Humans are highly complex beings. Hence, the union of two individuals is a delicate process that must be done with great care and thought. Individual differences in terms of one’s personality and character have a great impact on their marriage life as well as their future family dynamics.
Islam acknowledges the concept of al-kafaah, which is a term used to denote the compatibility between prospective husband and wife. This compatibility may include several factors or criteria, like one’s religion, customs, education, and social class. While jurists differ in which of these compatibility factors are required in Muslim marriages, individuals must first and foremost understand the importance of choosing someone compatible for them to spend the rest of their lives.
Discussions on building healthy marriages and resilient families often involve speaking about spousal roles and responsibilities. While it was common to define the roles of wives and that of their husbands, we must acknowledge that in today’s context, there may also be no clear-cut division of spousal roles and household responsibilities. This is demonstrated by the reality that many married couples currently live in, where they work together to fulfil their families' demands by taking on various tasks, sometimes interchangeably.
While there are many factors involved in preparing to build a healthy marriage, as mentioned above, a key ingredient is understanding the objectives of marriage. This article seeks to discuss the purpose and objective of marriage that could and should help couples navigate the various roles they perform and the challenges they may encounter along the way.
While everyone has different expectations about what they want from a marriage, our religion highlights the main purpose of marriage, i.e. to attain tranquillity (sakinah), as mentioned by Allah s.w.t:
وَمِنْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦٓ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَٰجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“And one of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may find comfort in them. And He has placed between you compassion and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.”
(Surah Ar-Rum, 30:21)
This verse is well known to many of us by now, particularly married couples, as it is frequently recited and briefly discussed during the solemnisation procedure. Due to the limited nature of this article, the subsequent sections will briefly discuss three interrelated key concepts that are mentioned in the abovementioned verse, namely sakinah, mawaddah and rahmah.
The concept of sakinah (Arabic: سَكِينَة), often translated as "tranquillity" or "peace," holds immense significance in Islamic theology and spirituality. Couples may interpret this concept in different ways, but what matters is that they reach a consensus about how to share and build a house that provides a safe haven for all family members. Only when safety is ensured and peace is upheld can love flourish and marital bonds grow strong.
While most couples spend months or even years preparing for their wedding and envision the perfect ceremony, regrettably, some of these couples often overlook the importance of preparing for a marriage that is intended to last longer than a one- or two-day event – ideally until their last breath.
Just as a wedding event may require administrative and logistical preparations, a marriage filled with sakinah requires spiritual, mental, and emotional preparations to ensure that couples are fully equipped to get married in the first place.
Each of us is created equal, but we have our own set of strengths and weaknesses, our individual preferences, our pet peeves, and essentially our own ways of doing things. Perhaps this is why keeping a marriage intact and healthy requires a lot of work and determination.
Couples should also make a solid effort to deepen their relationship with Allah s.w.t. and make lots of prayers asking for His assistance and blessings. One example is the supplication mentioned in the Quran:
وَٱلَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَٰجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّـٰتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَٱجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا
“They are those who pray, ‘Our Lord! Bless us with pious spouses and offspring who will be the joy of our hearts and make us models/examples for the righteous.’”
(Surah Al-Furqan, 25:74)
Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, better known by his pen name Hamka, mentions in his Tafsir Al-Azhar that the term mawaddah (Arabic: مَوَدَّة) refers to the deep sense of yearning to be with one’s partner and the sense of longing to be together.
As mentioned earlier, love can only blossom when spouses feel safe, peaceful, and at ease with each other’s presence. It was narrated that the Prophet s.a.w. said:
خَيْرُكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ لأَهْلِهِ وَأَنَا خَيْرُكُمْ لأَهْلِي
“The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.”
Based on the above, along with numerous other Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions, Islam teaches us the importance of good treatment towards one’s spouse, as this is a result of, if not the reason for the love between married couples, despite their individual differences.
While it may be easy for newlyweds to treat their spouses in a pleasant manner at the start of their marriage, things might change as time passes and responsibilities become overwhelming.
Local statistics show an increase in the number of dual-income households where both spouses work outside the home to provide for the family, which then impacts one’s family dynamics and household management. Such situations may require careful negotiation on how such couples can together contribute and fulfil their household needs, from major financial commitments to mundane daily chores.
In carrying out their collective roles as married couples, it is important that we avoid the mistake of demanding our rights to be provided while overlooking our own contributions and responsibilities.
As Muslims, we are taught to treat others the way we want to be treated, and wanting our rights to be fulfilled requires us to also ensure that we carry out our responsibilities with love and kindness based on mutual agreement and respect. It was reported that Ibn Abbas, a companion of the Prophet s.a.w, once said,
إِنِّي لَأُحِبُّ أَنْ أَتَزَيَّنَ لِلْمَرْأَةِ كَمَا أُحِبُّ أَنْ تَزَيَّنَ لِي لِأَنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَقُولُ وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ
“Verily, I love to beautify myself for my wife, just as I love for her to beautify herself for me, due to the saying of Allah Almighty, 'They have rights similar to those over them.'”
Dr Wahbah al-Zuhayli (may Allah bless him) discusses in his Tafsir Al-Munir how mawaddah and rahmah (Arabic: رَحمَة) between married couples are the very concepts that set humans apart from other creations. He further quoted As-Suddi, an interpreter of the Quran, who stated that while mawaddah refers to love and affection, rahmah refers to mercy and compassion.
If we were to really take time and ponder, one might conclude that it is difficult to build and maintain a healthy marriage devoid of rahmah, considering the vast challenges and difficulties they may face daily, perhaps in their professional or social settings. Indeed, one of the biggest blessings in this life is to come home to someone who is merciful and compassionate, not one who is harsh and indifferent.
Our primary goal in this life is to plant the seeds necessary to achieve eternal success in the hereafter, with the mercy of Allah s.w.t. This is exactly why we must be merciful and compassionate towards others, especially those close to us, as the Prophet s.a.w. said:
الرَّاحِمُونَ يَرْحَمُهُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ
"The merciful are shown mercy by ar-Rahman. Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from Who is above the heavens.”
It is not uncommon for married couples to be bothered by the flaws and shortcomings of their spouses, especially when they have been married for a long time and have seen each other’s true colours. Depending on the severity of these flaws, it is best that couples communicate their concerns with mercy or seek professional advice when necessary.
While marriage is a sacred relationship based on love and mercy, all marriages will be tested with various forms of marital conflicts. Islam has provided plenty of guidance on the things to look out for and potential ways to deal with or solve these conflicts.
In order to build a home that is filled with tranquillity, it is important that couples work together as a team and ensure that they both contribute to a marriage that serves as a source of joy and happiness. Indeed, a healthy and successful marriage is one that makes each spouse feel loved and cared for by the other and strives to make their partners enjoy their presence and company.
The writer, Ustazah Nur Hafiza Roslee, is part of the Research Programme in the Study of Muslim Communities of Success (RPCS). The programme seeks to develop contextualised bodies of knowledge on socio-religious issues that are typical for Muslim communities living in secular states and advanced economies.
To dive deeper into the discussion of Muslim Family Law, click on the following link: https://www.muis.gov.sg/-/media/Files/OOM/RPCS/MFLS_Final.ashx
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir
- Tafsir al-Munir
- Tafsir at-Thabari
- Tafsir al-Azhar
- Tafsir al-Misbah
- Sahih Muslim
- Jami’ at-Tirmidhi