The wish to have a partner, someone to connect with intimately on all levels is one that is as natural as breathing. This wish is nursed by every teenager till they become adults. Islam, a total way of life understands that the yearn for a partner is natural and has therefore made marriage compulsory as the only union that legalizes the expression of intimate attraction towards one another.
This can be further confirmed in Quran verse [24:32] where Allah says:
“You shall encourage those of you who are single to get married. They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor, Allah will enrich them from His grace. Allah is Bounteous, Knower.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) has said;
“Of my tradition is to marry. So then whoever turns away from my tradition (Sunnah) is not from me (my nation)”. He (may the peace of Allah be upon him) also said, “There is no foundation that has been built in Islam more loved by Allah, (The Greatest and Noblest) than marriage.”
The average society also expects us all to get married and that’s exactly what we do, except for a few. It is then disturbing that with all these evidence from the book of Allah and the sayings of the Messenger (PBUH), coupled with the numerous wedding invites we see and the ones we attend, the number of divorce is still increasing rapidly and I can’t help but ask:
WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
The institution of marriage is blissful and honey-filled and would have remained so if the society fulfills the responsibility that lies heavily on its shoulders in accordance with the injunction of Allah and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The society fails to prepare us for the enormous emotional, financial, psychological, sociological and economical responsibilities that come embedded in marriage. They forgot an African adage that says;
“A child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”
It has failed and is failing to keep us warm with proper training required for our marriages, that’s why we have resorted to burning it down with incessant divorce, notorious children, corrupt adults, irresponsible youths, to mention but a few.
How prepared would we have been if we were pre-informed by the society that marriage is a complicated business and not the glamorous aso-ebi party we see every other Saturday? How interesting would it be if we were enlightened that marriage involves mastering certain complex games and situations? How successful would it have been if we weren’t ignorant of the selflessness and sacrifice that encompass the act of marriage? How loving would it have been if we were aware of the requirements of the domestic life with a husband or wife? It is an enormously tasking activity, much more tedious than finding a job and yet, while many remain unemployed, only few remain unmarried.
At this point, it is important to define what makes up the society being referred to here.
The society here refers to the first and most important unit; the family (both nuclear and extended). It refers to religious institutions, academic institutions and any other formal or informal learning institutions. It refers to adults who are old and wise enough, and lastly, it refers to the government.
Amidst all the incessant divorces and broken homes that we see, of course, there are still marriages that work, unions created by men and women, brilliant or fortunate enough to find the kind of spouses they want, who know that they want children and how to love, cherish and train them when they come, or who find the beautiful balance between giving and receiving. It is not these marriages that are of concern to us because that is not the trend in the world today.
Our concern is the increasing number of those who, with mixed intentions, divergent illusions and mirages throw or fling themselves into marital disaster. They rush into it, in increasing numbers, without any clear idea of the reality that underlies the myth. Yet, the society talks endlessly about working to make marriages succeed, but they are very aware of the countless marriages that have failed and are still failing despite that. Can it be called hypocrisy?
The pressure of the present era tends to overburden marriage with unrealistic expectations. The industrialized and urbanized world of today is a society that has lost the sense of togetherness. Our ties to the society, to the multitudes that make up this dazzling kind of world are as formal and fake as they are numerous. We all pretend to search for community, yet, we know that the search is for naught. Denied the support and satisfaction that flow from community, the confused youth can only place all of their chances on creating a community in their marriages. This results in undue pressure which often contributes to the failures in marriages.
For every marriage that has gone sour, there are two people who have once loved each other, cared for each other, supported each other and smiled at the mention of each other’s name. A saying of ‘my love’, Umar Ibn Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) comes to mind. He said to a man who was thinking about divorcing his wife; Why do you want to divorce her?, and he said “I don’t love her”. Umar said “Must every house be built on love? What about loyalty and appreciation?”
If we take a look at the world today we can attest to it that these two things are not part of our basic characters anymore. The husband claims it’s the wife’s duty to do all the domestic chores so he can’t help or at least appreciate her for doing it. In return, the wife claims he’s not doing anything special by spending on the family, moreover, it’s his responsibility.
Lack of appreciation or at the very least, an acknowledgement, makes even the most interesting tasks burdensome. Allah who is the creator and sustainer of mankind knows us than we know ourselves and that’s why for every act of good deed we do, there’s a reward that’s always multiple of the act. This principle needs to be practiced in every marriage. At least, if not multiple, given the fact that we are human, there should be a level of appreciation by each partner even if it’s their basic duty to do it. This will serve as a lubricant to ease the performance of such acts again.
It is pitiable that the society today has degraded so much that the sanctity of marriage no longer holds water. It is appalling to see that couples have made peace with a poisonous cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of marriage causing series of damage to it despite the warnings of Allah in Quran 17:32 “And do not go anywhere near adultery: it is an outrage and an evil path”. It is so sad having to see spouses come to terms with the fact that their partner is unfaithful.
A friend of mine who has a podcast, TeniTalks once said “Lagos married men are single” and the reason for this statement is not farfetched. In today’s world, infidelity has become as normal as breathing. It is right under our noses, in our homes, in our streets, in our schools, even our places of worship are not left out, yet, we turn a blind eye. It is more unfortunate that the few homes that don’t battle with physical infidelity have to deal with emotional infidelity.
Emotional infidelity has been underestimated so much so that only few even know it exists, yet it snatches the husband from his wife and vice versa. This form of infidelity is more than just sex; it’s about connecting with another person on an intimate level that should be reserved for your spouse alone. As sad as it may be, once couples get married, they tend to become emotionally disconnected from one another. This leads the affected spouse, in some cases both spouses looking elsewhere for their needs to be fulfilled.
This point is where emotional infidelity creeps upon the marriage. Spouses will agree that emotional infidelity can be worse than physical infidelity because you have to first be unfaithful emotionally before you take it a step further to physical infidelity. Couples need to have the same basics, ideas, belief, opinion and values regarding infidelity. They must see it as a threat and wage war against it.
It is no longer news that we live in an “every man for himself society”. This has become our favorite quote due to the emerging misunderstanding of the self-love concept that even after marriage we find it difficult to change it forgetting that it’s not only about us any longer. Our level of selfishness has graduated to become wickedness and it is terrifying that the institution where selflessness and sacrifice is supposed to be the keyword is the headquarters of selfishness.
Spouses selfishly and consistently place their own needs and desires before their partner’s and then it is only a matter of time before the affected spouse feels unworthy, overburdened and unloved. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“They (your wives) are a clothing (covering) for you and you too are a clothing (covering) for them.” (Surah 2, Verse187).
This verse tells us all about commensurate sacrifice. It points out that marriage is supposed to be a union where we scratch each other’s back, not one where only one partner does the scratching and ends up itchy because no one will scratch theirs. Being selfless might seem easy but the fire-spitting monster called selfishness is very creepy and it comes in diverse shapes and forms. At its worse, selfishness is manipulative, abusive, possessive, jealous, controlling and obsessive. In lesser forms, it can be said to be lack of consideration and respect.
Spouses must learn to strike a balance between their spouse’s needs and theirs. It is not easy but it is the right thing to do. Let us also instill the habit of selflessness and sacrifice in our children so that their generation can be a better one.
I also feel the need to address a very sensitive issue. This issue is one that has gotten its fair share of attention on social media, in social gatherings, religious gatherings, friendly conversations and so on, and everyone seems to have an opinion. It is one issue that the menfolk have strong reservations for, and one the womenfolk like to talk about.
Submissiveness as we all know is a key ingredient of marriage, like the common saying “Two captains can’t control a ship”. The social media picture of a submissive wife is an oppressed pushover. The society’s idea of a submissive wife is one that does everything to please her husband even at her own detriment. Like I earlier pointed out, this issue is a very sensitive one and my basis of definition of a submissive woman will be based on the Islamic perspective.
A lot of people, both male and female have misunderstood the concept of submission in Islam that is why the phrase “Muslim women are oppressed” is on every tongue including the Muslims. While yes, some Muslim women, like all other women, may face injustice and oppression in their homes, it is important for us to know that it has little to do with men following Islam and more to do with them neglecting Islam.
And if we truly want to rid injustice in marriage or protect women, we need not reform Islam, but we must return back to Islam. Allah says in Quran 4:34 “Men are the protectors of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means”. Just as the husband has the right to be obeyed, Islam also tells him not to misuse the opportunity and this is confirmed when Allah says in Qur’an 2:228 “And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect)”.
Islam encourages that men should deal with women in a wise manner and tell them to do things which are in the interest of the household, in a kind and gentle manner. We should also note that man has been given the right to be obeyed because he is the leader and not because he is superior. If a leader is not obeyed, his leadership will become invalid -Imagine a President or a teacher or a parent without the necessary authority which has been entrusted to them.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “The best of you is one who is best to his wife, and I am the best among you to my wives.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 3895). We would notice that in aforementioned verse of the Qur’an, Allah used the word “obedience” and not submission. In my own opinion, submission is a word too big to be used between spouses. Obedience is a milder word and that is what spouses should expect from their partners and not submission like a puppet.
In conclusion, marriage is hardwork, it requires a lot of thinking, intentional and conscious decisions coupled with lots of prayers. Marriage is more than going on ice-cream dates, talking romance and having a world class wedding with different aso-ebi plugs. It is reality and as we all know, reality can be harsh. It is like admiring the beauty of the ocean from afar and being plunged into it.
For those who are not yet married, ask your prospective spouse relevant questions, speak on little but important matters like your work schedule, domestic chores, eating habit and every other little thing you think doesn’t count because most marriages are not destroyed by big issues, rather, by small issues that keep piling up. For married couples, it is never too late to readdress and redirect the marriage, so the remaining can be spent in bliss. Every marriage can be blissful including yours, but, are you willing to fight for it? “And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.”
Asalam alaykum warahmotullah wabarakatu.
Fatiha Okesola is a student of the University of Lagos and she writes for Muslim News
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