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What Does The Quran Say About Marriage?

What Does The Quran Say About Marriage?

In our increasingly secular world, divorce rates are at an all-time high. At the time of this writing, it is estimated that just under 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. That number is likely to rise ever higher over the next decade. There are some who view this as evidence that marriage is being taken less seriously than it was in the previous centuries. At times, it can certainly feel as though people make the decision to get married simply to gain a couple of hundred Facebook likes rather than because they intend to spend the rest of their lives together. Many religions detest the idea of divorce and refuse to formally recognize second marriages. Other religions are more open to divorce, particularly those which have been founded in recent decades. But how exactly does Islam feel about divorce? Moreover, what does Islam teach marriage in the quran? Muslims couples who are in need of advice ahead of their marriage will find it in abundance in the Quran. Hadith – the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ – also contain many tips to ensure a successful marriage. We’re going to be looking at what the Quran and the hadith have to say about marriage and all that it entails in this article. Let’s get started.

What Does The Quran Say About Marriage?

Importance and purposes: The Qur’an emphasises marriage as a means of finding peace, love and companionship. It is seen as a natural state of human beings, complementing each other (Qur’an 30:21). Marriage is also seen as a means of procreation and family building (Qur’an 25:74).

Choosing a spouse: The Qur’an encourages you to marry someone who is good, compatible and brings out the best in you (Qur’an 2:221).

Marriage contract and behavior: The Qur’an clarifies some of the legal aspects of marriage, including the necessity of a marriage contract and the obligatory dowry paid by the groom to the bride (Qur’an 4:24). It also emphasizes treating your wife with kindness and respect (Qur’an 2:187).

Polygamy: The Qur’an allows a man to have up to four wives under certain strict conditions, such as ensuring justice and fairness between wives (Qur’an 4:3). However, it also states that monogamy is generally preferable (Quran 4:3).

Marriage in the Quran

Surah al-Nisa (4:1):

“O people, fear your Lord, who created you from a single soul and created from it her husband and gave birth to many men and women, and fear God, in whom you ask questions and the womb, for God has been a watchful guardian over you.”

Surat al-Rum (30:21):

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves spouses to dwell with, and made between you affection and mercy; there are signs for those who think.”

Surah Al-Noor (24:32):

“And marry those of you who are unmarried and the righteous among your servants and women, if they are poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is vast and all-knowing.”

Surah An-Nisa (3:4):

“And if you fear that you will not be just in regard to the orphans, then take whatever women you like, two, three and four; and if you fear that you will not be just, then take whatever women you like, two, three and four; and if you fear that you will not be just, then take whatever women you like” or what you have on your right, it is better not to be inclined”.

Surah al-Baqarah (2:221):

“And do not marry a polytheist until they believe, and a believing woman is better than a polytheist, even if you like her.” And do not marry a polytheist until they believe, and a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even if you like him. Those are invited to the Fire, and Allah invites to Paradise and forgiveness with His permission and shows His signs to people so that they may remember.

Surat al-Nisa (4:19):

“O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will, and do not make it difficult for them to take some of what you have given them, unless they commit gross indecency; and if you hate them, may you hate something and Allah will make it very good.”

Sex Before Marriage Is Not Permitted  

Most of the major world religions hold the belief that sexual activity should not be pursued outside of marriage. Islam is one such religion. The difference between Islam and other world religions, however, is that many of these faiths reject sex before marriage as a matter of tradition. The teachings of these religions were developed in extremely conservative societies which prohibited sexual activity before marriage anyway, which made it a natural choice when crafting religious laws. This is not the case in Islam. For Muslims, the commandment to remain chaste until marriage is one that comes directly from Allah. It is made quite clear in Surat An-Nur, the 24th Surah of the Quran. There, Muslims will find the following passage:

“And let those who cannot find someone to marry maintain chastity until Allah makes them rich through His favors.” – Quran, 24:33

This verse is important as it acknowledges the frustrations one may experience if they cannot find a spouse. The natural desire to engage in sexual intimacy becomes more and more difficult to suppress as time goes on, leading those who cannot fight their desires to seek release from whomever they can get it. The Quran understands this, but it also understands the negative impact such behavior can have on the soul. As such, it advises those who cannot find someone to marry to remain steadfast in their chastity and continue their search for a spouse. Even if they fail to find release in this life, Allah will reward them for their immense self-control on the Day of Judgment.

