Muslim Marriage Guide – 8

Chapter 8
Creating A Bank Balance in Heaven
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood

`Allah has purchased from the believers their wealth and their souls, so that Heaven might be theirs.’ (Quran, 9:111)
Marriage is not a bed of roses. Or, at least, if you wish to look at it in such terms, it is a bed of roses with plenty of thorns in it.

The rest of this little book is an attempt to shed some light on what makes so many marriages go wrong, so that hopefully, you who are starting out can avoid a few of the pitfalls.

The true Muslim is conscious of God at every moment of the day, during every event of life. And He is present with us not only during the grand times, when we are in the limelight, and are patted on the back when we are successful, but also in those far more frequent times when we are slogging away, coping with boredom and frustration at work or at home, and putting up with things we do not really like. He does not only see the things that are done in public, but as al-Basir, the All-Seeing, beholds even the tiniest things that are done behind closed doors.

Very many of those private things have to do with marriage and family. It is vitally important for believers to be realistic. It is all too easy for Muslims to read book after book extolling the wonders and virtues of Islamic marriage when the briefest of glimpses into the actual, private state of affairs in some homes can be horrifying.

Life amid the stresses of the modem world, particularly in our high-speed cities, places unprecedented strains on relationships. There is no point in being complacent and pointing to the high rate of infidelity and breakdown of non-Muslim marriages – many of the same pressures are starting to bear down on us. Only by remembering the Islamic virtues of compassion, selflessness and consideration, and being aware that we will be judged for every cruelty, can we steer a safe course through the stormy waters of today’s social environment.

When the Blessed Prophet’s wife A’isha, may God be pleased with her, was asked about the Prophet’s character (khuluq), she responded that his character was the Quran. His conformity to the enlightened and wise norm of behaviour counseled by God was complete. She knew that there was no detail, however small, of his private life which would show him up in public as practising double standards. But the reality for lesser Muslims often falls far short of this ideal, if their practice of Islam is left behind with their umbrella when they step through the front door on returning home.

Muslims should realise that Allah knows not only our actions, but also our thoughts and motives. `He knows the treason of the eyes, and what the hearts conceal’ (Quran, 40:19). When people do wrong in secret, and think that they have got away with it successfully – they are wrong! Allah has seen everything they did. Similarly, when people strive to do the right thing, and sometimes get downhearted because they think that nobody has noticed or appreciated what they did – they are also wrong.

This is an enormous responsibility for us, and also a great joy; and awareness of it can be the saving of our sanity in a bad marriage. When, sadly, some marriages begin to go wrong, it brings enormous consolation to the `wronged party’ to know that God is witness to every aspect of the situation. It can give them just the strength they need to persevere until better times.

A good marriage, to the Prophet (s), was not just a case of a man and woman rubbing along reasonably well together. It meant a living, creative and dynamic powerhouse of goodness that would spill over and bless all who came into contact with it. A house was not just a house – it was a place of refuge, of consolation, of peace, of plenty, of provision. A bird could shelter in its eaves, or a lost traveler find shelter within its walls; a wild animal could expect to be fed at its back door, and a tired husband returning from the world outside would be welcomed at the gate.

Allah has said that husband and wife should be like `garments’ for one another (Quran 2:187). The point of a garment is to give warmth, protection and decency, and in marriage terms this includes intimacy, comfort and protection from being tempted to `look elsewhere’. Garments are not held together by a few big knots, but by thousands of little stitches of thread. It is the continuing accumulation of small words and acts each day of our lives that `clothe’ us and reveal what we really are. Some clothing is uncomfortable and restrictive, and we are only too eager to throw it off. We need to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, good humour and patience.

Put on the belt of sabr, wind on the turban of tawba, Keep on the shirt of zuhd, and work hard in it!

You will not travel without the sandals of fear and hope in God, Nor without the staff called yaqin or the provisions of taqwa (Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib)

The marriage, and the home, if organised and run under the eye of Allah Almighty, should radiate certain qualities. A stranger coming to a `submitted’ home should feel this atmosphere right away – that no matter how weary the occupants, they are never too busy to be kind. When both partners feel this atmosphere, and observe the happiness and relaxation of their guests as they eat and pray with them, they should know that their marriage is on the right course.

For those people who are having difficulties with their marriages, they might like to use a little thought technique to help them get their priorities right, and boost their morale when the road is getting rough.

The Holy Quran itself offers the following thought technique as our aid and encouragement when beginning to get depressed, or even when sunk in the depths of despair.

