Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Contemplating Islamic principles: Marriage, love and family ties in today's world


We often say that "Islam is the answer", that all of  the contents of the Qur'an and the Sunnah have all we need for guidance, even though the scripture and the Prophet to whom it was revealed, upon whom we pray for God's choicest of blessings and peace, was sent forth fourteen centuries ago, in the Arabian peninsula.

Yet, this assertion is under constant scrutiny. It is questioned, even by some believing, practicing Muslims.There are a number of examples from the Islamic texts, terms and concepts, particularly from the realm of social relations, that are cited, be it Jizyah, Dhihaar{Ft.#1}, AhlidhDhimmah, and so forth. Should these type of concepts be revived in a modern, complex and diverse world? If so, in what fashion? If these things should be consigned to the past, would that not deny the assertion that Islam has all the answers? Would it not show Islam to be relevant only to a particular moment in the past?

To answer this question, we would like to examine the example of male-female relations.

Relations between men and women a  foundation for healthy life

This statement needs no textual evidence to back it up. Adults know this instinctively. Humans seek out the companionship of the opposite sex, be it through Halaal or Haraam means. If unsuccessful, that failure can lead to many problems, creating bitterness that can eventually lead even to things such as suicide and murder, as we recently seen with Elliot Rodger, a young man who, due to his failures with women, went on a rampage in Santa Barbara, California , killing seven people as well as himself.

In the time of the Prophet, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, there were men who swore off women. One says he will fast continously, and another says he will even undergo castration, that way there is no distractions and they can simply devote their time to worship.The Prophet responds to this by saying "I fast and I break fast [meaning that he doesn't continously fast], and I marry women." He says " Marriage is my Sunnah, and whosoever abandons my Sunnah is not of me." [ Bukhari, 62:1, narrated by Anas ibn Malik]

Searching for love

Worldwide people have grown up watching movies and hearing about 'soulmates', seeking out 'love'{ft.2}. The modern world's method is for dating to take place, the couple go out for a couple years, discover is they are indeed compatible in all areas, 'fall in love' and marry. Admittedly the emotional tie is the norm. There is no objection, either religious, moral or legal, to wanting to love and be loved. But we have to admit, Islam - God's Deen for the benefit and health of humanity, is actually very realistic. What we mean by this is that while the rhetoric of love is very appealing, this pattern of repeated relationships people go through, having the ups and downs of emotional attachments even when unmarried, brings forth constant instability. Countless problems are created because of this instability, a pattern that repeats itself so much that a person, even a 'catch'- may never move forward towards other important life areas.

Looking at some of the options available 

Islam does not lend support to sexual relations, except in a certain context, i.e. the marriage context. Even in that, Islamically [as per the Sunnah], marriage is very easy. Agreement [Qubool] between the parties, a gift to symbolize the man's responsibility in this serious manner [Mahr or dowry], a ceremony [Ft.3], the agreement being witnessed by a minumum of two witnesses.Forced relationships are Haraam.

Society may have certain expectations that are unrealistic or unreachable for certain peoples. Moreover, there are also traditional demands about having spouses from the same race or social status, village, family or tribe etc, leading to extreme stress and late marriage, if at all.

The Qur'an has this to say, as an example of the options available. The quoted translation is from Saheeh International.

And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers... 4:25

To put it in another way, if the normal avenue of marriage is unavailable for a man, he should expand his field of potential mates to include those whom he would not usually seek out. Why not seek out, or at least be open to, a woman who already has children? Or a widow, as there are many women who have been widowed as a result of the war in Syria and Iraq.

Islam repeatedly connects solving social problems with the religious life. A woman struggling, for whatever reason, does not need limited charity. Charity, although good and a religious pillar, is of a limited reach. However, a woman or a mother with children with no support will find long-term solution in being with a man who at least is willing to deliver emotional, moral, physical and of course financial support. That- in term- will see the development of love, of families melding together, of becoming attached and loving children.

We also admit that Islam allows a limited polygamy. All of these allowances from the Most Wise Creator, if done with maturity, planning, a realistic [as opposed to ideal] outlook, can bring forth more peace in neighborhoods, responsibility, less burden on governments. Men and women learning to expand their scope of care and support. In the end, that is the miracle of miracles. Community oriented and socially responsible human beings who seek to obey Allah and his Messenger.

[1] Dhihaar was a common divorce method in Pre-Islamic Arabia designed to maximize suffering to a woman, so that she could neither expect support from her husband nor seek out a new husband. The Qur'an [ 58:2-3] outlawed this practice.

[2] An interesting fact is that the Arabic word for love, Hubb, is from the same root as the word Habb, which means seed. The ideas interchanging within these words are obvious. From the seedling we may get a fruit producing tree, benefitting generations. The same can be said of love.

[3] In many societies the important thing is the signing of the marriage agreement ['Aqd], the ceremony only being for public consumption. Moreover, it is often the case that neither the groom nor bride are at the signing, being signed instead by representatives.