Marriage

  • The Ruling on Divorcing While Angry and Pronouncing Three Divorces

    In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

    It is a well-known fact that divorce is normally pronounced and issued in the state of anger. Rarely does one issue a divorce in a state other than anger. One would not say to his wife: “You are a very nice girl, go I am divorcing you!”
    Read more

  • Who Performed the Marriages of the Prophet (Allah Bless Him and Give Him Peace)?

    No, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not require someone to perform the nikah for him.

    What is a Nikah?
    Read more

  • Basic Rulings of the Waiting Period (`idda)

    It is an obligation for a woman to undergo the waiting period (`idda) after being divorced (assuming the marriage was consummated) or after being widowed (regardless of consummation).

    During this time, another man may not marry her nor make a proposal of marriage.
    Read more

  • The General Ruling

    First-cousin marriage is completely fine and lawful according to the Qur’an and Sunna. There is scholarly consensus (ijma’) on its permissibility.

    In Sura Nisa’ (4:22-24), Allah Most High lists all the categories of women that one cannot marry, which does not mention first cousins, and then says, “Lawful to you are all besides those mentioned.”

    From the Noble Sunna, we know that our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) married his daughter Fatima to his first cousin Ali (Allah be well pleased with them both). And the Prophet himself (peace and blessings be upon him) married his first cousin Zaynab bint Jahsh (Allah be well pleased with her).

     

    The Shari’a As Mercy

    Our scholarly tradition, from the very outset, has recognised that the fundamental principle underlying the whole of the Divine Law is mercy, which is defined as ‘the intending of good to those in need.’

    Allah says that, ‘the All-Merciful taught the Qur’an,’ and the commentators on this verse explain that the guidance contained within its verses is the greatest explicit manifestation of His ineffable mercy [cf Qurtubi: al-Jami’]. One of the aspects of our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings upon him) honorific ‘Mercy unto the worlds,’ is that he was sent with a way that is a manifestation of pure mercy; and one of the understandings of the hadith, ‘the religion [in its entirety] is pure well-wishing,’ is that the shari’a is nothing but the manifestation of Allah’s intending pure goodness for human beings [ibn Rajab: Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa’l Hikam].

    Foundational concepts such as this are crucial for our own understanding of our religion; they ground us in our relationship with Allah, and transform what can seem mundane, repetitive tasks into transcendent signs (ayat) that point to the Creator. In addition, however, they provide a framework with which to explain our religion to others. It is the failure to discern the general wisdom underlying specific rulings of the Sacred Law – and our failure to express it – that puts many people off Islam as a whole.

    To a non-Muslim, making the point that ‘Islam is mercy,’ might come across as an easy platitude. It is important, therefore, to understand that our ulama took this fundamental truth and laid bare  its operation at the very core and marrow of the shari’a. Behind every specific ruling of the shari’a, they discerned a deep wisdom, which they summed up as follows: ‘the basis of the rulings of sacred law is to avert harm and accrue benefit’ [al-Izz: Qawa’id al-Sughra (paraphrase)]. They further specified the higher purposes of the shari’a as being: ‘the preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage and wealth.’ [Ghazali: al-Mustasfa].

    With this in mind, we note that fiqh rulings – and especially specific fatwa – give particular weight to sciences such as medicine as a means of determining where benefit and harm lie. For example, the obligatory fast of Ramadan may actually be prohibited to individuals who – in their physician’s considered opinion – are at significant risk of serious harm. In this case, the avoidance of (physical) harm takes precedence over the acquisition of (spiritual) benefit. In cases where one’s actions are likely to result in harm to others, this principle is even more emphatic. For example, it would be impermissible for an HIV positive man to have unprotected intercourse, because of the high risk of infecting his wife (and unborn child) with a lethal disease.

