Marriage is one of the fundamental sociological institutions. Mankind, since its very beginning, has kept to it without any disruption. Even the so-called 'uncivilized' tribes and primitive societies treat marriage as a sacred bond. Such an institution must be based on the foundation of the nature itself.
Philosophy of Muslim Marriage: Islam has based its matrimonial laws on the correlation between masculinity and femininity. Obviously this complementary system in man and woman - and it is the most intricate and inter-related one, permeating their whole beings - was, not created in vain or without purpose. The male by his nature is attracted to the female, and vice versa. And this system has only one goal in sight: Procreation. Islamic marriage is based on this reality, and all its matrimonial rules revolve around this axis. On this foundation are based the Islamic laws concerning chastity and conjugal rights, exclusive attachment of the wife to her husband and the rules of divorce and iddah (the waiting-period after a woman has been widowed or divorced before she can re-marry), legitimacy and parentage, custody of children and their upbringing, inheritance and other related matters.
In short, marriage is the only legal and honorable way of satisfying sexual desire, and the husband and wife by their union ensure the survival of mankind. Although almost all the burden in this task falls on the woman, the initial steps cannot be taken without the participation of the man.
This is the philosophy of Muslim Marriage. And it also shows the first and primary benefit of matrimony.
Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: Marry and procreate and increase your population.
Second Benefit of Muslim Marriage: The second benefit is that the husband and the wife jointly (but with division or responsibilities) perform the tasks which they are faced with in establishing a family. And each finds his or her fulfillment in the other. Woman is not fit to earn livelihood; man is not fit to manage domestic affairs. Marriage binds them to make up each other's deficiencies, so that the family may prosper.
The man will spend his energies in earning a livelihood for himself and his family. The woman will manage the domestic life with that income. Allah has reminded us of this very point in these words:
And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing. (24:32)
It is for this reason that al-Imam Ja'far as Sadiq (a.s.) said: "The sustenance is with women and dependants." Domestic science is the natural preserve of women, and by their efficient management they can make the money stretch far.
Modern non-Islamic societies have laid the foundation of matrimony on only this cooperation between husband and wife, while in Islam it is a secondary, not the primary, benefit. Marriage, according to present day societies, is a co-operative venture, albeit much narrower in scope than other such institutions, like a municipality or a club.
It is for this reason that modern laws do not pay any attention to the rules of chastity etc. This inadequate foundation - cooperation in life - has given rise to a vast multitude of social problems and has created chaos in domestic life, because it is not in complete harmony with realities of creation and nature. Man is a social animal, no doubt. Everyone cooperates with everyone else, dividing the labor and work according to one's aptitude. But this factor requires cooperation between any two persons; it does not specifically call for cooperation between a man and a woman. Therefore, it is a weak foundation on which to build the edifice of matrimony. If marriage were only a co-operative institution, there would be no need of any special rule for matrimony; the general rules governing associations and co-operative societies would be enough. It would negate the virtues of chastity and fidelity, nullify the concept of legitimacy and affinity, and abrogate the rules of inheritance - as some "advanced" societies have done. If we accept this ultimate result of the modern philosophy of marriage, we will have to accept that all this complicated and inter-related system in the bodies of man and woman was created without any purpose.
Now to return to our original topic. The basic philosophy and secondary benefit of marriage have already been described. It was because of those benefits that the Holy Prophet said: "The worst of your dead is the unmarried one."
Now, we may understand the meaning of the ayah: They (wives) are your garment and you are their garment.
The garment serves three purposes: it beautifies, it covers the parts of the body, and it protects from cold and heat. Allah says:
O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, and (clothing) for beauty and clothing that guards (against evil), that is the best. This is of the communications of Allah that they may be mindful. (7:26)
Husband and wife, by uniting together, cover the natural shortcomings of each other, and this union protects them from hardships and difficulties which one faces by living alone; the sun of happiness and prosperity shines on the horizon of life; and both, by their joint efforts, discharge all the duties laid upon them by human nature. If anyone favors his wife over his mother...!