Kafaah in marriage
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
Saiduna Ali Radiallahu Anhu narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam said, “O Ali! Never delay in 3 matters; Salaat – when it’s time is nigh; Janaaza – when it is ready (before you), an unmarried woman – when her Kuff (suitable partner) is found.” (Sunan Tirmizi p.43 v.1)
The Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam said, “Listen! Women should be married off only by their guardians and their marriage should take place only with suitable matches.” (Sunan Baihaqi)
Mufti Shafee (RA) has written in his Maariful Quran:
“Marriage (nikah) is a matter in which the absence of homogeneity in the temperaments of the spouses disturbs the purpose of marriage, disturbs the process of fulfilling each others rights and breeds mutual disputes. Therefore, the Shari’ah has ordered that kafa’ah (mutual likeness) should be taken into consideration. But, it never means that a man of high family background starts taking a man from a family lesser than him as low and mean. In Islam, the criterion of low and high is based on Taqwa and love for one’s faith. Whoever does not have it, no matter how noble his family is, he yet has no status in the sight of Allah.
So this order to take kafaah (mutual equality) into consideration in marriages has been given only to keep the management of matters smooth and straight.
In a hadith, the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam has been reported to have said that the nikah (marriage) of girls should invariably be through their guardians. Modesty demands that her parents and guardians should handle this matter. And he said that the nikah of girls should invariably be solemnized within their kuff (equal, like). Though, the authority of this Hadith is weak but with the support from the reports and sayings of the noble Sahabah, it becomes worth being used as an argument.
In Kitab ul-Athar, Imam Muhammad (RA) has reported from Saiduna Umar Radiallahu Anhu saying: “I shall issue an operative order that no girl from some high and recognized family should be given in marriage to another having a lesser status.” Similarly, Saidah Aishah Radiallahu Anha and Saiduna Anas Radiallahu Anhu have also stressed that Kafaah (likeness) should be taken into consideration in nikah (marriage) – as reported from several authorities. Imam Ibn Humam has also written about it in detail in Fath al-Qadir.
Hence, the outcome is that the consideration of kafa’ah (equalness and likeness) in nikah (marriage) is desirable in religion, so that the spouses live in accord and harmony. But, should some other important consideration, more important than this kafaah, come up then it is permissible for the woman and her guardians that they surrender this right of theirs and marry in ghayr kuff, that is other than equal and like. Particularly so when there is some religious consideration in sight – if so, it is better and more merit worthy to do so, as proved from several events pertaining to the noble Sahabah. Incidentally, from this we also know that these events do not negate the basic premise of the issue of kafaah.” (p.160 & p.161 v.7)
Mullah Ali Qari (RA) writes quoting from Allahmah Tibi (RA) ‘the view of the majority is that four things will be considered whether a man is compatible for a woman; religion, being a freed person, lineage and profession.’ Therefore, a Muslimah cannot marry a non-Muslim, a free woman will not marry a slave, a woman with an established lineage will not marry someone with an unknown lineage and a woman with a good profession will not marry someone with a lowly job. (Mirqat p.271 v.6)
The Prophet of Allah Salallahu Alahi Wasalam has said, “A lady is married for one of four reasons, wealth, rank, beauty or piety. Choose the possessor of piety and achieve success.” (Sahih Bukhari p.762 v.2)
Regarding this hadeeth, Hafiz Ibn Hajar (RA) has said in Fathul Bari: “And it is taken from this that one with a noble lineage, it is better for him to marry one with a noble lineage, unless the lineage contradicts with a religious woman, or one with noble lineage contradicts a non-religious woman, then the religious woman is chosen. And it is likewise in the other three traits.” (p.41 v.9)
The Jurists have stated that among Arabs, a non-Quraishi male is not a match (Kuf) for a Quraishi woman, nor can any person of non-Arab descent be a match for a woman of Arab descent. For example, the Sayyids, whether Siddique or Farooque, Uthmaani or Alawi, or belonging to some other branch can never be matched by any person not sharing their lineage, no matter his profession and family status. The Sayyids are suitable matches for one another, since they share descent from the Quraishi tribe. Thus, marriages between themselves are correct and permitted without any condition as appearing in Durrul Mukhtar:
“And Kafaah in lineage. Thus the Quraysh are suitable matches for one another as are the (other) Arabs suitable matches for one another.”
The ruling relevant to non-Arabs is as follows: ‘An Ajmi (non-Arab) cannot be a match for a woman of Arab descent, no matter that he be an Aalim (religious scholar) or even a Sultan (ruling authority). (Raddul Muhtar p.209 v.4)
Among Arabs, Kafaah with regards to professions is not considered since such does not usually form a basis for respectability in their society. Rather, all professions are regarded equal. A person of a certain profession does not usually regard another as of lower in status. This is contrary to the practise of non-Arabs who consider professions as status in their society. Professions are accorded different levels in status and on this basis; association of a person of superior profession with another of a lesser degree is regarded as difficult. It is for this reason the noble Shari’ah has taken Kafa’aat into consideration in worldly dealings (although in the sight of Allah, such things are no measure of superiority or inferiority).
Thus, the jurists have stated that a weaver is not a Kuff (match) of a tailor, rather he is inferior nor is a tailor the Kuff of a cloth merchant nor a cloth merchant the Kuff of an Aalim or Qadhi (judge of an Islamic court). (Raddul Muhtar p.211 v.4)
With regards to your questions according to the principles of the Hanafi Fiqh a non Sayid boy cannot be a Kuff for a Sayid girl. However, as the issue of Kafaah is looked from the girl’s side and not from the boy, thus, a non-Sayid girl can be a Kuff for a Sayid boy. In terms of whether the marriage of a Sayid boy or girl to a non – Sayid is permissible or not there are differences of opinions with the mufta-bihi-qawl (upon which the fatwa has been given) is on the verdict of Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad. They say due to the corrupt nature of society if a woman gets married without her guardian’s permission, the marriage will still be valid. (Raddul Muhtar p.157 v.4)
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham