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Kafa'ah (Suitability and Compatibility) in Nikah

by Madrasah In'aamiyyah, Camperdown, South Africa

A healthy marital life coupled with a good relationship make up the prime objects of Nikah. That is only possible when natural inclinations and backgrounds are shared (by both spouses). In the absence of such unity, living together successfully, despite great effort is indeed difficult, as attested to by many marital breakdowns due to non-compatibility.

Certain actions and situations elicit different responses from persons of differing backgrounds and nature. For this reason, the Shari’ah has considered Kafaa’at (suitability and compatibility) between spouses necessary.

Kafaa’at in Lineage

Due to the above, the Fuqahaa (Jurists) have stated that among Arabs, a non-Quraishi male is not a match (Kuf) for a Quraishi woman, nor can any person of non-Arab descent be a match for a woman of Arab descent.

For example, the Sayyids, whether Siddique or Farooque, Uthmaani or Alawi, or belonging to some other branch can never be matched by any person not sharing their lineage, no matter his profession and family status. These families (Sayyids, etc.) are suitable matches for one another, since they share descent from the Quraishi tribe. Thus, marriages between themselves are correct and permitted without any condition as appearing in Darrul Mukhtaar: 

‘… And Kafaa’at in lineage. Thus the Quraysh are suitable matches for one another as are the (other) Arabs suitable matches for one another.’

The ruling relevant to non-Arabs is as follows: ‘An Ajmi (non-Arab) cannot be a match for a woman of Arab descent, no matter that he be an Aalim (religious scholar) or even a Sultan (ruling authority). This is the correct view.)

Kafaat in Profession

Among Arabs, Kaf’aat with regards to professions is not considered since such does not usually form a basis for respectability in their society. Rather, all professions are regarded equal. A person of a certain profession does not usually regard another as of lower in status. This is contrary to the practise of non-Arabs who consider professions as status in their society. Professions are accorded different levels in status and on this basis, association of a person of superior profession with another of a lesser degree is regarded as difficult. It is for this reason the noble Shari’ah has taken Kafa’aat into consideration in worldly dealings (although in the sight of Allah, such things are no measure of superiority or inferiority).

Thus, the Fuqahaa (jurists) have stated that a weaver is not a Kufu’ (match) of a tailor, rather he is inferior nor is a tailor the Kufu’ of a cloth merchant nor a cloth merchant the Kufu’ of an Aalim (scholar of Deen) or Qadhi (judge of an Islamic court). (Darrul Mukhtaar vol.3 pg.90; MH Sa’eed)

The Ruling Regarding Consideration of Kafa’aat Being Necessary

It is the saying of Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), ‘Listen! Women should be married off only by their (Shar’ee) guardians (Wali) and their marriage should take place only with suitable matches.’ (Akfaa).’ (Daaraqutni and Bayhaqi)

It is most suitable for a woman’s Nikah to be contracted by her Wali (Shar’ee guardian) – So that she is not deceived due to inexperience and ignorance and that she remain safe from the destructive reins of desires. Also that she, as far as possible, be married to a Kufu’ (so she remains protected from the distress and incompatibility of marriage to a non-Kufu’)

Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, ‘Oh Ali (Radhiallaahu Anhu)! Never delay in 3 matters; Salaat – when it’s time is nigh; Janaaza – when it is ready (before you), an unmarried woman – when her Kufu’ (suitable partner) is found.’ (Tirmidhi)

Three things should never be delayed without valid Shar’ee excuse: a) Salaat – when its Mustahabb time has set in. b) Janaaza – When the bier is ready, and c) an unmarried woman – when a Kufu’ is found.

Another saying of Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), ‘Choose carefully for your seed. Marry suitable (Akfaa) woman and marry off (your females) to them (Akfaa).’

Seek suitable women in marriage. Get married to Akfaa and get your females married off to Akfaa as well (a similar narration comes from Aaisha (Radhiallaahu Anha)

Is Marriage with a non-Kufu’ invalid in all circumstances

The answer to this question is that Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) has advised the Shar’ee guardians of a female to consider her best interests from all angles. Consideration of Kafaa’at is part of this, and her due right. Nevertheless, it is right of the guardians as well. Just as a female may experience shame, incompatibility and disunity by marriage to a non-Kufu’, her guardians also share the same experience. Furthermore, in the case of disagreement, they are inconvenienced and suffer greatly. Due to this, if a sane, Baaligh (one who has reached the age of maturity) female marries a non-Kufu’ without the permission of her guardian, according to the adopted view, the Nikah is void and invalid. (Darrul Mukhtaar and Shaami).

Similarly, if any guardian has the Nikah of a non-Baaligh female performed with a non-Kufu’, it is also void and invalid. However, if the guardian (in question) is the father or paternal grandfather who marries the non-Baaligh female to a non-Kufu’, the Nikah is valid and binding. The affection and kindness of a father or grandfather, being as it is, demands that dispensing with Kafaa’at was not done without consideration of some other greater benefit. Ill-will is definitely not the reason.

If a sane Baaligh female herself consents to marriage with a non-Kufu’, and her guardians as well, the Nikah will be valid and correct, even though it is unsuitable in consideration of future benefits (as appears in Hidaaya and most other reference works).

Reply to One Misconception

This (above) also clarifies the misconception that with regards to non-Arabs, the Fuqahaa (Jurists) have considered a new Muslim as non-Kufu’ of one who is Qadeemul Islam (old Muslim). By this, it seems that new Muslims are unable to marry, since they are non-Kufu’ to those who are Qadeemul Islam (old Muslim). The answer is apparent, that there is no general prohibition in marriage to a non-Kuf’, rather the condition is that both the female as well as her guardian grant her consent. Concerning the marriage of new Muslims, it should be borne in mind that no shame should be attached to this. Marriage with them should be done happily and without reservation.

A Point of Note

One thing should always be borne in mind regarding new Muslim and Nikah. His adherence to Islam should be clear and his sincerity and firmness upon Islam should be apparent from his dealings. Until such is not established, it is not suitable for one to advance or go ahead with the Nikah since this could lead to problems.

Final Note

Superiority and virtue, worldly or otherwise are always of two kinds.

1) Ikhtiyaar (by choice) – that which a human being can earn or attain by his own endeavour.

2) Non-Ikhtiyaar (opp of 1) – which is not the outcome of any effort or endeavour, nor can it be attained by one’s own striving.

An intelligent one is he who continues to strive in attaining the first kind and never loses courage in doing so. Pursuing attainment of the second kind (non-Ikhtiyaari) is a complete abandonment of intelligence and nothing but a waste of time.

The purpose of our discussion is to point out that nobility in lineage is among these non-Ikhtiyaari virtue. This same rule applies here that one so honoured regard it a divine favour and express gratitude thereof while one not so blessed, not engage in pursuit of it thinking that such is better for himself. How can one know whether he will be able to fulfil therights of such upon attainment thereof?

Therefore, strive and work to attain the Ikhtiyaari, the actual real, virtue and an everlasting treasure by which one attains a far greater status in the sight of Allah than those of noble lineage.

Jawaahirul Fiqh vol.2 pg.95; Maktaba Darul Uloom

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