Categories of Women in Relation to a Man

Women in relation to a man fall into three categories:

  1. She could be his wife:
In this case, he is allowed to enjoy her company in any way he likes, Just as she is allowed to enjoy his company. In fact, Allah describes each one of them to be a ‘garment’ for the other, revealing an excellent image of a perfect physical, emotional and mental union: “They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:187) (See page 213)
  1. She could be a relative whom he is never permitted to marry at any time in his life whatsoever (mahram):
This category consists of the following:
1The mother and above (the maternal grandmother, the paternal grandmother, etc.)
2The daughter and below (granddaughter, great-granddaughter, etc.)
3The sister, paternal stepsister or maternal stepsister
4The paternal aunt, maternal step-aunt or paternal step-aunt, paternal aunt of one’s father and paternal aunt of one’s mother
5The maternal aunt, maternal step-aunt or paternal step-aunt, maternal aunt of one’s father and maternal aunt of one’s mother
6The brother’s daughters and stepbrother’s daughters and below (brother’s son’s daughters, for instance)
7The sister’s daughters and stepsister’s daughters and below (sister’s daughter’s daughters, for instance)
8The mother-in-law, whether he is still married to her daughter or has divorced her, and grandmother-in-law
9The stepdaughter
10The son’s wife and below (such as the grandson’s wife)
11stepmother and above, e.g. the stepbrother’s wife (from the step father’s side)
  1. She could be one he is allowed to marry (ajnabiyah, literally, foreigner, not related to him):
Such a woman is one who does not belong to the category of women known as mahram stated above, whether she is one of his relatives, such as his maternal or paternal cousin or sister-in-law, or she is not one of his relatives at all.
Regarding this category of women, Islam has laid down a number of rules and criteria which govern a Muslim man’s relationship with such women. By doing this, Islam aims to protect people’s honour and block all the means that are bound to lead to evil. Allah ﷻ who has created man knows exactly what is best for him, as the Qur’an states, “Does He who created not then know while He is the All-Pervading, the All-Aware?” (Soorat Al-Mulk, 67:14)
Every day, we read new reports and statistics of cases of rape and illicit sexual relationships that have ruined countless families and societies that do not implement Allah’s laws.

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