Do we have a free will to select our life partner? Are we permitted to Love someone? Is it acceptable for girls to have boy friends and for boys to have girl friends? What is the criteria for selecting a life partner? Following is a discussion of such questions from a Qur’anic perspective.
Free consent for Marriage
The Qur’an informs us that women cannot be forced to get married and thus they have the right to express their will. The following Ayah tells us;
“O you who believe! You are Forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the dower you have given them -except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.” (4:19)
In Sura 4, the believing man is also given the permission to marry women of his choice, thus he too can excersize his free will.As reminded;
“If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, so Marry women of Your Choice two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one.Or what your right hands possesed.That is nearer,that you do not decline from justice” (4:3)
Thus both, believing women as well as men have been given the right to have a say in their marriage, i.e. women cannot be married forcefully and men also have been given the right to marry women of their choice.
Then again in Sura 4 Ayah 21 ,Marriage has been identified as a <Meesaq> (Contract) that women have taken from men:
“And how could you take it when you have gone in unto each other and they (Your wives) have Taken from you a solemn covenant? “ (4:21)
A contract or covenant requires the free consent of both parties in agreeing to that contract.
An agreement in which a person is forced to do something against his or her will, does not constitute a <Meesaq> or contract.
If the woman has been forced into getting married or the will of the man has been manipulated by coercion then such an agreement does not become a contract or <Meesaq>. Thus for a contract of marriage to come about, both parties i.e. the man as well as the woman have to use their free will in coming to terms and agreeing to live the rest of their lives with each other. If out of these two any one is forced or does not have their free will involved then such would not constitute a <Meesaq>.
This should clarify that a believing man or woman does have the right to accept or reject his or her would be husband or wife.They do have the right to express their will.
The Limit of Love
First of all we need to ascertain as to what do we mean by the term loving someone? That ‘someone’, do we like his or her physical appearance? Or do we mean we like his or her character traits? Or what his or her views are about life and many other things? Do we like the background he or she is coming from? Their economic status?
All of us do have feelings and emotions in us. We are not rocks or made of stones, we do have feelings, we cry when we get hurt, smile when we are happy, get depressed when something happens against our wishes, all these feelings are within us, but we should not let these feelings and emotions rule our lives.The feelings are there, no denying that, but they have to be kept within the limits ordained by Allah.
We should not let these feelings rule our lives. There has to be a balance between our feelings and emotions and our reason and intelligence. We should be constantly aware of our duties and responsibilities and they should not be neglected by feelings and emotions overcoming our minds.
When a person is emotionally worked up, i.e. he or she is under the influence of emotions like love, anger etc. Then that person cannot use his or her faculty of reasoning and intellect in ascertaining things. He or she will only listen to what the emotions are telling, no matter how much you try to make such persons to understand, they will not analyze things logically and with reasoning until their emotions are settled down.
We should let our feelings be subdued and look at things in a more practical, reasonable and logical way.
Usually with young people this is difficult to understand, but with the passage of time, when one attains some maturity we do realize these things.
Now about the issue of whether we can like (love) someone, the Qur’an has laid certain conditions for loving people as well. All of us do have these emotions in us, after all it is Allah Himself who has given these to us, but we cannot surpass the law of Allah in that love. Our total devotion and dedication has to be for the cause of Allah. We often hear the very common expression that people under the influence of emotions say to each other, something like; “I will give my life for you” or “you are my everything” etc. Such devotion is not allowed by the Qur’an.The Qur’an renounces such people, who are so infatuated.
Allah informs us through His Messenger;
“Yet there are among people who take others besides Allah as equal (with Allah): THEY LOVE THEM AS THEY SHOULD LOVE ALLAH. But the Believers are strong in their LOVE FOR ALLAH. If only the oppressors could see behold they would see the penalty: that to Allah belongs all power and Allah will strongly enforce the penalty.” (2:165)
The Believer in the message of Qur’an cannot be totally devoted to someone rather than the cause of Allah.His or her goal of life is mentioned in the following verse;
“Say:’ Surely my Salat and my solitude and MY LIFE and MY DEATH are (all) FOR ALLAH, the Sustainer of the Universe;” (6:162)
The above verse should be the motto of a true believer, and a person who maintains such principles, can he give his total love and devotion to someone else?
