Marriage: When it promises to be unsuccessful

Q370 :A marriage was arranged for the sake of good names of the families concerned. The marriage was never consummated due to lack of love and trust. The husband refuses to divorce his wife and continues to provide her needs. She wants to make a fresh start in life. Is it open to her to seek divorce? If she does, will she be considered a sinner as the husband has provided everything? May I also ask whether there was an incident during the lifetime of the Prophet when a woman told him that she did not wish to stay with her husband for reasons known only to her. The Prophet asked the husband to divorce her.

A370 : There is an important dimension to marriage which is often overlooked. That is the personal and human dimension. When there are problems within marriage, people tend to concentrate on material aspects. They ask whether the man fulfils his duties of providing food and clothes to his family; is he generous or a miser? Does his wife need to resort to much pressure in order to persuade him to buy herself some clothes? etc. They also ask about his nature: is he hot-tempered? Does he often blow his top? Does he treat his wife with respect or does he insult her when they have a disagreement? But people do not ask about the other sort of fulfilment which is required in marriage. They are somewhat justified not to pry into other people's affairs. But it is important to realize that this is an essential part of marriage. If it is not established on the right basis, it could easily lead to the break-up of the family. Hence, we need to know what Islam says about this aspect. Apart from the normal duties which both husband and wife have to fulfil in their new relationship, they have another duty which is by no means less important. Each of them has to help the other remain chaste. The sexual desire is a natural urge for both man and woman. Allah has made the satisfaction of that urge permissible only through marriage. When either party violates Islamic teachings and seeks to satisfy sexual urge outside the bond of marriage, he or she commits a very grave sin. There are many sorts of temptations which may lead a person to break Islamic rules and commit a gross indecency. Islam seeks to reduce or indeed nullify these temptations through building a society which combines a serious view of morality with practices which make it much easier for people not to err. One aspect of its overall plan to achieve this result is to encourage marriage and to make it the normal practice for young men and women . It also requires married people to help each other satisfy their sexual desires. In normal circumstances, it is not only easier but also more satisfying to have such fulfilment only through marriage. Therefore, when this aspect of married life goes wrong, Islam views that situation very seriously. I must stress that this applies to both man and woman alike. It is often acceptable in any particular society that a man divorces his wife because she is frigid. They recognize that such a woman cannot provide fulfilment. From the Islamic point of view, she does not help her husband properly maintain his chastity. The same applies in the case of woman. If she is neglected by her husband, this may weigh down heavily on her and a sense of being unwanted may be too troublesome to her. Why should she be exposed to such feelings day after day of her life? In the example given by the reader, the marriage has been arranged for family considerations. In other words, the partners themselves may not have been consulted. They were put together where at least one of them did not wish to be married to the other.This is an arrangement which is not acceptable from the Islamic point of view. Be that as it may, once the marriage has been concluded, the couple were faced with a choice of trying to make a success of it or abandoning the arrangement altogether. I do not know enough of the circumstances of the case to make a judgement on who is right and who is wrong. However, the fact that the marriage remained unconsummated means that the husband at least does not view this relationship as permanent. He has apparently tried to fulfil his other obligations by looking after his wife and supporting her. However, he has left her with a sense of being unwanted or unloved. Such a feeling may sometimes be very hard for a woman to bear. It is only natural for a woman to feel that she is wanted, loved and cared for. If she does not find that with her husband, her marital life may be in jeopardy. She may want to finish with the whole arrangement. That is often the case although both husband and wife have a normal sexual relationship. But when that relationship does not exist, its absence serves as a continuous reminder to the wife that she has either failed to make an impression on her husband or that he rejects her outright. Many a woman feel it impossible to continue with such a relationship. If a woman in this situation applies for a divorce, an Islamic court is very likely to grant it. There is a serious breach of this marital relationship and it may appear to be irredeemable. The woman is certainly not a sinner. The husband may claim to have provided her with everything. He has certainly left something wanting in her. He has rather failed in his duty to help her remain chaste. The incident to which you have referred is correct. The wife of one of the companions of the Prophet, Thabit ib Qais, come to the Prophet and said: "I have nothing to say against the manners and treatment I receive from my husband, nor do I have anything against the strength of his faith. Nevertheless I dislike to continue to live with him as his wife." In her appeal to the Prophet to help her, she used an expression which indicated that she genuinely and seriously was unhappy with her marriage. Her mind was made up. She did not want to continue. The Prophet did not argue with her and did not try to persuade her to stay with her husband. He went to the husband, Thabit ibn Qais, and told him that his wife wanted a divorce. The man said that he had given her a good dower, and he was prepared to divorce her if she returned that to him. When the Prophet asked her whether she was prepared to do do that, she said that she was willing to give him more. The Prophet then told Thabit to divorce her once and take back only the dower he had paid. At no time did the Prophet rebuke the woman or her husband for the failure of their marriage. He recognized that its continuation was unhealthy. Therefore, he went ahead with arranging a divorce. If the lady in the present case wishes to leave her husband, she is fully entitled to do so. She only has to apply to an Islamic court to nullify her marriage. She has good grounds for having her application granted.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )