بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
“I don’t know where to start….I don’t know how it happened. Everything looked so good, like it would work out perfectly. I never intended to hurt anyone.”
If there is one thing I wish I could make the single youth of today understand and understand well, it would be the phenomenal and chasmic difference between a premarital relationship with a member of the opposite gender, a wedding and a marriage.
If only there was some way I could make them see how each of these three things is unique and, although very closely connected with the rest, entirely independent and exclusive in its own existence.
However, I know that there is just a single, one-way method to finding the secret difference between these three, and that is the hard, tough, lesson-infested route of practical experience gained by actually living life.
Talking about the tricky realm of how to deal with non-mahrums and what limits to observe with one’s interaction with them is a very difficult topic to address today, particularly in front of Muslim youth.
You see, youth is that time when a person dreams and fantasizes about finding romantic love with someone of the opposite gender, which, according to their desires, should undoubtedly blossom into compassionate mutual understanding and intellectual compatibility riddled with just the right “pepper” of sexual attraction.
They then desire for this “cloud-nine, breath-takingly ‘high’ experience” to smoothly lead to the eventual seal on the “relationship”: a meeting of both sets of parents.
Of course, both pairs of parents should automatically hit it off at the first meeting and grant their approval to the union without any arguments, apprehensions, second thoughts, ifs or buts.
And then, voila, the planning of the perfect wedding ceremony amid excitement, giggles and extravagant, “We-will-leave-no-wishes-of-our-prince(ss)-unfulfilled-in-giving-her-the-dream-wedding-that-s/he-has-hoped-for” assertions form the next chain of events in this perfectly harmonious and fantastical tale of make-believe that takes place in the minds of most young, hopeful single people who want a happy marital future for themselves.
The more religiously-oriented (for lack of a more colloquial description) youths do manage to slip in a few istikharah’s somewhere along the way, but then confusedly dabble in dream interpretation and misread emotions henceforth while they struggle to recognize and decipher any divine signs of “go-ahead” for their marriage sent from up above.
This mental dreaming process is completely natural, and it starts very early. For girls, it might start during teenage or even before, and with boys, it is most probably well-set in motion by the time they’re in their twenties.
The fact is, very few singles today are pragmatic and realistic, with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Fewer still, are fortunate enough to enjoy a very close, passionate, love-and-sacrifice-based relationship with Allah, willing to practice His limits without questioning their wisdom, applicability or feasibility, without complaining when they seem too tough to adhere to in today’s modern times.
What happens when their mind starts playing these games with them during those youthful years of their lives in which their hearts throb with yearning for marital bliss is that they, for the sake of Allah, determinedly practice immense patience (sabr/صبر) – most prominently in the face of scathing social marginalization, antagonism from world-wise and worried elders, and accusations of being weird and “extremist” from their secular-minded friends and peers.
They practice صبر by quelling their sexual desires through the means ordained by Allah in Islam: lowering/guarding the gaze, in public as well as in private, avoiding mixing during social gatherings as well casual intermingling with members of the opposite gender elsewhere: whether at the campus, the office, at home e.g. when cousins or relatives come over for a parents-approved bash and ‘harmless’ fun, or in the ever-rampant online social media channels that bring pictures, blogs, comments, emails, videos and other kinds of instant messages right onto their palms through their smartphones, tablets, or laptops.
There’s no doubt about it: the trial of temptation for the youth today, in the form of premarital relationships, is a very, very tough one. Shaitan – our avowed enemy – who swore to our Creator that he would come at us from four directions to mislead us – is keen on attacking the single youth through a double-strategied ploy: using their raging hormones and unsatisfied bodily desires, coupled with their naivete and lack of experience in life, to delude them about relationships with the opposite gender via a plethora of sugar-coated, fair-seeming, supposedly harmless “traps”:
- “Stop being such a pervert. We are just friends. A girl and a guy can have a platonic friendship! So what if we sit somewhere and talk for hours? He is my buddy.”
- “What’s wrong with helping him/her when s/he is in need of advice? I am doing a good deed by counseling him/her through this crisis.”
