I happen to have three friends who, for one reason or another, have decided to get engaged and to marry in the next few weeks. Marriage in Islam, as in most other religions or traditions, is a sacred union that does not only guarantee individual rights, but also supposes to enhance people’s lives and spirituality. In Islam, marriage is not only for the sake of having children, that may or may not come with marriage; but this sacred union is meant to oversee a relationship of love, respect, care, happiness, etc. However, unfortunately, there are few people who have not actually attained any of these features in their marriages and, sometimes, they do not even know that they should be looking for them.
The institution of marriage is not in danger in Western societies only, as we commonly say, but also among our own communities. For example, my first friend is getting married because “it is time.” Nowadays, we consider marriage a social duty, which results quite strange because we consider that paperwork and children will fulfill this duty. Nonetheless, we forget about all the joys that suppose to come with marriage and that are part of the “duty”. From a religious perspective, one should be marrying someone who is compatible, respectable, caring, loving, polite, religious, and able to make our lives more enjoyable. However, nowadays we often listen “love comes after;” however, I always wonder… after what exactly? After we don’t find what we are looking for and dedicate our lives to pure companionship with no love and with a bunch of children growing up in a polite but non-loving environment? If we consider marriage a duty everything that comes with it will be also a duty that is hard to fulfill. Marriage should be an enjoyable companionship between two best friends who love each other and wish to share their love and to seal it under Allah’s protection. Happy healthy marriages make happy healthy people who raise happy healthy children.
Nonetheless, that’s not all! My second friend tends to say: “I am marrying for the sake of Allah.” That’s nice, but what does that mean? More often than not, it means “for the sake of my family.” How much pressure do we face when we are unmarried, especially as girls? In addition, how many guys do we hear about just because our families think they know what is best for us? Probably our families know us very well, but sometimes they also know how to repeat the patterns that they have lived. In many cases, parents who had an arranged marriage do not think that it is proper for their children to marry outside that pattern, and to assure this, they will engage in what is commonly known as “boy-shopping.” This means that if we belong to specific group, our families will encourage us to remain inside the same group, while marrying someone who our parents approve. Sometimes we believe that making our families or communities happy is “the sake of Allah” and if we decide to do things differently we are usually under the threat of hurting their feelings. However, it is important to remember that having a choice is basic. There are many hadiths and sunnah that back up the choice of partners, Why? Because this is the person that you should be willing to spend you life with. You must make sure that this partner will be good for you and will look after you and your interests and vice versa. Besides, having an idea of how can you achieve your best potential by being with this person is a huge step. Marriage is not only for the sake of having children, you could have them with anyone!, but it is about being a better person and having successful children who are loved and perceive love in their parents’ marriage. How can we teach love if we cannot show it towards the other person who raises our children? Although it is important to understand that, whether you like it or not, you will probably be marrying into a family, choices should be respected and support shall be granted.
In the third case, my friend says that Allah requested her to marry; therefore, she should fulfill the command as soon as possible. Well, yes, we were given the advice to marry. However, we were not given the advice to marry just anyone who crosses our way or to force someone into marriage. Marriage is one of the highest communions in Islam and should be given careful consideration because your happiness and integrity as human being are at risk. Allah does not want us to be unhappy; on the contrary, if we have so many rules regarding morals and values is for us to live in an organized society that can achieve harmony, peace and happiness. The highest ends are to be successful and happy. Nonetheless, above everything, we must aim to be good people who work for the world, humanity and for the sake of Allah. And unhappy marriage is like dismissing the highest values of Islam. When we marry to the person we love and respect we are able to really comply and practice all the values that we have been taught. We would be caring, loving, respectful, polite, supporting, successful, etc. A marriage that was chosen just to satisfy the “requirement to marry” is likely to undermine all these values, and to substitute them by the sense of duty that leads many marriages to be unsuccessful (even when divorce is not involved). It is a good thing to marry, but it is not to be confused with being unhappy or mediocre in our everyday life and in our choices. Responsibility is key while thinking about marriage.
A bad choice in marriage can lead people to very bad states of mind and to lose spirituality and closeness to Allah. How is that Islāmic? It is not, that’s why marriage is sacred, because it requires us to put the best of ourselves in the search for the right person, in the marriage itself and in our personal development within a relationship of two. Something else that should be kept in mind is that love does not refer by any means sex! Looking for love and the right person is not a bad thing. Looking for a partner does not require sex to be involved. In that case we can then say that, yes… that comes after! Love should be present before and the rest are just some of the joys that come from responsible, good-taken decisions in our lives.