A brilliant début from an exciting new contributor to the site, ‘YAK’. He eloquently and irreverently articulates something I fear nearly all Muslims can relate to…I’m sure that like myself, you Dear Reader will be looking forward to more from him
The old adage ‘Marriage is half your Religion’ is expounded ad infinitum as soon as we Muslims grow facial hair (that doesn’t include the sisters). The constant barrage of this is bashed into our skulls as if we’re going to die. That mentality is exacerbated by our youth today, as if getting married will magically resolve all your problems and you’re now a full Muslim. Prior to this you were of course half a Muslim. Sitting at home doing half the things other Muslims do. Reading half a prayer and half your Ramadan, half your beard and half your istinja. With fervent fever and a restless soul you want to get married quicker than you can say ‘You ain’t no Muslim bruv’.
Therein lies some of the problem. We’re at a cultural crossroads where the old pressures of being forced into getting married to somebody back home who looks like a goat are practically going away. However, we’re living in strange times. A new religious revival has risen and our youth are eager to get married to the nearest convert or lighter skinned person. All for righteous purposes of course. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got a penny to your name, Allah will provide! We all know that couple who live at their husbands parents’ house whilst they exploit the ‘kuffar’ system. Perhaps living in the garage of their parents house and watching good old fashioned talks from their favourite celebrity Muslim scholar. Ah, good times. All the while, the wife barely gives salaam to her husbands father whilst covered head to toe in a black post office box. I personally know of a brother who scolded his father for coming into his room to say salaam to his wife.
Marrying is indeed half your religion. In essence, to quote a local colloquialism, it is in effect ‘your other half’. He or is she isn’t miraculously making you a full Muslim or completing your religion! That’s absurd. Marrying someone you want to get married to and can afford to be married to is completely normal. To have heartache and a longing for someone to love is perfectly normal and healthy. Yet we’ve turned our process into something far more formulaic and clinical than the previous process of getting married to the village idiot back home. Lest we forget Hazrat Khadija (as) fell in love with the Prophet (saw). A woman, 15 years older than the Prophet(saw) proposed to a man in medieval Arabia. That is the first act of revolution that Islam set. Something which we have all forgotten. It’s vital we reflect on this as both did something out of their traditional mould.
Our whole idea of faith and Islam are so skewed that we’ve turned things into this difficult step by step ‘IKEA’ process. Looks easy, but half way through you realise you don’t have all the screws and then you fall flat on your face whilst you’re whispering to your Mrs in bed with ‘halal pillow talk’.
Marrying is half your faith means simply to treat your partner with equal courtesy, respect, love and patience you would give to your mother (or perhaps your girlfriend that you never will marry). It’s a two way hair pulling frustrating process. It’s tough, incredibly tough. But that’s the baptism of fire so to speak. Yes I said baptism, please don’t crucify me. Damn, I said crucify. Bida brother!
Our tradition lately has been hijacked by literalists and people who allow no independent thought or open inquiry. I’m of course talking mainly of the Salafists/Wahhabis who turned all of this into who can quote the most hadith and the most scholars. You know, the ‘what’s your daleel [proof] bruv’ crew. However, it’s not exclusive to Wahhabis. Many of our other sects have the same irrational hormonal need to marry for the deen.
I have so many wonderful examples around my family and friends who are Muslim but have somehow escaped traditional and cultural Islamic indoctrination. They rebelled and married someone they wanted to be with and more importantly, when they were ready to be with them. Contrary to that I also know many people who have married for the deen, married to become ‘100% Muslims’ and are unhappy. I won’t mention ‘that guy’ we all have come across. The one with a converted white wife, 2 children. He now wants to get married again. His justification is simply that’s he’s allowed and it would make him a better Muslim! Does that make him 200% Muslim? I’m unsure of the ratio, I would be fascinated to hear percentages of what makes you a ‘super Muslim’ if you have four wives.
Effectively, I am imploring for a common sense approach. Marry someone you want to be with. Marry him/her for whatever they are, love comes first and then the hard work. Not the weird other way around. Marry when you can afford to. Take your time. Breathe. In the meantime, if you have any urges control yourself like an adult and stop acting like it’s the first time you’re going to Alton Towers. Then, and only then, will you realise what completing your religion is like. When you are fulfilled, you’ve understood the religion as it was meant to be understood. Then you can whisper to each other in ‘Jerry McGuire’ cheesiness that ‘you complete me’. Loving and sharing is half your faith.
You have to want to do things for each other, not because you’ve read it in a scholars book somewhere.
It was only a few years ago I heard a couple say to each other, ‘I love you for the sake of Allah‘. I almost had an aneurysm. The meaning of term isn’t bad, but the context is absurd. Surely, loving someone for a higher purpose doesn’t need to be said. True devotion to the divine isn’t through imitation of words. It’s loving someone for their sake, without judgement or expectations. That would de facto be loving someone truly for the sake of the Almighty.