    Consanguinity (Close Relation Marriages)

    The upshot of the preceding paragraphs is that the shari`a legislates in the best spiritual and material interests of individuals and societies, and medical evidence is a valid means of determining where benefit and harm lie. The pertinent question, then, is: what does the medical evidence indicate about consanguinity? The field of genetics is an extremely complicated and rapidly expanding one, with new findings being regularly presented and critiqued. Currently, there have been about seventy major peer-reviewed studies performed on consanguinity, and their consensus findings would certainly suffice as evidence on which the fuqaha might base legal rulings.Their conclusions can be briefly summarized as follows:

    1. One-off consanguineous relationships lead to a slight increase in the risk of genetic defects. As the incidence of many of these defects is very low anyway, the absolute risk still remains low.

    2. Repeated cross-generational consanguineous relationships (known as endogamy) have a significantly higher risk of genetic defects (up to 10 times in some studies).

    3. Most of these defects are mild to moderate, and can manifest in childhood developmental disorders (such as deafness or mild mental retardation) or adult illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and mental disorder.

    4. The major problem occurs with consanguineous relationships in the context of certain rare hereditary illnesses known as Autosomal Recessive conditions. These are severely disabling conditions for which there are few effective treatments, often resulting in early death. Consanguineous relationships mean that both spouses are likely to be carriers of the defective gene, which in turn leads to a greatly increased risk of children suffering with these severe illnesses. As an example, if a couple such as this had three children, there would only be a 30% chance of all three escaping unaffected.

    Summary

    Thus in summary, one might state that:

    1. The shari`a permits first-cousin marriage because the absolute risk of harm to the child remains low.

    2. Endogamy is a cultural practice not specifically encouraged by the shari`a, and although it has been widely practiced by Muslim societies, major figures such as Imam Ghazali (citing Sayyidina Umar, no less) have cautioned against excessiveness in this – precisely because it ‘weakens the offspring.’  [Ghazali: Ihya XII]

    3. In specific cases, where medical evidence indicates a very high risk of harm to future children, such marriages might even be deemed unlawful.

    4. Prospective couples felt to be at risk of transmitting such genetic defects to their children would be expected to take the means to quantify the risk (though genetic counselling and medical consultation) and then seek expert legal opinion in their specific case.

    5. Thus, as with most matters, the shari’a takes the middle path – between an excessive reliance on medical evidence that is nuanced in its findings, and a willful rejection of science as somehow antithetical to trust in the Divine.

    ‘And so have We made you a median nation, that you may be witnesses to mankind, and We have made the Prophet a witness over you.’

    ‘Allah desires ease for you; He does not desire hardship for you … that you might glorify Allah for what he has guided you to, and that you might be thankful.’

    was salam

  • In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

    The jurists (fuqaha) state that observing a waiting period (idda) is necessary for a woman in the event of her marriage being corrupt (fasid), but not necessary if the marriage was invalid (batil).

    Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

    “The waiting period (idda) for a woman whose marriage was corrupt (fasid) is.., hence there is no waiting period in an invalid (batil) marriage…” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 3/516)

    It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

    If the marriage was corrupt (fasid), the judge (qadhi) will separate the couple. If he separates them before consummation of marriage, no waiting period will be necessary, even (if the separation was) after the couple remained in seclusion (khalwa). However, if he separates them after consummation of marriage, the woman will have to observe the waiting period (idda) from the time of separation. The ruling is the same in the case of separation taking place without the Qadhi’s judgment (i.e. the couple separate themselves). (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1/526)

    One should also remember that there is no waiting period (idda) in the unfortunate event of a woman committing adultery and fornication. It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

    “A waiting period (idda) is not necessary upon a woman who committed adultery. This is the position of Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Muhammad (Allah be pleased with them both), as mentioned in Sharh al-Tahawi.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1/526)

    In light of the above, a waiting period (idda), related to marriage, is necessary upon the following women:

    1) One who entered a perfectly valid (sahih) marriage and then got divorced after consummation or after being in seclusion (khalwa) with her husband,

    2) One who entered a corrupt (fasid) marriage and then separated after consummation (and not merely being in seclusion),

    A waiting period (idda) is not necessary upon the following women:

    1) One who entered an invalid (batil) marriage and then separated,

    2) One who entered a corrupt (fasid) marriage and then separated before consummation, even if the separation was after being in seclusion (khalwa),

    3) One who committed adultery,

    Now, this leaves us with the definitions of a corrupt (fasid) and an invalid (batil) marriage, and the difference between the two.

    Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states in his renowned Radd al-Muhtar, quoting from al-Bahr:

    Every marriage regarding the permissibility of which scholars have differed such as marrying without witnesses, (will be considered corrupt/fasid), hence consummation of such a marriage would necessitate a waiting period (idda). However, marriage with a married woman or a woman observing her waiting period (due to divorce) would not necessitate a (new) waiting period (idda) in case of consummation, if one was aware that she was already married, as no one has deemed it (i.e. marrying a married woman) permissible, hence the marriage was not establish from the outset. (Radd al-Muhtar, 3/516)

    Imam al-Tahtawi (and not Tahawi) mentions that an example of a corrupt (fasid) marriage is marrying without witnesses, and the example of an invalid (batil) marriage is to marry a married woman knowing that she is married or marrying without proper words of offer and acceptance. (See: Tahtawi ala al-Durr, 2/221)

    In light of the above, we can conclude that the difference between a corrupt (fasid) marriage and an invalid (batil) marriage is:

    Corrupt (fasid): That which there is a difference of opinion amongst the various Sunni Mujtahid Imams regarding its permissibility or otherwise such as marrying without witnesses, as Imam Malik (Allah have mercy on him) is of the opinion that having a specific number of witnesses is not a necessary condition (though it is necessary to publicize the marriage as much as possible), and also a contract where the corruptness is not in its essence.

    Invalid (batil): That which is invalid and forbidden according to all the Mujtahid Imams, and where there is a fault in the essence of the contract, i.e. something is wrong with the offer and acceptance or the actual people marrying such as marrying a married woman.

    The case with temporary marriage (mut`a) is that, firstly, all of the Sunni Schools of Islamic law are in agreement that a temporary marriage (mut`a) is both forbidden and invalid (batil), hence no (Sunni) Imam is of the opinion that it is permitted.

    Imam Kamal Ibn al-Humam (Allah have mercy on him) states:

    “The prohibition of Mut`a is final, and there is no difference about this between the Imams and scholars of the lands, except some Shi`a.” (Fath al-Qadir, 3/249)

    Secondly, in Mut`a, there is a fault in the actual offer and acceptance, in that it is contracted with the words denoting enjoyment, and on a temporary basis.

    Due to the above two reasons, a Mut`a arrangement would be considered invalid (batil), i.e. no Mujtahid Imam permitting it, and the corruptness being in the essence of the contract.

    This is the reason why almost all of the books in Hanafi Fiqh state that a Mut`a marriage is invalid (batil), and not corrupt (fasid). Sexual relationship in a Mut`a arrangement would be tantamount to adultery.

    Imam al-Marghinani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his renowned al-Hidaya:

    “Mut`a marriage is invalid (batil). It is when one says to a woman: “I will enjoy you for such-and-such time for such-and-such amount of money.” (See: Fath al-Qadir on al-Hidaya, 3/246)

    Therefore in conclusion, a Mut`a arrangement is invalid and akin to committing adultery. In the event of an invalid (batil) marriage, the woman does not have to observe the waiting period (idda), hence, there will be no Idda necessary after separating from a Mut`a arrangement.

    And Allah knows best

  • Allah Most High says, “Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe […] And do not marry (your women) to unbelievers until they believe.” [Quran 2:221]

    It is clear that Allah has not made it permissible for Muslims to marry non-Muslims, though there is an exception for Muslim men to marry women from the People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians).  Hanafi scholars have pointed out that even this exception is in many cases disliked or even sinful if one cannot be sure that it will not influence one’s religious devotion or beliefs, or that of one’s children.

    Among the many wisdoms of this ruling is the preservation of the religion of Islam and prevention of harm to one’s religious foundation. This ruling is an insight into the importance of the sacred trust one undertakes by marrying, having children, and raising them to be obedient God-conscious servants.

