The Purpose of Marriage in Islam
Marriage is a natural necessity for every human being. It bears many good outcomes of which the most important ones are:
(1) The formation of a family through which one can find security and peace of mind. A person who is not married resembles a bird without a nest. Marriage serves as a shelter for anyone who feels lost in the wilderness of life; one can find a partner in life who would share one’s joy and sorrow.
(2) The natural sexual desire is both strong and significant. Everyone should have a partner for satisfying their sexual needs in a secure and serene environment. Everyone should enjoy sexual satisfaction in a correct and proper manner. Those who abstain from marriage often suffer from both physical and psychological disorders. Such disorders and certain social problems are a direct consequence of the abstinence of youth from marriage.
(3) Reproduction: Through marriage, the procreation of mankind is continued. Children are the result of marriage and are important factors in stabilizing the family foundations as well as a source of real joy to their parents.
A great deal of emphasis has been given in the Holy Qur’an and the traditions to both marriage and having children. The Almighty Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves.” (30:21)
The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) stated: “There is no better structure founded in Islam other than marriage.” (Wasail al-Shia)
“Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said, “Engage in marriage, because this is the tradition of the Prophet of Allah.” (Ibid)
“The Prophet of Allah further stated: “Whoever chooses to follow my tradition must get married and produce offspring through marriage (and increase the population of Muslims), so that on the Day of Resurrection, I shall confront other Ummah (nations) with the (great) numbers of my Ummah.” (Ibid)
Imam Ali ar-Ridha (peace be upon) stated: ‘The greatest gain for a man is a faithful woman who, when she sees him, becomes happy, and protects his property and her own honor in his absence.” (Ibid)
What has been dealt with so far in this discussion has been only the worldly and animalistic side of marriage which the animals also share: the benefits of companionship and reproduction. As such, the true purpose of marriage for the human race is of a different kind. Mankind is not meant to have entered this world solely in order to eat, drink, sleep, seek pleasure or act lustfully, and then to die and be destroyed. The status of man is higher than such deeds. Human beings are meant to train themselves and their souls by gaining knowledge, committing good deeds, and behaving with good manners. Man is meant to take steps along the straight path to achieve nearness to Almighty Allah. Mankind is a creation that is able to cleanse his soul, and by avoiding evil deeds and exercising good behavior, reach a level of such high status that even the angels are not able to attain. Man is a creature that is eternal. He has come to this world so that – by the guidance of the prophets and the implementation of the programs set by the religion (of Islam) to secure his happiness in this world and the Hereafter – he could live a peaceful life in the next world eternally.
Therefore, the purpose of marriage should be searched for in this spiritual context. The aim of marriage for a religious person should be a means of avoiding evil deeds and purging one’s soul of sins. It should be a means of acquiring nearness to the Almighty Allah. It is in this context that a suitable and good partner assumes an important role. When two believers form a family through marriage, their sexual relationship would benefit them in strengthening their mutual love and kindness. For such a couple, there would not exist any dangerous threats of sexual perversion, dangerous addictions, or unlawful deeds. The Prophet of Islam and all of the Imams (peace be upon them all) have laid great emphasis on the institution of marriage.
The Prophet stated: “Whoever gets married has safeguarded half of his religion.” (Ibid)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said: ‘Two (units) of a married person’s Salat are better than seventy units offered by a bachelor.” (Ibid)
A faithful, pious, and harmonious partner plays a crucial role in having a respectable and honest life. Indeed, having such a partner is an important factor when wanting to avoid evil deeds and enables the commitment of oneself in performing the obligatory acts of worship. A pious couple not only would not meet with any obstacle in achieving religious goals but would be a source of encouragement to each other.
Is it really possible for a faithful man of Allah to gloriously fight in His way without the approval of his wife? Is it possible for any pious person to earn his living lawfully, observing all religious aspects, paying statutory religious alms to avoid extravagance, and to spend on charitable deeds without the consent of his wife?
A pious person would always invite his partner to goodness, just as a corrupt person would tempt his partner towards corruption. It is then reasonable that in Islam, men and women who want to get married are advised to regard the piety and good manners of their future partners as essential conditions.
The Prophet stated: “If I were to bestow all the good of both worlds upon a Muslim person, I would endow him with a humble heart, a tongue which continuously utters his praises, a body patient enough to withstand all calamities, and I would give him a pious spouse who, when she sees him, becomes happy, and protects his property and her own honor in his absence.” (Ibid)
A person went to the Prophet and said: “I have a wife who always welcomes me when I come home and escorts me to the door when I leave. When she finds me sad and unhappy, she then consoles me by saying: ‘If you are thinking of sustenance, then do not despair, because Allah provides sustenance; and if you are thinking about the next life, then may Allah increase your intellect and efforts.'” Then the Prophet stated: “Allah surely has functionaries and agents in this world, and your wife is one of those. Such a woman would be rewarded half as much as a martyr.” (Ibid)
Imam Ali (peace be upon him) was thinking the same when he spoke of Lady Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her). He stated that she was the best help for worshiping the Almighty Allah. History tells us that the Prophet, one day after the wedding of Imam Ali and Lady Zahra, went to congratulate them in their house and know about their welfare. He asked Imam Ali: “How do you find your spouse?” The Imam replied: ” found Zahra as the best help in worshiping the Almighty Allah.” The Prophet then asked the same of Lady Zahra, and she replied: “He is the best husband.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
In one sentence, Imam Ali thus introduced the best woman in Islam and expressed the main purpose of marriage.
Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini lives and teaches in the holy city of Qom. This article is an excerpt from his book Principles of Marriage and Family Ethics.