I am currently in a discussion with someone who argues that Islam worsened women’s rights in Arabia. I have dealt with most of his objections, except this one:

Before Islam, Khadija[R.A] was able to Marry Muhammad( PBUH ) of her own will, however after Islam, a woman who arranged her own marriage was considered an Adulteress :

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that: the Messenger of Allah said: “No woman should arrange the marriage of another woman, and no woman should arrange her own marriage. The adulteress is the one who arranges her own marriage.” Sunan Ibn Majah 1882

Hence, Islam worsened women’s rights in Arabia.

so my Question is, Were Arabian women able and allowed to Arrange their own marriages before Islam?


  • Yes prostitutes.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 14:34
  • 1
    @Medi1Saif Sorry i dont understand . A prostitute doesnt marry her client does she?
    – Hisham
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 14:35
  • Not really, but she can chose with whom she can be intimate. This was described as a pre islamic marriage in a hadith.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 14:45
  • @Medi1Saif Then please tell me this hadith ref
    – Hisham
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 14:57
  • 1
    Marirages in pre-islamic times were also arranged by the male wali. And this was also the case for the marriage of Khadijah as she was given in marriage by her father Khuwalid or her uncle 'Amr, see seerahs e.g. Ibn Kathir. Women could (and still can in Islam) propose marriage but the contract is done by the wali according to the majority opinion.
    – UmH
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 15:48

1 Answer 1


The role of the guardian in the marriage of a woman predates the current Shariah. From the Quran we have evidence regarding its existence in the time of Lut عليه السلام and Moses عليه السلام:

قال هؤلاء بناتي إن كنتم فاعلين

[Lot] said, "These are my daughters - if you would be doers [of lawful marriage]."

Quran 15:71

قال إني أريد أن أنكحك إحدى ابنتي هاتين

He said, "Indeed, I wish to wed you one of these, my two daughters..."

Quran 28:27

Similarly from ahadith we have evidence of its existence among the Arabs during Jahiliyyah:

أن النكاح في الجاهلية كان على أربعة أنحاء فنكاح منها نكاح الناس اليوم، يخطب الرجل إلى الرجل وليته أو ابنته، فيصدقها ثم ينكحها

There were four types of marriage during Pre-Islamic period of Ignorance. One type was similar to that of the present day i.e. a man used to ask somebody else for the hand of a girl under his guardianship or for his daughter's hand, and give her Mahr and then marry her.


As for the marriage of Khadijah to the Prophet ﷺ, note that Khadijah was the one who suggested marriage however the actual contract was done on her behalf by her guardian, i.e. either by her father Khuwalid ibn Asad, or by her uncle 'Amr ibn Asad - the opinion preferred by some scholars is that it was the uncle and the father had died beforehand.

أن عمها عمرو بن اسد زوجها رسول الله

Khadijah's paternal uncle 'Amr bin Asad married her to the Messenger of Allah

Tarikh al-Tabari

As for expressing the desire for marriage to a person by a woman then that is also permissible in our Shariah (see islamqa), however that does not exclude the role of the guardian. Hence the marriage of Khadijah was in compliance with the Islamic tradition.

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