- “You can forget about getting good marriage proposals if you cover your face. A girl’s face is the primary magnet for proposals from good, well-established families with decent, well-earning boys. Beauty is the main factor guys pursue.”
- “I want to know the guy really well to see what he is really like before saying “yes” to the proposal. How can I marry an absolute stranger? What if we turn out to be totally incompatible? I will talk to him on the phone for a few weeks and get to know him first.”
- “What do you mean you cannot shake your cousin’s hand when he greets you? Are you crazy? You’re turning into an old maid! Stop being such a self-righteous _______ [*bleep*]!”
- “If I can talk to my female colleagues and cousins without anyone objecting, I can talk to my fiance, too. Besides, our nikah is in just 2 months. Its like we’re already married. Just the thought of not talking to her depresses me.”
You see, according to the Quran, when a man and woman marry each other, they become “fortified”, especially the woman. This is proved by the fact that the Quran calls married women “المُحْصَنَاتُ” – the fortified or protected women, and the men who marry them “مُحْصِنِينَ” – those seeking marriage for ‘fortifying’ or protecting the woman long-term i.e. not intending to use her body temporarily just for (permissible) conjugation, only to eventually dump her through divorce. In both these words, the root word is the same, “حصن”, which means “fortress”.
The reason why marriage is a “protection” or “fortress” for a Muslim is, because it allows him or her to fulfill their sexual desires in a permissible and beautiful manner. Hence, once their bodily needs are satisfied, they are more likely to function productively in society without being “distracted” by attractions to members of the opposite gender, provided they still observe Allah’s limits in their inter-gender social interactions.
Going back about 10 to 12 years in time, I can vouch for the fact that the trial of staying away from forbidden relationships for someone who is single, is an extremely tough one. Peer pressure and even social pressure from elders nowadays, pushes young people to be no-holds-barred “confident” (read “immodest”) and proactively bubbly and charismatic (read “flirtatious”) in their social interactions with everyone.
Hence, even among so-called conservative and decent families today, the youth are pushed to not hold back or observe any limits, either at work or at play (parties); to dress as they want and exude charisma; to have the perfect bodies and the branded apparel to show off these gym-toned bodies; to leave no stone unturned in getting into the right college or in the right job at the right company, come what may.
Statements from religiously-inclined youngsters then, such as “I do not want to attend a coeducational university because of the fitnah (temptation) involved“, or “I do not want to work in an office that employs numerous scantily dressed women“, or “I want to be married by age 20” cause eyes to widen, jaws to drop and the minds of elders to be utterly scandalized and appalled; these requests from their offspring are then immediately rejected in totality as confidence-undermining, career-jostling, ‘extremist’, pseudo-religious idiocy bordering on lunacy.
Pre- and extra-marital relationships embody illusions that cause nothing but pain
The heart is the seat of desires. If one becomes slave to their desires, the result is nothing but chronic disappointment, distress and anguish.
The generations in the past hundred years have grown up on a steady diet of illusory love songs, romance novels and cheesy films with unbelievably happy endings. Guy and girl meet, feel the vibes of attraction, spend time together, perhaps even commit passionate, spur-of-the-moment adultery (اَعُوذُ بِاللهِ), then proceed to throw caution to the winds, listen to their hearts, follow their desires, clobber their opponents, break all taboos, pursue their dreams, blah blah….(you can insert any typical, cheese-coated cliches here), to ride/run off into the horizon holding hands as the world looks on in shock … and the film credits roll.
What these stories, which are cooked up by writers and brought to us by media, do, is that they play around with our youthful desires and make us dream about such a Utopian romance even more.
Consequently, when real life slaps us in the face, we feel shattered, helpless and broken inside.
Take the case of “Bisma” and “Bilal” (not their real names). They belonged to different ethnic and religious communities (I hope you’ll understand what I mean here). Despite knowing (the expected repercussions of) that, they started spending more and more time together on campus. Eventually, Bilal told her about his feelings for her and very soon after that, she told him that she felt the same way. They continued to meet without letting their parents know of their relationship, which had now been ‘sealed’ or made “official” by their declarations of (so-called) “love”.
