`Actions are only (judged) by intentions; each person shall be rewarded only for
that which he intended.' (Bukhari and Muslim)
All human beings share the same
basic needs - to feel needed, to be appreciated, respected and loved. Without
these needs, a human being cannot really be said to be human. And the most
obvious thing about these needs is that they all depend absolutely on the
relationship of one person with another.
So basic are they that one can
surely take evidence from them that the need for people to find partners, and
mate, and interact together with each other and then in the creation of happy,
stable families, is intended by our Creator as a sign.
The family is the oldest of all
human institutions, and entire civilizations have flourished or disappeared
depending on whether family life was strong or weak. Yet all over the world
today, and not just in the West, families are breaking down and societies are
disintegrating into confusion and despair. Hence the central importance which
Islam attaches to family values, and to the art -and it is an art- of making
this most basic of all relationships work.
Embarking on a marriage is
really very similar to beginning the construction of a building. The building
may be extremely magnificent and grand, but the most important thing about it is
the foundation upon which it is built. If those foundations are not secure, the
building will not survive when the storms and shocks of stress hit it, as they
inevitably will sooner or later.
What does a husband need to do
in order to gain his wife's respect? And why does it matter so much to him? And
why does a woman have such a powerful need for a husband's love? How can she
earn it, and keep him faithful to her? Our Lord has revealed guidelines for
human life together since the dawn of time, and for over fourteen centuries
Muslims have had the example of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Wise
counsel on how to build the foundations of a marriage, and then to create a
happy family, have been freely available for anyone to consult. Muslims believe
that whether people follow these guidelines or not actually determines not only
their earthly happiness, but also their eternal fate once their earthly life is
There are really two keys to a
happy marriage. The first is to love Allah, and to seek to apply His principles
in every situation and relationship. The second is to do a little sensible soul
searching and analysis before embarking on such an important enterprise -one
that is going to be the most profound commitment in the whole of your life, and
is going to affect the lives and well-being of so many people, not only your
What does a person want from
marriage? Before committing the selves to a life partner, every individual
should try to sit down calmly and become conscious of what their needs really
are, and consider whether or not the proposed partner is going to prove likely
to be able to fulfill those needs. These needs are not just for a man to have a
cheap servant or concubine (a maid, or an available sex partner for whenever he
feels `in the mood'); or for a woman to have someone to shower her with gifts,
clothes, jewelry and flowers, or to provide the means for her to cradle in her
arms a beloved baby (a sugar daddy or a stud bull). The needs amount to much
more than that. They are physical, emotional, and also spiritual.
What are your values and your
goals, and how do you expect to achieve them? You have to know yourself pretty
well, and also have a fair idea of whether or not your intended spouse
understands them and is willing and able to satisfy them.
Furthermore, if your marriage is
to be successful, you must also be considerate towards the legitimate needs of
your partner, and not just look to your own gratification. If you are going to
be happy, then your spouse must be happy also, or your relationship is doomed.
We have physical needs, not only
for sexual satisfaction but also for food, clothing and shelter.
We also have emotional needs -
for understanding, kindness and compassion. We have the need for companionship
and friendship, a person with whom we can share our intimate thoughts and still
feel secure; someone who we know is not going to laugh at us or mock us, but is
going to care about us. We need to feel that we are building something up
together, and accomplishing something that is good.
Then, we have the spiritual need
for inner peace and contentment. We need to feel at home with a partner whose
way of life is compatible with our own sense of morality, and our desire to live
in such a way as is pleasing to God. If our religion means anything at all to
us, then the most fundamental need we have is to find someone whose Islam is not
just on the lips, but has reached the heart.
We will not feel comfortable if
we are settled in a life partnership with someone whose ways, morals or habits
make us uneasy or disapproving - that would not make for our inner peace, but
would be a terrible worry. We want to feel secure. This has nothing to do with
satisfying our urges for career, fame, wealth, and material possessions. Such
things are pleasant enough, but Muslims know that there is a hunger of the
spirit that remains even after all these physical needs are satisfied. The love
of dunya - the things of this world - is a tricky illusion. Muslims know that no
matter, how pleasant they may be, the things of this world are ephemeral and
will pass away quickly: they are dependent on the will of Allah. A millionaire
can be ground into the dust at the slightest turn of fate. Nothing of the
earth's riches can be taken with us when we leave here to make the journey that
comes after this brief life in the world.
