By Samuel Gonzalez
The sacred union between a man and a woman is woven together by three sacred elements: the man, the woman, and Ar-Rabb. If even one of these elements is missing from the union, then the relationship is incomplete. Each component plays its own special role and contributes to the union in a way that none other can. This article will explore a few critical bits of advice that Allah reveals to us in His Book that can enrich our relationships and contribute to a flourishing of each partner’s individual gifts, talents, and interests.
1. The pursuit of beauty is a natural inclination
The enjoyment of worldly desires—women, children, treasures of gold and silver, fine horses, cattle, and fertile land—has been made appealing to people. These are the pleasures of this worldly life, but with Allah is the finest destination. [The Noble Qur’an 3:14]
The concept of beauty is a very important one in Islam – while the Noble Qur’an affirms the illusory, transitory nature of this material world, it also vouches for a very physical and sensual afterlife, complete with refreshing beverages, tapestries made of silk, and a plethora of diamonds and precious stones to admire. Surah Ar-Rahman, for instance, describes the many bounties that will accompany the believer in the afterlife – its vivid descriptions are complete with colors, textures, and the joys of Paradise – the Honorable Prophet Mohammed said regarding this surah: “Everything has an adornment, and the adornment of the Qur’an is Surah Ar-Rahman.” Sadly, this beauty is something that has been stripped away in many modern Islamic states where women aren’t allowed to travel freely, the veil has become a mandatory article of clothing, freedom of religion is thrown out the window, people of other faiths are burned, and music is banned – this is the pervasive narrative in the western world and the reality of many Muslim countries, but Islam was founded on the concept of beauty.
“Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty,” says the Honorable Prophet Mohammed. The Noble Qur’an was revealed as a performance art that outshone the beauty of Mohammed’s contemporary poets; the architecture of many masjids is based on the principle of symmetry, infinite geometry, and internal coherence; there is an entire, immense corpus of heart-melting Islamic mystical poetry; the Sufis whirl hypnotically and the words of the scholars go down like sweet honey. The importance of beauty in Islam is fascinating and crucial because one of the overarching purposes of this beautiful faith is to bring peace – first with the Creator, then within oneself, then with one’s surroundings and, eventually, with the entire creation. Everything has its origin in Allah and humanity is one big family. In one’s relationship with one’s significant other, ask yourself, “Are we pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful?” Oftentimes we may overlook a minor quibble or a sarcastic comment, but it is a good practice to ask yourself this question in regards to the relationship. Reflect on the beautiful, visualize it, and contemplate on how harmony can be more fully achieved.
2. The spouse is a mirror into one’s soul
That is because Allah would not change a favor which He had bestowed upon a people until they change what is within themselves. And indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. [The Noble Qur’an 8:53]
And to this verse one could add, “for indeed Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein.” The entire Qur’an is a response to the sixth ayah in surah al-Fatiha which reads as a petition: “Guide us along the Straight Path.” Hence, the goal of Islam is to transform the human being from a hasty and ignorant creature to a civilized servant of Allah. However, the hardest part about this transformation is the actual journey of transformation and ascension. Allah has granted us many bounties along the way that will help straighten us up: from the examples of the Prophets to the life and narrations of the Honorable Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), to the rituals of our faith. In addition to these favors, Allah has also granted to us the benefits of the spouse or significant other. As mentioned earlier, extremist and radical expressions of Islam have removed the beauty of the universal religion described in the Noble Qur’an and have taught us that sexuality and spirituality have nothing to do with one another. In other words, that marriage and one’s spiritual life belong to two separate spheres that can never interact.
The sacred union that is involved in marriage is the multifaceted path towards witnessing the imminent divine presence. It is a path that allows humanity to have knowledge of, experience, and participate in the divine existence of Allah. The previously cited ayah affirms that humanity has been given countless undeserved blessings from their Lord. In fact, many disbelievers (and even believers!) believe their lives are complete because they have acquired all they need: sufficient savings, a sustainable job, reliable transportation, a nice home, and possibly a family. Or so they think, until someone comes along, shakes up their world, and makes them aware of what is absent in their lives – like a mirror that reflects what is absent rather than present, such an individual can shine light on the places where we are deficient. That person can be a lover, a friend, a prophet from the books, or a spiritual master. Sometimes it can be a child or even an animal! What matters is to find the soul that will complete yours and to utilize it as a mirror into your own inner world.
