Being alone is only truly appropriate for Allah the Almighty. The Creator has reserved oneness for Himself alone, while He has created all of existence in pairs. Thus all creatures are in need of each other and at the same time, since they are created, they have intrinsic deficiency and weakness in their nature. Ma siwa Allah, “the other-than-Allah” – all beings except Allah the Almighty – are continuously in need of both each other and Allah the Almighty.
Out of all creation, human beings need each other the most. People have so many needs and requests, compared to other beings! Because people always want to live in material and spiritual comfort, their needs constantly increase and never come to an end. Problems, privation, pains, sufferings and disasters all present us with difficulties. In times of trouble, we look for a soul to take shelter with and a hand to hold.
Thus the descendant of Adam (peace be upon him) is indicated in Arabic by the word insan, which is derived from the word uns or unsiyya, meaning intimacy. Even philology demonstrates our need to be close to our fellows! This need is our first quality and humans are distinguished by this quality.
The clearest manifestation of intimacy is the togetherness that joins a man and a woman. This matter is necessary, even obligatory, for the continuance of human generations.
The necessity of togetherness manifests itself in living beings through the existence of males and females and in inanimate beings though the existence of positive and negative poles. This situation is stated in the Qur’an in many verses:
“And of everything We have created pairs: that ye may receive instruction.” (51: 49)
“Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.” (36:36)
“And (have We not) created you in pairs?” (78: 8)
To possess the nature of being created in pairs means to be created as man and woman, complementary, not in twos of the same kind. In such a case, the creation of one of the two would be redundant and redundancy cannot be attributed to Allah the Almighty. Therefore Allah created the creation in gendered couples. Yet each individual created is unique in itself. Allah does not create duplicate beings, exactly the same. Even identical twins have many physical and spiritual differences.
So Allah the Almighty created all beings in complementary pairs and simultaneously placed His divine law of attraction between them in order to make them come closer to each other. For He has assigned the spiritual and material development of all these pairs to the unification possible between them.
Although the need and attraction a man feels toward a woman and a woman toward a man essentially serve the continuance of progeny, this is not their only purpose. One of their most significant functions is to form the basis for stable families, which create an environment that allows individuals to achieve spiritual and social peace and balance. This goal can be achieved only through mahabbat Allah, the inclination of the heart to Allah the Almighty with love.
At times the love for God can be attained through earthly love: the lover ascends from Laila (the archetypal human beloved) to Mawla (the Lord – the divine beloved). But for this journey to be possible, there has to be a Laila in the first place! Then love between a man and a woman may constitute the first step in coming closer to Allah. Even if attraction begins with the arousal of selfish desires, it cannot turn into true human love until it is freed from the selfishness of those desires. When the mutual be holding of divine attributes is manifested in the lovers, only then do we call attraction, love.
The heart, which is the subtle center of attraction, is exercised and strengthened through couples’ affection for each other and thus gains capacity for the love of Allah. The ability to sustain Divine love is further developed through love for one’s children, the natural fruit of a family.
In order to be encompassed by love for Allah, a marriage must be founded upon divine principles. A marriage undertaken purely for the sake of carnal desires and inclinations usually does not create love. The spiritual development and training of the heart through love that may be expected from an Islamic marriage cannot be realized in families established on lust alone, because in such marriages couples become slaves. Forget spiritual progress: such couples may even lose the spiritual levels they had enjoyed while single.
A desirable marriage is one which matures us and helps us to spiritually improve. A marital relationship that functions in such a way manifests an ideal perfection. It is this kind of marriage that is called, in the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “half of religion.” Attaining half of something does not mean we give up seeking the other half! We should do everything we can to realize the ideal attributes of a marriage. Only then can we achieve the maturity, peace and tranquility we aim for.
Although intimate relationship between a man and a woman is one way to achieve the capacity for Divine love, it is not the only way. Single people can and do make spiritual progress. There are many pious single people mentioned in the Qur’an, starting with Mary(****)and Jesus (may Allah be pleased with them). This fact confirms that not everybody is created with the same natural abilities. Environment, too, has differing effects on people. In some people’s destiny the paths to marriage are closed; obstacles preventing marriage may constitute a divine test for them. For others, marriage can be a source of suffering and disappointment. Allah the Almighty bestows certain special capabilities upon those servants who endure such tests and through these capabilities they can obtain the spiritual benefits to be expected from a normal marriage. Some single servants of Allah made great spiritual progress through their mercy and compassion to animals and plants. Others ascended the steps of spirituality by bearing with the tests of their marriages. The Companions of the Bench, who comprised Companions of the Prophet who were too poor to get married, reached the peaks of spirituality through knowledge and learning. It should not be forgotten, however, that these are exceptional and special cases. The general rule is that human beings should get married and start a happy family.
(****)The name of Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an 34 times and also 23 times as part of the phrase “Jesus son of Mary.” In addition, the nineteenth chapter of the Qur’an is named after her. She is the only woman who is mentioned in the Qur’an by her personal name. Some of the wise intentions behind this special treatment, as divined by Qur’anic exegetes, include:
- The previously debased image of women was exalted through our mother Mary.
- Her being continually mentioned as the mother of one of the greatest prophets shows the value given to motherhood in Islam.
- The emphasis on the chastity of our mother Mary shows the importance of protecting the chastity of women; protecting chastity is obligatory in Islam.
- Distinctive feminine virtues are highlighted through Mary’s personality. Though her we learn that qualities such as chastity, dignity, patience, submission, resistance and courage, are characteristics elevating the station of women before Allah the Almighty.
It is a fact that a heart without love and affection is like an unplanted field, left idle for a long time. The relationship between man and woman will cultivate this land. Of course, to be successful, such a relationship cannot be based on selfish desires. Success can be achieved only by getting rid of selfish motives. As we have said, an intimate natural relationship must turn its direction to divine love, because only when the connection between man and woman attains this divine quality do souls ascend in the love for Allah. To have children in this state constitutes the second level in reaching the love for Allah. Next comes love for relatives, friends, teachers and others. So the heart matures, step by step drawing closer to its highest goal, divine love. After becoming one with divine love, a servant joins the friends of Allah the Almighty. This is the purpose of the creation of humanity.
In short, our need for family and for togetherness between man and woman is a reality embedded in our natures by our Creator in order to realize a lofty goal. The more we realize this goal, the more the tree of family branches out, bearing sweet fruits of social peace, tranquility and balance.
Therefore the establishment of a peaceful family environment comes at the head of the list of the most important endeavors for raising society to a civilized level. Man and woman make their pledges to each other in the name of Allah the Almighty because that promise marks their intention to make love a reality in accordance with of the purpose of their creation. Of course mutual respect, trust and sincerity must nurture their efforts!