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The Family

  • Every living creation of Allah (S.W.T) belongs to a specific family.
  • The idea of a family can be well understood if we bear in mind our surrounding environment.
  • Let us take an example of a busy city during the day.
  • Busy with men,women and children, moving all over.Inthe evening, during the rush hours, you will see everyone getting into a matatu and the streets will remain empty.
  • Where do all these people go to?
  • Ask yourself why they can’t remain in the streets until the next day.
  • They must go and look for shelter, company, a good meal among other needs which are provided for within this social institution we call a family.
  • We now have an idea about what a family is.
  • A family according to Islam is a social institution whereby members are united by the same ethical values hence have responsibilities over one another.
  • This bond starts right from marriage and includes but not limited to all the relations from either sides of the married couples.
  • In Islam the concept of a family stretches far beyond the father, mother and children.
  • The following three factors keep peopletogether and united in an Islamic society:
    • Kinship and blood ties-it involves the father /mother- child relations, brother-sister among others these are the strongest natural ties. It determines how members relate with one another thus controlling their behavior. It binds together the family and assists people to live peacefully.
    • Marital commitment-It includes husband-wife relations,the in-laws of either side. This helps to keep the family together in that each member has defined roles to play.
    • Faith-It is the main binding factor which enhances the achievement of family goals and interests. It goes beyond the close relatives to include all the Muslims who are brothers and sisters. We should therefore be ready to accommodate our fellow Muslims when they need our help since they form part of the larger Muslim family.


Importance of the Family

  • We have seen who comprise of a family.
  • These entire members are kept together by a common goal which should be directed towards benefitting the entire society.
  • The things done within the smaller unit of the society, which is the family, will have either direct or indirect impact to all the members of the community.
  • Let us look at the importance of the family:
    • Provide room for procreation to enhance the widening of the larger society.Being a very important unit of the society,procreation forms part of the responsibilities of those who get married to ensure continuity of the lineage and general growth of the society.
    • A family serves as strong founding unit or rather the first school for the children where the values habit and rites are passed to the children, preparing them to fit in the wider society. The children need to therefore allow their parents and other family members to give them guidance and ask for their advice.
    • A family offers security needs and provides a sense of belonging and identity in that it bonds an individual to a respective family giving him/her confidence.
    • A family serves as a foundation stone to the society. A family is founded through marriage which promotes interfamily alliance through matrimonial relation. It brings people of different social status and race together hence removing social prejudice in the society.
    • A family acts as barometer to regulate the moral conduct of certain individuals in the society. Thiscontributes topeace and harmonious as it provides a set of rules to be observed e.g. marriage shields indecency.
    • A family promotes a sense of responsibility in that each member has specific roles to play in order to achieve the goals of the family for example; the husband is responsible for livelihood of his family while the wife has to fulfillthe functions as motherhoodsuch as child upbringing and household chores.
    • A family is a source of stability to the society, in thatstable families producemembers who fit well in the wider society.
    • The family serves as a learning institution. Children brought up in family are taught Islamic morals, values, norms and traditions by the parents. The knowledge learnt during the formative years is peculiar to the home environment. It happens that children brought up from different environments will end up with different moral behavior. This is due to the socialization skills taught in individual families or the moral and traditional practices that may be seen in the two environments.

Nikah (Marriage)

Definition of Marriage (Nikah)

  • Nikah is an Arabic term used for marriage which means a contract.
  • Marriage is a mutual contract or legal union between a man and a woman, sane and mature who have expressed their willingness to stay as a husband and wife in order to become a pious family and a society.
  • The contract must be guided by the Quran and Sunnah of the prophet (P.B.U.H)

