What Every Muslimah Should Know About Marriage
False beliefs surrounding Muslim marriages persist – even, sometimes, amongst Muslims themselves. Maryam Yusof dispels some of the most common.
Someone recently asked me whether my parents were going to force me to marry a man of their choice soon. Apparently, the Muslims he knew usually got married at a very young age. At 22, it seemed to him that I was fast approaching the end of optimum marriageable age. When I quickly – and somewhat aggressively – retorted that my parents would yell at me for even entertaining the idea of marrying before graduation, he expressed surprise that my parents would think this way, and was shocked when I told him that forced marriage has never been permissible in Islam.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not opposed to those who choose to marry young, and I think there are benefits of doing so. I am adamantly opposed to forced marriage, however, and feel it’s a shame that such misconceptions exist, even among Muslims.
There remain many other misconceptions about women’s rights in Islam, particularly in the realm of marriage, and they often stem from the influence of age-old cultural traditions
According to the Qur’an:
O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. An-Nisa [4:19]
There remain many other misconceptions about women’s rights in Islam, particularly in the realm of marriage, and they often stem from the influence of age-old cultural traditions.
‘Islamic marriages are often misinterpreted as a sentence subjected to being female, and polygamy has become a widely misunderstood and exploited ongoing trend,’ says Mumtaz Khatib, recently engaged and from South Africa. ‘A sad reality is that a majority of the people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, make no effort to understand the correct meaning and reason of the act of nikah.’
As someone who is looking forward to a happily married life a few years down the road, I think it’s important for every bride-to-be to know the rights that Islam provides before agreeing to a marriage union, and to differentiate religious rules from misconstrued cultural traditions.
Misconception: There is no equality for women in marriage
In the Qur’an, marriage is described as a mutual partnership that is peaceful and tranquil, wrapped with love and mercy (Ar-Rum 30:21).
In a hadith narrated by Imam Ahmad, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says to a woman of her husband, ‘Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell.’ In another hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) states ‘The believer with the most complete faith is the one with the best character, and the best of them are those whom treat their women the best.’ (Tirmidhi)
These hadiths show us that there must be mutual respect and both parties must treat each other well. Whenever one spouse considers himself or herself superior, there is a shift in the balance of the relationship that may lead to misuse or abuse of power.
Just because Allah has given men a position of authority, this does not give them the right to abuse it. They have to treat their wives in the best manner. Allah says, ‘Live with them in kindness.’ (An-Nisa 4:19)
Mumtaz concurs with this sentiment. ‘A woman should always remember never to try to be above her husband, and a man should remember that his wife is not beneath him to be stepped on,’ she advises.
The seerah, a collection of narrations and the study of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), tells us that he would help his wives with housework and engage in games with them.
Misconception: The dowry is to buy a Muslim bride
The mahr, or dowry, is an important pillar of nikah. Mistaken beliefs maintain that the dowry is considered a means of exchange to ‘buy’ the bride. In actual fact, the mahr is a right that is given to the woman, as an expression of the man’s desire to marry her. She is to set its conditions, though her requests should be reasonable. So the mahr does not mean that a woman is a product to be sold; rather it is a symbol of honour and respect, and a sign that the husband is willing to shoulder his responsibilities and fulfil his duties.
Misconception: My money is his money
I’ve heard about many cases of working wives who immediately surrender their earnings to their husbands when the paycheck comes in. In truth, the woman has the right to keep her property and wealth, whether earned or inherited, and spend it as she may please.
The Marriage Contract
Every Muslim bride should also know that she has the right to arrange a marriage contract before officiating the union. Making a binding agreement on the terms of such a contract allows the couple to discuss the aspects of their married life, such as decisions on where to live, career choices and the upbringing of their future children. Additionally, the bride may also state in the contract that her husband cannot marry another.
Ultimately, having a strong understanding of Islam is an important factor in the relationship in order for couples to avoid misunderstandings. ‘Both parties should work together in the influence of Islam so that both will end up in Jannah together, insha’allah,’ says 31-year-old Nurain Yuza, happily married in Singapore. ‘The husband is there to guide the wife while the wife is there to support the husband.’
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