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See also
FiqhRulings of Shari'aManual of Islamic lawPubertyWajibHaramMustahabMubahMakruh

Marriage or Nikāḥ (Arabic:النکاح) is a union of a male and a female under shari'a conditions. When a male and a female get married, they can have sexual relationship and are morally and legally responsible to each other.

There are two kinds of marriage:

In marriage, the man and the woman decide to marry with each other, but it is not enough; a specific marriage formula ought to be uttered by themselves or by their lawyers. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is severely forbidden in religions including Islam.

There are numerous and emphatic recommendations for marriage in the Qur'an and hadith. For example, the Prophet (s) stated that everyone who gets married in their youth, half (or two third) of their faith is protected, and characterized the single person (unmarried person who is under the pressure of sexual need) as the worst of his community (Umma), and stated that anyone who refuses to marry is not a real follower of him, and believed that a fear of poverty and indigence is an irrational fear and amounts to be suspicious of Allah.

Marriage in Islam has a lot of rulings and is closely connected with subjects such as sexual intercourse, mahr (a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage, that legally becomes her property), nafaqa (the financial support a husband must provide for his wife), inheritance, child custody, divorce, 'idda (the period a woman must observe after the death of her husband or after divorce, during which she may not marry another man).


The Arabic term for marriage "نکاح" (transliteration: nikah) literally means to pair, and in the common sense in Islamic thought means matrimony which makes a male and a female "legally mahram", and they will become legally and morally responsible to each other.

Every culture has its own especial rules, laws and customs for marriage. All these cultures are respected by Islam, as a hadith states: "Every nation has specific marriage customs and traditions".

To get married is admired in Islam and all the Muslims should help and encourage singles to marry. Specially parents are supposed to feel a great weight of responsibility for marriage of their children, and if the youths commit a sin because of being single, the parents have their share in the sin.

It is recommended to reduce the expenses of marriage, including mahr. And it is better to hold a simple ceremony. According to a hadith, high amount of mahr and high costs for living are the signs of the inauspiciousness of the wife. God has not acted severely in rulings of marriage, and has asked people through Shu'aib's words, not to take the marriage hard.

The Qur'an states that the poverty and indigence should not prevent people from getting married, because Allah will enrich the poor out of His mercy.

"And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing."

— Qur'an, 32:24

Prophets forbade people from gratifying their sexual desires in irreligious ways such as masturbation, adultery, and homosexuality. In the Qur'an, people of Lot (a) who did not follow the natural way of gratifying their sexual desires and condoned homosexual conduct, are called "transgressing" and "excessive" people. In other verses, irreligious ways of gratifying the sexual need are mentioned as indecency and evil way.

"Do not approach fornication. It is indeed an indecency and an evil way."

— Qur'an 17:32

There were divergent kinds of marriage in the age of ignorance such as al-nikah al-maqt (which allowed a man to marry his father's widow or divorced wife), al-nikah al-khadan (Secret cohabitation by lovers without a contract and for an unspecified time), al-nikah al-shighar (an arrangement in which a person gives a female in his trust to someone who does the same, without either paying the mahr). All these kinds of marriage were forbidden in Islam.

Marriage is usually recommended (mustahab) but in special circumstances it could have other rules. For example, it is obligatory (wajib) for the one who may commit a sin for being single, and is forbidden (haram) for a male who has four wives, and is makruh (reprehensible) if the person does not have any sexual desire, and is mubah (neither encouraged or discouraged) if each of marrying and not marrying have their own Islamic advantages.

In Qur'an

The root "زوج" (English: pair) and its derivatives are used more than 80 times, and the word nikah (Arabic:نکاح) and its derivatives are used 23 times in the Qur'an. Concepts such as divorce, zihar (a kind of divorce in the age of ignorance which was later abrogated in Islam), ila' (referring to the husband's oath of not sleeping with his wife to bother her), 'idda, mar'a (female) , ba'l (husband), nisa' (females), al-dhakar wa l-untha (male and female), ihsan (chastity), sidaq (mahr), ajr, mass (sexual intercourse), tahrim and ihlal are included in the broad concept of marriage. There are some objectives and benefits for marriage mentioned in the Qur'an:

  • Repose and inner calm;
  • Continuation of human race;
  • Bringing up good children;
  • Affection and mercy;
  • Gratifying sexual needs;
  • Prevention of sins;
  • The poor will be enriched out of Allah's mercy.

In Hadith

There are a lot of merits gained by, and recommendations for marriage in hadiths as following:

  • Marriage is the greatest divine gift and blessing after being a Muslim;
  • It is the tradition of the Prophet (s);
  • It is more recommended in youth;
  • Low mahr is important;
  • Marriage is the most beautiful construction for God;
  • The prayer of a married person is seventy times more valuable than the prayer of a single person;
  • Marriage is the cause of increase in sustenance (rizq);
  • Couples are recommended to be sensual in their privacy;
  • Serving the spouse has many rewards and brings about God's forgiveness for sins;
  • Keeping the balance in the relationship with the spouse (so the relationship would not cool down and become a routine);
  • Being respectful to the spouse raises one's own respect and value;
  • The deeper affection for the spouse, the higher degree of faith;
  • There should not be any compulsion in choosing a spouse;
  • It is recommended that husband tries to show his love to his wife through nice words;
  • If the husband is wealthy, he must not be thrifty or stingy towards his family;
  • Spending time with family is valuable and Allah would reward for it;
  • It is recommended that wife obey husband's words;
  • Getting married ought not to be postponed;
  • The singles are the worst of the Umma.

Varieties of Marriage

Marriage is divided into two kinds:

Permanent Marriage

Permanent marriage is the common marriage in which male and female are called married after marriage proposal, determination of the mahr (the male and the female need to make an agreement on this before the marriage), and uttering marriage formula. Before uttering the marriage formula, the male and the female are not husband and wife, but after uttering it, they become husband and wife, even if they do not live in the same house yet.

Temporary Marriage

Temporary marriage or mut'a, is a time-limited marriage in which a male and a female become husband and wife for a limited period of time on which they agree in advance, by uttering marriage formula after an agreement on a specified mahr.

Permanent marriage and the temporary one share most rulings; therefore in mut'a also, the man and the woman are called zawj (husband) and zawja (wife), and the child born from this kind of marriage is religiously and legally treated exactly the same as the child born from the permanent marriage. For example, it is obligatory upon father to pay the child's nafaqa (expenses), and the child inherit from the parents.

However, there are some differences as well. In this type of marriage, the husband is not legally responsible for nafaqa such as providing food, clothing, house and other daily necessities for the wife. And the wife does not need any permission from husband to go out of her house.

To end the temporary marriage does not require a divorce. It automatically finishes in these two cases:

  • When the duration of the contract on which the couples had agreed before, is over;
  • If the husband gives over the remaining time of the contract before its expiration.

In both cases, the contract terminates and the female ought to undergo 'idda under certain terms.

Temporary marriage has been a disputable social theme, and even though it is allowed in Islam, some disapprove of it because of some misuses.

Marriage Formula ('Aqd al-Nikah)

Marriage begins with an 'aqd formula. Male and female are not married before uttering marriage formula and have to adhere to all the principles of two non-mahrams, otherwise they would commit a sin.

'Aqd al-nikah is valid if some conditions are met:

  • Qasd al-insha' (intention to pronounce a male and a female, husband and wife)
  • Paying attention to the content of the marriage formula.
  • Muwalat (ijab and qabul ought to be done successively and without delay)
  • Tanjiz (marriage formula must be irrevocable and not be conditional)
  • Pronouncing the words of marriage formula correctly.

Getting engaged does not make a male and a female halal, and the rulings of married couples are not applied on two persons who are only engaged without the marriage formula.

The male and the female are the only ones who should make the final decision about their marriage. However, most of the jurists believe that the girl needs her father's permission (or her grandfather's in the case that her father is not alive) if she's getting married for the first time.

Prohibited Cases

Marriage could be haram sometimes; either permanently or temporarily. The following table shows in which cases marriage is permanently or temporarily haram:

Prohibited Marriage Explanation
Seven members of consanguineous relatives Mother, daughter, sister, father's sister, mother's sister, brother's daughter, sister's daughter
Rida' It is a technical term from Islamic jurisprudence meaning the milk-suckling which produces permanent relation between the sucking newborn and the breastfeeding woman. All the seven members mentioned above are produced by rida' as well.
In-law mahrams Mother-in-law, father-in-law's mother, mother-in-law's mother, and so on, wife's daughter, son's wife, wife's sister, step-mother
Being married or to undergoing 'idda It is haram to marry a woman who is married or has recently got divorced and her 'idda is not finished yet,
Committing adultery with a married female or with a female who is undergoing rij'i 'idda [1] Marriage would become eternally haram in such case.
After the third divorce A divorced couple can marry each other again, but if they get divorced three times, their marriage would become forbidden; unless the woman marries another man and gets divorced, in such a case she can marry her first husband again.
Having more than four wives by permanent marriage Man is not allowed to have more than four wives by permanent marriage at the same time, but he can have more wives by temporary marriage.
To marry a Kafir (unbeliever)
To marry Ahl al-Kitab (People of the book) i.e. Christians and Jews Muslims are not allowed to marry non-Muslims, but there is only one exception; Only Muslim males could marry Ahl al-Kitab females temporarily.

How a Marriage Formula Annuls

The end of marriage is different in the two types of marriage:

Permanent marriage: marriage formula of permanent marriage is annulled under the following conditions:

  • Getting divorced
  • Passing away of one of the couple
  • Irtidad (conscious abandonment of Islam) of one of the couple
  • If one of the couple who were not Muslim before the marriage, becomes Muslim (under certain circumstances)
  • Li'an: in the case that the husband accuses his wife of committing adultery. If the husband does not have enough evidence to prove his wife's sin, the husband and the wife curse each other in a special way in the court. Then the husband takes an oath that his wife committed adultery. And the wife in response to her husband, takes the same oath that her husband is not right and denies the accusation. After li'an, the marriage is over and the man and the woman can never marry each other again.

Temporary marriage: This marriage is annulled by the above-mentioned conditions (except divorce) with two additions:

  • When the duration of the contract ('aqd) ends
  • The husband disregards the remaining time of the marriage (this is the divorce in mut'a)


There are some rights for both husband and wife, as the Qur'an states:

Since the male and the female are members of the society, both have similar civil rights, but each has many different rights within the family due to different roles and positions they have as a husband or a wife. In other words, they have different duties and responsibilities, therefore they have different rights. Every institution, including the family, needs a manager, and in Islam the husband is supposed to undertake such a responsibility. The Qur'an states that Allah made men in charge of women, but does not state that Allah made the males superior to the females. Human society, in fact, is a system in which every member has their own duties and responsibilities; So is the family.

Wife's Rights Husband's Rights Mutual Rights

1. Mahr: It is recommended for the female not to put it high.
2. Nafaqa
3. Sexual relationship

1. Divorce
2. Istimta' (derive sexual benefit from the wife)
3. To be obeyed by his wife about matters such as going out of the house or having guest at home
4. 'Idda

1. To care about religion and each other's morals.
2. To be cheerful and dispel gloom.
3. Inheritance

According to Risalat al-huquq (Treatise of Rights), Imam al-Sajjad (a) introduces some of the rights of husband and wife as following:

  • Never forget that your wife is a gift from God and is the cause of your repose and inner calm, so thank God for this divine gift and express your appreciation by being good-tempered with her and by honoring her and tolerate her mistakes and bad behaviors.
  • Wife's right is that you behave kindly towards her and to be quite fond of her, and make her and yourself calm in gratifying sexual needs.
  • Husband's right is that the wife succors her husband and acknowledges him as long as there is no sin;
  • it is a great right that wife is obliged not to violate.

In another hadith, the husband's jihad is to fight in the battlefield, and the wife's jihad is to care about the husband and tolerate his petulance.

One of the problems that can happen between husband and wife is nushuz (violating rights of each other). If such problem happens,the Qur'an has suggested a process in which the family should solve the issue.

Choosing a Spouse

There is no certain way of proposal or choosing a spouse in Islam. Each of the male and the female can propose to another, but normally in many societies the male is the one who does the proposal. However, in the case of 'aqd, the female (or her lawyer) starts uttering the first part of marriage formula which should be followed by uttering the second part by the groom (or his lawyer).

Some Criteria

Although, people are free about how to choose their spouse, there are some criteria mentioned in hadiths which suggest a way for finding a proper person to marry with. These criteria are as follows:

  • Being religious, not only in words, but also in practice. Specially it is forbidden to marry someone who drinks alcohol or commits adultery.
  • Being good-tempered. There is a narration about someone who asked Imam 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a): "someone proposed to my daughter but he is bad-tempered. Should I agree with their marriage?" Imam (a) replied: "If he is so, do not agree".
  • Family honor.
  • Similarity (Kufwiyya): It has been said that the more the couples are similar in their characteristics, the stronger their marriage bond will be.

There are also some other factors relating to one's taste or status, but they fall into the second category of importance, such as beauty, similarity in race, financial status, and so on.

In the Hereafter (Heaven)

According to the Qur'an, men will have wives in the Heaven and their wives will be either from big-eyed houris (hur al-'in) or from pious heavenly females. If both husband and wife are heavenly and they wish to keep living together in the Heaven, they would remain couples. In the Qur'an the heavenly females are described as beautiful, loving, virgin, good-tempered, eternal, and of the same age with their husband in the Heaven.

See Also


  1. It is concerned a kind of divorce that is called Rij'i i.e. the male, after divorce, can marry her again, without a need to read the marriage formula again.


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