Marriage in Islam

  • Marriage is a vital part of a Muslim’s life.
  • In fact marriage is so important in Islam that it is declared to be a half of a Muslim’s faith.
  • As a Muslim one should live in accordance with the Islamic Jurisprudence in the way shown by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).
  • Allah (S.W.T) says,“Marry those among you who are single or the virtuous ones among your slaves male or female: if they are in poverty, Allah will give them means out of His grace: for Allah encompasses all, and He knows all things.”[Q: 24:32]
  • One can see from the above verse that the Creator of mankind has ordered us to marry.
  • The Prophet married and also encouraged others to marry.
  • Ibn Mas’ud (R.A) narrated that the messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H) said to us, “O young people! Whoever can marry among you should marry, for that will help him lower his gaze and protect his chastity. Whoever is not able to marry is recommended to fast and that will be his shield.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Purpose of Marriage

  • The basic objectives of marriage in Islam are:
    • To fulfill Allah’s (S.W.T) command. Marriage is a commandment from Allah (S.W.T) which must therefore be fullfilled by every Muslim who is able. It is considered as completing half of ones religion and we therefore earn Allah’s rewards.
    • Marriage secures a comfortable atmosphere for both the husband and the wife. A Muslim couple who follow the teachings of the Holy Quran will always be a source of comfort for each other. Their relationship should go beyond that of mere sexual enjoyment and should be based on a cordial friendship accompanied by mutual understanding.The Holy Quran says: "One of His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own species, so that you might find comfort with them. And He put mutual love and affection in your hearts. Surely in this there are lessons for the thinking people." [Q: 30:21]
    • The other purpose is for procreation. Through marriage,a new generation of healthy, faithful and virtuous children is born. The family is the school for morals. The Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) said. "As soon as a suitor, who is religious and who has manners that satisfy you comes to you asking for a matrimonial alliance, take action to join in marriage with him. If you do not do so, you will have deviated from the right path and may be faced with a great crisis.
    • It ensures financial competence in the community. A Muslim man must provide means of living to his wife and children, even if the wife is wealthy or earns a salary.
    • The fourth reason is for companionship. Marriage provides close interaction between the man and the woman in mutual sharing of responsibilities and ideas. This relationship makes the husband and the wife to live together harmoniously. For example, in our homes our parents consult each other on matters related to our welfare like paying of our school fees, buying of our cloths among other responsibilities.
    • Marriage helps to safeguard one’s Iman (faith). It prevents one from committing immoral acts. Sins such as intermingling with members of the opposite sex or having sexual relations outside marriage are not acceptable in Islam because it creates immorality and immodesty.
    • It promotes inter-family alliance. Through marriage, family ties are strengthened between the families of the couple who become relatives. This promotes peace, harmony and friendship in the society.
    • The other purpose of marriage is to safeguard the legitimacy of children who if begotten through marriage are entitled to inheritance.
    • Marriage improves the couples’ social status through earning respect and dignity in the society.


Conditions and Regulations of Marriage

  • We have seen that the family begins with marriage.
  • A marriage is valid only if the following conditions are observed:

The formula (Al-Ssigha’)

  • This is the formula of marriage which includes the offer (Ijab) and the acceptance (Qabul).
  • The offer may be presented directly or through an agent which then gives room for the acceptance.
  • In this case,the process begins with the man’s proposal which presents his full identification and intention.
  • On the other hand the woman has to state clearly her wishes and has the liberty to accept or decline the offer.
  • This first stage enhances familiarization to instill confidence.

The contracting parties (al-Aqidaan)

  • This refers to the bride and the groom who must satisfy conditions of marriage such as:
    • Be of sound mind
    • Have attained maturity
    • Must give their consent
  • Abu Huraira(R.A) narrated that the prophet (S.A.W) said, “A woman without a husband shall not be married until she gives consent, nor a virgin be married till her consent is sought. They asked: How shall be her permission? He said, If she remains silent.” (Agreed upon)
  • They should not belong to the prohibited degrees of marriage.

