Pre-requisites of Nikah (Marriage)

Pre-requisites of Nikah (Marriage)


Islamic Law

وَأُحِلَّ لَكُمْ مَا وَرَاءَ ذَلِكُمْ أَنْ تَبْتَغُوا بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ فَمَا اسْتَمْتَعْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْهُنَّ فَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا تَرَاضَيْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ الْفَرِيضَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا(24:4)

And all other women are except for those [specified] are lawful to you such that you seek [them in marriage] through your wealth, desiring chastity, not lust. [Consequently, if you have not paid their dowers as yet], pay them their dowers as [your] obligation for the benefit you have derived from them. If after a dower is prescribed, you agree mutually on something there is no blame on you and Allah is All- Knowing All-Wise. (4:24)

The pre-requisites of Nikah which this verse outlines are:

First, a Nikah should be conducted through wealth – which here means dower. The Qur'an emphasizes that the Almighty has ordained this payment as an essential pre-requisite of marriage. Consequently, it has directed Muslims to immediately complete this obligation if they have not yet done so. However, once a dower has been ascertained with the realization that it is an obligation of a Muslim husband, he and his wife can mutually change its amount as well as the time of its payment. Everyone must nevertheless know that the Originator of this law is All-Knowing and All-Wise. All His directives are based on flawless knowledge and deep wisdom. Hence neither should anyone attempt to disobey it nor dare change it in any way.

It needs to be appreciated that the dower has special significance: When a man and a woman pledge to marry, it is the man who takes the financial responsibility of the woman he is bringing home. The dower is nothing but a symbolic expression of this responsibility. The Qur'an uses the words 'صَدَقَه'(Sadaqah) and 'اَجَر'(Ajar) for it. Both words imply money which is given to a wife for her needs in return for her companionship. Like Nikah and the Nikah sermon, dower payment is an ancient practice that was in vogue in Arabia before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). It is mentioned in the Bible in similar terms.1

While commenting upon the importance of this age-old custom ImamAmin Ahsan Islahiwrites:

Matters in which payment of money is a pre-condition and the payment itself is not a favor but an obligation, such that it is understood even though it may not be mentioned and its payment is an obligation dependent on the social status of the lady – then such matters are serious ones both as regards the Shari'ah and the norms of society. No sensible person will become party to such a contract unless after deep consideration, he prepares himself to fulfill its responsibilities – [it is] for these benefits that the payment of the dower has been made essential. Those who have overlooked these benefits deem that the payment of the dower money has relegated the status of a woman to a salable commodity. This of course is the result of not properly perceiving the underlying reason for the payment of the dower. The reason for this payment sounds a warning to every person seeking to enter the sacred bond of marriage that he must think over the extent of responsibility this step will entail. Marital matters must be taken seriously. Even words said in light-hearted manner in such matters have a sober status. It is like walking on the edge of a sharp sword.2

No amount has been fixed by the Shari'ah for the dower. It has been left to the norms and traditions of society. Consequently, it can be fixed according to the social status of the woman and the financial status of the man who is to become her husband. Narratives from the Prophet (sws) in this regard also endorse this viewpoint:

Sahal Ibn Sa'adnarrates that once a lady came to the Prophet (sws) and said: 'O Messenger of God I have come to present myself to you [in marriage]'. Sahal says that the Prophet (sws) glanced at her, casting a look upon her from head to toe and then lowered his head. [Upon this], the lady concluded that the Prophet (sws) had not made a decision on her proposal and so she sat down. In the meantime, a person from among the Companions of the Prophet (sws) got up and remarked: 'O Prophet (sws) if you do not want her then wed her to me'. The Prophet (sws) asked: 'Do you have anything [to pay as dower]'. The person replied: 'By God, O Prophet (sws) of God, I have nothing'. The Prophet (sws) remarked: 'Go to your home and see if you can find anything'. He went over to his house, came back and swore before the Prophet (sws) that he had found nothing. The Prophet (sws) again said: 'Look again even if you have an iron ring'. He went to his house again, returned and said: 'God shall bear witness that I do not even have that; I do have this loin cloth – Sahal said that he had no sheet to wear – He requested: 'Please give half of this loin-cloth to her'. The Prophet (sws) said: 'What will she do with this; if you wear it she would have nothing to wear, and if she wears it you would have nothing to wear'. At this, that person sat down. After much time elapsed, he got up to go. When the Prophet (sws) saw him turning his back, he sent for him. So he was called back. The Prophet (sws) then asked: 'How much Qur'an do you know'. He informed the Prophet (sws) of the specific surahs that he knew. The Prophet (sws) inquired: 'Do you know them by heart'. He replied in the affirmative. The Prophet (sws) then said: 'I wed her to you in lieu of the Qur'an that you have learned'.3

The second pre-requisite of marriage stated in the verse is chastity. No adulterer has the right to marry a chaste woman and no adulteress has the right to marry a chaste man, except if the matter has not gone to court and the two purify themselves of this sin by sincere repentance. The words 'مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ' point to this pre-requisite. At another place, the Qur'an says:

الزَّانِيلَا يَنكِحُ إلَّا زَانِيَةً أَوْ مُشْرِكَةً وَالزَّانِيَةُ لَا يَنكِحُهَا إِلَّا زَانٍ أَوْ مُشْرِكٌ وَحُرِّمَ ذَلِكَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (24 : 3)

The man guilty of fornication may only marry a woman similarly guilty or an idolatress and the woman guilty of fornication may only marry such a man or an idolater. The believers are forbidden such marriages.4(24:3)

It is obvious from this verse and is also evident from divine scriptures that fornication and polytheism are exactly similar to one another. Just as it cannot be acceptable in any way that a husband or wife commit marital unfaithfulness, similarly, it is totally unacceptable for a Muslim that someone else besides the Almighty be worshipped in his house. In fact, this is more detestable a sin than sleeping with some other woman. This similarity between fornication and polytheism could have been deduced; however, the following Qur'anic verse explicitly states it:

وَلَا تَنكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكَاتِ حَتَّى يُؤْمِنَّ وَلَأَمَةٌ مُؤْمِنَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مُشْرِكَةٍ وَلَوْأَعْجَبَتْكُمْ وَلَا تُنكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتَّىيُؤْمِنُوا وَلَعَبْدٌ مُؤْمِنٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مُشْرِكٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكُمْ (221:2)

Wed not idolatrous women, unless they embrace faith. And [remember] a believing slave-girl is better than an idolatrous woman, although you may fancy her. Nor shall you wed your women to the Idolaters, unless they embrace faith. And [remember] a believing slave is better than an Idolater, although you may fancy him.5(2:221)

The Jews and Christians of the Prophet's times were also deeply incriminated with the filth of polytheism. However, since they were basically monotheists, the Almighty was lenient enough to Muslims to allow marriage with their chaste women:

وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنْ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ وَلَا مُتَّخِذِي أَخْدَانٍ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالْإِيمَانِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ الْخَاسِرِينَ(5:5)

[Lawful to you in marriage] are also chaste women from among the People of the Book before you, – when you give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret paramours. (5:5)

It is evident from the context of the above verse that this permission was granted when no confusion remained regarding Tawhid (monotheism) and it prevailed over polytheistic Arab society in every manner. The verse quoted above begins with the word 'اَلْيَوْم' (this day). This word shows that the permission given was also very much dependent on the circumstances of those times: It was expected that if Muslim men would marry among the People of the Book these women would be positively influenced by Islam. In this way not only would there be no clash with polytheism, but also there was a great chance that most of them would accept Islam.

Consequently, Muslims today must necessarily take this aspect into consideration.

Similarly, it should be kept in mind that it is essential for the sanctity of the institution of family – the very institution marriage creates – that marriage take place with the consent and presence of the elders of the family. There is no doubt about the fact that the decision of marriage is primarily taken by the concerned man and woman. However, if the marriage does not take place through the consent of the guardians or the elders of a family, then there must be a solid reason for this. In the absence of such a reason, a state has the authority to annul such a marriage.6Narratives such as 'لَا نِكَاحَ اِلَّا بِوَلِى' (No marriage should take place without the [permission of] the guardian)7and other similar ones actually allude to this aspect. Since the rebellion of a lady in this matter can cause great disruption in a family, the Prophet (sws) made it clear upon the guardians, through both his words and the measures he took, that they must not take any decision in this regard without her consent. If the lady wants, their decision can be revoked.

It is narrated by Abu Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: 'A widow must not be married off without her consent and the consent of a virgin is [also] necessary'. People inquired: 'How should her consent be obtained'. The Prophet answered: 'If she stays quiet it means that she agrees to it'.8

Ibn 'Abbasnarrates from the Prophet (sws): 'A widow can take her decision herself and permission must be sought from a virgin'.9

Binti Khudhamsays that when she became a widow, her father solemnized her marriage. She did not like the decision. So she came over to the Prophet (sws) and he gave her the permission to revoke her marriage.10

(Translated from 'Mizan' by Shehzad Saleem)




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