Our spirits long to know who we
are, what we are, why we are here, where we are going, and how we can get there.
Non believers scoff at religion, but find their hearts are not at ease because
they do not have the answers to these questions. Muslims feel that even if they
do not know all the details for certain, at least they are on the right road.
Even if they do not always know the reason why Allah has given a particular
instruction, they trust His judgment, and know it is right to carry it out, and
that in doing so they will find happiness and contentment.
So, when we are about to embark
upon marriage, we need to be aware of how we feel about all these issues - and
also, how our chosen partner feels. Of course, it is impossible to sit down and
thrash out all the answers in five minutes. The greatest brains in the world
spend whole lifetimes on these issues. Nevertheless, it is sensible to at least
be aware of the issues - even if we cannot come up with all the answers - and to
have talked about them frankly to the intended spouse.
To make a successful marriage,
it is also vital that you take into consideration the needs and nature of your
partner. What he or she believes about `life, the universe and everything' is
important in the pursuit of your own happiness and success. For if only one half
of the partnership is happy and fulfilled by the relationship, it will not be
long before both are affected.
People intending to marry need
to know from the outset whether or not they are compatible with each other. This
means more than whether or not they are from a suitable family, or whether they
are practicing the basic obligations of the faith: such things are important,
but to believe that they are all that matters may lead to disaster. Sometimes,
when one has fallen in love one is almost in a state of sickness which impairs
the mental state. They say `love is blind'. as Imam Busiri says in his poem
Al-Burda. "You have besieged me with advice, but I hear it not; For the man in
love is deaf to all reproaches.' Often the person in love is so besotted with
the beloved that they simply cannot see the things that are `wrong' with the
loved one. Or if they can, they assume that their love is so powerful that it
will overcome all obstacles and incompatibilities, and will be able to influence
the beloved to change according to the desires and tastes of the lover.
Some hope! If two people are not
well suited as a team, then the going is likely to be rough. According to an old
Middle Eastern proverb, a field cannot be properly ploughed if an ox and a
donkey are yoked together. Such a performance might be possible, but it would
cause pain and hardship to both.
The same applies in marriage. If
a man and woman have totally different interests, tastes, pastimes, and types of
friends, it is a dead cert that their marriage will soon come under strain. This
is one good reason why it is important for life partners to have a shared
attitude to their religion. Allah has prohibited marriage to polytheists, and
has commanded us to marry people of religion. He has also approved the
involvement of parents and guardians in the choice of spouse.
Family backgrounds often have a
great deal to do with the set of values people have. When the backgrounds of
both husband and wife are similar, they will probably find it easier to grow
together. However, Allah and His Prophet (s) have stated that people from widely
different backgrounds can make very good marriages, so long as their attitude to
their religion is compatible.
slave who believes is better (for you) than an idolatress, though she attract
you.' (Quran, 2:221)
woman is married for four reasons: for her property, her rank, her beauty and
her religion. Win the one who is religious, and you will prosper.' (Bukhari
Many marriages these days end
up in unhappiness or even divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. If the
partners had stood aside from the issue of `being in love' for a moment, and had
been careful to examine their actual compatibility instead, these tragedies
might have been averted. Hence the importance of intelligent parental help in
selecting and assessing potential partners!
Sincere respect for each other
is the most vital element - not so called `closeness' and physical intimacy
before marriage. Unbridled passion might seem flattering at first, but it
actually betrays a selfish unconcern for the other person's happiness. It might
also sow seeds of doubt that could later give rise to uncertainty as to the real
motive for the marriage. Was it merely to provide an outlet for passion, or was
it genuinely to share a lifetime with someone who is truly appreciated and
loved? Many find out to their cost that lack of self-control before marriage
frequently foreshadows lack of self-control afterwards.
