If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. Qur'an 4:3 "
I recall telling friends, “Maybe when I get older I will consider polygyny. I don’t think I will want someone up under me all of the time.” Then, I met my husband. I did not expect to like him as much as I do. MashaAllah!
For those who knew me, my openness to polygyny was not a secret. I had previously been exposed to it personally, both in a negative and positive light. Unbeknownst to me, this exposure prepared me and provided insight that I could not have developed independently. I learned what to do and what not to do. Some skills imparted to me by my personal circle of Muslimahs and elders would benefit any marriage. However, I also know polygyny has its own set of experiences. Some of which, one cannot prepare for without the help of Allah.
No, I did not plan to be in a polygynous family. I planned, inshaAllah, to marry a man who pleased Allah and could please me. I prayed for the moment for years. I did not pray for him to be unmarried. I left out a key detail! One must be specific with duas! Prior to marriage, my husband informed me of his marital status. He was happily married and had been for 6 years. I appreciated the loving manner in which he described his wife. He never spoke negatively of her. Alhamdulilah. Clearly, this appealed to me. He had experienced polygyny before and did not negate its sensitivities. He explained his role and how important it was. He informed me of his preferences for the relationship between his wives. He had other benefits I found attractive. His existing wife knew of his intent to add on to his family. He made it clear he wanted two wives but would have one family. I knew this required a level of cooperation which I had not planned to do. I informed him I had no intentions of seeking to be her best friend. I had collected good friends and retained them for over 30 years. These relationships could not be replaced. I explained I likely would not go grocery shopping with her. Yet, I would surely be respectful, kind and sisterly.
I had been given the option to speak with her prior to our marriage. I delayed doing so for months. To date, I do not know my reason. I just wasn’t ready it seems. What do you say to a potential co-wife during the first conversation? No script exists for this. A month prior to our nikkah, I requested to talk with her. We chatted on the phone for over an hour. As I made plans to relocate, she assisted me with identifying housing. When I visited the state to secure my relocation, she drove me around. We went to lunch. She took me to her place of business. Five months from the date of the initial introduction to my husband, we married.
So you’ve found the person you want as your future spouse, you’ve asked them all of the proper questions and you’ve decided to get married. Now it’s time to plan the wedding. According to Islam, in order for a man and woman to be married, a nikkah must be conducted. In Islam, marriage is considered a contract and there are various components of this contract.
The first is the proposal: This is when the man asks a woman for her hand in marriage, and as a form of respect, her family as well. Once the woman has accepted, they are now ‘intended’ and it is not permissible for another man to propose to her. It is important to note that although the two individuals have agreed to marry one another, they are still non-mahram to each other. The woman has no rights over the man and viceversa. They are not to be alone together or physically interact and they should still observe hijab around each other.
The second component is the mahr: After the proposal has been accepted, the man offers the intended wife a mahr. In the Qur’an we’re told:
And give women their Mahr as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result. Qur’an 4:4. "
Although in recent times, it has become common for the woman or her parents to request a certain ‘amount’ from the future husband. It is actually of the Sunnah for the intended husband to offer a certain mahr to the woman. She then has the opportunity to accept or decline it. When it comes to the mahr, a few things must be remembered, such as: that both individuals must consent to the mahr, not their parents, that the mahr is her right and she should not be made to feel guilty for wanting one and that the mahr is a gift, it is not her dowry or bride price. There is no ‘limit’ on what the mahr can be, it can be cash, a certain item or something non-tangible like the teaching of some knowledge or recitation of a certain sura from the Qur’an. The mahr can be given right away or promise can be made(prior to the nikkah) for the mahr to be given later at a certain time. It is highly recommended though, that the mahr be given prior to the nikkah or at the nikkah.
After the proposal and mahr have been accepted, the third and final mandatory component is the actual nikkah ceremony. The nikkah can take place anywhere that is halal(i.e not a bar or a club but in your home, the masjid, a hall, etc) and it is to be performed by an imam or qadi. Unlike marriage ceremonies of other faiths, there is no ‘walking down the aisle and’ there are no bridesmaids or groomsmen. The only individuals who need to be in attendance are the officiant, the two individuals that are marrying each other, two Muslim witnesses and the wali(Muslim guardian who is related to the woman-it can be her father, brother, uncle, etc) or the wakil(a Muslim guardian who is not related to the woman, generally for Muslim women who do not have any ‘practicing’ Muslim male relatives). At the nikkah, a khutbah(sermon) is usually given in which the officiant generally speaks about the virtues of marriage, the rights of the spouses and other aspects of Marriage in Islam.
After the ceremony is given, the officiant asks the woman if she has agreed to the mahr and consents to the marriage. She should respond with “I have given away myself, in Nikkah, to you, on the agreed mahr”. The man then immediately responds, “I have accepted the nikkah”. With these short statements, they are now husband and wife.
After the nikkah, either on the same day or sometime later, a walima is held. The walima is essentially a feast that the groom offers to announce the marriage. The walima is not mandatory but it is highly recommended. Regardless of the individuals’ culture, the walima should abide by Islamic guidelines. There should be no alcohol, lewd music, inappropriate attire, etc. As with all gatherings, it is advised that men and women should be separate.
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.”[Quran 17: 23]
As Muslims, we are taught that one of the most important thing a child should do is to always be obedient and respectful to their parent. To not do so, is a grievous offense in the eyes of Allah(SWT). It is important to note though that obedience to your parents is not absolute for Allah says“there is no obedience to the creation in disobedience to the creator”. You should always try to obey and please your parents unless what they are asking of you is in contradiction with the teachings of Islam. Alongside this, kinship ties in Islam are also very important and to dissolve them without good reason is considered to be a sin. With that being said, it is important to remember such things when it comes to the subject of marriage in Islam.
The extent to which parents and family members are involved in the courtship process varies differently depending on the family and their cultural customs. Islamically though, the parents need to be aware of the relationship and the wali(male guardian of the girl) must be involved as his consent is needed for the marriage to be lawful(the Hanafi school of thought strongly recommends the consent of the wali but does not consider it to be obligatory, the other three schools of thought consider it obligatory).
As I stated in the part 1 of the series, it is not permissible for a parent to force their child to marry someone. Both the woman and man must express their consent to the marriage in order for it to be valid. Some Muslim parents, misusing the fact that Islam promotes the obedience of the child to the parents, attempt to manipulate and force their child to marry someone that they have chosen despite the refusal of their child. Contrary to popular belief, it is not “the job” of the parent to find a spouse for their child. If their child chooses to ask them to take on this role, it is permissible. Parents(and all family members) must remember that while the parent may suggest a spouse, it is not their right. Alongside this, it is the right of the son/daughter to choose their own spouse.
During the courtship process and prior to the actual nikkah, the main role of the parents is to ensure that the entire process is halal. Parents are welcome to get to know the individual that their child is interested in as well as the individual’s parents. As loving and caring parents should, parents should be sure to listen to the reasons why their child chose this person and learn about exactly what it is they are looking for in a spouse so that they can assist in the making of the best/appropriate decision. Parents are also welcome to give their opinions on the prospective individual and whether or not they approve or disapprove of the match. The last part, the ability to give their opinion and approve/disapprove of the potential spouse, is something that most parents take to heart and often use to try and control the entire situation.
While parents can express their opinions, it is important to note that the child does not have to agree with their decision if it is derived in a haram manner. For instance, we often hear about parents turning down a suitor because he/she is not a doctor or is not from their same community. The Prophet(SAW) says to choose someone foremost because of their deen and character and not because of tribal affiliation, skin tone, nationality or race.
Overall, parents and immediate family members should try and get to know the potential spouse but remember that ultimately, the suitor is not marrying the entire family and although they should get along, its the opinion of person looking to get married that matters most.
We will be posting a series of articles all pertaining to Marriage in Islam. The “Marriage Series” will focus on how to go about this fun but crazy process in a halal manner and will also include our personal experience. "
The media and society as a whole has unfortunately portrayed Muslim parent as evil individuals who force their kind and naive children into marriages with someone that they do not know and is abusive, hideous and other bad things. In reality though, while some parents might operate in this manner, it is not the norm and forced marriages are actually haram in Islam.
Ok, so if parents aren't supposed to force their children to marry someone, does that mean that Muslim youth should date in order to find their spouse? The answer to that is NO.
It is not permissible for a Muslim to date in the sense of dating in the western world. A man and a woman are not permitted to be alone with one another unless they are mahrams and free-mixing in general is not allowed. So then, how do Muslims find their spouse?
This process manifests in different ways depending on the culture but often, if a man or woman notice someone of the opposite sex that they think might be good for them(based on word of mouth, halal interactions, etc) and they would like to inquire about the person, they should first make istikhara(dua for guidance). If after istikharah, they are still interested, the can either go through their local imam(if both individuals are from the same community) to express interest in the person and the imam can notify the other individual. They can also speak to someone who is close to the other individual and express interest or they can go directly to the family of the individual themselves. So for instance, if a brother is interested in a sister, he can choose to go through the imam or go straight to the girl’s wali(who can be her father, brother, uncle, etc) and if a sister is interested, she should notify her wali and have him make the initial contact. If both parties agree to pursue the interest, a meeting is arranged. While this meeting can be organised in different ways depending on the culture, it is impertinent that there be a chaperone, preferably the wali of the girl. Meeting alone(even in a restaurant or cafe) should be avoided. It is important that both families be completely involved in the whole process.
If after the initial discussion the two individuals decide that they are both interested in one another, subsequent meetings may be arranged to further get to know each other. It is important, because the point of these meetings is to decide if they are your ideal spouse, that fundamental questions be asked and discussed. Such questions should include how often the person prays, their adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah, how marital disagreements in matters of deen should be handled(i.e you believe niqab is Sunnah and want to observe while he would prefer you don’t and because it’s Sunnah, you don’t ‘have’ to do it) and other related questions. Questions regarding rights and duties, marital roles(do you expect him to be the sole breadwinner like Allah has ordained? Does he expect you to be a housewife?), the influence of in-laws, income, career goals, kinship ties and other foundation questions should also be answered. If the responses to these sort of questions pleases both individuals they might decide to begin preparations for a nikkah and also spend more(halal) time together to develop chemistry and feelings for one another. The reason why it is good to make sure the foundations are there before the emotional attachments and chemistry is because often times, once you start developing feelings you begin to make excuses for the important areas they are lacking in.
*Remember though, that while you are developing these feelings, you are not married and still unlawful towards one another and should therefore be modest in your actions*
The "Muslimah Worries" section of Striving Clarity is dedicated to discussing the things that Muslimahs often worry about from hijab to marriage to how to remain spiritual when you're unable to pray. Join us!