Eventually, Bisma started going out with him on dates to cafes and restaurants from campus, without her parents knowledge. Here I’d like to point out that even though neither prayed salah (note to the “stop-judging-them-you-self-righteous-fundo!” police: please don’t start clawing me just yet for saying this, I will explain below why I mentioned this point), they both had noble intentions – of getting married.
She had previously claimed that she would never go out on dates as it was “wrong” in her eyes and an action that her “conservative” family would never approve of; however, she eventually slipped. His lustful stares, flattering compliments about her looks, and heart-melting, persevering proclamations of love for her made her finally relent.
Big chunks of cheese – I know. But it is precisely this cheese that most naive young girls usually go for.
Lapping up paperback after paperback of Mills-&-Boon-type nonsense that sets their hearts aflutter and imagination running wild, one can only wonder what effect actual expressions of romantic feelings and husky-voiced, mushy dialogue would have on them!
Anyway, what happened next is no surprise: they started getting physical, albeit staying well away from adultery.
Bisma started ignoring her friends because Mr Whats-his-name was very possessive and a tad controlling; he’d go into a rage if she even so much as went out anywhere with her classmates, both guys and girls, without inviting him there too. He, of course, could go out anywhere he wanted with his numerous girl and guy buddies. Double standards all the way, but the glittery stars in Bisma’s eyes seemed to blind her to the glaring reality and the truth.
Despite repeated hints that eventually became outright requests from Bisma to him, he refused to tell his parents about their relationship, even though he now had a job, was over 21 years in age, and earning a steady income.
As is the case in most such relationships, the cover was eventually blown when Bisma received a proposal that her parents didn’t want to turn down. It was only then that Bilal rushed to do some desperate damage control, by asking his mother to call up Bisma’s mother with a marriage proposal, but it was too late. The other guy who was proposing, came from an extremely wealthy family, and hailed from the same religious sect and ethnic tribe as Bisma’s family, and that clinched the deal for Bisma’s parents.
A slap from her father, a family confrontation, an argument, incessant tears, grief, sorrow – everything that could be expected from such a situation – followed. Grounded from talking to anyone on the phone and from going out anywhere, except college, she would cry at the drop of a hat – for hours.
I remember how appalled I was, though, when I once heard her say tearfully, “Why did God do this to me? Why did he show me what true love is like, only to take it all away?”
Uh, since when does “God” show us what this so-called “true love” is like? Has He not disallowed us from getting into such relationships? Any average Muslim knows that.
Or is this an incorrect belief on my part?
Plus, as I keep telling single ladies who ask me for advice, if he really “loves” you – really – as he claims to, he will try to marry you as soon as possible. Even if he is not working, even if he has older unmarried sibling(s), and even if he is from a different community. He will not wait around until the final bell to get up as a last resort and do something to marry you.
Plus, if a child is already getting enough candy from the candy machine for free, why will he endeavor to pay for it?
Even if all of mankind, collectively, stopped praying salah and deliberately disobeyed all of Allah’s commands, we could still not dare to “blame” God by attributing lies such as, “Why did He do this to me?”, to Him.
We disobey His commands first, refuse to prostrate before Him when He calls us five times a day, follow our desires, do things that He has forbidden, and then when we get hurt – extremely, horribly, terribly hurt – as a result of our transgressions of His limits, we dare to turn around and say that He did this to us?
Bisma got engaged to the new Mr Whats-his-name even though she had love for another man still throbbing in her heart. With her parents’ full permission, she started talking to her fiance every day on the phone and going out with him on dates.
Within a few months, she had forgotten about Bilal and was in love with her fiance and – I seek refuge from Allah – had already started being physical with him too, when they went out at night in his car, or when he made out with her in the drawing room of her parents’ house, the door to which was kept shut during his visits by her parents themselves. Her mother counseled her a lot during this phase of “switching” her unsuitable “lover” with another, family-approved one, urging her to bond with her fiance in order to forget her ex-boyfriend.
Bisma and Bilal are among hundreds of thousands of single people who got badly hurt because they ventured into the trappings of an illusive, transitory romantic relationship that, though it gave temporary joy to their hearts because of the transiently-exhilarating fulfillment of their base desires, nevertheless left deep marks of regret and pain etched firmly in their psyche, emotions and life history.
How often do you see middle-aged or elderly people express regret over their past escapades and liaisons? How often do parents fret that their sons and daughters will tread the same path that they themselves traversed as careless youths; actions that they sorely regret, even decades after the flower of their youth has faded and drooped?
Today, Bisma and Bilal are happily married to their spouses. Incidentally, they knew the people who are now their spouses even when they were involved with each other. If marriage to these other two people was decreed for them already, perhaps all the pain could have been avoided by not allowing themselves to get lured into a pre-marital relationship at all?
More importantly, Allah’s disobedience and transgression of His limits would also have been avoided – if only more caution was practiced – and the mutual attraction that got stirred when they casually hung out together, was quelled from the start?
Where does it say in the Quran that a man and woman cannot be close friends?
The Quran has clear evidence that forbids both Muslim men and women from being involved in any kind of friendship or relationship with each other outside marriage. Below is a portion from a verse taken from Surah Al-Nisaa, in which Allah discusses the kind of women Muslim men should seek in marriage. Here is how he has described the women men should seek for marriage:
مُحْصَنَاتٍ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحَاتٍ وَلاَ مُتَّخِذَاتِ أَخْدَانٍ
“…(the women) should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours..”
[Al-Quran – 4:25]
Tafsir Ibn Kathir says about this part of the verse above: “Allah’s statement, مُحْصَنَـت (they should be chaste) means, they are honorable women who do not commit adultery, and this is why Allah said, غَيْرَ مُسَـفِحَـتٍ (“not fornicating women”) referring to dishonorable women, who do not refrain from illicit sexual relations with those who ask.
Ibn `Abbas said that the fornicating women are the whores who do not object to having relations with whomever seeks it, while, وَلاَ مُتَّخِذَاتِ أَخْدَانٍ (“nor promiscuous”) refers to taking boyfriends.
Similar was said by Abu Hurayrah, Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Ad-Dahhak, `Ata’ Al-Khurasani, Yahya bin Abi Kathir, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi.”
End quote Tafsir.com.
Another verse in the Quran, which occurs early in Surah Al-Ma’idah, describes a similar chaste character that Muslim men should possess when seeking a wife.
I must add that this verse of the Quran, below, quite blatantly clobbers the double standards that exist in most Muslim societies nowadays, in which young guys are excused by societal mores from being promiscuous and having girlfriends, and only girls are forbidden from even stepping out of their homes, lest they “fall into sin”:
مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ وَلاَ مُتَّخِذِي أَخْدَانٍ
“…and (that you men) desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret paramours..”
[Al-Quran – 5:5]
The above verse discusses the issue of Muslim men seeking marriage. Without going through the whole tafsir of the verse (which I encourage you to do in order to ensure that I have not quoted anything out of context) I have just taken out that part of it that explicitly and completely forbids men from marrying just for the sake of legal sexual intercourse, and also forbids them from having liaisons with any women outside marriage.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir states about this part of the verse above: “And just as women must be chaste and avoid illegal sexual activity, such is (also) the case with men, who must also be chaste and honorable.
Therefore, Allah said – غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ – (… “not illegal sexual intercourse”) as adulterous people do, those who do not avoid sin, nor reject adultery with whomever offers it to them. وَلاَ مُتَّخِذِى أَخْدَانٍ (… “nor taking them as girl-friends (lovers)”) meaning: those who have mistresses and girlfriends..”
End quote Tafsir.com.
I think its worth pointing out how Allah has, in both the above verses, mentioned the action of having affairs or taking lovers – مُتَّخِذِى أَخْدَانٍ – separately from sexual intercourse, or مُسَافِحِينَ . The word “اَخْدَان” is the plural of the word “خِدْنٌ”, which means “friend”.
We all know that these two actions: having casual inter-gender friendships (اَخْدَان), and committing adultery (سِفَاحٌ or مُسَافَحَةٌ), can be mutually exclusive, especially in Muslim culture. People in our local culture think nothing of having casual romantic relationships or buddy-type friendships with members of the opposite gender without actually committing fornication.
Many guys and men enjoy talking to women for hours on the phone, or use the Internet to have regular flings and flirtatious friendships, or are routinely involved in a ‘serious’ relationship with a girlfriend, or a fiance.
Just take a cursory look at the local DAWN Magazine’s Auntie Agni column as glaring proof of this sad trend. Even without formally proposing to a girl’s parents, nowadays a guy/man can still easily have a steady girlfriend with whom he goes out on dates (like Bisma and Bilal above), a liaison that is usually called a “committed relationship”. In fact, we can go so far as to say that, in local, urban, elite a.k.a ‘burgher’ culture, only the so-called pathetic ‘losers’ do not have steady romantic partners after a certain age.
All of these relationships, though they may not involve any sexual intercourse, nevertheless, are still totally impermissible in the light of the Quran – as I have shown above – because they fall into the category of “مُتَّخِذِى أَخْدَانٍ”.
That is why, it is almost as if Allah, when mentioning the impermissibility of sexual intercourse outside marriage, goes on to clarify that even taking close friends from the opposite gender, or having non-adulterous love affairs, is also absolutely forbidden.
If a young person prays daily salah diligently, its highly likely that they will be able to stay away from romantic relationships
أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ
“Salah (prayer) restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life), without doubt.” [Al-Quran – 29:45]
When I mentioned above that Bisma and Bilal were not regular in praying the five daily prayers, it was to highlight the fact that negligence in prayers opens the door to many vices and sins in a Muslim’s life. Salah is a protective barrier that stops a person from sinning. Not a hard-and-fast rule, but nevertheless, true for most.
When someone knows that they just prayed an obligatory salah, and will have do so again in a few hours, they will automatically feel ashamed to sit in a corner being all lovey-dovey with, or talk on the phone oozing oodles of mush with, a guy or girl whom they have feelings for. The shame they feel, also known as the praiseworthy غيرة (“gheerah“) that makes an Allah-conscious person stop before doing something wrong, will make their hearts sting sharply with guilt and regret, and their conscience won’t let them rest about what they are doing.
So, if you are young and single, I would sincerely advise you to make sure that you pray all your daily five salah prayers on time, slowly, un-rushed, with full concentration or خشوع, prolonging your bending (ركوع) and your prostration (سجود).
For guys, I’d exhort that they strive – and strive really, really hard – to pray every obligatory prayer in congregation at the nearest masjid, even if everyone thinks they are bonkers, and calls them a loser or a “maulvi” for it.
Forget about these naysayers. Just do it!
Some facts about doing istikharah for marriage
The linguistic meaning of the Arabic word “استخاره” is to seek good, or خير. It is not supposed to be some sort of magical ritual that will result in an immediate dream or epiphany that will make clear to you the route you should take, or the decision that you should make, overnight.
Rather, when you pray two units of prayer at any time of the day (it doesn’t have to be at night) and then invoke Allah with the prescribed du’a of استخاره , you are actually asking Him to decree for you, between two options, the one that is better, for both your duniya and your Akhirah.
Whether you have received a proposal for marriage, or if you have someone of good character and lineage in mind as a prospective spouse for you, doing استخاره ensures that you seek that outcome/result from Allah that is better for you. استخاره is a du’a, plain and simple.
By doing it, you ask Allah to decide the matter for you Himself, by turning hearts and/or making events happen in such a way that things head forward either in favor of the union, or against it. And that is precisely what happens after an استخاره: either a proposal becomes finalized and a marriage takes place, or such a marital union is averted, for one reason or another.
Many young people who want to marry someone they like, lament how they have been doing استخاره for years, and even though both their parents know about their wanting to marry that particular person, nothing seems to work – the marriage proposal keeps facing unexpected hurdles, delays and problems.
Well, they should wake up and realize that their marital union with the person in question is probably not meant to be. If Allah shows us His signs subtly as well as openly, but we refuse to “see” and accept them, it is our own choice.
I married the one I had a romantic relationship with, and now I feel guilty about the premarital dating part of it. Do I need to repent?
Just because you married the person you went out with and were physically and/or emotionally close to outside the bond of nikah, does not mean you do not need to repent for being involved with them in such a relationship. Nor does it mean that, by marrying that boyfriend or girlfriend, the sin of dating and being physical with him/her got automatically wiped out.
Sincere, heartfelt, deliberate repentance is the only thing that wipes out past disobediences to Allah, and it has to be accompanied by severe, humbling regret and remorse, coupled with seeking Allah’s pardon through dhikr (remembrance by the tongue), salah, sadaqah/charity, (preferably) crying or sobbing with tears of regret, and last but not least, rushing forth in obligatory and voluntary good deeds as compensation, to appease Allah’s wrath and attain His pleasure.
Repentance, when sincere, can wipe out one’s past sins not just from one’s book of records, but also from the hearts, minds and memories of people who witnessed that sin.
Please take a look at this article of mine for more about sincere repentance.
The role of elders, especially parents
A lot of times, when a young, single Muslim, who is passionate about the practice and propagation of Islam (da’wah) in life, desires marriage with a particular person of the opposite gender who holds similar religious views, whom they have met or heard about through other people – it is common for a conflict of interest to develop between them and their parents as a result of this choice.
Parents who are not as religious as their adult, single offspring can create a myriad of hurdles in the latter’s marriage process. The reasons for this are many, but primarily its because they, out of sincere love and concern for their children, tend to impose their preferences and beliefs regarding the perfect marriage formula on their reluctant adult sons or daughters.
Here are some examples of some of the most common of those hurdles:
- “We will not marry into ______________ (insert name of any ethnic group, viz. Memon, Bihari, Hyderabadi, Balochi, Sindhi, Pathan, Punjabi, Urdu speaking, Lucknowi, Chinioti, etc. blah blah) because they are very _________________ (insert any broad-brushed generalization, such as miserly, quarrelsome, selfish, materialistic, non-forgiving, eccentric, dumb, greedy, etc. blah blah).”
- “We will not marry outside the family.”
- “We will not consider weird, extremist, and rigid religious families. Moderately religious families are welcome.”
- “You have to do your Masters first. Don’t even think about marriage before then.”
- “We will not consider proposals from abroad. Girls/boys raised in the West are very fast.”
- “There has to be an age difference of 5 years, at least.”
- “Our shahzada is so tall and fair. How could you suggest that stocky girl whose complexion is darker than his? Haye, do you want my grandchildren to turn out kaalay?”
- “Their economic status is much higher than ours. What will people say? Do you want to be taunted about being a pauper all your life?”
- “Five sisters?! Na baba na, my daughter won’t be able to handle FIVE wagging tongues filling her mother’s-in-law ears all the time.”
- “He is 2 inches shorter than you! Kuch to socha hota….bewaqoof!”
Parents are the vital support system that enable a young Muslim person to get married. Making them relent in their views, especially if the latter are very staunch and etched in stone so to speak, can be an impossible task, one that can shatter a pious young man or woman when he or she has a perfectly agreeable proposal turned away for the most trivial and idiotic of reasons.
Hope, however, should never be lost. If the young person seeks Allah’s countenance and pleasure through good deeds, obeys all the obligations that Allah has endorsed upon them, and stays away from impermissible things (محرمات), beseeching Allah’s help through patience, perseverance and consistent supplication, time can always bring about a change for the better.
What is crucial is to not shout at, rebuke or be insulting towards elders, no matter what they do or say to you. Secondly, never stop connecting with Allah in order to get His help on your side. Thirdly, get some pious elder from the community to intercede on your behalf and advise your parents.
Finally, if all your efforts fail and you cannot marry that person you are so convinced is right for you — try to accept this decree as Allah’s will and the result of your sincere and constant استخاره.
At such a point, move on. Gulp down that lump in your throat, cry some, but then – move on.
