Marriage Khutba-Nov 28, 2008
There are a vast number of books written on the subject of choosing a partner for marriage, how to make a marriage successful or how to repair a marriage once it becomes unsuccessful. There is not enough said, until recently, about how Islam looks at these issues, specially in the context of the contemporary issues that are faced by Muslims. Those of us living in the US have special challenges because we are exposed to many influences which may lead us to an un Islamic solution.
Let me mention just four influences with which we interact almost on a daily basis, which on the face of it seem to be progressive influences.
The sexual revolution brought about by contraception.
The Feminist movement brought about by the discrimination against women.
The increasing economic independence of women brought on as a subset of the feminist movement and the challenges of trying for a better standard of living.
The gay and lesbian movement brought about by the strong advocacy of gays and lesbians to promote homosexuality as a normal way of life.
It is not my intent in this Khutba to dwell upon the pros and cons of these movements but simply to point out that these influences have for ever changed the life style of societies, particularly the society that we live in. Magazines, Movies, TV shows, Newspapers, College courses are full of them and subliminally advocate their pros without sufficiently warning us about their side effects.
For a Muslim it becomes doubly important to keep going back to the teachings of Islam to hold on to our values and be guided by Islam so that we can lead Muslim lives. Today what I want to address is the subject of Marriage both in the context of Islam as well as in the context of the challenges that are faced by Muslims living in the US.
Muslim women today are better educated, more economically independent, and have a greater say in who they will marry than before. Muslim men have largely but not completely adjusted to how this impacts their relations within a marriage.
The Institution of marriage itself has taken a big hit in the US not only amongst non Muslims but Muslims as well.
Divorce is on the rise in the Muslim community, especially in the West. According to a study conducted by Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a sociology professor at State University of New York, the overall divorce rate among Muslims in North America is at an astounding 31%. The state of California ranks highest with a 37% rate of divorce and New York, Ontario, and Texas follow closely with a 30% rate. Compared to the overall rate of divorce in the U.S. (49%) and Canada (45%), the increasing rate of divorce among Muslims is cause for alarm.
Dr. Ekram explained at a recent Muslim American Society (MAS) Family Development workshop in Sacramento.
We live in a culture of boyfriends and girlfriends, and youth want that kind of relationship so bad they ask to marry. They think they’re ready for marriage, but really they are seeing it as a replacement for the no-dating rule in Islam. Marriage comes with more obligation than this,”
According to Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles, the rise in Muslim divorce rates can be blamed partly on the recent “Me” culture, where people live only to make themselves happy.
“Here in the West and abroad where they are heavily influenced by the West, the ‘Me’ culture is overtaking our minds. False statements like ‘I have one life to live’ and ‘this is my life’ have been repeated enough times to suddenly become true,” Dr. Hathout said. “I ask, ‘Did you have a choice in your creation? Did you choose your life?’”
As pointed out to me by a young man, one of the difference between the prophet’s time and today is that during the Prophets time it was easy to get married and easier to get divorced but very difficult to do Zina. Today it is difficult to get married, even more onerous to get a divorce but very easy to do Zina.
In the next 10 minutes, I can only give you an introduction to the subject. Over the coming weeks other Khateebs will provide more guidance and food for thought.
The importance of Marriage in Islam
Islam advocates marriage as a part of the grand design of Allah. It is not made a fardh but it warns that the absence of marriage in a persons life could lead to psychological issues. Sex outside of Marriage is a sin and sex is regarded as a normal biological make up of all Humans.
"O you young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty." (Al-Bukhari)
Modesty was regarded as a great virtue by the Prophet. He said, "Modesty is part of faith." (Al-Bukhari)
The importance of the institution or marriage receives its greatest emphasis from the following hadith of the Prophet,
"Marriage is my sunna. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me."
The primary reason of Marriage how ever is not just to fulfill our sexual needs although that is an important part of it. The sexual revolution in western cultures emphasizes the pleasure part of sex and almost ignores the reproduction side of it.
The primary reason of Marriage is forming a unit to bring forth the next generation. Our children are the legacy that we will leave behind. What we pass on to them will be the only thing of value that we will leave behind.
Companionship is a secondary but critical reason. Without companionship, there will be friction and unpleasantness.
Companionship comes from sharing each others worlds, psychologically and emotionally since physically is not always possible
There are two verses from the Quran which I believe are relevant to our subject which talk about companionship and raising a family respectively;
And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect. ( Al Rum 30:21)
The definition of companionship is therefore, living in tranquility with love and mercy in your heart.
And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best. (Al Nahl 16:72)
The children out of a marriage are thus described as a favor from Allah, almost a reward for having established a marriage. This reward is further enhanced by the promise of sustenance.
Choosing your partner
In a beautiful tradition the Prophet (peace be upon him) has given the most important point that should weigh with every Muslim in selecting his bride:
"Whoever marries a woman solely for her power and position, Allah will only increase him in humiliation. Whoever marries a woman solely for her wealth, Allah will only increase him in poverty. Whoever marries a woman because of her beauty, Allah will only increase him in ugliness. But whoever marries a woman in order that he may restrain his eyes, observe cautiousness, and treat his relations kindly, Allah puts a blessing in her for him and in him for her."
When the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "When a man marries he has completed half of his religion and he needs only fear Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, to complete the other half." (Mishkat), he was reminding us that marriage is not separate from, but part of the deen.
The consent of both the man and the women is an essential element of marriage, and the Qur'an gives women a substantial role in choosing their own life partners. It lays down:
Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner. (2: 232)
However, Imam Malik, one of the four great Imams of the Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, gives a slightly restrictive interpretation to this verse and makes the choice of partner by a Muslim girl subject to the over-ruling power or ijbar of her father or guardian in the interests of the girl herself. In today’s world where the women are getting married at a later age than before i.e. 24 and later rather than 18 or even earlier, and have the ability to support themselves economically, this ruling may need some amendment.
The case of Abu Juham bin Hudhaifah and Mu'awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan is relevant here. They proposed marriage to Fatimah bint Ghaith. The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised Fatimah not to marry either of them on the grounds that Mu'awiyah was then a pauper and Abu Juham was cruel and harsh. So she married Usamah.
Islam, which functions as a Patriarchal Society, insists that the male take care of the physical and financial security. The female has limitless freedom within these boundaries. There is no prohibition on the economic contribution of the female but it is understood that there will be times that she has to focus 100% on the upbringing of the children.
During such times the man has to be extra sensitive and supportive of the woman. The man can never give enough respect and allowances to the woman for her role in child rearing.
And according to hadith:
"The best among you are those who are kindest to their wives".
Divorce is taken to be a last resort in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Of all the things Allah has permitted, the one He most dislikes is divorce.
it is to be stressed that the woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father, she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not less vital than his. By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect. She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to seek the counsel and advice of his wives, play with them, travel with them, listen to their opinions, and fulfill all their rights.
Here, we can review the well-known stance of Umm Salamah, the Mother of the Believers, when the Muslims concluded the Hudaybiyyah Peace Treaty with the polytheists of Makkah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered his Companions to slaughter their sacrificial animals, but they were too depressed to do that. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave instructions in this regard three times but with negative response. He told his wife Umm Salamah about this attitude of his Companions. She advised him to take the initiative, slaughter his animal and have his head shaved. Seeing that, the Muslims started to slaughter their animals and shave their heads. The advice of the Mother of the Believers in this situation was very good and highly appreciated.
Both parties come to the marriage with different expectations. Some of these are based on what they have seen in their own families. Most of these are based on one being male and the other female.
Female expectations revolve around the need for security (physical, financial and moral) and male expectations revolve around the need for Intimacy
Communications styles of both male and female differ. Females traditionally over communicate while males under communicate. Female communication is designed to constantly confirm the mans commitment to the marriage. Male Communication is designed to maintain his independence.
Men tend to be logical and the women emotional in their communications.
This does not mean that women cannot be logical or that men cannot be emotional, It is simply a recognition that they have different styles of communication where one stresses the logical and the other the emotional.
Listening is key to all dispute resolution. When both parties talk at the same time, no one is listening.
There needs to be a conscious dispute resolution mechanism which incorporates the concept of listening and the concept of time off for meditation. There should be room and allowance for both emotional and logical communication.
It is a bad idea to go into the accounting of who is contributing more to the marriage. The formula has not been invented which will convert intangible contributions into tangible measures. The success of the marriage depends on the mutual appreciation of what each party is able to bring to the marriage.