Marriage, and the fault in our intention

(This is a two-part series — part 1 of which explores the desire to gain nearness to Allah.)

The sacred period of Muharram and the Battle of Karbala, mean different things to different people. 

For some, the wonder lies in particular characteristics of its righteous personalities: the patience of Imam al-Husayn, the courage of Sayyeda Zainab, the loyalty of Abu Fadl al-Abbas, the integrity of al-Hurr, and so on; meanwhile for others, it is more so a (chronological) testament to the political treachery of the opposing, immoral side: the deception of Muawiya, the malevolence of Yazid, the brutality of Hurmala, the soullessness of Shimr, and so forth.

A very important matter

Even those that hold but a fleeting interest in renewing their allegiance, in this period, to the Holy Prophet and his household — whose sacrifices are commemorated along the course of its programs and processions — are not entirely unaware of another very important matter in which they may eventually benefit. 

A very important matter that is the search for an Allah-and-Ahlul Bayt-loving spouse; if not for themselves, then for those loved ones near and dear.

Instead of going into another timeless debate on issues already surrounding marriage (both temporary and permanent, early and late, division of rights and responsibilities, etc.), it is well worth to explore the dynamics of one very specific desire at its crux — the desire to gain nearness to Allah, in light of gaining half our faith as a result.

As quoted in al-Kafi (vol. 5, p. 328), the Holy Prophet said, ‘The person who marries gains half of his faith, then he must fear of Allah for the next remaining half.’

The next remaining half

I remember distinctly, speaking with a suitor several years ago, whose peak of marital bliss if everything were to go well, would have been being able to regularly attend ‘the Thursday program at the mosque with my wife.’ Something that struck me as peculiar, although I did not realize it just then, was the irregularity in his Thursday attendance prior to marriage, if it was indeed a routine that he wished to establish after the fact.

Of course, at the time, and not being a Thursday regular myself, I was genuinely pleased at this aspiration (among many others henceforth, along the course of many a suitor, and many a year) in the event of a mutual future. 

I have since come to understand that wherein we were both very wrong, was placing the ‘married’ half of faith so high up on a pedestal, when the ‘next remaining’ half that was just as much our responsibility, marriage or otherwise, remained so severely lacking.

The fault in our intention

And therein lies the fault in our intention. I do not, for one second, believe that marrying in order to gain half our faith is in any way reprehensible. All nobility aside, however, just how much (lack of) responsibility for our own ‘self’ are we shifting on marriage and a significant other, in lieu of?
It is this expectation from a change in marital status — and this other, new person — to, somehow, counter spiritual deficiency (be it one’s struggle with sin, inconsistency in obligatory acts, etc.), or even enhance spirituality (begin regularly attending mosque, in the case of my example above) that is essentially concerning.

A rather stark parallel perhaps, but in essence, how different is that from a man blaming his wife for a physically violent display of anger that he himself did not have the good sense to contain, or from a child, bearing in childhood, the adult brunt of discord between his parents?

Allah says in Surah al-Baqara (2:48), ‘And be on your guard against a day when one soul shall not avail another in the least, neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped.’

When even the Day of Judgment will serve to render each believer for him or herself, how then, can one’s journey towards, be a partnership?

Seek Allah on your own

Most certainly is marriage a partnership — not one’s relationship with Allah. 

And although the behaviour of a significant other may impact spiritually that of their partner (another matter entirely, and best left for another discourse), one is ultimately responsible only for the actions and intentions of oneself, and never that of another.

Naively, I used to feel sorry for Iblis’ forever being deprived of the beautiful mercy of Allah, until I came across a tradition by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, as quoted in al-Kafi (v. 2, p. 233), ‘The angels used to consider Iblis as one of them, although Allah knew that he was not of them, so He caused the true nature of his self to surface through his bigotry and racism, when he said: You created me from fire, while You created him [Adam] from mere earth.’ 

Single-handedly overriding everything that we may have come to an understanding upon, as described in Surah Luqman (31:16), ‘surely Allah is the Knower of subtleties, the All-Aware.’ 

And truly, only He can be the source of reciprocity that our souls need. So every material (including human) comfort, no matter how essential to our worldly existence, will eventually fall short of our (intended) spiritual ascension.

An excellent resource, explaining this in greater detail, is Khalil Jaffer’s lecture series on how to end negative suffering (available on YouTube). 

Taking account of purpose

Indeed, most blessed is finding marital bliss with a significant other who similarly seeks spiritual ascension — and what better place to find one as such, than where lovers of the Ahlul Bayt unite and worship Allah, while commemorating the sanctity of Muharram. 

But fact of the matter is that our journey towards Allah (is through our own ‘self,’ and) ultimately remains as independent of another person inside marriage, as it does of those (loved ones, scholars, etc.) outside.

In order to succeed in gaining this nearness, a most beautiful encouragement lies in Surah ar-Ra’ad (13:11), ‘Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.’ 

And hence, it is crucial that we continually persevere to develop in ourselves, the very characteristics that we wish to inculcate within marriage, and in our families, in the future. 

A version of this was first published in Islamic Insights.

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