Fatima Aly Jaffer (Nairobi, Kenya)
Marriage is without a doubt one of the issues that we – as a species and a community – obsess about. It is a mystery we constantly try to solve, a knot we are always struggling to untangle and a formula we strive to perfect.
An earlier article mentioned that the event itself seems to be the centre of focus for much of our lives. For women perhaps, it starts much earlier, when they come of age and are inundated with hints regarding their singular status (pun fully intended!).
Being a faith as beautifully philosophical as Islam is, an institute as highly regarded as that of marriage must have depth in its establishment. (I should disclaim that what follows is a purely personal perspective.)
Marriage is the completion of half one’s imaan, the nurture of a person’s character and the forerunner for the responsibilities of sharing and parenthood. At times we tend to concentrate on one or some of its aspects more than others.
On a very general level, a marriage should have at least these three areas well covered:
A condition when choosing a spouse is to look for a potential as a parent. That is because marriage is a means of populating the society with productive members who will preserve the Islamic way of life. Often, when we marry off our children at the recommended young age, we fail to provide them with necessary qualifications. It is great to have a son or daughter wedded in accordance to hadith, but will the resulting marriage be Islamic too?
It saddens me to sometimes see mothers who seem to treat their children like live dolls to dress-up and feed. And fathers who think that in changing nappies and babysitting, they have achieved metro-paternity. Too often, by the time maturity allows them to understand the urgent necessity of instilling akhlaq, love for Allah (SWT), His Prophet (s) and the Ahlul Bayt (a), it is too late to do so. No one is born knowing how to parent and some lessons can only be learnt through experience, but should one charge into the foray with no prior training at all? What kind of society does that forebode?
Many times, when I listen to others speak of their spouses I can not help but think that what they are describing is a glorified form of role-play. Surely, Islam expects more from a couple than the usual husband-wife duties. Of course, you go about the business of earning a living, household chores and procreating, but is that all there is to being blissfully-wedded? It sounds bland at best. The odd thing is that you don’t need extra hours in a day to do more. It is just a matter of changing attitudes and perspectives.
Marriage in Islam is a business partnership as much as it is an emotional one. And the business is that of becoming better servants of Allah (SWT). Remember the half imaan you secured in getting married? Well, there is still the other half to deal with afterwards. From this angle, marriage could ideally be viewed as a journey with a compatible travelling companion.
As you both walk the straight and narrow, you pledge to provide a strong arm to lean on when your partner stumbles or moral support when he/she loses the will to move forward, to point out the beauty of the goal ahead of you and share in the eagerness of reaching it. That is why it is important to find someone heading in the same direction and who will understand that you may be travelling together, but you each have your own journey to make.
An individual marries for self in many ways. It could be for companionship or love, to satisfy desires or to fulfil a dream. Spiritually, it could be to follow the Prophet (s)’s sunnah or to secure half your faith. In the long run, marriage helps develop your personality, cultivate your character and perfect your patience. You learn to compromise and sacrifice, to become more understanding, generous and selfless. All these reasons are geared to providing for the needs of your self, internally and externally. And one should not feel guilty or shirk from taking full advantage of this aspect of marriage. But the one thing that never fails to irk me is the way in which people lose their individuality when they marry. I may be wrong, but I firmly believe marriage is about creating independency not dependency.
Your relationship should be geared towards nurturing your loyalty and reliance on Allah (SWT) not each other. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an about Qiyamah: “On that Day a man shall flee from his brother, and his mother, his father, his spouse and his children.” (80:34-36)
If you base your love and dependence on your spouse and children, can you imagine the pain of being rejected by them at the time when you will need them most? Or the guilt of abandoning them after having dedicated your life to them?
An ideal marriage is then one where spouses remind each other that the only place of security is with Allah (SWT) and those He has appointed as intercessors. So on that Day, when you – Inshallah! – head towards the same Imam (atfs) for protection, you will meet your loved ones there and prove the beauty of Islam – that every step towards Allah (SWT) only brings you closer to your own happiness.
So why do I consider myself a cured romantic? Because, for years I floundered in the sea of western romanticism and found it too shallow to drown in. I tried rejecting all emotion and found that it is impossible to immerse oneself in faith without it. Finally, I discovered (as usual) the perfect balance in Islam, which suggested that the true romantic aspect of any marriage is when two people work together to court the Pleasure of Allah.
Iqbal Jaffer (Ontario, Canada)
n a hadith describing the 12th Imam (a.s.), the 10th Imam (a.s.) says, “He [the 12th Imam] will: continue the message of the Prophet (s.a.w.), have the charisma of Imam Ali (a.s.), have the purity of Lady Fatima Zahra (a.s.), have the wisdom of Imam Hassan (a.s.), have the courage of Imam Husayn (a.s.), have the patience of Imam Sajjad (a.s.), have the effect of Imam Baqir (a.s.), cause the effect of Imam Sadiq (a.s.), have the sciences of Imam Kadhim (a.s.), be a proof like Imam Ridha (a.s.), be as generous as Imam Jawad (a.s.), be as pure as Imam Hadi (a.s.), resemble his father Imam Hassan al-Askeri (a.s.), be in divine ghaibat, and he will establish the truth.”
