Umm Zainab Vanker and Umm Khadijah continue the discussion on youthful marriages. In Part 2, they focus on the attitudes held amongst Muslims that impede the successful implementation of young marriages.
Two extremes are found amongst the Muslim youth regarding marriage: Over-idealism, wherein they imagine that marriage will make their life perfect; and severe pessimism, wherein marriage is viewed to be the end of independence, ambition, and a future career.
Marriage is rarely seen for what it is: a long-term blessed bond between a Muslim man and woman, a relationship of love, compassion, and growth in all areas of life. Islam’s concept of marriage is a wholesome, encompassing ideal, which recognizes not only the blessings and challenges of marriage on an individual level, but a societal one as well. Many of the ayaat and ahadeeth relating to the marital bond contain references to the relationship between a man and a woman, and its effect on society at large.
The Prophet (saw) said: “If there comes to you to marry (your daughter) one who with whose religious commitment and character you are pleased, then marry (your daughter) to him, for if you do not do that, there will be fitnah (tribulation) in the land and widespread corruption.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1084; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 866.)
For those who imagine that marriage is the secret to a Disney kind of happiness, this illusion will mostly likely be shattered quickly, leaving them unable to cope with its reality.
No two individuals can live together, in close proximity and for an extended period of time, without experiencing disagreements or moments of frustration and anger.
Being unable to recognise this, or accept this, is crippling – only by realising that this the natural course of life, especially married life, will two spouses be able to identify the appropriate manner of dealing with their issues and using it as a means of strengthening their relationship, instead of allowing it to weaken and destroy their marriage.
On the other hand, those who see marriage in a negative light will miss out on the many wonderful things that a loving relationship has to offer. Emotional companionship, the fulfillment of physical desires, and the learning experience of journeying through life with a beloved partner are all examples of what married life has to offer. It provides one of the best opportunities for personal and emotional growth, bringing about wisdom and insight on various matters of life. It can be a source of deep happiness and intense joy, and indeed, some emotions that can only be experienced through such a bond.
Allah (swt) describes spouses as being “garments for one another” (2:187); meaning, that a husband and wife are both an adornment for one another, and a covering for one another – that they will always make each other happy, feel beautiful, protect each other and look out for one another.
One major problem in youthful marriages is that of having unrealistic ideals. Whenever there are Islamic conferences or lectures discussing marriage, usually the same technical questions are answered over and over again. Hours of discussion revolve around how the Sahabah married early and RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) encouraged families not to turn away “young men of good character.”
Unfortunately, many young Muslim men unwittingly think that they are similar to Abdullah ibn Umar, Ali ibn Abi Talib, or Anas ibn Malik in their Deen and thus, are certain that they will be highly sought-after as husbands! After all, they follow the Sunnah, go to the masjid, attend duroos, lead youth programs, and are growing their beards. Why would any sister they propose to say no?
In reality, the majority of these young men lack basic akhlaaq (manners) in knowing how to deal with women or even treat them according to their basic rights. They believe that as men, they have the right to do whatever they want and say whatever they wish; they will lay down the rules! They know their rights!
Many Muslim men, especially those who are young and single, do not realise that marriage is not about being “the boss” and exercising their power over their wives.
On the other hand, young Muslim women have unrealistic expectations as well. From the very beginning, many demand a high mahr and lay out conditions in the ‘aqd (contract) to make it clear that she will only do certain things and cannot be restricted from anything. A Muslim woman’s right, they believe, is that she does not have to cook, clean, or do housework if she doesn’t want to; and if she does, it is out of charity to the husband.
She can demand a maid, ask for expensive clothing, be kept at the standard or above that which she is used to – despite the fact that she has her own earnings from her own work! She knows her rights and is not prepared to be flexible.
The problem here is that both sides are focusing on what they can get out of the marriage as individuals, to fulfill their own materialistic or egotistic needs. They are interested only in exacting their own rights from the other party, without considering their spouse’s rights over them. These days, very few people teach Muslim youth that marriage requires great sacrifice from both sides. It is a MUST that one knows how to give the other person their rights before demanding your own.
In order for young Muslims to truly enjoy the benefits of youthful marriage, it is imperative that they be equipped with a realistic, holistic view of what it will entail. This can be achieved by merging an understanding of RasulAllah’s behavior in his marriages with the understanding that one cannot impose their own expectations on the other individual without taking into consideration that person’s character flaws and strengths.
Umm Zainab Vanker and Umm Khadijah (AnonyMouse) are both products and veterans of youthful marriage; Umm Zainab got married at the age of 17, and her daughter followed suit! A combination of personal experience and observation of Muslim youth today encouraged them to take a critical look at the necessity and challenges of youthful marriages.