Short Answer: Scholars are of the opinion that choosing a fertile woman is preferable, not obligatory. So any man who wishes to marry an infertile woman may do so. This also applies to men, i.e. a Muslim woman is not encouraged to marry an infertile man.
Asalaamu alaykum, and thank you for sending in your question to our website.
First of all, brother, I ask Allah to reward you for your concern about the minority (and often marginalized, in many cultures) population of female Muslims, who are unable to produce children.
Sometimes, Allah decrees for some of His slaves to be infertile.
So, it could happen that a woman may not be able to have children, either because she is unable to conceive at all, or because she is unable to carry a pregnancy to fruition (i.e. she miscarries every pregnancy).
One thing is true: there will be many among Muslims who will never have any children. This is something that Allah has stated in the Qur’an Himself:
“….and He causes to be barren whomever He wills..” [42:50]
Instead of the Prophetic narration that you have quoted in which Muslim men are encouraged to marry fertile women and to have many children, your question is a very valid one: don’t the infertile women among the Muslims deserve to get married?
Do they not deserve to have a husband to enjoy romantic companionship with?
To have their sexual desires satisfied?
To have a man provide for and protect them?
The answer to these questions is: yes!
This is because any superiority among human beings in Islam is based only upon taqwa (righteousness).
If Allah decrees not to grant a blessing to one of His slaves (in this case, the ability to bear children), how can He deprive them of other blessings (i.e. the halal pleasures of marriage) because of what He withheld from them, Himself?
Children are a Blessing
It was narrated that Ma’qil ibn Yasar (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: I have found a woman who is of good lineage and beautiful, but she cannot have children. Should I marry her?
He said: No.
Then he came to him a second time, and he told him not (to marry that woman).
Then he came to him a third time and he said: “Marry the one who is loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the nations.” [Al-Nasa’i & Abu Dawud]
The Prophet’s refusal to allow the man to marry an infertile woman does not mean that doing so is prohibited (haram), rather, it is only discouraged (makrooh), in the eyes of scholars.
This is because, in Islam, children are regarded as blessings, not burdens.
That is why, having children is considered one of the primary purposes of marriage in Islam, and a willful aversion to bearing children is not considered praiseworthy.
Scholars are of the opinion that choosing a fertile woman is preferable (mustahab), not obligatory.
Ibn Qudamah said, “It is mustahab that she be from a family whose women are known to bear many children.”
Al-Manawi said in Faid Al Qadeer, “Marrying a woman who is not fertile is makrooh.”
Brother, the disliked status of marrying someone who is infertile, also applies to men, i.e. a Muslim woman is not encouraged to marry an infertile man.
However, if she agrees to it, she may do so, particularly if he is righteous and has other virtues.
Similarly, any man who wishes to marry an infertile woman may do so.
Even though, one of the main purposes of marriage in Islam is to produce the next generation of Muslims, and to raise them upon Islam, it is not the only purpose.
Guarding the private parts, satisfying sexual urges and enjoying amiable romantic companionship are also important purposes.
This is especially more so in the contemporary world of global connectivity and rampant sexual fitnah, in which adultery has become much easier to commit than ever before in human history.
Women of Virtue
Please recall that our own mother, Prophet Muhammad’s wife, A’ishah bint Abu Bakr, did not have any children.
Nor did Prophet Abraham’s wife Sarah, until Allah blessed her with a son, Ishaq, in very old age.
Also, Maryam bint `Imran had only one son, Jesus.
Were these noble women not highly virtuous?
Has Allah not bestowed them with immense praise and honor, Himself?
They did not bear many children, yet Allah decreed for them to be the wives and mothers of His noble Prophets!
In lieu of this, it is not at all allowed for members of Muslim society to, in any way, marginalize, undermine, or demean the virtues of those Muslim women who are unable to have children.
Rather, they should be considered worthy Muslims, especially if they are righteous and productive members of society who benefit others.
And it is permissible for Muslim men to marry them, as long as they are aware of their to-be wives’ infertility before the marriage.
Yes, in answer to your question, a Muslim man will be rewarded for marrying an infertile woman.
He should do so with the noble intentions of fulfilling all her rights as her husband.
Last but not least, adoption exists as the very reward-worthy higher road that such Muslim couples can choose to take, if they wish.
And Allah knows best. I hope that this answers your question.
Salam. Please stay in touch.
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