Considering that this hadith is mutawatir (narrated by a reliable chain of narrators to such an extent that it is deemed well proven and established), we accept it as being true. If we accept it as true, then it begs the question, if indeed we consider the twelfth Imam – the Imam of our time, who is the Mahdi, who will bring about divine justice as predicted by the Prophet (s.a.w.) – to be a mosaic of the Imams who preceded him, then, where did the idea of one Imam being more important than the other come from?
Most people will read that last question and think that this is utter blasphemy. The question however, is very legitimate. If you do not agree with what I say, consider the following. How many times have you personally said (or heard) the notion of (in gujrati) ‘moti kushali’ (big khushali) or ‘moti wafat’ (big wafat) (Note: ‘big’ in both cases meaning of greater importance as it is connoted in Gujarati)?
It is this uncouth concept which unknowingly demeans the status of one Imam over another. Critics may disagree and say that it is harmless. Nonetheless, it is the very idea of the thing that makes it vulgar. We may be saying it knowing fully well that we do not consider one Imam to be greater than another, to which I ask, why say it at all? There is an old adage that says, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”
The point here is not to be critical; it is to highlight a weakness in our thinking. If we are to progress as a community, then we need to refine ourselves and this involves refining our thinking. If we consider ourselves to be a community in waiting, and we are waiting for our Imam to come and restore a just world order, we need to be prepared to help him lay the groundwork when he comes. We cannot, and will not, be of any use if we are still stuck in backward thinking. It is imperative that we recognize that ideas such as ‘moti kushali/wafat’ do nothing for our progression. We need to ‘cut the fat’.
Lastly, this idea has been made an example of in this particular situation. I am confident that it is not, and will not be the last example of this kind. The point is that we need to recognize these sorts of weaknesses in our thinking, and when we are faced with them, we have to evaluate them on their merits. If they do not bring us closer to Allah (s.w.t.), do not make us better Muslims, do not help us progress, they are likely not worth keeping. It is time for each one of us, myself included, to dig deep into the closets of our mind, and get rid of the things that keep us stagnant. Its time for a good spring cleaning!
Jawad Khaki (Seattle, USA)
t is interesting that the author of a recent article on the forum (“If the Dead Could…) anticipates an “overtly optimistic alec” who might say “that the article is too gloomy”. Another possible anticipation by the author could have been that someone might say the article could be more positive. Isn’t perspective interesting?
Absolutely, for those who tend to view a glass as half-full, a likely reaction to the article below would be that a positive outlook on life is essential for forward progress. An outlook that calls out or seeks actionable next steps towards a future that is bright. Our failing to do so is not fully employing the infinite blessings that Allah (SWT) has bestowed on us and thus wasting an opportunity.
If we believe in a brighter future, we will naturally work towards it. Instead of lamenting on social woes of the time, we will rise to the challenge and inspire. For each social challenge, we will arrive at inspirational direction that clearly identifies simple *actionable* next steps. When we lack sense of direction, we will open ourselves to be inspired by others as we invite ideas to move us forward in an open inclusive supportive process where no idea is a dumb idea. We will find this to be more energizing than expressing why things are pathetic. We will not have our egoes discourage us when not every idea of ours is accepted and/or implemented! Our real goal will be individual satisfaction at that critical end moment when we depart for the hereafter! We will work towards that moment being the most pleasant, satisfying moment – a moment of no regrets, a moment of eagerness to meet the Lord. We will find reminder of death as a reminder of the limited lease of life and a motivator for urgency of action.
Why are we not being as progressive and as forward thinking as communities that were in the early days of the Prophet (SAW)? What factors are inhibiting us to arrive at practices that will energize, mobilize, inspire and help us all excel? Should we not be working towards a culture of constant improvement and reform? What, who, why and how are we being inhibited/stopped?
This will require each one of us to engage and take action to reform. To self assess, to self reflect. To bring about a change at an individual level, to work together as caring sharing communities that aspire for the betterment of all. To identify opportunities, to highlight barriers to progress, to create positive outlooks and plans, mobilizing ourselves and others to simple forward steps.
Reform is essential. If we reform our gatherings and approach, evolving and adopting cultural practices that better suit modern day reality, deploying latest social techniques, engaging and intellectually stimulating the inspiration deprived neurons, we will find that not only we have more attendance in mosques and religious places of worship, but these places, and communities that frequent these places, with Allah’s help will glow with a radiant guiding light just like they did at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family)
Many of us can easily point to examples of practices followed today that were not a custom during the Prophet’s time. These came about at some point in the course of development of Muslim communities because people of the times deemed these practices to be effective tools for the challenges of the day. People then were not shy and neither should we be in coming up with practices suitable for our times. Of course, we would always be within the bounds of the shariah.
How confident are we that our cultural practices and customs are serving the needs of our times? How confident are we that what we undertake today are the right customs/practices inviting new people to Islam, providing a cohesive framework for the young and old alike? Are we being creative enough to arrive at new methods and techniques?
Everything begins with faith in Allah (SWT) that inspires hope and optimism. Things progress with tenacity and effort. How much effort we expend is what we control and we should leave no room for regrets. The efforts we apply to things are only meaningful to the extent they have a positive impact on humanity.
With faith, effort and commitment to humanity, optimism is inevitable. Optimism is a force multiplier! It starts with you and me!