Marriage in Islam
All praise be to Allah the Lord of the Universe. Peace and blessings be on His Messenger Muhammad , his family and companions. Then, Allah said:
And among His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind. So that you might find contentment (sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect (think!) [Rum: 21]
As I am sure you are aware, marriage in Islam is a legal contract. It is a contract between two people in the presence of witnesses the Best of whom is Allah Himself before whom this contract is made and to whom the ones making the contract will be accountable. It is therefore essential that they understand what they are contracting to do. I recited before you an ayah (a verse) from the Qur’an where Allah speaks about the institution of marriage, calls it one of His signs and mentions specifically three special features about this institution. He uses three critical words in this ayah:
The first word Allah used is the word Sukoon.
Allah said: And among his signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you may find sukoon with them. So what is sukoon? It is a word that we use in Urdu as well so I am sure all my friends who understand Urdu have an idea about its meaning. In Arabic sukoon is the opposite of Al – Haraka – or movement. In Arabic grammar the equivalent of the maatra on the letter is called Al-Haraka which tells us how the letter “moves” meaning, how it is to be pronounced. When there is a sukoon on the letter it means that the letter remains as it is and will not move and will be pronounced in its original form.
Allah has used the term sukoon as the first purpose of the marriage. He said that He creates mates for us so that we may find sukoon with them. So that we may find contentment with them. The first condition of the contract is that the spouses are undertaking to promise that they will henceforth lead their lives in such a way that they will make their companionship, their home, their being together and their support for one another a source of contentment and sukoon for each other. They are making Allah a witness that henceforth they will not look elsewhere other than towards each other for all the requirements of marriage.
That their eyes, ears, hearts, hands, feet will not stray away from their spouse. That there will be no Haraka, no movement away from the spouse. I ask Allah to give them and all those who are here in this gathering, sukoon with their spouses. It also means that both will make an effort to create a home which is a place of sukoon which they look forward to returning to after having been away from it for various reasons.
The second word that Allah has used in this ayah is: Al-Mawaddah: where He said: Wa ja’ala bainakum mawaddah: And He puts love between you. This refers to the love that the spouses feel for one another. This love is both physical and emotional. Love is an outcome of respect. We can’t love someone for whom we feel no respect. It is essential therefore for the spouses to pay attention to the good from each other and to forgive the mistakes. The spouses are like mirrors to each other. They reflect what they see but they have selective memory. When a new image comes before the mirror it is reflected with reference to the good from earlier images, whatever it was. Someone sent me a story which talked about writing the good about our friends in stone and writing their mistakes in the dust. One remains for a long time while the other is blown away by the first breeze that comes.
I believe this is the single most important secret of a good marriage. To have this selective memory for the good and selective amnesia for the bad. Unfortunately many people have the opposite which is the root cause of all problems. The good is taken for granted as one’s right. While any mistake is seen as a premeditated crime and treated accordingly. Islam advises the opposite. To forgive not once but 70 times, without reservation.
For the spouse, his or her companion is their best friend. The marriage is a contract where the spouses are undertaking to make each other, their best friends from this day on. It is important to remember however that friendship is only as good as the amount of investment you make in it. It is not magic. It is not automatic. It does not happen. It is made. Consciously. With effort. And the results are directly proportional to the investment.
It is necessary to spend time with your spouse, not with your other friends in some club. It is necessary to develop common interests. It is necessary to take pleasure in each other’s work and activity. It is necessary to support each other in all that is good. It is necessary to ensure that you give feedback with care and concern and never in public. It is essential to remember that between spouses there are no defenses because there is trust. And for that reason it is essential for the spouses to exercise special care in dealing with each other’s emotions. It is necessary to build a language together, a language of looks, words, signs.
A language that over time becomes almost magical in how it enables one spouse to know what the other is feeling without explanation. A language which is a joy to see when you look at those who have been happily married for many years. It is necessary to consciously remember the good that one spouse does for the other, especially when they are having a bad day and are acting strange. This is the love that Allah talks about when He says that He has put it between the spouses. Like all potential wealth, it has to be accessed or it will remain buried under the sand.
The last word that Allah used in the ayah is Rahma: Mercy; when He said: Wa ja’ala bainakum mawadaatawn wa Rahma. Rahma is a special quality of Allah Himself. It is the mercy that He shows to His creation even when they don’t deserve it.
He used this word to describe the relationship between the spouses in the marriage. We are merciful to those who we feel responsible for. We are merciful to our children whereas we may not exercise the same mercy for strange children. However when you are the teacher in a school the same children become your wards and you are merciful to them. The word Rahma in the context of marriage draws our attention to the responsibility that the spouses have for one another. It also draws attention to the fact that over the years each has made a lifetime’s investment in the other. To show Rahma – to be merciful – is to honor that investment and to thank the other for making it. Not to take this for granted. Rahma is also the quality when for reasons of life and destiny, when one of the spouses is unable to look after the other or to satisfy them, the other still treats him or her with love and respect and mercy. Rahma is to give without asking for return. To give because there is a pleasure in the giving itself.
