Islamic marital jurisprudence

In Islamic law (sharia), marriage (zawaj زواج) is a legal bond and social contract between a man and a woman. Islam is totally opposed to monasticism and celibacy.[1] Marriage is an act of Sunnah in Islam and is strongly recommended;[1][2] the age of marriage being whenever the individuals feel ready, financially and emotionally.[2] Polygyny is permitted in Islam under some conditions, but polyandry is forbidden.[3]

Types of marriage


A Muslim bride signing the nikkah nama or marriage certificate.
Main article: Nikah

Nikah (Arabic: نكاح, literally, "to collect and bind together")[4] is the firstand most commonform of marriage for Muslims. It is described in the Qur'an in Surah 4:4.[5]


If an agreed end-date is determined in the Nikah contract:

Requirement of witnesses:

Permission from Wali:[7]

Nikah mut‘ah

Main article: Nikah mut‘ah

Nikah mut‘ah (Arabic: نكاح متعة, temporary marriage[8]), often referred as fixed-time marriage. Many of these marriages have a time limit, and is the second form of marriage, and is referred to in Al-Qur'an in Surah An-Nisa ayat 24, 4:24("اسْتَمْتَعْتُمْ"). There is controversy on the Islamic legality of this type of marriage, since Sunnis believe it was abrogated by Muhammad, while Shi'ia hold to Al-Qur'an and the ruling of Imam Ali (a.s.) that it is lawful in which he said "The first to ban Mut'ah was Omar[9]" and "Were it not for Omar banning Mut'ah only the sickest people would commit fornication.[10]" Nikah mut‘ah has a preset time period to the marriage which is stated during the initiation of the contract. 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. For these reasons Sunnis frequently compare this type of marriage to adultery or prostitution. Nikah mut‘ah also does not count toward a maximum of wives (four according to the Qur'an). However, similar to normal marriages that are common among Sunnis and Shi'ias, the woman still is given her mahr,and the woman must still observe the iddah, a period of time (exact time is debated but is between 2 and 4.5 months) where the woman cannot remarry. This is to ensure that there is no pregnancy from the ex-husband and thus clarifies paternal lineage.

Shia justification for Mut'ah:

Quran 4:24 (Pickthall)- And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned, so that ye seek them with your wealth in honest wedlock, not debauchery. And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what ye do by mutual agreement after the duty (hath been done). Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise.

Nikah misyar

Main article: Nikah Misyar

Nikah Misyaar is a Nikah in Sunni's carried out via the normal contractual procedure, with the specificity that the husband and wife give up several rights by their own free will, such as living together, equal division of nights between wives in cases of polygamy, the wife's rights to housing, and maintenance money ("nafaqa"), and the husband's right of homekeeping, and access etc.[11]

Interfaith marriage

Muslim males may marry a non-Muslim female, specifically, one from the "People of the Book", which includes Judaism and Christianity. Conversion is optional for the woman, but she is nonetheless charged with having a proper understanding of her respective faith as well as engaging in its true and thorough practise. Muslim women have generally forbidden from marrying non-Muslims by some interpretations. But today, more and more scholars have been questioning this ages-long assumption.

Restrictions on marriage


Main article: Polygyny in Islam

Muslim men are allowed to practise polygyny, that is, they can have more than one wife at the same time, up to a total of four, per Sura 4 Verse 3. A man does not need approval of his first wife for a second marriage as there is no evidence in the Qur'an or hadith to suggest this.[12][13][14] The only requirement is to create fairness among his wives and to never hurt one wife to please another as this would be unjust. If this requirement cannot be fulfilled, then he can only marry one woman.

Polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, by contrast, is not permitted. One of the main reasons for this would be the potential questioning of paternal lineage. The Quran states: (30:21): “And among His signs is that He has created for you, from your selves, mates, that you may incline towards them and find rest in them, and He has engendered love and tenderness between you. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.”

Permissible age

Sahih Muslim permits marriage by reaching maturity sexually (I.e. menstruation, voice changing, wetdreams) (baligh). Sexual maturity in sharia law is typically understood to mean puberty.[15] At the same time, intercourse is forbidden until they are able to physically bear it.[16]

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.[17][18]

Arranged and forced marriages

An engagement may be arranged between families for their children, but Islamic requirements for a legal marriage include the requirement that both parties, bride, groom and guardian for the bride (wali), give their legal consent. A marriage without the consent of the bride or performed under coercion is illegal according to the majority of scholars.

If a girl has not attained the age of puberty, the vast majority of scholars hold that she cannot be married; and many stipulate that it must be in her best interest in order to be considered a valid marriage. There is some dispute as to whether or not an under-age bride can leave her family's custody and be transferred to her husband's custody, if she has not yet reached puberty. Some evidence supporting both sides can be seen in the following narrations from Muhammad:

Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 65 Narrated 'Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that 'Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).

