by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui
The Light (Pakistan), 8th April 1981 Issue (Vol. 61, No. 7, pp. 7–12)
1. Conjugal discord is so widespread and there are so many unhappy homes and broken marriages, particularly in the West, that the future of mankind depends on saving the institution of marriage. Mankind itself failed to find the right way of going about it. Religions, other than Islam, provide no guidance. What light does Islam throw on this vexed question?
2. Firstly, the Holy Quran describes what the Great Creator Himself intended to be the relationship between man and woman, in these words:
وَ مِنۡ اٰیٰتِہٖۤ اَنۡ خَلَقَ لَکُمۡ مِّنۡ اَنۡفُسِکُمۡ اَزۡوَاجًا لِّتَسۡکُنُوۡۤا اِلَیۡہَا وَ جَعَلَ بَیۡنَکُمۡ مَّوَدَّۃً وَّ رَحۡمَۃً ؕ اِنَّ فِیۡ ذٰلِکَ لَاٰیٰتٍ لِّقَوۡمٍ یَّتَفَکَّرُوۡنَ ﴿۲۱﴾
“And of His signs is this, that He created mates for you, of your own souls, that you might find solace in them, and He put between you love and compassion. Surely there are signs in this for people who reflect” (The Holy Quran, 30:21).
So that the beautiful and unique need of man for the woman, and vice versa, itself provides signs of the sublime wisdom of the Great Creator. What He intended was that men and women, created of the same soul for this purpose, should find solace, love and compassion in each other. Then why has this beautiful relationship turned sour?
3. On this question too, the Holy Quran had forewarned us thus:
وَ قُلۡنَا یٰۤاٰدَمُ اسۡکُنۡ اَنۡتَ وَ زَوۡجُکَ الۡجَنَّۃَ وَ کُلَا مِنۡہَا رَغَدًا حَیۡثُ شِئۡتُمَا ۪ وَ لَا تَقۡرَبَا ہٰذِہِ الشَّجَرَۃَ فَتَکُوۡنَا مِنَ الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ ﴿۳۵﴾ فَاَزَلَّہُمَا الشَّیۡطٰنُ عَنۡہَا فَاَخۡرَجَہُمَا مِمَّا کَانَا فِیۡہِ ۪ وَ قُلۡنَا اہۡبِطُوۡا بَعۡضُکُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ عَدُوٌّ ۚ وَ لَکُمۡ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ مُسۡتَقَرٌّ وَّ مَتَاعٌ اِلٰی حِیۡنٍ ﴿۳۶﴾ فَتَلَقّٰۤی اٰدَمُ مِنۡ رَّبِّہٖ کَلِمٰتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡہِ ؕ اِنَّہٗ ہُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیۡمُ ﴿۳۷﴾
“And We said, O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in paradise, and eat from it plenteous food wherever you wish and approach not this tree, lest you be of the unjust. But the devil made them slip from it, and caused them to depart from the state they were in. And We said: Go forth, some of you will be the enemies of others. And there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time. Then Adam received (revealed) words from his Lord and He turned to him mercifully. Surely He is Oft-returning (to His creatures), the Merciful” (The Holy Quran, 2:35–37).
Students of the Holy Quran, already aware of the allegorical account of Adam and Eve in the Book, know that:
- (a) Adam and Eve were created, not in the heaven of the Hereafter, but on this earth (2:30).
- (b) Their account stands for what transpires within each man and woman (7:27).
- (c) The paradise of this account is the paradise within each human being in which he is born in a state of innocence and purity.
The other and external paradise is in the Hereafter (55:46). The paradise in which Adam and Eve were born, and in fact each man and woman is born, is therefore the state of paradise within each human being at his birth, due to his innocence and purity of soul.
4. Therefore what the verses (2:35–36) quoted in paragraph 3 above, state is that:
- (a) Each man and woman is born in a state of paradise within him or her.
- (b) Every human being is free to eat of the fruits of the earth as and when he wants to.
- (c) But he is warned not to go near a particular tree. The Holy Quran compares both good or evil to a good or evil tree respectively (14:24 and 26). The tree of evil forbidden to man and woman was the evil displayed by the devil itself when it refused to obey Allah due to its pride (2:34).
- (d) However, unfortunately man or woman may fall to the temptation of the devil and fail to obey the commandments of Allah, due to the pride and conceit within each human being which are instigated by the devil, and thus lose the paradise within him or her.
