Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

Discuss this anthropological statement:

"Marriage between Muslims is encouraged by Islam and mandatory for women, yet some states establish rules as to which ones they are allowed to marry."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Regarding marriage in Islam, it is not mandatory for anyone (male or female) to marry.

Allah (God), in the Quran, recommends marriage but does not state that it is a fardh (compulsory) act. However, as the Prophet Muhammad engaged in marriage, the act of marriage is considered a sunnah (tradition of the Prophet).

As Allah says in the Quran's thirtieth chapter, titled Ar-Rum (Rome), verse 21:

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).

One notices immediately that the purpose of finding a spouse is, first and foremost, for both parties to find tranquility in each other. In this case, that comes with emotional as well as spiritual tranquility. However, the physical aspect of marriage and the fulfillment of physical desires is also of importance, as this is considered part of human nature.

Also, it is interesting to note that Allah says that He has created for "you" spouses of "your" own kind—this does not signify gender, and it illustrates that this is the recommendation for both men and women.

It is written that the Prophet Muhammad once said, speaking about marriage,

It spares one looking at what one should not, or lapsing in adultery. (Reported by At-Tabarani and Al-Hakim)

Now, regarding both society and the individual, a married person has a responsibility to his or her own husband or wife, as well as a responsibility to society in that adultery can become something that is damaging to the community as well as the individual.

There are those whom Muslims are explicitly not allowed to marry. According to the Quran, this includes the following:

And do not marry those [women] whom your fathers married, except what has already occurred. Indeed, it was an immorality and hateful [to Allah] and was evil as a way. Prohibited to you [for marriage] are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your [milk] mothers who nursed you, your sisters through nursing, your wives’ mothers, and your step daughters under your guardianship [born] of your wives unto whom you have gone in. But if you have not gone in unto them, there is no sin upon you. And [also prohibited are] the wives of your sons who are from your [own] loins, and that you take [in marriage] two sisters simultaneously, except for what has already occurred. Indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful. And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess [i.e., slaves or war-captives who had polytheistic husbands]. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. (Quran, chapter 2, verses 22–24)

Additionally, a Muslim man is allowed to marry another Muslim woman, as well as a woman who is Christian or Jewish (Ahl al Kitab, or People of the Book). For the most part, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish man and must marry a Muslim man, since children from a marriage usually fall into the father's custody, and this endangers the chance of the children remaining Muslim, in case of a divorce. However, the ruling on this varies depending on context.

Therefore, it is not a state, or states, that stipulates whom a Muslim is allowed to marry. Rather, this is decided according to (but not limited to) the context, meaning that the nature of the individual, the era, the state of affairs surrounding the marriage, specific belief systems, and so on would all be taken into account if one were to ask the advice of a knowledgeable, just, and reputable scholar of Islam their opinion of a possible marriage.

That being said, if a Muslim individual were to disregard the advice of such a scholar or, more importantly, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, the consequences could be seen as lying between the believer and Allah.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Marriage is both a legal institution and a religious custom. Islam is a religion practiced by approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide, second only to Christianity in its number of adherents. It is the majority religion in 49 countries, with about 20 countries having more than 90% Muslim population. While some nations have Islam as a state religion, Muslim people coexist with practitioners of other religions in many other nations. In addition, the Sunni and Shia variants of Islam have different marriage rules and preferences. In many countries, a civil marriage is recognized as valid, and a marriage license must be obtained.

In the Quran, there is no requirement for anyone to marry, but marriage is recommended. While only Muslim men are expressly permitted to marry non-Muslims, there is disagreement about whether women are prohibited from doing so. Among the prohibitions on marriage and sexual behavior, many are concerned with consanguineal relations and others with chastity.


Azizah Y. al-Hibri, Hadia Mubarak 2009. “Marriage and Divorce.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Macfarlane, Julie. 2012. "Understanding trends in American Muslim divorce and marriage: A Discussion Guide for Families and Communities" (PDF). The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Killawi, Amal; Daneshpour, Manijeh; Elmi, Arij; Dadras, Iman; Hamid, Hamada. 2014. "Recommendations for Promoting Healthy Marriages & Preventing Divorce in the American Muslim Community" (PDF). The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial