Marriage and Divorce laws In Islam and Christianity
Everyone as well as everything is guided by laws, without these laws the world would not be in existence. Laws are necessary in order to attain maximum civilization. They exist in different places such as homes, schools, churches, and marriages. In both Christianity and Islam laws are said to have come from the Almighty God in form of the holy books Qur’an and Bible. Both books cover every aspect of one’s life, they teach believers how to behave and also the path to following the laws Almighty God has set down in order to enter his kingdom, Heaven.
Marriage and divorce go hand in hand, almost all marriages today end up in divorce. According to the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, marriage is a state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual relationship recognized by law. Unfortunately, marriages are no longer practiced only by people of the opposite sex. Today, people of the same sex are found getting married to each other which is prohibited in both religions (Christianity and Islam). Marriage is a universal institution that is recognized and respected all over the world and is practiced by both religions (Christianity and Islam). The Encarta World English Dictionary defines divorce as the ending of a marriage by an official decision in a court of law. Marriage and divorce are practiced in both religions for different purposes. Most marriages of recent end up in divorce, two people who were once in God’s sight are now apart.
Islam’s view of marriage is that it is a religious requirement to fulfill God’s purposes through man. Once a believer or a Muslim male marries in Islam it is believed that he has fulfilled half of the responsibilities laid on him (Esposito and DeLong-Bas).Marriages are encouraged in this religion because it has been commended as the way of the prophets and also when a servant (male believer) of Allah marries, his wife would be the source of his wealth. For example, when Prophet Muhammad got married to Khadijah, she was of great significance to him because she supported him financially, morally, and otherwise. A man’s pathway to heaven is his parents and a woman’s pathway to heaven is her husband, therefore if a woman obeys her husband and a man obeys his parents, heaven is almost guaranteed.
In Christianity, marriage is regarded as an important commitment that is made for a life time. Christians believe that once a marriage commitment is made, it remains valid until death occurs. Two of the reasons why marriage is practiced in Christianity are for companionship and also to provide a godly offspring (child), this binds the relationship between a husband and wife, and makes them united. In Malachi 2:14-16, the lord advises men not to break faith with their wives.
The Holy Bible gives a further understanding of the commitment God wants his believers to have, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt.19:5 6).
Marriage is practiced in both Islam and Christianity, for the purpose reproduction. Sex is good and pure for only those who are married, and it is meant to reflect the full image of God, but today it is rather unfortunate that this act has been widely abused. Sex helps spouses to remain faithful to each other irrespective of their location and both partners should not be deprived as not to cause temptation (1 Cor. 7:5-7). It is a sin for anyone who is not married to engage in sexual relationships as both religions (Christianity and Islam) do not permit it. Sex is also practiced in marriage for pleasure in order to satisfy both the husband and the wife. We find a large number of people who are not married, yet they engage in sexual relationships and masturbation in order to satisfy the urge for having sex. Masturbation and fornication are sinful and both religions frown against it most especially Islam (Quran 23:5).
There are basically two common types of marriages, polygamy and monogamy. In monogamy, a man is permitted to marry only one wife, while in polygamy a man is permitted to marry several wives. Islam practices both polygamy and monogamy. In Islam, a man is allowed to have up to four wives but advised to marry just one if he cannot take care of all of them. Islam allows polygamy so as to aid orphans and widows which is one of the community obligations (Quran 4:3). In the Qur’an Prophet Muhammad had thirteen wives, two concubines and four uncertain female relationships (Quran 33:50). On the other hand, Christianity practices monogamy that is to say it allows Christians to marry only one wife. Nonetheless, there are a good number of people in the Bible that practiced Polygamy, one of them is King Solomon, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I kings 11:3). Abraham in the bible also practiced polygamy when he had sex with Hagar and she bore him a son because he was childless (Gen. 16:3-4). Esau and Jacob in the bible practiced polygamy, Esau also married two pagan wives and this caused much grief to his parents (Gen. 26:34-35). In Islam, a man can marry up to four wives as long as he can love them equally and cater for them, but he should not exceed having more than four wives.
Furthermore, a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian lady but a Muslim lady cannot get married to a man that is not of the same religion with her (Quran 5:5). Islam allows a man to marry a woman, who is not of the same religion with him. The man is the head of the house therefore, his children would be raised in his religion and bear his last name. Islam also prohibits the marriage between persons related by affinity or consanguinity (Nwogugu, E.I 60).
Two verses of the bible reveal what the Almighty God says about marriage from another religion, as the Bible explains in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15:
If any brother says to his wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through the wife and an un believing woman has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean but as it is they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances, God has called us to live in peace.
