Friday, October 2, 2009

Re: Ijbar –Marital Consent: The WRAPA Approach

(Published today in my ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE column in LEADERSHIP)

By Mohammed A. Salisu

After carefully studied your piece on the above topic, I realised how versatile knowledge is in Islam. But then I believe the case studied organisation, the Women's Right Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), which is an avenue for rendering guidance as well mobilising women, but I am opined to think that WRAPA, though has good objectivity in its mandate, but don’t you think may run contrary to Islamic laws concerning certain issues? Before we digest this important question, let’s look at the marriage instituion in the islamic spectrum.
Allah (SWT) has created men and women as company for one another, and so that they can procreate and live in peace and tranquillity according to the commandments of Allah Ta’ala and the directions of His Messenger (SAW). In the holy Qur'an, Allah says: “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21).
These verses of the Noble Qur'an clearly show that in contrast to other religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism etc. which consider celibacy or monasticism as a great virtue and a means of salvation, Islam considers marriage as one of the most virtuous and approved institutions. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) declared, “O you young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty.” (Al-Bukhari)
Modesty was regarded as a great virtue by the Prophet. He said, "Modesty is part of faith." (Al-Bukhari)
The importance of the institution or marriage receives its greatest emphasis from the following hadith of the Prophet (SAW), “Marriage is my sunna. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me.”
With these Qur'anic injunctions and the guidance from the Prophet (SAW) in mind, we shall examine the institution of marriage in the Shari'ah.
The word Zawaj is used in the Qur'an to signify a pair or a mate. But in common parlance it stands for marriage. Since the family is the nucleus of Islamic society, and marriage is the only way to bring families into existence, the Prophet (SAW) insisted upon his followers entering into marriage. The Shari’ah prescribes rules to regulate the functioning of the family so that both spouses can live together in love, security, and tranquillity. Marriage in Islam has aspects of both 'ibadah (worship) of Allah and Mu'amalah (transactions between human beings).
Now, let’s explore some of its conditions. After careful consideration of the Qur’anic injunctions and the traditions of the Prophet (SAW), it clearly show that marriage is compulsory (Wajib) for a man who has the means to easily pay the Mahr (dowry) and to support a wife and children, and is healthy, and fears that if does not marry, he may be tempted to commit fornication (Zina). It is also compulsory for a woman who has no other means of maintaining herself and who fears that her sexual urge may push her into fornication. But even for a person who has a strong will to control his sexual desire, who has no wish to have children, and who feels that marriage will keep him away from his devotion to Allah, it is commendable (Mandub).
However, according to the Maliki school, under certain conditions it is obligatory (Fard) for a Muslim to marry even if he is not in a position to earn his living:
•If he fears that by not marrying he will commit Zina.
•If he is unable to fast to control his passions or his fasting does not help him to refrain from zina.
•Even if he is unable to find a slave girl or a destitute girl to marry.
However some jurists suggest that if a man cannot procure a lawful livelihood, he must not marry because if he marries without any hope of getting lawful bread, he may commit theft, and in order to avoid one evil (his passions) he may become the victim of another (theft).
The Hanafi school considers marriage as Fard for a man:
•If he is sure that he will commit Zina if he does not marry.
•If he cannot fast to control his passions or even if he can fast, his fast does not help him to control his passion.
•If he cannot get a slave-girl to marry.
•If he is able to pay the dowry (Mahr) and to earn a lawful livelihood.
Marriage is Haram to a man, according to the Hanafi school, if he does not possess the means to maintain his wife and children or if he suffers from an illness, serious enough to affect his wife and progeny.
It is not desirable (Makruh) for a man who possesses no sexual desire at all or who has no love for children or who is sure to be slackened in his religious obligations as a result of marriage.
In a beautiful tradition the Prophet (SAW) has given the most important point that should weigh with every Muslim in selecting his bride:
“Whoever marries a woman solely for her power and position, Allah will only increase him in humiliation. Whoever marries a woman solely for her wealth, Allah will only increase him in poverty. Whoever marries a woman because of her beauty, Allah will only increase him in ugliness. But whoever marries a woman in order that he may restrain his eyes, observe cautiousness, and treat his relations kindly, Allah puts a blessing in her for him and in him for her.”
In order that problems should not arise after marriage the Prophet (peace be upon him) recommended that, in the selection of his bride, a man should see her before betrothal lest blindness of choice or an error of judgment should defeat the very purpose of marriage.

Ijbar, A Safety Valve?
The consent of both the man and the women is an essential element of marriage, and the Qur'an gives women a substantial role in choosing their own life partners. It lays down:
“Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner.” (2: 232)
However, Imam Malik, gives a slightly restrictive interpretation to this verse and makes the choice of partner by a Muslim girl subject to the over-ruling power or Ijbar of her father or guardian in the interests of the girl herself.
It may sometimes happen that in her immaturity or over-zealousness, a girl may want to marry a man about whom she has distorted information or who does not possess good character or who lacks proper means of livelihood. In such a case, it is better, or rather incumbent upon the girl's father or guardian, that, in the wider interests of the girl, he restrains her from marrying such a worthless man and finds a suitable person to be her husband. Generally speaking, such marriages arranged by fathers and guardians work better than a marriage brought about through western courtship.
Now, the WRAPA way, do you think in this modern world, where our children are not well thought amidst societal influence with alien cultures and norms, if we disregard Ijbar, will it favour marital life in the Ummah? I quite agree that a girl’s consent is important, but I still hold it to my heart that parents’ interest to be supreme in contracting marriage. Therefore, the answer to my earlier question about the WRAPA approach is that if care is not taken, in the course of its objective criticisms, they may go contrary to the norms of the Islamic cultures. I recommended a thorough research be made before making publicity, although, the research work revealed that some Islamic scholars are involved, but still is not enough, they should widen the scope.

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