is accepted in behaviour but not in writing. In some senses the increase in divorce rates and re-marriages we see nowadays is in some ways a serial version of polygamy!. There are many reasons that support polygamy but Islam limits the practice to four wives and is allowed only when one can be fair to all wives. Polygamy is only mentioned briefly here but as a subject could be read in further detail elsewhere. Please also note that the current Law of the land in this regard should be abided by.
Marriage helps to safeguard one’s imaan (faith) i.e. it is one from committing such acts by which s/he could be considered immoral. Sins such as intermingling with people of the opposite sex or socialising as it is classed in everyday terms are not considered to be acceptable in Islam, (because it creates immorality and immodesty) even though an incredibly large amount of people will hastily class it as an ‘essential’ part of one’s day.
Marriage and Sin
One of the most underestimated sins is fornication. Nowadays this is considered to be something which one should feel proud of with a ‘the more the better’ motto it seems which is an incredibly sad thing to say. Fornication is a despicable act in the eyes of Islamic Jurisprudence due to its ill effects on society. Many youngsters and even teenagers get dragged into this act and then suffer the consequences when they (in most cases the female) are left to look after the child and struggle greatly due to financial difficulties. Many also end up leaving the child in an orphanage; circumstances in society can create an unfortunate and challenging upbringing. Hence, fornication plays an extremely significant part in the fall of society. What makes it worse is that today’s society has considered it to be a small matter and it is not paid any attention to it (or not as much as it needs). In fact in modern society fornication is not even considered wrong (i.e. it is not even considered immoral).
Marriage also reduces the possibility of one indulging in forbidden acts of homosexuality; if a believer (i.e. a Muslim) indulges in homosexual relations they should seek Allah’s forgiveness; please note that the current law of the land should be abided by individuals and upheld by authorities. Homosexuality is against the teachings of Judaism Christianity and Islam.
Islam has tried to prevent those factors that cause immorality, promiscuity. Islam understands the harms of such things and has therefore laid down strict rules, Please refer to a reputable scholar for guidance on this important issue. In this way one will attempt to stay away from these sins in any possible way.
Many cases of domestic violence, rape/indecent assault and dis-functional families are caused/inflicted by peaople who turn around and try to excuse their behaviour by saying they did not think they were committing an illegal act. The cries and complaints of the victims are dismissed as normality in ‘this day and age’. For example: a child is left with a single parent due to non-marriage relationships easily breaking down. A rape victim is unjustly and quickly accused of ‘consenting’ as casual sex/extra marital sex is not illegal. A person is infected with a transmitted disease through extra-marital/casual sex of their ‘partner’. (A child is born with HIV due to the mother being infected by the decease through extra-marital/casual sex by herself/partner). A child is left with a single parent due to one of the parents being in a homosexual relationship. Fewer children have a brother/sister from the same parent due to homosexual relationship of a parent. A baby from casual/extra marital intercourse is killed (aborted). A decline in population due to abortions from temporary relationships. A drop in births due to same sex relationships. A decline in births causes a decrease in the number of people who look after others in old age. The nature of temporary relationships leads to a climate of doubt and questionable parentage. Paternity tests may not be error free, conclusive or affordable and legal declarations of paternity and custody can take a long time even when all parties wish it to be expedient. Children in almost all cases would prefer knowing who their biological parents are and prefer being brought up by them however temporary relationships can be very complicated and children end up being the silent victims of social crimes.
The Knock-on Effects
Unfortunately today, the state and most societies fail to acknowledge the issues slowing down the progress of a society as a whole. Many couples acknowledge bringing up children, particularly teenagers is not easy. To do so when one is single is definitely harder. The very nature of relationships out of marriage leads to temporal behaviour, devoid of commitment. Even long standing relationships are tested against time only to breakdown due to the absence of commitment in the form of a marriage contract. Children need to be nurtured, be motivated and be re-assured. They need role models and people who they can talk/confide in. Where families are broken and reflect the state of society young people do not receive the support they need. ‘Time and Money’ being the commodities that are best shared in family environments are split or consumed by ‘individual space/pursuits’. Children are left vulnerable to society’s ills and juvenile crime; leading to a life devoid of social responsibility and this degenerating cycle repeats. People attempting to attract potential sexual participants often resort to displaying themselves with the latest trend in clothes, gadgets, cars/possessions. Some waste a lot of money ensuring they replace yesterday’s gear with today’s. Money is commonly channeled away from necessities and sometimes substantial debt is incurred. These expenses may be paid by hard-earned cash however ill-gotten means (fraud/theft) fuelling such showful habits are familiar and increasing as ‘must have’ mentalities prevail. Indecent/sexual assault, rape etc are crimes that are committed where defence excuses touted include ‘honourable attention’, wrong signals’ ‘reasonable belief of consent’, etc. If sexual intercourse was legal only under marriage then some of these crimes can be prevented as there will be no excuses. There would also be a decrease in crimes centred around attention competition as again the objective would be only legal within marriage and so opportunists would find it difficult. Crime rates centred around attention competition in islamic/moral societies is considerably lower than where sexual relations/encounters outside of Nikah is not abated.
Marriage and Masturbation
One type of indecent practise, which has crept into the youngsters of today, is the practise of masturbation. This is partly due to the fact that many people decide to marry very late on in their lives, (which is not in accordance with what The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) said). This leads them into this practice because they feel that they need to fulfil their carnal desires but they cannot do so in the normal way i.e. sexual intercourse.
Islam has condemned the act of masturbation simply because it is harmful towards a person not only physically but also morally. Masturbation contributes to the weakening of the sexual organs. One reason why people do not think that masturbating is wrong is because that is what most people are led into thinking. I can remember very well from my time in school when the teacher actually encouraged masturbation by saying that one should masturbate whenever one feels the urge and that one should not consider it to be wrong or immoral. I myself found this fairly shocking due to the fact that I came from a background where acts such as masturbation were shunned.
A Final Word Regarding Marriage
Islam has many reasons to encourage marriage such as its advantages in safeguarding one’s faith and also because marriage is an essential element in the proper upbringing of children. This is because children without one of their parents are much more likely to commit crimes etc. and in short become a nuisance to the environment they live in. Marriage plays a large part in saving one from the sins of fornication, homosexuality and masturbation. It takes away the possibility of these things because after marriage a man is supposed to occupy himself with a woman he has married and vice versa.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) has himself said, ‘A person who possesses the means to marry (i.e. he is able to work etc. to support a wife and children) and does not marry, then he is not from amongst us (i.e. the believers).’
Not only has The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) placed emphasis on the importance of marriage but also the Creator of the Universe (Allah) has commanded His people to marry when He says in the Quran, ‘And wed the single among you’. (chapter 24, verse 32)
From the above verse one sees again that the Creator of mankind has ordered man (not just advised him) to join in matrimony. I am hopeful that you will agree on the importance of marriage based on the above factual data / the Quran and the sayings of The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).
Unfortunately though, even after much emphasis from Islam on the importance of marriage, many people still fail to acknowledge its significance. A relationship between two people is not just supposed to be a short, action-packed romance story from the studios of Hollywood (which inevitably comes to an end sooner rather than later), but it is supposed to be a serious, long-term relationship in which both individuals are content and comfortable with one another. A relationship should not exist of a one-night-stand as is the case now especially amongst many students of universities, colleges and even schools. A relationship should show that both partners are ready to sacrifice and endure for their partner; the way towards this is through marriage. Until the world realises the importance of marriage as well as its benefits and advantages, it will be faced with the endless problems caused by neglecting marriage.