In Islam, marriage is a civil contract made by mutual consent between man and woman. What is necessary among the Sunni Muslims to conclude a match is the presence of two male witnesses and a dower. A woman who has reached the age of puberty is free to choose, to accept, or to refuse an offer, although such a conduct may be against the declared wishes of her parents of guardian.
Although the parents are recommended to find a suitable match for their daughter, they cannot legally force her to agree to it. Her consent in any case is necessary. She can make her own terms before the marriage, as to the amount of dower to be paid to her, the dissolution of marriage in case her husband leaves the locality and goes to some other country, or in regard to any other matter such as the husband taking another wife, etc.. All terms, conditions and stipulations agreed to mutually must be recorded in the contract of marriage by the registrar and would be binding to the husband.
In the case of impotence, insanity or extreme poverty which renders it impossible for the husband to support his wife, or should he be imprisoned for such a length of time that the wife should suffer lack of sustenance, she has the right to divorce him by a verdict of the judge.
A man may see his bride, nay he is encouraged by the law to do so before the completion of marriage. A man may divorce and re-marry the divorced wife, but if he pronounces divorce on three occasions, she cannot return to him, unless after having married another man and lived with him as his wife for a length of time. She may be divorced by the second husband, and then she may be re-married to the first. The object of this law is that the husband who has divorced his wife should feel ashamed and disgraced to take her back after she has re-married and lived as wife of another man. Divorce is condemned by the Prophet and is not to be resorted to except in unavoidable circumstances, such as infidelity of the wife, or other similar serious causes.
Kinds of Divorce
Divorce in Islam is of two kinds:
Revocable, and Irrevocable.
A husband has the right to divorce his wife; but this right is not effective until the period of ‘iddat, i.e. probation is over. This period is three menstrual courses or three month, and during this time the right of the husband to revoke the divorce is available. Should the wife survive her husband, the period of ‘iâdat or probation is prolonged to four months and ten days; before this period is ended, the widow cannot legally get married to a new husband. If a woman is pregnant and divorce has to be resorted to, the ‘iddat period continues until the delivery takes place. In this case, the wife has the right to reside in her husband’s house and be maintained by him.
Different Forms Of Divorce
The following are the different forms of divorce current among the Sunnis:
Besides impotence on the part of the husband, a verdict of divorce may be pronounced by the competent judge on the demand of the wife in the following cases:
1) Unequality of status of man and woman.
2) Insufficient dower.
3) If the Muslim husband embraces any religion other than Islam.
4) If a husband charges his wife with adultery, even though she swears that she is innocent and the former insists that she is not.
5) If the husband is imprisoned for such a length of time that she suffers from want of living.
6) Khul’a divorce, which means a result of continuous disagreement between husband and wife, when the latter is willing to forego some of her own privileges or make a certain ransom to free herself from her husband.
One of the fundamental principles of Islam is that neither a Muslim can marry an idolatress nor a Muslim woman can marry an idolater.
The direct result of such prohibited marriages would be to introduce no idolatry in Islam, which it had strenuously striven to eradicate. Otherwise, Islam is quite tolerant in this respect, as it permits Muslim men to marry virtuous women among the Christians or the Jews. However, the Islamic Law, does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a Christian or a Jew.
In case there is fear of breach between wife and husband, reconciliation is recommended to be sought through the mediation of two arbitrators: one chose from the husband’s family and the other from the wife’s family; if they are desirous of agreement, maybe God through His Mercy effects a reconciliation between them.
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