Marriage: The Cornerstone of Civilization

By Alwani, Zainab | Islamic Horizons, May/June 2011 | Go to article overview

Marriage: The Cornerstone of Civilization


Alwani, Zainab, Islamic Horizons


The Islamic model of marriage serves to mitigate corruption and guide society toward prosperity.

OVER A PERIOD OF 23 YEARS promoting universal social justice and human rights, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), with Divine guidance, created a model of family relations that maintains balance on all levels- a model intended to be the cornerstone of human civilization.

Quranic injunctions and Prophetic traditions are the guiding principles for establishing Islamic family relations by assigning roles, rights and responsibilities for marital relations, parent-child relations, and related aspects of family life. This Islamic model stresses the development of men and women as partners and mutual protectors, wilayyah, and as caretakers of the earth, khalifs, (Quran 9:70-1, 2:30). This partnership and stewardship of responsibility serves to mitigate corruption and guide society toward peace and prosperity.

The essence of Islamic family relations is rooted in tawhid, the Oneness and Uniqueness of God. From the doctrinal standpoint, the greatest injustice one can do is to deny God, or more pointedly, to commit the offense of associating others with God, shirk, (31:13). In the religion of pure tawhid, shirk is in fact a form of self- wronging. Furthermore, according to a Quranic lexicon, the concept of dhdhulm comprises the meanings of wronging, self-wronging, oppression, injustice, unfairness, and evil, and connotes a state of cosmic dysfunction or seminal darkness upon darkness. The Quranic model of family, on the other hand, represents a comprehensive model to protect society from any type of self-inflicted oppression.

It is essential to understand the relationship between God and the individual before engaging in a discussion on the relationship between human beings. God created human beings to worship and serve as His representatives or trustees, khulafa' (plural ofkhalifa). The Quran says (49:13): "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other) . Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you."

Hence, in the judgment of God, piety is the only aspect by which one person is deemed better than another. To increase in piety and fulfill the mission of vicegerent, Muslims must engage in an ongoing process of selfpurification, tazkiyyah, (91:7-10). This process involves sorting through the myriad of emotional impulses that may lead to internal conflict, ambiguity, and lassitude in search of Divine guidance and the straight path, al-sirat al-mustaqim.

God has given people the freedom to choose which path to take in every decision of life, and outlined the consequences of these choices (18:29-31). Each person is directly accountable to God and human beings are encouraged to work together to accomplish their goals. At the family level, there are rights and responsibilities for each (see: Zainab Alwani, "The Quranic Model to Harmony in Family Relations").

In order to sustain healthy interpersonal relationships, especially in a family atmosphere, the Quran emphasizes certain morals and values. It is difficult to translate Quranic values succinctly because such Divine concepts simultaneously contain philosophical, moral, and practical meanings. However, one of these essential values is piety or God consciousness, taqwa, (8:2). Hence, this concept is important in understanding the depth and degree to which the religion penetrates the daily life of each Muslim. By maintaining an awareness of God's presence and will, individuals shape their thought processes and behaviors in spiritual, familial, and societal domains.

Marriage in Islam is noble because it brings tranquility, progeny, and continuation of life with purity and responsibility. The Quran refers to the main Shariah objective of marriage, (30:21): "And among His signs is this: that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).

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