Gardens of Marital Bliss


وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ     إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you love and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.

(Surah Rum: 21)

Imagine that you are in a garden with lush green grass, with sunshine streaming down, with huge trees giving shade, with fruit close to hand that you can just reach out and pick, with beautiful flowers of all colours and amazing fragrances, and with streams of water passing by. What would it feel like to be in an environment such as that? It would be a place where we would find peace and tranquility and serenity and happiness. And that is what we hope our marriages are or will be: gardens of marital bliss – places where we find comfort and joy. And that is the reason why Allah ta’ala has created spouses for us – li taskunoo ilaihaa (so that you may find tranquility in them) – as is mentioned in the ayah above.

But what happens if that beautiful garden is neglected and not looked after? Weeds will start to grow in that grass, the leaves of the trees will start to fall off, the fruit will turn rotten, and the flowers will wither away. And then, what would it feel like to be in a place like that? It would no longer be a pleasant place to be in. Instead, it would be a place of misery and darkness and unhappiness. So in the same way that if we look after a garden it remains a nice place to be in, if we look after our marriages it will also be something that will bring peace in our lives. And in the same way that if we neglect a garden it no longer is a pleasant place to be in, if we neglect our marriages it too will be something that will bring us difficulty and distress.

But what does it mean to look after a marriage? Well, if we have a garden with plants in it, we need to water those plants in order to provide them with what they need to flourish. So in the same way, we need to water our marriages… with the waters of mawaddah (love) and rahmah (mercy). These are the two essential features that need to be present in a marriage in order for it to flourish, and they are the two qualities mentioned by Allah ta’ala in the ayah above.

So what is mawaddah? It is translated as ‘love’, but there are many words in Arabic that have that meaning and each has a different connotation. To better understand it, it might be helpful to know what it is not. Mawaddah is not ‘ishq: it is not a passionate, forceful physical love. It is not the love of Romeo and Juliet, or Layla and Majnoon. That is not the kind of love upon which a successful marriage is built. Instead, if you look it up, you will find that the word mawaddah has the connotations of ‘affection, tenderness, fondness, devotion’ and even simply ‘friendship’. It is a deeper and more spiritual concept than a mere physical love.

The root letters from which the word mawaddah is derived are waw-daal-daal, and the verb that comes from those letters has the meaning of ‘to want’ or ‘to wish’. It thus seems to me – and Allah ta’ala knows best – that how we can gain this mawaddah within a marriage is by fulfilling our partner’s wishes and desires. Found out what makes them happy and then do it – and do it on a regular and consistent basis. Do it consciously with the intention and mindset of wanting to make them happy. Do it, even if you personally don’t really like it. Don’t do it with the expectation of receiving anything in return and don’t stop doing it if they don’t reciprocate in kind. Don’t do it and then hold it against them by continually reminding of them of the good you’ve done to them. Instead, do it for the sake of Allah, and for the sake of your own happiness. Because if we truly loved them, then seeing them joyful and happy is what would bring joy to us as well. And so doing the things which will bring them that happiness will be things that we do easily and eagerly and which we enjoy doing.

The second essential quality we need to have is that of rahmah. To come back to the metaphor of the garden: what would we do if we see weeds starting to appear among the grass? Would we just leave it there to grow and spread? No. Rather, we would uproot and get rid of them. So in the same way, if we notice certain bad habits creeping into our behaviour – or even simply certain things which aren’t necessarily bad but which annoy or displease our spouses – then we should try our best to remove those things from our lives. We should stop doing whatever it is that angers our partners… and we should do that as an act of mercy towards them.

To have mercy on someone also means to pardon and overlook their faults, and to forgive them for their wrongs. So even though we might be trying our utmost to do those things which please our spouses and to abstain from those things which displease them, it is inevitable that there will be times when we do do things that anger or upset them. In those instances then, the other party should overlook and ignore those things, out of rahmah towards them.

So this is then a simple formula for ensuring marital happiness:

      1. Do the things that make your spouse happy.
      2. Refrain from doing those things which make your spouse unhappy.
      3. And pardon and forgive them whenever they do happen to make you angry.

If all these three things are in place, then how could such a marriage be anything other than happy and prosperous? But if it’s so simple, then why are so few people doing it? Why do so many people find themselves stuck in unhappy and unfulfilling marriages? Why are so, so many marriages ending in divorce? There are many reasons for this, but I believe that the main cause for it is because we are living in an upside down world. We live in a non-Muslim society and so unthinkingly we tend to follow the ways of the non-Muslims and do not adhere to what Islam wants from us. And so the way we are supposed to be within the home is how we are outside of it; and how we behave at home is not the way we are supposed to be behaving.

For example: when we’re at a restaurant or a function and we enjoy the food, we find it easy to let the cook know of that – but we find it difficult to do the same with the wife at home when she cooks for us. On those occasions when people adorn themselves and get all dressed up, we might notice that and compliment them – but we can’t manage to compliment the wife when she beautifies herself. When other people serve us or do us a favour, it’s easy for us to thank them – but it’s hard to thank the wife for all that she does for us. When we’re at work, we speak politely with our colleagues and watch what we say – but at home we speak harshly and say whatever we want without stopping and considering the effect of our words. On the flip side as well, for the women: instead of looking after our children ourselves, we hand that responsibly over to others, or leave it to the TV and the computer. Rather than adorning ourselves within the home for the one person who is halal for us, we instead adorn ourselves only when leaving them home, for all the other people who are haram for us.

And this last point is a more serious one than all the others, not only because it has dire consequences for our marriages, but also because of the consequences it could have in terms of the akhirah. It is a problem with regards to marriage, because the heart inclines towards what the eye finds attractive. This is just the way we are. And so if the husband (or the wife for that matter) is only seeing things which are attractive when outside the house, and when at home he sees that which is not that appealing, then it is obvious as to the kind of discontent and dissatisfaction that this could lead to. Moreover though, it has evil consequences in the akhirah. The Prophet  once woke up in the middle of the night in a fright and exclaimed, “Yaa rubba kaasiyatin fid dunyaa, ‘aariyatin fil aakhirah – Oh how many women there are who are clothed in this world but naked in the Hereafter!” There are many explanations given as to what this hadith means. One of them is that these women, even though they were clothed in this world, they were dressed inappropriately and what they wore did not adequately cover their ‘awrah, and thus they are punished for that by being naked in the akhirah. Another explanation is that even if a woman has a pious and righteous husband in this world, his piety and righteousness will be of no avail to her at all in the next life.

So in conclusion, in the world we’re living in, it’s no longer the case where we can just get married and then carry on with our lives and think that everything will work out and our marriages will remain happy ones forever. Instead, we need to work at making our marriages work. We need to put effort into it and have a conscious desire to want things to work out, and then do what is necessary in order to ensure that.

May Allah ta’ala grant us all happy and joyous marriages wherein we find tranquility and serenity – marriages which are truly gardens of marital bliss.

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