Marriage: A chosen practice of the Prophet & those who do not marry

Q341 :I know a Hadith which states clearly that marriage is part of the Sunnah of the Prophet and whoever turns away from the Sunnah does not belong to him. In our country, a well-known person who works hard for the implementation of Islam has never married. How far would you say that this Hadith applies to this person?

A341 : The answer is that I do not know. Some of my readers like to put to me unanswerable questions, like this one. They may have some justification, but in this case, there seems to be a very enthusiastic desire on the part of my reader to see a conscientious implementation of the personal Islamic code by all Muslims, particularly those who stand up for the cause of Islam. What is unfortunate about such enthusiasm is that it may lead to the adoption of a very rigid interpretation of different Islamic rules. The Hadith states very clearly that marriage is part of the Sunnah of the Prophet. The term "Sunnah" in Arabic means, "method, way, practice, etc." In an Islamic context, it means the practice chosen by the Prophet and recommended by him to be followed by all Muslims, to earn additional reward by Allah. The encouragement by the Prophet may take the form of a verbal recommendation or exhortation, or setting a practical example. If it is the latter, then the more consistently the Prophet used to follow a particular practice, the stronger is the emphasis that all Muslims should follow suit. When the recommendation or encouragement takes the form of a verbal statement, then we can judge by the emphasis the Prophet places on his statement the sort of importance he attaches to it. In the case of marriage, we need only remember the Hadith you have quoted to realize that the Prophet has attached much importance to marriage. Nevertheless, when we say that a particular practice is a Sunnah, we preclude any suggestion that it is obligatory. Let me give you a very clear example. We know that the Prophet was very keen to offer two voluntary Rak'ahs, i.e. Sunnah, before the obligatory prayer of Fajr. Indeed, he is not known to have missed these two Rak'ahs on any occasion. There can be no stronger encouragement or recommendation for us to follow his example. Nevertheless, if we suppose that a Muslim does not offer these two voluntary rak'ahs at all, throughout his life, he does not commit a sin. He will not be asked by Allah why he has not offered them. Scholars say that the Prophet may remonstrate with him on the day of Judgment, but reprehensible as his attitude is, it does not expose him to any punishment in the life to come. Consider now the Hadith that you have quoted. The Prophet says that marriage is his chosen practice. That means that marriage is not obligatory to Muslims. The Prophet certainly emphasizes greatly the importance he attaches to this practice, but the person he describes as not belonging to him is the one who takes a deliberate choice in opposition to the Prophet's practice. When we come to the application of this Hadith to individuals, we should know where to stop. No one can claim that he knows the full circumstances and the inner thoughts of another person, close to him as he may be. This man may have some personal or family reasons which might have delayed his marriage when he was a young man. He may still have some personal reasons to prevent him from marriage. If he does not object to marriage as a principle, then he commits no sin. On our part, we should be careful what to say about other people and we must surely not judge them on appearances.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )