Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men


Finding a Spouse


From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim



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Supplementary summaries of hadiths concerning finding a spouse:



Muhrim forbidden to marry (hadith). Proposing marriage, getting married[1] and arranging the marriage of another person[2] is forbidden to a muhrim (i.e., one in the state of ihram, the sacred state associated with pilgrimage – hajj or ‘umrah). There are hadith reports that Muhammad married one of his wives while he was a muhrim[3] but other reports say that this did not happen.[4]



Special case of Muhammad forbidding a marriage (hadith). The Qur’an says that a man may wed any woman other than those listed as forbidden.[5] However, hadiths say that Muhammad refused to permit his son-in-law, Ali, to marry another woman, the daughter of Abu Jahl.[6] Ali’s wife, Fatima, who was Muhammad’s daughter, complained to Muhammad that Ali intended to marry this other woman.[7] Muhammad said that what his daughter dislikes, he also dislikes.[8] He said that even though the marriage would be lawful and he would not forbid what is lawful,[9] his own daughter, Fatima, and a daughter of an enemy of Allah could not be married to the same man.[10] (The woman’s father, Abu Jahl, was a polytheist who had openly contradicted and mocked the religion of Muhammad.[11]) Muhammad said that Ali would have to divorce Fatima before he would permit Ali to marry the other woman.[12]



Qur’an verse on orphans and marriage explained by Aisha (hadith). Hadiths report that Aisha, one of Muhammad’s wives, gave an explanation of a verse from the Qur’an concerning orphans and marriage.[13] This Qur’an verse (4:3) says that if a man fears that he will not act justly toward the orphans, then he should marry women – two, three or four.[14] Aisha said that this Qur’an verse was revealed when a man married an orphan under his care because she owned a date palm garden, not because he loved her.[15]


Aisha said that this verse (Qur’an 4:3) refers to men who are the guardians of female orphans and who were attracted to their wealth and beauty and wanted to marry them. The Qur’an verse is, according to Aisha, intended to prevent such a marriage unless the man pays the full bridal payment (mahr*) appropriate for that woman. If they would not pay the mahr that the orphan merits, then the guardian is instructed to marry other women instead.[16]


In other reported hadith reports, Aisha says that the verse (Qur’an 4:3) means that if an orphan woman’s guardian does not treat her decently and does not manage her property fairly and honestly, then he should not marry her, but should marry other women – two, three or four – instead.[17]


Aisha said that when people asked Muhammad about this verse from the Qur’an, another verse (4:127) was revealed as further explanation.[18] Qur’an verse 4:127 says that there is a pronouncement in the Book (referring to verse 4:3 of the Qur’an, according to Aisha) concerning men who desire to marry orphan women without giving them the amount prescribed for them; orphans must be treated justly. Aisha said that this refers not only to a guardian who wanted to marry an orphan without giving her the prescribed bridal payment (mahr), but also to a guardian who did not want to marry an orphan because she was not rich or beautiful.[19] The guardians generally refrain from marrying such orphans who lack wealth and beauty.[20] This is why they must deal justly by giving the full prescribed mahr to those whom they do marry.[21] Also, if the guardian later became interested in marrying such an orphan as he has previously rejected for her lack of wealth and beauty, he must treat her fairly by giving her the full prescribed mahr and securing all her rights.[22]


In other reported hadiths, Aisha said that Qur’an verse 4:127 is about a guardian of a female orphan who does not want to marry her but shares her property with her and refuses to let her marry someone else because he does not want her property shared with another man.[23] The Qur’an verse requires him to permit her marriage to another man.[24]



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*Mahr is a payment given by the groom to the bride upon their marriage.



Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.


Updated October 12, 2016



Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

[1] ML 8:3278, ML 8:3279, ML 8:3280, ML 8:3281, ML 8:3282

[2] ML 8:3278

[3] ML 8:3283, ML 8:3284

[4] ML 8:3283, ML 8:3285

[5] QR 4:24

[6] BK 5:57:76, BK 7:62:157, ML 31:5999, ML 31:6001, ML 31:6002

[7] ML 31:6002

[8] BK 5:57:76, BK 7:62:157, ML 31:5999

[9] ML 31:6001

[10] BK 5:57:76, ML 31:6001, ML 31:6002

[11] BK 1:4:241, BK 2:23:442, BK 4:52:185, BK 5:58:223, BK 6:60:197, BK 6:60:295, ML 1:36, ML 19:4421, ML 39:6717, ML 39:6718

[12] BK 7:62:157, ML 31:5999

[13] BK 3:44:674, BK 4:51:25, BK 6:60:98, BK 7:62:2, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:71, BK 9:86:95, ML 43:7156-7157

[14] QR 4:3

[15] BK 6:60:97

[16] BK 3:44:674, BK 4:51:25, BK 6:60:98, BK 7:62:2, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:71, BK 9:86:95, ML 43:7156-7157

[17] BK 7:62:35, ML 43:7158

[18] BK 3:44:674, BK 4:51:25, BK 6:60:98, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:71, BK 9:86:95, ML 43:7156-7157

[19] BK 3:44:674, BK 4:51:25, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:71, ML 43:7156-7157

[20] BK 3:44:674, BK 4:51:25, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:71

[21] BK 6:60:98

[22] BK 3:44:674, BK 4:51:25, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:71, ML 43:7156-7157

[23] BK 6:60:124, BK 7:62:59, BK 7:62:62, ML 43:7159, ML 43:7160

[24] BK 7:62:62