Sahih Bukhari 7.18 Narrated 'Ursa: The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for 'Aisha's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said "But I am your brother." The Prophet said, "You are my brother in Allah's religion and His Book, but she (Aisha) is lawful for me to marry."

however; evidence from other Islamic sources seems to suggest that this is not something allowed for all Muslims; rather specifically for Muhammad. The evidence for this view is as follows:

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: "A non-virgin woman may not be married without her command, and a virgin may not be married without her permission; and it is permission enough for her to remain silent (because of her natural shyness)." [Al-Bukhari:6455, Muslim & Others]

It is reported in a hadith that A'ishah related that she once asked the Prophet : "In the case of a young girl whose parents marry her off, should her permission be sought or not?" He replied: "Yes, she must give her permission." She then said: "But a virgin would be shy, O Messenger of Allaah!" He replied: "Her silence is [considered as] her permission." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, & Others]

It appears that the permission of an under-age bride is indeed necessary for her marriage to be considered valid;the above narrations seem to clearly make the approval of the bride a condition for a valid marriage contract.


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.[19][20]

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. Islam forbids homosexuality in Qur'anic injunctions and Islamic tradition.

A marriage is registered by the Qadi 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

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 the hadith of Muhammad al-Bukhari, 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 (the repetition of an action of Muhammad) and it is recommended to be held the earliest possible day after the Nikah.

Behavior within marriage

Spousal rights and obligations

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

`Abd Allah ibn `Umar narrated:

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 al-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. Both are obliged to treat each other with kindness.

Separate accommodation for wife

The wife has the right to live in separate accommodation with her husband and children, if she does not like to share it with anyone like her in-law or relatives. This is the view of most of the Hanafi, Shaafa’i and Hanbali fuqaha. She also has the right to refuse to live with her husband's father, mother and siblings.

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar: That he heard Allah's Apostle saying, "Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charge; the ruler is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects; the man is a guardian in his family and responsible for his charges; a woman is a guardian of her husband's house and responsible for her charges; and the servant is a guardian of his master's property and is responsible for his charge." I definitely heard the above from the Prophet and think that the Prophet also said, "A man is a guardian of his father's property and responsible for his charges; so everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for his charges."[Sahih Bukhari]

This indicates that a wife is responsible for the house of her husband. Also that a man should be the guardian of his family, i.e., after his marriage he moves out of his father's house, and runs his own family affairs and is guardian of his family. In joint family, typically the head is either the father of the husband, or mother of the husband. This also indicates that a husband should look after his parent's house, as "a man is a guardian of his father's property". So the wife should not object to her husband when he is looking after affairs of his parents.[21]


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.

Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud narrated:

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:[22]

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 opposite; i.e., satisfying sexual needs through illicit means has punishment. Specific occasions (most notably daytime fasting (see sawm) 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.

Islam has an open and playful approach to sex[23][24] so long as it is within marriage, free of lewdness, fornication and adultery.

Gender roles

In Islam, women and men are not treated equally in the westernized sense. The Qur'an asserts that there are innate differences between women and men.[25] Therefore, Islam places different rights over the husband and wife.

Some similar rights which both the husband and wife owe to each other are:

Some rights which the husband owes to his wife are:

Some rights which the wife owes to her husband are:

These are some of the rights which spouses owe one another.[27][28]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Importance of Marriage in Islam". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  2. 1 2
  4. Information: Definition of Nikah (Islamic marriage)
  5. Quran 4:4
  6. Witnesses for Marriage
  7. Nikah without Parents Knowledge?
  8. :: Mut'ah, a comprehensive guide
  11. Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf : Misyar marriage
  12. Section 30
  13. Validity of second marriage without consent of first
  14. IslamWeb Fatwa Q&A
  15. Islam and the Everyday World: Public Policy Dilemmas - Page 102, Sohrab Behdad, Farhad Nomani, Farhad Nomani - 2006
  16. Requirement for Marriage
  17. Quran 5:5
  18. El Fadl, Abou (2006). "On Christian Men marrying Muslim Women". Scholar of the House. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
  19. Quran 24:3, Quran 2:221
  20. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter:The Social Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid
  21. Rights of Spouses and issues with joint family
  22. Wedlock, Marriage (Nikaah)
  23. , Article titled “Sex: What Muslim women really want in the bedroom”, by Shelina Janmohamed, The Telegraph, May 2, 2013, accessed on 23 September 2015.
  24. , 100 Interesting Facts About …
  25. "And the male is not like the female."
  26. 1 2 Husbands' Duties in Islam
  27. Rights of spouses
  28. See Section 18

Further reading

  • Ali, Kecia (2010). Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05059-4. 
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