Marriage: the Background
By Dr Mohammed Asif Chaudry
Within this life Allah has created Men and Women from a single soul and sanctified the bond of marriage so that they may support each other and live together to achieve the tranquility of their hearts, and to help each other in the worship of Allah, whether this is at a personal, family or social level. Marriage is the sunnah of the Prophet (saws) and the normal state for people who have achieved maturity, both for personal fulfillment and to build family, to be happy, have fun and unconditionally love another person who is to be your companion through the beauty and trials of life.
Marriage and nurturing a family - starting with your husband or wife - opens up a whole plain of opportunity to do good which is denied to those who are unmarried. In essence it is half your deen.
The relationship between a husband and wife is one of mutuality, interdependence, kindness and love for the sake of Allah while celebrating the differences that Allah has created. In essence either half of the pair needs to be proactive in caring for and meeting the needs of his or her partner.
A prerequisite for two people coming from different families and lives who wish to form a bond is a degree of flexibility and compromise. Each of them must place their trust in Allah, seeking to achieve the best in His way, even if one has to make sacrifices as far as his own will is concerned.
As a Muslim it is important to realise that however much we think our point of view is stronger than that of another, it is essential to internalise a degree of humility which says that ultimately only Allah knows where Hikma or wisdom lies. The story of Musa and Khidr in Surah Kahf is particularly relevant here. All we can do is to attempt to perfect our intentions and sincerity.
In assessing and evaluating whether or not you are suited to another person to take as your companion it is essential to firstly have a sense of tawakkul or reliance on Allah. Also as far as it is possible for humans, it is important to evaluate the strength of Islam, eeman and taqwa of the other person. You do this in order to establish which things motivate them in life and which things form the criteria by which they judge what to do in life. Will they be mindful of their relationship with Allah in their commitment to you, how to move forward in life and solve conflicting issues?
In many ways the process of assessing compatibility is about feeling in your interaction with another person that there could be an opportunity to build a committed relationship. Islamically it is encouraged that we physically see our potential spouse before marriage, as a sense of mutual interaction is important where there is no other acceptable outlet for intimacy. Ideally meetings should be held in the presence of family which sets a good precedent for the future relationship.
It is important to remember that while it is vital an informed decision is made before getting married, the assumption that seeking the western ideal of a premarital relationship is the way to achieve a full understanding of another person is fundamentally flawed. The true personality of the individuals and the dynamic of their relationship will only be seen when they feel fully free in a halal marital bond in which two lives are coming together in a fully committed relationship.
No one knows exactly what contexts the future is going to hold; all we can do is to attempt to make an assessment of the essence of the other person when they speak or perform in different situations. You may want to ask yourself the questions: Do I feel I can trust this person, would I like his/her company, can I envisage this person as my companion or the mother/father of my children?
Above all if you are to get married keep open but optimistic eyes in seeking the bounty of Allah, for this life is a transient experience to seize the opportunities Allah puts before us!