Why do we find the subject of romance fascinating? The reasons are psychological, biological and cultural. As humans, we move towards pleasure. We tend to escape pain. We are looking for certainty in life. However, sometimes we are in search of variety to avoid boredom, too. We all wish to be significant in some way, and we all are in the quest to find true love. Romance encompasses all the six aforementioned needs, which humans wish to fulfill in varied degrees.
Allah (swt) gifted Islam to us in order to fulfill our needs. Our beautiful Deen recognizes and understands our innate nature. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and some sects of Judaism, Islam is not monastic. Marriage is a confirmed Sunnah of the Prophet (saw), and he has declared it to be half of our faith. Marriage is the means to fulfill our desire to love and be physically intimate in a permissible manner. And if we follow the Sunnah, romancing our spouse becomes a means of worship, too.
The problem has occurred as we have moved away from the real teachings. In Asian communities, culture is infused in the minds of many. Thus, it has affected our understanding of marriage and romance. We are exposed to western cultural values like never before. Western culture today is based on capitalism, materialism, secularism and consumerism. Their way of dealing with people is to create desires in them to follow their passions and encourage them to buy. They appeal to the biological/psychological need of their consumers, as they believe that sex sells. Naturally, the end product is nudity and immorality. They call it love and romance. However, in reality, the dimensions and nature of romance are linked to the Hollywood and Bollywood culture.
Today, many Muslim lands are not occupied physically, but their minds have been occupied psychologically. This is the worst form of occupation – it is called mind control. This is how we have gone astray and this is how we have become extremely unhappy. In Islam, romance is embedded within marriage. When marriages fail, societies crumble. What we saw in the UK riots in 2011 were disturbed youth hailing from loveless homes. They were greedy for Duniya because their souls were hollow. Their parents’ marriages had not worked out, and, hence, they were deprived of familial upbringing and belonging.
Culturally, some common ills are marriages based on duty, loveless marriages, children not being able to relate to the ideals of the marriages of older generations, mental coercion by parents to marry cousins or relatives, marriages to mates who are physically unattractive, forced marriages, etc. (A forced marriage is invalid in the Shariah in any case. Mutual consent of both partners is a pre-requisite for a Nikah to be valid.)
The West has been through a similar myriad of issues, and, hence, they evolved romantic idealism. Early Europe was pre-dominantly Christian, but their faulty approach to marriages forced them to find love outside Halal relationships. This is how fantasy stories like Romeo and Juliet were born. This is how romantic poetries, plays, movies and songs came into being.
Shaitan attacks through Shahwat (desires) and Shubuhat (doubts). When Shaitan discovered this void in married relations, he filled it with extremism. In some cases, he converted people towards monasticism, which means to become cold fish and have no sex. Naturally, that would square marriages and societies. On the other extreme, he led them to become obsessed and envious, form romantic liaisons and behave like Casanovas. Whenever an imbalance is created, Shaitan wins. And Islam exhorts to tread only the middle path.
Today, what should be encouraged is not paid attention to – for example, early marriages. Quite often, parents themselves are the problem. They wait so long for their kid’s education to finish that appropriate suitors are not interested anymore. Doors are left wide open for dating, inter-mixing, non-observance of Hijab and segregation, physical touching, even if that means casual handshakes (human touch is where sexual desires arise), roaming gazes, casual sex, fornication, etc.
Haste is from Shaitan, except in terms of arranging marriages for your daughters. The Prophet (saw) stated: “If somebody comes to you, and you are pleased with his character and religion, marry him. If you do not, there will be discord on earth and widespread corruption.” (Ibn Majah)
Another aspect is that men and women have been created differently on purpose. Every husband and wife should understand each other’s basic behaviour, especially for marriages to prosper. For instance, when women talk out their troubles, they do not necessarily seek solutions. They want to receive empathy/ sympathy. But when men discuss their problems, they are searching for solutions.
The Prophet (saw) was beyond par excellence in understanding the intrinsic nature of his wives. In order to benefit the Ummah (especially women, who were widowed, divorced or left single), he exercised polygamy and encouraged multiple spouses for others, if one could do justice among them, as he did. All nine wives were immensely in love with him, as he treated them all uniquely.
When he entered his home, he didn’t treat his wives like slaves. Instead, he happily served them as well as his other family members. He would milk the goats, mend his clothes and help clean the house. While travelling for an expedition, as he realized how monotonous and long the journeys were back then, he would go up to his wife’s Hodaw (carriers on camels) for a chit chat. Twice he asked the caravan to march forward, just to be alone with Ayesha (rtaf) for racing with her out of play and fun. He would take Ghusl with her in the same bath tub and drink from the spot of cup, where she had drunk from. When her father Abu Bakr (rtam) once raised his hand on Ayesha (rtaf), because she was arguing with the Prophet (saw), he intervened and playfully reminded her about it later, when they were alone.
The Messenger of Allah (saw) cared for his spouses’ emotional well-being with gentleness and kindness. He approved of physical attraction and the closeness it generated. Hence, they all loved him dearly, willing to make any kind of sacrifices. However, he did not surrender where the Shariah or materialistic issues were under consideration. Today, many couples make a grave mistake – they ignore the aspects of physical intimacy and emotional empathy; instead, they try to please each other with Haram substitutes and materialistic endeavours that are not sustainable. Hence, romance dies.
Even after Prophet’s (saw) very first soul mate Khadija (rtaf) was long gone, he would reminisce about her. This is true love that transcends time, a deep romance between the most remarkable man in history who changed the fate of the world, and his loving companion who stood by him like a rock, and the memories of which never evaded the Messenger (saw) as long as he lived.
Transcribed from a Lectureshop organized by Live Deen; compiled for hiba by Rana Rais Khan.