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Islamic marital jurisprudence

Islamic marital jurisprudence

In Islamic law, marriage is a legal bond and social contract between a man and a woman as prompted by the Shari'a. There are two types of marriages mentioned in the Qur'an, the Nikah in verse 4:4 and the Nikah Mut'ah in verse 4:24.


  • 1 Types of marriage
    • 1.1 Nikah
    • 1.2 Nikah Mut'ah
  • 2 Who may be married?
    • 2.1 Other religions
    • 2.2 Restricted relations
    • 2.3 Age limits and arranged marriages
    • 2.4 Adulterers
    • 2.5 Other
    • 2.6 Mahr
    • 2.7 Islamic Marriage Contract
  • 3 Walima
  • 4 Behavior within marriage
    • 4.1 Rights and obligations of spouses
      • 4.1.1 Sexuality
    • 4.2 Gender roles
  • 5 Childrearing
    • 5.1 Adoption
  • 6 Divorce
  • 7 See also
  • 8 External links
  • 9 References

Types of marriage


Main article: Nikah

Nikah (Arabic: نكاح, literally: contract[1]) is the first, and most common form of marriage for Muslims; described in the Qur'an in 4:4.

A Muslim bride signing the nikkah nama or marriage certificate.
A Muslim bride signing the nikkah nama or marriage certificate.


  • It is aimed to be permanent, but can be terminated by husband engaging in the Talaq (divorce) process or the wife seeking a divorce.
  • The couple inherit from each other.
  • A legal contract is signed when entering the marriage.
  • The husband must pay for the wife's expenses.

If a divorce date is determined in the Nikah contract:

  • In Sunni jurisprudence, the contract is voided.
  • In Shia jurisprudence, the contract is transformed into a Nikah Mut'ah.

Requirement of witnesses:

  • Sunni: Three
  • Shia: None[1].

Nikah Mut'ah

Main article: Nikah Mut'ah

Nikah Mut'ah (Arabic: نكاح متعة,, temporary marriage[2]), (often referred as "fixed-time marriage" since many of these marriages have a time limit), is the second form of marriage although not explicitly stated in the Qur'an in 4:24 but one can infer. There is controversy on the Islamic legality of this type of marriage, since Sunnis believe it was abrogated by Muhammad, while Shias believe it was forbidden by Umar and hence that ban may be ignored since Umar had no authority to do so. The Qur'an itself doesn't mention any cancellation of the institution. Nikah Mut'ah sometimes has a preset time period to the marriage, traditionally the couple do not inherit from each other, the man usually is not responsible for the economic welfare of the woman, and she usually may leave her home at her own discretion. Nikah Mut'ah also does not count towards a maximum of wives (four according to the Qur'an). The woman still is given her mahr, and the woman must still observe the iddah, a period of four months at the end of the marriage where she is not permitted to marry in the case she may have become pregnant before the divorce took place. This maintains the proper lineage of children.

Who may be married?

Polygamy in Islam is permitted under a few conditions. Women are not allowed to engage in polyandry, whereas men are allowed to engage in polygyny.

Other religions

Traditionally, Muslim jurists hold that Muslim women may only enter into marriage with Muslim men. The Qur'an explicitly allows Muslim men to marry chaste women of the People of the Book, a term which includes Jews, and Christians.[3][4]

However, these traditions do not go unchallenged. An examination of the text in the long standing reference cited in footnote #4, a fatwa from the website of the Muslim jurist and scholar, Khaled Abou El Fadl, argues that there is no direct command from the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad requiring Muslim women to limit themselves to marriage with Muslim men, nor forbidding them from marriage with men of the Book - Christians and Jews. He states, "All jurists agreed that a Muslim man or woman may not marry a mushrik [one who associates partners with God--there is a complex and multi-layered discourse on who is to be considered a mushrik, but we will leave this for a separate discussion]. However, because of al-Ma'ida verse 5, there is an exception in the case of a Muslim man marrying a kitabiyya. There is no express prohibition in the Qur'an or elsewhere about a Muslim woman marrying a kitabi. However, the jurists argued that since express permission was given to men, by implication women must be prohibited from doing the same. The argument goes: If men needed to be given express permission to marry a kitabiyya, women needed to be given express permission as well, but since they were not given any such permission then they must be barred from marrying a kitabi.

. . . In all honesty, personally, I am not convinced that the evidence prohibiting Muslim women from marrying a kitabi is very strong. Muslim jurists took a very strong position on this matter--many of them going as far as saying if a Muslim woman marries a kitabi she is as good as an apostate. I think, and God knows best, that this position is not reasonable and the evidence supporting it is not very strong."

He also goes on to cite the often conveniently overlooked fact that the same jurists who ruled that Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men also considered marriage between Muslim men and non-Muslim women in the west to be far less than undesirable: "Importantly, the Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi'i jurists held that it is reprehensible (makruh) for Muslim men to marry a kitabiyya if they live in non-Muslim countries. They argued that in non-Muslim countries, mothers will be able to influence the children the most. Therefore, there is a high likelihood that the children will not grow up to be good Muslims unless both parents are Muslim. Some jurists even went as far as saying that Muslim men are prohibited from marrying a kitabiyya if they live in non-Muslim countries." [4] This matter remains unsettled in the west where Muslim men and women are free to marry non-Muslims, and there are those who do without repercussions from Muslim jurists.

Restricted relations

Marriage is forbidden between certain blood relations (although not between cousins) and between those individuals who were both breastfed by the same woman (see wetnurse). See also mahram for a fuller discussion of unmarriageable kin; Muslims are free to marry anyone not in these prohibited classes.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet forbade that a woman should be married to a man along with her paternal aunt or with her maternal aunt (at the same time). Az-Zuhri (the sub-narrator) said: There is a similar order for the paternal aunt of the father of one's wife, for 'Ursa told me that 'Aisha said, "What is unlawful because of blood relations, is also unlawful because of the corresponding foster suckling relations." Sahih Bukhari: Volume 7, Book 62, Number 46

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: It was said to the Prophet, "Won't you marry the daughter of Hamza?" He said, "She is my foster niece (brother's daughter)." Volume 7, Book 62, Number 37

Age limits and arranged marriages

No age limits have been fixed by Islam for marriage. An engagement may be arranged between families for their children, but Islamic requirements for a legal marriage include the requirement that both parties are able to give informed legal consent (ijab-o-qubul). A marriage without this consent or performed under coercion is considered void and may be annulled on those grounds.

It is Islamic tradition that a wedding not commence until both parties are fit for sexual relations.[5]


Islam does not give adulterous men the right to marry a chaste woman and nor may an adulterous woman marry a chaste man, except if the matter has not gone to court and the two purify themselves of this sin by sincere repentance.[6][7] "Women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity "(Quran 24:26)


A woman or man may propose marriage directly or through an intermediary (matchmaker).

Recognition or celebration of same sex marriage is completely unjustified in the view of Islamic law. In Islam, homosexuality is forbidden by Qur'anic injunctions and Islamic tradition.

A marriage is registered by the Qadhi who performs the short ceremony.

Unlike the wedding ring in Western societies, there is no visible sign worn to show a woman or a man is married. However, some Muslims have found the wedding ring to be a non-religious tradition and have used a ring.


Main article: Mahr

Mahr is a mandatory gift given by the groom to the bride. Unlike a bride price, however, it is given directly to the bride and not to her father. Although the gift is often money, it can be anything agreed upon by bride and groom such as a house or viable business that is put in her name and can be run and owned entirely by her if she chooses.

Islamic Marriage Contract

Main article: Islamic Marriage Contract

The purpose, rules, and regulations of the Islamic Marriage Contract. A Muslim marriage is not a 'sacrament', but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. These conditions are stipulated in a written contract. Violating any of the conditions stipulated in this contract is legal grounds for a partner seeking divorce. The first part of the Nikah, 'marriage ceremony' is the signing of the marriage contract itself.

Various traditions may differ in how Nikah is performed because different groups accept different texts as authoritative. Therefore, Sunnis will likely accept Bukhari Hadith while Shia will have their own collections, for example Furu al-Kafi, thus producing different procedures. This contract requires the consent of both parties. There is a tradition, outside of the religion, in some Muslim countries to pre-arrange a marriage for young children. However, the marriage still requires consent for the wedding to legally take place.

Divorce is not forbidden as a last resort, however the dissolution of the contract, Talaq, is often described as the most disliked of permissible things in Islam and should be used as a last resort.


Main article: Walima

The Walima is a dinner given by the groom's side of the family to celebrate the welcoming of the bride to the family. It is a strong sunnah (something the prophet Muhammad did) and it is recommended to be held on the earliest possible day after consummation as possible.

Behavior within marriage

Rights and obligations of spouses

Main article: Rights and obligations of spouses in Islam

Islam advocates a role-based relationship between husband and wife.

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: The Prophet said, "All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian and is responsible for her husband's house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards." Sahih Bukhari:Volume 7, Book 62, Number 128

It puts the main responsibility of earning over the husband. Both are obliged to fulfill the other's sexual needs. Husbands are asked to be kind to their wives and wives are asked to be obedient to their husbands. However, when the wife's clearly rebellious behavior is preventing mediation between the two, the husband shall urge his wife to mend her ways, and if that is unsuccessful, to refuse to share their bed with her to express the seriousness of the disagreement, and finally, husbands are allowed to admonish their wives by light physical exertion. The books of fiqh describe this physical expression as not leaving any mark on her body, not upon her face, and with the same strength as would be exerted through striking with a toothbrush. This is all assuming the husband is in the right, and such mediative tactics will prevail in restoring the correct understanding of the man. If, however, the man is in the wrong, these mediative tactics will have no success, and that is proof that the man need to mend his approach towards the disagreement. These are last resort tactics that the husband, if he his wise, should use rarely in order to maintain his credibility.


Main article: Sexuality in Islam

Sexuality in Islam is largely described by the Qur'an, Islamic tradition, and religious leaders both past and present as being confined to marital relationships between men and women. While most traditions discourage celibacy, all encourage strict chastity and modesty with regards to any relationships across gender lines, holding forth that intimacy as perceived within Islam -- encompassing a swath of life more broad than strictly sex -- is to be reserved for marriage.

Narrated 'Abdullah: We were with the Prophet while we were young and had no wealth whatever. So Allah's Apostle said, "O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual desire." Volume 7, Book 62, Number 4:

While adulterous relationships are strictly forbidden, permissible sexual relationships within marriage are described in Islamic sources as great wells of love and closeness for the couple involved. Sexual relationship between married couples are even source of rewards from God as doing the oppositie i.e. satisfying sexual needs through illicit means has punishment. Specific occasions -- most notably daytime fasting and menstruation -- are times forbidden for intercourse, though not for other ways of touching and being close to one another. Anal sex with one's wife is also strictly prohibited.

Gender roles

Main article: Gender roles in Islam

In Islamic theology, both sexes are generally considered to be equal in value and differences between the sexes are recognized, resulting in different rights, obligations, and distinct roles.

Generally, Muslims expect women to be home-makers and caregivers to their children, although early Islamic scholars decreed that there was no requirement for them to do either. It is generally considered a good thing if they are educated as well. Cultural interpretations of Islam support the traditional division of labour whereby women assume the main responsibility for the home while men are responsible for supporting their wives. Motherhood is seen as one of the most important roles in society. Muslim wives and mothers should be granted the respect due to all women for the struggles and sacrifices they make for the sake of their families. Mother has been given three times higher status over father. In some interpretations of Islam, Muslim women may seek a higher education, work outside the home or volunteer their services to benefit the community as long as their primary responsibilities are taken care of, they have the permission of their husbands and they do not compromise their faith in doing so (i.e. jobs that require them to dress in a fashion that is contrary to the Sharia -- Hijab).


Main article: Islam and children


Main article: Islamic adoption

Islam has its own rules of regulations regarding adoption, with distinct rules and regulations prior to and after the legal adoption. Muslims are allowed to adopt as long as they do not change the name of the child they adopt. Muslims are usually required to let any such children continue the lineage of their birth parents, and are not allowed to make the adopted children to continue the adopted parents' lineage.


Main article: Talaq (Nikah)

The typical way to end a marraiage is through Talaq, a legal Islamic divorce. Divorce is very disliked in Islaam. However, it is still legal and can be practiced.

In Shia Islam, a divorce is a procedure that is threefold

  • Initiation - The divorce is announced publicly (triple talaq is illegal)
  • Reconciliation - the couple will try to reconcile differences
  • Completion - With two witnesses and after the Iddah period has expired, the divorce is complete.

In Sunni Islam there is Triple talaq, it is a (controversial) practice in which the couple instantly divorces by declaring the intention three times and thus making sexual relations between them haram for each other. However Islamic tradition maintains that divorce cannot be final until after a period called 'Iddah, that is the period of three months or more specifically three menstrual cycles, so that it is evident that the wife is not pregnant. Furthermore, after the divorce is final the couple may not remarry until the wife has married and divorced another.

Narrated Nafi: Ibn 'Umar bin Al-Khattab divorced his wife during her menses. Allah's Apostle ordered him to take her back till she became clean, and when she got another period while she was with him, she should wait till she became clean again and only then, if he wanted to divorce her, he could do so before having sexual relations with her. And that is the period Allah has fixed for divorcing women. Whenever 'Abdullah (bin 'Umar) was asked about that, he would say to the questioner, "If you divorced her thrice, she is no longer lawful for you unless she marries another man (and the other man divorces her in his turn).' Ibn 'Umar further said, 'Would that you (people) only give one or two divorces, because the Prophet has ordered me so." Sahih Bukhari:Volume 7, Book 63, Number 249

Narrated Yunus Ibn Jubair: Ibn 'Umar divorced his wife while she was having her menses. 'Umar asked the Prophet who said, "Order him (your son) to take her back, and then divorced her before her period of the 'Iddah has elapsed." I asked Ibn 'Umar, "Will that divorce (during the menses) be counted?" He replied, "If somebody behaves foolishly (will his foolishness be an excuse for his misbehavior)?" Volume 7, Book 63, Number 250

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