By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Transalted by: Fatima Mortada
We can draw inspiration from the Holy Quran that the issue of marriage and the wish to form a family stem from the human's deep sense of need to complete one's self through getting engaged to the opposite sex, on the basis of the inherent instinct with which Allah has created people and which lies latent in the human nature that mingles the spiritual need for marriage with the physical need for satisfying desires in an intimate spiritual context… This makes the human always feel spiritually concerned and deprived from tranquility, leading him to look for an opportunity that enables him to fulfill his needs.
We may get to know the nature of this instinct through observing the human examples who may rush to fully satisfy their instinct away from the context of marriage, however, would still continue to live in a nostalgic desire for marital atmosphere, because they are feeling the same great emptiness that immerses their celibate life, no matter how much they attempt to pretend fullness. Thus, we see that the need for marriage is not a need for satisfying the instinct; however, in addition to that, it is a spiritual need for a spiritual and physical unity with another human.
This is what the verse revealed when Allah, the most Exalted, said: "And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you." (30:21).
At first, we may notice that the verse includes an emphasis on unity in the origin of creation, in a bid to exhibit its psychological effect on both parties, as in the statement: "He created for you mates from among yourselves."
Secondly, the focus is on the purpose of achieving tranquility and spiritual calmness that make the human feel like he found himself entirely. Thus, the picture consummates as we consider love and mercy to be the basis of a relationship within the nature of creation.
What must be seen is that Islam wants the spouses to live in a spiritual sensation linked to Allah even at the beginning of a sexual relation, lest the marriage turns into a mere physical process that is irrelevant to the spiritual meanings; however, it should be a relation in which the materialistic and spiritual aspects unite and integrate, in accordance with the genuine Islamic line which wants the human to follow it in all his deeds, sayings and relationships by combining both spiritual and materialistic sides. Some instructions rendering the beginning of marital life a godly prayer had been mentioned in reported conversations of the Imams of Ahl Al-Beit (a.s.), underlining the legitimate aspect of the relationship so as to suggest the practical nature of behavior at the present time and in the future. It was reported in a Hadith by Imam Ja'afar As-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said: "When you are about to have sex with your wife, face the Qibla and say: "O Allah! I have taken her as Your trust and have made her lawful for myself by Your words. Therefore, if You have decreed for me a child from her, then make him/her blessed and pious… and do not let Satan have any part in him/her."
It was narrated that Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (a.s.) said in a conversation with some of his companions that both the husband and wife ought to perform ablution and the man ought to pray two prostrations (rukaa’s) before engaging in sexual intercourse. Moreover, the man has to ask Allah to grant him her love and satisfaction and to give them a happy and harmonious life.
In a conversation with some of his companions, Imam Ja'afar As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "If a man wanted to marry a woman, he should say: "I accepted the covenant that Allah has made: the parties should either hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness."
As we follow these kind words, we feel that Islam wants marriage to begin relying on a practical and spiritual responsibility, not on the purpose of solely satisfying the instinctive needs… Perhaps the great value of this atmosphere is that it opens the human's heart and spirit to the nature of the steps that he should make on this path. Therefore, he behaves through an awareness open to Allah, not through a blind adrift habit.
As the verse highlights "dwell" and "love and mercy", we may get to know what kind of atmosphere Allah wants the spouses to live in during their new life where any of them will not achieve his own interests or feed his greed, or where the instinctive desire will not pervade their marital life. However, it is the atmosphere in which humanity maintains itself; when the relationship refers to a wide pure humanitarian background, every spouse feels that he is bound to his other partner by love and compassion. This would motivate each of the them to think of ways of providing compassion and comfort for each other perpetuating love and reinforcing harmony between them.
If they were able to live this feeling, then their mutual life would be full of spontaneity, generosity and the ability to overcome all sorts of troubles, problems or pains that might occur.
Then we find in the word "mercy" a new inspiration concerning the nature of marital relationship from the other side; the side that connects to the rational understanding of each other through the other's familial, psychological and social circumstances… If each of them imagined himself in the other’s position, he would be able to treat him differently by taking into consideration the reason behind his action, and reinforce the capability of sharing and understanding each other’s emotions. Thus, they avoid selfishness that damages the marital life, when each of them thinks for himself, disregarding his partner's benefit, and then he begins seeking the best ways to exploit this relation for his own interests, benefit and mood…
Mercy tends to change all these feelings, so both, the man and the woman, would reconsider that there is a life associated with his or hers and that the human he or she is living with has his own different psychological, spiritual and intellectual atmospheres for they have lived in a different environment and were educated through different means, in addition to the various emotional and mental effects that are related to building their personalities. Hence, they tend to observe all of these factors when dealing with other; thus, embodying mercy in their words and actions as well so that it is no longer a mere sentiment but also a daily practice. Therefore, each one of them would share the feelings, dreams and expectations of the other. Moreover, even the wrong that ought to be straightened should be dealt with wisely and mercifully so as not to turn it into a complex rather than into the right behavior.
Therefore, the marital life would turn into a "dwelling" that embraces each of them in the internal and external life of each, so they would experience the spiritual and mental tranquility away from the disputes and quarrels that might defame the beauty of the relation and offend its merciful nature.
If we base our relations on love and mercy, we would reduce, to a large extent, the marital problems that result from the negligence of one party to the circumstances and influences of the other, and from "selfishness" that reveals to one party the duties of the other towards him, without [the latter] considering his duties towards the other.