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Yasir Fazaqa: Marriage from an Islamic Perspective

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Marriage in Islam II

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Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives, and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a thousand martyrs. Among my followers, again, the best of women are those who assist their husbands in their work, and love them dearly for everything, save what is a transgression of God’s laws.”

Shahina Siddiqui

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (Quran 30:21).

“O Humans revere your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person created of like nature its mate, and from this scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah through Whom you claim your mutual rights” (Quran 4:1).

The above verses of the Quran lay out the framework as to what are the basis, the objectives and the goal of marriage in Islam. In the ultimate Wisdom of Allah we are first told that both partners man and woman are created from the same source. That this should be paid attention to as it is one of His signs.

The fact that we come from the same soul signifies our equality as humans, when the essence of our creation is the same, the argument of who is better or greater is redundant. To stress on this fact and then to talk about marriage in the same verse is of great significance for those of us who are in the field of marriage counseling.

The shift in this attitude of equality of genders as human beings cause a imbalance in marital relation ship that leads to dysfunctional marriage. When ever one party considers themselves superior or above the law there is a shift in the balance of power that may lead to misuse or abuse of power as the less valuable partner is seen as an easy prey. Many marital difficulties are based on or caused by control and rule stratagem.

By stressing on the equality of all humans men or women and making it the basis of marriage, Allah in His infinite wisdom has laid the ground rules for establishing peace, as well as the assigning of different roles to husband and wife as functional strategy rather than a question of competence as humans.

Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has stated that: “men and women are twin halves of each other” (Bukhari). This Hadith also brings home the fact that men and women are created from single source. Furthermore, by using the analogy of twin half the Prophet has underlined the reciprocal nature and the interdependent nature of men and women’s relationship.

The objective and the goal of marriage in Islam according to the above Quranic verse is to enable us to dwell in peace and tranquility. It is important for us to reflect on these words and their significance in the Islamic frame of reference.

In order to have peace certain condition must be met. These prerequisites to peace are Justice, Fairness, Equity, Equality, and fulfillment of mutual rights. Therefore any injustice whether it is oppression, or persecution, cannot be tolerated if there is to be peace in Muslim homes.

In the domestic realm oppression is manifested when the process of Shura (consultation) is compromised, neglected or ignored. When one partner (in most cases the husband) makes unilateral decisions and applies dictatorial style of leadership, peace is compromised. Persecution is present when there is any form of domestic abuse being perpetrated.

Tranquility on the other hand is a state of being which is achieved when peace has been established. Tranquility is compromised when there is tension, stress and anger. It is a mistake to take tranquility to mean perpetual state of bliss. Since being Muslims does not make us immune to tragedies and catastrophes.

In fact Allah tells us in the Quran that we will be tried (2:155,57). What a state of tranquility does is to empower us to handle life’s difficult moments with our spouses as obedient servants of Allah. Allah in His infinite Mercy also provides us with the tools by which we can achieve this state of peace and tranquility.

The second principle besides Shura on which the Islamic family life is based is Mercy (Rehma), and in this verse Allah is telling us that He has placed mercy between spouses. We are therefore inclined by our very nature to have mercy for our spouses. Mercy is manifested through compassion, forgiveness, caring and humility.

It is obvious that these are all ingredients that make for a successful partnership. Marriage in Islam is above all a partnership based on equality of partners and specification of roles. Lack of mercy in a marriage or a family renders it in Islamic terms dysfunctional.

Allah further states that He has also placed in addition to mercy, love between spouses. It should however be noted that Islamic concept of love is different from the more commonly understood romantic love so valued in the Western cultures.

The basic difference is that love between man and woman in the Islamic context can only be realized and expressed in a legal marriage. In order to develop a healthy avenue for the expression of love between man and woman and to provide security so that such a loving relationship can flourish, it is necessary to give it the protection of Shariah (Islamic law).

Marital love in Islam inculcates the following:

Faith: The love Muslim spouses have for each other is for the sake of Allah that is to gain His pleasure. It is from Allah that we claim our mutual rights (Quran 4:1) and it is to Allah that we are accountable for our behavior as husbands and wives.

It sustains: Love is not to consume but to sustain. Allah expresses His love for us by providing sustenance. To love in Islam is to sustain our loved one physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, to the best of our ability (to sustain materially is the husbands duty, however if the wife wishes she can also contribute)

Accepts: To love someone is to accept them for who they are. It is selfishness to try and mould someone as we wish them to be. True love does not attempt to crush individuality or control personal differences, but is magnanimous and secure to accommodate differences.

Challenges: Love challenges us to be all we can, it encourages us to tap into our talents and takes pride in our achievements. To enable our loved one to realize their potential is the most rewarding experience.

Merciful: Mercy compels us to love and love compels us to have mercy. In the Islamic context the two are synonymous. The attribute Allah chose to be the supreme for Himself is that He is the most Merciful. This attribute of Rehman (the Merciful) is mentioned 170 times in the Quran, bringing home the significance for believers to be merciful. Mercy in practical application means to have and show compassion and to be charitable.

Forgiving: Love is never too proud to seek forgiveness or too stingy to forgive. It is willing to let go of hurt and letdowns. Forgiveness allows us the opportunity to improve and correct our selves.

Respect: To love is to respect and value the person their contributions and their opinions. Respect does not allow us to take for granted our loved ones or to ignore their input. How we interact with our spouses reflects whether we respect them or not.

Confidentiality: Trust is the most essential ingredient of love. When trust is betrayed and confidentiality compromised, love loses its soul.

Caring: Love fosters a deep fondness that dictates caring and sharing in all that we do. The needs of our loved ones take precedence over our own.

Kindness: The Seerah (biography) of our beloved Prophet is rich with examples of acts of kindness, he showed towards his family and particularly his wives. Even when his patience was tried, he was never unkind in word or deed. To love is to be kind.

Grows: Marital love is not static it grows and flourishes with each day of marital life. It requires work and commitment, and is nourished through faith when we are thankful and appreciative of Allah blessings.

Enhances: Love enhances our image and beautifies our world. It provides emotional security and physical well being.

Selflessness: Love gives unconditionally and protects dutifully.

Truthful: Love is honesty without cruelty and loyalty without compromise.

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Hunting for the secrets of a happy marriage

I don’t neccesarily agree with the first born part mentioned b/c I’ve personally seen the exact opposite mentioned, but interesting article and important subject to learn from an Islamic perspective as well as current research going on. 

By A. Pawlowski

CNN

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” — Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina”

(CNN) — No one can truly know what goes on inside a marriage except the two people involved, but researchers are getting increasingly good glimpses at what makes couples tick, how relationships are stressed and what factors can keep the spark alive.

The goal: To find out what keeps love alive and couples together.

Putting marriage under a microscope has resulted in new long-term studies that are showing better than ever how a birth or simple boredom can drain a union.

More surprisingly, old photographs might help predict your chances of getting a divorce, new research suggests.

All of the findings can help couples learn lessons about their relationships and their spouses, said Nadine Kaslow, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine who specializes in couples and families and also serves as chief psychologist at Grady Health System in Atlanta, Georgia.

To have children or not?

Movies often portray the birth of a child as a joyous event that solidifies a couple’s union, but the arrival of the first baby puts a sudden, important strain on a marriage, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers followed more than 200 couples for eight years after their wedding — the longest study yet looking at the impact of a child on marriage.

About 90 percent of mothers and fathers saw at least some decreases in relationship satisfaction after they became parents, said Brian Doss, assistant psychology professor at Texas A&M University and one of the authors of the study.

Spouses who were the most romantic before the birth of their child found the transition to parenthood the most difficult.

“Couples who were really enjoying a lot of the quality time they were spending before birth had a lot more to lose,” Doss said.

“Whereas couples who just naturally over time had adopted more of a friendship relationship, kind of a co-partner relationship, perhaps didn’t miss or didn’t notice the loss of that connection as much.”

Staying childless wasn’t the secret to marital bliss, however. Couples in the study who didn’t have children still became less happy with their marriage, just much more gradually than those who had children.

Couples considering starting a family may find the results alarming, but psychologists say they serve as a reminder that a relationship needs to be nurtured.

“People tend to be less dedicated to their relationship and not prioritize being with each other,” Kaslow said. “This deterioration seems to be pretty sudden right after the birth, so that’s a particularly crucial time to be mindful of it.”

Simple steps can go a long way to keeping a relationship strong. Couples can start by setting aside some private time every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes, and scheduling a weekly date, Kaslow advised.

How to fight boredom

Most people think that problems and tension spell trouble in a marriage, but a new study has found boredom is also a powerful force in eroding marital bliss.

