In Islam, marriage is a legal contract between two people. Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills. A formal, binding contract is considered integral to a religiously valid Islamic marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride. There must be two Muslim witnesses of the marriage contract. Divorce in Islam can take a variety of forms, some initiated by the husband and some initiated by the wife.
Islamic marriages require acceptance, in Arabic: قبول qubūl, of the groom, the bride and the consent of the custodian (wali) of the bride. The wali of the bride is normally a male relative of the bride, preferably her father. The guardian (wali) of the bride can only be a free Muslim with exception to cases whereby the bride is of Christian or Jewish faith, in such cases the bride should be given away by someone from her religious background.The bride is normally present at the signing of the marriage contract.
The Wali mujbir (Arabic: ولي مجبر) is a technical term of Islamic law which denotes the guardian of a bride. In traditional Islam, the literal definition of “wali”, which means “custodian” or “protector”, is used. In this context, it is meant that the silence of the bride is considered consent. In most schools of Islamic law, only the father or the paternal grandfather of the bride can be wali mujbir.
If the conditions are met and a mahr and contract are agreed upon, an Islamic marriage ceremony, or wedding, can take place. The marital contract is also often signed by the bride. The consent of the bride is mandatory. Hadith The Islamic marriage is then declared publicly, in Arabic: إعلان, aa’laan, by a responsible person after delivering a sermon to counsel and guide the couple. It is not required, though customary, that the person marrying the couple should be religiously well-founded in knowledge. The bridegroom can deliver the sermon himself in the presence of representatives of both sides if he is religiously educated, as the story goes about Imam Muhammad bin Ali around 829 AD . It is typically followed by a celebratory reception in line with the couple’s or local customs, which could either last a couple of hours or precede the wedding and conclude several days after the ceremony.
The Qur’an tells believers that even if they are poor they should marry to protect themselves from immorality. The Quran asserts that marriage is a legitimate way to satisfy one’s sexual desire. Islam recognizes the value of sex and companionship and advocates marriage as the foundation for families and channeling the fulfillment of a base need. Marriage is highly valued and regarded as being half of one’s faith, according to a saying of Muhammad. Whether marriage is obligatory or merely allowed has been explored by several scholars, and agreed that “If a person has the means to marry and has no fear of mistreating his wife or of committing the unlawful if he does marry, then marriage in his case is mustahabb (preferred).”
The Qur’an outlines some conditions for a marriage to take place:
- A marriage should be conducted through a contract and a mandatory sum of wealth provided to the bride, which here refers to the mahr. Once a mahr has been ascertained with the realization that it is an obligation of a Muslim husband, the groom is required to pay it to the bride at the time of marriage unless he and his bride can mutually agree to delay the time of some of its payment. In 2003, Rubya Mehdi published an article in which the culture of mahr among Muslims was thoroughly reviewed. There is no concept of dowry as such in Islam. A dowry as such is a payment to the groom from the bride’s family, and is not an Islamic custom. Bride prices are also expressly prohibited.
- Another requisite of marriage is chastity. No fornicator has the right to marry a chaste partner except if the two purify themselves of this sin by sincere repentance.
- Marriage is permitted for a man with a chaste woman either Muslim or from the People of the Book (Arabic Ahl al Kitab, Jews, Sabians and Christians) but not to polytheists (or “idolaters”: Yusufali translation or “idolatresses”: Pickthal translation). For women, marriage to Jews, Sabians and Christians and to polytheists (Idolatry) (or “idolaters”: Yusufali translation or “disbelievers”: Pickthall translation) is prohibited; they are only allowed to marry Muslims.There is no express prohibition in the Qur’an or elsewhere about a Muslim woman marrying a People of the Book. However, the vast majority of Muslim jurists argued that since express permission was given to men, by implication women must be prohibited from doing the same. The movement of Islamic jurists and imams that do not agree on this interpretation is growing.
- Spoken consent of the woman is only required if she is not a virgin and her wali is neither her father nor her paternal grandfather. But a virgin may not be married off without her permission. If she is too shy to express her opinion her silence will be considered as implicit agreement [Al Bukhari:6968]. The wali, who can force a bride against her outspoken will into marriage, is called wali mujbir, according to “The Encyclopaedia of Islam”. If the woman was forced into a marriage, without the above-mentioned conditions, according to the Hanafi school of Islamic law the decision can be revoked, when the bride comes of age. Binti Khudham says that when she became a widow her father solemnized her marriage. She did not like the decision so she went to Muhammad, who gave her permission to revoke her marriage. Hence, forced marriages are against Islamic teachings if the woman is a virgin, and those forced into marriages before they have come of age have the right to contest them once they do.
- The importance of the wali is debated between the different schools of thought. To the Hanafi Sunnis, a male guardian is not required for the bride to become married, even if it is her first marriage. Therefore, the marriage contract is signed between the bride and the groom, not the groom and the wali. To the Hanbali, Shafi’i, and Maliki Sunni schools, a wali is required in order for a virginal woman to marry. In these schools, if a woman has been divorced, she becomes her own guardian and does not need a wali to sign a marriage contract.
Rights and obligations of spouses
According to Islam, both men and women have rights over each other when they enter into a marriage contract, with the husband serving as protector and supporter of the family most of the time, from his means.This guardianship has two aspects for both partners:
- The husband is financially responsible for the welfare and maintenance of his wife or wives and any children they produce, to include at a minimum, providing a home, food and clothing. In return, it is the duty of the wife to safeguard the husband’s possessions and protect how wealth is spent. If the wife has wealth in her own capacity she is not obliged to spend it upon the husband or children, as she can own property and assets in her own right, so the husband has no right for her property and assets except by her will. A pre-marital agreement of the financial expectation from the husband is in the mahr, given by him to the wife for her exclusive use, which is included as part of his financial responsibility.
Several commentators have stated that the superiority of a husband over his wife is relative, and the obedience of the wife is also restrictive. The Quran advises men that if they are certain of a rebellious attitude by the woman, they should first admonish her, then refuse to share beds, and finally beat (“darab”) her, according to Qur’an 4:34. (Today most Islamic scholars agree that it be without leaving a mark and not on the face). This refers to serious breaches of behaviour such as being promiscuous according to renowned 20th-century scholar Muhammad Hamidullah which is not expected from a dutiful wife, and not for simple disobedience to the husband. In explaining this, Ibn Abbas gives an example of striking with a toothstick.
Women are also reminded that in case the husband is not fulfilling his responsibilities, there is no stigma on them in seeking divorce.[The Quran re-emphasizes that justice for the woman includes emotional support, and reminds men that there can be no taking back of the mahr or bridal gifts given to women. In unfortunate cases where the agreement was to postpone payment of the mahr, some husbands will bully their wives and insist on the return of what he gave her in order to agree to the dissolution of the marriage, this is un-Islamic and cruel. “Where the husband has been abusive or neglectful of his responsibilities, he does not have the right to take his wife’s property in exchange for her freedom from him. Unfortunately most couples refuse to go to the judge and binding arbitration for these issues even though the Quran says:
“And if you fear a breach between them, then appoint an arbiter from his folk and an arbiter from her folk. If they (the arbiters) desire reconciliation, Allah will affect it between them. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”