Philosophy of Marriage
The institution of marriage is an established tradition of society, practiced by humans from time immemorial. It is a sacred covenant that binds two people together, a commitment to live together and be a helper and friend of each other. A strong and happy marriage is the grounds for the blossoming of a happy home wherein different personalities traverse the path of life together.
Marriage fulfills a natural need in the human being, a need as natural as the need for food and drink. This is a fact recognized by all those who acknowledge the biological making of the human being. Islam, being a most practical religion, advocates marriage and shuns the idea of purity through celibacy.
Allah has created the man and the woman to complement each other. When joined together in marriage, the partners perfect each other, each compensating for what the other may lack. The Holy Qur’an says:
They (the wives) are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them. (2:187)
This means that the spouses are a covering, a guard of the dignity and respect of the other. They protect and decorate each other.
Islam has highly recommended marriage to its followers. It has clear guidelines for it, and has set distinct laws to ensure and safeguard the rights of both parties. Many Ahadith of the Holy Prophet (s) emphasize the significance of marriage:
1. No establishment has been set up which is dearer to Allah than marriage.
2. Marriage is from my ways, and whoever turns away from my ways is not from me.
3. Two rak`aat recited by a married person carries greater reward than seventy rak`aat recited by an unmarried person.
4. The worst among you are those who die unmarried.
A good marriage creates partners with positive outlooks on life. Problems in the world outside, in the workplace or with society, are offset by the happiness found at home. The home becomes an attractive haven, wherein the individuals can find acceptance and appreciation. A good stable marriage has been described as an oasis wherein human beings replenish their weary spirits. Society is efficient but cold. It meets human needs such as food, clothing, shelter and other material goods. It does not always, however, satisfy needs such as affection, warmth, emotional support and intimacy. Marriage and family can provide for those needs. Psychological and emotional yearnings of the human heart are fulfilled in the close relationship of marriage and family.
It is important to realize also that a secure and stable marriage gives a focus and direction to life. There is more joy and enthusiasm for matters such as work, earning livelihood, cooking, cleaning and other household duties. There is little worth in working only for oneself, or for that matter cooking for oneself. When there are other people involved, such a spouse and children, there is more satisfaction derived from the daily chores of life.
Aims of Marriage
Living together has become very common in the modern age. Young men and women believe that marriage is an unnecessary burden, and that fulfillment of desires can be achieved through a relationship outside of marriage. What they overlook is that marriage is not only for the purpose of sexual fulfillment. It is an agreement before God to be a partner to another, to be a close friend and comforter. It is a covenant that should last for life. The responsibility of the covenant makes it a serious issue, not one that can be dismissed when desire wanes.
The value of marriage lies in the various ways in which it enhances human life. Through marriage, the man and woman acquire many benefits. Some of them are:
1. A source of love and companionship – All human beings need to feel loved, to feel connected with others. To live alone, even if surrounded by material pleasures, is a melancholy prospect. We need to feel that there is someone there for us, to share our joys and sorrows and to be a companion whose love and support we can depend on.
The best person to satisfy this need is a spouse. All other friendships and connections are limited, and cannot be compared to the love between a husband and wife. They are together for life, and the two of them form one entity – a couple. They have a common goal, and need each other more than anybody else.
The comfort and happiness through marriage is so important that Allah describes it as one of His great signs. He says in the Holy Qur’an:
And from among His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves, that you may find rest in them, and He placed between you love and compassion. Most surely there are signs in this for those who reflect. (30:21)
Note that this verse mentions love and comfort (that you may find rest in them) as the biggest benefits of marriage. Although there are other benefits also, the most valuable advantage of marriage according to Islam is the happiness and peace it gives the couple.
2. Fulfilling desires legally – Allah has placed the instinct of physical desire in the human being. When this is not fulfilled in the correct manner, human beings can deviate into sin and perverted behavior. Marriage allows the couple to fulfill their desires as prescribed by Allah. It results in the preserving of one’s religion and morals, hence married people achieve a higher status with Allah. The following Ahadith have been narrated from Holy Prophet (s) on this matter:
a) Whoever marries has controlled half his faith.
b) Whoever wishes to meet Allah pure and purified, must marry.
c) O Young people! Whoever is able from among you should marry, as it prevents the sins of the eyes and the chest, and whoever cannot marry should fast, for the fast decreases desire.
d) Whoever marries at a young age, the Shaytan who is after him groans, saying: Woe, he has safeguarded two thirds of his religion. He has now to safeguard only one third more .