The above passage of the Quran touches on the reward that awaits those who learn to control their carnal desires outside of marriage. In the hadith below, however, the Prophet discusses the punishment which awaits those who don’t. “The Prophetﷺ said ‘O Mankind! Beware of fornication/adultery for it entails six dire consequences: three of them relating to this world and three to the next world. As for the three that are related to this world, they are the following: it removes the glow of one’s face, brings poverty, and reduces the life-span. As for its dire consequences in the next world they are: it brings down the wrath of Allah upon the person, subjects him to terrible reckoning, and finally casts him in Hellfire.”- Al-Bayhaqi

Muslims who are considering pursuing sexual relations outside of marriage should give careful thought to the Prophet’swarnings. They can expect to face the consequences of their misdeeds in this life and the next life. We know for a fact the punishments Prophet Muhammad describes for adulterers in this world do indeed occur. A person who is cheating on their spouse often becomes so concerned with their husband or wife discovering their affair that they live their life in a perpetual state of stress. They are never able to relax and, and as such, the glow disappears from their face. On many occasions, somebody who has made the mistake of cheating on their spouse has been blackmailed by their extramarital lover and fallen into poverty attempting to buy their silence. We also know that an affair can shorten an individual’s life-span by a number of means, such as a crime of passion committed by a scorned spouse or a cardiovascular episode brought on by the stress of carrying the secret of one’s infidelity. Of course, as Prophet Muhammad outlined in the above hadith, the end of an adulterer’s life does not mark the completion of their punishments. On the Day of Judgment, they will be subjected to the full wrath of Allah, who will show them no mercy when weighing their good deeds against their bad. They will be cast into the Hellfire, where they will pay for violating the laws of marriage outlined in the Quran and the hadith.

A Muslim Should Not Marry An Unbeliever  

Many religions play only a small part in the lives of their adherents. Believers spend an hour or two a week in worship and are then free to go about their business for the next seven days while giving minimal thought to their religion. This is not the case with Islam. Islam is what many theologians may describe as a “high-demand religion.” It expects each Muslim to live a life worthy of Allah at all times and not just during Friday prayer sessions. As such, Muslims are encouraged to surround themselves with Islam in all aspects of their life, from their social circle, to their line of work, to their marriage. To drive this point home, the Quran contains the following passage: “And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember.”- Quran, 2:221

There is some debate as to whom the above passage permits a Muslim to marry. Some feel it only forbids marrying polytheists, meaning a Muslim may marry a Christian or a Jew or a member of any other monotheistic religion. It is important to remember, however, that the Quran was revealed in 7th century Mecca, where the vast majority of people were polytheists. While Christianity and Judaism had a small presence in the deserts surrounding the city, it was extremely unlikely that a Muslim man would ever encounter a Christian or Jewish woman who was eligible for marriage. As such, the Quran focused on the most pressing matter, advising Muslims to avoid marrying idol worshippers, even those they were in love with. Contemporary Islamic scholars apply this ruling to non-Muslims as a whole. Marrying outside of the faith, they say, will present a conflict of interest when it comes to raising children. If the non-Muslim spouse refuses to accept Islam, there is a significant chance the offspring the marriage produces will also refuse to embrace the message of the Quran. This could conceivably hinder the spread of Islam, which is perhaps the most undesirable outcome imaginable.

