Marriage and Family Life

Another aspect of Islamic social life is marriage and the establishment of a family. Islam encourages its followers to get married and avoid celibacy. Prophet Muhammad said, “A person who marries safeguards half of his faith; then he must fear God for the remaining half.”[1] In another tradition, the Prophet said, “He who wishes to be clean and purified when he meets God should marry and have a spouse.”[2]

The Quran describes the union between a man and woman in the following manner,

“And among His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily, in that are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)

This verse establishes three pillars of a successful marriage. First, marriage provides an emotional and social shelter whereby the husband and wife find stability and security – financial, spiritual, emotional, and social. The second pillar of a successful marriage is the love between the spouses. Marriage that is not based on love is apt to fail. The third pillar is the mercy between the spouses which leads to mutual understanding, appreciation, respect, forgiveness, and the caring for one another.

Although heavily discouraged, divorce is permissible in Islam. Divorce in Islam is only used in dire cases in which the marriage had no possibility of progress or development. God does not want a couple to remain in misery and sustain emotional, physical, and financial damage. Thus, God explains the laws and rules of divorce in a chapter of the Quran called “The Divorce,”

“O Prophet! When you divorce women, divorce them at [the conclusion of] their term and calculate the term, and be wary of God, your Lord. Do not turn them out from their houses, nor shall they go out, unless they commit a gross indecency. These are God’s bounds, and whoever transgresses the bounds of God certainly wrongs himself. You never know maybe God will bring off something new later on. Then, when they have completed their term, either retain them honourably or separate from them honourably, and take the witness of two fair men from among yourselves, and bear witness for the sake of God. To [comply with] this is advised whoever believes in God and the Last Day…” (65:1-2)

Islam encourages reconciliation between the spouses, and the families and friends have a responsibility to counsel the couple as much as possible, as the Quran says,

“And if you fear a split between the two of them, then appoint an arbiter from his relatives and an arbiter from her relatives. If they desire reconcilement, God shall reconcile them. Indeed God is all-knowing, all-aware.” (4:35)

But if the attempt to save the marriage ultimately fails, then the last resort is divorce.

After divorce, there is a waiting period which is referred to as an iddah. The iddah represents a time of reflection or emotional recuperation for the couple; it provides them an opportunity to heavily reconsider their divorce decision and can be somewhat regarded as a period of ‘separation’ during which time reconciliation is possible without having to renew the marriage vows. The three-month waiting period also provides ample time to confirm the possibility of pregnancy. Often times, couples will return to each other during the iddah period; however, if the period elapses and the couple shows no interest of getting back together then the divorce is finalized.

Part of the Islamic social life is to have high regards for kinship. Kindness and respect for one’s parents is considered as one of the most notable qualities in Islam, as God states in the Quran,

“The Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents, whether one or both of them attains old age in your life. Say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor, and out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say, ‘My Lord, bestow on them Your mercy, as they cherished me in childhood.’” (23:24)

Respect and kindness towards parents is as important as worship itself. Imam as-Sadiq said, “One who glares at his parents with wrathful eyes, although they have been unjust to him, God will not accept his prayers unless he repents.”[3]

Respecting one’s mother is particularly important and the Prophet Muhammad has said, “Treat your mother kindly. Treat your mother kindly. Treat your mother kindly, and be kind to your father.”[4]

Imam as-Sadiq has narrated, “He who wishes God, Almighty and Glorious, to lighten the agonies of death should have regard for his kinship and treat his parents with goodness. Then God will make the agonies of death easy for him, and he will not be stricken by poverty in his life at all.”[5]

In general, mankind should serve one another whether they are related or not. Prophet Muhammad said, “He who decreases a grief out of the agonies for his Muslim brother, God will decrease for him a grief from the agonies of the hereafter.”[6]

He also said, “People are the dependants of God for sustenance. So the most beloved person with God is the one who is helpful to the dependents of God and makes the family members of a house happy.”[7]

As a social responsibility, Islam also encourages its followers to help the needy. Imam as-Sadiq said, “Whoever satiates a hungry believer such that one is satisfied fully, neither a human being among people, nor a near-stationed angel, nor a divine messenger, will know how great his reward is in the Hereafter except Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.”

The same Imam has also said: “Feeding a hungry Muslim is among the means of forgiveness.”[8]

Even people who are not indigent should still be assisted in any possible way.

[1] Al-Kafi, v.5 p.328.
[2] Man’la Yahduruhu al-Faqih, v.3 p.385.
[3] Usul al-Kafi, 2:349.
[4] Ibid., 2:162.
[5] Safinat al-Bihar, v.2 p.553.
[6] Shahab al-Akbar, p.194.
[7] Usul al-Kafi, v.2 p.164.
[8] Ibid., v.2 p.201.


Discovering Islam by Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini

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