Index  Previous  Next 



MARRIAGE plays such a large part in human affairs that it must necessarily be taken into account in treating of the religious lifer and be regarded. in both its aspects of advantage and disadvantage.

Seeing that God, as the Koran says, "only created men and genii for the purpose of worshipping," the first and obvious advantage of marriage is that the worshippers of God may increase in number. Theologians have therefore laid it down as a maxim that it is better to be engaged in matrimonial duties than in supererogatory devotions.

Another advantage of marriage is that, as the Prophet said, the prayers of children profit their parents when the latter are dead, and children who die before their parents intercede for them on the Day of Judgment. "When a child," said the Prophet, "is told to enter

{p. 102}

heaven, it weeps and says, 'I will not enter in without my father and mother.'" Again, one day the Prophet seized hold of a man's sleeves and drew him violently towards himself, saying, "Even thug shall children draw their parents into heaven." He added, "Children crowd together at the gate of heaven and cry out for their fathers and mothers, till those of the latter who are outside are told to enter in and join their children."

It is related of a certain celibate saint that he once dreamt that the Judgment Day had come. The sun had approached close to the earth and people were perishing of thirst; a crowd of boys were moving about giving them water out of gold and silver vessels. But when the saint asked for water he was repulsed, and one of the boys said to him, "Not one of us here is your son." As soon as the saint awoke he made preparations to marry.

Another advantage of marriage is that to sit with and be friendly to one's wife is a relaxation for the mind after being occupied in religious duties, and after such relaxation one may return to one's devotions with renewed

{p. 103}

zest. Thus the Prophet himself, when he found the weight of his revelations press too heavily upon him touched his wife Ayesha and said, "Speak to me, O Ayesha, speak to me!" This he did that, from that familiar human touch, he might receive strength to support fresh revelations. For a similar reason he used to bid the Muezzin Bilal give the call to prayer, and sometimes he used to smell sweet perfumes. It is a well-known saying of his, "I have loved three things in the world: perfumes, and women, and refreshment in prayer." On one occasion Omar asked the Prophet what were the things specially to be sought in the world. He answered, "A tongue occupied in the remembrance of God, a grateful heart, and a believing wife."

A further advantage of marriage is that there should be some one to take care of the house, cook the food, wash the dishes, and sweep the floor, etc. If a man is busy in such work he cannot acquire learning, or carry on his business, or engage in his devotions properly. For this reason Abu Suleiman has said, "A good wife is not a blessing of this world

{p. 104}

merely, but of the next, because she provides a man leisure in which to think of the next, world"; and one of the Caliph Omar's sayings is, "After faith, no blessing is equal to a good wife."

Marriage has, moreover, this good in it, that to be patient with feminine peculiarities, to provide the necessaries which wives require, and to keep them in the path of the law, is a very important part of religion. The Prophet said, "To give one's wife the money she requires is more important than to give alms." Once, when Ibn Mubarak was engaged in a campaign against the infidels, one of his companions asked him, "Is any work more meritorious than religious war?" "Yes," he replied: "to feed and clothe one's wife and children properly." The celebrated saint Bishr Hafi said, "It is better that a man should work for wife and children than merely for himself." In the Traditions it has been recorded that some sins can only be atoned for by enduring trouble for the sake of one's family.

{p. 105}

Concerning a certain saint it is related that his wife died and he would not marry again, though people urged him, saying it was easier to concentrate his thoughts in solitude. One night he saw in a dream the door of heaven opened and numbers of angels descending. They came near and looked upon him, and one said, "Is this that selfish wretch?" and his fellow answered, "Yes, this is he." The saint was too alarmed to ask whom they meant, but presently a boy passed and he asked him, "It is you they are speaking about," replied the boy; "only up to a week ago your good works were being recorded in heaven along with those of other saints, but now they have erased your name from the roll." Greatly disturbed in mind as soon as he awoke, he hastened to be married. From all the above considerations it will be seen that marriage is desirable.

We come now to treat of the drawbacks to marriage. One of these is that there is a danger, especially in the present time, that a man should gain a livelihood by unlawful means in order to support his family, and no amount of good works can compensate for this. The

{p. 106}

Prophet said that at the resurrection a certain man with a whole mountain-load of good works will be brought forward and stationed near the Balance.[1] He will then be asked, "'By what means did you support your family?' He will not be able to give a satisfactory answer, and all his good works will be cancelled, and proclamation will be made concerning him, 'This is the man whose family have devoured all his good deeds!'"

Another drawback to marriage is this, that to treat one's family kindly and patiently and to bring their affairs to a satisfactory issue can only be done by those who have a good disposition. There is great danger lest a man should treat his family harshly, or neglect them, and so bring sin upon himself. The Prophet said: "He who deserts his wife and children is like a runaway slave; till he returns to them none of his fasts or prayers will be accepted by God." In brief, man has a lower nature, and, till he can control his own lower nature, he had better not assume the responsibility of controlling

[1. The Mizan, or Balance for weighing good and evil deeds, which will be erected on the Judgment Day.]

{p. 107}

another's. Some one asked the saint Bishr Hafi why he did not marry. "I am afraid," he replied, "of that verse in the Koran, "The rights of women over men are precisely the same as the rights of men over women.'"

A third disadvantage of marriage is that the cares of a family often prevent a man from concentrating his thoughts on God and on a future life, and may, unless he is careful, lead to his destruction, for God has said, "Let not your wives and children turn you away from remembering God." He who thinks he can concentrate himself better on his religious duties by not marrying had better remain single, and he who fears falling into sin if he does not marry, had better do so.

We now come to the qualities which should be sought in a wife. The most important of all is chastity. If a wife is unchaste, and her husband keeps silent, he gets a bad name and is hindered in his religious life; if he speaks, his life becomes embittered; and if he divorces her, he may feel the pang of separation. A wife who is beautiful but of evil character is a great calamity; such a one had better be divorced.

{p. 108}

The Prophet said, "He who seeks a wife for the sake of her beauty or wealth will lose both."

The second desirable quality in a wife is a good disposition. An ill-tempered or ungrateful or loquacious or imperious wife makes existence unbearable, and is a great hindrance to leading a devout life.

The third quality to be sought is beauty, as this calls forth love and affection. Therefore one should see a woman before marrying her. The Prophet said, "The women of such a tribe have all a defect in their eyes; he who wishes, to marry one should see her first." The wise have said that he who marries a wife without seeing her is sure to repent it afterwards. It is true that one should not marry solely for the sake of beauty, but this does not mean that beauty should be reckoned of no account at all.

The fourth desirable point is that the sum paid by the husband as the wife's marriage-portion should be moderate. The Prophet said, "She is the best kind of wife whose marriage-portion is small, and whose beauty is great."

{p. 109}

He himself settled the marriage-portion of some women at ten dirhems,[1] and his own daughters' marriage-portions were not more than four hundred dirhems.

Fifthly, she should not be barren. "A piece of old matting lying in the corner of the house is better than a barren wife."[2]

Other qualities in a desirable wife are these: she should be of a good stock, not married previously, and not too nearly related to her husband.

Regarding the Observances of Marriage

Marriage is a religious institution, and should be treated in a religious way, otherwise the mating of men and women is no better than the mating of animals. The Law enjoins that there should be a feast on the occasion of every marriage. When Abdurrahman Ibn Auf married, the Prophet said to him, "Make a marriage-feast, even if you have only a goat to make it with." When the Prophet himself celebrated his marriage with Safia he made a marriage-feast

[1. The dirhem--about six pence.

2. Saying of Muhammad.]

{p. 110}

of dates and barley. It is also right that. marriage should be accompanied with the beating of drums and of music, for man is the crown of creation.

Secondly, a man should remain on good terms with his wife. This does not mean that he should never cause her pain, but that he should bear any annoyance she causes him, whether by her unreasonableness or ingratitude, patiently. Woman is created weak, and requiring concealment; she should therefore be borne with patiently, and kept secluded. The Prophet said, "He who bears the ill-humour of his wife patiently will earn as much merit as Job did by the patient endurance of his trials." On his, death-bed also he was heard to say, "Continue in prayer and treat your wives well, for they are your prisoners." He himself used to bear patiently the tempers of his wives. One day Omar's wife was angry and scolded him. He said to her, "Thou evil-tongued one, dost thou answer me back?" She replied, "Yes! the Lord of the prophets is better than thou, and his wives, answer him back." He replied, "Alas for Hafsa [Omar's daughter and Muhammad's wife]

{p. 111}

if she does not humble herself"; and when he met her he said, "Take care not to answer the Prophet back." The Prophet also said, "The best of you is he who is best to his own family, as I am the best to mine."

Thirdly, a man should condescend to his wife's recreations and amusements, and not attempt to check them. The Prophet himself actually on one occasion ran races with his young wife Ayesha. The first time he beat her, and the second time she beat him. Another time he held her up in his arms that she might look at some performing negroes. In fact, it, would be difficult to find any one who was so kind to his wives as the Prophet was to his. Wise men have said, "A man should come home smiling and eat what he finds and not ask for anything he does not find." However, he should not be over-indulgent, lest his wife lose her respect for him. If he sees anything plainly wrong on her part, he should not ignore but rebuke it, or he will become a laughing-stock. In the Koran it is written, "Men should have the upper hand over women," and the Prophet said, "Woe to the man who is the servant of

{p. 112}

his wife," for she should be his servant. Wise men have said, "Consult women, and act the contrary to what they advise." In truth there is something perverse in women, and if they are allowed even a little licence, they get out of control altogether, and it is difficult to reduce them to order again. In dealing with them one should endeavour to use a mixture of severity and tenderness, with a greater proportion of the latter. The Prophet said, "Woman was formed of a crooked rib; if you try to bend her, you will break her; if you leave her alone, she will grow more and more crooked; therefore treat her tenderly."

As regards propriety, one cannot be too careful not to let one's wife look at or be looked at by a stranger, for the beginning of all mischief is in the eye. As far as possible, she should not be allowed out of the house, nor to go on the roof, nor to stand at the door. Care should be taken, however, not to be unreasonably jealous and strict. The Prophet one day asked his daughter Fatima, "What is the best thing for women?" She answered, "They should not look on strangers, nor strangers on

{p. 113}

them." The Prophet was pleased at this remark, and embraced her, saying, "Verily, thou art a piece of my liver!" The Commander of the Faithful, Omar, said, "Don't give women fine clothes, for as soon as they have them they will want to go out of the house." In the time of the Prophet women had permission to go to the mosques and stand in the last row of the worshippers; but this was subsequently forbidden.

A man should keep his wife properly supplied with money, and not stint her. To give a wife her proper maintenance is more meritorious than to give alms. The Prophet said, "Suppose a man spends one dinar[1] in religious war, another in ransoming a slave, a third in charity, and gives the fourth to his wife, the giving of this last surpasses in merit all the others put together."

A man should not eat anything especially good by himself, or, if he has eaten it, he should keep silent about it and not praise it before his wife. It is better for husband and wife to eat

[1. About ten shillings.]

{p. 114}

together, if a guest be not present, for the Prophet said, "When they do so, God sends His blessing upon them, and the angels pray for them." The most important point to see to is that the supplies given to one's wife are acquired by lawful means.

If a man's wife be rebellious and disobedient, he should at first admonish her gently; if this is not sufficient he should sleep in a separate chamber for three nights. Should this also fail he may strike her, but not on the mouth, nor with such force as to wound her. Should she be remiss in her religious duties, he should manifest his displeasure to her for an entire month, as the Prophet did on one occasion to all his wives.

The greatest care should be taken to avoid divorce, for, though divorce is permitted, yet God disapproves of it, because the very utterance of the word "divorce" causes a woman pain, and how can it be right to pain any one? When divorce is absolutely necessary, the formula for it should not be repeated, thrice all at

{p. 115}

once, but on three different occasions.[1] A woman should be divorced kindly, not through anger and contempt, and not without a reason. After divorce a man should give his former wife a present, and not tell others that she has been divorced for such and such a fault. Of a certain man who was instituting divorce-proceedings against his wife it is related that people asked him, "Why are you divorcing her?" He answered, "I do not reveal my wife's secrets." When he had actually divorced her, he was asked again, and said, "She is a stranger to me now; I have nothing to do with her private affairs."

Hitherto we have treated of the rights of the wife over her husband, but the rights of the husband over the wife are even more binding. The Prophet said, "If it were right to worship any one except God, it would be right for wives to worship their husbands." A wife should not boast of her beauty before her husband, she should not requite his kindness with ingratitude, she should not say to him, "Why have you

[1. The formula for divorce has to be repeated thrice to make it complete.]

{p. 116}

treated me thus and thus?" The Prophet said, I looked into hell and saw many women there; I asked the reason, and received this reply, 'Because they abused their husbands and were ungrateful to them.'"

{p. 117}

Next: Chapter VIII: The Love Of God