Couples who reported being in a rut seven years into their marriage were significantly less satisfied with their relationship when researchers checked back with them nine years later, according to a study to be published next month in Psychological Science.

“For boredom to have such long-term implications I think is very significant,” said co-author Terri Orbuch, a research professor at the University of Michigan and a professor of sociology at Oakland University.

But closeness over time can eliminate that effect, the study also found.

How can couples get close if they’re feeling bored? Sharing novel activities with each other — like taking a cooking class or learning to ski — is the key, said Orbuch, who has been following a group of married couples for 22 years and is writing a book about their marriage strategies.

Some boredom is inevitable in a marriage, but it is absolutely possible for a couple to reignite a relationship, Kaslow agreed.

Her parents have just started taking classes about opera together and have assembled a “bucket list” of all the places in the world they still haven’t been to that they would like to visit.

“They want to do more exciting things even at their age to nurture the relationship. I think that’s what healthy long-term relationships do,” Kaslow said.

What do photos reveal?

Surprisingly, a possible clue about whether you stay married or get divorced may be contained in your photo album.

Researchers analyzed photos taken in childhood or young adulthood from hundreds of people and rated their expressions on a “smile intensity score.”

The less intensely the subjects smiled, the more likely they would be divorced later in life, while the biggest smilers had lower divorce rates, according to a study published online this month by the journal Motivation and Emotion.

Scientists don’t know what accounts for the link, but say a smile may indicate higher levels of positive emotions and signal other traits, said co-author Matt Hertenstein, associate professor of psychology at DePauw University and head of the school’s Touch and Emotion Lab.

“People who smile a lot may attract happier people and maybe happier marriage partners,” Hertenstein said. “It may be that people who smile in response to a photographer are more obedient people and obedience may help in a marriage. I really don’t know the explanation.”

Before you run to check your spouse’s yearbook photo, keep in mind one picture can’t tell the whole story, Kaslow said.

“I think the issue really is both getting a sense of a whole set of pictures and also the level of positivity that [people] bring into life and relationships,” she said.

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Sh. Yusuf al-Qardawi: The Philosophy of Marriage in Islam

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for your very interesting question and the great confidence you place in us. We implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

Marriage in Islam is intended to cater to multiple purposes which include, above all, spiritual tranquility and peace, and cooperation and partnership in fulfilling the divine mandate. Islam – being a natural way of life – takes into account all of genuine human instincts such as physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, et cetera.

Although fulfilling one’s physical needs in a decent manner is one of the main purposes of marriage, it is not the sole one. According to the clear statement of the Qur’an, tranquility and peace through a successful union is considered the primary objective of marriage: (Among His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own kind in order that you may repose to them in tranquility and He instilled in your hearts love and affection for one another; verily, in these are signs for those who reflect (on the nature of the reality).) (Ar-Rum 30: 21).

In another place, Allah refers to the relationship between males and females in terms of partnership for achieving goodness and fulfilling the divine mandate for their lives. (The believers, males and females, are partners of one another; they shall jointly enjoin all that is good and counsel against all that is evil.) (At-Tawbah 9: 71)

Responding to the question in point, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:

Just as Islam aims at rearing a righteous individual, being the cornerstone in the social structure of the nation, it also seeks to establish a sound family, the prime and essential factor in building a good society. It is never disputed that marriage – that unites a man and a woman in solemn matrimony – is the foundation that gives rise to the family. There is no way a real or proper family could ever exist out of wedlock, the way that has been legislated by Allah, Exalted be He.

Perverted ideas opposing the institution of marriage:

Throughout the ages, humanity has come to learn of ideas and trends that oppose the idea of marriage. In Persia (now Iran), before the advent of Islam, there emerged Mani’s philosophy, which claimed that the world abounds in evil, that it should be exterminated and that prohibiting marriage is the fastest way to effect this goal.

Under the banner of Christianity appeared extreme monasticism that denounces life, calls to getting incarcerated in monasteries and prohibiting marriage, because woman, they held, is a cause of temptation and a devil incarnate. Venturing near her is in itself a sin that corrupts a soul and alienates one from Heaven.

In modern times, there exist in the West pessimists who totally condemned woman, describing her as a serpent, with a soft touch but deadly venom. They further claim that marriage offers her the golden opportunity to place man under her thumb and shackle him with responsibilities. So why should man, out of his own free will, choose to place those chains around his neck though he was born free?

