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Love for your partner what you love for yourself

Muslim couple enjoying an evening together

Imam Zaid Shakir writes:

As Salaam Alaikum,

To summarize the duties of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam, we should love for our brother and sister what we love for ourselves.

This is an incredible teaching that if implemented would go a long way towards improving relations between us. This spirit of love is especially important between husbands and wives, as we often treat each other as abstract enemies as opposed to Muslims, first and foremost.

- Imam Zaid Shakir

This is an excellent observation and insightful piece of advice. Many of us are familiar with this hadith but have not thought of it in terms of husband and wife.

When we want for our spouse what we want for ourselves, it takes our marriage to a new level of love. We begin to think about our partners needs and wants, we pray for our partner just as we pray for ourselves, we work for our partner’s material and spiritual success as much as our own.

We also forgive them for their mistakes just as we would hope to be forgiven. We praise them for the good they do, thank them, hug them, and when they need it we correct them in kindness. That’s love, and it’s what a good marriage is made of.

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Marriage: Quest for Perfection or Search for Happiness?

A happy Muslim couple at Muslim Day in Atlanta

A happy Muslim couple at Muslim Day in Atlanta

Marriage is ultimately a quest for peace and tranquility

By Imam Hamid Slimi

Finding someone for marriage is one of the most discussed topics among single people and specifically among our Muslim youth today since relationships between males and females in Islam are not considered right except through the ties of Nikah.

For those who have chosen to abide with the laws and principles of Islam and hold on to chastity and patience, marriage discussions are so fascinating, promising and one of the best outlets of relief. Young people who are struggling, dreaming or even fantasizing about a potential spouse (one they have in mind or hope to find) often do so because the romantic possibilities seem endless; they hope with abandon and trust in God to help them find that person.

“Falling in love”

Our eyes and minds are constantly bombarded with images and thoughts which bring new considerations and efface old ones. Today’s culture and environment have opened so many ways of communication between people that they have taken away the simplicity of life and the contentment which used to help us focus, set life priorities and most importantly understand that no one is perfect and therefore reasonable adjustments always need to be made. The more sophisticated we become the more we demand and expect from the others.

The universal expression of art, literature, movies and music has been very successful in convincing us that “happiness in marriage must start with a love story.” Thus, falling in love has become the “standard” for starting a married life. Consequently, the focus of many becomes the search for love, or the cliche – coup de foudre – when people, who by nature never like to fall, make the sole exception to willingly fall in the ocean of love.

Many want to experience what poets have been ruminating about, what stories and novels have been relating to us, what artists have been illustrating and playing to the world. “Falling in love” in the romantic language means experiencing perfection by tasting the ultimate sweetness that this earthly world can offer and achieving a sort of transcendence towards the ultimate uplifting physical and spiritual experience.

A quest for a perfect partner?

The question which comes to mind is: are those looking to get married on a quest for the perfect partner or on a search for a compatible partnership leading to happiness? We certainly cannot expect what we cannot give and since no one is perfect then why would someone expect perfection to be realized through a partnership made of imperfect beings?

Thinking that the other will be perfect and hence will make me happy and content is an illusion. In reality no one can make you happy and content except yourself and when you accept the fact that you cannot expect others to be perfect because you are not perfect either. In fact this quest for romantic perfection is entirely self-defeating. God Almighty says, “Lo! Allah does not change the condition of a folk until they (first) change by themselves that which is in their hearts;” (Chap. 13 V.11). Only once we let go of this romantic notion which is really a figment of our collective imaginations can we begin our quest towards happiness.

What is happiness?

The million dollar question: what is happiness? Happiness means amongst other things contentment, satisfaction, fulfilment, accomplishment and achievement which are almost linear in fashion. Therefore, if I achieve my goals then I should be happy. The Holy Qur’an states the goals of marriage in the following verse, “And among His signs is this: He created for you mates from yourselves that you might find rest and peace in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo! Herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect.” (Chap. 30 V. 31)

The goals here are rest, tranquility, peace of the mind and peace of the soul. This is why the sense of peace and harmony is a signal that creates that first acceptance of the other; the exchange of inexpressible signals that follow then grown from acceptance to become Mawaddah or spiritual love. Mawaddah has to be cultivated over time like a fruit-bearing tree; spiritual attachment is cemented by the spiritual enrichment and appreciation, which is unlike the physical desire driven by one’s biology that eventually decreases over time.

Components of a compatible personality

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught a message of equality, uniformity and human brotherhood & sisterhood.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught a message of equality, uniformity and human brotherhood & sisterhood.

Having said all of this, Islam does recognize the fact that there should be a reasonable level of compatibility between a man and a woman over different aspects of life, mainly personality and faith. The components of a compatible personality used to be and to some degree still are one’s education, manners, perceptions, social upbringing and physical appearance to a certain extent.

As for ethnicity, race, culture, and lineage – these have nothing to do with compatibility since they tend to counter the message of equality, uniformity and human brotherhood stressed by the Qur’an and the Prophet (PBUH) – in fact these elements have always been the causes of division, conflict and even war.

High expectations and low preparation – a formula for divorce

However, even this notion of marriage compatibility has evolved in our days beyond character, reasonable education, etiquette, abilities and reasonable material establishment. Due to today’s economic pressures, compatibility for a large number of those on marriage quest means the full package that is a ‘romantic experience with a wealthy partner’ -or at least a person with ‘stable’ income – and all the better if he or she looks like a prince or princess.

This has led to the unfortunate raising of standards to the degree which is far beyond acceptance and reasonable chemistry, hard work, a sense of responsibility and physical compatibility. The search for mutual compatibility – something that was relatively easy to find – has been replaced by high expectations and low preparation for marriage which according to recent statistics is one of the main causes of divorce today. The high divorce rate in both Muslim and non-Muslim communities have surpassed any historical records.

According to the Prophet (PBUH) marriage is something simple: “If someone with good character comes to you to propose for marriage and you feel pleased and satisfied with his religious beliefs and practices as well as his character (manners and personality), then you should marry him, otherwise there will be fitnah (tribulation and great evil) and big corruption on earth.” (Reported by Imam Tirmidhi and others) He also said, “Women are asked for marriage for four things: wealth, family status, beauty and the practice of faith. So you should marry the one with faith, otherwise you will lose more than you gain.” (Reported by Imam Bukhari and others).

Are we really following his advice or have we gone off the wrong track?

There are several considerations one must make when looking for a future spouse.

  • Look for a person from whom you get a feeling of peace, tranquility and a sense of security. This is what matters the most and the rest is icing on the cake.
  • For every man there is a right woman and for every woman there is a right man. You only need to look in the right place, the right way at the right time.
  • Seek the help of God by praying for your marriage. Even Prophet Musa (Moses) prayed for personal peace and security and God immediately answered him when he said, “My Lord! I am needy of whatever good You send down for me.” (Chap 28 V.24)
  • Seek help from those with experience and exposure. People will help you! Put your trust in Allah and in a few trusted people who care about you and would love to see you happy.
  • Attend various Islamic gatherings at Islamic centers or in mosques and engage in appropriate (professional) conversation with the members of the opposite sex without being isolated with them.
  • You can also correspond with potential mates through third-party Muslim marriage websites or advertising. Our methods of communication have changed and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the principle of professional conduct is maintained.
  • In the time of the Prophet (PBUH) the Sahabah (his companions) used to meet people sometimes in his presence and sometimes in other circumstances. For instance, on a number of occasions women used to come presenting themselves as candidates for marriage and accordingly, some men would accept their proposal of marriage. The Sahabah were very simple and undemanding about choosing their partners so long as they fulfilled basic religious and character requirements.

Too many conditions

Is your marriage checklist too long?

Is your marriage checklist too long?

In our society, generally speaking, we tend to put far too many conditions and requirements that are not essentials from an Islamic perspective in a marriage.

Islamically, the basic things we should consider are religion and character. All other requirements can be compromised on.

Young people have to stop chasing the notion of the perfect one and start looking for the peaceful one. Islam is based on peace and Allah Almighty constantly calls us to the house of peace. Marriage is about finding peace within oneself and with one’s spouse.

Ultimately, there is no one to blame for not finding a partner but oneself because as the Prophet (PBUH) said “Allah has taken it as a duty upon Himself to help the one who seeks Nikah.”

Originally published Tuesday, 06 May 2008

(FLN Magazine – Vol. 1 / Issue 1)

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The Status of Two Who Love One Another for the Sake of Allah

A beautiful sunrise

A beautiful sunrise

Many hadith describe the status of two people who love one another for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala), and describe the high position in Paradise which He has promised them and the great honour which He will bestow upon them on the Day when mankind is resurrected to meet the Rabb of the Worlds:

Among them is the hadith which describes the seven whom Allah will shade on the Day when there is no shade but His: “…a just leader; a youth who grows up worshipping Allah; a man who is deeply attached to the masjid; two men who love one another for the sake of Allah, meeting for His sake and parting for His sake; a man who is called by a beautiful woman and says, I fear Allah’; a man who gives charity in secret such that his left hand does not know what his right hand is doing; and a man who remembers Allah when he is alone and his eyes fill with tears.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The two who love one another for the sake of Allah are clearly shown to be among those whom Allah will shelter with His shade and upon whom He will shower His mercy and kindness. What a great honour! It is enough honour for those who love one another for the sake of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta`ala) that their Almighty Rabb will greet them on the Day of Resurrection and say to them: “Where are those who loved one another for My glory? Today I will shade them in My shade on the Day when there is no shade but Mine.” (Muslim)

Such is the magnificent honour and tremendous reward that will be bestowed upon those who truly loved one another for the sake of Allah, on that awesome Day.

Love for the sake of Allah is difficult

Love for the sake of Allah, and not for the sake of anything else in this life which is filled with greed, desires and interests, is very difficult, and none can attain it except the one who is pure of heart, for whom this world is as nothing compared to the pleasure of Allah. It is not surprising that Allah should give them a status and blessing which is commensurate with their position in this world, above whose concerns they have risen. We find proof of this in the hadith of Mu’adh who said that the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allah said: ‘Those who love one another for My glory, will have mimbars (pulpits) of light, and the Prophets and martyrs will wish that they had the same.” [Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a hasan sahih hadith]

Allah gives to those who love one another for His sake a gift which is even greater than this status and blessing: that is His precious love which is very difficult to attain. This is proven by the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (radhiallahu `anhu) in which the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said:

“A man went to visit a brother of his in another village. Allah sent an angel to wait for him on the road. When the man came along, the angel asked him, ‘Where do you intend to go?’ He said, ‘I am going to visit a brother of mine who lives in this village.’ The angel asked, ‘Have you done him any favour (for which you are now seeking repayment)?’ He said, ‘No. I just love him for the sake of Allah.’ The angel told him, I am a messenger to you from Allah, sent to tell you that He loves you as you love your brother for His sake.”‘ (Muslim)

What a great love, that raises a man to a position where Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) loves him and is pleased with him!

The impact of pure love on society

The teaching of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) states that the better of two brothers who love one another for the sake of Allah is the one who loves his brother more. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said:

“No two men love one another, but the better of them is the one whose love for his brother is greater.” [Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]

Islam goes even further in spreading love in the rightly guided Muslim society by telling the Muslim that if he loves his brother, he should tell him. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “If a man loves his brother, let him tell him that he loves him.” [Reported by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a sahih hadith]

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) understood the impact of this strong, pure love in building societies and nations, so he never let any occasion pass without advocating this love and commanding the Muslims to announce their love for one another, in order to open hearts and spread love and purity among the ranks of the Ummah.

Anas (radhiallahu `anhu) said that a man was with the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), when another man passed by. The first man said, “O Messenger of Allah, indeed I truly love this man.” The Prophet asked him, “Have you let him know that?” He said, “No.” The Prophet said, “Tell him.” He caught up with him and told him, “Truly I love you for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala),” and the man said, “May Allah  love you who loves me for His sake.” [Reported by Abu Dawud, with a sahih isnad]

The Sahabi Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radhiallahu `anhu) began to spread this pure love among the Muslims throughout the Muslim lands, telling them what he had heard from the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) about the great reward that Allah had prepared for those who loved one another for His sake, and about His great love for them.

In al-Muwatta’, Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alaiyh) gives a report with a sahih isnad from Abu Idris al-Khulani who said: “I entered the masjid of Damascus, where I saw a young man who had a bright smile, and I saw the people gathered around him. When they disagreed on some matter, they referred it to him, and accepted his opinion. I asked who he was, and they told me, ‘This is Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radhiallahu `anhu).” Early the next day, I went to the mosque but I found that he had arrived even earlier than I. He was praying, so I waited until he had finished, then I approached him from in front, greeted him and said, ‘By Allah, I love you.’ He said, ‘For the sake of Allah?’ I said, ‘For the sake of Allah’. He repeated his question, ‘For the sake of Allah?’ and I said, ‘For the sake of Allah.’ So he took hold of my collar and pulled me towards him and said, ‘I have good news for you. I heard the Prophet say: “Allah Almighty says: ‘My love is granted to those who love one another for My sake, who visit one another for My sake, and who spend on one another for My sake.’”

Reference: The Ideal Muslim By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi

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