Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

The Rules in Marriage and Celibacy

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Chapter XXIII (l)

The Rules in Marriage and Celibacy


Allah hath said:

هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ

“They (women) are your garments and ye are their garments,” (Q 2:187).

And the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

تنا كحوا وتكا ثروا فاني اباهي بكم الا مم يوم القيامة ولوبالسقط

“Marry, that you may multiple, for I will boast against all other nations on the Day of Resurrection, even in respect of the still-born.”

And he also said:

ان اعظم النساء بركة احسنهن وجوهًا وارخصهن مهورًا

“The women who bring the greatest blessing are they whose faces are comeliest, and whose dowries are cheapest.”

Marriage is lawful to all men and women, and is obligatory on those who cannot abstain from what is unlawful, and is a Sunnah for those who are able to support a family.

Some of the Sufi Sheikhs hold that marriage is desirable as a means to suppress lust, and acquisition is desirable as a means of freeing the mind from anxiety. Others hold that the marriage is must to have children and to safeguard the race. If the child dies before its father, it will intercede for him (before Allah), and if the father dies first, the child remains to pray for him.

Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) sent a message to Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) to marry with his daughter Umme Kalthum (daughter of Fatima, may Allah be pleased with them)). Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) replied that the girl was still adolescent and you were aged and otherwise also he wanted to marry her with his nephew. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) sent the message to Ali that:

“There is no dearth of women, the object behind asking Umme Kalthum for marriage is not to satisfy desire of nafs (lower soul) but to generate the race because I have heard Prophet (peace be upon him) saying,

كل سبب ونسب ينقطع الا سببي ونسبي

every lineage will extinct except mine.”

I have a pedigree but I want that my lineage also mingle with my friend so that I become his true follower from both the sides. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) consented to his proposal and married her daughter with him. Zaid b Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was born from them.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

تنكح النساء علي اربعة: علي المال والحسب والحسن  والدين,

وعليكم بذات الدين فانه ما استفاد امرء بعد الاسلام خيرا من زوجة مومنة ليسربها اذا نظراليها

“Women are married for four reasons:

-          wealth,

-          nobility,

-          beauty, and

-          religion.

You marry with one that is religious, for, after Islam there is nothing that profit a man so much as a believing and obedient wife who gladdens him whenever he looks on her.”

For a Muslim after the wealth of Islam the agreeable pious wife is the best delight, so he has intimacy with her and she may be cause of strength for him in religious matters and he be blessed with love. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Satan is the associate of lonely,” because when man or woman is alone Satan becomes their host and decks out lust and present it to their minds. To safeguard against lustfulness and to keep a watch over honor and piety no companionship is more in harmony than binding of marriage. But there must be love, affection and mental equilibrium amongst the married couple. There is no torment and anxiety as great as association of an uncongenial wife. Therefore the dervish must, in the first place, consider what he is doing and picture in his mind the evils of celibacy and of marriage, in order that he may choose the state of which he can more easily overcome the evils.

There are two evils of celibacy, the neglect of Sunnah, and the fostering of lust in the heart and the danger of falling into unlawful ways. Similarly the marriage has also two evils, the preoccupation of mind with other (than Allah), and the distraction of the body for the sake of sensual pleasure. The root of this matter lies in solitude or companionship. Marriage is proper for those who prefer to associate with mankind, and celibacy is an ornament to those who seek seclusion from mankind.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

سيرواسبق المفردون

“hurry up, the single ones have taken lead over you,”

and Hasan Basri said,

نجا المخفون و هلك المثقلون

the lightly burned shall be delivered and the heavily laden shall perish.”