    In terms of consequence, one’s marriage would not be valid if they married one other than whom Allah has permitted for them, and therefore the man and woman would be considered to be living outside of wedlock.

    Muslims should guard their personal interactions according to the teachings of Islam. If a Muslim gets himself or herself in a situation where they desperately want to marry one with whom marriage is not permissible, they should immediately pull away and  speak to a scholar.

    The scholar should be able to evaluate the situation and determine which of the two options is more suitable: (1) proposing the idea to the non-Muslim to study Islam and adopt the faith so that there can be a valid marriage or (2) asking the couple to leave the relationship altogether.

    It will no doubt take one time to heal if strong feelings had developed, but no one leaves something for the sake of Allah except that He rewards them and replaces their loss with something better for them. Allah Most High says, “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.” [Quran 29:69]

    And Allah knows best.

  • In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

    The Arabic word Walima (marriage banquet) is derived from the root word Walam, which literally means to gather and assemble. The Arabs used it for a meal or feast where people were invited and gathered. Later, the term became exclusive for the wedding banquet.

    The Arabs used different terms for the various feasts they enjoyed. For example: al-I’zar on the occasion of a child’s circumcision, al-Khurs for a marriage not ending in divorce, al-Wakira on building a new home, al-Naqi’ah when a traveller returns home, al-Aqiqah on the seventh day after childbirth, al-Ma’duba for a general meal without any specific reason, etc. (See: Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9/300 & Ibn Qudamah, al-Mugni, 7/1)

    The marriage feast (walima) is a Sunnah of our beloved Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). It is an outward expression of gratitude and pleasure and a great means of publicising the marriage, which has been greatly encouraged.

    Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw a yellow mark on Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (Allah be pleased with) and said: “What’s this?” He replied: “I have married a woman with the dowry being gold to the weight of a date-stone.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “May Allah bless you (in your marriage), perform a Walima, even if it is only with a goat.” (Sahih al-Bukhari,no. 4872)

    The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself provided a Walima after many of his marriages. He provided meat and bread on the occasion of his marriage with Zaynab bint Jahsh (Allah be pleased with her), Hays (a type of sweat-dish cooked with dates, cheese & butter) on the occasion of his marriage with Safiyya (Allah be pleased with her) and barley on another occasion. (See: Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)

    Thus, it is a Sunnah and strongly recommended to have a Walima. Ibn Qudamah, the great Hanbali Imam, states in his renowned al-Mugni:

    “There is no difference of opinion between the scholars, in that Walima is a prescribed Sunnah at the time of marriage, for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) ordered it and himself practiced it…..It is not necessary (wajib) in the opinion of most of the scholars.” (al-Mugni, 7/1-2)

    The time of Walima

    The scholars have disagreed as to the correct time of this Walima. There are many opinions. For example:

    1) At the time of the marriage contract,

    2) After the marriage contract and before consummation of marriage,

    3) At the time of the wedding procession (bride leaving for her husband’s house). (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9/287)

    However, the majority of the scholars (jumhur) are of the opinion that Walima is a meal that is prepared after the marriage has been consummated. This was the practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), as explicitly mentioned in one narration.

    Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he was a boy of ten when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) migrated to Madina. (He added): “My mother and aunts used to urge me to serve the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) regularly, thus I served him for ten years. When the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) passed away, I was twenty years old, and I knew about the order of Hijab more than anyone else, when it was revealed. It was revealed for the first time when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had consummated his marriage with Zainab bint Jahsh (Allah be pleased with her). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in the morning was a bridegroom, and he invited the people to a banquet. So they came, ate, and then all left except a few who remained with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) for a long time….. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4871)

    Sayyiduna Anas (Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) consummated his marriage with a woman (Zainab), so he sent me to invite people for a meal.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4875)

    The great Hadith master (hafidh), Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states:

    “The Hadith of Anas (quoted above) is clear in determining that Walima is considered to be after the consummation of marriage.” (Fath al-Bari, 9/199. Also see: I’la al-Sunan, vol. 10, p. 11)

    It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

    “The marriage banquet (walima) is a Sunna and there is great reward in it. And it is carried out when the marriage is consummated.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5/343)

    Having said this, scholars mention that there is also scope in following the other opinions, thus if one had a Walima before consummation, it is hoped that one will gain the reward of Sunnah, Insha Allah.

    How many days?

    The Hanafi jurists (fuqaha) are of the opinion that, a banquet up to two days will be considered to be a Walima, after which it will no longer be considered a Walima.

    It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

    “There is nothing wrong in inviting people the next day after consummation or the day after. After that, marriage and Walima celebrations will come to an end.” (5/343)

    It has also been reported from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that he stated: “Walima on the first day is confirmed (haq), and on the second day, it is good (ma’ruf), and on the third day, it is showing off.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 3738)

    Although scholars mention that if there is a need, such as not being able to invite everybody on one day, then it will not be wrong to invite them on separate days.

    Who should be invited?

    Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) states: “The worst food is that of a wedding banquet (walima) to which only the rich are invited whilst the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace).” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4882)

    It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

    “It is recommended to invite neighbours, relatives and friends.” (5/343)

    Thus, one should invite family-members, relatives, friends, associates, scholars and pious people and others. It is wrong to invite only rich people or those who are regarded to be from the upper-class.

    Accepting a Walima invitation

    Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “If one of you is invited to a wedding banquet (walima), then he must accept the invitation.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4878)

    Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Accept this (marriage) invitation if you are invited to it.” And Abd Allah ibn Umar used to accept the invitation whether to a wedding banquet or to any other feast, even when he was fasting. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4884)

    Due to the above and other narrations, many scholars regard the acceptance of a Walima invitation to be binding, and one will be sinful for refusing it.

    The great Hadith and Sahfi’i scholar, Imam al-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned various opinions of the scholars in this regard:

    1) It is personally obligatory (fard ayn), except if there is an excuse,

    2) It is a general obligation (fard kifaya)

    3) It is recommended (mandub) (See: Nawawi, al-Minhaj, Sharh Sahih Muslim, 1080)

    In the Hanafi Madhhab, the preferred opinion is that, accepting a Walima invitation is an emphatic Sunnah (sunnah al-Mu’akkada), and accepting other invitations is recommended (mandub). This is in normal cases, for if there is a valid reason, one will be excused from not attending.

    Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:

    “The (hanafi) scholars have differed as to the ruling of accepting a Walima invitation. Some have stated that it is necessary (wajib), in that it is impermissible to refuse. However the majority of the scholars mention that it is a Sunnah. It is better to accept it if it is a Walima invitation, otherwise (on other occasions) one has a choice to accept it, and to accept it would be better, because it creates joy and happiness in the heart of a Muslim.

    When one accepts the invitation and attends the party, one has fulfilled the responsibility, regardless of whether one ate or otherwise, although it is better to eat if one is not fasting……It is stated in al-Ikhtiyar: “A Walima is an established Sunna. The one who does not accept it would be sinful, for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him& give him peace) said: “He who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace).” If one is fasting, then one should attend and make Dua, and if not, then one should eat and make Dua. However, if one neither eats nor attends, then one will be sinful….

    This indicates that accepting a Walima invitation is Sunnah al-Mu’akkada, contrary to meals and invitations on other occasions. Some commentators of al-Hidaya have declared that it is close to being a Wajib.” (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 6/349)

    In light of Ibn Abidin’s explanation, it becomes clear that accepting a Walima invitation is Sunnah al-Mu’akkada, and one must accept it. Refusing to attend will be offensive if not sinful, provided one does not have an excuse, and also that one was specifically invited to the Walima.

    Simplicity

    Finally, it should be remembered that, the simpler the Walima (and the marriage ceremony as a whole) is kept, the better it will be. At times, people spend thousands upon thousands in feeding people, a sum which can be used for other indispensable needs of the Muslims. And if the intention behind spending such an amount is to show-off, then this will be regarded a grave sin.

    The idea here is to feed people with sincerity and simplicity. If one feeds people with the simplest of meals but it is from the heart, that is far better (and the food is also more enjoyable) than feeding them quality food, where the intention is not so sincere.

    Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The most blessed marriage (nikah) is the one with the least expenses.” (al-Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman & Mishkat al-Masabih).

    And Allah knows best

  • the default legal (shari`) ruling is that first cousin marriages are permissible. However, there is no intrinsic animosity between ‘fiqh and fact’, as it were; and indeed the opinions of experts in fields such as medicine and astronomy have always been taken into consideration when issuing fatwa. It is important to bear in mind the difference between the ‘fiqh’ (which is the general or default ruling) and the ‘fatwa’ (which is a specific legal opinion that considers individual circumstances).

    Examples abound in the legal literature, with a prominent case being the determination of the qibla through reliance on astronomical and mathematical findings. In addition, and perhaps more pertinently to your query, expert medical opinion plays a central role in applying various dispensations regarding purification, prayer, fasting and hajj.  Before looking more closely at the specific medical evidence regarding consanguinity (the marriage of close relations), though, it might be worthwhile exploring something of the nature and philosophy of Islamic law.

    The Shari’a As Mercy

    Our scholarly tradition, from the very outset, has recognised that the fundamental principle underlying the whole of the Divine Law is mercy, which is defined as ‘the intending of good to those in need.’

    Allah says that, ‘the All-Merciful taught the Qur’an,’ and the commentators on this verse explain that the guidance contained within its verses is the greatest explicit manifestation of His ineffable mercy [cf Qurtubi: al-Jami’]. One of the aspects of our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings upon him) honorific ‘Mercy unto the worlds,’ is that he was sent with a way that is a manifestation of pure mercy; and one of the understandings of the hadith, ‘the religion [in its entirety] is pure well-wishing,’ is that the shari’a is nothing but the manifestation of Allah’s intending pure goodness for human beings [ibn Rajab: Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa’l Hikam].

    Foundational concepts such as this are crucial for our own understanding of our religion; they ground us in our relationship with Allah, and transform what can seem mundane, repetitive tasks into transcendent signs (ayat) that point to the Creator. In addition, however, they provide a framework with which to explain our religion to others. It is the failure to discern the general wisdom underlying specific rulings of the Sacred Law – and our failure to express it – that puts many people off Islam as a whole.

    To a non-Muslim, making the point that ‘Islam is mercy,’ might come across as an easy platitude. It is important, therefore, to understand that our ulama took this fundamental truth and laid bare  its operation at the very core and marrow of the shari’a. Behind every specific ruling of the shari’a, they discerned a deep wisdom, which they summed up as follows: ‘the basis of the rulings of sacred law is to avert harm and accrue benefit’ [al-Izz: Qawa’id al-Sughra (paraphrase)]. They further specified the higher purposes of the shari’a as being: ‘the preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage and wealth.’ [Ghazali: al-Mustasfa].

    With this in mind, we note that fiqh rulings – and especially specific fatwa – give particular weight to sciences such as medicine as a means of determining where benefit and harm lie. For example, the obligatory fast of Ramadan may actually be prohibited to individuals who – in their physician’s considered opinion – are at significant risk of serious harm. In this case, the avoidance of (physical) harm takes precedence over the acquisition of (spiritual) benefit. In cases where one’s actions are likely to result in harm to others, this principle is even more emphatic. For example, it would be impermissible for an HIV positive man to have unprotected intercourse, because of the high risk of infecting his wife (and unborn child) with a lethal disease.

    Consanguinity (Close Relation Marriages)

    The upshot of the preceding paragraphs is that the shari`a legislates in the best spiritual and material interests of individuals and societies, and medical evidence is a valid means of determining where benefit and harm lie. The pertinent question, then, is: what does the medical evidence indicate about consanguinity? The field of genetics is an extremely complicated and rapidly expanding one, with new findings being regularly presented and critiqued. Currently, there have been about seventy major peer-reviewed studies performed on consanguinity, and their consensus findings would certainly suffice as evidence on which the fuqaha might base legal rulings.Their conclusions can be briefly summarized as follows:

    1. One-off consanguineous relationships lead to a slight increase in the risk of genetic defects. As the incidence of many of these defects is very low anyway, the absolute risk still remains low.

    2. Repeated cross-generational consanguineous relationships (known as endogamy) have a significantly higher risk of genetic defects (up to 10 times in some studies).

    3. Most of these defects are mild to moderate, and can manifest in childhood developmental disorders (such as deafness or mild mental retardation) or adult illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and mental disorder.

    4. The major problem occurs with consanguineous relationships in the context of certain rare hereditary illnesses known as Autosomal Recessive conditions. These are severely disabling conditions for which there are few effective treatments, often resulting in early death. Consanguineous relationships mean that both spouses are likely to be carriers of the defective gene, which in turn leads to a greatly increased risk of children suffering with these severe illnesses. As an example, if a couple such as this had three children, there would only be a 30% chance of all three escaping unaffected.

    Summary

    Thus in summary, one might state that:

    1. The shari`a permits first-cousin marriage because the absolute risk of harm to the child remains low.

    2. Endogamy is a cultural practice not specifically encouraged by the shari`a, and although it has been widely practiced by Muslim societies, major figures such as Imam Ghazali (citing Sayyidina Umar, no less) have cautioned against excessiveness in this – precisely because it ‘weakens the offspring.’  [Ghazali: Ihya XII]

    3. In specific cases, where medical evidence indicates a very high risk of harm to future children, such marriages might even be deemed unlawful.

    4. Prospective couples felt to be at risk of transmitting such genetic defects to their children would be expected to take the means to quantify the risk (though genetic counselling and medical consultation) and then seek expert legal opinion in their specific case.

    5. Thus, as with most matters, the shari’a takes the middle path – between an excessive reliance on medical evidence that is nuanced in its findings, and a willful rejection of science as somehow antithetical to trust in the Divine.

    ‘And so have We made you a median nation, that you may be witnesses to mankind, and We have made the Prophet a witness over you.’

    ‘Allah desires ease for you; He does not desire hardship for you … that you might glorify Allah for what he has guided you to, and that you might be thankful.’

  • In general, Islamic practice is to keep signs of intimacy in the private without taking it into the public sphere.

    But in itself the permissibility of holding hands in public would return to the custom of the country.

    If it is from accepted practice that couples hold hands then it would be permissible as long as it is not taken to indecency in front of others.

    If it is not from accepted practice that couples hold hands then it would be better to avoid.

    [Ibn Abidin, Nashr al-Urf; Ibn Nujaym, Ashbah wa al-Nazair]

    And Allah knows best,

  • Question: It is said that it is a “recommended sunnah” to consumate the marriage before walima. Please help me to understand that if it was a recommended sunnah surely the Prophet would have asked Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Auf if he had consumated the marriage before telling him to hold a walima when he came to learn he had wed. Rather, all the Prophet needed to know to advise him to hold a walima was knowledge that he had wed. Further, focusing on consumation takes celebration away from its real purpose, which is to publicise the marriage. Also, when was the waleema for his marriage to Aa’ishah held?

    Answer: Walaikum Salam Warahmatullah,

    1. The case in question is:

    The Prohet saw Abdur-Rahman with yellowish perfume on, so The Prophet said: “What is this?” He replied, “I got married to an Ansari woman.” The Prophet asked, “What did you give in mahr?” He replied, “A gold stone or gold equal to the weight of a date stone.” The Prophet said (to him), “Make a walima even if with one sheep.” [Bukhari 2049, Muslim 1327]

    There are many reasons why The Prophet (May Allahs peace and blessings be upon Him)  asked to make walima but did not ask about the consumation, like:

    • The Prophet (May Allahs peace and blessings be upon Him) at this particular occasion outlined the ruling related to the walima, and nothing else.
    • It could be that the custom back then was that the marriage is consumated instantly. Hence, there would not be any need to ask.
    • Proper manners entail, that it is something that is not asked about

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