By: Kaniz Fatima Alikhan
Bismiallah-hi-Rahmaanir-Raheem: “And one of His signs is this: He created for you spouses from amongst yourselves, so that you live in peace and tranquility with them; and He has planted love and mercy between you. Verily, in these are signs for those who reflect.”(Sura Rome, 30:21). In Islam, the Institution of Marriage is held in very high esteem. The Holy Quran has several verses relating to it, and we also have countless hadiths from our Holy Masumeen A.S. wherein it has been highly recommended that a muslim consider the idea of marriage as early as it is feasible to support a family and maintain house. The holy Prophet SAW has stated that “Marriage is his sunnah, and a muslim who marries, abides by his sunnah!” He has further stated in another hadith that “One who marries, safeguards half of his/her religion” (meaning that having a spouse prevents one from falling into temptations or going astray, and also helps one to ‘lay down roots’ so to speak, and become a responsible individual. This could even be one reason why the marriage partners are frequently referred to as “the better half” even in the western culture, perhaps because they do bring out the better qualities in a person
The Arabic word which is used to describe the “action” whereby a man and woman become a “husband and wife” is: “Aq’d” : which literally means “to Tie a (rare) Knot; or Enter into a deep Bond”. This is interestingly enough on the same lines as the other religions, in which colloquially marriage is also referred to as: “tying the knot”!!
In almost all the ayaat relating to marriage which are in the Holy Quran, we see that Allah SWT always describes this relationship only in a most positive way, thereby implying the many benefits of this relationship, and encouraging us not only to enter into it with a positive attitude; but also continue to look upon its positive sides even in times of stress and tribulation. Taking the above ayat for example, if we analyse it closely, we see that at the very start Allah is referring to the institution of marriage as One of His Signs, just in the same way that He has referred to other momentous things (like Haj, Safa and Marwa, etc) as One of His Signs, thus right away raising the level of this relationship to a very elevated height! This could therefore be one of the reasons that the Holy Prophet SAW has told us that the “Ibadat” of a married person has many times more reward than that of a single person! The verse further goes on to describe that this is a relationship in which a man and woman find peace and tranquility with each other. There is no doubt at all that the closeness and bond that a ‘compatible married couple’ share with each other is so unique that they actually start to feel ‘incomplete’ if they are away from each other! Coming to the end of this verse, Allah SWT has again used a terminology which He often uses in describing two of His Own characteristics, when He describes the feelings of the spouses towards each other as being that of “Love and Mercy /Compassion”! (The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful
. Marriage indeed is perhaps the only relationship in which, figuratively speaking, we take a lot of “nonsense” from each other, and yet do not hold it against each other for too long! We actually do display the divine qualities of compassion and tolerance in accepting and overlooking each others faults as husband and wife, and readily forgive each others’ mistakes; something which we would perhaps not be willing to do as easily for others!
Elsewhere in the Quran, Allah has described this relationship of a husband and wife as being that of a ‘garment or clothing’ to each other. The tafseer [exegy] that has been given to us by our Ulema for this ayat is that this term “garment” implies a few things: 1. A garment is an article which covers you from public exposure as well as gives you protection against the changing weather; similarly by being a “garment for each other” it is inferred that the husband and wife should not only hide each others faults from becoming public knowledge, but also protect each others interests from the vagaries of social and public pressures. In other words: DO NOT complain about each other to outsiders; or as the old English saying goes: ‘Do not wash your dirty linen in public! In this connection we have a Hadith from Our Holy Lady of Light, in that she AS, has promised that a believing wife who does not expose her husbands faults to outsiders, and tolerates her husbands deficiencies without complaining, for the sake gaining the pleasure of Allah SWT, will not only be assured a place in heaven, but will be made to enter jannah even before she AS herself enters it! Secondly, a garment or outfit is also something one puts on for comfort and pleasure. Similarly the husband and wife should be a source of comfort and pleasure for each other, to such an extent that they both look forward to being in each others’ company to ease the tensions and demands of a busy life. Again in this connection also, we have many hadiths from our holy Masumeen AS, e.g: ‘The man who enters his house after a long and tiring day with a smile for his wife and children, incurs the utmost pleasure of Allah SWT’. Similarly the wife who dresses herself up for the sake of her husband, and receives him at the door with a smile when he returns home, assures herself a position of attaining the blessings of Allah SWT! In other ayaats in the Holy Quran, Allah has taught us to pray that our spouses become the ‘coolness of our eyes, and tranquility of our hearts’, so that we may experience our taste of heaven on this earth itself! In yet another hadith in this connection, our Masumeen AS tells us, that the wife is such a key figure within the circle of a marriage, that she alone by her actions can make her house a heaven or hell for her family. And as for those who fear that marriage will bring additional expenses and financial hardship, Allah SWT assures us in yet another ayaat of the Quran that He will in fact enhance the means of our sustenance when we marry : “And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; and if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His Grace; and Allah is ample-giving, Knowing.” (Sura Noor, 24:32) In this connection also we have a hadith from the holy Prophet SAW that in a marriage, the ‘maal’ (material wealth) will come with the luck of the wife, while the ‘aal’ (children) will be according to the share of the husbands luck! (Allaho-Aalim: God knows best
Before moving along on this subject of marriage in Islam, it will not be out of place to mention here that just as Allah SWT has assured us an increase of sustenance after marriage, He has also admonished us NOT to abort a pregnancy due to fear of an added expense, because there also Allah SWT has promised that He will provide for the unborn child from the womb to the tomb! As a verification of this, our Maula Imam Ali AS has told us in no uncertain terms that the proof of this ayat is in the fact that Allah SWT already arranges for the child’s diet in the form of the free flow of milk within the mothers body, even before the child is born! Thus in Islam abortion is totally and categorically disallowed (haram), whereas birth control is allowed. In fact, a couple of hadiths from Imam Ali AS actually encourage muslims to be ‘far sighted’ and ‘moving with the times’! One such hadith reportedly states on the authority of the Imam AS to keep the family unit small! In another hadith the Imam AS advises: Do not raise your children in the manner that you were brought up, but change with the times, and raise them to be upright muslims by relating to them in the way that their generation understands!
Returning to the subject of marriage in Islam, the most important issues involved are the Proposal, the Aq’d, the ‘Meher’ (Dower or Alimony) and the Valima. Though traditionally it has become a routine that the proposal comes from the grooms’ side, Islam is perhaps the only religion which gives the woman the first say in the matter of offering her proposal of marriage to the man, and at the same time give her the right to lay down any conditions which she feels are important enough for her and may become an issue over the years if not clarified at the beginning itself! (In this connection, we have a great example in history, in that at the time of the Aq’d of Janab-e-Zainab binte Ali AS, Imam Ali AS had negotiated the clause with her groom Hadrat-e-Abdullah-Ibne-Jafer-e-Tayyaar AS, that when a time came for her brother Imam Husain AS to leave for the journey of Kerbala some time in future, she, Janab-e-Zainab AS was to be allowed to leave her home and accompany him on that journey! This stipulation was we all know, was implemented by her husband when the time for ‘Kerbala’ arrived
Regarding the ‘Meher’, the Prophet SAW has said that the best marriage is one that involves the least expense; and a reasonable amount of Meher is recommended as a gesture of the husbands’ goodwill towards his bride. It is stated on the authority of our Imams’ AS that a wife who forgoes her Meher if her husband is unable to meet it for any sound reason, will be rewarded by Allah SWT in the best of ways on the Day of Judgement. By the same token, the Imams AS have stated that “thieves are of three kinds: One who steals knowingly, one who borrows with the intention of never repaying, and the third kind of thief is the man who does not give his wife her rightful Meher!” This Meher in Islam is considered such a special gift of the husband to a wife, that it is the only ‘excepted’ amount of wealth on which the giving of Khums is waived! Another point of interest with regards to the giving of Meher is our Masumeen AS’s injunction that when the wife receives her first portion of Meher from her husband, she should purchase some honey from this money, and both she and her husband should partake of this honey together [no doubt to gain the blessings of the Almighty, as in the holy Quran Allah SWT has stated that in the golden liquid of honey, He has concealed a great many cures (shifa)!]. As regards the last wajib or obligatory act, there are four occasions in Islam when Allah SWT has ruled a Valima to be wajib: 1.When a son is born, 2, When a person buys a new house, 3, When a person returns from Haj, and 4. When a persons’ son gets married. The idea of a Valima is not so much to have a lavish affair involving a large expense, but as a display of goodwill towards our kith and kin and to share ones’ happiness with them, and also include the indigent persons in our festivities as an act of thankfulness to Allah.
On the authority of our Holy sixth Imam AS, when the bride comes to the grooms house, it is highly recommended that both the bride and groom perform not only the ‘Sajdah of Shukr’ but also offer a 2 rakat prayer of thanks, and invoke the blessings of Allah through the intercession of the Holy 14 Masumeen AS for the start of a ideal life together. 2. Contrary to what we may regard as a mere superstition, it is actually a highly ‘ Mustahib’ act for the groom to wash the feet of the bride with clean water, collect this water in a container, and then sprinkle it in the four corners of the house for an increase of Allah’s blessings. 3. Giving alms in the way of Allah SWT on the wedding night by the groom and bride themselves, is highly praised. It is stated that on the day of her wedding, Hadrat-e-Fatima-Zehra SA was approached by a needy person for alms, and she gave away her new wedding dress to the beggar, while she got married in her old dress itself! When the Prophet SAW questioned her about this, she stated that when the person asked for alms at her door, she felt ashamed to give away her used outfit to the needy person, on a day when Allah had already granted her His great blessings in the form of her happiness in her own marriage! Similarly, it is also stated that during the time of Prophet Isa AS, when he saw a marriage procession going towards the grooms house, he commented that while everyone was rejoicing much at the wedding that day, they would be crying the next day, because the bride would be dead. However, the next day the people noticed that the merry-making continued at the house of the marriage. They approached Nabi AS and asked him to explain the situation. He escorted them to the door, and asked permission to speak to the bride. He asked her what special act had she performed upon reaching her husbands house, that a great disaster had been averted. She replied that when she entered her husbands’ house for the first time, a beggar coincidentally came to her door, and she, feeling that it was the start of a new life for her, gave some charity for the pleasure of Allah SWT. Nabi Isa AS then advised them to check the bridal chamber for a snake which was somewhere within the bridal chamber, and would have stung her on her wedding night, but for her act of charity due to which Allah SWT had warded off the catastrophe by His Mercy! Thus a sadqa given by the bridal couple on a most happy day of their lives, when they take the time to spare a thought for the needy creatures of Allah SWT on a day which is totally centered around themselves, carries a lot more reward than when given on other ordinary days.
Last but not least, it recommended to the point of being wajib, that the bride and groom remain in wudoo at the time that they come together and start their lives by first reciting the ‘kalimah’ of “Bismillah hir Rahmaan nir Raheem” to keep the ‘fitna of shaitan’ out of their relationship and their lives, and the start of new lives from them. In conclusion, a couple of hadiths from the Prophet SAW in which he has honoured the women more than the men, in that he has stated that: Lucky is that man in Duniya and Aqhirat, who has a believing wife, an honest tongue and a spacious house! And he SAW has also stated that the mother’s lap is the first school of a child, thus giving the credit to the woman as being the prime person who will mould her child’s thoughts and mind in the right direction! Again, he has also said that the heaven lies at the feet of a mother, thereby raising the position of a mother much higher than that of the father. And he SAW has also stated that the wife is the pivot of a household; she is that unique source of strength and inspiration to her family that if she is disturbed, the entire household is thrown out of balance! And lastly, he SAW has also said that a good wife is (responsible for) half of a mans’ faith [‘nifs emaan’ in the sense that she can encourage and nourish and raise a mans’ faith to higher levels].
Before ending, it will not be out of place to mention at this time that the institution of marriage is so special that Allah SWT has promised great rewards even to those who bring about a union of two believing persons; and also to those who act as mediators between a husband and wife to keep a marriage from disintegrating; for Allah SWT has said that from all the ‘jayez’ acts (allowed by Islam), a divorce is the most reprehensible to Him. Towards maintaining a happy relationship between the spouses, our Masumeen AS have demonstrated that the spirit of tolerance, understanding and sacrifice should be foremost. In the case of the marriage between Shehzadi Fatima SA and Imam Ali AS, right at the start of their relationship the Holy Prophet SAW allocated their areas of responsibility, by designating that all matters relating to the issues outside the four walls of the house were the responsibility of the husband, and all matters concerned with domestic issues within the four walls were to be under the jurisdiction of Shezadi Fatima SA. A saying from Imam Ali AS in connection with any venture which involves more than one person as partners, is that the Imam AS states: whenever there are two or more people involved in a partnership, then one should become a leader and the other a follower, in order to achieve the maximum benefit from the relationship. If all decide to become leaders, there will be conflict, and if none decide to be a leader there will be chaos! In the Quran Allah SWT has mentioned that the ‘men are a degree above the women’ [perhaps referring to their physical aspect and greater masculine strength], and as trusting believers it would be only fitting for us to follow the direction of our Masumeen AS and work towards building the best possible relationship of a man and wife.
We conclude with duas that both, the bride and groom enter their marriage as two equals, each with their own distinct laurels given to them by Allah SWT, and by their exemplary behavior maintain the honour and dignity of this institution of marriage the way that Islam prescribed, and our Masumeen AS propounded. Ameen.