Is cohabitation ever permissible for a Muslim?
Is cohabitation ever permissible for a practising Muslim? The answer is straightforward – no. Why does it have to be so flat? Why is there no chance of a concession? It is because Allah the Almighty is Himself strict about it. The rules and regulations which He passed on to us in the Holy Quran and the Hadiths leave no doubt or uncertainty that cohabitation between man and woman is only possible in one case – when they are married. This is the fundamental law of Islam which cannot be in any way compromised. “And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” (24:32)
A Muslim marriage must conform to a whole array of regulations and decrees. This complexity has an aim of bringing it home to man what an important step in a man’s or a woman’s life it is, how fateful it will be for themselves, their families, their children, the whole of umma. “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (30:21)
The Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad, who is always an example for each Muslim to follow, was married. He never ever contemplated ‘civil cohabitation’ with any of his wives because such relations are nothing but adultery (zina).
Muslim marriage means first and foremost responsibility of husband and wife towards each other. The husband must provide for his wife, look after her and love her. In a ‘civil cohabitation’ what power shall enforce this treatment on his part? It shall be no use to cite Allah’s decrees as the rule to follow, since formally the man and the woman are strangers to each other and each must take care themselves individually.
A Muslim marriage signify the obligation of the husband and wife to honour the laws of Islam and aide by the requirements of the Muslim faith. Without it, failure by either the man or the woman to perform such duties as namaz, zakat, dawa can no longer be reprimanded. How can one reprimand someone for something which looks minor sin as compared to the already committed major sin of zina, of the trampling under feet of the regulation of God the Almighty in respect of adultery in unmarried cohabitation?
‘Civil cohabitation’ is unable to preserve the religious and family values of Islam, a ‘civil marriage’ is always a temptation of taking up the easy way: you do not need Nikah to be married, you do not need Talaq to be divorced, a man cannot reprimand an improper wife because they are both ‘free individuals’ at liberty to do what they please. Such violation of the very foundations of Islam is terrifying. It is a sin, a major, deadly sin? One of the vilest sins which the devil uses to deprave men. Lured by the ease of such a relationship the people would step away from their Lord and head straight into the arms of the devil, who is the father of all abhorrence and depravity.
In modern societies, especially in non-Muslim countries, marriage is often re-defined. God urges us against such re-definition. He says to us that ‘marriage without marrying’ is bad for you. Satan urges us not to believe it. Whom shall we choose to trust? “And Allah has made for you from yourselves mates and has made for you from your mates sons and grandchildren and has provided for you from the good things. Then in falsehood do they believe and in the favour of Allah they disbelieve?” (16:72)