Should I ask my future wife if she is a virgin or not?
Question: Salaam alaikum, is it permissible to ask, when proposing for marriage, if the other person is a virgin? I was always told that asking such a thing is not permissible because it encourages people to lie about committing zinna or to reveal their sins, but I’ve seen no evidence either way so I thought I’d ask for clarification.
Answer: It was reported by Abu Dawud and Al Nasai that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that God loves modesty and cover up of pitfalls. A lot of textual doctrines were keen on establishing the idea of concealment of mistakes and refraining from disseminating scandals as we should not do to people what we don’t want to be done to ourselves. Prophet Muhammad also said “whoever did not declare the errors of a Muslim, God will not declare his errors on the day of judgment”. On the other hand, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned those who are in pursuit of spreading scandals and digging for people’s pitfalls that they will in turn be subjected to such pursuit by others.
It was narrated through Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet climbed up the stairs of the pulpit and called out loud saying “O those who embraced Islam with your tongue and its flow did not reach your heart yet. Don’t inflict harm on Muslims, don’t belittle them and don’t pursue and dig for their pitfalls as whoever digs for the pitfalls of others, God will dig for his own pitfalls and declare it before people…” (al Tirmidhi).
When a Muslim falls into an error or sin through committing an act of disobedience to God, he is obliged to conceal it and not to declare it before others because the Islamic law did not set legal punishments as a precondition for accepting repentance.
It was narrated through Zayd ibn Aslam that a man confessed before the Prophet of committing adultery. The Prophet asked for a whip and the man was whipped then the Prophet said, “O people it is about time to stay away from God’s punishment. Whoever commits any of this filth should conceal it and take shield in the concealment of God as whoever confesses to us will face God’s punishment”. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet said “all my Ummah is saved except those who brag about their sins. Among the forms of bragging is a man who would commit a sin at night and then wakes up with God’s grace of concealment yet he brags among people saying “I have done so and so last night”. He would spend the night with God’s grace of concealment and wakes up revealing God’s concealment of his sins.
Abu Dawud reported through Nu’aym ibn Hazal that Ma’ez ibn Malik was an orphan who was raised by Ibn Hazal and he committed adultery with a girl from the neighborhood so when Ibn Hazal knew he asked Ma’ez to go and tell Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to supplicate to God to forgive him. So Ma’ez confirmed the story four times and was adamant on confession so the Prophet applied corporeal punishment on him and then looked at Ibn Hazal and said “If you had concealed his sin and covered him with your clothes, it would have been better”. The Prophet’s companions and our righteous ancestors grasped this great meaning of the importance of concealment and not declaring sins and successfully applied this meaning in different incidents. For example when Ma’ez ibn Malik al Aslami came over to Abu Bakr and told him about committing adultery so Abu Bakr told him “Did you mention this to anyone else?” Ma’ez replied in negative so Abu Bakr said in reply, “repent to God and conceal yourself with His concealment as God accepts repentance from his servants”. But Ma’ez was not satisfied with Abu Bakr’s answer so he went to ‘Umar ibn al Khattab and told him about what he did so ‘Umar asked him “Did you mention this to anyone else?” and Ma’ez replied in negative so ‘Umar said in reply, “repent to God and conceal yourself with His concealment as God accepts repentance from his servants”. But Ma’ez was still not satisfied so he went over to the Prophet and admitted committing adultery and the Prophet in turn went away but Ma’ez was adamant on confessing and when the Prophet saw his insistence, he investigated the matter and when he became sure that Ma’ez committed the incident, he applied corporeal punishment on him. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Al Hafiz ibn Hajar in his book (Fath al Bari) commented on this incident saying that whoever is subjected to similar incidents should repent to God and conceal himself and should not mention it to anyone as Abu Bukar and ‘Umar suggested for Ma’ez. Also whoever knows about the incident should not declare it to others and should conceal it. Moreover he is not allowed to report his case to the ruler as the Prophet said “if you had covered him with your clothes, it would have been better”. For this reason, Imam al Shafi’i came up with a ruling that whoever has committed a sin and God concealed his sin from people, then he should conceal himself and repent”.