Witnesses (as-shuhud)

  • The issue of witnesses has been given great importance in Islam and therefore the marriage should be contracted before two male Muslim witnesses who must be mukhalaf (mature and sane).
  • In addition, they must understand the language in which the marriage ceremony is being conducted.
  • Regarding the witnesses, Ibn Abass reports that the prophet (S.A.W) said, “The fornicatresses are those who marry by themselves without witnesses.” (At-Tirmidhy)


  • The guardian is in charge of giving consent or permission for the marriage to proceed.
  • Abu Musa (R.A) narrates that the prophet said, “There is no marriage without a guardian.” (Ahmad,At- Tirmidhy,Abu Dawoud, Ibn Majah)
  • The Shariah gives the father the first position as the guardian.
  • In the case that the father is absent, then the guardianship will take the following order of merit:
    • The grand father
    • Full brother
    • Uncle (the father’s brother)
  • In case the guardian declines to give consent for a reason which is not valid according to the Sharia,then the Kadhi acts as the guardian.

Dowry (Al-Mahr)

  • Allah (S.W.T) says in the Quran, “And give the women (on marriage) their dowry as a free gift, but if they,of their own good pleasure emit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.”[Q: 1:1]
  • Dowry is the obligatory gift given to the woman in marriage.
  • It can either include a service or other material things like money, property or any other assets.
  • This can be paid either in full or partially on the day of Nikah.
  • The woman is given the right to request for whatever dowry she wants.
  • This should be done on measurable termswithout over burdening the groom.
  • In the event where the woman asks for divorce she is obliged to return the dowry.

The Muslim Marriage Ceremony

  • The actual Muslim wedding is known as a nikah.
  • It is a simple ceremony, in which the bride does not have to be present so long as she sends two witnesses to the drawn-up agreement.
  • Normally, the ceremony consists of reading from the Qur'an, and the exchange of vows in front of witnesses for both partners.
  • No special religious official is necessary, but often the Imam is present and performs the ceremony.
  • He may give a short sermon.

The Sermon

  • The assembly of nikah is addressed with a marriage sermon (khutba-tun-nikah) by the Muslim who is officiating the marriage.
  • This should be done by a state appointed Muslim judge (Qad’i) who also keeps the record of the marriage contract.
  • However any trust worthy practicing Muslim can conduct the nikah ceremony.
  • The documents of marriage contract/certificate are filed with the mosque (masjid) and local government for record.
  • The Prophet (S.A.W) made it his tradition to have marriage sermon delivered in the assembly to solemnize the marriage.
  • The sermon invites the bride and the groom, as well as the participating guests in the assembly to a life of piety, mutual love, kindness, and social responsibility.
  • The Khutbah-tun-Nikah begins with the praise of Allah. His help and guidance is sought.
  • The Muslim confession of faith that 'There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His servant and messenger" is declared.
  • The three Quranic verses (Quran 4:1, 3:102, 33:70-71) and one Prophetic saying (hadith) form the main text of the marriage.
  • This hadith is: 'By Allah! Among all of you I am the most God-fearing, and among you all, I am the super most to save myself from the wrath of Allah, yet my state is that I observe prayer and sleep too. I observe fast and suspend observing them; I marry woman also. And he who turns away from my Sunnah has no relation with me". (Bukhari)
  • The Muslim officiating the marriage ceremony concludes the ceremony with a supplication (Dua) for bride, groom, their respective families, the local Muslim community, and the Muslim community at large (Ummah)
  • It is important for us to note here that marriage is considered as an act of worship (ibadah).
  • It is therefore virtuous to conduct it in a Mosque keeping the ceremony simple.
  • Islam advocates simplicity in ceremonies and celebrations.
  • There are certain things which are basic to all Muslim marriages.
  • Marriages have to be declared publicly. They should never be undertaken in secret.
  • The publicity is usually achieved by having a large feast, or walimah - a party specifically for the purpose of announcing publicly that the couple are married and entitled to each other.
  • Aisha (R.A) narrated that the prophet said, “Proclaim this marriage and solemnize it in mosques and beat aafs over it.”(At-Tirmidhy-Rare Hadith)
  • This is usually held after the consummation of the marriage.
  • The relatives, neighbours, and friends are invited in order to make them aware of the marriage.
  • Both rich and poor of the family and community are invited to the marriage feasts.
  • It is recommended that Muslims attend marriage ceremonies and marriage feasts upon invitation.
  • Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said:
    "...and he who refuses to accept an invitation to a marriage feast, verily disobeys Allah and His Prophet". (Ahmad & Abu Dawood)


