Islam’s Reverence to Women as Wives

Translated by

An article written by Amr Khaled in Alyakatha magazine on 24/12/2003.

Let us now contemplate the signs of reverence of a woman as a wife in Islam from the beginning. It begins when choosing and accepting the husband. In Islam, a girl or woman is free to choose and accept her husband because this is part of her general liberties, as an individual and a human being, which equate those of men.

In Islam, a woman, whether a woman is a virgin or a matron, has complete and absolute freedom to accept or refuse someone who comes to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father or guardian has no right to force upon her what she does not want. This is because married life cannot be founded and continued on intimidation, anger and coercion. It was only authorized for love and compassion since Allah (SWT) says: “And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect” [Qur’an, T.M.Q. Ar-rum, verse 21].

How are love, compassion and rest to develop in a marriage where the wife has been forced to marry a man she does not love, want or find attractive? What is the evidence for what I have just mentioned and referred to? The evidence comes from the narrations of the two Sheikhs, narrated by Abu Hurairah: The Prophet said, “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! How can we know her permission?” He said, “Her silence (indicates her permission).”

The matron is the divorced or widowed woman, and the virgin is the woman who has never been married. This hadith advocates that the permission of the virgin and the matron are conditions for the validity of the contract (of marriage). If the father or guardian weds the matron without her permission, the marriage contract is false and invalid. As in the story narrated by Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya, that her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah’s Apostle (P.B.U.H.) and he annulled her marriage.

The virgin has her own preference; she may wish to agree to her father’s or guardian’s choice or she may wish to refuse it. If she refuses, the marriage contract is annulled. The evidence that supports this right of the virgin is narrated by Ibn Abbas, that a virgin slave came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) and said that her father gave her hand in marriage against her will. So the Prophet gave her the choice (narrated by Ahmed). This proves that the father has no advantage over others regarding the necessity of obtaining the virgin’s permission and her approval.

In Sahih Muslim and others, the Prophet has said, “And the virgin has to be consulted by her father”. This means that he should seek her permission and approval. Further evidence is what was narrated by Aisha, that a girl had come to see her and said, “My father has given me in marriage to his nephew to overcome his misfortune and I dislike it (this marriage)”. She said, “Wait until the Prophet arrives”. She retold the story to the Prophet, so he sent for her father and gave her say over the issue. She then said, “Oh Allah’s Apostle, I approve of my father’s action but I wanted to teach women something” (narrated by An-Nisa’e in the Book of Matrimony).

I will dwell on this story at several points:

Firstly, the girl’s saying, “and I dislike it”.

Secondly, the action of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.): he gave her say over the issue which means he gave her the right to endorse what the father has arranged or reject and refuse it. If she refuses, the contract is invalid.

Thirdly, the girl in the story was a virgin and not a matron so that no one would suggest that this right is for the matron and not the virgin. This was mentioned by An-Nisa’e when he narrated the story and the Hadith.

The fourth point is her statement, “I approve of my father’s action”. If she hadn’t, then the contract would have been annulled.

The fifth point is her comment, “I wanted to teach women something”. I think she has taught (us) that women, whether virgins or matrons, have the right to not be forced to marry a man they hate or do not accept.

Islam began to teach the father that, before everything else, his daughter was a human being and not merchandise to be displayed and given to whoever can pay more, which is the case of many fathers in our communities today.

What Islam has documented for girls and women in the matter of marriage regarding the freedom to accept or refuse was supported by another issue that is the permission of her guardian! This is an issue that requires a lot of explanations and detail that may not be appropriate here but could be referred to books and scholars of Fiqh.

But I say in general, if the father has no right to marry her daughter to someone she does not accept, it is the father’s right that she does not marry without his permission, to avoid talk and hearsay about her status, honour and integrity or allow any animosity, antagonism or cutting of family ties. This is because of the Prophet’s Hadith, “There is no marriage without a guardian (custodian)” (narrated by Abu Daoud, Al termithy, Ibn Majed and Ahmed).

The Apostle’s texts do not aim or intend to restrict (sensor) the girl but to honour her by providing all the guarantees that would make her marriage successful, happy and full of love and compassion; a marriage built on solid ground without a possibility of abusing the emotional side of it, thus missing or losing the remaining basis on which marriage is based, such as compatibility, religion and others. The person most likely to preserve these rights for the girl or woman is her father. The man, who fathered, raised, contained, disciplined, embraced, loved, spent and guided. He supported her when she needed support, wiped her tears, patted her on the shoulder. He is the tender father who wants nothing from his daughters and sons except what is good, beneficial and righteous.

What I wish for each marriage is for it to take place with the agreement of all parties: the father, the mother and the daughter, with everyone pleased with it: the daughter is not forced to marry someone she hates and the father is not pressured into accepting a man he doubts or disapproves of.


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