Book on the Etiquette of Marriage – Chapter 2

Book on the Etiquette of Marriage – Chapter 2

Book on the Etiquette of Marriage

Being the Second Book of the Section on Customs in the Book

The Revival of the Religious Sciences



Chapter Two

As Concerns Marriage: Conditions of the Woman and Stipulations of the Marriage Contract


As for the marriage contract (‘aqd), it has four conditions that facilitate its establishment and dissolution:

  1. Permission of the guardian; if not, then [that of] the ruler.’
  2. Consent of the woman if she is a nonvirgin adult(thayyib bough)or a virgin adult given away in marriage by someone other than her father or grandfather.
  3. The presence of two witnesses openly known for fairness. If both enjoy a blameless record, then the establishment of the contract is decreed.
  4. A declaration(ijab)and a related acceptance (qabul) en­compassing the term “marry,” “give in marriage,” or some simi­lar term, pronounced by two individuals charged with the responsibility, neither of whom is a woman; but [they] could include the husband, the guardian [of the woman], or the repre­sentative [of either party].


Concerning the etiquette of marriage: The engagement should be arranged with a guardian, not during the legally pre­scribed waiting period (‘iddah) of the woman, but rather after its termination if the woman is observing such a period, and pro­vided that she is not already engaged to another, since an en­gagement while another is pending is forbidden.’ Proper etiquette requires an engagement [period] prior to marriage, and associating the expression of praise [to God] with the decla­ration and the acceptance; thus the one giving the woman in marriage says, “Praise be to God and blessings upon the Mes­senger of God. I give you my daughter, so and so, in marriage”; and the husband replies, “Praise be to God and blessings upon the Messenger of God. I accept her in marriage upon this dowry (sadaq).” Let the dowry be fixed and small. It is also desirable to pronounce the words “Praise be to God” before the engage­ment. Its etiquette includes that the affairs of the husband be revealed to the wife; if she is a virgin, this is more appropriate and more conducive to congeniality between them. For that reason it is desirable that he should look at her before marriage, as it is more likely to lead to enrichment of their relationship.

Its etiquette also calls for the presence of a group of righ­teous people in addition to the two witnesses who are required to establish the validity [of the contract]. The etiquette also specifies that the intent of marriage should be upholding the sunna, averting the eye, bearing children, and the rest of the aforementioned advantages; thus the purpose of marriage will not be merely for pleasure and enjoyment, which would render such an act a worldly endeavor. This does not preclude such intentions, for many a virtue coincides with passion. ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al- ‘Aziz*3 declared: “If virtue coincides with passion, it is like `butter with dates’ “ (al-zubadu bil-nirstydn).’ It is not impos­sible that one should be motivated by his desires and the dictates of religion simultaneously. It is desirable that the marriage be contracted in the mosque and during the month of Shawwal.5 ‘A’ishah*8 said, “The Prophet* married me in Shawwal, and consumated the marriage in Shawwal.”’


A woman given in marriage is either one who is taken as a lawful wife, or one who is taken for enjoyment and the attain­ment of certain purposes.

[Legal Disabilities to or Restrictions on Marriage]

The first type: The woman taken as a lawful wife should be

free from that which would prohibit her marriage. There are nineteen restrictions.’

  1. That she be married to another.
  2. That she be in a legally prescribed waiting period [which precedes marriage] to another [person], regardless of whether that period is due to [the husband’s] death, to divorce, to suspi­cion [of adultery], or is being cleared from suspicion aroused by [her] owner [that is, being a concubine-slave of the owner].
  3. That she be an apostate for having uttered an expression of unbelief.
  4. That she be a Magian.9
  5. That she be an idolator or freethinker(zindiq)who fol­lows neither a prophet nor a book. Women in this category include those who follow the doctrine of libertinism-marrying them is not lawful; also [included in this category is] every female subscribing to a false doctrine whose believer is deemed an infidel.
  6. [If] she is a follower of a revealed religion(kitabiyah)10which she adopted after conversion or after the Prophet’s mis­sion [as Messenger of God], and who furthermore is not a de­scendant from the Children of Israel, unless both conditions apply, marrying her is not permissible; but if she lacks genealogy only, then [among the jurisprudents] there is no consensus.
  7. That she be a slave and the marrier a free man who is capable of marrying a free woman or who fears committing fornication(Canal).”
  8. That she be totally or partially a slave of the marrier.
  9. That she be related to the [man] either by descent from his progenitors (used) or collaterals(fusel),or of the collaterals of his first progenitors, or from the first collateral of every pro­genitor after a progenitor. By usul, I mean mothers and grand­mothers; and by his fusel, [male] children and grandchildren; and by fusel awwal fusul, brothers and their children; and by awwal fall from every asl [singular of usul] after it, the progenitor of maternal and paternal aunts, not their children.
  10. That she be unlawful [for marriage] through nursing;12and among those prohibited by reason of nursing are the rela­tions prohibited in terms of theused and fusul discussed above.