Unfortunately, some of our contemporary Muslim youth have been fallen prey to those perverted ideas, and thereupon decided to refrain from marriage that entails endless responsibilities, obligations and restrictions. They, on the other hand, wish to live their entire lives as children shouldering no responsibilities. If overcome by desire or the call of their instincts, vicious adultery will certainly quench their thirst in lieu of lawful marriage.

The objectives of marriage in Islam:

a) According to the divine laws and norms, nothing can ever perform its duty single-handedly. Allah meant everything to be in need of another of its kind, so that one would complement the other. In the field of electricity, positive and negative poles need to be in contact so as to induce an electric current, which in turn, yields light, heat, motion, etc. Likewise, electrons and protons should be in contact inside an atom. In plants, pollen grain carrying male gametes fertilize a flower’s stigma to produce more plants, fruits and seeds. Male and female animals have to be in contact in order to reproduce. The Glorious Qur’an highlights this universal law in the following two verses: (And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect.) (Adh-Dhariyat 51: 49) (Glory be to Him Who created all the sexual pairs, of that which the earth groweth, and of themselves, and of that which they know not.) (Ya-Sin 36: 36) In response to this law, Allah, Exalted be He, has legislated a sublime tradition for a man and a woman to be united in such a way as befits the lofty status of human beings, namely through marriage.

Allah, Exalted be He, has inculcated in a man’s heart a longing for a woman, and in a woman’s heart a longing for a man. Each of them is driven by a far more exigent need than hunger or thirst. Each of them senses a definite emptiness in his or her life that can only be filled with their union, according to the divine laws, namely via marriage. Only then does stability replace confusion and reassurance does replace anxiety. Each of them finds in the other serenity, love and mercy that light their lives and enrich their souls. The following is one of Allah’s glaring signs in our universe, which the Glorious Qur’an points to: (Among His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own kind in order that you may repose to them in tranquility and He instilled in your hearts love and affection for one another; verily, in these are signs for those who reflect (on the nature of the reality).) (Ar-Rum 30: 21)

b) Reproduction is the natural outcome of marriage. It serves to prolong man’s existence, thanks to the pious progeny that succeeds him. This is thus one of Allah’s bounties which He grants man saying, (And Allah hath given you wives of your own kind, and hath given you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and hath made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of Allah that they disbelieve?) (An-Nahl 16: 72)

It is also for this reason that Prophet Zakariyyah (Zachariah, peace be upon him) supplicated to Allah saying: (And Zachariah, when he cried unto his Lord: My Lord! Leave me not childless, though Thou art the best of inheritors,) (Al-Anbiya’ 21: 89) and (Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor. Who shall inherit of me and inherit (also) of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee).) (Maryam 19: 5-6) Similarly, Ibrahim (Abraham), the father of the Prophets (peace be upon him), prayed to Allah saying: (My Lord! Vouchsafe me of the righteous. So We gave him tidings of a gentle son.) (As-Saffat 37: 100-101) and (Praise be to Allah Who hath given me, in my old age, Ishmael and Isaac! Lo! My Lord is indeed the Nearer of Prayer.) (Ibrahim 14: 29) The Glorious Qur’an describes the servants of Allah, the Most Gracious, as such: (And who say: Our Lord! Vouchsafe us comfort of our wives and of our offspring.) (Al-Furqan 25: 74)

It is due to reproduction that the nation grows and multiplies, makes use of its potential and manages to combat its enemies. Few would suspect the fact that multitudes and masses of people are to be reckoned with when considering world power. Allah narrates what Prophet Shu`ayb (peace be upon him) told his people saying, (And remember, when ye were but few, how He did multiply you.) (Al-A`raf 7: 86) Further, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) says, “Get married (and reproduce) for I will boast of your large numbers in front of other nations (on Judgment Day) and do not lapse into Christians’ monasticism.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Abu Umamah, and it is mentioned in al-Jami` as-Sahih)

Reproduction serves to preserve the entire human species all around the globe until the point when life comes to an end. Allah, Exalted be He, says, (O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 1) and (O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made `you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.) (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)

c) Marriage consummates one’s faith, spares one looking at other women, enables one to preserve his chastity and offers one a lawful means to satisfy his sexual desire. Adultery is, therefore, no longer an option. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke of marriage saying, “It spares one looking at what one should not, or lapsing in adultery.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “If Allah grants a Muslim a righteous wife, this helps him preserve half of his religion (faith). He should, therefore, fear Allah as regards the other half.” (Reported by At-Tabarani and Al-Hakim, and Al-Mundhri states in At-Targhib that it is an authentic hadith with a good chain of narrators)

d) Not only does marriage help a Muslim preserve his faith, it is also the indispensable pillar of worldly happiness which Islam encourages its followers to enjoy so that nothing would distract them from the ultimate goal of uplifting their souls and attaining high degrees of spirituality. Imam Muslim reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The whole world is pleasure, and the best pleasure of the world is the righteous woman.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said: “Four things bring one joy: a righteous wife, a spacious house, a pious neighbor and a comfortable riding animal.” (Reported by Al-Hakim, Abu-Nu`aym and Al-Bayhaqi)

e) Marriage is the sole means of establishing a family, the nucleus of society. No respectable human society could ever exist, if not based on the family. Shaded by the close relations of motherhood, fatherhood as well as parent-child and siblings relations, warm feelings of love, altruism, mercy, care and cooperation are instilled in a Muslim.

f) Social relations are bolstered with the aid of marriage, whereby scope of family expands including his in-laws and his children’s aunts and uncles. That way feelings of amity, love and social closeness extend to include more and more people. Allah meant relations by marriage to be just as strong as kinship relations. Allah, Exalted be He, says, (And He it is Who hath created man from water, and hath appointed for him kindred by blood and kindred by marriage; for thy Lord is ever Powerful.) (Al-Furqan: 54)

g) Marriage matures a man’s character through the responsibilities he has to shoulder, as a husband and a father, and similarly matures a woman’s character through the responsibilities she has to shoulder, as a wife and a mother. As we have just explained, many men refrain from marriage simply because they wish to live as grown-up children with no ties to bind them, no house to unite them or responsibilities they are to undertake. Such people are not fit to live; they are good for nothing. Marriage is thus a strong commitment and a shared responsibility between a man and a woman since their first day together.

Allah, Exalted be He, says, (And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 228) (Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 34)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for those in his charge; the man, in his home, is a guardian and responsible for his household; the woman, concerning her husband’s property, is a guardian and responsible for what she is entrusted with.” (Agreed upon hadith) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Man would be committing a huge sin if he were to ruin whomever he supports.” (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim and Al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Umar) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) further noted, “Allah shall ask every guardian about what he has been entrusted with, whether he preserved or ruined it.” (Reported by An-Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban on the authority of Anas) He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “One’s spouse is entitled to certain rights.” (Agreed upon Hadith, reported on the authority of Ibn `Umar)

h) Having got married, a man can focus on perfecting his work, reassured that there is someone back home who disposes of his affairs, preserves his money and takes care of his children. He can thus do his job properly. This stands in sharp contrast to another whose mind is preoccupied and who is torn apart between his work and home, his job and the burden of securing his food and clothes back home.


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Let’s Have More Teen Pregnancy: It’s not a problem

National Review Online

 

By Frederica Mathewes-Green

True Love Waits. Wait Training. Worth Waiting For. The slogans of teen abstinence programs reveal a basic fact of human nature: teens, sex, and waiting aren’t a natural combination. 

Over the last 50 years the wait has gotten longer. In 1950, the average first-time bride was just over 20; in 1998 she was five years older, and her husband was pushing 27. If that June groom had launched into puberty at 12, he’d been waiting more than half his life.

If he had been waiting, that is. Sex is the sugar coating on the drive to reproduce, and that drive is nearly overwhelming. It’s supposed to be; it’s the survival engine of the human race. Fighting it means fighting a basic bodily instinct, akin to fighting thirst.

Yet despite the conflict between liberals and conservatives on nearly every topic available, this is one point on which they firmly agree: Young people absolutely must not have children. Though they disagree on means — conservatives advocate abstinence, liberals favor contraception — they shake hands on that common goal. The younger generation must not produce a younger generation.

But teen pregnancy, in itself, is not such a bad thing. By the age of 18, a young woman’s body is well prepared for childbearing. Young men are equally qualified to do their part. Both may have better success at the enterprise than they would in later years, as some health risks — Cesarean section and Down Syndrome, for example — increase with passing years. (The dangers we associate with teen pregnancy, on the other hand, are behavioral, not biological: drug use, STD’s, prior abortion, extreme youth, and lack of prenatal care.) A woman’s fertility has already begun to decline at 25 — one reason the population-control crowd promotes delayed childbearing. Early childbearing also rewards a woman’s health with added protection against breast cancer.