Remember, the kid who keeps looking back at the small piece of average candy that his parents wouldn’t let him have, his eyes blinded by hot, gushing tears, his head not looking ahead in the direction in which his parents are leading him by the hand, will not be able to see, eat or enjoy the huge, luscious chocolate cake that they were saving just for him; because of which they refused him that average, low-quality candy that he so wanted to have.
His parents actually wanted him to have something better. But his stubborn fixation with, and regret at, the average thing that passed him by won’t let him see it.
Did it ever occur to you, that in your staunch conviction that Mr or Ms Perfect is the only one for you, you might be overseeing someone who is much, much better?
Did it ever occur to you that Allah didn’t give you the candy because he was saving a thousand-times-better chocolate cake for you?
Finally, I would like to talk about what happens at times, after everything goes according to plan and a marriage proposal is finalized, much to everyone’s relief.
The engaged couple is happy and excited; the parents are relieved to have fulfilled their duty towards their adult offspring, and excitedly start making preparations for the imminent wedding. An air of excitement pervades both homes.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, things begin to go awry. Either one of the bride- or groom-to-be undergoes an inexplicable attitude reversal and/or emotional change. They become unsure about going ahead with the wedding. Their initially inconsequential second thoughts and insecurities blossom into fears and major doubts about their impending marriage. Soon, they become more and more aloof, distant, and cold; rebuking their fiance angrily on the smallest of issues. Their in-laws-to-be suddenly appear to be lousy people, and after a few weeks of such behavior……yes, you guessed it: they break off the betrothal.
Shock, disbelief and denial abound on both sides. Hearts are broken; dreams are shattered and hopes crash. After a few days of attempting damage-control, the truth and finality of Allah’s decree sinks in. The dust finally settles with time; all is quiet, but one question lingers on in everyone’s minds:
Usually people say, “We did استخاره before finalizing the proposal – many times! Then why did this happen?” The same things are said when an initially happy marriage dissolves and results in bitter divorce.
We, as mere humans with limited knowledge, question Allah’s decree because it doesn’t make sense to us why He could make us go through a process that seemed to be so right in the beginning, but which then became a sad, bitter and painful experience for us. We question Allah about why He started a seemingly happy process in our lives when He knew that it would end in pain. We wonder why our استخاره came out right in the beginning if the end of the process was to be so disastrous and fruitless.
There is one thing to consider here. You need to be honest with yourself and think about something first:
Did you transgress any of Allah’s limits when going through that process?
E.g. a couple who are very happy with their engagement at first, might start talking to each other all the time via cell phone, emails and sms messages; perhaps even go out on a date – all of which are actions against the commands of Allah. (I am not going to quote any fatawa here because every authentic fatwa website is full of them. Every scholar and religious authority is unanimous about the fact that fiances should not converse freely with each other)
Within some time, Shaitan does his work on them and makes them dislike each other, because their increased familiarity and frankness might reveal some faults and shortcomings that could turn one or both of them off about the other being a suitable life partner/spouse.
This is something I have seen happen a lot to couples who are religiously inclined – who intend to marry each other for pleasing Allah, and hope to lead a marital life and raise a family according to Allah’s pleasure, by adhering to Islam in principle and deed.
For such couples, the traps of Shaitan vary from, say, the traps he lays out for those couples who have little or no knowledge of Islam and who do not practice the obligations of the religion.
The latter are easy prey for Shaitan – all he has to do is make them believe that the lustful, romantic love they feel during the engagement phase is actually the real thing. So he easily makes them blind to the harsh realities of life that lie ahead in their marriage, making them focus only on the sexual part, driving them crazy with lust about what is to come on their wedding night. That night is all they think about and look forward to.
It is the religious couples who are about to get married that require some harder work from Shaitan, our accursed, devious but intelligent enemy. He knows that if this couple were to get married, they’d fortify each other, help each other in Deen, become each other’s religious support in life, and raise children who will be strong, confident Muslims in the future. So he preys on them using a different, more subtle tactic.
