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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books The Family Marital Relationships In The Major Religions

Marital Relationships In The Major Religions

Marital Relationships in the Major Religions

Allah says in the Qur'an in prohibition of adultery: Verily it is a vulgarity and a vileness and an evil path to follow'. 20

The use of the expression vulgarity, together with the particular past tense verb in Arabic (Kaana) gives the command an eternal and static quality with reference to God's abstraction from time and the singularity of his law in creation, a notion which is not confined solely to Islam but is present in the remainder of the religions, because religion is one in the realm of God, just as the inherent nature of creation is one.

So when we examine the sayings of many religions, we do so with the premise that they support that, which preceded and succeeded them in the field of rational knowledge and traditions and inherent nature and not with the premise that they are a proof and an original source. 21

1. The Jewish Religion

Jewish texts affirm the impropriety of bachelorhood considering it a sin and making marriage necessary after the age of twenty. Abortion and infanticide and methods of contraception are also considered a crime and acts of unbelief.

Any woman or wife perpetrating adultery would warrant stoning and the rapist of any married woman would be killed. The rapist of a virgin girl would have to pay a monetary fine and take her as a wife for life for his ill act towards her and those caught in the act of adultery would be killed together.

Anyone slandering a married person without proof would be subject to a fine and punishment.

2. The Christian Religion

In this matter, the Christian religion does not differ from the Jewish religion because Christ came confirming what was in the Torah. 22 Hence Christianity prohibited abortion and placed it on a level with premeditated murder. In the same way, homosexuality was prohibited in the strongest possible terms.

The revolution of morals, which Jesus instigated, was in reality a war against the distortion (of religious texts), dissolution, and degeneracy among the people of Israel.

In the Gospels it says: 'You have heard it said: do not commit adultery. But I say whosoever looks to a woman he desires has committed adultery in his heart, and when your right eye calls you to sin, then pluck it out and throw it from you. For it is better for you to destroy one of your organs than for all of your body to go to Hell' 23. 'It is said that whosoever divorces a woman; let him give her a document of divorce. But I say that whosoever divorces a woman other than in the case of fornication has exposed her to the possibility of adultery'. 24

3. In the Religion of Zoroaster

This religion encouraged marriage and building a family and bearing children. In one of its texts it says that 'the married man is greatly preferable to the bachelor and he who supports a family is much more favoured than he who has no family, and he who has children is even more favourable than that.' 25

Elsewhere it says that 'every time the number of children of a man increases, his closeness to his Lord increases.' 26

Parents used to organise the marital affairs of those of their children who had reached the age of adolescence, it not being acceptable for a man to remain unmarried. Also any occupation or work which would distance the individual from the family was unacceptable. Among them, divorce was not approved of except in the case of barrenness, or adultery, or infidelity to the state of married life. Amongst their laws was the prohibition of masturbation, which could be punished by flogging. The consequences for one who committed adultery, or homosexuality, or lesbianism, was death. Likewise, the punishment for abortion among them was execution.

4. Buddhism

In Buddhism, the punishment for an adulteress was to be publicly thrown as prey to the dogs. As for her partner in the crime, he would be roasted alive on a red-hot bed of steel. Looking at a woman with desire decreased ones vows and the lustful glance stripped one of one's intellect.

5. Confucianism

The ancient Chinese considered the holding back of a man from marriage to be a character deficit and a crime against the ancestors and the state which could not be excused, even for religious men.

They used to delegate a special official whose work was to make sure that every man of age thirty was married and that every woman was married before the age of twenty.

One of the sayings of Confucius says 'if a house stands on a firm foundation then the world is safe and sound'.


After that brief summary of the family system among various civilisations and religions, it is clear that all of humanity agrees upon the call for marriage and procreation as an extension of the human species, and upon the impropriety of the unmarried state and the unlawfulness of fornication and infidelity etc. This concord from the peoples of humanity shows its truthfulness and intrinsic naturalness. Islam, obviously, does not accept a great number of the rules and punishments of these ways of life and civilisations, but our concern is the whole picture and the points of concord only.

