Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is the Elusive Source of Marital Love and Where Can the Seeker Find It?

Fatima looked like a doll at the girls-only party. It was the first time I had seen her wearing make-up. However, when it was time to go home, she washed her face clean. “But you look so lovely,” some of us protested. “Your husband will be dazzled.”
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 “No,” she replied with a smile. “He doesn’t like me wearing makeup at all. He is very uncomfortable with it.”
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 I wasn’t married back then, but it was my first lesson in marriage tip myths. Over the next few years, I learned of more unorthodox ways of nurturing marriages – and stereotypes of ideal wives were debunked all around me.
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 Naina shared her happy marital moment with me. “My husband is most happy when I sit in his workshop and quietly watch him work on his lifelong hobby – carving his wooden boats. Those are our moments of bliss and connection.”

. Mariam said that she and her husband revel in the frequent debates, challenges and dares she engages him in. “They stem from the different cultures we come from. I don’t accept silly cultural mentality submissively. Our engagements broaden our visions and also lend sparks to our relationship.”

.Huda discloses her marriage secret: “I let him cook every other day and praise him for the bland food he prepares. That is his way of de-stressing after work.”

.Many of these examples seemed to directly oppose the oft-touted golden rules to successful marriage and those famous ‘how-to-please-your-husband’ guides laid out time and again by scholars, speakers, counsellors, aunties and other well-wishers: “Put on makeup before he comes home….Dress to dazzle….Don’t ask questions…Be submissive….Win his heart through his stomach….Be with him all the time…Do this…Do that….”

. These contradictions weren’t making sense. Should we or shouldn’t we follw these rules? Would they work or not? Diverse examples were strewn around me that validated as well as rejected those famous tips. There were cases of women following all those injunctions yet still complaining of disappointment. On the other hand, there were examples of wives flouting a number of those perfect-wife formulas but remaining beloved to their spouses.
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 Soon this confusion was demystified at an Islamic talk by a sister. She advised us not to completely or blindly follow any person’s marriage advice or those ‘how-to-win-his-heart’ tips. Her reasoning was logical and made sense: “Just like you and I are so different in natures and preferences despite us all being women, the same is true of men. So if a man is teaching a set of dos and don’ts, he inadvertently is laying out his concept of what a wife should do based on his personal likes and dislikes. Those set of rules may or may not apply in your relationship with your husband.”
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 I came away from that lecture enlightened. However, this explanation gave birth to another question in my mind: what then is the formula to marital happiness and success? It was another couple of years later, long after my own marriage, that I found the answer which not only made sense and satisfied my quest, but also put all those marriage tips and myths that I had picked up over time into their rightful place. The answer came not in a marriage-related lecture, but one on Tawheed and Allah’s (SWT) Names and Attributes. His (SWT) name Al-Wadood – The Loving – is manifested in His sign that enriches and beautifies a marital bond with those most coveted of feelings – love, serenity and contentment.
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 “And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” (Ar-Rum:21)
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 Affection, comfort and mercy are indeed the valuable acquisitions of marriage. I learned that the quest for these fruits becomes easier once I set my goals right; once I recognise where the stream of love is ultimately flowing from and acknowledge that, like other things in life, happiness in marriage too is a bounty from Allah SWT. Once I differentiate between the means and the outcome of marital affection, I can redirect my efforts and seek from the Creator (SWT) rather than the man He (SWT) has made as my partner – thus become soley depend on the bestower of that blessing.
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This concept means that I seek from HIM (SWT) and through Him (SWT). Just as knowing that Allah is As-Shaafi – The Healer, means that I seek His (SWT) healing through the means of medical treatments. I don’t depend on those medicines; rather rely on Allah (SWT) to heal me through those means. In the same way, I need to acknowledge that the love and success in a marriage are sole grants from Allah (SWT) and I can seek those blessings from Him (SWT) by adopting the various permissible means i.e. marriage guides, tips and advice.
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 So, what then are the means to seeking that grant from Allah (swt)? Besides the fulfilment of the spouses’ basic rights, the rest is all custom-made conduct exclusive to each couple. Every man and woman is unique; and every couple’s relationship is distinct from another. The things that enlivened one marriage may do nothing, or worse, for another. While it is alright to listen to others’ sincere advice and suggestions, the dynamics of my marriage are unique and unknown to all except Allah (SWT). Yes, that is why I am to ask Him (SWT) to guide me to the special ways and best means that will work in my marriage – seeking His signs of affection and mercy.
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 So, with a fresh perspective and a renewed will, I reconnect with Allah (SWT), praying that He inspires me to the effective and powerful ways to sweeten the most beautiful of human bonds.
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