‘Abdel Razaq in his book narrated the story of a man whose daughter was betrothed to someone and that she committed adultery with someone else so the father of the bride came over to ‘Umar ibn al Khattab and mentioned the incident so ‘Umar asked in reply “what have you seen from her behavior?” so the father replied, “I haven’t seen any bad thing” so ‘Umar replied back “then permit her to get married and don’t tell anyone”.
It was also reported through al She’bi that a man came to ‘Umar ibn al Khattab saying “O commander of the faithful, I had a daughter which I was a bout to bury alive in the pre Islamic era but I saved her from death and she became a good Muslim but then she committed adultery. We suddenly saw her taking a knife and trying to kill herself, I saved her and cured her wounds and she was recovered nicely. Now a man came to propose to her, should I mention to him what she has done?” so ‘Umar said in reply, “no and if you tell him, I will punish you for it”.
All these stories indicate that ‘Umar favors the issue of concealment of sins of the adulterer and that we should not close the doors of mercy and repentance and allow people to pass shameful judgments on her and her family. One should rather conceal what the adulterer committed and not spread it among people. The adulterer in turn should open a new page and begin it with repentance and deserting sins.
The Hanafis have stated explicitly that a virgin who loses her virginity by fornicating in secret (which means that it has not been made known to the court and resulted in punishment) or does not do it repeatedly so it becomes a habit, is legally a virgin even though she is not truly a virgin. She is married as a virgin; she is even not asked to verbally consent to marriage since she is given the same status as that of a virgin, whom the Prophet says said: “Consent is sought from Virgins. Their consent is in remaining silent.”
The Hanafis state that the rational cause here is that asking for her verbal consent would expose her shameful deed, while the Shari‘ah recommends concealment. In the same chapter and section, Nasb al-Rayah includes:
Abu Hanifah, may Allah grant him mercy, holds that if people know her as a virgin, they will chastise her if she consents verbally. Thus, she refrains; silence suffices so she is not cut off from her interests As for the objection that when the woman loses her hymn, it is considered a deficiency and patching it would be some sort of cheating is an invalid claim in Islamic law. Islamic law prohibited cheating in marriage and in other subjects but not the concealment of all kinds of deficiencies is considered cheating. The influential deficiency depends on the subject of discussion.
As for generally saying that the concealment of all sorts of deficiencies is considered cheating is a corrupted opinion because if we did not put certain limits which would define influential deficiency, the term would be undefined and in turn different people can define the influential deficiencies according to their own personal opinions because what someone sees as a deficiency can be highly praised by another. According to this understanding, the woman is obliged to speak about her scars or small wounds which is totally invalid thinking and utterly rejected in Islamic law. Therefore the influential deficiency in marriage is related to pretending that something which is intended for itself exists but in reality does not exist or related to concealing a deficiency which jeopardize the purpose of marriage.
An example for the first case is when the woman makes hair extension to conceal the loss of her hair to deceive her future husband. This means that the woman pretends the existence of her hair which is intended for itself and this is prohibited in Islamic law. For this reason the Shafi’I scholars permitted for women to make hair extension with the permission of her husband to eliminate the possibility of cheating or concealing a deficiency. This means that pretending the existence of something which is not intended for itself is not cheating.
Virginity is not intended for itself and jurists have mentioned it in their books as one of the qualities of perfection and therefore its loss does not place it as an influential deficiency because its loss does not jeopardize or undermine the purpose of marriage.
As for the claim of some men that they have to know if their future wife has fell into a sin or not is a corrupted opinion as it promotes declaring sins, revealing what God concealed, pursuing people’s pitfalls, and thinking ill of people which are all prohibited in Islamic law.
As a matter of fact, there is no relationship between the loss of virginity and between adultery as this relationship only existed due to some cultures which do not see any problem when the man commits adultery whereas when the woman commits the same crime she is stained with shame and disgrace.