This brings us to the core of the problem. Our myopic interpretation of verses and sayings is perpetuated by some of our esteemed teachers, in the past and today. Unfortunately, we’ve put these scholars, or academics on a pedestal – protected by this unseen mental mechanism that permeates our community as if programmed. We’ve elevated them to such a level that they are in effect ‘masoom‘ (infallible). They are of course to be respected due to the efforts they’ve put into research and methodology. However, this is a grave error that is oft repeated and instilled in us to uphold their hegemonic control over the masses. That error to protect their intellectual mechanism is not to use your intellect or common sense. In other words they encourage imitation. The amount of times my brain has burst a blood vessel hearing, ‘this is a religion of imitation and not common sense!‘ This is the very mentality that does not allow critical analysis within the confines of our faith. Granted, I’m a layman and I may be wrong. More often than not I’ve been rained upon by brothers shouting at me, with have fresh curry breath splattering on my face, telling me ‘you’re not a scholar!‘. I might be very wrong in my approach. That’s fine. I’m ready to accept that if your argument is logical and without random hadith and random academic book referencing. Challenge me on a common sense and intellectual level. This is exactly my point here.
The above topic was just an exercise to demonstrate the reactions that you may get if you share this. The point isn’t necessarily to share an opinion on marriage being half your religion. We Muslims across the board are suffering from an intellectual drought. We don’t have much broad education in worldly affairs and instead we become experts and fixated with theological arguments.
The information age has allowed us access to almost every single opinion, translation and academia such that nobody could have ever imagined. This means many extremes exist in our community. On one hand a complete rejection of scholars and hadith and on the other the utter, blind and wilful ignorance of quoting hadith as if it’s scripture. My criticism is of the latter party. The dangers of puritanism are effervescent within our communities. Our obsession to copy the Prophet (saw) is often impeded by our own narrow vision of what constitutes as good behaviour. If your prism of assimilating information has changed which I hope it has, then so should your prism of theological thought. If you view the Quran has a universal and dynamic message and the Prophet (saw) as a mercy to the worlds, then anything which contradicts those basic tenets might just be false.
I follow a path not dissimilar to the Hanafi Maturidi school of thought. Traditional scholars of the Hanafi school of thought had a very rationalistic approach to hadith. If it were at odds with common sense or reason, the hadith were rejected. Today, we’ve raised hadith quoting to a binding contract, which once quoted you cannot back away from. The traditionalist Hanafi approach has always been by distilling the hadith through the prism of the Quran. Which is why apostasy and stoning are rejected. The chain of narration has nothing to do with authenticity. Aisha (may God be pleased with her) rejected a narration by a companion saying women, like dogs, broke the prayer – on the basis of comparing women to dogs! We have a influential and heretical group of Wahhabis who actually believe the notion that God has hands and a face. They may as well believe in Zeus. That’s the sort of mentality we’re dealing with.
More importantly through this prism of rational thought, we can come to sound conclusions about sunna. For example, if I tell you that when it’s cold, go outside wearing a thick addidas track suit bottoms like my brother does, it doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to buy the same addidas bottoms, wear them and go outside when it’s cold. Is the miswak important or brushing your teeth? The principles behind the sunna are important, not the literal representation of clones we see today. All of them dressed very similarly in a homogeneous, monolithic way (although all of them disagree with each other, as to who looks more Muslim). When people say, ‘you can’t talk about Muslims as a monolithic entity’, we’re not a monolithic entity, but we’re becoming that way. The principles are important, not the actual act itself. I appreciate there might be exceptions to this, but generally speaking you’re not going to be seen parking your camel in the town centre are you?
Our scholars are not immune from constructive criticism and discussion. My proposal is more open inquiry and logical debates should be more transparent. This “protectionist” racket is intellectually dishonest to our very belief system which consistently tells us to ponder and scrutinise.
Of course, in the above I’ve been satirising some truths that are extremes in our community. Nevertheless they are truisms that do exist. The reality is that we’re so literal in our understanding of sayings from the hadith or Quran that it defies logic. Our minds have been held captive for years from leaders and scholars that we don’t question for one second what they’re saying, however absurd it is. In any case, the modern tendency amongst Muslim groups to disparage the intellect is a dire innovation.
In conclusion, we live in strange and frustrating times. We have whole chapters in Bukhari about window cleaning and cleaning the toilet, hygiene and other trivial matters which can be replaced by other methods in today’s age. In the same note we have a passive and intellectually incapable scholarship who will not/cannot challenge rulings on apostasy and other bloodshed in hadith. Parallel to that we have scholars and other Muslims who will declare takfir on you for celebrating the Prophets’ birthday or listening to music. These are are same people who lay silent when it comes to extremities and contradictions within our rulings but will turn into bloodthirsty marauders, who would like to correct us and bring us to the ‘pure’ Islam. Ironically, these are the same people who’ve turned the Almighty into a Zeus like figure.
Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are like livestock. Rather, they are [even] more astray in [their] way.