On the contrary, in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 the bible also says:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers, for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common, or what fellowship can light have with darkness, what harmony is there between price and belial, what does a believer have with an un believer, what agreement is there between the temple of God and idols, for we are there temple of the living God as God as said , I would lead with them and among them and I would be their God and they would be their people therefore come out from them and be separate, touch no un clean thing and I’d would receive you, and I’d be a father to you and you’d be my sons and daughters.
In Islam, some conditions must be met before marriage can take place between a husband and a wife. A Muslim believer who is of sound mind and who has attained puberty (usually twelve years of age for boys and nine years for girls) is considered to be legally eligible for marriage (Esposito and DeLong-Bas15).There must be a proposal from one of them (mostly the man), and whosoever is being proposed to, must backup the proposal with acceptance. For instance, when Khadijah proposed to Prophet Muhammad, he agreed and that was how they got married. If there was no agreement on his path, then the marriage would not have taken place. Another condition that must be met before marriage can take place is that there must be witnesses, these witnesses could be either males or females (Esposito and DeLong-Bas 24).
In Christianity, one of the conditions that must be met before marriage can take place between a man and a woman is that both of them must not have sex before marriage. The Bible encourages Christians to get married in order to avoid sex before marriage (I Cor. 7:2).Secondly, the consent of both parents must be sought before the marriage can take place. In the absence of parents due to death, then someone elderly can stand in as a parent. The husband has to pay a bride price before he actually gets married to his wife, and this bride price is given to the parents of the wife (Goodman and Dollahite 150).
Islam permits a man to beat his wife lightly if she does not do as he instructs her or beat her until she obeys. Beating should always be the last resort after the husband must have tried several ways to make his wife comply with his instructions and fails. The beating is meant to stop immediately the wife complies with the husband’s instructions. Men are superior to women in Islamic teachings (Qur’an 4:34).
However, the bible does not encourage husbands to beat their wives. Husbands are meant to love and honor their wives and treat them with understanding this is because women are weaker than men (Col. 3:19). The Bible further states that if a woman is not treated the way she should by her husband, his prayers would not be heard (I Pet. 3:7). As the lord asks wives to submit to their husband as to the lord, and as the church submits to the lord so should the wives to their husbands. The Lord advises: “Wives submit yourselves to your husband as you do to the lord, Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church", the Bible also teaches husbands to “love their wives as equally as they love their own bodies" and for this reason a man would leave his parents and start a family of his own" (Eph. 5:22-25).
Divorce in Islam is prohibited according to the holy Qur’an which is a sacred book which guides Muslims and other believers. A man is allowed to divorce his wife, but this practice is most times not encouraged. Divorce usually comes into practice in Islam when all measures for reconciliation between the husband and wife fails (Holbrooke 390). If a man divorces his wife without any genuine reason, it is regarded as a sin. A man or woman may get a divorce if he or she is caught committing adultery, or when one of the spouses fails to satisfy the other sexually.
Islam also forbids a man from retrieving any gift he has given to his divorced wife after he must have married another wife. Ali’s translation of the Holy Qur’an adds further insight to the understanding of his master’s (Allah) words, on retrieving gifts after a divorce:
But if you decide to take one wife in place of another, even if you had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back, would you take it by slander and a manifest wrong? And how could you take it while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a solemn covenant? (Quran 4:20).
Divorce is evil in the site of Allah (God in Islam). Reconciliation is recommended in Islam, and if all means of reconciliation have been to avail then they can go ahead and divorce. Iddah means prescribed period, it is the three months which the wife is required to stay in her husband’s house to figure out if she’s pregnant or not and if found pregnant, Allah advises reconciliation. The wife has the right to stay in her husband’s house for child support she also has every right to leave at her own accord and must not be forced out. It is also forbidden for a man to treat his wife with disrespect or make her life miserable. Imposing laws is a way of helping the relationship from breaking because Allah does not believe in divorce but rather unity.
“I hate divorce" says the lord (Mal. 2:16). Marriage is an agreement that should last for a life time and it is not meant to be broken for any reason. Divorce is prohibited in Christianity because the teachings of Jesus Christ did not approve of it. Divorce is at all times regarded sinful except on special grounds. Usually, the Bible encourages Christians to settle whatever differences they have with their spouses and live in peace rather than resort to divorce. In exceptional cases such as adultery, if a man feels he cannot continue to stay with his wife, he is
sues her a certificate of divorce and she becomes the wife of another man and for what so ever reason she is issued another certificate of divorce her last husband cannot marry her because she has been defiled (Deut. 24:1-4). In such case, both the man and his wife must not get married to someone else, because if they do they will be committing adultery. The Bible warns against adultery and whosoever looks at the opposite sex with bad intentions has committed adultery in his or her heart (Matt. 5:27-32).
The holy bible furthermore enlightens its readers on the laws of the Almighty God:
It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matt. 5:31-32).
