Marriage in Islam- An opinion piece

By Adeela Kasoojee

 

Modern Times, Why do we get married?

Marriage in Islam is considered a union on multiple levels, spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual with a division of labour and rights and obligations on the part of each spouse. Other religions find their ‘nirvana’ or spiritual enlightenment through practising monasticism or celibacy. Islam recognises that spiritual enlightenment is not necessarily related to the suppression of sexuality and the urges present in humanity. Rather, sexuality is seen as something natural and God-given in Islam to be governed by the institution of marriage.

Sexual gratification is to be had with due recognition of the ensuing rights and obligations of both parties involved. Professor Abdur Rahman I. Doi of the Center for Islamic Legal Studies based at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaira, Nigeria explains that marriage is a part of the ‘social agenda of Islam’ inferring that Islam not only commends such a union but sanctifies it. (Shariah: Islamic Law, Doi & Clarke, 2008) Islamic values such as chastity and modesty are considered protected by the establishment of marriage. Indeed, one of the Hadith attributes the following statement to the prophet Muhammed (PBUH): 

“O you young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty.” (Al-Bukhari)

Islam considers that Marriage has two aspects – Mu’alamah (transactions between human beings) and Ibaadah (worship). Ibaadah is worship of Allah. In our worship of our Rabb we establish continuity in the form of progeny, by rearing our children as good Muslims and assisting one another in striving in the path of Allah. A good marriage provides excellent bedrock for this type of interaction. Spouses are duty bound to each other – to assist in infirmity and health, for succour and hope and for spouses to champion each other’s cause and support each other to achieve more and stay firm in the path of Islam. Mu’alamah is another facet of marriage. In this incarnation, marriage is considered a halaal (sanctioned and lawful) manner of sexual expression and human interaction. It is also considered a means of procreation governed by the Shari’ah with ensuing rights and obligations. It is in this aspect that Muslims are protected from the social evils: fornication, adultery and the ill-effects of broken homes. But is this aspect of the social agenda of Islam still pertinent and applicable in the present-day?

Many would argue otherwise, citing the changes in society. We live in a different era. Women are no longer seen as the ‘weaker of our species’. No longer in need of ‘protection’ and support, we compete with men on equal grounds for work and other opportunities. The

Victorian ideals that existed not too long ago have been quashed and with them – the concepts of decorum and gentlemanly behaviour have made their way into the annals of history. Women in hijab occupy power seats in boardrooms, hob-nob with CEO’s and directors, deliver speeches and lecture students in internationally recognised higher education institutions and take their morning coffee with a hefty dose of fortitude.

They are a feminine force to be reckoned with in a world where women are fast becoming equal. Bombarded with media, the internet and a host of social interaction tools, faced with a multitude of choices and decisions in terms of education and development, the contemporary Muslimah is exploring her options. Studying further and developing herself seems to be at the forefront of her priorities in life, and marriage and children somehow take the backseat. In days gone by, she would probably never have imagined the realisation of dreams and ambitions but in the present-day, these dreams and hopes for better are translated into reality.

Perhaps this newfound independence and financial freedom scares men who resent being emasculated by this feminine force. It is affront to their manhood to see women assuming their traditional role as the provider, succeeding in areas where they are afraid to tread and being financially independent. We forget the example of Nabi Muhammed’s (PBUH) first wife – Hadhrat Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (RA) who was an established business woman who initially employed our Prophet and later recognised his sterling qualities and proposed marriage to him based on her opinion of his honesty and integrity.

What could be further from the Western model that portrays a woman as weak and dependent, incapable of making her own decisions and requiring a man to guide and support. This strong-willed decisive woman was later to use her wealth and connections in support of her husband’s efforts in spreading Islam. He sought her advice and she offered comfort and tacit understanding together with love and affection for the 25 years of their marriage.

She understood his need for solitude and contemplation and encouraged him when Allah bestowed the mantle of prophethood upon him. She passed away at the age of 65, ten years after Hijrah after enduring much hardship alongside Nabi SAW. He was to mourn her death for the rest of his life. He said of her “when none believed me, Khadijah (R.A) did. She made me a partner in her wealth.” (Kitaab Al-Estiab, Kazi Ejaz & Ibne Abdul Bir)

Once again, the characterisation of marriage as a union on multiple levels comes to the fore – our Prophet had as much need of Hadhrat Khadijah as she did of him. She was his confidante, the mother of his children and the greatest champion of his cause. He was her business partner, her husband, the father of her children and her prophet.

The Quran says –

“And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.” (Surah Ar-Rum 30:21)

Marriage to a spouse that complements your nature is sanctioned and even encouraged in the Quran. What better way forward than a mate who encourages you to better yourself. A woman’s success at certain aspects of her life, be it financial or educational does not preclude her from assuming her natural role –both sexes need to understand that gravity of the Quranic injunction that states –

“And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best.” (Surah an-Nahl 16:72)

It can, however, be said that despite a woman’s level of education and personal growth, her natural role, indeed the role that defines her as a woman, is that of Wife and Mother.

“It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their

Lord, (saying): “If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.” (Surah Al A’Raf 7:189)

This does not mean that education and growth should be forbidden to Muslim women. Many are able to manage all aspects of their lives without sacrificing one upon the altar of another.

Nabi’s SAW marriage to Hadhrat Ayesha bint Abu Bakr RA is an interesting example. Ayesha RA was the youngest of his wives and she and Khadijah RA shared the privilege of being the women who were emotionally closest to him. Simply put, she was a good wife. Yet,

Ayesha RA distinguished herself in learning – much of what we have in the Hadith is attributed to her and her wealth of knowledge of Islamic Jurisprudence. From the numerous hadith narrated that details the lives and habits of the Prophet Muhammed SAW and his wives and companions, one would imagine that Hadhrat Ayesha RA was have been a witty, intelligent and opinionated woman

Our Nabi SAW enjoyed her company immensely and she could hold her own in discussions with respected scholars. This is proof that she was far from the cowering pathetic image adopted by the western media in their depictions of Muslim women and rather closer to home, in her intellectual capabilities, with quirky mannerisms that are typical of the modern-day Muslim wife. It stands to reason that Islam is all about leading by example. Our Nabi’s (PBUH) approach to marriage and human relations should serve as the yardstick for our own relationships even in times of difficulty – we should seek solutions to our problems in our Prophet’s Sunnah and emulate his example when formulating our responses to concerns. It follows that marriage is still necessary for the greater good of Islam and mankind and whilst our relationships may not always have the exact dimensions and levels of these marriages- we can certainly attempt to emulate some of the qualities present in them. These examples of marriage and the relationships enjoyed by our Nabi SAW and Ummahatul Mo’mineen should serve as the source of our inspiration.

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