Islam is a religion that encompasses all aspects of our lives and ultimately provides us with answers to our questions and solutions to our problems. One of the most important aspects of life is marriage. Not only is it a strong bond between a man and woman, but it is also one of the most awesome signs of Allah (SWT).
“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” (Ar-Rum:21).
In the Islamic context, love and mercy are synonymous. “Mercy compels us to love and love compels us to have mercy”. The attribute of rahma (mercy) is mentioned 79 times in the Qur’an and the attribute Ar-Rahman (the Most Merciful) is mentioned 170 times to emphasise the significance for the believers to show mercy and compassion.
The following are essential points one should know before marriage:
1. The ruling regarding marriage in Islam
In “The Book of Marriage” by Ibn ’Abdin, he summarises the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) perspective that Islam has placed on the ruling of marriage. It is broken up into five categories: fardh (obligatory), wajib (requisite), sunnah (recommended), makruh (disliked), and haram (forbidden).
Marriage becomes fardh for someone who fears his or her chastity. It is wajib for someone whose desire is overwhelming. It becomes sunnah for a male who has the ability to have sexual intercourse, pay the mahr, and maintain the responsibilities of his wife; and for a female who has the ability to fulfill the duties of a wife. It is makruh to marry for someone who fears he or she will be unjust to a spouse. And lastly, it is haram for someone who is sure he or she will be unjust to a spouse.
Generally speaking, Islam encourages marriage and this famous hadith illustrates its value in regards to the deen (religion):
Al-Haakim narrated in a hadith from Anas ibn Malik: “Whomever Allah blesses with a righteous wife, He has helped him with half of his religion, so let him fear Allah in regards to the other half.”
2. Your rights and obligations
Often you find articles and books discussing the duties of the Muslim wife with no mention of those of the husband. While the importance of the wife’s role cannot be overstated, the husband also plays a crucial role which will ultimately determine whether or not the marriage will be pleasing to Allah (SWT).
The nafaqa (halal income) is the most important responsibility of the Muslim husband. He is in charge of providing his family with halal money with which they can purchase food, clothes and other necessary provisions. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Surely a body fed on haram will not enter Paradise – verily Hell is more deserving of that body.” (Musnad Ahmad, 14032)
Furthermore, a good husband must fulfil a variety of roles: he must be like a father, mother, and sibling to his wife. She left her mother, father, brothers and sisters for him, so she should find in him the gentleness of a father, the compassion of a mother, the leniency of a brother, and the companionship of a sister.
Though the list may seem short, the Muslim husband is obliged to provide the following in the best manner he can, in order to bring him closer to Allah (SWT):
1. The wife’s full mahr (marriage payment)
2. Her daily maintenance of clothing, food and shelter
3. Warm intimacy and companionship with pleasant and righteous behaviour
4. Sexual satisfaction – the husband should maintain the amount that will keep his wife chaste.
5. Teaching or providing a means for her to learn and gain Islamic knowledge (the obligatory religious knowledge).
One must remember that a woman came out of the rib of man; not from his feet to be walked on, nor from his head to be superior over; she came from his side to be his companion and next to his heart to be loved.
The wife must fulfill the following rights of her husband in a loving and caring way that pleases Allah (SWT):
1. Raise their children in an Islamic manner – this requires care, knowledge, patience and wisdom.
2. Obey him in his request for sexual intimacy – Allah (SWT) has made this act lawful in marriage and a natural aspect of our human biology. Furthermore, there is nothing dirty or disgusting about intimate relations and there are no reservations about halal (permissible) sexual intercourse. Had it been so, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) would have abstained from it.
3. Obey him generally in all other requests and serve him with love
4. Protect herself, his house, his wealth and his children in his absence.
The Muslim wife should always strive to observe the rights of her husband in his presence and absence. She should struggle to make him happy in everything that she does while at the same time seek the reward of Allah (SWT). One should make Allah’s pleasure the main goal when doing tasks that are difficult and tiresome. After all, one’s husband could ultimately be the key with which a dutiful wife enters Paradise.
3. Common myths about marital happiness
You should be happy with a prospective spouse for who he is, not for who you hope he will become. After marriage, certain changes naturally take place, but changing long-standing personal traits and characteristics is hard and often impossible. For instance, if someone is lazy before marriage, the chances are they will be lazy after marriage. But, there are exceptions and virtually any habit can be broken if the will exists.
Furthermore, it is wrong to criticise or express aversion to a physical characteristic in your spouse, especially when you clearly knew of it before marriage. We must show sensitivity to one another in all aspects, for this provides and nurtures the basis for a healthy relationship.
Similarly, an excessive dependence-based relationship is unhealthy and destructive. No one person can single-handedly make another happy. To place that burden on your spouse with demands, orders and expectations never brings success; it may even increase unhappiness and dissatisfaction. A person with these types of expectations must find contentment in themselves before getting married.
Another common fallacy is that with children comes stability, security and happiness. In the best of circumstances, a baby should be brought into a stable, healthy marriage because realistically speaking, a baby takes much more than it gives in the first few years. Though children are the beautiful fruits of marriage, they cannot fulfill desperate dreams of contentment.
4. The meaning of love in Islam
As someone seeking to draw closer to Allah (SWT), your primary objective in marriage is to choose a spouse who will help you do this. A spouse should not only love and support you, but also encourage you to love him (or her) for Allah’s sake. Choosing a spouse should be based upon factors that will aid you in the Hereafter, not merely the transitory dunya. One should look for someone who will draw them closer to Allah (SWT) and not one who is just physically, intellectually, or even emotionally attractive. Many young adults are in love with love. Falling or being in love is a pleasant state of excitement, with a feeling of ecstasy at the beginning and extreme anguish over the ending. This romantic love is usually temporary and eventually withers away.
A sincere intention is vital upon beginning a marriage; if it is there, the blessing of Allah (SWT) will envelope the marriage and bless the bond. The purest form of love is to love someone because of Allah’s love for that person’s iman (faith). Islam calls for lasting love in a marriage of mutual respect, together with the intention of providing your spouse their rights, as a means of drawing closer to Allah (SWT).
5. The reality that men and women were created different
The first step in understanding and accepting our differences as men and women is to recognise that we are actually hardwired to be different. The very way our brains are structured and function is not the same. If we cannot find a way to embrace the differences and to achieve a balance, sustaining a relationship then becomes difficult.
Men and women handle responsibilities differently, cope with stress differently, and often execute tasks differently. At first, these differences may seem to be a hindrance, but once you fully understand the biology, it becomes clear that we complement each other perfectly. In fact, it is as if men and women were made for each other.
From an Islamic viewpoint, we must remember that Allah (SWT) made marriage ties as one of His signs for us to live together in harmony, happiness, and tranquility. Allah (SWT) created us differently for us to live together with love and mercy, accepting and forgiving one another, and seeking His satisfaction with a sincere intention, always.
Sarah Elshamy is an American-born Egyptian living in Cairo. She is currently studying at Al-Azhar University entering her third year studying hadith and Qur’an.