There are three categories of divorce known to exist in the Islam religion. The three are raj’i, baynounah soghra, and baynounah kobra. The raj’i is a category of divorce in which a husband can take back his wife within the duration of three months in this kind of divorce, no legal procedure is involved. The baynounah soghra is a category of divorce in which a man cannot marry his divorcee until all legal procedures are done all over again. In this case, the husband pays a new dowry for her. The third category of divorce baynounah kobrah happens when a man cannot go back to his divorced wife until she marries another man and she must get divorced by the man before she can go back to her first husband (Esposito and DeLong-Bas 42).
In Islam, there are circumstances when divorce is regarded invalid. For instance, when a man gets drunk of wine and is not in his right state of mind, even if he utters a word of divorce it is not regarded valid. If a man is forced by someone else may be a friend, relation, or even his parents to divorce his wife, in such cases the divorce would not be counted valid, this is because he is under the influence of another person. Another instance when divorce is not counted valid is when a husband looses temper to the extent that he is not conscious of what he is saying. Lastly, when a man is insane or when in comma, whatever he utters in terms of divorce is not counted relevant (Instone 38).
Divorce is invalid in Christianity when a husband leaves his wife for no good reason. In such a case, the divorce is not valid and neither of the two can marry someone else. In Christianity, divorce is regarded almost invalid in all cases, this is because it is not permitted and also because divorce was never the plan of God (Matt. 19:7-8).When there are traces of indecency amongst spouses or death of a spouse, then divorce is valid.
There are several types of divorce in Islam. If a man, for any reason divorces his wife, he compensates her. This compensation is usually in monetary term which is referred to as “Mut’a". For a man to divorce his wife he has to have it written down or he has to utter the words “I divorce you". In circumstances where the wife is the person who wants a divorce, she has to be able to prove to a judge her reasons for the divorce, so as to enable her have access to her financial rights. Another method is for instance, a woman wants a divorce from her husband for no specific reason, she will be granted the divorce but the husband would not pay for her dowry and she would not have access to financial rights. In some cases, she may even stay under the same roof with her husband but she would not engage in sexual intercourse with him (Esposito and DeLong-Bas 22).
In Christianity, when a man divorces his wife, he writes a bill of divorce and gives her in her hand and she must leave the marital home. After the wife leaves, he is not allowed to marry another wife. But if a man is married to a slave and divorces her, he does not pay her the equivalent of her dowry, instead she must be made free (Instone 23). For example, in the bible, when Abraham sent Hagar away, he did not compensate her with anything (Exod. 21:10-11).
In both religions (Islam and Christianity) divorce affects all those involved, husband, wife, children and family members. According to research done by Cordero and Siabel it was reported that children from divorce homes are negatively affected and it shows in their behaviors. Modern research shows that children are not as affected as researchers would have reported in earlier years. In Siabel’s research he observes that having “attachment bonds" which is the first feelings of love and affection would affect divorce decisions (Personalresearch.org).
Families are experiencing many problems because of decisions made on their marriages. Children from divorced families feel rejected, have a change of lifestyle, and become anti-social. A child from a broken family undergoes so many challenges such as fear, anger, grieve, depression, elation, sadness, self blame, anticipation and anxiety. Children are more likely to shows their pains through, drug misuse, alcohol intake, poor performance in school, frequent outbursts of shouting and crying (Ariseministeries.org).
From an in-depth assessment of marriage and divorce in both religions it is obvious that there are some common views which have shared practices, while some views vary in their practices. Everyone is at liberty to practice what he or she believes in, or what his or her religion permits on the practice of marriage and divorce. Researchers who study, divorce and compatibility state that “a high percentage of divorce could be prevented by compatibility matching, more selection of mates, a better understanding of each other, and premarital instruction of study" (Whipple and Whittle 6).
Cristina E. Eagan. “Attachment and Divorce: Family Consequences." Personalityresearch.org. May 2004.Web 21 Nov 2010.
Esposito, John L. and Natana J. DeLong-Bas. Women in Muslim Family Law. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2001. Print.
Goodman, Michael and David .C. Dollahite. “How Couples Perceive the Influence of God in their Marriage." Review of Religion Research 48.2 (Dec.2006): 141-155. JSTOR. Web. 13 Oct. 2010.
Holbrook, Evans. “Divorce Laws and The Increase of Divorce." Michael Law Review 8.5 (Mark.1910): 386-395. JSTOR. Web.21 Oct.2010.
The Holy Bible. Michigan: Zondervan Grand Rapids, 2002. Print.
The Holy Qur’an. Trans. by Abdullah Ali. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 2004. Print.
Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002. Print.
Nwogugu, E.I. Family Law in Nigeria. Ibadan: Heinemann Education Books, 1974. Print.
Rev. Philips Ayers. “Impact Divorce has on a Family."Ariseministries.org. n.d.Web. 22 Oct 2010.
Whipple,C., and Whittle, D. The Compatibility Test. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976.Print.