Marriage in Islam is therefore a commitment made to each other, of integrity, love, respect and mercy that the spouses are undertaking to make to each other in the presence of Allah who is Witness to all our thoughts, intentions and actions.
I ask Allah to bless this union, to fill the lives of these young people with His Mercy and to make them standard bearers of Islam in every sense of the term so that when they stand before Him on the Day when all of us will stand before Him, He will be pleased with them.
I ask the same du’a for all of us.
Marriage – The making of it
Critical Requirements of Marriage
Hadith Bukhari – Narrated Abu Hurairah:
The Prophet said, “A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a loser.
Many of my young friends who are now getting ready to commit matrimony are asking me for advice about selecting a spouse. My advice is common to both men and women.
So here goes with the 6 critical requirements:
As Rasoolullahr said in the hadith above a woman is married for four things but her religion is the most important. The same applies to the men. So the first thing to look for is whether your prospective spouse is observant of at least the basics of Islam. These would be the following:
Religion: salah, fasting, charity (ask about this), Qur’an (can they at least read it fluently? It is a shame that grown up men and women ready to get married can’t even read the Qur’an fluently and correctly with Tajweed.)
Character: Courage, patience, a sense of honor (gheera), confidence, presence, manliness (in men), shyness (in women) modesty (in both), composure, a sense of peace and harmony, comfort with silence, not talking incessantly, dignity.
Appearance: Hijaab for the women and beards for the men. You don’t want to marry an effeminate man who looks like a woman. It is confusing. Style (there’s nothing endearing about looking like something the cat threw up). Most men end up looking like their fathers and most women like their mothers. So take a good look at the father and mother and decide; because that is who you are going to be looking at every morning.
- Caveat: If he/she does not care about what Allah said, they are not going to care about what you say. Also in a tight spot, if they have Taqwa, it is that which will come to their aid and help to resolve the situation. If it is not there to begin with then there’s a major problem. Finally in a conflict, it is the Qur’an and Hadith that is your final refuge. If they don’t consider that to be important, then you will be up the creek without a paddle. Their beauty will wear out in a few months (you will stop noticing it) and their wealth is not yours anyway. This person will be the one who will assist you in bringing up your children and these children will be the source of your Jannah or your Jahannam. So if you have someone who is not committed to her/his Deen then you are sunk, no matter how cute they look. So run away, fast. This is critical. Stop reading this right now because if this is not there, the rest of it doesn’t matter.
2.Forget falling in love:
Falling is never a good thing. Love as we know it (from our romantic notions) is simply another word for physical attraction. It lasts usually for 2 weeks. Since you want your marriage to last a bit longer than that, it is a good idea to focus on respect which will grow into love. Not falling into but growing into. What does that mean? It means that 25 years after you have been married every time you look at your spouse you ‘fall’ in love all over again. Growing in love means evolving a common language of looks, signals and words that only you two can understand. It is almost magical to see it work. I wish it for all those who read this. That is heaven on earth. So it is respect, honor and dignity that result in love. This love is where your spouse will stand up for you and defend you, never laugh at you in public, be considerate of your faults and hide them and be focused on the many good things that you bring to the marriage. This love means that she/he will not complain about the difficulties that may happen along the way but will work with you to overcome them and stand in the night and cry before Allah and ask for His intervention. This is the person who will never leave your side as long as you live and will pray for your forgiveness when you are gone. In my experience this is the only person who you can rely on to do it, for all others will forget after a while.
If their religion is good, then watch how they treat their servants, parents, other siblings. Watch how they speak to the waiters in the restaurants, drivers and other service people. Do they show kindness and concern for others? Do they have compassion? Do they show respect for others? Table manners are very important as well. Do they say ‘Thank you or Jazakallah’ and ‘Sorry’? Do they smile often or do they look like you will have to take them to the dentist to see their teeth. Do they laugh? What kind of jokes do they make?
- Caveat: I know what you are thinking; if their religion is good then their Akhlaaq must automatically be good. But you know as well as I do that today, this can’t be taken for granted. Manners are critical because the day after your honeymoon you are going to be at the receiving end of them. So you’d better make sure you like what you are about to receive. Kindness, concern, compassion and a sense of humor are worth their weight in gold. They are what will make your marriage and your home a heaven on earth.
