Love probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Islam, or when you think about Muslims.
Still, Islam presents a very familiar and beautiful concept of love, particularly in the context of marriage.
Love and Marriage
Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and woman, taking them from being disparate individuals and uniting them as family. Marriage is a promise and an exclusive permission for the most private kind of intimacy. In Islam, family is the foundation of all society and so the protection and sanctity of marriage are considered paramount.
Although Muslims avoid situations that can lead to undesirable attraction and intimacy outside the marriage bond, it is acknowledged that individuals may unwittingly fall in love. The prophet Muhammad said,
“There is nothing better for those who love one another than marriage.” (Recorded in Ibn Maajah)
And so we learn that, to build on love and enjoy it in the best way, marriage provides the ideal consecrated fortress for love to flourish.
The Intimates Department
Husband and wife are literally described as garments for one another in the Quran. Regarding the spouses, it reads:
“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Quran 2:187)
This description symbolizes the romantic closeness between husband and wife. Clothing is the nearest thing to you, it envelopes, protects, comforts and even beautifies. In a simple sentence the Quran expresses the intended beauty of marriage and sexuality in Islam.
Pay special attention to the following verse from the Quran:
“And of His signs is that He created for you, from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for an people who give thought. ” (Quran 30:21)
Who does not hope for tranquility, love and mercy in their marriage? Obviously we are meant to view our marriages in this way and prevent them from descending into turmoil or from losing that spark of love and affection.
“You complete me.”
Remember Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire?
How many hearts melted when he said those words? I think it is fair to say that almost any woman on earth would absolutely love to be told by her beau that he is not complete without her. It goes even deeper than having a companion to love in life. In Islam we believe that men and women were initially created from one soul, thus one is forever longing for its other half. Think: soulmates. The Quran says:
“It is He (God) who created you from one soul and created from it, its mate that he might dwell in security (peace, comfort, love) with her.” (Quran 7:189)
The important bond of marriage is also considered half of religion, because the prophet Muhammad described it in this way. The Muslim spouses are partners, helping each other, side by side, hand in hand. Finding pleasure in one another and acting as allies, helping each other stay focussed and determined in seeking God’s favor. They wake each other up for prayers and encourage each other to do good.
Examples to Live By
Much of what we learn in Islam regarding how to conduct our own lives, comes from lessons provided through the examples of others. The Quran is chock full of examples of admirable character and conduct. From prophets Noah, Abraham, Joseph, to Jesus and many in between, we learn deep life lessons and find solace and inspiration. The life of Muhammad is meticulously recorded in volumes of hadith. This allows us to observe the way he implemented the divine guidance he received.
We learn quite a bit about love from Muhammad’s life. He accepted the marriage proposal of his first wife, Khadijah while he was a young man. She was older than him and a widow. He loved and cared for her deeply. She was his rock, supporting him through the most difficult times of his life after he became a prophet. She was the first one Muslim.
The year she passed away has been forever named “the year of sadness”. They were married for a quarter of a century and long after her passing he recalled her fondly and longingly. Aisha, whom he married years after the death of Khadijah is reported to have said that she was never jealous of anyone as she was jealous of Khadijah, even though she was no longer living.
A great example of marriage in the Quran is that of the prophet Zakaria and his wife. The Quran tells us that until they reached old age, they had not had any children. Zakaria deeply desired a child.
It’s subtle, but I think it sweet that he “cried to His Lord in secret” (Quran 19:3) praying for a child. He did not burden his wife, but protected his wife from the suffering she may experience if he had complained to her. They must have been an extraordinarily special couple; their prayer was granted with the birth of John.
They are described as always rushing to do good:
“Indeed, they used to race to do good deeds and supplicate to Us (God) in hope and fear, they used to call on (God) with love and reverence, and humble themselves before (God).” (Quran 21:90)
From Zakaria and his wife we learn one of the best parts of marriage is helping one another to do good, supporting and encouraging each other to be our absolute best.
21st Century Love
With all the great advice and endearing examples provided in Islam, Muslims have the tools to potentially enjoy ideal love and marriage bliss.
“You may now kiss the bride!” Many of the couples who get married today have already had their first kiss, but for Muslims the wedding day is literally the first time they touch.
The majority of Muslims continue to remain virgins until marriage in spite of the overwhelming social pressure from society and media, from TV to Subway billboards. Saving themselves for their soulmate and life partner.
Though this is not always the case, and divorce rates are increasing in the Muslim population as they are generally across the board, still many Muslim couples today have long-lasting, loving marriages. I believe the more Muslims stick to the teachings of Islam, the more happy marriages will be enjoyed.
Despite the various images of Islam floating around, there is no doubt that Islam includes the notion of Love and provides the basis for a loving, romantic relationship and family foundation.
I want to end with this picture from my friend Sahar’s wedding day. I love looking at it. It’s so delicate and a the same time sensuous. For me, it really embodies they way I see marriage in Islam.
They’ve been together a long time now, with six grown children. They are a family of various talents and accomplishments. The story of their family began on that day:
Whatever your faith, I hope you can experience a love like the love described in Islam: A partnership full of mercy; tranquil, comforting and sweet.