- (e) The paradise thus lost can be regained by reverting to the obedience of the revealed Word of Allah. Thus, guidance within each human being is not sufficient to save him or her from the temptations of the devil. Only Revelation can be a sure guidance.
5. Let us apply the above to the husband and wife (man and woman) of today. They follow such inner light as each one has been given, but that is blurred by the devil in two ways:
- (a) By inciting evil within each one of them.
- (b) By inciting pride leading to the disobedience of the Creator’s guidance.
Let us take each of these evils one by one.
6. Evil in all its varieties is well-known. All religions warned against them. Yet men and women fall for them except for those who guard against evil. Religions other than Islam having lost their appeal in this age of knowledge and reason, the religious brake on human beings is unfortunately no longer effective. Evil is therefore rampant in a vast majority of people. To the same extent married bliss has disappeared. Take the glaring sexual immorality, addiction to intoxicants and drugs, and lack of any religious moral code, which are prevalent throughout the irreligious world. Aren’t they clearly responsible for unhappy marriages, broken homes and the loss of the peace of mind with which each human being was born in a state of paradise as explained earlier? As also stated there, only the Revealed Word of Allah can redeem the lost paradise within each human being who has fallen a prey to evil. The trouble is that revealed books other than the Holy Quran are non-extant, their original texts having been lost altogether, as in the case of the Bible, or been tampered with as in some other cases. Besides, the Holy Quran is a complete guide on the subject, as opposed to the incomplete guidance available in other books as they exist today.
7. The importance of guarding against evil (Taqwa) toa successful marriage and a happy home is so great that all the three verses of the Quran (4:1, 3:101, and 33:70) recited by the Holy Prophet at the religious service on the occasion of marriages emphasised the need for the husband and wife to be to guard against evil (Taqwa).And the prayer taught by the Holy Quran to a couple seeking a happy marriage and a blissful home runs as follows:
رَبَّنَا ہَبۡ لَنَا مِنۡ اَزۡوَاجِنَا وَ ذُرِّیّٰتِنَا قُرَّۃَ اَعۡیُنٍ وَّ اجۡعَلۡنَا لِلۡمُتَّقِیۡنَ اِمَامًا ﴿۷۴﴾
“Our Lord, grant us in our spouses and our offspring the joy of our eyes, and make us leaders or exemplars for those who guard against evil” (The Holy Quran, 25:74).
Here the praying spouses are exhorted to set an example of guarding against evil to each other and to their children, if they want to have a blissful home.
8. Human beings themselves cannot determine what evil is, for moral standards are apt to undergo drastic changes at human hands. For instance, adultery and even homosexuality have now become acceptable in the West, the latter having been legalised in most countries.
So only the Great Creator can guide us on this all-important subject, for therein lies, not only the happiness of this world but also of the Hereafter for us. And the Holy Quran, the only Divine Book acceptable in this age of reason and knowledge, is a complete guide for those who want to guard against evil (2:2).
Differences of Opinion:
9. Apart from evil, the other common cause of married unhappiness, squabbles, and even separation or divorce are the differences of opinion which arise almost daily between husband and wife. Each tries to have his or her own way, and he or she who fails to begins to nurse resentment and, even anger within his or her heart.
The wife takes to taunts and the husband to beating when he is drunk. The ever-growing number of separations or divorces is not a correct indicator of unhappy marriages which are much, much more. Religions other than Islam, and human laws, have failed to give the suffering humanity the solution to this problem. Before I mention the key to happy marriages revealed in the Holy Quran, I must mention the rights given by Islam to women.
10. Woman, being weaker than man, has suffered throughout history. Moreover, she was declared to be the cause of mankind’s expulsion from paradise by the Bible, as opposed to the Holy Quran’s statement that both man and woman are equally open to the devil’s temptation. According to Hinduism and the pre-Islamic Arabs the woman was like chattel, the property of man to be inherited and disposed off according to his sweet will. Islam revolutionised the concept and declared that woman was made of the same essence, the same soul, as the man, and was equal to him as a human being. She was given rights in her parent’s property, in her husband’s property, in her children’s property, and even in her brothers’ property if they had no offspring. The rights given by Islam to women are much more than those enjoyed even today by the so-called emancipated women of the West. The Holy Quran took the precaution of spelling out in its own text the rights of women so that they should not be detracted from by the men in any way. The latter are frequently exhorted to discharge the women’s rights in kindness and if possible to forego their (men’s) own rights (2:237).