However, it is never possible
for two people to be completely compatible in every respect, for they are two
separate individuals, each with a distinct soul and personality. If one partner
simply tries to dominate the other so as to wipe out the other spouse's
personality, tragedy is on the way. One of the biggest dangers of `macho' males
is that after a very short period of married life they tend to think of their
partners in terms of `wife' or `extension of self', or even `property', and
forget that Islam recognizes women as persons in their own right.
When husbands on the brink of
divorce are interviewed by counselors such as the Relate teams, they frequently
realize with a shock that even though they might have been married for years and
have perhaps expected their wives to pander to their every whim, they do not
have the least idea what their wife's favourite colour, or dress, or hobby is,
or who their friends are. They simply never noticed any aspect of their wife
that did not specifically relate to them.
People are not perfect, of
course; we all have shortcomings. A spouse might not be aware of the
shortcomings of his or her partner before marriage, but will certainly pick up
this awareness pretty soon afterwards. Some marriages virtually die in the
honeymoon period, if some awful, unsuspected habit is suddenly revealed in the
intimacy of the bedroom. A friend of mine, for example, accepted her arranged
marriage quite happily, until she discovered that her new husband had disgusting
personal habits, and even threw his meal leftovers out of the window! It proved
impossible to cure these shortcomings, so the marriage was swiftly doomed.
So, if you love him, but you are
irritated by the way he always leaves a mess for others to clear up, never gives
you a little gift or remembers important dates, and you find the way he picks
his nose or honks out his throat disgusting, he is going to drive you crazy
after marriage. And if you adore her, but you wish she didn't witter on quite so
much, or talk about you to her friends, or go into sulks and tears at the
slightest thing, or cling to you quite so tightly when you are going out - then
the gazing at you and talking at you will soon pall, and you'll be off with your
friends to get a break from it, only to return later to the tantrums and the
If you can see his or her
faults, and love him or her anyway (without changes), and are able to live with
your irritation - fair enough. But if you know that would be impossible, think
twice. Suppose your pet hate was dirty socks, but your man wears them until they
stick to the wall if thrown there? I knew such a man. Over twenty years of
nagging had no effect on him. Suppose the smell of pipe smoke makes you feel
sick? Yes, he may say he'll give it all up for you - but we've all met failed
It is not the shortcomings
themselves that make a marriage fail, but the inability to communicate about
them, and tackle them, or make allowances for them. Are you flexible enough to
make allowances, as you wish allowances to be made for you? Do the good points
of your loved one outweigh the bad? Love certainly does cover a multitude of
sins; but do you really love that person enough, or were you really only in love
with a dream of what you would like your loved one to be, and not the real
person, warts and all?
Some men and women never give
up their `dream lovers', ideals created in their own fantasies. They spend a
lifetime hankering after that ideal, or trying to mould the one they have into
that ideal. By `mould', we occasionally mean `force'. Either way, it is pretty
miserable and insulting for the one whose natural character is being rejected.
Sometimes people are `in love
with love', and crave the excitement and satisfaction of continual romance. Once
the more down to earth partner begins to settle in, they feel taken for granted
and starved of affection, and the craving for the fire of fresh love overcomes
the domestic cosiness and contentment, which seems so dull by comparison. Their
ideal lover would present his or her soul on a plate to them every time they
gaze into each other's eyes. They never realise that the dream person does not
exist beyond their own fantasies. Consequently, they are always in the `pain' of
love, dissatisfied, frustrated lovers, and do not make good marriage material.
In Muslim marriage, it is reality that counts.
It is foolish not to think
seriously about the problems that other people can see, and ignore the wise
advice of those who care about you. Those who simply close their eyes and minds
to unpleasant details before marriage will certainly have to face them later,
when the need to be on best behaviour has gone and both partners are reverting
to type. It is vitally important for husband and wife to see the other person as
he or she really is, and also to be honest in presenting their true selves to
their partners. Marriages based on fantasy, fakery and illusion are doomed.
Written by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood