I ask this question on behalf of someone I know:
There is a 42-year-old woman, divorced with two children. She is in a desperate situation, and due to various reasons, no body marries her. There is, however, a man willing to marry her but due to his own circumstances he cannot do it openly and live with her in the society. The purpose of this marriage is moral and monetary support. He is willing to recite Surahs and take her as his wife making Allah as a witness. The woman’s mother has also allowed the marriage due to no other alternative.
Is such a relationship allowed?
Before we consider the particular situation that you have mentioned in your letter, please refer to my previous response to a similar question.
You shall note that one of the two necessary conditions for a nikah to be valid is the declaration of the contract in the society. Without this declaration, no distinction can be made between a man and a woman living together with or without marriage. The basic difference between a lawful marital relationship between a man and a woman and a sexual relationship between a man and a woman who are not married to each other is the social recognition that the former possesses and the latter lacks. Moreover, nikah is not merely a religious but a socio-religious affair. In other words, nikah is not merely an oath taken in God’s presence but is actually a declaration of a social contract – based on an oath taken in God’s presence – in the society.
Even under conditions that you have mentioned in your question, a secret nikah cannot be allowed.
To be honest, the fact that the woman’s mother is willing to allow such a nikah is quite astonishing. After all, if the man, due to his particular circumstances, is neither willing to live with the woman nor to give her the social recognition of being his wife, why, then, is he doing the great service of “marrying a helpless divorced woman” at all? I fail to understand why is the mother hopeful that the person, who is not even willing to declare her daughter as his lawfully wedded wife, will suddenly develop the courage to own the children born of this secret wedlock as his children. What shall be the future of those children if the same “pressing circumstances” continue, due to which the person is not in a position today to declare the marriage in the society?
We must always be mindful of the fact that the evil forces are not so naive as to suggest evil bluntly. Evil suggestions are normally instigated in the most attractive wrappings of “good” and “morality”. Therefore, please excuse me for being so blunt, but I would suggest that even though the “purpose of this marriage is moral and monetary support”, yet Islam has saved all such helpless divorced women from a lot of additional pain and suffering by not allowing such secret marriage contracts.
25th August 1999