In Islam, a marriage between a believing man and a believing woman is deemed to be completion of half their respective deen1. A young man with the means to marry is encouraged to do so post haste. A young woman is advised to seek taqwa2 in her spouse. If neither are able to marry for any reason, they are advised to fast in order to control their base desires and remain free of immoral behaviour.
As in all things Islam, the marital tie is preordained in another realm by Our Creator. We are from a young age encouraged to pray, pray, pray for all the things we want in life. God is our Santa Clause and whatever we don’t receive through our prayers and firm faith in His Divinity, was never meant for us and there is always a lesson in that, for those who believe anyway.
While Islamic doctrine advocates firm belief in the Will and Mercy of Allah (swt)3 and in the reality that nothing is possible with out His Command, the mere mortals charged with the task of carrying this slogan fall desperately short. We always attribute things outside of the Will of Allah swt to the way things pan out in our lives. We always end up attributing importance and relevance to the things we can SEE around us. To the people we know and interact with. We define our lives and our selves through each other and not always through the guiding light of our Creator. It is inevitable. Even the best of us fall into this trap – dunya4 has a most permeating quality about it.
While we are encouraged through zikr5 and other methods to reconnect with our spirituality and keep matters of the dunya at their relevant place in this life, most Muslims remain oblivious of the effect of dunya on their hearts and minds. Some very real manifestations of this can be seen in social traditions perpetuated over centuries. One such tradition is Marriage.
While there is a lot of clout6 behind the idea, it is not deemed a mandatory act in our religion. In a lot of Muslim/Islam oriented cultures however the idea of Marriage is wielded as a weapon of mass repute. The pursuit of Marriage, preparing a woman/man for marriage, getting married, being married, having children through your marriage, staying married are some of the most widely and frequently discussed topics amongst said societies. Yes, I’m painting everyone with a singular brush but I have my experiences and you have yours. You may choose to disagree – I really take no issue with that.
In some places/cultures/families/societies, the idea of Marriage sometimes takes precedence over virtuosity and Islam. It becomes a sort of end game toward which a person’s entire efforts are concentrated. If you think about it, in Islam, the end game is to achieve spiritual purity, a state of equilibrium between yourself, your Creator and His Creations. The onus on something that is meant to bring joy, love, prosperity and the propagation of the human condition (which sometimes you wonder about this last part. we’re in such a sickly state of affairs, why would you want to propagate that?) quite often becomes the bane of a person’s existence.
In the stress we create for our children to get married and depart their birth homes, we forget that there are things outside of marriage that matter to a Muslim, that should matter to a Muslim man or woman. In a way we set up these false gods for ourselves. We worship them more regularly than we do our Maker. We subconsciously start paying homage at the altar of Marriage when we raise its status to something more than what it actually is. The resolve with which some people fixate on this ONE element of their child’s life often becomes their cross to bear. Marriage will happen when its meant to but in the mean time they will have created a sort of living hell for themselves – because there’s no real out for their frustrations. They’ve done another great injustice to their child who for all their potential and wonder can not help focusing on the one aspect of their life that remains “incomplete”. My commentary on this kind of an attitude has gone from unfair to downright unislamic. Yes, I’m on a soap box. Wait your turn, we all know you want to get on yours too.
When everything in your life points to a singular goal – the inability to get there creates feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. There must be something wrong with you if you are unable to get married. There must be something wrong with you if you are unable to get your children married. There must be something wrong with your entire family. Surely. There must.
Marriage isn’t the only false god we create for ourselves. There are many, maybe one too many to list. And that in itself is a cause for much consternation.
1 A very simplified translation = your belief in Islam, in Allah, in His last Messenger and all His Creation.
2 A very basic translation of this word is fear of God, i.e., the kind of fear that comes from never wanting to displease your Maker. The kind that ensures you treat your wife well, at all times and within the confines of Islam. Realistically it is very difficult to understand these concepts if you are unfamiliar with the Institution of Marriage in Islam. It is an entirely separate school of ideas that you need to read about and understand before some of these meanings and their context become clear. For the purpose of this blog entry however, a very basic meaning has been given. I encourage each of you to research these terms in your own time in order to develop a more complete understanding of the matter at hand.
3 swt – short for Subhanahu wa-ta’ala – meaning glorious and exalted is He, Allah.
4 dunya – This material world, versus the spiritual realm of the Hereafter
5 zikr – The remembrance of God