However, those forbidden are the ones who have been nursed five times, not the ones nursed fewer times.

  1. That she be forbidden because of marriage ties; that is, (a) if the marrier were already married to her daughter or grand­daughter,13or (b) if he previously possessed them [as slaves either] by direct contract or semicontract, or (c) if he had had sexual relations with them in a quasi-contract [common mar­riage], or (d) had sexual intercourse with her mother or one of her grandmothers in a marital contract or quasi-contract; for the mere contract of marriage with a woman renders her maternal female ascendants unlawful. Her collateral relatives are forbid­den only on account of coitus, or if his [the marrier’s] father or son had married her before.
  2. That the woman be the fifth,14that is, that the marrier already has four [wives] acquired either by marriage or by virtue of [the fact that at least one of his wives is in] the state of the legally prescribed waiting period pending remarriage (‘iddat al­raj’ah) to him. But if her divorce is final and she is in another prescribed waiting period (‘iddat baynunah),15 then marrying the fifth is not unlawful.
  3. That the marries be married to her sister, her maternal aunt, or her paternal aunt; that is, through marriage he would bring both of them together [as wives]. Marriage is not permissi­ble between a related pair if one is male and the other a female, and thus they cannot be brought together [in marriage].
  4. That she be divorced three times by the marrier and thus be unlawful to him unless another husband[muhallil]has sexual intercourse with her in a lawful marriage.”
  5. That the marrier has exchanged curses with her; in this

case, after the oath of condemnation, se is or ever unlawful to him.

  1. That she be in a state of ritual consecration of the major(hajj)or lesser (‘umra) pilgrimage, or that the husband be in the same state; marriage then cannot take place until the completion of the period of sanctification.
  2. That she should be a deflowered young woman;18mar­rying her is then not permissible until she has reached puberty.
  3. That she be an orphan, in which case marrying her is not permissible until she reaches the age of puberty.
  4. That she be one of the widowed wives of the Messen­ger* of God or one with whom he has mated, for they are regarded as mothers of the believers; that [restriction] is not applicable in our [al-Ghazali’s] time. These are the prohibitive hindrances.



There are eight qualities which render a conjugal life happy and which must be sought in the woman in order to assure the perpetuity of the marriage: piety, good character, beauty, a small dowry, ability to bear children, virginity, [good] lineage, and she should not be a close relative.


That she should be virtuous and religious is the most funda­mental requisite, and to that end [special] care must be taken. For, if her religious principles are too weak to give her the strength to be virtuous and constant,19 she will humiliate her husband, disgrace him among people, trouble his heart with jealousy, and thereby render his life miserable. Should he suc­cumb to passion and jealousy, he would remain in trial and tribulation. Should he, on the other hand, follow the path of permissiveness, he would be apathetic toward his religion and honor and would be guilty of lacking zeal and pride. Also, if she is beautiful but corrupt, she will be the cause of greater tribula­tion; for then it becomes difficult for the husband to separate from her: Thus he is neither able to renounce her nor to endure her. His position is like that of one who came to the Prophet* and said, “0 Messenger of God, I have a wife who cannot turn back a touching hand.” The Prophet said, “Divorce her”; to which he replied, “I love her.” The Prophet responded, “Then, keep her.”“ The Prophet commanded him to hold onto her, for if he divorces her he would yearn for her and become corrupt like her. Seeing that the man’s heart was in anguish, he [the Prophet] considered it preferable for him to continue his mar­riage and thus safeguard himself against corruption. If her faith be corrupted in squandering his possessions or in some other respect, he will remain in misery. [However,] if he remains silent and does not denounce [her deeds], he becomes a partaker of her transgression and a violator of the Almighty’s command: “Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire.” If he, on the other hand, denies and disputes [her ways],, he will be miser­able throughout his life.

For that reason, the Messenger* of God took pains in en­couraging people to adhere to the faith saying, “A woman may be married either for her possessions, her beauty, her reputa­tion, or her religion; for if you do marry other than a religious woman, may your hands be rubbed with dirt [taribat yadak].”21 Another hadith states: “He who marries a woman for her pos­sessions and beauty loses both her beauty and her possessions; [but] he who marries her for the sake of her faith will be blessed by God with her possessions and her beauty.”22 The Prophet* also said, “A woman should not be married [only] for her beauty, because her beauty may destroy her; neither for her wealth, as this may make her tyrannical; [rather] marry the woman for her religious faith.”23 He emphatically recom­mended religious faith, because such a woman would bolster up the [husband’s] faith. If she is not pious, she will be an element of distraction and of trouble in her husband’s religion.

[Good Character]

Good character is the second quality. It is an important requisite in the search for emptying the heart” and in the pur­suit of favorable surroundings for religion. For if she is vicious, ill-tongued, ill-mannered, and ungrateful, more harm than good will come from her. Toleration of a woman’s tongue would try the saints. An Arab said, “Do not marry one of the following six types of women: an ‘annanah [hypochondriac], a mannanah [up braider], hannanah [yearner], a hiddaqah [coveter], barraqah (narcissist], or a shaddaqah [prattler]. The ‘annanah is one who excessively moans, complains, and [always] wraps her head.

Marrying a constantly ill [woman] or one who feigns illness is of no avail. The mannanah is one who is constantly needling her husband by saying, “I did such and such for you.” The hannanah is one who yearns after a previous husband or after her offspring from some other husband. This, too, is among the things to be avoided. The hiddaqah is one who looks at everything, covets it, and forces her husband to buy it. The barraqah can be one of two: (a) one who spends the whole day fixing her face or making it up and beautifying it in order to give it a lustre, or (b) one who becomes angry at mealtime, thus eating only by herself and singling out her share from everything. A Yemeni expression which is appropriately used for a woman, or a child, who is not satisfied with the food given to her [or him], is Baraqat al-mar ‘atu wa baraqa’l-sabiyyu al-ta’ama, that is, to become angry at meal­time. Al-shaddaqah is one who prattles a great deal; in this con­text the Prophet* said, “Almighty God detests the loudmouthed prattler. “25

It is related that the Azdi traveler,” during his journey, met Elias* [the prophet] who ordered him to get married and dis­couraged him from celibacy. He then said, “Don’t marry any of the following four types: a mukhlali’ah [divorce-minded], a muba­riyah [boaster], an ‘ahirah [harlot], or a nashiz [conceited].” Al-mukhlali’ah is one who asks for the divorce (khulevery hour for no reason;27 al-mubariyah is one who boasts of the superiority of another and is proud of her worldly advantages, and al­’ahirah is a loose woman who is known to have lovers and intimate companions. To her the Almighty referred when He said, “nor of loose conduct” [Qur’an  4:25]. Al-nashiz is one who adopts a haughty attitude toward her husband in deed and word: the word nashaz28 designates that which is elevated above the ground.

‘Ali* used to say, “The worst characteristics of men consti­tute the best characteristics of women; namely, stinginess, pride, and cowardice. For if the woman is stingy, she will preserve her own and her husband’s possessions; if she is proud, she will refrain from addressing loose and improper words to everyone; and if she is cowardly, she will dread everything and will there­fore not go out of her house and will avoid compromising situations for fear of her husband. These accounts indicate the sum total of the good qualities sought in marriage.


The third, beauty of face, is desired because through it for­tification is attained. For [a man’s] natural disposition is gener­ally not contented with an ugly woman, [even] when good character and physical beauty are often inseparable. What we have transmitted is encouragement to look for a pious woman and not marry one for her beauty, which does not discourage the cherishing of beauty, but rather discourages marrying a woman for her beauty alone [while she be] corrupt in religion. Beauty, per se, oftentimes makes marriage desirable and detracts from the importance of religion. Indicative of the regard given to beauty is the fact that closeness and love are often realized through it. For that reason the Shari’ah cats enjoined the safeguard­ing of the means to intimacy, and seeing [the woman] before marriage was deemed desirable.

The Prophet said, “If God should incline the heart of one of you toward a woman, let him look at her, for it will bring them closer together.”“ That is to say, it will cause them to be closer to each other like the closeness of the epidermis to the endoder­mis, which is the inner skin [as opposed to] the epidermis [which] is the outer skin. He mentions that only to stress the degree of closeness. The Prophet* said, “There is something in the eyes of the Ansar;31 therefore, if one of you wishes to marry one of their women, let him look at them.”32 It was said [in effect] that those women were “blear-eyed.” It was also said, “small-eyed.”

Some God-fearing men would not marry off their daughters until they are seen as a precaution against delusion. Al­A’mash33 said, “Every marriage occurring without looking ends in worry and sadness.” It is obvious that looking does not reveal character, religion, or wealth; rather, it distinguishes beauty from ugliness.

It was related that during the time of ‘Umar* a man got married. The man had colored his hair and the dyestuff had faded. The woman’s family complained to ‘Umar saying, “We thought he was a young man.” ‘Umar beat him excessively and

said, “You have deceived the people.” It is related that Bilal and Suhayb came to a bedouin household and asked to marry their daughters. They were asked: “Who are you?” Bilal said, “I am Bilal and this is my brother, Suhayb. We were misguided, but God has directed us; we were enslaved, but God freed us; we were dependent [on others], but God has made us independent; if you should give us wives, then thanks be to God; and if you should turn us away, then praise be to God.” They [the household] answered, “Rather, you will marry, and thanks be to God.” Suhayb said to Bilal,34 “Would that you had mentioned our association and dealings with the Messenger* of God.” He replied, “Be quiet. I spoke the truth and the truth will get you married.”

One may be deceived both in beauty and in character; there­fore it is desirable to avoid deception in beauty by looking, and [deception] in character by description and inquiry. It is desir­able that this precede marriage. A description of her character and beauty should not be sought from any but one who is keen, who is truthful, who is well versed in the apparent and the hidden [qualities], who is not predisposed toward her lest he should praise her too much, and who does not envy her lest he should not praise her enough. In stating the basis for marriage and in describing the would-be wives, the natural disposition leans toward exaggeration and excessiveness. Few are the ones who are truthful and are inclined to modesty; rather, deception and enticement often predominate. Caution, therefore, is im­portant for one who would guard himself against longing for a woman other than his wife.

As for the man whose purpose in having a wife is mere observation of the sunna, bearing children, or caring for the house, should he renounce beauty, he would draw nearer to asceticism; because seeking beauty, in short, is a wordly interest even though in the case of some individuals [it] may be an aid to religion.

Abu Sulayman al-Darani said, “Indifference (zuhd) [to worldly interests may be] in anything, even in women.” Thus a man [might] marry an old woman because he has preferred to renounce worldly delights. Malik b. Dinar*35 used to say, “Many a man among you would refrain from marrying an orphan, whose feeding and clothing would cost little and who would be easily satisfied, thus gaining merit [before God]. Rather, he would marry the daughter of so and so-meaning prominent people-who would make many demands of him saying, `Clothe me with such and such.’“ Ahmad b. Hanbal preferred a one-­eyed [woman] over her sister who was beautiful. For he asked: “Who is the better behaved of the two?” He was told: “The one-eyed.” He replied: “Give her to me in marriage.” Such is the constant endeavor of one who does not seek [mere] sensual pleasures. If someone cannot secure his faith without a source of pleasure, then let him seek beauty because enjoyment of what is lawful strengthens faith.

It has been said that if a woman is beautiful, of good charac­ter, with black eyes and hair, large eyes, white complexion, loves her husband, and has an eye to no other man, she is in the image of the houris [hawar].36 For Almighty God has ascribed to the women of paradise this description in the verse, “the good and beautiful” [Qur’an  60:70] (by “good” He meant “those enjoying good manners”); in the verse “of modest gaze” [37:48]; and in the verse “lovers (‘urub), friends” [56:37]. (By “lovers,” He means someone who is in love with her husband and desirous of seducing him so as to complete her pleasure. By al-hawar, He meant whiteness; al-hawra’ is a woman with intense whiteness of the sclera, profound blackness of the eyes matching the pro­found blackness of the hair, and big, wide[-set] eyes.)

The Prophet* said, “The best of your women is one who pleases her husband when he looks at her, who obeys him when he commands her, and guards his memory and his possessions when he is absent.”37 Her husband will be delighted to look at her if she loves him.


The fourth quality is that her dowry should be small. The Messenger* of God declared that “The best women are those whose faces are the most beautiful and whose dowries are the smallest.”38 He enjoined against excessiveness in dowries.” The Messenger* of God married one of his wives for a dowry

of ten dirhams40 and household furnishings that consisted of a hand mill, a jug, a pillow made of skin stuffed with palm fibers,” and a stone (‘iliyy);42 in the case of another, he feasted with two measures43 of barley;” and for another, with two measures of dates and two of mush (sawiq).45

‘Umar* [also] used to enjoin against excessive dowries and used to say, “In getting married and in marrying of his daugh­ters, the Messenger* of God never spent more than 400 dir­hams.”“ If paying excessive dowries for women were a virtue, the Messenger* of God would have been the first to do so. One of the companions of the Messenger* of God was married for a date-pit of gold equal to five dirhams .47 Sa’aid b. al-Musayyab married his daughter to Abu Hurayrah* for two dirhams. He then took her personally to him by night, let her in through the door, then departed. Seven days later, he came back and greeted her. Even if he [Sa’id] had married for ten dirhams to be differ­ent from the rest of the ulema, there would be nothing wrong with his act.