  • The word “polygamy” may not be a familiar one although it is the commonest type of marriage in most cultures and traditions.
  • Polygamy comes from two Greek words, namely “poly” meaning many or more than, and “Gamy” which stands for marriage or a sexual union.
  • Thus polygamy means marrying more than one wife.
  • Islam permits polygamy and it should be clearly understood that it is a Sunnah practiced by the prophet and his predecessors.
  • This means that marriage to more than one wife is a continuation of the practice established by the previous religions.
  • For example; prophet Yaqub had four wives, Prophet Ibrahim had two wives and Prophet Suleiman had several wives.
  • Islam polished and reformed the old practice that was there before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) that had a lot of violation brought in by pagans who had come after the previous prophets.
  • This was done by setting up certain rules and regulations to control this important feature in the social life of Muslims.

Conditions for Polygamy

  • It should be noted with great care that it is not compulsory that one marries more than one wife but it is permissible under very strict conditions.
  • These conditions have been laid because of the challenges that arise in the polygamous family.
  • The shariah has restricted polygamy to the following conditions:-
    • The number of wives must not exceed four at any one given time.
    • The husband should be equally fair to all his wives in relation to life’s daily needs such as providing them with clothing, feeding and housing without favor or discrimination to any one of them. Also on the basis of emotional side such as spending the same number of nights with each one equally.

      It should be noted that for a man to favor emotionally all of his wives is sometimes beyond the human ability; however, one should not abuse this fact by unjustly mistreating any of the wives.

      Abu Huraira (R.A) narrated that the prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “Whoever has two wives and inclines to one of them, will come on the day of judgment with one of his sides paralyzed.”If one of you had two wives and did not treat them equally according to others justly, he would come at the Day of Judgment walking lamely.”(Related by Ahmad and the four Imams with a sound chain of narrators)

      If this condition is not fulfilled, then polygamy is absolutely forbidden because in such a case it would bring injustice and means for misbehaving.

    • One should be in a position to fulfill the wives conjugal rights before he commits himself to another one, because one of the main objectives of marriage is fulfillment of sexual desires.
    • One should be financially able to sustain and support the wives and the children because it is the man’s responsibility to provide for the family.
  • Failure to observe the above conditions, a Muslim man is not encouraged to marry a second wife because Allah (SWT) says:
    “…And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphaned girls marry other women of your choice, two, three or four, but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the slaves) that your right hand possess. That is never to prevent you from justice….”[Q: 4:3]

Reasons for Polygamy

  • If the wife is unable to bear children after years of marriage and it has been medically proven that the wife is barren and there is nothing wrong with the husband then the husband is permitted to marry another wife. It is however recommended that the first wife be provided for by the husband and given all the rights she deserves. The first wife continues to enjoy her rights such as support and maintenance.
  • The population of women is higher than that of men therefore polygamy provides an opportunity to the otherwise would be unmarried women to get married. This safe guards the society against social evils like adultery and prostitution.
  • If the wife suffers from contagious or other terminal illness which prevents her from honoring her conjugal obligation, plurality of wives serves the purpose for the man.
  • For the sake of preservation and maintenance of the Muslim society. When men die either naturally or in a battle and widows are left behind, it becomes necessary that they should be taken care of. The sharia therefore provides room for polygamy so that they can be married and offered support and protection.
  • To increase the Muslim population through pro-creation.
    Anas bin Malik (R.A) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H) used to command us to get married and would very strictly prohibit us from remaining in celibacy and say, ‘Marry the woman who is child bearing and loving for I shall over all the nations by your number on the day of resurrection.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal. Ibn Hiban graded it as Sahih)