Ibrahim Khawwas related:

I went to a village to visit a reverend elder who lived there. When I entered his house I found it neat and clean like a saint’s place of worship. There were two niches at the worship place, one was occupied by the elder and in the second a graceful pious old woman was seated. Both had become weak through much devotion. They showed great joy at my coming, and I stayed with them for three days. When I was about to depart I asked the old man about his relation with that chaste woman. He told that she was his cousin and wife. I pointed out to him that during my stay with them I found their intimacy towards each other of strangers. He said yes, for the last sixty five years it has been like that. When I asked him the cause to this he told:

“We were in love with each other in our childhood, but her father was reluctant to marry her with me because he had discovered our fondness for each other. We remained separated for quite some time until after her father’s death my father, who was her uncle, married her with me. On the wedding-night she said to me, see how big happiness Allah has bestowed upon us in bringing us together and taking all fear away from our hearts. Let us therefore tonight refrain from sensual passion and worship Allah in thanksgiving. I agreed to her pious idea. Next night she bade me to do the same. On the third night I said to her that we had given thanks for two nights for her sake, tonight let us worship Allah for my sake. Sixty five years have passed since then, and we have never touched one another, but spent our lives in giving thanks for our happiness.”

When a dervish chooses to marry a woman, it behooves him that until he provides his wife with lawful food and pays her dowry out of lawful property, and fulfills obligation towards Allah and his wife, should not indulge in sensual pleasure. He should only approach to his wife when he has finished up with his devotion. When he is about to go to bed, he should say, as in secret converse with Allah:

“O Lord, Thou hast mingled lust with Adam’s clay in order that the world may be populated, and Thou in Thy knowledge hast willed that I should have this intercourse. Cause it to be for the sake of two things: firstly, to guard that which is unlawful by means of that which is lawful; and secondly, vouchsafe to me a child, saintly and acceptable to Thy, not one who will divert my thoughts from Thee.”

It is related about the son of Sahl b. Abdullah al-Tustari that whenever the child asked his mother for food, she used to bid him to ask Allah. While he used to be in prayer mother would put some eatables in front of him without letting him to know. Thus he grew accustomed to turn unto Allah. One day he came back from school when his mother was absent, and bowed himself in prayer. Allah caused the thing that he sought to appear before him. When his mother came in she asked, “From where did you get this?” The boy answered, “From the place whence it comes always.”

Similarly Zakarriya (may blessings of Allah be on him) when ever he visited Mary used to find unseasoned fruit with her. Amazed, he would ask her that from where they had come. Mary would answer, from Allah.

Beware that the practice of Sunnah must not lead the dervish to seek worldly wealth and unlawful gain or preoccupation of his heart, for the dervish is ruined by the destruction of his heart, just as the rich man is ruined by the destruction of his house and furniture; but the rich man can repair his loss, while the dervish cannot. It is impossible in our time for anyone to have a suitable wife, whose wants are not excessive and whose demands are not unreasonable. Therefore many persons have adopted celibacy and take guideline from this Hadith. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

خير الناس في ا خرالزمان خفيف الحال

“The best of men in later days would be one with light back.”

The companions asked who the lights of back were. He said:

الذي لا اهل له ولا و لد له

“who has neither wife nor child.”

Similarly he said:

سيرواسبق المفردون

“Hurry up, the single ones have preceded you,”

The Sheikhs have unanimous opinion that the celibates are the best if their hearts are uncontaminated and if their natures are not inclined to sins and lusts. The common people to gratify their lusts refer to this Hadith:

حبب الي من دنيا كم ثلث الطيب والنساء وجعلت قرة عيني في الصلوة

“The three things of your world have been made favorite for me, scent, women, and prayer.”

The one who likes women more, for him act of marriage is better. I ask them that the Prophet (peace be upon him) also said,

لي حرفتان الفقروالجهاد

“I have two trades, poverty and jihad (war against infidels),”

why, do they run away from these? If he loved that (viz. marriage), this (viz. poverty and jihad) was his trade. Since your desires have a greater tendency to the former, but it is absurd on that ground to say that he loved what you desire. Anyone who follows his desires for fifty years and supposes that he is following the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is in grave error.

A woman was the cause of the first calamity that overtook Adam in Paradise, and also of the first quarrel that happened in this world, i.e. the quarrel of Abel and Cain. A woman was the cause of the punishment inflicted on the two angels (Harut and Marut) and down to the present day all mischief, worldly and religious, have been caused by women.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

ما تركت بعدي فتنة اضرعلي الرجال من النساء

“There is no worse danger for the men than the evils of women.”

After Allah had preserved me for eleven years from the dangers of matrimony, it was my destiny to fall in love with the description of a woman whom I had never seen, and during a whole year my passion so absorbed me that my religion was near being ruined, until at last Allah in His bounty gave protection to my wretched heart and mercifully delivered me.

The foundation of Sufism depends on being remain celibate. The things change after marriage. There is nothing more dangerous in the world than the force of lust. This incursion of lust can only be checked with similar vigorous effort and struggle. Whatever vice proceeds from ones ownself, its cure also lies within him. Nothing from outside can vanish this fault. The removal of lust may be effected by two things, i.e. through self-constraints and while the other lies outside the sphere of human action and mortification. The attempt through self constraint is hunger and the later is an agitating fear or a true love, which slowly travels to all parts of the body and overwhelms them. It after divesting all the senses absorbs them in itself and cleanses it from all useless things.

Ahmad Hammadi of Sarkhasi, who went to Transoxania and lived there, was a venerable man. On being asked whether he desired to marry, he answered:

“No, because I am either absent from myself or present from myself, when I am absent, I have no consciousness of the two worlds; and when I am present, I keep my lower soul in such state that when it gets a loaf of bread it thinks that it has got a thousands houris. It is a great thing to occupy the mind, let it be anxious about whatever you will.”

Others again recommend that neither state (marriage or celibacy) should be regarded with preference, in order that we may see what the decree of Divine providence will bring to light. If celibacy be our lot, we should strive to be chaste, and if marriage be our destiny, we should comply with the custom of the Prophet and struggle our hearts (of worldly anxieties).

When Allah ordains celibacy unto a man, his celibacy should be like that of Yusaf (may blessings of Allah be on him), who, although was able to satisfy his desire for Zulaikha, turned away from her and busied himself with subduing his passion and considering the vices of his lower soul at the moment when Zulaikha was alone with him. And if Allah ordains marriage unto a dervish, his marriage should be like that of Abraham (may blessings of Allah be on him), who by reason of his absolute confidence in Allah put aside all care for his wife and when Sarah became jealous he took Hagar and brought her to a barren valley and committed her to the care of Allah.

A man is not ruined by marriage or by celibacy, but the mischief consists in asserting one's authority and in yielding to one's desire. The married man ought to observe the following rules.

-          He should not leave any act of devotion undone, or let not any state be lost or any “time” be wasted.

-          He should be kind to his wife and should provide her with lawful expenses, and he should not pay court to tyrants and governors with the object of meeting her expenses.

-          He should behave thus in order that if a child is born, it should also follow the same path.

One day Ahmad b. Harb of Nishapur, when he was sitting with the chiefs and nobles of Nishapur who had come to offer their respects to him, his son entered the room, drunk and singing passed by insolently without paying any heed to them. All the audiences felt sad. Perceiving their tolerance Ahmad asked what was the matter. They replied that they were ashamed on that lad should pass by you in such a state. Ahmad said:

“He is excusable. One night my wife and I shared some food that was brought to us from a neighbor’s house. Same night this son was begotten, and we fell asleep and let our devotions go. Next morning we inquired of our neighbor as to the source of the food that he had sent to us, and we found that it came from a wedding feast in the house of a government official.”

The following rules should be observed by the celibate.

-          He must not eye on improper. 

-          Should not listen which is harmful to hear and should not look at which is unworthy to sight.

-          He should keep his mind free from evil thoughts.

-          He must put out the flames of lust by hunger.

-          Should guard his heart from the worldly preoccupations.

-          He must not call the desire of his lower soul “knowledge” or “inspiration”.

-          Must not make the wiles of Satan a pretext (for sin).

If he acts thus he will be approved on the Path of the Truth.

These were the manners of companionship and conduct in brief, for a little is sufficient reasoning to understand better.



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Zahid Javed Rana, Abid Javed Rana, Lahore, Pakistan

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