Question: I am single. Is getting married obligatory?
Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuhu
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Marriage is from my sunna, and whoever turns away from my sunna is not from me.” [ibn Majah]
The Prophet ﷺ married women and stayed married to them until the end of his life. He ﷺ discouraged celibacy and imitating the way of monks. Instead, he urged the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) to marry if they were able.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “O young people! Whoever among you is able to marry, should marry, and whoever is not able to marry should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.” [Bukhari]
Marriage is a great act of worship, and its benefit returns not only to the two spouses – but to their children, society, and religion.
Benefits Of Marriage
Scholars have noted several wisdoms in getting married:
1. Safeguarding the limbs from falling into unlawful acts. Marriage is an outlet for lawful touching and sexual intercourse. Physical attraction between genders is real and one of the best ways to protect one’s limbs from the unlawful is to marry. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever can guarantee me what is between his jawbones (i.e. the tongue) and his legs (i.e. the private parts), I guarantee for him Paradise.” [Bukhari]
2. Raising righteous children and offspring. Through marriage, the ummah continues to grow. The Prophet ﷺ encouraged believers to marry so that he ﷺ could boast about the large number of his ummah on the Day of Judgment. [ibn Majah] Moreover, the parent benefits from the child’s supplication (du’a), even after they die.
3. Unification of families and tribes. Marrying allows racial and cultural integration at a societal level – thus connecting people through the noble principles of the deen.
4. Perfecting one’s good character. Marriage will test one’s personal boundaries and behavior. It provides a unique opportunity to grow in deep religious virtues, such as having patience, sacrificing one’s preferences for the sake of Allah Most High, loving for others what one loves for oneself, and the like. One is rewarded for the effort exerted in trying to uphold these characteristics in their relationship too. Spouses should grow together spiritually, be religious companions, and help each other towards doing the good for the sake of Allah Most High.
5. Preserving one’s emotional well-being. Humans are emotional creatures. People need love, attention, affection, and company in order to be psychologically stable. A healthy relationship with one’s spouse can give all of these things and more inshaAllah. It is very comforting to have another person by one’s side as a life partner, instead of feeling like one is living in the world alone.
6. Upholding the sunna. The believers are instructed to follow the Prophet’s ﷺ noble way. The Prophet ﷺ said that marriage is from the practice of the Prophets (Allah bless them), and he ﷺ specifically stressed that marriage is part of his sunna ﷺ. If a believer yearns to receive this mighty reward, then one must make the intention to marry for the sake of following the sunna of the Prophet ﷺ, protecting oneself from the unlawful, or raising righteous children – and not merely for the fulfillment of one’s physical desires.
As for the original question, the answer returns to one’s personal state. The Hanafi scholars mention a useful breakdown:
1. It is an emphasized sunna (sunna mu’akkada) to marry if one is able to control their desires – meaning that getting married remains an overall encouragement. In fact, some scholars state that there is more reward in marrying than in teaching, studying, or busying oneself in supererogatory (nafl) deeds due to the previously mentioned wisdoms.
2. It is obligatory (fard) to marry if one is certain that they will commit adultery. It is mandatory (wajib) if one only fears it.
The scholar ibn Abidin (Allah be pleased with him) adds that the same ruling would apply to someone who cannot help themselves from looking at the unlawful or engaging in the sin of masturbation – even if there is no worry about falling into adultery (zina). However, if a person is able to subdue their desires through fasting or other means, then marriage is not obligatory or mandatory.
This is a traditional perspective that was written hundreds of years ago. In today’s times, the ruling may differ because porn addiction is rampant. Porn addition is an addiction model of compulsive sexual activity with concurrent use of pornographic material. Porn addicts are advised to resolve their addiction before seeking marriage, as the harm the addiction can cause towards the spouse and relationship is well-known and documented.
Furthermore, for a man, there is an additional consideration of whether he is able to pay the dowry and financially support his wife after marriage. If he is unable, then there is no harm in staying single.
3. It is unlawful (haram) to marry if one is certain that they will be unjust to their spouse. It is prohibitively disliked (makruh tahrimi) to marry if one only fears it.
If a person is caught between the fear of falling into adultery and the fear of harming their potential spouse, then marrying is sinful. According to the Sacred Law, warding off harm takes precedence over gaining benefit. When a person engages in adultery, the wrong that they commit is between them and their Lord. However, the wrong committed by being an oppressive spouse is more severe because it involves harm towards one’s spouse and children.
It must be noted that when the scholars mention this ruling, they are not encouraging adultery. There is no doubt that adultery is an enormity and a grave crime. Rather, the scholars are highlighting the severity of getting married and being an unjust spouse – that even the fear of falling into adultery is not an excuse to harm another person through marriage.
Thus, a person must analyze their circumstances and determine which category applies to them. It may be helpful to consider these questions:
- Are you able to control your sexual desire?
- Do you have the means to pay the dowry and provide for a wife? (for men)
- Do you fear falling into adultery?
- Do you fear being unjust to your spouse if you were to marry?
If one does not fear falling into adultery or being an unjust spouse, then getting married is an emphasized sunna. For a man, he must also possess the financial means to marry.
If you would like to know more about why a person should marry, how to overcome the fear of marriage, and advice concerning how to choose a good spouse, check out this book for sisters “Finding Your Other Half: 8-Step Action Plan” at our bookstore and Amazon.
Jazak Allah khayran
- Imam ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar
- Imam al-Mawsili, al-Ikhtiyar
- Sheikh Mansur Ali Nasif, al-Taj al-Jami’ lil Usul fi ahadith al-Rasul