Isn’t Long-Term Cohabitation Equivalent to Marriage?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I find it puzzling that, Islamically, we would not recognize a long-term cohabitation as being the equivalent of marriage. In American society today cohabitation without marriage has become extremely common. Don’t you think we should treat them in all respects as if they are married?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for clarifying this issue.


“And do not come near to adultery, it is a shameful deed and an evil, and opening the road to other evils.” [Qur’an, 17:32]

The ultimate good we can wish upon anyone in creation is Islam, and the observance of the Shari’ah. There is mercy in obeying what Allah has revealed to us. Just because something is increasingly common, does not make it acceptable by the Shari’ah. Marriage and cohabitation are not the same. In marriage, sexual intercourse is an act of worship, and a means to having legitimate offspring. In cohabitation, sexual intercourse is unlawful, and a means to producing illegitimate offspring.


Among the primary objectives of the Shari’ah are protection of lineage, hence the importance of safeguarding the sanctity of marriage. Allah has made it clear what is acceptable to Him through gifting us with the Shar’iah.

One of the signs of the end of times is the increase of children who are born out of wedlock. One of my teachers described that children born out of wedlock are innocent of the sin of their parents, but they are in many ways, more prone to sin because of the circumstances of their birth.

In short, no, cohabitation is not equivalent to marriage. For our non-Muslim or non-practising Muslim friends and family, marriage is praiseworthy, and cohabitation is not.

I pray that Allah grants you goodness, clarity and success in this life and the next.


Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani