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 Ummah 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 a 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, a fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, traces the changes and continuities in the West's interest in Islam in the December, 2007, issue of Academic Matters: The journal of higher education (www.ocufa.on.ca).
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