Marriage in Islam is intended to cater to multiple purposes which include, above all, spiritual tranquility and peace, and cooperation and partnership in fulfilling the divine mandate. Islam – being a natural way of life – takes into account all of genuine human instincts such as physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, et cetera.
Although fulfilling one’s physical needs in a decent manner is one of the main purposes of marriage, it is not the sole one. According to the clear statement of the Qur’an, tranquility and peace through a successful union is considered the primary objective of marriage: (Among His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own kind in order that you may repose to them in tranquility and He instilled in your hearts love and affection for one another; verily, in these are signs for those who reflect (on the nature of the reality).) (Ar-Rum 30: 21).
In another place, Allah refers to the relationship between males and females in terms of partnership for achieving goodness and fulfilling the divine mandate for their lives. (The believers, males and females, are partners of one another; they shall jointly enjoin all that is good and counsel against all that is evil.) (At-Tawbah 9: 71)
Responding to the question in point, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:
Just as Islam aims at rearing a righteous individual, being the cornerstone in the social structure of the nation, it also seeks to establish a sound family, the prime and essential factor in building a good society. It is never disputed that marriage – that unites a man and a woman in solemn matrimony – is the foundation that gives rise to the family. There is no way a real or proper family could ever exist out of wedlock, the way that has been legislated by Allah, Exalted be He.
Perverted ideas opposing the institution of marriage
Throughout the ages, humanity has come to learn of ideas and trends that oppose the idea of marriage. In Persia (now Iran), before the advent of Islam, there emerged Mani’s philosophy, which claimed that the world abounds in evil, that it should be exterminated and that prohibiting marriage is the fastest way to effect this goal.
Under the banner of Christianity appeared extreme monasticism that denounces life, calls to getting incarcerated in monasteries and prohibiting marriage, because woman, they held, is a cause of temptation and a devil incarnate. Venturing near her is in itself a sin that corrupts a soul and alienates one from Heaven.
In modern times, there exist in the West pessimists who totally condemned woman, describing her as a serpent, with a soft touch but deadly venom. They further claim that marriage offers her the golden opportunity to place man under her thumb and shackle him with responsibilities. So why should man, out of his own free will, choose to place those chains around his neck though he was born free?
Unfortunately, some of our contemporary Muslim youth have been fallen prey to those perverted ideas, and thereupon decided to refrain from marriage that entails endless responsibilities, obligations and restrictions. They, on the other hand, wish to live their entire lives as children shouldering no responsibilities. If overcome by desire or the call of their instincts, vicious adultery will certainly quench their thirst in lieu of lawful marriage.
The objectives of marriage in Islam
a) According to the divine laws and norms, nothing can ever perform its duty single-handedly. Allah meant everything to be in need of another of its kind, so that one would complement the other. In the field of electricity, positive and negative poles need to be in contact so as to induce an electric current, which in turn, yields light, heat, motion, etc. Likewise, electrons and protons should be in contact inside an atom. In plants, pollen grain carrying male gametes fertilize a flower’s stigma to produce more plants, fruits and seeds. Male and female animals have to be in contact in order to reproduce.
The Glorious Qur’an highlights this universal law in the following two verses: (And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect.) (Adh-Dhariyat 51: 49) (Glory be to Him Who created all the sexual pairs, of that which the earth groweth, and of themselves, and of that which they know not.) (Ya-Sin 36: 36) In response to this law, Allah, Exalted be He, has legislated a sublime tradition for a man and a woman to be united in such a way as befits the lofty status of human beings, namely through marriage.