Marriage of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H)

  • Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) underwent a marriage life and it is from him that we emulate the best practices of marital life.
  • By the time of his death, he had nine wives, however, this should not be perceived as a violation of Allah’s (S.W.T) instructions as he was the only one who had been permitted to do so by Allah (S.W.T) due to the following reasons:-
    • To continue with the practice that Allah had prescribed to his predecessors’ like prophets Ibrahim, Yaqub and Suleiman (A.S)
    • To eradicate the Quraish traditions and prejudices. That’s why the prophet married from different ethnic groups, clans and among the Quraish tribe. Before this, the Quraish used to see themselves as superior beings to other tribes.
    • To establish and implement the Islamic law. Allah (S.W.T) ordered the prophet (P.B.U.H) to marry Zainab bint Jaash who had been married by his adopted son Zayyid bin al-Harith so that He could put to an end the Arab practice of referring to adopted sons their own.
    • For protection and security of the widows whose husbands had died in jihad wars. For example his marriage to Saudah bint Zamah (widowed by Sakran bin Amro) and Zainab bint Khuzaimah(widow to Abdullah bin Jaash).
    • To foster good relations between Muslims and non Muslims. For example his marriage to Jurawrriya bint al Harith who was the daughter of a tribal chief of Banu Mustaliq clan of Arabia, Swafiyyah bint Huyay and Ummu Habibah.
    • To disseminate Islamic knowledge and in particular enforce domestic laws. He married Aisha Bint Abu Bakar (R.A.) and Ummu Salamah (R.A.) who memorized a number of hadith and used to train the other women on religious and family matters.
  • The prophet (P.B.U.H) married twelve wives whom the Muslims refer to us mothers of the believers (Ummahaatul Mu’uminiin).
  • The prophet's wives have been given this honor because of the love, dedication and support they showed to the prophet (P.B.U.H)

The Prophet’s Wives

  • Khadija bint Khuwaylid - She was twice widowed and was a wealthy merchant who commanded respect, honor and dignity among the Quraish. She was the prophet’s wife for nearly twenty years and bore him four girls; Zainab, Ruqayyah, Ummu Kulthum and Fatimah, as well as two sons; Qassim and Abdulla (both of whom passed away in infancy).
  • Saudah bint Zum’aa - She was a widow whose husband passed on while returning from exile in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
  • Aisha, the daughter of Abu- Bakar as- Swiddiq (R.A) - She was a scholar of prophet’s Sunna (Hadith) and other sciences.
  • Hafswah bint Umar bin al- Khattab (R.A) - She was a widow. Her husband was martyred in the battle of Badr. She married prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) in the second year of Hijra.
  • Zainab Bint Khuzaimah- She was known as the ‘mother of the poor’ because of her kindness and special empathy to the underprivileged.
  • Ummu Salamah (Hind bint Abi Umayyah bin Mugheerah) - Her father was one of the famous Quraish leaders. Her husband was martyred in the battle of Uhud.
  • Juwairiyyah bint al-Harith: - She was among the hostages during the battle between the believers and Banu Mustaliq. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) married her so as to save her from humiliation. Her name was Barrah before her marriage to the holy prophet (P.B.U.H)
  • Zainab bint Ja’sh - She was the daughter of the prophet’s paternal aunt and the divorced wife of his adopted son, Zaid bin Al- Harith.
  • Ummu Habibah - She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan. Her husband denounced Islam after migration to Abyssinia. When he later died the prophet (P.B.U.H) married her to alleviate her from the problems she was facing.
  • Swafiyyah bint Huyay - She was a daughter of a Jewish chief of Banu Nadhir. Her father was one of the greatest opponents of Islam. Later their tribe was banished from Madina after the fall of Khaybar in the seventh year of Hijra. She was among the captives who converted to Islam and prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) married her.
  • Maimunah bint al- Harith - She was the daughter of Harith of the Khawazin tribe. She was a widow in Makkah and married the prophet (P.B.U.H) in the seventh year of Hijra.
  • Mariyya al- Qibtwiyyah – She was the last wife of the prophet (P.B.U.H). She was presented to the prophet as a gift by the King of Egypt after the prophet had sent an invitation to Egypt and other countries to join Islam. She was the only one after Khadija to bear the prophet (P.B.U.H) a child called Ibrahim who also died in childhood.

Rights and Duties of Family Members

  • The bond in the family involves mutual expectation of rights and duties that have been prescribed by the religion and enforced by the Islamic sharia.
  • This implies, therefore, that every family member has certain commitments to meet over the other.
  • The role of each member depends on their position in the family.
  • Let us now look at the rights and duties of each family member.

Rights of the Parents:

  • These are the duties which should be performed by the children towards their parents.
  • Allah says in the Quran, “our Lord Has decreed that:
    • They should be treated with kindness.
    • Children should take care of them when they get old or need their help.
    • They should remember them in the prayers.
    • Do not turn away from them in case they need you.
    • Obey them in whatever they ask you and are in accordance with the sharia.
    • Pay their debts when they pass on.
    • Show them a good send off when they die.
    • Children should continue praying for their parents even after they have died.

Duties of the Husband: Rights of the Wife.

  • Islam honours the husband as the head of the family.
  • In fact Allah (S.W.T) emphasizes in the holy Quran thus; “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more strength than the other and because they support them from their means...”[Q: 4:34].
  • There are certain duties which as a husband you have to observe towards your wife.
  • They include the following:
    • He should protect his wife from any social, physical or psychological harm.
    • He should consult with his wife in kindness in matters relating to the family.
    • He has the full responsibility of financially and materially supporting and maintaining his wife.
    • He must be faithful to his wife and not keep any marital secrets from her.
    • He should respect the feelings of his wife and treat her with love, sympathy and understanding.
    • He should fulfill the wife’s matrimonial needs.
    • He should establish a rich Islamic atmosphere in the home.
    • He should keep the marriage life a secret.

Duties of a wife: The Rights of the Husband

  • Allah (S.W.T) says in the Qur’an: “And those who pray, ‘Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and off springs who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” [Q: 25:74]
  • Anas bin Malik (R.A) narrated that the prophet said, “If a woman says her prayers, fasts her month (Ramadhan), guards her private parts and obeys her husband, she may enter paradise by any door(gate)’. (Related by Abu Nu’aim).
  • The wife is therefore expected perform the following duties;
    • She should not observe any Sunnah fast when the husband is present except with his permission.
    • She should not allow anybody in the house without his permission.
    • She is answerable to her husband in ensuring that duties of worship are observed by all family members in the house.
    • She should fulfill the conjugal rights of the husband.
    • She should not leave the house for visiting friends and relatives without her husband’s permission.
    • She should keep herself neat and clean to guard her husband from external temptations.
    • She should not take advantage of her sexual obligation to manipulate her husband.
    • She should not receive gifts or favors from other men without the consent of the husband.
    • She should take care of the husband’s property.

Rights of the Children: Duties of the Parents

  • Just as the children should observe certain obligations towards their parents, so should the parents to their children.
  • Some of these duties include the following:
    • They should be provided with both religious and secular education.
    • They should be given good names.
    • The parents should provide them with the basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.
    • They should be given security and protection from external danger and influence which may lead to misguidance or injury.
    • They have a right to be loved and shown affection.
    • They have a right to inherit from their parents after they have passed on.
    • They have a right to legitimacy and know his rightful father and mother.

Rights of Extended Family Members

  • They should be assisted when they are in need.
  • Muslims should be kind and treat them with gentleness.
  • We should protect them from external attacks.
  • We should show them love and affection and talk to them nicely.
  • We should freely interact with them so that they can get a sense of belonging.
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