“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (Quran 30:21).
“O Humans revere your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person created of like nature its mate, and from this scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah through Whom you claim your mutual rights” (Quran 4:1).
The above verses of the Quran lay out the framework for the basis and objectives of marriage in Islam. In the ultimate Wisdom of Allah we are first told that both partners, man and woman, are created from the same source and that this should be paid attention to as it is one of His Signs.
The fact that we come from the same soul signifies our equality as humans. When the essence of our creation is the same, the argument of who is better or greater is redundant. To stress on this fact, and then to talk about marriage in the same verse, is of great significance for those of us who are in the field of marriage counseling.
A shift in this attitude of gender equality as human beings causes an imbalance in marital relationships leading to dysfunctional marriages. Whenever one party considers that they are superior or above the law there is a power shift which may subsequently lead to misuse or abuse of that power. As a result, the less valuable partner is seen as an easy prey. Many marital difficulties are based on, or caused by, control and rule stratagem.
By stressing on the equality of all humans, men or women, and making it the basis of marriage, Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has laid the ground rules for establishing peace. He has assigned different roles to husband and wife as functional strategy, rather than as a question of competence as humans.
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) has stated that: “men and women are twin halves of each other” (Bukhari). This narration also brings home the fact that men and women are created from a single source. Furthermore, by using the analogy of twin half, the Prophet (pbuh) has underlined the reciprocal and interdependent nature of men and women’s relationships.
The objective of marriage, according to the above Quranic verses, is to enable us to dwell in peace and tranquility. It is important for us to reflect on these words and their significance in the Islamic frame of reference.
In order to have peace certain condition must be met. These prerequisites to peace are Justice, Fairness, Equity, Equality, and fulfillment of mutual rights. Therefore any injustice whether it is oppression, or persecution, cannot be tolerated if there is to be peace in Muslim homes.
In the domestic realm, oppression is manifested when the process of Shura (consultation) is compromised, neglected or ignored. When one partner (in most cases the husband) makes unilateral decisions and applies a dictatorial style of leadership, peace is compromised. Persecution is present when there is any form of domestic abuse being perpetrated.
Tranquility on the other hand is a state of being which is achieved when peace has been established. Tranquility is compromised when there is tension, stress and anger. It is a mistake to take tranquility to mean perpetual state of bliss, since being a Muslim does not make one immune to tragedies and catastrophes. In fact God tells us repeatedly in the Quran that a believer will be tried and tested. However, a state of tranquility empowers one to handle difficult moments with their spouses as obedient servants of God. God, in His infinite Mercy, also provides us with the tools by which we can achieve this state of peace and tranquility.
The second principle on which Islamic family life is based is Rahma, meaning mercy. As mentioned in the above verse, God tells us that it is He that has placed mercy between the hearts of spouses. We are therefore inclined by our very nature to have mercy for each other. Mercy is manifested through compassion, forgiveness, care and humility.
It is obvious that these are all ingredients that make for a successful partnership. Marriage in Islam is above all a partnership based on equality of partners and specification of roles. Lack of mercy in a marriage, or in a family, renders it in Islamic terms dysfunctional.
Allah further states that He has also placed in addition to mercy, love between spouses. It should be noted, however, that the Islamic concept of love is different from the more commonly understood romantic love that has become so valued.
The basic difference is that love between man and woman in the Islamic context can only be realized and expressed in a legal marriage. In order to develop a healthy avenue for the expression of love between a man and woman, and to provide security so that such a loving relationship can flourish, it is necessary to give it the protection of Shariah (Islamic law).
Marital love in Islam inculcates the following:
Faith: The love Muslim spouses have for each other should be for the sake of Allah and to gain His pleasure. It is from Allah that we claim our mutual rights (Quran 4:1) and it is to Allah that we are accountable for our behavior as husbands and wives.
It sustains: Love is not to consume but to sustain. Allah expresses His love for us by providing sustenance. To love in Islam is to sustain our loved one physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, to the best of our ability. (Note : To sustain materially is the husband’s duty. However, if the wife wishes she can also contribute)
Accepts: To love someone is to accept them for who they are. It is selfishness to try and mould someone as we wish them to be. True love does not attempt to crush individuality or control personal differences, but is magnanimous and secure to accommodate differences.
Challenges: Love challenges us to be all we can, it encourages us to tap into our talents and it takes pride in our achievements. To enable our loved one to realize their potential is the most rewarding experience.
Merciful: Mercy compels us to love and love compels us to have mercy. In the Islamic context the two are synonymous. The attribute Allah chose to be the supreme for Himself is that He is the most Merciful. This attribute of Rahman (the Merciful) is mentioned 170 times in the Quran, emphasizing the significance for believers to be merciful. Mercy, in practical application, means to have and show compassion and to be charitable.
Forgiving: Love is never too proud to seek forgiveness or too stingy to forgive. It is willing to let go of hurt and letdowns. Forgiveness allows us the opportunity to improve and correct ourselves. Islam emphasizes the principle that if we want God to forgive our mistakes, then we should be forgiving of others too.
Respect: To love is to respect and value the person, their contributions, and their opinions. Respect does not allow us to take for granted our loved ones or to ignore their input. How we interact with our spouses reflects whether we respect them or not.
Confidentiality: Trust is the most essential ingredient of love. When trust is betrayed and confidentiality compromised, love loses its soul.
Caring: Love fosters a deep fondness that dictates caring and sharing in all that we do. The needs of our loved ones take precedence over our own.
Kindness: The biography of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is rich with examples of acts of kindness he showed towards his family and particularly his wives. Even when his patience was tried, he was never unkind in word or deed. To love is to be kind.
Grows: Marital love is not static, for it grows and flourishes with each day of marital life. It requires work and commitment, and is nourished through faith when we are thankful and appreciative of Allah blessings.
Enhances: Love enhances our image and beautifies our world. It provides emotional security and physical well being.
Selflessness: Love gives unconditionally and protects dutifully.
Truthful: Love is honesty without cruelty and loyalty without compromise.
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