Manufacturing A Match Made In Heaven

muslim marriage ideals culture pressure

So here's a random thought.

I think a lot of Muslim marriages are slapped together on this metaphorical production line. As they whizz down the line the different parts are primed and trimmed, they get their coat of spray paint and eventually they're stuck together. They mostly work, but maybe for a long time people are not sure if the end product will stand the test of time. Sometimes they only work because they have to. After a while the cheap coat of shiny spray paint peels off revealing the true colours of the constituent parts; they're not always the prettiest underneath.

Poor build quality is not uncommon, various cracks exist beneath the surface. Parts are prone to break easily and people generally lack the competency and patience to piece things back together. Few understand how to use the trouble-shooting manual that comes free with each product; it is after all in a different language.

The novelty wears out quickly and people envy the latest designs on the market. With the slightest scuff or scratch people are quick to rush to the manufacturer and too often they find their way back to the factory to find a replacement. Sometimes broken parts will be recycled but sadly, more often than not, broken pieces are quickly forgotten about.

I guess you used to find a lot of little family run production lines, each offering unique customisations, service with a smile. Increasingly there are fewer and fewer of these, instead we are seeing the dominance of more and more mass production lines.

(Still with me?)

muslim marriage ideals culture pressure

So the picture you can see here is probably the most random image I have pulled off Google. The punch bowl on the right came off a production line, the one on the left is hand made.

I guess they both fulfil the function they're designed for, but there is a value to the handmade one that you cannot really put a price to. Painstakingly, with so much care to detail, that bowl was put together. Only the people who made the bowl (and the little cups) know its true value. There's nothing else like it. It is the imperfections that make it perfect, as opposed to the machine made bowl whose pseudo-perfection renders it worthless in comparison to the handmade.

British Muslims in their twenties are met by a plethora of challenges as they face the prospect of getting married. There are various obstacles to manoeuvre around, each compounding and intertwining with the other. The fusion of our tangled British identity with our parents Asian/Arab/African culture presents one such challenge, and this is clouded by the general confusion that surrounds the whole marriage process, and how best to approach things.

Further complicating matters is our inability to separate the (not always bad, but often skewed) Hollywood, Bollywood and Disney images and expectations of love and marriage that have been imprinted on us. We also have to be honest about the streaks of emotional immaturity and lack of wisdom and foresight that taint our relationships (men tend to be plagued by this moreso), as well as our mental fragility and deficit in our psycho-social prowess to deal with life changes in general (women lead this ever so slightly more).

Most importantly for single British Muslims, however, is the weakness of our Islamic grounding and our relative distrust with what we know to be the loftiest principles to which we should choose our partners.

I apologise for focusing on the bleaker side of things. In any case, the resolution?

With ever increasing divorce rates, prevalence of hostile domestic environments, unidentified masses of empty-shell marriages, as well as a scary rise in the number of unmarried Muslims in their late twenties and thirties, we are yet to find model solutions to the marital conundrums that afflict generations of Muslims in Britain. The issues are real and aren’t going away, and it can only be enriching to reflect upon how we each stand in relation to them.

At least on an individual level, before going about finding a partner we need to appreciate that each and every one of us are misshaped, quirky pieces with our own unique history. The conventional assembly line "marriage machines" may give the illusion of a shiny flawlessness counterpart, but know that no two pieces fit together exactly, in fact there is a third piece in this jigsaw.

The Master Craftsman in His Wisdom created us with our bumps and flaws.

But know that regardless of how misshapen you are, you can ‘fit’ into His Divine jigsaw piece; the way of the best of creation (peace and blessings upon him,) the way of al-Islam. 

I read once, that “your heart should be so close to God, that one must seek Him in order to find you.” The issues and challenges that surround getting married are plentiful and complex, but what we are charged with is to work on ourselves:

“...Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur'an, 13:11)

One of the surest ways of securing a fruitful and happy married life is to develop a deep and wholesome understanding and grounding in Islam, this coupled with a constant beautifying of your character.

A believer loves and is loved easily. Early 21st century psychologists explored how young men look for wives that resemble the endearing qualities of their mothers. Taking a step further we can look to the beautiful nature of the Mothers of the Believers, the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon them.) Often you will see brothers gazing into the distance, saying “I want to find my ‘Khadijah’... my `Ayesha’...” But what they fail to realise that they first must become as ‘Muhammadi’ as they can, embodying the best of men (peace and blessings be upon him,) before hoping to find such a gem of a woman. Expect your partner to be nothing but a reflection of you and your state, after all “A believer is a mirror to another believer”.

Prophetic tradition recognises the important role that beauty, attraction, wealth and family background play when choosing a life partner. But what is stressed beyond everything else is "Deen – (piety)" and "Akhlaq – (character)". We read in numerous hadith that one of the most desirable character traits in a partner is that of taqwah, God consciousness; that a pious partner is the most valuable treasure on this earth. What is interesting, however, is the mentioning of character; that decorating a secure Islamic foundation is the subtleties of one’s personality. We cannot underestimate this issue of compatibility, and this is where seeking the counsel from family and friends plays an integral role in giving an objective, detached perspective.

Rumi once wrote “if you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?” Just like the time and effort put into the handmade punch bowls, the sincere tears, the nights in prayer and the days fasting adds a unique and deep value to your persona. It’s easy in the confusion of it all to feel disconnected from Allah, but remember it is in these moments when He's inviting you to Him.

Ibn Ata'illah wrote:
"If you make intense supplication, and the timing of the answer is delayed, do not despair of it. His reply to you is guaranteed; but in the way He chooses, not the way you choose, and at the moment He desires, not the moment you desire."
Remember this path we find ourselves on is a well-trodden one. After striving to better yourself, put your trust in your Creator for truly “...Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)” (Qur'an, 3:159)


muslim doctor writer leaf network environmentalist
By Bilal Hassam, British Muslim doctor and activist.
Bilal recently appeared on 4Thought.tv to share his Muslim views about putting the elderly in care homes.

Co-founder of The Leaf Network, Bilal chairs the Planting Seeds Forum, an innovative and ambitious initiative connecting together the best of emerging Muslim voices with the highest levels of scholarship.


More on Muslim marriage:
Muslim Marriage: Husbands, Know Your Rights
Sabr In A Marriage, EXTRA Sabr With The In-Laws
What's Love Got To Do With It?

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