11. The Holy Prophet, in his farewell address during the last pilgrimage, exhorted men to look after the women well whom Allah had entrusted to their care. Of his other exhortations in favour of women, one may be quoted:
“The best man among you is he who is best in his treatment of his wife and children.”
The Holy Quran made it an incumbent duty (4:34) on men to maintain woman, i.e., look after their maintenance in every way, their safety and their honour. The women were however given the right of earning themselves:
لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِیۡبٌ مِّمَّا اکۡتَسَبُوۡا ؕ وَ لِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِیۡبٌ مِّمَّا اکۡتَسَبۡنَ ؕ
“For men is the benefit of what they earn. And for women is the benefit of what they earn” (The Holy Quran, 4:32).
The Final Word:
12. The final word about the rights of women are couched in the following words:
وَ لَہُنَّ مِثۡلُ الَّذِیۡ عَلَیۡہِنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ ۪ وَ لِلرِّجَالِ عَلَیۡہِنَّ دَرَجَۃٌ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ عَزِیۡزٌ حَکِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۲۸﴾٪
“And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and men are a degree above them. And Allah is Mighty, Wise” (The Holy Quran, 2:228).
The charter of women’s rights makes the following points:
- (a) Women have the same rights against men as the men have against women, in a just manner.
- (b) But if in the exercise of their equal rights, the husband and wife, cannot agree with each other then the husband’s will must prevail.
- (c) Both, particularly the husbands who have been given the upper hand in case of irresolvable difference of opinion or dispute, are warned that Allah is Mightier than they. So that they should be careful how they exercise that right. And if He has appointed this method of resolving conjugal disputes, it is the best because He is All-Wise.
13. The above solution of conjugal differences of opinion or disputes has been strongly objected to by some of the modernised women. They protest that they should not be required to accept the men’s opinion if it is not right. Who is to decide whether the wife or the husband is right? Obviously both claim to be right; that is why a dispute arises. So how can such differences leading to disputes, which arise almost daily, be resolved? Obviously, the parties can’t go to court everyday and for such petty matters. Nor can appeal to Papa or Mamma of either party be made everyday. Moreover, they themselves are likely to take sides. So, there is no solution except to make the opinion of either the husband or the wife prevail to settle these differences and disputes within the home. The Holy Quran has directed that if the difference or dispute cannot be resolved amicably in the warmth of the love and compassion which the Great Creator has placed in the marital relationship, then the husband’s opinion should prevail. Why? Because:
- (a) Most of these differences or disputes involve the spending of money. And it is the husband who has to earn it. So, his limitations must decide whether any contemplated expenditure should be incurred or not. (So many husbands have to resort to illegal means to find funds for what their demanding wives ask for).
- (b) Because of his experience of men and affairs, the husband is in a better position to decide a matter after hearing the wife’s point of view.
- (c) The husband is answerable to Allah for what he says, does or even thinks, as indeed every human being is according to the Holy Quran.
- (d) The All-Wise Allah has, if anything, been kind and considerate to women. After giving them the same rights against men as the latter have against them, He has placed only the loving husband by a degree above the wife in cases where the exercise of those equal rights leads to a clash. The husband is after all a loving and considerate person. On the other hand, men are required to face the rough and tumble of out-door life and to be the breadwinners of the family. In their own life, the men have to take orders from so many masters even if those orders are not right. All my own life I have had to serve under my superior officers and Ministers. They frequently overruled me and I had to carry out their orders, even if I did not think they were right. So that the husband is placed in a much more difficult position than the wife who has only occasionally to accept the husband’s opinion against her own wishes in the matter. If instead of picking up a quarrel over each difference of opinion, the wife is tactful she can, eventually get her way by yielding and thus earning the good-will and gratitude of her husband.
14. If this solution is not to be adopted, then married people must suffer the consequences of daily bickerings and brawls, loss of mutual love and affection, separation and even divorce. In fact, because of the emancipated women wanting to have their way on each occasion, men are now going off marriage particularly in the West. And the role of a mistress or unmarried mother is not in the interest of the women. So, they had better accept the solution suggested by Islam.