A two-part series – part II of which explores the matters of the ‘Islamic’ heart. Part I can be read here.
“Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He become displeased,” (93:3) reads the holy Qu’ran, although on the long and weary journey that can occasionally become the search for an Allah-and-AhlulBayt-loving spouse, it may, at times, feel otherwise.
Whether it is spiritual disparity at play or interpersonal dynamics that are at odds, difference in ideology or a lack of mutual attraction, even logistical, cultural or financial limitations, each (possible) reason for a prospect falling through can ultimately serve quite a blow to the unmarried, divorced, or widowed ‘self.’ Especially (albeit ahead of schedule) when the heart has grown a little too fond, given spousal comfort a little too much face, and carved out a little too much household haven, then does the patience really begin to wear thin.
The ‘Islamic’ heart
After all, “…man(kind) is created weak,” (4:28) as stated explicitly in Surah an-Nisaa’. And so what if the strength of our faith keeps our bodies and minds in religious check, is even the ‘Islamic’ heart not ultimately capable of the same failing? Surely does Allah (swt) know best, but it can take quite some time and quite the effort to shake off one’s penchant for fallibility — for the crushing of hope churns grief and all heartbreak must run its course.
Fundamental in this verse, however, is perhaps not its latter half, but the very beginning, for “Allah desires that He should make light your burdens.” Cementing which further on, in verse 122 of the same chapter, “Allah’s promise is the truth, and whose word can be truer than Allah’s?” Each of these jewels from our Lord, are in fact, a clear instruction to place all our trust in Him and Him alone.
With all this guarantee, a Lord that is just, and belief that is unwavering, why then does contentment still seem so far away a place?
If there is as much promise of ease as there is of hardship, and (in fact) as much promise of ease after hardship — “And surely what comes after is better for you than that which has gone before,” (93:4) — why then, at times, does the heart feel so frail, does the body feel so brittle, do the tears flow so wanton, in this particular period of anticipation?
The Fault in Our Intention
Perhaps, as a result (in enough cases) of an attempt to craft mutual harmony where it may not necessarily exist, just so that our marital goal is eventually met. Be it the desire to gain nearness to Allah, love and companionship, the yearning for parenthood, carnal appetite, a combination of these, or whatever else the reason for persevering in this search for a spouse, somewhere along the way, we lose sight of remaining mindful of the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.
And therein lies the fault in our intention. Effort is contentment; effort is not coveting — coveting leads to unrest. And the moment covetousness gets into the picture, begins the decline of complete reliance on Allah.
As quoted in Misbah al-Shariah (s. 15, p. 67), the holy Prophet (s) has said, “A covetous man is bereft; yet in spite of his deprivation, he is blamed wherever he is.” On which Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as) expands, “The one who trusts in Allah spends morning and evening in His protection and well-being. Allah has hastened for him what suffices him, and prepared for him things which only Allah knows,” and furthermore, “When the slave is not bereft of certainty, he is not covetous. Certainty is the earth of Islam and the heaven of eman (faith).”
Secondly, even in matters of the ‘Islamic’ heart, we attempt to appease the soul in much the same way, as if it were not the sacred union of marriage (on which, ever so largely, banks our Hereafter) a source of distress, but something ordinarily worldly. How could we possibly hope for respite in matters of the Hereafter using means that pertain merely to this world?
Speaking strictly atoms and molecules, matter (in the fullness of time) is all the same — a concept likewise applicable to just about any (worldly) pleasure. And as it can all very well be turned into a means of ‘fleeing from pain,’ no rose-colored amount of travel or gluttony or decadence or romantic comedy will provide us the contentment that ultimately lies in fulfilling our obligation to Allah.
Responsibility, in spite of our Tabee’ah
An excellent explanation of our animal-like instinct (‘how we are constantly searching for pleasure or fleeing from pain or fighting for survival’), also known as tabee’ah, which serves as the cause for this condition, can be found in Khalil Jaffer’s lecture series on freeing the butterfly within (available on YouTube).
Ours is a culture of perpetual satiation, which is primarily what leads to our social conditioning into such constructs. Sometimes, as a result of this very tabee’ah, we are unable to truly inwardly trust Allah in the manner that has been prescribed by the AhlulBayt (sawa) (another matter entirely, and best left for another discourse); but not for a moment does that change our responsibility towards Him — amend that which we owe Him.
Not for a moment does that allow us the room to divert our attention from the needs of a child (if one is in the picture), an elderly parent, a relative or neighbor who has taken ill, a brother or sister in faith struggling spiritually, a community in turmoil, and so on — all of which are as important as the obligatory actions of prayer, keeping fast, paying khums, and so forth.
As of 2009, lovers of the AhlulBayt (sawa) constitute 10-13 percent of the world’s (more than) 300-million-wide Muslim population, according to an analysis conducted by the Pew Research Centre. In light of which, “and We have created you in pairs,” (78:8) albeit a verse of various significances, just might provide some calm — for surely, is ten to thirteen percent of 300 million in no way a trivial number, thereby rendering far more chances (than not) of someday meeting the right person.
Proactively seeking marriage is one thing — letting the intention take over (entirely) one’s spiritual, mental, and physical well-being, a whole other ballgame. Maintaining a clear view on the distinction between these two is crucial to our remaining mindful of complete reliance on the All-Aware, the Just, at all times.
And so, my dear sisters and brothers, “seek (Allah’s) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit, who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him.” (2:45-46)