Opinion Editorials, November 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
Financial Help for Marriage
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Arab News, 11/28/03
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Marry the single from among you as well as such of your male and female slaves as are virtuous. If they are poor, God will grant them sufficiency out of His bounty. God is Munificent, all knowing.
As for those who are unable to marry, let them live in continence until God grants them sufficiency out of His bounty. And if any of your slaves desire to obtain a deed of freedom, write it out for them if you are aware of any good in them; and give them something of the wealth God has given you. Do not force you maids to prostitution when they desire to preserve their chastity, in order to make some worldly gain. If anyone should force them, then after they have been compelled, God will be much forgiving, merciful (to them).(Light, Al-Noor: 24: 32-33)
Commenting on the first of these two verses, we said last week that it states a requirement that the Muslim community must provide financial assistance to single people who wish to be married. In this way it helps them to guard their chastity and ensures that the Muslim community remains free of adultery. It is a preventive measure which is obligatory to the community, without forcing anyone to get married if he or she wishes to remain single.
We should remember though that Islam is a fully integrated system. Hence, it provides adequate measures to set the economy of the Muslim community on the right footing. Thus, it provides good job opportunities for those who are able to work, so that they do not need assistance from the treasury. However, in exceptional situations, the public treasury is required to provide such assistance. This means that in the Islamic economic system, everyone has an income to meet their needs. The provision of jobs giving adequate income is a duty of the Muslim state and a right owing to individual citizens. Giving financial assistance by the public treasury is the exception, not the rule.
When, despite all this, there remain in the community single men and women who are poor, unable to meet the expenses of marriage, the Muslim community must help them to get married. The same applies to slaves, of both sexes. However, this duty applies in the first place to their masters, if they can meet such expenses. Poverty should never be an impediment preventing marriage when single men or women are suitable for marriage and willing. It is God who provides for all. He has made it clear that He will give them enough when they choose the clean and healthy way, guarding their chastity through marriage. “If they are poor, God will grant them sufficiency out of His bounty.” The Prophet says: “Three categories of people have the right to help provided by God: A person striving for God’s cause, and a slave who has arranged to buy his own freedom and wants to fulfil his commitment, and one who wants to marry in order to guard his own chastity.” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nassaie).
Until the Muslim community provides the necessary help to enable them to get married, single people are instructed to guard their chastity. “As for those who are unable to marry, let them live in continence until God grants them sufficiency out of His bounty.” This He certainly does, because “God is munificent, all knowing.” He does not stint the means of a person who wants to stick to the way of purity and chastity as He is fully aware of people’s intentions.
We see how Islam provides practical solution to a real problem. Every individual who is fit to marry should be able to do so, even though he or she may not have the financial ability to get married. In most cases, money, or the lack of it, is the most difficult barrier that stops people from getting married.
It is recognized that the presence of slaves within the community allows moral standards to fall, encouraging loose moral attitudes because, generally speaking, slaves have a weaker sense of human dignity. At the same time slavery was inevitable at the advent of Islam so as to apply the same rules to captives of war as Muslim captives received at the hands of their captors. Yet Islam took a unilateral initiative to free slaves whenever possible, until a new world order allows for the total abolition of slavery.
It is in this vein that Islam requires that a slave who wishes to buy his own freedom should be freed in return for an agreed sum of money which he pays to his master. “And if any of your slaves desire to obtain a deed of freedom, write it out for them if you are aware of any good in them.”
Scholars have different views on whether this is obligatory, but we believe it to be so because it fits well with the line Islam adopts on freedom and human dignity. When a salve signs a deed of freedom, the money he earns through his own work belongs to him so that he could fulfil his commitment under the deed of freedom. What is more is that he can rightfully claim to be helped from zakah funds: “And give them something of the wealth God has given you.” The only condition that applies in such situations is that the master should be aware that the slave is a good person. The goodness that the verse refers to is that the slave should be a Muslim in the first place, and that he or she should be able to earn their living through their work. A freed slave should not become a liability to society, or forced to resort to degrading practices in order to survive. Islam lays down a system of social security which is very practical.
It does not raise empty slogans and tries to meet them without looking at the realities that follow. It does not merely seek to free slaves without giving that freedom real meaning. Slaves will not achieve a real standard of freedom unless they are able to earn their living so that they neither beg nor resort to some dirty practices to survive. Some such practices are far worse than slavery. Islam frees slaves in order to cleanse society, not to leave it to get more contaminated with vice.
By the grace of God, slavery has been abolished after the signing of international treaties and conventions that prohibit the enslavement of captives of war. Under Islam, slavery was allowed only provisionally, on the basis of measure for measure in the treatment of enemy captives of war.
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