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parties must strive to meet the conditions of proper age, general compatibility, reasonable dowry, good will, free consent, unselfish guardianship, honorable intentions, and judicious discretion. When the parties enter into a marital contract, the intention must be clear to make the bond permanent, free from the casual and temporary designations. For this reason, trial marriages, term marriages, and all marriages that appear experimental, casual, or temporary are forbidden in Islam. (We are aware of the complex and intricate arguments used by some Sheea Muslims as regards the so – called mut’ ah marriage. We appreciate the scholarly dimension of the problem but see no purpose in pursuing it here. Interested readers are referred to the detailed discussion of the whole matter in our book The Family Structure in Islam.). In one of his most unequivocal statements, the Prophet declared that condemned are the men and women who relish the frequent change of marital partners, that is, the “ tasters” who enjoy one partner for a while, then shift to another, then to a third, and so on. However, to insist on the permanent character of marriage does not mean that the marital contract is absolutely indissoluble. Muslims are designated by the Qur’ an as a Middle Nation ??? ? ???? (ummatan wasatan) and Islam is truly a religion of the “Golden Mean” , the well – balanced and well – integrated system. This is particularly clear in the case of marriage which Islam regards as neither a sacrament nor a simple civil contract. Rather, marriage in Islam is something unique with very special features of both sacramental and contractural nature. It is equally true that the alternative to this casual or temporary extremity is not the other extreme of absolute indissolubility of the marital contract. The Islamic course is one of equitable and realistic moderation. The marriage contract should be taken as a serious, permanent bond. But if it does not work well for any valid reason, it may be terminated in kindness and honor, with equity and peace. The Husband – Wife Relationship With piety as the basis of mate selection, and with the earnest satisfaction of the conditions of marriage, the parties should be well on the way to happy and fulfilling married life. However, Islam goes much further than this in setting the course of behavior for husbands and wives. Many are the statements of the Qur’ an and the Sunnah that prescribe kindness and equity, compassion and love, sympathy and consideration, patience and good will. The Prophet goes as for as to declare that the best Muslim is the one who is best to his family, and the greatest, most blessed joy in life is a good, righteous wife The consummation of marriage creates new roles for the parties concerned. Each role is a set of equitable, proportionate rights and obligations. The role of the husband evolves around the moral principle that it is his solemn duty of God to treat his wife with kindness, honor, and patience; to keep her honorably or free her from the marital bond honorably; and to cause her no harm or grief (Qur’ an, 2:229-232; 4:19). The role of the wife is summarized in the verse that women have rights even as they have duties, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them (2:228). This degree is usually interpreted by Muslim scholars in conjunction with another passage which states, among other things, that men are trustees, guardians, and protectors of women because God has made some of them excel others and because men expend of their means (Qur’ an, 4:34). This degree may be likened to what sociologists call “ instrumental leadership” or external authority in the household due to the division of labor and role differentiation. It does not, however, mean any categorical discrimination or superiority of one sex to the other. (This degree question has been misunderstood by Muslims and non – Muslims alike. We dealt with the whole matter in great detail in The Family Structure in Islam. Our conclusion is that the verse does not say men are better or worse than women. Nor does it say what excellence really refers to, let alone identify it with manhood or womanhood.) The Wife’s Rights: The Husband’s Obligations Translated into rules of behavior, these ethical principles allocate to the wife certain

Islam in Focus  

By HAMMUDAH ABDALATI Table of Contents Chapter - II