`Whatever good you send forth for your souls, you will find it with Allah; for Allah is All-Seeing of what you do.’ (Quran, 2:110)

Muslims find it helpful to think of the hereafter, and Paradise, as a kind of `heavenly bank’, and all the good things you are granted to do as `payments’ that are going to be deposited in that bank.

`Allah does not permit the reward to be lost of those who do good; nor do they spend anything (in charity), small or great, but that the deed is inscribed to their credit, that Allah may requite their deed with the best possible reward.’ (Quran, 9:121)

In the Quran, Allah frequently uses this thought picture, talking of either your good deeds or your sins `which your hands send on before you’ (see e.g. 2:110, 78:40, 81:14).

In other words, if you have done something wrong, then you have indeed brought down your balance – but this is not the end of the world. God will allow you to repay that debt; every time a person genuinely repents of what they did wrong and makes an effort to put it right, the `debt’ is repaid. Every time a Muslim turns to Allah and genuinely seeks forgiveness, he or she is forgiven. Sometimes, when the debt proves too overwhelming, He will even excuse you the debt – because God is God, and not a human bank manager.

`Had it not been for the grace and mercy of Allah towards you, you would surely have been among the lost.’ (Quran, 2:64)

Allah ta’ala is far more generous and forgiving than human beings. The important thing is that in trying to live the Muslim life you keep on building up your balance of `good payments’ day by day, in the little things you do and think as well as the big ones. That way, when you reach the end of each day and cast your mind back over its successes and failures, you will be able to see how you are moving steadily forward. This becomes vitally important if you marry someone who does not move steadily forward with you.

It can happen that a marriage will go wrong – as you have perhaps seen among your friends. Of course, it usually takes two to make an argument, and we all know that few marriages can really break down without there being fault on both sides. But sometimes the fault really is very heavily weighted on one side or the other, and the perplexed partner who is still trying hard to keep the marriage going can become worn down and depressed. If that is happening to you, remember that `Bank Balance in Heaven’, and remember also that every time you did not return a bad answer, or pay back evil with evil, a little extra credit gets entered on your record.

Every individual is responsible for their own Record. When we face judgment, our `books’ will be opened, and we will see straight away what we did with our lives. When we live intimately with another person, it is all too easy to try to mix up our record with that person’s, to try and mould them in the way that we believe suits us, to try to make them do what we want them to do. This might work; but as so many married people know to their cost, it works only rarely; and the price can be high.

You have to stand on your own, and build your own Record. If your husband or wife does something that hurts you, this bad deed or thought goes down on their record and not yours.

`Guard yourselves against a Day when no soul shall avail another, nor shall intercession be accepted for that other, nor shall compensation be taken for it, nor shall anyone be helped from outside.’ (Quran, 2:48)

What is entered on your Record is how you reacted to that particular test: did you fly off the handle, or consider the truth of the matter with patience and justice? If your reaction was a successful one in the Islamic sense, then the badness of your partner is turned into merit for you – even though you have been hurt.

These words from the Holy Quran imply the correct way to conduct your Islamic marriage partnership and household:

`Whatever you are given is but an enjoyment for this life; while that which is with God is better and more lasting, for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. Those who avoid the greater transgressions and shameful deeds, and who, when they are angry, still forgive; those who listen to their Lord, and do establish the Prayer, and whose affairs are settled by mutual consultation among themselves; and who spend (in charity) out of what We bestow upon them; and those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted upon them, help and defend themselves. The recompense for an injury is an injury like unto it; but whoever forgives, and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God. And God loves not those who act unjustly.’ (Quran, 42:36-40)

When someone wrongs you, you may not be able to put it right, or make them a friend again – but it will be an enormous consolation to know that you have a Friend Who never changes in His concern and justice towards you, and Whose `eye’ sees all. Without this awareness, marriage can be difficult indeed.

If your main aim in marriage is to please your partner, then you could be heading for disappointment and distress, for human beings are odd creatures with fickle moods and fancies. Many disappointed husbands and wives know that no matter what they do or how hard they try, the partner is never pleased. In fact, quite often the more they do to try to earn that approval, the more it irritates the partner and the less likely they are to get it. Human nature can be that perverse.

However, if your main aim is to please Allah, then you will hopefully be able to withstand any `bad patches’, maintain your loving relationship with sympathy and patience, and remain confident that He Who sees all will understand everything that comes to pass.

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