Younger moms and dads are likely be more nimble at child-rearing as well, less apt to be exhausted by toddlers’ perpetual motion, less creaky-in-the-joints when it’s time to swing from the monkey bars. I suspect that younger parents will also be more patient with boys-will-be-boys rambunction, and less likely than weary 40-somethings to beg pediatricians for drugs to control supposed pathology. Humans are designed to reproduce in their teens, and they’re potentially very good at it. That’s why they want to so much.

Teen pregnancy is not the problem. Unwed teen pregnancy is the problem. It’s childbearing outside marriage that causes all the trouble. Restore an environment that supports younger marriage, and you won’t have to fight biology for a decade or more.

Most of us blanch at the thought of our children marrying under the age of 25, much less under 20. The immediate reaction is: “They’re too immature.” We expect teenagers to be self-centered and impulsive, incapable of shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood. But it wasn’t always that way; through much of history, teen marriage and childbearing was the norm. Most of us would find our family trees dotted with many teen marriages.

Of course, those were the days when grown teens were presumed to be truly “young adults.” It’s hard for us to imagine such a thing today. It’s not that young people are inherently incapable of responsibility — history disproves that — but that we no longer expect it. Only a few decades ago a high-school diploma was taken as proof of adulthood, or at least as a promise that the skinny kid holding it was ready to start acting like one. Many a boy went from graduation to a world of daily labor that he would not leave until he was gray; many a girl began turning a corner of a small apartment into a nursery. Expectations may have been humble, but they were achievable, and many good families were formed this way.

Hidden in that scenario is an unstated presumption, that a young adult can earn enough to support a family. Over the course of history, the age of marriage has generally been bounded by puberty on the one hand, and the ability to support a family on the other. In good times, folks marry young; when prospects are poor, couples struggle and save toward their wedding day. A culture where men don’t marry until 27 would normally feature elements like repeated crop failures or economic depression.

That’s not the case in America today. Instead we have an artificial situation which causes marriage to be delayed. The age that a man, or woman, can earn a reasonable income has been steadily increasing as education has been dumbed down. The condition of basic employability that used to be demonstrated by a high-school diploma now requires a bachelor’s degree, and professional careers that used to be accessible with a bachelor’s now require a master’s degree or more. Years keep passing while kids keep trying to attain the credentials that adult earning requires.

Financial ability isn’t our only concern, however; we’re convinced that young people are simply incapable of adult responsibility. We expect that they will have poor control of their impulses, be self-centered and emotional, and be incapable of visualizing consequences. (It’s odd that kids thought to be too irresponsible for marriage are expected instead to practice heroic abstinence or diligent contraception.) The assumption of teen irresponsibility has broader roots that just our estimation of the nature of adolescence; it involves our very idea of the purpose of childhood.

Until a century or so ago, it was presumed that children were in training to be adults. From early years children helped keep the house or tend the family business or farm, assuming more responsibility each day. By late teens, children were ready to graduate to full adulthood, a status they received as an honor. How early this transition might begin is indicated by the number of traditional religious and social coming-of-age ceremonies that are administered at ages as young as 12 or 13.

But we no longer think of children as adults-in-progress. Childhood is no longer a training ground but a playground, and because we love our children and feel nostalgia for our own childhoods, we want them to be able to linger there as long as possible. We cultivate the idea of idyllic, carefree childhood, and as the years for education have stretched so have the bounds of that playground, so that we expect even “kids” in their mid-to-late twenties to avoid settling down. Again, it’s not that people that age couldn’t be responsible; their ancestors were. It’s that anyone, offered a chance to kick back and play, will generally seize the opportunity. If our culture assumed that 50-year-olds would take a year-long break from responsibility, have all their expenses paid by someone else, spend their time having fun and making forgivable mistakes, our malls would be overrun by middle-aged delinquents.

But don’t young marriages tend to end in divorce? If we communicate to young people that we think they’re inherently incompetent that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it was not always the case. In fact, in the days when people married younger, divorce was much rarer. During the last half of the 20th century, as brides’ age rose from 20 to 25, the divorce rate doubled. The trend toward older, and presumptively more mature, couples didn’t result in stronger marriages. Marital durability has more to do with the expectations and support of surrounding society than with the partners’ age.

A pattern of late marriage may actually increase the rate of divorce. During that initial decade of physical adulthood, young people may not be getting married, but they’re still falling in love. They fall in love, and break up, and undergo terrible pain, but find that with time they get over it. They may do this many times. Gradually, they get used to it; they learn that they can give their hearts away, and take them back again; they learn to shield their hearts from access in the first place. They learn to approach a relationship with the goal of getting what they want, and keep their bags packed by the door. By the time they marry they may have had many opportunities to learn how to walk away from a promise. They’ve been training for divorce.

As we know too well, a social pattern of delayed marriage doesn’t mean delayed sex. In 1950, there were 14 births per thousand unmarried women; in 1998, the rate had leapt to 44. Even that astounding increase doesn’t tell the whole story. In 1950 the numbers of births generally corresponded to the numbers of pregnancies, but by 1998 we must add in many more unwed pregnancies that didn’t come to birth, but ended in abortion, as roughly one in four of all pregnancies do. My home city of Baltimore wins the blue ribbon for out-of-wedlock childbearing: in 2001, 77 percent of all births were to unwed mothers.

There are a number of interlocking reasons for this rise in unwed childbearing, but one factor must surely be that when the requirements presumed necessary for marriage rise too high, some people simply parachute out. It’s one thing to ask fidgety kids to abstain until they finish high school at 18. When the expectation instead is to wait until 25 or 27, many will decline to wait at all. We’re saddened, but no longer surprised, at girls having babies at the age of 12 or 13. Between 1940 and 1998, the rate at which girls 10-14 had their first babies almost doubled. These young moms’ sexual experiences are usually classified as “non-voluntary” or “not wanted.” Asking boys to wait until marriage is one way a healthy culture protects young girls.

The idea of returning to an era of young marriage still seems daunting, for good reason. It is not just a matter of tying the knot between dreamy-eyed 18-year-olds and tossing them out into world. Our ancestors were able to marry young because they were surrounded by a network of support enabling that step. Young people are not intrinsically incompetent, but they do still have lots of learning to do, just like newlyweds of any age. In generations past a young couple would be surrounded by family and friends who could guide and support them, not just in navigating the shoals of new marriage, but also in the practical skills of making a family work, keeping a budget, repairing a leaky roof, changing a leaky diaper.

It is not good for man to be alone; it’s not good for a young couple to be isolated, either. In this era of extended education, couples who marry young will likely do so before finishing college, and that will require some sacrifices. They can’t expect to “have it all.” Of the three factors — living on their own, having babies, and both partners going to school full-time — something is going to have to give. But young marriage can succeed, as it always has, with the support of family and friends.

I got married a week after college graduation, and both my husband and I immediately went to graduate school. We made ends meet by working as janitors in the evenings, mopping floors and cleaning toilets. We were far from home, but our church was our home, and through the kindness of more-experienced families we had many kinds of support — in fact, all that we needed. When our first child was born we were so flooded with diapers, clothes, and gifts that our only expense was the hospital bill.

Our daughter and older son also married and started families young. Things don’t come easy for those who buck the norm, but with the help of family, church, and creative college-to-work programs, both young families are making their way. Early marriage can’t happen in a vacuum; it requires support from many directions, and it would be foolish to pretend the costs aren’t high.

The rewards are high as well. It is wonderful to see our son and daughter blooming in strong, joyful marriages, and an unexpected joy to count a new daughter and son in our family circle. Our cup overflows with grandchildren as well: As of July we have four grandbabies, though the oldest is barely two. I’m 49.

It’s interesting to think about the future. What if the oldest grandbaby also marries young, and has his first child at the age of 20? I would hold my great-grandchild at 67. There could even follow a great-great-grand at 87. I will go into old age far from lonely. My children and their children would be grown up then too, and available to surround the younger generations with many resourceful minds and loving hearts. Even more outrageous things are possible: I come from a long-lived family, some of whom went on past the age of 100. How large a family might I live to see?

Such speculation becomes dizzying — yet these daydreams are not impossible, and surely not unprecedented. Closely looped, mutually supporting generations must have been a common sight, in older days when young marriage was affirmed, and young people were allowed to do what comes naturally

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Tariq Ramadan – Half of Your Faith

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Courtesy of my boy The Mixer

How many men and women prepare themselves to live as a couple, as a family?

