Celibacy and Monasticism is Forbidden

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The Islamic point of view about the worldly good things is not negative, rather it says that we should appreciate them as the blessings of God. And Islam is, therefore, totally opposed to monasticism and celibacy.

‘Uthman bin Maz’un was a close companion of the Prophet. One day his wife came to the Prophet and complained, “O the Messenger of God! ‘Uthman fasts during the day and stands for prayers during the night”. In other words, she meant to say that her husband was abstaining from sexual relations during the night as well as the day. The Prophet was so much angered with this that he did not even wait to put on his slippers. He came out -with the slippers in his hands- and went to ‘Uthman’s house. The Prophet found him praying. When ‘Uthman finished his prayers and turned towards the Prophet, the latter said, “O ‘Uthman! Allah did not send me for monasticism, rather he sent me with a simple and straight [shari’ah]. I fast, pray and also have intimate relations with my wife. So whosoever likes my tradition, then he should follow it; and marriage is one of my traditions.”1 Since ‘Uthman was already married, the word “marriage” in this hadith can only be applied to sexual relations.

In another incident, three women came to the Prophet and complained that their husbands were abstaining from meat, perfume and intimate relations with their wives. The Prophet quickly came to the mosque, went on the pulpit and said, “What has happened to some of my companions that they do not eat meat, they do not smell perfume and they do not go to their women?” Whereas I eat meat, smell perfume and go to my wives. Therefore whosoever dislikes my tradition, then he is not from me.”2

Ibn Abi ‘Umayr quotes that sikkin an-Nakha’i had devoted himself to prayers and abstinence from women and delicious food. Then he wrote a letter to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq seeking clarification about his actions. The Imam wrote, “As for what you have said about abstaining from women, you surely know how many women the Prophet had! As for food, the Prophet used to eat meat and honey.”3 The Imam is obviously condemning the holier-than-thou attitude of his companion.

Imam ‘Ali narrates that some companions of the prophet had vowed to abstain from sexual relations with their wives, from eating during the day and from sleeping during the night. Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s wife, informed him about this group. The Prophet went out to his companions and said, “Do you abstain from women whereas I go to the women?! I eat during the day and sleep during the night! Whosoever dislikes my tradition, then he is not from me.” After this speech, Allah revealed the following verse:

O you who believe! Do not forbid [for yourselves] the good things which Allah has permitted you; and do not exceed [the law] -Allah does not like those who exceed [the law]. Therefore eat of the lawful and good things that Allah has provided you, and fear Allah in whom you believe. (5:87-8)

Read this verse carefully and see the firstly, it counts sex, food and sleep among “the lawful and good things which Allah has permitted you;” and secondly, celibacy and abstinence is considered as “exceeding the law of God.” After this verse was revealed, those companions came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of God! We have taken oath to abstain from those things.” That is, how can we now break our oath of abstinence? Then Allah revealed the following verse, “Allah will not call you [to account] for vain oaths …” (5:84) Again, note that an oath of celibacy or abstinence from the good and lawful things is considered by Islam as ‘vain oaths!’4

The discouraging of celibacy is not confined to men, even women have been discouraged from remaining single. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq said, “The Prophet has forbidden the women to became ascetic and to prevent themselves from husbands.”5

Abdus Samad bin Bashir quotes that a woman came to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq and said, “May God bless you; I am an ascetic woman.”

The Imam: “What does asceticism mean to you?”

The woman: “It means that I will never marry.”

The Imam: “Why?”

The woman: “By practicing asceticism, I want to acquire favour (of God).”

The Imam: “Go away! If asceticism was a means of acquiring favour (of God), then Fatimah would have been more entitled to it than you because none can gain more favour than her.”6 A similar incident is also narrated in relation to Imam Riza.

The Prophet said: “The most low [in status] among your dead are the singles.”7

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq says that a person came to my father. My father asked him, “Do you have a wife?” He said, “No.” My father said, “I would not have prefer to have the world with all its riches while I sleep at night without a wife.”8

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1. Wasa’il, vol.14, p.74.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid, p.4.

4. Wasa’il, vol.14, p.8-9.

5. Wasa’il, vol.14, p.117.

6. Ibid, p.117-8.

7. Ibid, p.7.

8. Ibid.

Adapted from: “Marriage & Morals in Islam” by: “Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi”

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