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In light of modern day, 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 Description: Description: Description: 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 Description: Description: Description: Peace and blessings be upon him. The Prophet himself married and also encouraged others to marry. It has been reported that The Prophet Muhammad Description: Description: Description: 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 Description: Description: Description: 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 Description: Description: Description: 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 stops 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.