3. It all starts with compassion, love, and acceptance
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in this are signs for people who give thought. [The Noble Qur’an 30:21]
The human soul seeks peace and love, the only two things in existence which fulfill the human soul – it is for this reason that two of Allah’s most beautiful names are As-Salaam and Al-Wadud (the Source of Peace and Love). The universe was created so that Allah’s Creation might come to know Him and enjoy His bounties. Among the privileged and beautiful names that the Noble Qur’an attributes to the Creator are ‘Compassionate and Merciful,’ or some translations prefer ‘Merciful Benefactor and All-Powerful Redeemer.’ This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness and shortcomings as human beings. We believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open. An infinite God surely must be capable of infinite mercy as well, no?
The Merciful Benefactor is a divine name that no other can bear, since it suggests the lovingkindness by which God brings forth existence. In other words, it is creation simply for the sake of creation; it represents existence as a gift. The All-Powerful Redeemer indicates the blessing of nourishment and sustenance by which God preserves the worlds. It is the act of continuing to sustain the universe despite whatever happens; this second divine name implies forgiveness, reparation, and restoration of the human soul after it has made a mess of itself. The first Mercy of God brings the world into being; the second Mercy of God redeems it, enabling us to endure as that which we were created to be. And that Mercy is, in turn, the wellspring of other Divine Names: the Kind, the Clement, the Beautiful.
In this is an example for all spouses, regardless of age, culture, background, gender, and creed. The universe begins with mercy and God continually weaves His mercy into it, rescuing and redeeming and repairing where He sees fit. Similarly, the marital union ought to be seen as a mercy from God, a sacred union with another soul and an opportunity to grow exponentially; but it is not easy. Relationships can be emotional roller-coasters, with wild ups-and-downs, spirals, and surprises – but God has sent down the sunnah of the Honorable Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), the revelations of the Sacred Texts, and the traditions of faithful Muslims throughout the centuries to serve as mercies in order to equip us with clear guides and to make our lives easier- man has no excuse to remain ignorant!
4. The importance of personal space
Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by Allah over women and tasked with supporting them financially. And righteous women are devoutly obedient and, when alone, protective of what Allah has entrusted them with. And if you sense ill-conduct from your women, advise them ˹first˺, if they persist, do not share their beds, but if they still persist, then send them away gently. But if they change their ways, do not be unjust to them. Surely Allah is Most High, All-Great. [The Noble Qur’an 4:34]
As a curious newlywed, I have a habit of always asking married couples what sort of advice they would give to me in my own marriage journey. Usually I get the standard advice: ‘communication is key,’ or ‘go on dates, it is super important to keep the flames of desire burning.’ However, sometimes I get unique insights and gems of wisdom that I was not expecting. One of these came from an Afghan truck-driver who told me that both spouses are united before God and before the Law, but they are still individuals, and sometimes giving each other some personal space is the most important thing you can do to remind yourselves of this truth. When couples don’t have enough time to work on themselves (i.e. to cultivate their own interests and hobbies, to decompress emotionally, to enjoy solitary activities) usually it manifests itself in the form of stress, remorse, or anger.
Modern psychology has shown that marriages benefit when spouses have time for themselves, whether for pleasure, to relax, or to pursue their own individual interests. Could you imagine trying to read a book while your significant other tries talking to you the whole way through? Or what if you were working on a personal project with a spouse haunting you the entire time? In fact, personal time allows us to maintain our individual identities, provides opportunities to do things we like to do, and lets us feel like we have some control over our lives. Alone time can actually help to keep a relationship fresh and less stressful. The amount of personal time a couple needs will vary from marriage to marriage, but the most important thing is to make sure the expectations and intentions are clear from the get go.
Learn more about Quran & Marriage from Suhbah Institute‘s expert instructors
Watch “Marriage as Mentioned in the Quran” with Dr. Yousef Raza
For more relationship advice, watch Imam Adam’s Khutbah: “Marriage in Islam”
(starts at 01:05) or read the summary here
What do you think? Share your reflections below!
Pascale, R. and Primavera, L. (2017). Time Together and Time Apart. Psychology Today.
Sahih al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 6906.