Delaying marriage into the late 20’s and early 30’s has become a growing trend. Many young people or their parents will only actively start looking for potential spouses after formal education or a few years of being in the workplace. Attendance at marriage events or a cursory glance at matrimonial sites shows the average age of people looking has increased.
There are a wide variety of reasons as to why some Muslims do not marry until much later on in life. From these, the most common include being occupied with studies, parental obstacles, a feeling of not being “ready” or mature enough (whether that’s held by the person or their parents) or financial difficulties. In some cases, individuals do make a great effort to get married but just can’t seem to find “the one” and for others marriage just isn’t an attractive concept at all.
But is delaying marriage an issue and something to be concerned about? Is there really a “right time” or does it depend entirely on each individual? Does each individual know themselves better than anyone and is therefore, in a better position to determine when to marry? What does Islam have to say on this topic?
From my years of experience in the marriage guidance field, I have observed that many of those who leave marriage into their late twenties, early thirties or beyond learn to live a self-sustained and independent lifestyle. As a result it becomes much harder for some of them to adapt to married life which requires sharing and compromise. Very often there is a wish for the new spouse to simply ‘fit in’ with their established lifestyle and the transition from individual to couple can be rather uncomfortable.
As for the Islamic rulings, many of us believe marriage to be a Sunnah based on hadith such as:
“Marriage is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me” [Ibn Majah]
However, the ruling of marriage actually differs from person to person. For some marriage is obligatory, for others a sunnah, and it can even be disliked or forbidden in certain cases. Thus, for some they mustget married, others shouldn’t get married and for some it’s encouraged.
The classic books of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) explain the rulings as follows:
For those individuals whose desires overpower them to the point that they are almost certain they will fall into sin such as fornication, marriage becomes an obligation upon them if the following conditions are in place:
– For males: they have the ability to provide the dowry and basic maintenance for their wife.
– For both genders: they have no fear of ill-treatment or oppression towards their spouse.
If marriage is an obligation then delaying marriage purposefully is not an option.
For those individuals whose desires are of a moderate nature i.e. they do not fear falling into sin and they fulfil the conditions outlined above regarding the dowry and treatment of their spouse, marriage is an emphasised Sunnah.
Although marriage for those in this category is not obligatory, they would however, be living their lives contrary to the Sunnah which is not advisable.
For those individuals who feel overwhelming levels of sexual desire, yet fear they would oppress or ill-treat their partners if they were to marry, marriage becomes extremely disliked for them.
Note: In the Hanafi school, a category of extremely disliked actions (makruh tahrimi) holds slightly greater significance than mildly disliked actions (makruh tanzihi), in that the former entails sin albeit less than a forbidden action.
For those individuals who, like those above, experience overpowering sexual desires, however, they are certain that they will oppress or ill-treat their spouse, marriage becomes haram for them.
Both of these latter rulings (extremely disliked and forbidden) are established upon the fact that there are two competing factors at play here. On the one hand there is the need for a person to marry to avoid falling into sin, however by marrying they risk oppressing and ill-treating their spouse. Here, the sacred law concludes that harm to one’s self is a “lesser” harm than that done to another individual.
If a person finds themselves in the forbidden or extremely disliked category, they should not get married until they have worked on improving their state. Seeking professional help (both spiritual and mental) is strongly advised for those in these categories.
While genuine obstacles such as finances or difficulty in finding a life partner may play a part in delaying marriage, it is important that single Muslims take the time to understand which of the above categories they belong to and act accordingly.
Question of the Day
Were you aware about the rulings discussed in this blog? What are your thoughts on this topic? Scroll down and let me know in the comments.
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