Love Notes P2: Lessons about Love from the Sunnah

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I hate to break it to you, but Jerry Maguire’s famous, “You complete me” line is pure pop culture crack.

Why do I say this? Well, it’s because many people have this conception that they’re waiting for their “soul mate”, their knight or princess that will somehow fix their broken heart and complete them.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) famously said, “Marriage is half your deen.” Here’s what this doesn’t mean:

  • your deen is only half complete before you are married
  • you are only half a person and need someone else to “complete” you

You need to be a complete person in and of yourself before you get married. You can’t expect someone to come into your life and fill in the missing gaps of your character and religion.

Once you get married, the relationships you’ve nurtured and the character you’ve built are tested, and sometimes have to change. Living on your own, by yourself, is one thing; living with someone else is quite another. Marriage is the testing ground of character, because your spouse becomes a mirror for you. Over time, no person will know you better than your spouse.

But we’re not alone. The Prophet gave us many guidelines and tips in his life to have a successful love life. Here are some highlights.

Service, not authority

There’s a misconception that a man at home is a king on a throne. He issues decrees, rules over the castle with an iron fist, and enforces punishment as he sees fit. This, however, is far from how the Prophet (pbuh) lived in his household.

His wife Aishah narrated thousands of hadith, many of them related to the personal life of the Prophet. She was asked what he did at home and she said, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.” (Sahih Bukhari). The key word there is “serving”. He didn’t come home from a hard day of dawah, kick back on the sofa and watch the news. He would sew his own clothes, clean his place and spend time with his family. Men sometimes look down on these things, but who was more manly than the Prophet?

For husbands in particular, be in the service of your family. If you have a spare moment, look around the house and see if there’s any neglected chore or duty you can help take care of. And if you think that such a thing is below you, then know that the problem is with your heart. Help with the dishes, fold laundry, even do that most-dreaded thing: cook dinner. Your wife is not bound to doing any of these things: everything she does around the house is an act of worship for her, and a charity for your family. So be appreciative.

The Prophet’s wives

The Prophet was a model of how to be a loving spouse. He dealt with his wives with fairness and equity.  He once told his companions that “The best among you are those who are best to their families. And I am the best to my family.”

The Prophet never beat any of his wives. When he received complaints that some of the men had struck their wives, he said, “How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?” (Sahih Bukhari). Instead of getting worked up and violent when he was angry, he was silent instead.

He was attentive to the needs of his wives and gave them the full attention and respect they deserved. He never accused his wives of immorality, even when the society around him did so. When Aishah was accused of adultery, he never went up and accused her of doing so. Instead, he gave her the benefit of the doubt, even considering it was a grave sin. He said to her: “Aishah, I have heard this about you. If you are innocent, I expect that Allah will declare your innocence. But if you have committed the sin, you should offer repentance, and ask for Allah’s forgiveness; when a servant (of Allah) confesses his guilt and repents, Allah forgives him.” Imagine that. The entire city is swirling with rumours that Aishah committed adultery. Naturally, this would affect any husband. But instead of confronting her viciously, the Prophet instead leaves the matter up to God, and gently tells her that if she did, in fact, do this, then she should repent. Not to him, but to God. There was no ego in the equation.

The Prophet was never shy to express his love for his wives. He gave them gifts and made sure to spend quality time with them. In a society that valued stoic, macho men, his tenderness and kindness stood out. When a companion asked him who he loved most, the first person that came to mind was his wife, Aishah, and he was never shy to state his love for her.

Stigma

Unfortunately, in many Muslim families there is a huge stigma around marrying people who are:

  • a different ethnicity
  • a different culture
  • divorced
  • older than you

However, the Prophet married women who covered all of these traits and more. All of his marriage except one, Aishah, was to a woman who was divorced. He married women who were older than him, such as Khadijah. He married women of a different skin colour, such as Sawda who was a dark skinned lady. He married women who were converts, such as Saafiya, who was once Jewish. Each of his wives held a special quality that distinguished her from the rest.

As a side note, criticism is often leveled against the Prophet for his number of wives. But a few things to note are that:

  • polygamy was common, widespread and unchecked at the time of the Prophet; Islamic law permits it, but restricted it to certain circumstances and the number of wives a man could marry
  • many of the women he married were older than him; thus it was not marriage out of sexual desire
  • he treated all of his wives fairly and with kindness
  • many of the women he married, such as Zaynab, were widows who had no family to provide for them after the death of their husbands, therefore he married them

Marriage into a culture other than your own can be incredibly rewarding. That is, if you approach it the right way. As I mentioned in the previous part, the Quran states that God created us out of a single soul and made us into nations and tribes to get to know one another. Satan tries to make you focus on the differences—be it ethnicity, culture, previous marriages, age, etc.—and turn away what could be a promising marriage. Don’t see differences as a negative thing; instead, see them as different capabilities.

Marriage between cultures results in a sort of cross pollination of ideals and values. You’re continually learning new things. And not only that, it forces you to reflect on your own culture, and your own self, and see things from a different light. Contrast that to now, where some parents won’t let their children marry anyone except for someone who is from the same country, province, even village as themselves.

Importance of marriage in the Sunnah

When the revelation began, the Prophet was alone in a cave on a mountain. When it began, he was so shaken and frightened that the first thing he did was rush down the mountain to seek the comfort of his wife Khadijah. And at the end of his life, as he was dying from sickness, he requested to stay with his wife Aishah, the person he loved the most. He died with his head resting in the lap of his beloved.

Throughout his Prophethood, his wives were a great source of comfort and inspiration for him. He took counsel in them, such as when the Companions were denied the opportunity to do Umrah, and refused to shave their heads to exit the state of ihram. The Prophet spoke consulted his wife, Umm Salama, about what to do in the situation, and she said to go out and shave his head first and everyone else would follow. He watched sword dancers in the mosque with Aishah, and wouldn’t move as she rested her head on his shoulder; and he would race with her among the sand dunes of Arabia.

In his last sermon, the Prophet stressed the importance of the treatment of women. He said, “Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

Through the life of the Prophet, we see a role model of how to treat our spouses. Marriage was not something bland and lifeless—or worse a subjugation. It was an honour for both spouses, a trust, and a means to live happily.

Love—during the life of the Prophet and today—is something that needs to be nurtured and taken care of. It is a seed planted in a fertile heart. A seed does not grow faster or more beautiful if you shout at it, or the more dirt you heap on it, or the more you try to expose it. It blossoms with the tender care we give it.

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