Islam discourages celibacy. A woman once came to the Holy Prophet (s) and told him that her husband stayed away from her and spent his nights in worship. The Prophet (s) talked to the man and explained how he, being a messenger of God, did not avoid his wives. Islam encourages the fulfilling of the natural urges in human beings. It is a very practical religion and has rules and guide lines for all aspects of human life. When a human being caters to all his needs, physical and spiritual, he can lead a balanced and happy life.
The quest for spirituality necessitates the acquiring of an appropriate partner. In Islam the husband and wife help one another to acquire nearness to Allah. When both the husband and wife are God conscious, they encourage each other to do good deeds. They remind each other to do good and stay away from evil. Thus we see that when talking about the importance of Salatul Layl, a hadith says: May Allah have mercy on the man who wakes up for Salatul Layl and wakes up his wife for it, and if she refuses [to wake up], splashes water on her face. And may Allah have mercy on the woman who wakes up for Salatul Layl and recites it, and wakes up her husband, and if he refuses, splashes water on his face. This is just one example of how the spouses lead each other forward in gaining the pleasure of Allah. Everyone needs to be reminded from time to time, and steered back to the right path. Who better to do that than a virtuous spouse? It is no wonder that the Prophet (s) once said: The greatest good for a believing man is a virtuous wife.
3. Establishing a family One of the greatest fruits of marriage is the birth of children and establishment of a family. This is in continuation of the aim of the Almighty, to produce human beings who will worship Him on this earth. Giving birth, and raising good virtuous children is an act of worship. It brings happiness in this world, for children are a source of immense joy and satisfaction. It also brings reward in the Hereafter. The Prophet (s) has said:
1. Marry, and increase (your numbers through children), for surely I will take pride in you over the other nations on the Day of Judgement, even over a child who was miscarried.
2. What prevents a man from marrying? Perhaps Allah will grant him a child who will fill the earth with the words of La ilaha illallah.
The couple also progresses and matures through parenthood. The experience of raising a family is a great teacher. Martyr Mutahhari discusses this in his book Education and Training in Islam:
There are ethical characteristics that cannot be achieved except in the school of family raising. The foundation of a family means developing a kind of interest in the fate of others. The moralists and ascetics who have not crossed through this phase have a sort of immaturity and childishness in their personalities up to the end of their lives.
4. Maturing of personality – When a single person enters into marriage and establishes a family, the personality progresses and matures. The commitment brings responsibility and brings forth many new talents and capabilities. Ayatullah Mutahhari says about this in the book mentioned above:
After marriage, the personality of a man changes into a social personality and he considers himself absolutely responsible for the security of his wife and children’s future. On this account he uses the sum total of his senses, initiatives, and abilities. . . Marriage is the first and preliminary phase of exit from the (shell) of personal self, and the expansion of the human personality. . . there is a maturity, a maturity which does not take shape except in the shade of marriage and raising of family. It does not get shape in school, neither does it get formed in the crusade against the ego.
Manners and habits of a person change after marriage. The husband and wife learn to be more considerate, more gracious and unselfish. Rather than thinking only of personal gratification, they begin to think of others, even sacrificing their own pleasures. The changes and possible difficulties they encounter help to strengthen and mature their personalities.
This does not mean that a single person is not mature. The rich experiences of the married, however, are undoubtedly assets in the building of character.
Marriage at its best, can be a very powerful ladder in the reach for perfection. The promise of a good marriage has been described as synergetic – the action of the whole accomplishes more than the partners could separately. The satisfaction of relating positively, sexual fulfillment, and the happiness which come from having a secure and stable home, all play a role in energizing the human spirit. The couple moves forward with purpose and can achieve a great deal. Marital fulfillment is a great treasure and should be the aim of all the young men and women entering into marriage. Time and efforts should be spent to achieve it.
Get married for the Messenger of Allah often said; Whoever wishes to follow my Sunnah (way of life) should marry, for marriage is from my Sunnah.
Imam Ali (a)
Getting married is easy. Staying married is more difficult. Staying happily married for a lifetime should rank among the fine arts.
A good marriage is like a retirement fund. You put everything you have into it during your productive life, and over the years it turns from silver to gold to