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.