We cannot surpass the law of Allah in having any feelings or considerations for any one, no matter how close relations they may have with us.We (The believers in the Qur’an) are strictly reminded;
“Say:’If your FATHERS and your SONS and your BRETHERN and your SPOUSES and your RELATIVES and the WEALTH you have acquired and the TRADE whose dullness you fear and the HOMES in which you are satisfied,if you LOVE any of these more than ALLAH AND HIS MESSENGER AND THE STRIVING IN HIS CAUSE, then wait until ALLAH brings about His order; and ALLAH guides not the oppressing people.” (9:24)
To the believers the cause of Allah is what matters the most, the way of life that is prescribed for them in the Qur’an, they don’t make any compromises with anyone against that way of life, even to their very loved ones. Such quality of theirs is identified by Allah Himself:
“You shall not find a people who believe in Allah and the last day LOVING those who act in opposition to Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their (own) FATHERS, or their SONS, or their BROTHERS, or their RELATIVES; these are they into whose hearts He has written belief , and whom He has strengthened with a spirit from Him: and He will cause them to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein; Allah is well-pleased with them and they are well-pleased with Him these are Allah’s party: now surely the party of Allah are the successful ones.” (58:22)
The criteria for selecting a ife partner
The Qur’an is very clear about what to consider in selecting a life partner.The following verse informs us:
“And DO NOT MARRY those women who associate others with Allah <mushrikat> UNTIL they believe, and certainly a believing maid is better than a a woman who associates <mushrika> , even though she should please you; and DO NOT give (believing women) in marriage to those men who associate with Allah <mushrikeen> UNTIL THEY BELIEVE, and certainly a believing servant is better than a man who associates with Allah, even though he should please you; AND THESE <MUSHRIKEEN> INVITE YOU TO THE FIRE, and Allah invites to the garden and to forgiveness by His will, and makes clear His Ayat (verses) to Mankind, that they may be mindful.” (2:221)
The above verse negates the concept of beauty or physical attraction, along with wealth or economic status of a person, and establishes that it is <Eimaan> i.e. Belief and conviction on the Quranic laws that should be the point to consider in selecting a life partner.
Making boyfriends or girlfriends
The Believers are informed in the Qur’an that they are to maintain a modest lifestyle and are discouraged from having paramours. An important injunction concerning those with whom marriage is permissible is that they should not have any paramours.:
“This day (all) the good things are allowed to you; and the food of those who have been given the Book is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them; and the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); when you have given them their dowries, taking (them) in marriage, not fornicating NOR TAKING THEM FOR PARAMOURS; and whoever denies belief, his work indeed is of no account, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.” (5:5)
Secret affairs and intimacy of this sort is not permitted by the Qur’an. It is clearly reminded regarding those women with whom the contract of marriage is sought:
“There is no blame on you if you make an offer of betrothal or hold it in your hearts.Allah knows that you cherish them in your hearts: But do not make a secret promise with them except that you utter a recognized matter…” (2:235)
Believing women are also reminded what type of behavior they are to maintain with un related men:
“O Women of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not complacent in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a recognized utterance.” (33:32)
Believing men are also reminded to maintain a modest behavior:
“Say to the believing men that they restrain their gaze and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do.” (24:30)
TOTAL COMMITEMENT TO THE CAUSE OF ALLAH
To a believer the first preference in life is the Cause of Allah, he or she is totally dedicated to that cause and cannot have any emotional considerations which would neglect their duties as believers. The above verses are very clear in indicating this aspect. I would like to repeat that verse again which clearly expresses the agenda of a Believer in the Qur’anic message:
“Say. Surely my Salat and my solitude and MY LIFE and MY DEATH are (all) FOR ALLAH, the Sustainer of the Universe.” (6:162)
Total dedication to Allah.This is what is required to be a Believer.
Selecting a Marriage Partner
Marriage is recommended for partners who share a common way of life. The matrimonial partners should be able to fulfill their purpose of creation as defined by Allah. They should be able to effectively carry out their responsibility as care-takers (khalifah) of earth. They should share the common goal of building a well integrated Muslim community and be able to work harmoniously towards it.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTING A MARRIAGE PARTNER
Normally the criteria for selecting matrimonial mates are many: wealth, beauty, rank, character, congeniality, compatibility, religion, etc. The Quran enjoins Muslims to select partners who are good and pure (tayyib)
“Women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity “(Quran 24:26)
Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended Muslims to select those partners who are best in religion (din) and character.
“A woman may married for four reasons: for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion (and character). So marry the one who is best in the religion and character and prosper”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad (S) assured the bounty of Allah to those who wish to get married and live a pure and clean life.
“Three groups of people Allah obliged Himself to help them: Mujahid in the cause of Allah, a worker to pay his debt, and the one who wants to marry to live a chaste life”. (Tirmidhi)
Freedom to choose a Marriage Partner
Islam has given freedom of choice to those who wish to get married. The mutual choice of the would-be-spouses is given the highest consideration:
“do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner” (Quran 2:232)
The process of mate selection should be a function of a healthy balance between the freedom of choice of the would-be-spouses and consideration of the influence and consent of the parents/guardians.
The freedom of choice of those who wish to get married should not preclude the influence and consent of the parents/guardians nor should the parents/guardians ignore the wishes and consent of the would be spouses.
Falling in love is not a pre-condition for marriage in Islam. However, for the purpose of selecting an appropriate mat, the would-be-spouses are allowed to see and/or talk to each other.
Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended:
“When one of you seeks a woman in marriage, and then if he is able to have a look at whom he wishes to marry, let him do so”. (Abu Dawood)
The would-be-spouse are allowed to see each other for matrimonial purposes under the direct supervision of their mahram relatives. This provision is expected to be conceived and executed with piety and modesty.
Prophet Muhammad (S) instructed:
“No man has the right to be in the privacy with a woman who is not lawful for him. Satan is their third party unless there is a mahram”. (Ahmad)
The would-be-spouses residing in non-Muslim societies are recommended to enter into a pre-nuptial commitment to safeguard Islamic values and Muslim personal law.