A Wedding Speech
Given on the occasion of the marriage of two young friends
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood.
I have been asked to speak a few words for this joyful occasion of the wedding of Abdullah and Zaynab (fictional names). Indeed, my very best wishes and prayers are for them, that they have chosen each other wisely, and that they will find genuine happiness and contentment, and will discover that Abdullah will be to Zaynab, and Zaynab to Abdullah, a partner who will stand by you through thick and thin and be your most loyal supporter and comfort in life.
So many people in the west these days decide to form relationships without marriage, perhaps because they fear the seriousness of the commitment, or have observed the marriages of others hit the rocks. Many others take the plunge, but the marriage breaks up alarmingly swiftly.
This is not what any of us want – we want to be happy, and loved, and respected and cherished, from the moment we commit ourselves to each other, for the rest of our lives. Dear brothers and sisters, that is what Allah intended for us – that we should be happy and strong together, so that we might become powerhouses for Islam both in our homes, which are refuges from the world, and in the world.
Our Blessed Prophet taught that marriage, in Islam, is ‘half the faith’. For some people, I am sure it must be even more than half. It depends how much of their life they spend ‘within’ the family, and how much ‘outside’ it. For many wives, as we know, the marriage is nearly 100% of the practice of their faith.
The goal of married life in Islam is much greater than just two people trying to live successfully together. It is to practise Islam within a set group of people (your family – spouse, offspring, dependants), to bring about peace, love, security and happiness, and having achieved this in the microcosm of your own family, to then reach out to the world at large and spread Islam to all.
None of this just comes naturally – it has to be created with love, patience and compassion, and practised without ceasing, and protected at all costs against the selfishness, laziness and temptations and taking for granted that will inevitably beset your relationship. We can see all around us the effects of people neglecting and abusing their relationships. As Muslims, we are requested by Allah to do our utmost to create happy, pious, content and secure households, following the sunnah of our Prophet (pbuh).
We all know that some people are fine in public, but rotten behind closed doors. When the Prophet’s wife Aishah was asked about the way the Prophet lived at home, she replied simply: ‘His way of life IS the Qur’an.’ He was exactly the same beloved person, noble and compassionate, within the privacy of his home as he was in public outside it!
Zaynab and Abdullah, the first and main aim of your Muslim marriage should be ibadah, your worship of Allah. By this, I don’t mean you should spend hours praying together, but something rather different. Ibadah to me means believing without question that Allah is Lord, and is aware of every thought, intention and action that passes between you; and that everything you have been granted in this life, even your next breath, is a gift – which could be withdrawn at any moment should Allah so wish. You do not know how long you will have together on this earth, or when you or the one you love will be snatched away. Your loved one may live to be 100, or be taken from you this very night.
The second aim is to respond to the basic biological instincts and needs for sexual fulfilment, personal companionship, safety and security, and procreation – to do your utmost to create the most wholesome and happy atmosphere for each other, and for bringing up the new human beings who may, insha’Allah, be brought into this world by you.
Every job, every walk of life needs skills. Most skills do not just come to us naturally – we have to take the trouble to learn them. Exactly the same is true for marriage in general, and for newly-weds, the sexual skills too. Sexual intimacy can be carried out on the purely animal level, and male satisfaction sometimes achieved in seconds – a highly disappointing matter, particularly for the wife. What turns sex into sadaqah is to make it unselfish, and perform it in the best possible way for the sake of Allah – to take care of your partner, and put your partner’s needs above your own. Kindness and consideration. The famous Imam al-Ghazzali recorded a relevant hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) about this: ‘He is not one of us who takes his need of her before he fulfils her need of him.’
You will also need tolerance and patience, and to realise that you do not have the right to be loved or respected. These things are not rights – they have to be earned. You need to remember that fathers and mothers (God willing) love their children without reservations, and forgive them all sorts of awful conduct, and plead for them, and make allowances for them. Even if their children are awful, they (God willing) never cease to love them. Abdullah and Zaynab, your parents love you and make allowances for you simply because they are your parents. They will excuse every failing, stick up for you through thick and thin, and love you even though you might be a completely horrible person. They will never ‘divorce’ you. But now, as you leave them and start your new life together, you must remember that your partner will not make the same allowances for you as your parents did. If you don’t take your new role seriously, your partner will soon feel upset, offended and become critical of you, and their parents might even become their allies against you.
Nobody has the right to be loved if they are not making themselves lovable. You cannot force someone to love you. You cannot force someone to respect you. Love and respect have to be earned – both from your chosen life-partner, and also from your in-laws (who will not see you in the same light as your own parents).
Remember that newlywed husbands and wives really are ‘new’ to each other. No matter how well they think they know each other beforehand, every married person here would tell you that there will soon come that moment when you are on your own, and you cannot run to your parents for comfort and help.
Abdullah, a new husband needs to remember that his wife is not his mother – Zaynab may not ever cook like your mother, or do for you the things your mother did, or think like your mother, or make allowances for you like your mother.
Zaynab, a new wife needs to remember that her husband is not her father – Abdullah may never think like your father, make allowances for you like your father, guard and guide you like your father, do the things your father did, or have any of the same skills that your father had.
And also remember, Zaynab, that if it ever comes to a fight between a man’s wife and his mother, it is nearly always the mother that wins! I remember being told that a man could have a hundred wives, but he only has one mother! There is nothing you can do about this – but God willing, you will be the mother of his children, and it will be your turn!
And if there is love between you now, remember it is a precious thing, like a very expensive pot-plant; it will not grow if you don’t look after it. If you don’t treat it right, it will soon fizzle out, dry up and rot away. Once that has happened, it is a mighty difficult task to get it going again.
Remember, you are younger people. And nobody is perfect. Don’t be too critical of each other when you start discovering all the ‘faults’. It is pointless expecting a young bride or groom to have all the skills and talents and expertise when they start out that it took their parents years to learn. If you feel a complete fool because you burn a meal or turn all the washing pink, remember that your parents may have made even more mistakes than you when they started out together.
You are poorer people. It is pointless to expect to have straight away all the earnings and status of your elders. It may come to you in due course, if you earn it, and if God wills, you may exceed their status and wealth. If you are starting in a new home, build it together – and don’t expect to have everything all at once.
You are inexperienced people. A young husband taking on the responsibilities of a manager in his household, needs to learn how to manage. Abdullah, you would do well to go on a management course, and learn how to deal with people, how to avert trouble, how to give orders without offence, how to reward those who work for you. Zaynab, you would do well to learn how to cope with the household – the budget, the care of the family health, cleanliness, etc – even if you have a career of your own and hire in other people to do these things for you.
I can tell you now what the most frequent complaints are of men and women who are struggling to live together – the most frequent complaint of women about men is that they never listen, and the most frequent complaint of men about women is that they are always trying to change them.
I suppose you will try to change each other – but be warned. If you think your partner has any faults now, which you hope you might be able to put right later on – think again. Any irritants only become worse with age, and even more irritating. If you spend all your time trying to stop your partner being what he or she is, you will get as much pleasure out of it as banging your head against a brick wall. The only thing you can successfully adjust is your own attitude to it. I wasted 23 years when married to my first husband trying to get him not to leave his dirty socks rolled up in a ball under the bed when he took them off. I never managed it. In the end we were divorced, (not just because of the socks), and then he died. These days I remember him with a smile, and wonder why looking after his laundry had annoyed me so much.
So, be noble, be kind, be tolerant, compassionate and generous as possible in all your dealings, and perform as nobly as possible in your marriage all the promises regarding sexual fulfilment and companionship. And may Allah bless you and keep your souls safe in His hands, and send his angels to guard you and guide you, and keep away from you all harm of those things that would harm you, and bless your marriage with trust, and joy, and every good thing – we ask it, O Lord, because we know that You love us and want only the best for us. Help us to be aware of Your presence always. Amin.