If someone were to conduct a survey about love & marriage, it would not be surprising to observe gaping disparities in the results, based on the respondents’ age. It is a fact that older and wiser people learn life lessons over the years, which make them more in-tune with reality.
Youngsters tend to be more idealistic, however, and their ideas about love & marriage are often fueled by wishful fantasies and fictional stories abounding in print and media.
When fair-seeming illusions become widely accepted, it is not surprising for the Islamic restrictions and conditions around romantic love and marriage to appear somewhat cumbersome to the biased, uninformed onlooker.
They might wonder: why not just begin and end a romantic and sexual relationship based upon the intensity of attraction and desire?
Why go to lengths to get married, instead? Getting the girl’s guardian’s permission, setting a dower, having two male witnesses present, convening and announcing the nikah in the masjid, and hosting a banquet afterwards?
Shouldn’t love and romance be easy come, easy go?
Why tie so many strings?
Pursuit of Desires vs Self-Discipline
Islam tries to curb desires, and encourages Muslims to practice self-discipline. The purpose of self-control, patience, and deliberation in the face of natural desires, is to channelize them towards worshiping of the Creator.
That is why, in Islam, eating, sleeping, and having intimate relations with one’s spouse, all become acts of worship, if done in the halal and moderate manner.
Disallowing men and women, young or old, from committing adultery, or even going too close to it, is geared towards making them self-controlling, modest, and socially responsible individuals.
Worth of Women
Islam grants a high worth to a woman, including her body. She is not freely available to anyone who takes a fancy to her and pursues her with flattering words, just to get her into bed.
On the same token, a woman cannot invite someone to satisfy her desires, without his gaining permission from her guardian, and taking permanent financial responsibility for her, first.
Instead, Allah has attached the conditions of providing a woman with mahr at the time of nikah, and regular financial maintenance for her basic survival needs henceforth, for a man to be able to lawfully enjoy her body.
He also needs the permission and presence of her legal male Muslim guardian in order to be able to marry her, and have children from her.
These seemingly harsh preconditions to sex with a woman, make it hard if not impossible for men to exploit women for their physical beauty and bodies. Similarly, it prevents children borne out of wedlock whose fathers do not take responsibility for them.
Social Relationship Acknowledgement
A cursory glance at the rampant dynamics of promiscuity, prostitution, and dating nowadays, makes it clear why pursuit of sexual desires without accountability and responsibility leads to several social ills.
In Islam, one of the conditions of the validity of nikah, is for it to be announced in the local community. Convening the nikah at the masjid, hosting a banquet, and beating the one-sided drum, all serve the purpose of this announcement: a social declaration that a man and woman have been joined in holy matrimony.
These preconditions prevent the prevalence of secret & temporary marriages, which could be enacted by in-love couples to merely satisfy sexual desires on the sly, without taking any personal responsibility for their actions.
If one of them decides to leave and end this secret marriage, in the future, they might have a hard time being able to prove to others that they were once married.
Also, secret marriages lead to more abortions, and any children borne out of such unions can be left neglected, without having both parents present in their lives to raise them.
The Next Generation: Gender Roles and Responsibilities
Men and women, both, have been assigned certain roles in society, in order to live as accountable individuals who benefit others. Islam ordains taking full responsibility of one’s actions, and duly fulfilling one’s role in life. Islam also prohibits committing any injustices in our relationships with others.
Marriage is the only relationship that gives rise to, and nurtures, the next generation of human beings. Hence, in Islam, marriage assigns to both a husband and wife their specific roles and duties, so that they can perform the pivotal job of raising the next generation of Muslims in an optimal manner.
Conclusion: Focus on Fact Over Fiction
Instead of getting dewy-eyed over illusory tales of lovelorn couples secretly eloping or taking vows to declare their supposed undying love for each other, we all need to open our eyes and wake up to reality.
Pursuit of lusts and fleeting romances are all part of a deceptive illusion that leaves little besides bitter hearts, forlorn souls, guardian-less children, and painful regrets in its path.
Marriage is the real deal, and all the preconditions that come with it in Islam, just go to ensure that each spouse fulfills their role and responsibilities in the relationship.
Even if the romantic love comes and goes, marriage provides stability, security, growth, and an identity to the basic family unit.