Question : Respected scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. I am a 26 year old female and my parents are asking me to get married but I want to be single all my life. I am afraid of this commitment because I have seen my parents’ dysfunctional marriage. And is it necessary for a woman to marry? Jazakum Allahu Khayran.
Answer : Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Thanks for your interesting question, which reflects your deep belief in the fact that Islam has answers for every problem facing mankind. Our utmost wish is just for all of us to adhere to the teachings of this great religion which came to save mankind from the peril of succumbing to the material life, to rescue it from darkness and following whims and self inclinations, and bring it into the light of guidance and eternal prosperity.
Although marriage is generally considered a highly recommended act, from the Islamic point of view marriage differs according to the state and conditions of each person: It can be highly recommended in some cases, or even obligatory under certain conditions. It can also be prohibited or only permitted under other circumstances.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada , states the following:
While you are advised to be respectful to your parents and be extremely gentle and compassionate in dealing and interacting with them, and to try your best to understand their feelings and appreciate their anxieties, the final decision about your marriage is left to you and not to them.
Your parents have every right to advise you and offer you the best insights they can give you, and you must thank them for this; nevertheless, when it comes to the issue of your marriage, it is you and you alone who ought to decide whether you wish to get married, when and where, and with whom. Your parents can only make suggestions. It may be in your best interest to benefit from such insights that they can offer, however, the final decision is solely yours and not theirs. For you are the one who is going to live with your marriage partner.
Having said this, however, I must point out that the negative views you have about marriage are due to your past experiences. To generalize based on this experience is, at best, wrong. Islam teaches us not to get carried away by impulsive, whimsical inclinations in our judgments. We must take into account all aspects of an issue before coming to a sound judgment.
The fact that your experience of marriage has been negative does not in any way prove that all marriages are the same. Success or failure of a marriage is dependent, in large measure, on the kind of attitudes of life one brings to it. As Muslims, we believe that the recipe for good life is contained in accepting the sovereignty of Allah and acting upon the guidance He has sent down: Allah says, [Verily this Qur’an guides (humanity) to a state of being that is most upright (and fulfilling) … ] (Al-Israa’ 17: 9).
Finally, in regards to your question about the precise status of marriage in Islam, the answer is that it varies according to the person and their circumstance. In other words, marriage is obligatory on those who are unable to control their desires and are afraid of falling into sin; it is recommended for all those who have desire for union and yet do not fear falling into sin; it is undesirable for those who have no desire and are afraid of fulfilling their spousal obligations; and it is clearly forbidden for those who have no desire whatsoever and are incapable of doing justice, and may end up harming or injuring their partners. An example is someone who has a sexually transmitted disease which they may end up passing to others if they get married.
To conclude: If you belong to the category of those who have no desire for union, and you feel you cannot fulfill the spousal obligations, then there is nothing wrong for you to remain a celibate. That decision is solely yours, and your parents have no right to force you to get married. May Allah help us see truth as truth and follow it, and may He help us to see error as error and shun it—ameen.
Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: http://www.islam.ca