Spouses Should Support Each Other  

Some faiths treat marriage as little more than a means to an end, that end being reproduction. Islam, however, treats marriage with markedly more reverence. While it does indeed encourage married couples to procreate, it also recognizes the importance of a loving and respectful relationship between man and wife. Evidence for this can be seen in the following Quranic extract:

“They (your wives) are a clothing (covering) for you and you too are a clothing (covering) for them.”

– Quran, 2:187

This passage reminds us that a spouse should work to mask the faults of their partner. Just as a piece of clothing serves to cover up sensitive portions of the body, a man may cover up the weaker parts of his wife’s character and vice-versa. A person should strive to support their spouse in their times of need so that they may be stronger as a couple. This will stand for both man and wife in this world and on the Day of Judgment, where a person may seek to offer up a portion of their good deeds to eradicate the misdeeds of their spouse. Several chapters after the above verse, we are again reminded of the role a spouse should play in supporting their partner, when Allah tells us:

“And one of His signs is that He has created for you, spouses from amongst yourselves so that you might take comfort in them and He has placed between you, love and mercy. In this there is surely evidence (of the truth) for the people who carefully think.”- Quran, 30:21

These verses are noteworthy as it tells us that Allah created spouses specifically so that we might have an additional person from whom we can draw support and comfort, contradicting the aforementioned belief of many religions that marriage was introduced by Allah for the sole purpose of multiplying the human race. More conservative male Muslims may take issue with the idea of a man relying on his wife for support. However, this is a case of misguided masculinity which can be put to rest by the history of Prophet Muhammad himself. When the Prophet received his very first revelation in the year 610, he was horrified by the experience. Not knowing if he had encountered an angel or something more sinister, Muhammad ran home in a state of panic. There, he cried to his wife, Khadijah رضي الله عنها, and pleaded with her to cover him with a blanket. If Allah’s final and greatest prophet had no scruples about leaning on his wife when he was feeling vulnerable, no man should feel any shame about doing the same thing.

A Loving Wife Is Invaluable 

 As we mentioned in the previous section, Prophet Muhammad regularly turned to his wife, Khadijah رضي الله عنها, for support. When Khadijah passed away, the Prophet took additional wives, an example of how much he valued the company of women. As if his actions were not evidence enough of how highly he viewed women, the Messenger of Allah spoke on multiple occasions about the unparalleled joy of marriage. Take the following hadith, for example:
“It has been narrated from Abi Abdillah that, ‘A man once came to my father. My father asked him, “Are you married?” The man replied, ‘No.’ My father replied, ‘I would not love to have the world and all that is contained within it if it meant I had to spend one night without a woman [beside me].’”

In this hadith, the Prophet Muhammad is not just speaking to the young man who approached him, but to all young men. The teenage and young adult Muslim males of today could learn a valuable lesson from it. Just like the young man in this hadith, they often reject marriage and all that it entails. Instead of seeking a wife, they get caught up chasing money and fast cars and social media followers. But the happiness that these things bring is fleeting. As the Prophet declares in the above hadith, all the riches of the world cannot warm you on a cold night. They cannot calm you down when you are feeling anxious. And there’s certainly no guarantee they will remain by your side as you grow old. This is the kind of support that can only be provided by a loving wife and those who fail to realize that will live this life unfulfilled and experience a faith even worse in the next. In another authentic narration, the Prophet said: “The world is enjoyment and the best enjoyment in the world is a righteous wife.” (Muslim)

Divorce Is Not Haram

 At the beginning of this article, we touched on divorce and the attitude many religions have towards it. As we mentioned, there are some religions in which divorce is absolutely forbidden and there are some religions in which a person can marry and divorce as often as they like without any fear of repercussions. Islam falls in the middle of these two extremes. While it does not entirely forbid divorce, it stresses that it is only permissible in certain situations. In Surat Al-Baqarah, when speaking about the desolation of a marriage, the Quran tells us:

“For those who swear not to have sexual relations with their wives is a waiting time of four months, but if they return [to normal relations] – then indeed, Allah is forgiving and merciful. And if they decide on divorce – then indeed, Allah is hearing and knowing.” – Quran, 2:226-227

This verse is important as it lays a strict set of rules a married couple must adhere to before a divorce is permissible. Under the law of the above passage, a married couple considering a divorce must spend four months apart, during which time they are encouraged to fast and pray and give serious consideration to their future. If they are moved to reconcile during these four months, their marriage will be intact in the eyes of Allah and they may proceed as if their separation never happened. If the couple remains set on divorce even after their four month trial separation, they should be prepared for their decision to come back to them on the Day of Judgment. Allah judges each divorce on a case by case basis, as only he knows the true motives of each former couple.

Muslim couples considering divorce can find further advice in additional Quranic passages, such as the one below.

“If a couple fears separation, you shall appoint an arbitrator from his family and an arbitrator from her family; if they decide to reconcile, God will help them get together. God is Omniscient, Cognizant.”

– Quran, 4:35

This verse encourages Muslim couples experiencing difficulties to consult two separate parties: an individual from the male’s family and an individual from the female’s family. This ensures multiple opinions are voiced, increasing the chances of cooler heads prevailing and a reconciliation occurring. It also ensures both the husband and wife have somebody to fight in their corner and protect their best interests should a divorce take place.

Prophet Muhammad understood that married couples sometimes hit a rough patch in their relationship. For this reason, he dedicated a significant portion of time to advising his followers in matters relating to divorce. Much of his teachings on divorce are documented in the hadith. There are so many hadith relating to divorce that, in fact, we may have to dedicate an entire article to them in the future. For now, however, let’s finish up with a rapid-fire look at a few of the most notable hadith concerning divorce.

“Ibn ‘Umar رضي الله عنه reported that he divorced his wife while she was in her menses.’Umar رضي الله عنه asked Allah’s Apostleﷺ about that, and he said: Command him to take her back until she is pure and then she enters the second menses and then becomes pure. Then either divorce her (finally) or retain her.’” -Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Number 3481

“AI-Mughira b. Shu’ba رضي الله عنه reported that Sa’d b. ‘Ubada رضي الله عنه said: ‘If I were to see a man with my wife, I would have struck him with the sword, and not with the flat part (side) of it.’ When Allah’s Messengerﷺ heard of that, he said: ‘Are you surprised at Sa’d’s jealousy of his honour? By Allah, I am more jealous of my honour than he, and Allah is more jealous than I. Because of His jealousy Allah has prohibited abomination, both open and secret And no person is more jealous of his honour than Allah, and no persons, is more fond of accepting an excuse than Allah, on account of which He has sent messengers, announcers of glad tidings and warners; and no one is more fond of praise than Allah on account of which Allah has promised Paradise.”‘ – Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Number 3572

“Aisha رضي الله عنها  reported that she had bought Barira from the people of Ansar, but they laid down the condition that the right of inheritance [would vest in the], whereupon Allah’s Messengerﷺ said: ‘The right of inheritance vests with one who shows favour [who emancipates] and Allah’s Messengerﷺ gave her the choice [either to retain] her matrimonial alliance or break it. Her husband was a slave. She [Barira also] gave Aisha رضي الله عنها some meat as a gift. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: ‘I wish you could prepare for us out of this meat.’ Aisha said, ‘It has been given as charity to Barira, whereupon he said: ‘That is charity for her and a gift for us.’” – Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Number 3590


Islam recognizes that marriage is not simply a method of expanding the human race. It is a means of ensuring the survival of those who are already here. By giving us a loving spouse, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى gives us a constant source of support and comfort. Should that source of support and comfort run dry, Allah does not compel an unhappy couple to remain together. He understands that a marriage without love is detrimental to the health of everybody involved, and so He permits divorce in situations where it will truly better the lives of the couple seeking separation. This makes Islam arguably the most progressive of the five major world religions when it comes to marriage and divorce. It is important to remember, however, that the Quran and the Prophet agree there is no greater joy than being married. No amount of riches or good fortune can surpass a single night spent in the arms of a loving spouse.