In discussing the meanings of marriage, we need to understand that each of the dissimilar traditions has contributed a variety of familiar legal ideas and institutions some overlapping, some conflicting. It is in the extensive and imaginatively contrasting legal contributions of the Christian and other traditions that many see as a few of the ingredients of a third way regarding marriage. In the west, from the beginning, marriage has been viewed in at the very least four different perspectives.
“Marriage is defined as being a contract, shaped by the common approval of the wedded couple, and subject to their wills and partiality. (Lubbock, 1911) Marriage is a sacred relationship, focusing on the cult, creed, code, and canons of the religious society. Marriage is a societal estate, the area under judgment being unique state laws of possessions, heritage, and evidence, and to the prospects and exactions of the local population. And matrimony is a normal foundation, subject to the natural laws trained by motivation and scruples, natural world and tradition.
Whatever the cultural climate, whatever the age, marriage has always been a venture into the unknown for the young couple about to form such a partnership. Whatever society prescribes as an ideal for their marriage” (Smith, 1903), whatever concept of marriage they may have acquired through observation of their parents or other couples, their marriage is something unique, if only in that they are two unique individuals. Whether their marriage works, whether they can change it to meet their evolving needs, whether they can work out a mutually satisfying and fulfilling partnership these are never predetermined. Marriage, therefore, is always an adventure, whether it is entered into with awareness or simply accepted as a ‘natural’ thing to do.
On the other hand Islam is not very different. “In Islam marriage is a central institution; it is seen as an important social duty” (Dictionary of Islam, 1976) incumbent on each individual. It is prescribed by the Qur’an: (And of everything we have created pairs: that ye may receive instruction), and by the Prophet who reportedly said, ‘If a person marries, he has fulfilled half the religion. ’ Consequently, ‘the individual has no right to do as he pleases. . . . If one does not marry, he deprives another from getting married, thus making him susceptible to temptation and evil.
In this context, marriage is seen as providing physical fulfillment for natural desires and a healthy channel for sexual and psychological needs, as well as the maintenance of society through progeny. Celibacy is reduced to a deviation; ‘contrary to the order of the universe as created by God,’ for it renders the goals of life inoperative. Thus a “Muslim girl should be brought up and educated in preparation for these roles. ” (Stern, 1939) Any other education is at best superfluous, if not actually harmful.
Parallel to the discussion of the role of the wife, the sources attempt to answer questions raised about polygamy. Generally, there is a consensus of opinion in defense of the custom. Several authors justify it as a means of safeguarding the family, since it does not necessitate divorce of the first wife as a prerequisite of marrying another as is the custom in the West. For, whereas Western man practices polygamy through multiple marriages contracted successively, in Islam, the possibility of having four wives concurrently protects these innocent women from the pain of separation and the shame of divorce.
The modernists’ interpretation of S. 4:34 (And if you fear that you will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if you fear that you will not deal justly, then one or what your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice) puts the “emphasis on one woman” (Encyclopedia of Islam) since the marriage of multiple wives is contingent on justice and the verse says that ‘ye will not do injustice. ’