Many Muslim men want to marry a virgin. They believe this is recommended by the religion. The clergy claim it is better to marry virgin women and they use the following hadith to support their opinion.
‘The Messenger of Allah met me and said: ‘O Jabir, have you got married to a woman since I last saw you?’’ I said, ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said: To a virgin or to a previously married woman?’ I said: ‘To a previously married woman.’ He said: ‘Why not a virgin so she could play with you?’
It does seem that this hadith is suggesting what is popular opinion – that a virgin would have been a better choice for Jabir. Otherwise, why would the Prophet have questioned it?
As usual, let’s take a closer look.
Firstly, there is in fact, a longer version of the same account in Saheeh Muslim which is largely ignored by those claiming it is better to marry a virgin (regardless of whether they themselves are virgins or not!).
Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with them) reported: I married a woman during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him). I met the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), whereupon he said: Jabir, have you married? I said: Yes. He said: A virgin or one previously married? I said: Previously married, whereupon he said: Why did you not marry a virgin with whom you could have fun with? I said: Allah’s Messenger, I have sisters; I was afraid that she might intervene between me and them, whereupon he said: Well and good, if it is so. A woman is married for four reasons, for her religion, her property, her status, her beauty, so you should choose one with religion. May your hands be covered with dust.
This longer account points us to some very significant facts:
1). Jabir was young. It makes sense for young people to marry young partners in terms of equivalent life experience and outlook. That is why the Prophet was surprised and questioned his choice.
2). The Prophet said Jabir’s decision to marry someone who had been previously married (i.e more mature) was a GOOD one. Jabir’s decision meant the relationship between his wife and sisters would likely be a better one as opposed to marrying someone who would have been similar in age to them.
3). Most importantly, the Prophet gave Jabir and us vital information. That a woman is married for four reasons: her religion, her property, her status, or her beauty and the priority for Muslims should always be religion. ‘May your hands be covered with dust’ was a customary Arab warning – that choosing to marry for other reasons would be a really bad decision leading to one’s destruction.
In fact, the Prophet did not state that women at the time or any time were married because they were virgins nor that they should be.
The clergy argue the Prophet asking Jabir why he had not married a virgin means to marry a virgin is better. However, enquiring about a decision is NEVER the same as stating the decision was the wrong choice.
Furthermore, if we look at the example of the Prophet, we realise that the Prophet’s first wife (Khadija) had been previously married not once but twice. After her death, all but one (Ayesha) of his wives were either divorcees or widows. His example shows that virginity is not a benchmark by which we measure anyone.
The companions followed the Prophet’s example – they often married wives of other companions after the husband’s death/divorce.
In conclusion, women regardless of their faith should never be measured as purely sexual beings. How disgusting a belief that virginity is somehow the mark of a good woman or that it increases her appeal as a possible partner in marriage!
Islam always takes the high road. It is honourable and the actions of Muslims must be the same.