[Imam Magid is the Executive Director and Imam, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)]
Of the many blessings God showers upon us, one of the greatest is marriage. It sweetens our lives with love and friendship, comfort and security, while helping us grow personally and strengthening us.
The Prophet Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The whole world is a provision and the best object of benefit of the world is a good spouse.” Marriage is one of our greatest responsibilities. Muslims often quote the Prophet’s saying, “Whoever marries has fulfilled half of his religion” to remind themselves of the significance of marriage.
Do we indeed approach our marriages, current or future, as though they are half of our religion?
>From an Islamic perspective, marriage is a pledge that a man and woman make to one another in accordance with the Qur’an (the Muslim Holy Book) and the Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s life).
The foremost obligation is to treat each other with kindness and gentleness. One’s words, actions, and behavior must always be suffused with mercy, love, and tenderness. Knowing the purpose of marriage is important because when we fulfill it, we automatically fulfill the terms of our contract. When we do not, we risk loosening the marital knot. In the Qur’an, God says, “And among His Signs is this: that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and that He has put love and mercy between your hearts.
Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect” (30:21). This famous verse, often printed on Muslims’ wedding invitations, describes some of the wonderful purposes of marriage.
Consider the phrase “from among yourselves.” God reminds us to view our mates as extensions of ourselves, and ourselves as extensions of our mates. There is no room for selfishness. We must intentionally walk the path to oneness. Our vocabulary changes from ‘I’ to ‘we’ and from ‘me’ to ‘us,’ and we make decisions together rather than individually.
Now take the phrase “that you may dwell in tranquility.” The Arabic word for “tranquility” derives from a root word meaning “a place where one lives.” Think about the many purposes of our homes. These structures protect us from the harshness of the elements, permit us to relax and refresh ourselves, and enable us to be ourselves without having to worry about always looking our best.
A good marriage should provide all of these same virtues. A husband and wife must protect one another. A marriage in which one member does not feel protected by the other is like a house in which the roof is leaking. Spouses should always put one another at ease. They should be a wellspring of comfort, love, and support. They must understand that while each will give his or her best, both must be free to be who they are without pretension.
Marriage must be built on a firm acceptance of each other, including imperfections. Just as we do not don business suits to watch television, we should not have to exert ourselves to interact with our spouse. Similarly, we must never go into marriage hoping to change our partner — not only because this is utterly beyond our capacity, as only God is The All-
Powerful — but also because it creates an environment of rejection.
Much as our houses need occasional maintenance and inspections, so do our marriages.
We must check with ourselves and with our other halves to see if anything needs repair and tend to these repairs immediately. The time to fix the roof is before it rains.
In a beautiful passage in the Qur’an, God gives further insight into the role of husband and wife: “They are your garments and you are their garments” (2:187).
We wear our clothes very close to our bodies, and our spouses should also be held close to us and us to them — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Garments serve many purposes: veiling our faults, preserving our modesty, accentuating our beauty. We should do the same by covering our spouse’s shortcomings, preserving their privacy and dignity, and helping them develop their innate talents. While we may have only one spouse in our lifetime, though, we own many articles of clothing, for different occasions and different seasons.
We own suits for work and pajamas for sleep; jackets for winter and sandals for summer. But as spouses, we are only one person and must adapt to all of life’s eventualities. Finally, we must consult and respect our spouse’s “care label.”
Just as some clothes may become discolored when washed in hot water, we must learn how to care for our spouse, something often unique to them and different from ourselves.
Striving to give our best to our spouse and marriage is the key to truly upholding marriage as half of our religion.