Asalamu Alaikum Heidi,
Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.
Like you said, Islam does indeed place a strong emphasis on getting married. This is because marriage allows a Muslim to satisfy their biological desires, and to start a family.
Marriage is the only divinely endorsed method of bringing the next generation of human beings into this world.
Hence, it offers a win-win solution for many natural human needs and aspects of communal life, such as the fulfillment of sexual desires, the need for familial companionship and love, and the proper parenting of the next generation.
It also forms the foundation of all other familial relationships, such as parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, and cousins.
That being said, it is also true that there will always be some individuals in the human race who are neither inclined towards, nor naturally ‘wired’ for marriage and parenthood.
These include, but are not limited to: people who have little to no sexual desire; those who prefer solitude and quiet over boisterous familial company; those who like to spend most of their time in voluntary worship; those who have an intensely demanding occupation that leaves them no time for others: and those who are infertile or don’t want children.
It also includes those who do not get married, despite trying their best. For some, Allah Almighty decrees no marriage and no children. That is just the way it is.
Even though, usually these people are the exceptions rather than the norm in society, other Muslims should try not to marginalize or look down upon them for their lifestyle.
We all should learn to accept that, for some of us, marriage is just not decreed. And that is perfectly okay, as long as those who remain unmarried lead a righteous life.
Some of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him-PBUH) harbored an inclination towards celibacy, as is obvious from the narration:
The Messenger of Allah forbade `Uthman to be celibate. If he had given him permission we would have castrated ourselves. (Sunan Al-Nisa’i )
This means that the companions wanted to control their temptations and would have terminated the source of their desires, had Islam allowed them to.
Instead, the Prophet (PBUH) emphasized and encouraged marriage as a halal way of channeling these desires, and of seeking righteous offspring as an ongoing charity after death.
There are, however, examples of righteous individuals throughout Islamic history who never married. They still served Islam and were/are positive role models for the generations to come. They are: Ibn Taimiyyah, Jareer Al-Tabari, the author of Tafsir Al-Tabari, and Imam Al-Nawawi, and so on.
Al-Nawawi states in his Al-Minhaj:
Marriage is recommended for the one who has a need to marry and the financial means. If one does not have the financial means, it will be recommended to abstain from marrying. If one has no need to marry, then it is disliked to marry. If he does not have the financial means, otherwise, it will not be disliked, but devoting one’s self for worship is better.
The above quote clearly indicates that if a man or woman has “no need to marry”–meaning they have low or no sexual desire, and no desire for a family–then it is better for them not to marry. Rather, they should devote their life to worship.
Sister Heidi, I do acknowledge the existence of the many challenges that my Muslim convert sisters in the West face regarding marriage.
Especially since they already have to overcome additional hurdles post-conversion, such as their biological family’s opposition to their decision to convert; the necessity to work to support themselves financially; extreme incompatibility with Muslim men hailing from other cultures; and, most importantly, safeguarding their faith alone in an increasingly Islamophobic environment.
I agree that, for some sisters, remaining celibate might be the safest option for them– spiritually, mentally, physically, financially, and psychologically. InshaAllah (God willing), they will not be counted as the “worst of the ummah” because of their celibacy. No one can say this because no one knows better than Allah Almighty what their circumstances are and what resides in their hearts.
And Allah knows best.
I hope that this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
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