khabar states that “a woman’s blessing is in marrying and in bearing children quickly, ’14’ and “in the reasonableness of her dowry. 114′ He also said, “The most blessed among them are the ones with the smallest dowries.”50

Just as it is undesirable for the woman’s dowry to be exces­sive, it is undesirable for the man to ask about the possessions of the woman. Marriage should never be motivated by avidity for wealth. Al-Thawri51 said, “Should one marry and ask `What does the woman possess?’ know ye that he is a thief; and should a person give them a present, it should not be with the purpose of forcing them to reciprocate with more; likewise, should they give him a present, the expectation of receiving more [than they gave] is immoral. Exchanging gifts is desirable, and results in friendship.” The Prophet* said, “If you exchange gifts, you will love each other.”52 As pertains to seeking more, it is included in the words of the Almighty: “And show not favor, seeking worldly gain” [Qur’an  74:6], that is to say, give [not] in order to receive more; also in the Almighty’s words: “That which ye give in usury in order that it may increase on (other) people’s prop­erty” [30:39], for usurious interest is the increase, and that [giving a gift] is an attempt to increase the principal, though it is not usurious. All such attempts are detested and are regarded as heretical in marriage. For they resemble trading and gambling, and their aim corrupts marriage.


The fifth quality is that the woman be able to bear children. Should she be known to be barren, then one should avoid mar­rying her. The Prophet* said, “Marry the loving child-bearer”;53 if she has no husband and her affairs are not known, the decision should be based on her health and her youth for, given these two qualities, she will most likely be capable of bearing children.


The sixth quality is that she should be a virgin. The Prophet* said to Jabir, who had married an unwed deflowered woman, “Would that she were a virgin so you could daily with her and she with you.”54 Virginity has three advantages:

(a) First, the virgin will love the husband and feel close to him, which will favorably influence their conjugal attachment. The Prophet* said, “Marry the loving (woman)”; for the natural disposition is to be attached to the first mate with whom one has had intimate relations. On the other hand, a woman who has experienced men and life may not be satisfied with some of the qualities that differ from those she is accustomed to, and may, therefore, loathe the husband.

(b) Second, it engenders a greater measure of his love for her, as it is a man’s nature to be somewhat repelled by a woman who has been touched by another husband; that would contra­dict [a man’s] nature regardless of what might be said [to the contrary]. Certain natures find it more repulsive than others.

(c) Third, the virgin does not yearn after the first husband, because, in general, the surest55 love is that which is engendered with the first loved one.

[Good Lineage]

The seventh quality is that the wife should be of good lin­eage, that is to say, she should come from a religious and righ­teous background, because she will bring up her daughters and sons. If she is not well bred, she will not be able to raise her children well. For that reason the Prophet* said, “Beware of the green dung (khadra’ al-diman).”56 It was asked, “What is the green dung?” He said, “The beautiful woman with an evil origin.”57 The Prophet* said, “Exercise care in choosing [wives] for your sperm, for a hereditary quality is wont to return.”“

[Not a Close Relative]

The eighth quality is that she should not be a close relative, as that would lessen desire. The Prophet* said, “Don’t marry close relatives for then the child is born scrawny”;59 that is to say, weak; such is the weakening effect it [marrying close rela­tives] has on desire. For desire is excited by the deep emotions which result from sight and touch; emotions are strengthened by whatever is unfamiliar and new. On the other hand, what is familiar and seen continuously renders the faculties incapable of fully appreciating it [desire], being affected by it, or becoming aroused through it. These are the qualities desired in women.


It is incumbent upon the guardian also to examine the quali­ties of the husband and to look after his daughter so as not to give her in marriage to one who is ugly, ill-mannered, weak in faith, negligent in upholding her rights, or unequal to her in descent. The Prophet* has said, “Marriage is enslavement; let one, therefore, be careful in whose hands he places his daugh­ter.”“ Exercising caution on her behalf is important, because she becomes a slave by the marriage and cannot be freed from it, while the husband is able to obtain divorce at all times. Who­ever gives his daughter in marriage to a person who is unjust, licentious, heretical, or an inebriate commits a crime against his religion and exposes himself to the wrath of God for having severed his parental tie by having made a bad choice. A man said to al-Hasan,61 “A number of suitors have asked for my daugh­ter’s hand in marriage; to whom should I give her?” He replied, “To the one who fears God; because if he loves her, he will be kind to her; and if he hates her, he will not wrong her.” The Prophet* said, “Whoever gives his daughter in marriage to a licentious man has betrayed her womb.”

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