Allah, Exalted be He, has inculcated in a man’s heart a longing for a woman, and in a woman’s heart a longing for a man. Each of them is driven by a far more exigent need than hunger or thirst. Each of them senses a definite emptiness in his or her life that can only be filled with their union, according to the divine laws, namely via marriage. Only then does stability replace confusion and reassurance does replace anxiety. Each of them finds in the other serenity, love and mercy that light their lives and enrich their souls. The following is one of Allah’s glaring signs in our universe, which the Glorious Qur’an points to: (Among His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own kind in order that you may repose to them in tranquility and He instilled in your hearts love and affection for one another; verily, in these are signs for those who reflect (on the nature of the reality).) (Ar-Rum 30: 21)
b) Reproduction is the natural outcome of marriage. It serves to prolong man’s existence, thanks to the pious progeny that succeeds him. This is thus one of Allah’s bounties which He grants man saying, (And Allah hath given you wives of your own kind, and hath given you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and hath made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of Allah that they disbelieve?) (An-Nahl 16: 72)
It is also for this reason that Prophet Zakariyyah (Zachariah, peace be upon him) supplicated to Allah saying: (And Zachariah, when he cried unto his Lord: My Lord! Leave me not childless, though Thou art the best of inheritors,) (Al-Anbiya’ 21: 89) and (Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor. Who shall inherit of me and inherit (also) of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee).) (Maryam 19: 5-6) Similarly, Ibrahim (Abraham), the father of the Prophets (peace be upon him), prayed to Allah saying: (My Lord! Vouchsafe me of the righteous. So We gave him tidings of a gentle son.) (As-Saffat 37: 100-101) and (Praise be to Allah Who hath given me, in my old age, Ishmael and Isaac! Lo! My Lord is indeed the Nearer of Prayer.) (Ibrahim 14: 29) The Glorious Qur’an describes the servants of Allah, the Most Gracious, as such: (And who say: Our Lord! Vouchsafe us comfort of our wives and of our offspring.) (Al-Furqan 25: 74)
It is due to reproduction that the nation grows and multiplies, makes use of its potential and manages to combat its enemies. Few would suspect the fact that multitudes and masses of people are to be reckoned with when considering world power. Allah narrates what Prophet Shu`ayb (peace be upon him) told his people saying, (And remember, when ye were but few, how He did multiply you.) (Al-A`raf 7: 86) Further, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) says, “Get married (and reproduce) for I will boast of your large numbers in front of other nations (on Judgment Day) and do not lapse into Christians’ monasticism.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Abu Umamah, and it is mentioned in al-Jami` as-Sahih)
Reproduction serves to preserve the entire human species all around the globe until the point when life comes to an end. Allah, Exalted be He, says, (O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 1) and (O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made `you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.) (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)
c) Marriage consummates one’s faith, spares one looking at other women, enables one to preserve his chastity and offers one a lawful means to satisfy his sexual desire. Adultery is, therefore, no longer an option. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke of marriage saying, “It spares one looking at what one should not, or lapsing in adultery.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “If Allah grants a Muslim a righteous wife, this helps him preserve half of his religion (faith). He should, therefore, fear Allah as regards the other half.” (Reported by At-Tabarani and Al-Hakim, and Al-Mundhri states in At-Targhib that it is an authentic hadith with a good chain of narrators)
d) Not only does marriage help a Muslim preserve his faith, it is also the indispensable pillar of worldly happiness which Islam encourages its followers to enjoy so that nothing would distract them from the ultimate goal of uplifting their souls and attaining high degrees of spirituality. Imam Muslim reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The whole world is pleasure, and the best pleasure of the world is the righteous woman.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said: “Four things bring one joy: a righteous wife, a spacious house, a pious neighbor and a comfortable riding animal.” (Reported by Al-Hakim, Abu-Nu`aym and Al-Bayhaqi)
e) Marriage is the sole means of establishing a family, the nucleus of society. No respectable human society could ever exist, if not based on the family. Shaded by the close relations of motherhood, fatherhood as well as parent-child and siblings relations, warm feelings of love, altruism, mercy, care and cooperation are instilled in a Muslim.
f) Social relations are bolstered with the aid of marriage, whereby scope of family expands including his in-laws and his children’s aunts and uncles. That way feelings of amity, love and social closeness extend to include more and more people. Allah meant relations by marriage to be just as strong as kinship relations. Allah, Exalted be He, says, (And He it is Who hath created man from water, and hath appointed for him kindred by blood and kindred by marriage; for thy Lord is ever Powerful.) (Al-Furqan: 54)
g) Marriage matures a man’s character through the responsibilities he has to shoulder, as a husband and a father, and similarly matures a woman’s character through the responsibilities she has to shoulder, as a wife and a mother. As we have just explained, many men refrain from marriage simply because they wish to live as grown-up children with no ties to bind them, no house to unite them or responsibilities they are to undertake. Such people are not fit to live; they are good for nothing. Marriage is thus a strong commitment and a shared responsibility between a man and a woman since their first day together.
Allah, Exalted be He, says, (And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 228) (Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 34)
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for those in his charge; the man, in his home, is a guardian and responsible for his household; the woman, concerning her husband’s property, is a guardian and responsible for what she is entrusted with.” (Agreed upon hadith) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Man would be committing a huge sin if he were to ruin whomever he supports.” (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-
Hakim and Al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Umar) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) further noted, “Allah shall ask every guardian about what he has been entrusted with, whether he preserved or ruined it.” (Reported by An-Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban on the authority of Anas) He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “One’s spouse is entitled to certain rights.” (Agreed upon Hadith, reported on the authority of Ibn `Umar)
h) Having got married, a man can focus on perfecting his work, reassured that there is someone back home
who disposes of his affairs, preserves his money and takes care of his children. He can thus do his job properly. This stands in sharp contrast to another whose mind is preoccupied and who is torn apart between his work and home, his job and the burden of securing his food and clothes back home.