Let’s talk about marriage… again! No, I promise, this time it is different. We have all read/heard various Islamic articles and lectures many times in our lives on this topic and should continue to do so, as it is always good to remind. We are also aware of the criterion of selecting a suitable spouse from an Islamic view point. This article will attempt to raise awareness for those individuals who are embarking on this special journey and indeed who are already in the “engagement period”.
Marriage is an institution first and foremost that brings you even closer to Allah and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). Therefore, one should be clear about this important factor and should forever be continuing to strive for this goal, whether you are in the process of selecting your partner or have already entered into this sacred institution.
Why is it that when it comes to choosing a program of study, for example, we seem to exhaust all possibilities in researching for the best educational institutions and determining our future path, but do not show the same enthusiasm and preparation for the journey of marriage? We only consult religion when we find ourselves at a crossroads. Why not prepare ourselves beforehand so as not to infringe on the rights of others and our own?
We will find that some topics that we discuss in the beginning of our relationship are also revisited and discussed continuously throughout our married lives:
Religion: Discuss your religious practices and thoughts. Talk about your Marja Taqleed and rules regarding the marriage itself, prayers, fasts, Khums, and the rights of your parents. This will help you understand each other’s points of view, especially if you follow different Maraja. Why not also find out about each other’s favorite Islamic lecturers and topics?
Family: Discuss the importance of family and sharing of responsibilities. Remember both partners gain an extra set of parents, who have equal rights, and we will be questioned on the Day of Judgment about how we treated them. Some people are under the cultural illusion that when females get married, their loyalties are automatically directed towards their in-laws and fail to realize that both partners are responsible in maintaining and nurturing the newly acquired relationships. Discuss your and your family’s habits with your new partner so (s)he is not overwhelmed but is aware, as it takes a while for people to adjust and adapt to new people and environments. Sharing experiences may help in getting rid of nervousness or misconceptions that may arise.
Finance: Discuss your finances as a couple and budget. It is never too early to budget and set some financial goals! Discuss your financial responsibilities towards your parents, whether you can afford to now or in the future. Start saving up for a house, Hajj, Ziyarats, and emergency funds. Open a savings account for your future children! Look into financial products such as home contents, retirement, health insurance policies, etc. A marriage is like a small business that needs to be cultivated. Draw up financial accounts, as it helps in putting things in perspective, and evaluate your finances periodically.
Accommodation: Discuss where you will live as a married couple. Will you be living with your parents so you can save up for your house? If so, discuss time frames, and again, adapting to your new lifestyle may take some time, so make it comfortable. If you plan to buy your own place, discuss the area and type of accommodation you need according to your budget.
Children: Discuss the issue of furthering your family. When do you plan to have children and what measures will you need to undertake to ensure that you are both ready? Start reading religious and academic books on raising children. Start saving for your children’s future.
Education: Discuss your educational opportunities if one or both partners are still studying. Will one support the other while the partner continues to study? Perhaps look into part-time study together as a couple, whether it is religious education or any other.
Health: Discuss any future health implications in terms of short- or long-term illnesses. Take up exercises, and stop bad habits like smoking. Discuss any possible scenarios that may occur, such as a family member falling ill and your responsibilities towards them.
Career: Discuss career opportunities for both partners, whether domestic or abroad. How would you deal with your partner working long hours if necessary? How would you deal with job losses and supporting each other financially to ensure bills are paid on time? What if your partner had to accept a low-paying job after a successful career due to illness or change of circumstance? (We have all faced some sort of reprieve through the recent credit crunch!)
Ceremonies: Discuss ceremonies such as the engagement, wedding, and Valima. Discuss the financial implications that your parents may have to deal with. Remember, Islam is a simple religion that requires your Nikkah to be recited in the simplest of manners. Therefore, if the partners are willing to have a simple wedding, why not suggest to families who may wish to have a grand affair to contribute towards your new married life instead?
These are some of the main issues that need to be tackled, and in doing so, you will be able to determine the religiosity, nature, and compatibility of your future spouse. No one can predict the future, but you can always plan for it and take adequate provisions. As in any successful marriage, one needs to nurture the key ingredients, such as faith, honesty, understanding, support, and love, in order to reap the rewards.