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Coping strategies in marital union in Islam – Part I

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[FILE PHOTO] Couple holding flowers

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that
you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.”(Quran 30: 21)Quran 30:21)

“Yes. Marriage is a lottery,” “No,It is not. It is not meant to be!.” No matter your perspective, the institution of marriage is as old as the human civilisation. It is because Prophet Adam and Hawa (upon them be peace) were tied together in ‘wedlock’ in the celestial that we derive validity to sing the praise of the Almighty each time the female and male genders find union on terrestrial earth.

Profane as it appears, marriage has continued to be an important issue of concern to humanity. Everyday the wedding bells continue to ring; every passing week, we hear of couples breaking the marital vows. Thus, when ‘learned’ men and women choose to engage the topic of marriage, it is to remind all and sundry that when there is no peace at the home front, the city centre would become insuperable and riddled with indignities.

Brethren, marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between two willing and matured individuals. It is established on rights and obligations between the latter, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws. It is considered universal culture. For example, among the Arabs during the days of Jahiliya, there were 10 different types of marriages. No matter the option, which catches your fancy, it is usually Arab women during that era before the advent of Islam, particularly those in the lower class, who suffered most from failed marriages. To women of the era, marriage was not about lottery. Rather, it was usually an interaction between the powerful and the powerless.

But it was not only among the Arabs that marriage could feature the bad, the good and the ugly. In China, excessive love between husband and wife was seen as a threat to the solidarity of the extended family. Parents could force a son to divorce his wife if her behavior or work habits did not please them. They could also demand that he look for a concubine if his wife is unable to birth a son. If a son’s romantic attachment to his wife rivaled that for his parents, the latter could the wife send her back to her parents. In the Chinese language the term love did not traditionally apply to feelings between husband and wife. It was used to describe an illicit, socially disapproved relationship.

Further, a woman in ancient China might bring one or more of her sisters to her husband’s home as backup wives. Eskimo couples, in North America often had co-spousal arrangements in which each partner had sexual relations with the other’s spouse. In Tibet and parts of India, Kashmir, and Nepal, a woman may be married to two or more brothers, all of whom could copulate with her.

In medieval Europe, Antonia Fraser, wife of Henry III, posited that ‘marriage was the triumphal arch through which women, almost without exception, had to pass in order to reach the public eye. And after marriage the woman was required to go through total self-abnegation. In the contemporary Western world, marriage is like coke: you either take it or leave it. The more popular the couple, the more the possibility of their marriage hitting the rock. If you desire to appreciate the other side of marital life in America, turn your cable television to the Divorce Court.

Now in Islam marriage is one of the recommended acts of worship expected of every Muslim who is able and can afford to shoulder its responsibilities. (Q. 24: 32). The Prophet of Islam, says: “O you young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty.”. In Islam, modesty is regarded as a great virtue by the Prophet. He said, “Modesty is part of faith”. Perhaps the greatest incentive for marriage is exemplified in the following statements of the Prophet: “Marriage is my Sunnah. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me.”

It is probably based on the above tradition that marriage, variously known as al-Nikah or al-Zawaj is a solemn and sacred social contract between a man and woman. It is regarded as a strong covenant (mithaqun ghalithun) as expressed in Quran 4:21.
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