What does Islam say about marriage?

Most Muslims believe marriage is a fundamental building block of life. Marriage is a contract between a man and woman to live together as husband and wife. The marriage contract is called a nikah.

For most Muslims the purpose of marriage is to:

  • keep faithful to each other for the rest of their lives
  • have children and bring them up in the Muslim faith

Marriage is mentioned many times in the Qur'an, which Muslims believe is the word of God, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and therefore, they follow its teachings on marriage.

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).Qur'an 30:21

Muslims also regard the teachings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad as a source of authority. In the Qur'an it says that the Prophet was married, and therefore most Muslims look to follow his example.

In the Qur'an, Muslim men are allowed up to four wives, as long as they can treat each one equally. This is known as polygamy. However, if they cannot treat them equally, Muslim men are advised to have just one wife, and this is the practice in most modern Islamic socieities.

Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then marry only one.Qur'an 4:3

Muslim women are only allowed one husband.

Many Muslims do not agree with pre-marital sex and therefore Muslim couples do not usually live together until they are married.

What does this mean in practice?

Many Muslims accept arranged marriages, where parents are involved in the selection of a suitable marriage partner for their adult child, because:

  • the family has a say in the choice of whom their son or daughter will marry
  • the families can get to know each other and feel comfortable with the union

Many Muslims are against civil partnerships and same-sex marriages because:

  • they believe homosexuality is haram
  • they believe marriage is a contract between a man and woman which has the potential to create children