An-Nikkah, the Muslim Marriage Contract

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Islam is a just and moderate religion which advocates justice, peace and human understanding. Islam is a code of conduct which encompasses with moderation all the aspects of human life: prayer, finance, social interaction and man-woman relationship. Allah has provided man and woman with instincts and sexual desires and both of them can satisfy their desires in accordance with marriage rules.

The Qur’an promotes chastity and the celebration of marriage: “Your wives are a tilth for you, so approach your tilth when and how you will, but do some good act for your souls beforehand.” (2: 223) The Qur’an allows a man to contract up to four nikahs, but severely condemns adultery. It is a law which purports to protect woman not only from the abuse of being treated as a mistress and to allow her to be granted a worthy social status, but also to protect the legitimacy of her offspring, thereby ensuring for them the required respect and attention in their environment.

In the French Republic, a law has been promulgated which makes provision for mistresses to draw an allowance from the Ministry of Social Security. The result of such a measure in a society of this kind is that many children live with a single parent, that is, they are not acknowledged by the father and often need psychological attention, because they are too often left to themselves and become an easy prey to delinquency.

The Qur’an prescribes equal and just treatment to the wives of a polygamous husband. Where a man feels that he will not be able to make out equal justice, the Qur’an discourages polygamy. Having said that, Allah has advised one wife only in case of risk of injustice: “If you fear injustice on your part towards them (the wives), then (marry) only one woman.” (4: 3)

The Holy Prophet (saw) had prevented his son-in-law Ali (ra) from marrying a second wife in order to preserve conjugal harmony.

The Nikah Contract

The Nikah contract consists of a marriage proposal verbally pronounced on the one hand and an oral acceptance on the other hand. In accordance with Shariah (Islamic law), the simultaneous exchanges with mutual consent of parents, grant to the woman the right to accept or reject the proposal.

The Dowry (Meher)

In Islam, woman enjoys a worthy status. She can deliberately demand from her future husband a price for her dowry. The dowry is the amount in cash or in kind which the wife can legitimately claim at the time of the nikah. A minimum of ten dirhams, equivalent at the going rate to Rs 840, is payable, although there is no upper limit. But the dowry, in our society, the dowry reflects and rests on the simplicity and love of the new bride for her future husband.

The Witnesses

The man or the woman may be absent during the nuptial ceremony, but must be absolutely represented by a wakeel. The whole process must be held audibly before the witnesses. A nikah ceremony without witnesses is not valid. Witnesses must be either two men or one man and two women who must be of age and of sound mind.

The Announcement of the Nikah

It is recommended to make a public announcement of the nikah and to hold ceremony in the mosque. (Tirmizi). The aim of the announcement is to establish order and responsibility in the society and to officialize the couple’s union openly. But it is permissible to hold the nikah ceremony at home or during a journey. A nikah held in a very discreet way with witnesses is also valid and the marriage contract is thus concluded.

The Koufouw or Equal Partnership

A nikah does not concern only the married couple; it is the union of two families. The Shariah makes provision for the protection of the honour of the girl’s family. If the girl has selected a husband who is not of the same social status or of equal piety, then the girl’s father, brothers or maternal uncles have the right to revoke the nikah, in accordance with the Shariah, ,in order to restore their prestige.

The Parents or the Wali (near relative) of the girl

In the case of a young girl, the Shariah insists on the importance of the consent of the parents or responsible party for her marriage. Although the Shariah has granted her the freedom to choose her partner, Prophet Muhammad (saw) has ordered that the Nikah should be held with the Wali’s authorization. But other connotations indicate that a divorce or even a widow can contract a nikah without the Wali’s agreement.

The Nikah as easy as it is fragile

You may note that the Khutbah is not a necessary condition for the nikah. But it is recommended to mention some praises of Allah Ta’ala. The Prophet (saw) always made sure to recite verses relating to the fear of Allah (taqwa) and piety. Nevertheless, even if the nikah is an easy exercise to perform, it is also a very fragile matter. The Prophet (saw) has said: “There are three things which are such that their seriousness is effectively considered and making fun of them is also a serious matter: they are nikah, talaaq and taking back one’s wife.” (Daar-ul-Qutni). A simple statement of divorce (talaaq) mentioned three times annuls the nikah. That is why it is preferable to seek the advice of a learned person and hold an official meeting before pronouncing the talaaq, just as was done before the nikah. Piety requires that one submits all limbs of one’s body including the tongue to the obedience of Allah Ta’ala.

Islamic Law- Differences in Application to Man and Woman

A study of the Qur’an and the Sunnah indicates that a man’s responsibility encompasses all his subordinates, including his wife and children. Woman should, as far as possible, focus her attention on her home and children. Man, on his part, works outside of the home whereas woman is busy at home. The Prophet of Allah (saw) had appointed outdoor tasks to his son-in-law Ali (ra) and household chores to his daughter Faatimah (ra). Allah Ta’ala has prescribed the following to our mothers: “Stay in your homes and do not display yourselves like the pre-Islamic women.” (33:33). Hence the field of women’s activity is their house. That is why a woman’s prayer is better accomplished at home. The Prophet of Allah has stated: “Let women perform their prayer (salaat) at home, as it is better than in the mosque (masjid).” (Baihaqui, Kanzul Ummal)

Anecdotes about the Prophet (saw) and his companions (ra) clearly show that the responsibility of the kitchen lay with the woman. Although the Shariah does not impose upon women to take responsibility only for the kitchen, conjugal harmony demands that the woman devotes herself to the proper running of her home. However, this does not mean that there have not been well-to-do women who had a successful professional career in Islam. One can manage one’s business at home like Khadihajh (ra) did, while she was represented in her dealings by her agents.

However, to maintain conjugal harmony, one has to give up one’s rights and give place to mutual friendship and confidence. It is recommended to the couple to seek advice from each other. (Bukhari). Because, as you may remember: “the boy is not like the girl.” (3: 36)

May Allah Ta’ala grant to bachelors the opportunity to seek trustworthy partners and to married couples the joy of life. Ameen!

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