If we take a cursory look at what is being said on television, the radio, in magazines, and on Internet forums about marriage in the past and present, we quickly see a trend. We can summarize this trend by repeating what our grandmothers keep telling us: "The blessing has been taken out of our lives."
There seems to be a consensus that married life was better in the past. It is obvious that we perceive we have problems today in our marriages that did not exist before. In spite of the fact that lives in the past were certainly harder and more rigorous, there was a degree of affection, closeness, and stability in their lives that we do not enjoy today. In spite of the advancements in our knowledge, our technology, and all the conveniences and luxuries that they bring us, it seems like we are less happy than our grandparents. Our social ties are much colder and more strained.
Modern life may be less harsh and grueling, but is more stressful. Moreover, our personal difficulties at home and with our careers are compounded by general economic woes and a world of political crises. Where do we vent our frustrations first? Who gets to bear the brunt of all of our stress? Our spouses, that's who. Oftentimes the spouse is given a share of the blame or accused of not being supportive enough.
And what happens in our busy, stressful lives when one spouse tries to bring love and affection – a little romance – back into the picture? What is often the response?
"Honey, we have no time for all of that. We aren't teenagers anymore. We're full-grown adults."
As if love and affection have an expiration date! As if once we get too old, once we have children and responsibilities, there is no longer any time for such things.
The Qur'ân puts the lie to this idea. Allah says: "And from among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves to take comfort with, and He placed between you love and mercy." [Sûrah al-Rûm: 30]
This verse shows us the enduring nature of the love that should exist between the husband and wife. When it speaks about love, it is not talking about those fleeting passions like we see in the movies, but about something substantial, something that is supposed to be woven into the very fabric of married life.
Ibn `Abbâs provides the following commentary on this verse: "A man has love for his wife and the "mercy" is the mercy he feels for her f ever she should face any misfortune. This love and mercy is not some fleeting sentiment. Rather it is the wellspring of enduring tenderness, kindness, and a good relationship."
Therefore, our busy lives, our maturity, our children, and all those other excuses that have become commonplace today to justify an affectionless married life – those excuses carry no weight. It is as our scholars of the past have said: "Society will remain upon goodness as long as they do not seek excuses for themselves."
In spite of the fact that marital love is an established principle of our faith and of our Islamic culture, we have neglected to give it our attention. We are loath to explore its dimensions or to devote serious study to it. Now, instead, I the Muslim world we are debating the idea of "sex education" in our modern school curriculum. Sex education? Is this what we are supposed to be teaching children who have never yet learned how to show love? To boys who have no idea how to properly relate to women – starting with their own mothers and sisters, and then in the future with their wives ad children?
Love – the proper emotion – is a principle of our religion and culture, so much so that Allah has made it part of the completeness of our relationship with Him. "He shall love them and they shall love Him" [Sûrah al-Mâ'idah: 54] Allah could have said: "They shall reverence Him" or "They shall follow Him" or "They shall fear Him". Why did Allah choose "love" as the description for the rope that binds Him to His worshippers?
Scholars of the Qur'an explain: "The perfection of following the tenets of faith and engaging in good works is only realized on the basis of love. It is the means of attainment and of spiritual growth."
Learning about love starts at home. The first examples children have are those of their parents. Therefore, if we as husbands and wives live coldly with each other, without warmth and affection, what example of love are we giving our children? It is ironic that children are the excuse many parents give for not having the time for a loving and affectionate marital life.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was most affectionate and tender towards his family and he exhorted his followers to be the same. During his farewell pilgrimage, in that famous last sermon, he addressed his followers saying: "I advise you to be good to your womenfolk. Only a noble man shows them honor and only a base man shows them contempt."
Knowledge comes from learning ad love from being loving. Whoever sews love in their marital lives shall reap love, and whoever sews gruffness and harshness in their marriages shall have a bitter harvest.