Marriage starts with the individual

wed1Azrina Abdul Karim
KUALA LUMPUR

TWO weeks before I celebrated my second wedding anniversary, I came across a message posted by a friend on facebook to look out for her former student who was proclaimed “missing”. I asked her whether I could be of assistance; maybe send the young woman’s photo and details to a local newspaper.

However, not all is what it seems. A few days later, my friend sent me a message explaining the situation. It seems the young lady had actually left home to reside at her workplace hostel because she was exhausted by the long commute to work and taking care of a baby all by herself. My friend suspected the young mother might be going through post-natal depression because she had placed the child in the care of her in-laws. In his anger, the husband expressed his wish to divorce, citing “disobedience”.

Divorce, among all permitted (halal) acts, is the most disliked by the Creator. In Surah An-Nisa, Allah (SWT) calls for arbitration: “And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things].”

The young couple’s situation made me think about my two-year old marriage. Ted L Huston, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who observed 168 couples throughout 13 years of marriage said, “The first two years are key – that’s when the risk of divorce are particularly high. And the changes that take place within this time tell us a lot about where the marriage is headed.”

Marriage may, at first, be like a diamond in the rough, but it will become precious with continuous polishing, said Ustazah Isfadiah Mohd Dasuki at the “Ijazah vs Surat Nikah” (Degree vs Marriage Certificate) forum held in March at a university in Selangor.

Sharing her experience, the lecturer and mother of six said she did not know her husband – who was her father’s choice – before their wedding. Her father was riding his motorbike around the kampung when he saw a young man studying (he was holding a book) but at the same time carrying his sister and feeding her. The scenario tugged at his heart and her father, she added with wry humour, “fell in love”.

During the solemnisation (nikah) ceremony, Ustazah Isfadiah consoled herself: “I do not know you that much. You are like a stranger to me but I believe in Allah (SWT) and I believe in my father. I’m going to accept you as what you are, please accept me as I am. I am here to complete you and you are there to complete me.”

There were hiccups in the beginning. Once, she went to her father in tears while her husband waited in the car. She asked, “Father, why did you choose this kind of man to marry me?” Her father asked her to invite her husband in. Then, he said to both of them, “You, as a wife, learn from your husband. You, as a husband, learn from your wife. Share. Seek goodness together; for that is better (for you).” Ustazah Isfadiah said she took the advice as a challenge and aimed to work on herself so that she could be someone worth learning from.

We acknowledge the importance of marriage but many of us fail to prepare ourselves. In Malaysia, a compact two-day pre-marriage course is made compulsory for Muslims intending to marry. It is basically just a primer; and I suspect half of the couples in attendance have their minds on other things, such as whether they can get a reception hall of their choice, for example. In Brunei, a similar course is organised by the Syariah Affairs Department covering: rules of nikah, the rights and responsibilities of a husband and wife, secrets to a happy marriage, prayers and supplications (doa) and factors causing a family crisis and ways to overcome them.

These courses are held to guide newlyweds in building a happy family that is tranquil or harmonious (sakinah), filled with love (mawaddah) and mercy (rahmah) as outlined in Surah al-Rum : “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”

This verse forms the basis of the “Keluarga Sakinah” or Harmonious Family concept which was highlighted by Brunei’s Minister of Religious Affairs Yang Berhormat Pg Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Pg Hj Abdul Rahman at the Syariah Fiqh Al-Usrah regional seminar organised by Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College (KUPUSB) and Indonesia’s Universitas Islam Negeri Alauddin, Makasar. He proposed a study be conducted on the implementation of the “Keluarga Sakinah” model specifically within Bruneian families as well as those in Makasar for the benefit of all.

In Indonesia, this concept had already been advocated by ‘Aisyiyah, a Muslimah movement, in the mid-80s, stated Nelly van Doorn-Harder in the book “Gender and Islam in Southeast Asia: Women’s Rights Movements, Religious Resurgence and Local Traditions”. A list was introduced determining the qualities of a “Keluarga Sakinah”, which encompasses: “1. the family’s practice of the religious rituals, 2. the educational level of its members, 3. a stable income; 4. good health and, 5. the family members entertain good relationships with each other and with the people around them.”

Doorn-Harder added that “mutual respect and concern of the spouses towards each other” is a central value of this family model.

Before marrying, my betrothed and I were requested to meet a close family friend who wanted to give some advice. The wise man said, “When there is a problem, do not point the finger at your spouse. Why? Because three other fingers are pointing at you.”

Marriage is hard work, but just like any other commitment and relationship, it starts with the individual.

“Notes From the Klang Valley” is written by a former Brunei resident who is now based in her home country of Malaysia. Sharing her observations on urban life and her insights on being a Muslimah professional juggling career and family commitments, the author believes Malaysians and Bruneians share many similarities and can learn from each other to create a better world.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, June 1, 2014

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http://www.bt.com.bn/features/2014/06/01/marriage-starts-individual

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