By Sumeera Nisar
Without a doubt, the dream of a happy marriage is one of the most consistent longings of the human heart. Most of us deeply want to experience an abundant, delightful, lifelong companion- ship that we can thank God for every day. Forget the bleak statistics we’ve seen, forget the bad rap that committed, lifelong marriage gets in the media—we want to marry our best friend, then enjoy our spouse and enjoy being married. And, many people do!
But I’ve also noticed that many times, others feel stuck in a rut and don’t know how to get out of it. Some not-yet-married couples aren’t sure they can navigate the transition to a lifetime commitment—or whether the dream of a forever marriage is even realistic. And, many married couples—especially in times of heartache— harbor secret doubts about whether a great marriage is possible for them. Some have stopped hoping for better. Instead of highly happy, they’ve settled for sometimes happy or even mostly mediocre. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Is marriage a blessing or a curse? This question is not an unexpected one; especially in view of the increasing levels of conflicts among couples giving a widespread tendency to blame the institution of marriage.
“Like a Garment” is the most beautiful, poetic and profound metaphors of the Qur’an used for spouses in a wedlock. Men and women are mutual garments for each other. They cover each other’s weaknesses, serve as protection and comfort from the harsh elements of reality, and safeguard the precious intimacy and secrets shared between them. Clothes and garments are a necessity for warmth, protection, covering, and adornment. In our clothes, we find comfort, security, satisfaction and identity. The male and female are in need of each other in a way similar to how the naked body of the human stands in need of clothes to face his natural and social environment.
The relationship between man and woman in Islam is not therefore the relationship of master and servant but that of garments to each other. Clothes are the closest thing to one’s body—these is that part of the external world which becomes a part at’ our being. Such is the closeness of the relationship between the spouses. Nothing comes between a person and his or her clothes. So the analogy of spouses being ‘like clothes to one another’ implies such closeness – there is nothing, literally and metaphorically, that should come between spouses.
It is very sad that this relationship which Allah has established for the good has been made a source of contention, deception, trickery, tyranny, humiliation, and abuse. This is not the way marriage supposed to be. Surely there is something wrong— may be a gap or a missing link. Let’s find out.
The decision to marry is one of the greatest leaps of faith that any man or woman is likely to make in a lifetime. When couples take that step and most sincerely expect to love and cherish their mates but this doesn’t so go long why—most probably they haven’t understood each other and not realizing that their psychological makeup is different from each other. To have a successful relationship, a couple must understand each other’s needs. It’s very important for a couple to know nature and expectations of each other as they may vary. Emerson Eggerichs in, “Love and Respect “ explains that a man desperately needs respect, while a woman’s primary need is for love—the most desirable thing. He describes what he calls the “crazy cycle”—the pattern of argumentation that results when the wife does not show respect and the husband does not show love. He explains when a wife feels that her husband is acting unloving; she often reacts with disrespect, which, in turn, makes the husband act even more unloving.
Eggerichs argues that the solution to the “crazy cycle” is for the wife to show unconditional respect to her husband and for the husband to show unconditional love to his wife. From there, the author seeks to move the marriage relationship from ‘bad to good’ and from ‘good to better’ by advancing what he calls the “Energizing Cycle”. This means that a wife should not say that first her husband must love before she will show him respect. By doing so, she will only bring about more unloving behaviour and vice versa. The two must be unconditional. Husband and wife should know each other as their tastes, nature, and expectations may vary. The Quran declares man as Qiwama of woman. Modern psychologists truly understand this concept; they say that he is her protector, that he is her guardian, her warrior. Therefore, by showing respect to her husband, she brings out, the best in her man. She extracts from him love, the tenderness, the protection. Respect is not a word or a statement, respect is an attitude, it’s a mode of life. Respecting his knowledge and judgment, trusting his capability in what he attempts to do, showing respect in tone and choice of word, not crack a joke about him in public (men have fragile egos, extremely fragile egos). At the same time, the husband must take into account that a woman’s needs and expectations are different than a man’s. Great intimacy can only be achieved if a woman finds a complete, fulfilling relationship.
Women get married to find a special best friend. They want someone who will share their secrets, laugh and joke with them, love them, cherish them, adore them, be romantic with them, and make them feel beautiful.
The second most important ingredient, which is unfortunately lacking in relationships, of happy and successful marriage is quiet love—affection, neither on ardent love nor in illusions of love which fail to withstand reality or romantic fantasies which fail to create a successful marriage as rightly stated by Frederick Koenig that romantic love is very strong and emotional, but does not last, while real love is linked to the land and life and can withstand trials. Real love means sharing the concerns of daily life and cooperation for it to continue.
As years pass, company and kind treatment enhance such love. Real love gradually replaces the illusive love. It’s really high time to revive Sunnah of love. See how the Prophet (SAW) after receiving the first revelation came to Khatijah(RA)—frightened he was—and she soothing and consolidating him by her beautiful and powerful words, reassuring him about his being and powerful identity—pious, truthful, trustworthy, just, kind, helper…What a timeless and eternal moment!!!! When whole world was opposing him, she was with him—standing firmly.
Fyodor Dostoevsky rightly remark that love in action is harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Truly, love is an emotion in action. Stephen Covey in, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said a man came to him and said I am worried as my wife and I don’t love each other anymore. He said “Then love her. If the feeling of love just isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her. Love is a verb. Love –feeling—is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?
Furthermore, Spouse should be once friend that is why Nietzsche asserts it is not the lack of love, but the lack of friendship which makes unhappy marriage. The most rewarding marriages are those in which the partners not only love each other, but genuinely like each other and enjoy a close friendship with each other. It’s better to get out and take a walk. Exercise together. Laugh. Be spontaneous and enjoy life together. Have fun together. Share a joke. Prophet (SAW) and A’isha (RA) would use code language with each other denoting their love. The Prophet was the kindest one towards his wives. He was comical when it was time for fun. “The Messenger of Allah (SAW) would say to `Aisha, (RA): “I know when you become angry or pleased of me” She said, “I asked how you could know that?” He said, “When you are pleased, you say, “No, by the Lord of Muhammad and when you are angry, you say, “No, by the lord of Ibrahim”.
Another crucial aspect is communication. One needs to communicate love and respect one holds for the partner. With the utterance of a word, you can give it a special meaning. Some partners create words to express what they feel to each other. Expressing feelings to once mate is important. Good communication is a boost to any relationship, and those couples with the most loving and harmonious relationships seem to have no problem talking to each other about anything and everything. A word creates an agreement or memories. These moments can be repeated when you use that word or when you think about it. Words are important! All arguments can be solved through proper communication. The most important form of communication is in what you do, not what you say as the old saying goes “Action speaks louder than words”. Styles of communication should be versatile like surprising mate with flowers or other gifts to express our appreciation. Physical presence in the time of crisis and quality time is the most powerful gift we can give—to communicate love and care for our partner. A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. I do not mean proximity. Togetherness has to do with focused attention.
While coming out of chaos and confusions, that is, how to make marriage a success, one gets trapped in another puzzle—identity. Living within the paradoxically complex nostrums of identities; one fears to lose identity or some may have lost their identity while being in this sacred relation (especially women). Looking through the premise of this indubitable crisis, one gets encountered with questions like: is it mandatory to lose ones identity in marriage or can I remain ‘I’ while being with ‘other’ or How to become One while having different identities. If we look through the prism of Hegelian discourse on the real essence of love, love is a distinguishing of the two, who nevertheless are absolutely not distinguished for each other. The consciousness or feeling of the identity of the two – to be outside of myself and in the other is key. I have my self-consciousness not in myself but in the other. I am satisfied and have peace with myself only in this other. This other, because it likewise exists outside itself, has its self-consciousness only in me; and both the other and I are only this consciousness of being-outside-ourselves and if our identity; we are only this intuition, feeling, and knowledge of our unity. This is love, and without knowing that love is both a distinguishing and the sublimation of this distinction, one speaks emptily of : it’s You, Me and We.
What truly grates is one gets muddled to see the chasm between Islamic perception of marriage and its misinterpretation, tangled together—usually represented as strict master slave relationship as well as our inability of presenting before the world Sunnah of Love and its real essence properly. We Muslims need to accept our mediocrity as we aren’t presenting the Divine message divinely—unable to connect new minds, we still lack spark in our strategies and approaches. So, it’s high time to revive same and get back to work.
To sum up, marriage is the strongest of bonds, in which Allah (SWT) unites the two partners, who come together on the basis of love, understanding, co-operation and mutual advice. Historically speaking, the very first relationship that was established was that of marriage between a male and female—the most sacred of bonds. We need a partner to have a joyful and tranquil journey of life. Partners are backbone of each other—standing firmly with each other in thick and thin. Both partners are supposed to uplift, identify unidentified abilities, and raise each other—inculcating the best in each other. They are, as Aristotle put it ‘two bodies and one soul.
—The author is a research scholar in the faculty of Islamic studies, University of Kashmir. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org