Women and Freedom

3. Freedom in Marriage
Like men, women are completely free in marriage and choosing their spouse. A mature woman may not be married without her consent and such a marriage is void. No one has the right to force a woman to marry or to choose a specific husband for her, even one’s father, mother, sibling, or grandparents. Imam Sadiq (‘a) has stated:
“Women must be asked permission for their marriage, virgin or otherwise, and marriage is not correct without the woman’s behest.”6
Concerning a man who wanted to marry off his sister, Imam Sadiq (‘a) stated:
“She must be asked permission; if she is reticent, her silence is permission. However, marriage is not correct without the woman’s behest.”7
Hence, in order for a marriage to be correct, the acquiescence of the woman is necessary regardless of whether she is a virgin or not. Here, the question arises that: in order for a marriage to be correct, in addition to the woman’s consent, is her father or grandfather’s consent also a requirement?
The answer of this question has been expounded thus: If the woman is not a virgin (hence previously married), the consent of her father or grandfather is not necessary and she may decide to remarry independently. Various Hadith have emphasized this fact. Regarding the marriage of a non-virgin woman, Imam Sadiq (‘a) has stated:
“She has more authority over herself than any other person. If she has had a previous marriage, she can choose her desired spouse for remarriage if he is good for her.”8
Imam Sadiq (‘a) has also stated:
“There is no problem with a non-virgin (previously married) woman getting married without the consent of her father if she has no defects.”9
However, if a woman is a virgin (and previously unmarried), almost all religious jurisprudents [faqih] regard the permission of the father or grandfather necessary for her marriage and have substantiated this claim with various Hadith. Imam Sadiq (‘a) has declared:
“A virgin woman who has a father must not marry without her father’s consent.”10
The freedom of virgin women in choosing a husband has only been restricted in this case to the permission of their fathers or grandfathers. Even so, this restriction is not only not harmful to the woman, it is primarily in her good interests. Because virgin women have not married before, they have no experience is this matter and cannot completely investigate their suitor due to their modesty. In this case, they need a compassionate, loving, and experienced advisor who can give them guidance. Hence, a father or grandfather is the best person for aiding the woman in this important and fateful issue.
Consultation with and permission of the father has an additional benefit. It is a type of respect towards the father, seeking his approval and cooperating with him. Doubtless, this will have a great part in improvement of family relations, the future life of the married couple, and the solving of potential problems.
However, it must be stated that there are two exceptions to this rule: First, when the woman’s father or grandfather is not available for obtaining permission. Second, when it is time for the woman to marry and she has a fitting suitor but her father brings undue excuses and refuses everyone. In these two cases, religious jurisprudents can give the woman permission to marry a desired and worthy suitor in lieu of her father’s permission.
4. Freedom in Seeking Knowledge
Unmarried women may freely endeavor to acquire knowledge and no one has the right to prevent them from learning. However, a married woman must observe the rights of her spouse and children and must confer with her husband on this issue in order to reach a consensus.
The conditions surrounding this issue are similar to those of freedom in work. Of course, this refers to studying outside the home at educational facilities such as a university; studying at home in one’s leisure time is not detrimental to familial life.
5. Freedom in Residence Selection
Single women are at liberty to choose a home for themselves, though wedded women must adhere to their husband’s place of residence. Providing a house is up to men and it is their prerogative.
Naturally, the home must be within the dignity of the family, consistent with the husband’s capital, and such that the peace and welfare of the family is assured. If they are living in a shared home (with other relatives) and the woman requests a private home, if it is in his power the man must acquiesce. In addition, if their house is small or if they are under pressure for some reason and the woman asks for a new residence the man must accept if he is able. These are examples of kind association [mu‘ashirat bi ma‘ruf] that God enjoins in the Quran:
“And consort with your wives in kindness.”11
It is also stated in the Quran as follows:
“And harass them not, so as to straiten life for them.”12
Even though choosing a home is the man’s prerogative, the woman may stipulate as an annex to the marriage contract that she select a dwelling place or request that she be given dwelling rights. If the man accepts the annex, he must abide by his wife’s desires in this matter and if he violates her request, he is a sinner.
1. -Kafi, vol. 5, p. 78.
2. – Ibid, p. 84.
3. – Amir al-Mu‘minin (meaning: Commander of the Faithful) is the title of Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a). [trans.]4. – Wasa’il ush-Shi‘ah, vol. 20, p. 168.
5. – Surah Nisa’ 4:32.
6. – Wasa’il ush-Shi‘ah, vol. 20, p. 284.
7. – Ibid, p. 274.
8. – Ibid, vol. 2, p. 269.
9. – Ibid, p. 272.
10. – Ibid, p. 270.
11. – Surah Nisa’ 4:19.
12. – Surah Talaq 65:6.

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