News & Islam From the Imam’s desk... The road to a healthy marriage By Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera As humans, we have a natural desire for companionship. A desire to have a person with whom to share our life, someone who will bring us happiness and joy and be a source of comfort in times of difficulty, is a very essential human feeling. Islam acknowledges this need and makes it permissible through nikah (marriage). This sacred act not only unites two individuals in a moral and honourable way, but also pleases Allah to such a degree that it is considered half of our deen (religion). According to hadith, a righteous husband and wife who have had a healthy marriage will be together in Paradise. A person will not be with their mother, father, brother, sister, daughter, son or anyone else in Paradise but with their spouse. Should it not be everyone’s dream to be in paradise with their beloved for eternity? How do we attain this level of bliss when we individually are only one half of the equation in marriage? If we each make the necessary effort to know and understand the ins and outs of marriage and the ways of making our Lord happy, we will be able to contribute to the success of our union, insha’Allah. Marriage can seem very daunting. Statistics show that marriage rates have declined to historic lows but, despite the record low in numbers getting married, divorce rates are at their highest. It doesn’t help that in this day and age, marriage has become something that is taken very lightly, to the extent that divorcing a spouse has become as easy as returning an unwanted item recently purchased. What people seem to have forgotten is that marriage is a very significant and sacred component of life and must be treated as such. There are many talks and books on marriage and on how to make a marriage healthy and successful. One of the most important things in this regard is that we be mindful of what can sabotage a marriage, so that we can avoid the harmful consequences. A person starting a business does not just look at how to set up the business and make a profit, they also learn about the risks involved so that they can mitigate and manage those risks. This allows the entrepreneur to avoid potential issues, or at least have some awareness of what they might face. In the same way, having a successful marriage is not easy and it takes effort from both spouses. Both should be aware that life is not always a bed of roses and there will inevitably be difficult times as well as good. It is extremely important to know and understand some fiqh (Islamic rulings) related to marriage before embarking on this journey. It is more than just coming to the mosque, repeating a few words in front of the imam and paying the agreed mahr (dowry). There are opportunities for us to please Allah each step of the way, from choosing a partner, to the engagement and the marriage ceremony itself. When the marrying couple strives to follow the laws of Allah throughout the process and during the marriage itself, they will gain more blessings in their union. Finding the right spouse Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for marriage, the first step is finding the right partner, which can sometimes be a difficult experience. Some things to consider when choosing a partner are personality, character, beauty but, most importantly, how much they follow Islam. If you truly want a happy marriage, it must be to someone who will treat you well because they know your rights and realise that they are accountable to Allah. With that in mind, it would make sense to marry a Muslim who is seeking the same qualities in their partner. It is sometimes disastrous to marry someone primarily on the basis of their wealth, beauty or occupation if they are not at your level in faith and practice, then expect them to become practicing at your level. Divorce should NOT be in your vocabulary Small or large conflicts arise in many marriages. The key is never to let divorce be an option or even a word in your vocabulary. Unlike some religions, divorce is permitted in Islam, but it is described by our Prophet ﷺ as one of the worst of the lawful acts in faith. Islam recognises that sometimes divorce is the only way forward, so this avenue is left open, but it should be a last resort. When the threat of divorce is removed from the marital equation, there is trust between the spouses that they are both committed to making things work rather than resorting to threats of divorce as the easy option. The concept of divorce is taken too lightly these days. Divorces are issued on the flimsiest of excuses or used as a threat to emotionally blackmail a spouse. Imagine being in a marriage where you’re in constant terror and treading on eggshells because you don’t know what you may say or do that will cause your spouse to threaten to say or ask for the “D” word? Muslims should know how delicate this matter is and how easy it is to issue a divorce. Ignorance is rife in this regard. Even if a wife asks her husband for a divorce during an argument and he says “OK” the divorce is effective. Similarly, if the husband says “I divorce you” or “you are divorced”, it is done! This is why the word divorce should be removed from your vocabulary so that it is not inadvertently issued without a great deal of thought. Divorce is one of three things in Islam which, if said intentionally or even as a joke, is effective as a legal statement. The only exception is if someone is not of sound mind (clinically insane) and does not know and cannot remember what they said. It is never accurate to paint a rosy picture of marriage without exposing the thorns. This is something I am consulted on month after month, and many times I feel helpless in the face of the mass ignorance that is rife about the rules of marriage and divorce. Knowing the good as well as the bad of marital relationships should help us see things clearly and have a healthy union. While many couples put their utmost efforts into attaining the rhetorical “happily ever after” end, some marriages undoubtedly endure struggle and discord. It is up to each individual to try their best to salvage their marriage and be the best spouse to their partner, remembering that we will all have to answer to Allah for our actions one day. Along with that, we should have sole reliance on Allah, as only He knows what is best. Dr Shaykh Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera has explored this topic in greater depth in his latest book, ‘The Handbook of a Healthy Muslim Marriage’. He is a British Muslim scholar who graduated from the Darul Uloom seminary Bury, UK, and completed his Ifta at Mazahir ‘Ulum Saharanpur, India. He earned his BA from the University of Johannesburg and completed his MA and PhD in Islamic Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He teaches at the Whitethread Institute and has lectures available at ZamZamAcadmey.com and rayyaninstitute.com.