What do they talk about? Airheads are of all types, genders and without blond hair and will drive you insane; unless of course you are one of them. Listen to them more than you talk because you are doing the assessment. Look for a breath of knowledge, depth of perception, structured thinking and overall understanding of situations. Ask what they read; authors, books and topics. See if they are more critical than forgiving; do they look for faults more than look for excuses for those faults; do they talk more about problems or about solutions? Do they talk more about material stuff or about the Aakhira? When they talk about religion are they more critical of others or more focused on their own conduct, shortcomings and need for change? Do they sound like they are dogmatic and bigoted and overly sold on this or that Jamat and critical of all others? In other words are they focused more towards commonalities with others or differences; are they more towards dividing or bringing people together?
- Caveat: Conversation is the lifeblood of a marriage. Without it you have nothing. Most couples stop talking to one another less than six months into the marriage. Make sure you are not one of them and for that you need someone you can talk to, share interests with, respect, are interested in and who you can learn something from. Without conversation your marriage won’t go too far.
5.Common Life Goal:
Look for commonalities in interests, life goal and passions (especially if you are passionate about something). You are going to live together for the next 20-30 years and so you’d better be focused in generally the same direction. Otherwise you are going to spend a lot of time alone or end up fighting.
- Caveat: You need support in your life goal; whether it is to change the world or to bring up children (it is the same thing, believe me). You need someone who will share your pain and joy, give you ideas and listen to you with interest. You need someone who doesn’t run your life goal down as being unimportant. You need someone who has a life goal that inspires you to invest your time, energy, emotion and thought in. Serious long term pursuits are the secret of happy marriages. Not kitty parties, boys nights out and the bowling alley.
Look at the whole family; their aqeedah, religious practice, culture, habits, lifestyle, norms, and customs. Can you live with them? Some Aqeeda issues are completely incompatible, e.g. families that are into grave worship and dargahs. Other issues may not be totally incompatible but still difficult to live with, e.g. issues to do with purdah (segregation), seriousness about salah and so on.
- Caveat: I know you did not marry the whole family but believe me, especially in our (Middle East, Subcontinent) cultures [Ed.Note The shaykh lives and preaches to a mostly non Western audience] the family is very much a part of the equation. So if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life fighting to keep your wife or husband on the right track, then you’d better make sure the family is on the same track as you are. The same goes for their lifestyle, manners, food habits, things they give importance to and so on. It is not necessary to have a replica of your own home, but the degree to which there is a difference to that degree you will have to adjust and change. Remember that all change is painful and so the less you have, the happier you will be.
- If you marry into a joint family and have to live with your husband’s (or in rare cases) with the wife’s family then the degree of adjustment will be far more. I am not saying that you should not marry into a joint family but if you do, please do it with your eyes wide open and a big heart, a thick skin, lots of patience and willingness to change yourself and adjust with people. Otherwise you are headed for sublime torture which will kill your marriage sooner or later. Living in a joint family can be very trying in the here & now but can be very rewarding when you grow old. So keep your eye on the future and accept the present as the price for not being lonely in your old age and dying alone in an old age home. If you still don’t think you can take it, then don’t marry into a joint family.
- Joint families mean a lot of support especially in the upbringing of children as well as in a whole gamut of situations. But it also means that others will have an opinion about you and will ‘interfere’ with your life. Whether you see that ‘interference’ as concern or as being ‘nosey’ is up to you. Both have consequences. Leaving the family to live on your own may not be an option at all or may be possible only with major heartburn on all sides leaving bruised egos, emotions and relationships. Not something that you will enjoy and so something much to be avoided if possible.
Final Words of Caution:
- A word of caution for those intrepid souls who believe they can change others. Allah kept Hidaya in His Hand. Maybe you can change people and if so all power to you. But more likely you are like 99.9% of the world which only believes that it can change people. Anyone who looks at someone before they marry them and say, ‘I will change him/her and then they’ll be just fine’; is taking their life into their hands, quite literally. If the person you want to marry needs changing, let someone else do it. You leave them alone and go find someone who you can admire and look up to and want to be like.
- Marrying someone by looking at a profile on the internet is like playing Russian roulette: One of the chambers will have a bullet in it. It is a gamble which I would seriously advise you not to take with your life. I have seen too many ruined. If you don’t know enough about your spouse don’t marry them. Islam permits you to make enquiries and to meet the spouse before marriage along with your Mahram to ensure that you find out enough about them. All that I have mentioned above can be ascertained in one or two meetings if you know what you are looking for and keep your eyes open. Make sure you do that.
Finally let’s not forget; look at all that I have mentioned above and ask yourself, ‘How much do I fit into this myself? How many of the criteria do I meet? Am I likely to be a good spouse for the person I marry?’ Take marriage seriously because happy marriages are made by serious people. Take it seriously because after all it is your life that we are talking about.