Marriage in Materialistic Societies

Despite the obvious harmony of human nature regarding the establishment of the family and married life, and that there is no structure to the human species without this establishment and the fortification of its elements, one can observe certain voices calling for that which goes against the current of intrinsic human nature, and denies this law of the existence, and so just as disrespect towards and neglect of the law of the atom has occurred, so mockery is made of the existence of the family. Whilst the system of the universe has its own direct and natural reaction through radioactivity, the family and society despite its not having a direct and instantaneous natural reaction 27, has a greater and more severe effect after the passage and elapse of time.

Among the most important of the slogans, which have gone outside the law of nature, are those said by Marx, Freud, and Durkheim. Freud made the sexual impulse the basic factor in the development of mankind, while Marx considered it to be Economics, and Durkheim went for the social factor. The proof of the invalidity of these philosophies is first and foremost that they are mutually contradicting in addition to the fact that the pressures which surrounded society helped to create them. The severe pressure which society faced from those who called themselves religion, and the grave contradiction that appeared between the words and deeds of the religious authorities is but one example. Another example is the imposition of legal codes which go against human nature like the church's prohibition of divorce, and the inquisition and extreme quelling of any opposition together with the social gulf between the elite and nobility and the poor and miserable. All these matters have fuelled these philosophies. 28

Section Two

The Call of Nature 29
Marriage as a Necessity

Marriage is a vital necessity. The survival of the species depends upon it and the survival of any organism is an intellectual necessity. Hence the world's intelligentsia try to prevent the extinction of a particular organism. So what of humanity? The Qur'an states: 'But when he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief in the land and to destroy crops and progeny, but Allah loves not mischief'. 30

In the matter of destroying progeny there is no difference between active destruction and passive destruction. Qur'anic verses and prophetic traditions stress marriage as being mandatory for the common good and recommended for the individual good.

This is from one angle. From another, were it not for marriage, humanity would suffer from some extremely harmful diseases, as medical science has proven, and the avoidance of any possible harm is mandatory both from a religious and an intellectual point of view. From another angle again, a person to deny himself, in moderation, of the good things in life is also intellectually and religiously wrong as the story of Ala shows in 'Nahj al-Balagha'. 31 In a well-known case, the Prophet himself stopped a man who had vowed to abstain (from all the good things in life including marriage) by the saying There is to be no monasticism in Islam'. 32

It may be argued that the Qur'anic verse: 'The monasticism which they innovated was not prescribed by Us for them, (We commanded them) only to seek the good pleasure of Allah' 33, contradicts this. However it should be pointed out that the rule was temporary in the face of an overflow of Jews in the world, and therefore Islam abrogated the rule. As for bringing together they innovated it' and we did not make it incumbent upon them', it is clear that they innovated it firstly, and then Allah ratified it.

Early Marriage

The custom of early marriage is upheld by the intellect and the religion. It was the norm amongst Muslims from the dawn of Islam up to and before the cultural, economic, and military assault by the laws of the West and East upon their lands. If this (early marriage) had not been the case, then it would have led either to depravity, the least form of which is masturbation, or to illness as physicians have shown.

It was the custom of Muslims to marry off girls from the age of ten to fifteen or thereabouts, and boys from attaining maturity up to age eighteen. Early marriage was a vital necessity for them because of its simplicity. There was no condition of completing studies or military service. Marriage was like food and drink and clothing to them. A certain man would need a certain woman and vice versa, and nothing would prevent them from coming together in lawful matrimony.

The West, in placing obstacles and hurdles in the way of marriage, has laid itself open to public and private licentiousness as well as various other perversions. Its own figures show that most youngsters are sexually active from age ten for girls and from reaching physical maturity for boys, with all the dangerous consequences of that such as abortion and the profusion of illegitimate children found on the streets and in the slums, as well as various sexually transmitted diseases, and adulterous acts together with marital and family infidelity and incest and suicide, the appearance of homosexuality, and the trade in buying and selling children and so on.

Knowing that Islam is the religion of human nature, it is clear that sexual purity and cleanliness necessitates that we return to the teachings of Islam in this important area of life.

It should not be argued however: Why did the Messenger of God not marry until the age of twenty-five and for that matter Ali, because it can be said that one reason may be that the Prophet was poor, his family suffering great hardship as is seen in the story of the dividing up of the sons of Abu Talib. As for Ali, he was at the most serious stage in facilitating mankind's transition from darkness to light. It is clear that in this state, a man sacrifices everything for the sake of his goal. 37

This is common sense more than tradition, for it is the needs of the young men and women which lead them towards marriage and the dowry is no more than symbolic. There should be nothing to prevent two souls from coming together in a legal way no matter whether their conditions are poor or rich, especially as we see now certain nations making the dowry incumbent upon the man and others making it upon the woman and others still leaving it out altogether.

Islam sanctions the dowry out of honour and respect for the wife but it is not to be over done, rather it stresses the simplicity of the dowry so that it is enough for the husband to teach the wife a chapter from the Qur'an or a simple craft, or even give her a plain iron ring.

Then on, it is clear that after the marriage, the two will be motivated towards working and earning, because the person who knows that he has a responsibility will run towards life as opposed to one who does not feel any responsibility.

Simplicity of dowry made for the best women of the nation according to the Prophet because it makes this vital element of life easier and quicker. God wants for you ease and he does not want difficulty.' 38 It is related that the Prophet said: Make things easy upon yourselves and do not make things difficult.' 39 Ease in anything promotes the absence of stress on the person physically and mentally.

As for the 'most radiant of face', perhaps this stems from good moral behaviour which promotes the radiance of the face and skin. 40

In this way, it was the custom amongst Muslims, before the age of Western materialism, for the dowry to be small and simple, except in a very few cases, for the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs diverged from the traditions of Islam to the traditions of the Persian kings and the Caesars in every domain and especially in the matter of dowries. Because of this, the impeccable Imams used to emphasise and insist upon the dowry of the sunna - that practised by the Prophet.

The Parents' House

Muslim society, before the attack of materialism, used to marry off its sons and daughters, and both parties - the parents and the children - were satisfied and content with the parents house as an abode for the newly-weds, without distinguishing between whether the house belonged to the parents of the bride or of the groom. The couple would live in one of the rooms of the house and everyone would contribute to the income, work and affairs of the household. 41 Because of this, marriage was simple and easy regarding housing and furniture and assistance, and the new couple would learn from the older ones various aspects of life. Others would live in a new house whose land was free according to the law the land belongs to Allah and whoever lives upon it' 42. The methods of construction were simple and humble, and there were no governmental difficulties such as taxes or planning permission or the like.

I still recall that the people at the Holy city of Karbala were almost one hundred thousand in number and upon analysis; we would not find more than four unmarried men among them. Today however, the situation is quite the opposite. Society has collaborated with the state, which lays down false laws in this respect. But wherever there is no steadfastness and no organisation in exercising sexual capacity, it becomes distorted and perverse.

It is necessary - if we desire happiness - to re-balance society, and to return to the Qur'anic verse: ' He releases them from their heavy burdens and the yokes that were upon them'. 43 So that there will no longer exist any social burdens or legal fetters, and therein lies the happiness of Muslims in this world and the next 44 includes all possessions. If the custom present in certain countries now and as was usual among the earlier Muslims, of the couple being satisfied with their belongings before the wedding then this would doubtless be an important factor in decreasing the level of non-marriage and corruption.

My father told me that they used to live in Samarra in a single house, and when his sister got married, the gift was very humble, not exceeding a new dress, which her husband bought for her. On the night of the marriage the bride moved to the room of the groom and the matter was concluded.

I actually saw them myself. Theirs was the happiest of households and they produced fine children and grandchildren.

Contentment is a treasure which never runs out, and contentment with reality, without the vain excesses and exaggerations, which usually surround things, causes mental and physical comfort.

History records the dowry of Fatima al-Zahra 45 and the circumstances of her marriage. The dowry was the sum of thirty dirhams according to various versions. The furnishings of her marriage were basic in the extreme so that even the carpet of the room was of sand, as is reported. Despite this it was the happiest of houses not only in the history of Islam but also in the history of humanity.

The messenger of God made this dowry sunna and made it the dowry of all his daughters so it came to be known as the dowry of the sunna. However, stealth and bravery are required from educationalists and in Islamic circles, and from parents so that they can do away with these man-made laws and detrimental customs. 46.

This criterion that the prophet has mentioned is the criterion of common sense also. Naturally the person must be able to provide for his family if the wife so needs, just as he should not be an invalid particularly with a venereal disease or that, which incapacitates him from fulfilling the sexual needs of the wife.

If the behaviour of either of the married couple is not good, the house becomes like a hell, and if one or other of them does not have a code of conduct, which keeps them from wrongdoing then the man, might even be prepared for his wife to become a prostitute. Religion and morals can be judged from previous behaviour, and as to whether he or she is capable of bearing children can be known from the relatives 47 and from certain medical checks.

As for beauty, wealth, position, and social status and so on, they are not in the least bit essential (impossible as not everyone is beautiful and wealthy).

As for age, for if the balance of Islam in marrying every widow and widower is looked at then no fault could be found in either comparing age or neglecting to do so although it is probably better to pay attention to this element also. Hence the Qur'anic reference to the People of Heaven as 'equal in age'. 48

Hence we still see, even in this age, that this is the custom of many Muslims although it was more prevalent in the past when it was Islamic.

The wearing of the veil for women is also part of the religion as is restraint by men from practising forbidden acts, particularly in this material age with its voracious appetite for lust and seduction. 49

This is correct one hundred percent. This is because the unmarried man does not have the motivation to earn money in the same way that the man who feels a responsibility does. This in addition to the fact that it is a matter from the unseen world as is everything we see in this world; it has its apparent cause and its real cause which is the will of Allah.

However, despite this, a means of subsistence should be acquired including place of abode and other needs. Islam has laid down laws in this respect like the land belongs to Allah and whoever develops it' 50, or whoever attains something which no other Muslim has first attained then he has the greater right to it'. 51

Therefore it is possible that a charitable organisation could build simple homes on land with wells or the like for general water and rainwater tanks for drinking water, with an orchard for fruits and vegetables and rearing animals. Then they could be leased which would make things very simple for housing and food and also clothing which could be made from the wool of the animals reared in the house. If there were someone in the house who could sew or perform another task for the family then that would be enough to cover half the expenses. The other half could be obtained by work, which also promotes physical and mental health, self-satisfaction and independence from others.

So if God blesses us with manufacture and agriculture and we have water and earth and willing hands, we will have become independent from others. As Ali said: Become independent from whoever you wish and you will become his equal'. 52 53

There is no doubt that complexity however small and minor causes delays and in any number add up to a greater delay. Therefore if these matters were abolished along with all the other officialities of which there are an abundance these days, marriage would become easy and would be popular among young men and women as well as divorcees and so on.

54 The West has progressed and flourished relative to the extent it has practised it. Muslims have regressed whenever they have neglected and ignored it.

This principle must be applied to the married couple. They are, together, free in the choices they make in everything that God has permitted. The only exception which many scholars have noted is in the rights of the virgin girl if her father or paternal grandfather are living, in which case she is subject to their opinion and requires their permission to marry. When the giving of permission is feasible and no other secondary principle applies, then her wishes should be satisfied and permission given.

Similarly, it is not at all conceivable that the young man or woman should be compelled to marry a certain person. Not only is this against the sacred law and common sense, it very often causes problems, the least of which are separation, estrangement and divorce, and in some cases can reach the level of murder and suicide as is common today.

What place is there for compulsion in the relationship of marriage the meaning of which is the intimate companionship of husband and wife by day and by night at home or abroad, and throughout all the circumstances and mental states of each party?

Therefore the marriage of the two must arise out of mutual agreement and no one should have the right to force them to marry.
20 The Holy Qur'an: Women (4): 22.

21 This is because those who fabricate lies against God do not bring forward any book or any traditions but that they have been played around with. Had it not been for God's protection of the Qur'an from corruption and substitution then talking about it today would be like talking about the books of the other religions. God though has made sure that his light is complete and his word protected whether the unbelievers like it or not.

22 Even the Gospels that exist today confirm this fact. In one of them appear the words: 'Do not think that I am here to nullify the words of the divine law and the prophets. I have not come to cancel but to perfect. I tell you the truth: Not one iota nor one full stop will disappear from the divine law.

23 The Bible: Mark 9:43 and Matthew 5:27-30.

24 Barnabas. It is well known that the Christians, for about 22 years after Christ (Peace be upon him), continued to observe all the prohibitions found in the Torah. Subsequently however, they limited them to four namely adultery, the eating of animals killed by strangling, the eating of blood, and the eating of animals slaughtered in the name of idols.

25 The Story of Civilisation. Del Durant p.41.

26 ibid. p.42.

27 This is for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that animals are subject entirely to the system whereas human beings are partly responsible for administering and organising themselves.

28 Some people have strived to prove these theories with case loads of evidence some of which raises doubts and others are dubious and obscurantist and with no proof but illusion, conjecture and fabrication. The author has discussed the three philosophies in several books some of which are: 'A Critique of Freud', and 'Marx Defeated' and 'Comparative Economics.'

29 What is meant here is not nature as in the natural world or surroundings but rather the intrinsic nature inside human beings known by the Arabic term Fitrah. (Translator's note)

30 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 205.

31 Ala had denied himself all the good things in life. Imam 'Ali told him: '; Do you think that Allah has made lawful for you the good things then disdains that you partake of them? You are less important to Allah than this. (Translator's note)

32 Supplement to the Shi'a guide to Islamic law; Volume 1; Page 540. There are other benefits to marriage which have been discussed by the author in 'The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh'; Volume 62;'The Book of Marriage.

33 The Holy Qur'an: Iron (57): 27.

37 Shi'a Guide; Volume 15; Page 1.

38 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 185

39 Ghawali Al-Li'ali;Volume1;Page 381. There are many traditions referring to the desirability of a small dowry which have been dealt with by the author in The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh; Volume 62-68;The Book of Wedlock.

40 The author has dealt with similar such traditions in The Book of Fiqh, Etiquette, and Practice. Volumes 94 -97.

41 The author refers to practises in countries where the state does not provide any support for housing etc. In such cases the newly wed couples would continue to live with the parents. This may not be applicable in countries where state support is provided for housing. (Editor's note).

42 The Complete Branches of Religion; Volume 5; Page 279.

43 The Holy Qur'an: The Heights (7): 157.

44 Shi'a Guide; volume 15; Page 1.

45 One of the daughters of the Prophet. Fatima married 'Ali. (Translator's note)

46 Seas of Lights: Volume 100, p 373.

47 This is often neglected.

48 The Holy Qur'an: The Inevitable Event (56): 37.

49 The Holy Qur'an: Light (24): 32.

50 The Complete Branches of Religion; Volume 5; Page 279.

51 Shi'a Guide; Volume 17; Page 238.

52 Seas of Lights; Volume 72; Page 107.

53 Sometimes the family would give some sugar to the notary although many of them did not even accept this.

54 Seas of Lights; Volume 2; Page 272.