 Some think about it, others are already committed to it. We hear of stories… and one is sometimes moved by the expectations and hopes of some, and sometimes saddened by the painful life experiences of others. Perhaps you are also, sisters and brothers, preparing yourselves to engage in this life experience of marriage, known as half of your faith. Or perhaps you have already started sharing your life with someone. In this, your expectations, thank God, were more than met but sometimes doubts have emerged.This… is not what you had expected.

Brothers and sisters, nothing should be idealized.

The perfect husband or the perfect wife only exists in your dreams. God has given you, as He has given others, noble qualities and intelligence. God has given you, as He has given others, faults and deficiencies. Perfection is not given to you or any human being. 

It is not enough to share the same faith, the same principles and the same hopes to make an ideal couple. How many young couples have been under the illusion that their future life will be harmonious as if being Muslim was enough for a successful marriage? As if their union was based solely on the meeting of two worlds founded on the same principles that one respects or on the rules which one applies. 

This illusion, which yesterday promised a small earthly paradise, today makes life a difficult struggle  How many speak about “the principles of marriage in Islam” and actually live the reality of a torn, ravaged and frustrated existence?

Today, more than ever, living as a married couple has become a real challenge. Around us, men and women meet and leave each other in a modern society in which they confuse freedom and the absence of accountability as love and flexibility.

Living as a couple is not without its challenges – preparing yourself, learning and constantly trying to reach out to the other with patience, depth and tenderness. Although it is true that the principles of Islam bring you together, or will bring you together, you must remember each day that the person with whom you share your life comes with his or her own history, wounds, sensitivities and hopes. Learn to listen, to understand, to observe, to accompany.

Living as a couple is the greatest of tests: a test of patience, of attention, of the ability to listen for unspoken words, of self-control, of mending one’s faults, of healing the wounds. In each of these tests, there are two parties. It isn’t easy. A meaningful effort has to be grounded in the deepest sense of spirituality, a jihad, in the most intense meaning of the term. The jihad of love which reminds that feelings have to be taken care of. They are maintained, deepened, rooted through your shared challenges and your patience 

Patience and attention to the hearts, in a couple, will lead them towards the light, God willing. Remember, brothers and sisters, the last of the Prophets (peace be on him), an example for eternity, so attentive, so tender, and so patient. He did not only remind the Umma of principles, he enlightened with his presence, his listening, and his love. 

Before being the mother of his children, his wife was a woman, his spouse, a person he discovered each day, a person whom he accompanied and who accompanied him; subject of his attention, a testimony of his love. He knew the meaning of silence, the power of a touch, the complicity of a shared glance, the pleasure in a smile, and the kindness found in being attentive.

There are those who idealize the other so much they never really see their partners and those who leave each other too quickly without taking the time to know each other. We are reminded of the principles Islam, its depth, its spirituality, its essence. Living as a couple, forming a relationship, being patient in adversity, loving to the extent of enduring, grounding by way of reforming is an initiation to spirituality. Knowing how to be one with God assures greater comfort in being together as two.  A challenge, a test, far from the ideal, close to reality.

Sisters and brothers, you must prepare yourselves to live one of the most beautiful tests of life. It requires all from you, your heart, your conscience, and your efforts. The road is long. One must learn to demand, to share, and to forgive…indefinitely. 

Of the things permitted by God, divorce is the most detested. Living as a couple is difficult: remember that your wife is woman before being the mother of your children; remember that your husband is a man before being the father of your children. Know how to live as a couple, within your family…in front of God and in front of your children.

 This meeting place, these efforts will result in a sense of protection: They are your garments and you are their garments . Know how to be patient, learn how to be affectionate, offer forgiveness, and you will attain the spirituality of the protected, the proximity of the ones that are close. Faith then becomes your source of light and “his or her” presence, becomes your source of protection; the test of your heart, the energy of your love, half of your faith.

I pray to God that this love be the school of your efforts and the light of your patience. 

 

Tariq Ramadan

 

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Marriage in Islam

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Masha’Allah a good lecture about marriage in Islam. Although it already is one of the most talked about subjects I honestly believe that all Muslims, married and single, should seriosly take more time and effort to learn about the proper understanding of marriage in Islam. Insha’Allah it would help greatly to revive the core pillar of society, the family structure, and vastly improve the condition of the Ummah in countless ways. 

 

 

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