He pounds them with doubts, fears, insecurities, and perhaps even succeeds in making them seem ugly, too rigid, too overweight, short, dark or in any way unseemly to each other. He whispers little-nothings into the ears of their parents, siblings and friends, who, playing the part of the unsuspectingly manipulated forces of Shaitan, go about saying a sentence here, a remark there; dropping snide comments off and on, and casting doubts in the minds of the engaged couple:
- “What? He called you just twice throughout your trip? My fiance used to call me every day, even long distance. Are you sure he even likes you?”
- “She is quite average-looking. There is nothing wrong with going for beauty, you know. Don’t you know that there is a hadith that confirms that a woman is married for her beauty?”
- “If he is treating you so indifferently right now, he will be even less caring towards you after marriage. Love wanes after marriage, as it is. The engagement phase should make you feel like you’re on a high – on cloud nine; breathless and excited! So why are you so mopey?”
- “She is quite extravagant in her spending. Are you sure you’ll be able to maintain her? I mean, wanting to splurge Rs 35,000 on makeup, just for one night?”
And so, dear readers, long engagements between religious or even not-so-religious people sometimes break, despite the best intentions on both sides. Shaitan succeeds in keeping two perfectly nice, eligible young Muslims still single and unhitched – unfortified and with unfulfilled sexual desires.
Outside the protective fortress of marriage, they continue to evade the blessings, comfort and happiness that rush forth when a man and woman unite through nikah – a sacred relationship that commences by taking Allah’s name – to live under one roof and become garments for each other.
Nay, the separated single Muslim couple now continue to move around lonely, miserable and confused in society — easy prey to Shaitan’s incessant traps.
Only this time, they erroneously lament their woes of still being single as “being the will of Allah”, when, in fact, it was they who fell for Shaitan’s enticements and succumbed to his false insinuations.
Marriage is not a joyride, but a bumpy road — it helps if your spouse fears Allah
Fact is, marriage is not a joyride in an amusement park. It has its good and bad days. The trials that follow after a marriage takes place require both husband and wife to be strongly connected to Allah, with complete trust (توكل) in Him, and to be ceaselessly loyal to each other – by becoming an ever-present, protective garment for their spouse, even when in front of their own parents.
The husband-wife relationship is the most prone to attacks by Shaitan because it forms the building block of society – the foundation on which the next generation of human beings are born and raised. If a marriage is flimsy and weak, the family unit won’t be far from collapse either.
Once this basic family unit dissolves, the naive, unsuspecting young children that emerge from it and disperse into society without parental guidance, are the easiest, unarmed prey for the armies of Shaitan to attack and destroy. And that is how he endeavors to mislead most of us – by constantly looking out for when he can give a blow to the strongest of Muslim marriages.
If you really want to enjoy a strong marital relationship in the future, one that is like a hard rock before the blows of the numerous devils from among the humans and jinns, remember that you need to do away with any fallacious ideas in your head about fleeting romantic relationships and flirtatious ‘friendships’ with members of the opposite gender outside/before marriage. You need to grow up and undergo a major reality-check that will firmly implant your itchy feet on the ground.
Youth fades with time. Friends who swore to stay by your side through thick and thin disappear from the horizon with the bawl of their first baby. Eventually, you are left alone, when your siblings, cousins, classmates and colleagues all become busy with their own spouses and children.
If you really want that dream home with the perfectly manicured garden, white picket fence (I know I’m being cheesy here), the family van and the fluffy pet cat – first do away with delusional dreams of unending romance and picture-perfect matrimony, and get real. Turn to Allah, obey Him in prosperity as well as in adversity, strive to earn through 100% halal means, and repent to Him sincerely for all those things that you think He might be angry with you about. Then watch the workings of His decree unfold almost miraculously before your eyes.
One of the best, most fulfilling and deliriously happy moments one can experience in life, is when Allah decrees in your favor that which people around you swore would never happen.
Speaking from personal experience: I was a girl with a tightly-wrapped face who eschewed company of the opposite gender after repenting from the friendships of school and college life, then faced comments during the early twenties like, “Who will ever marry her?”
If you steadfastly continue to tread the path of Deen, eventually the whispered question becomes: “Who wouldn’t?”
An edited version of this blog post appears as a chapter in my 13th book, Into the Qur’an.