The holy month of Ramadan is a time of deep reflection for Muslims worldwide. Over the 30 days of Ramadan, Imam Sohaib Sultan of Princeton University will offer contemplative pieces on contemporary issues drawing from the wisdoms of the Qur’an – the sacred scripture that Muslims revere as the words of God and God’s final revelation to humanity. The Qur’an is at the heart of Muslim faith, ethics, and civilization. These short pieces are meant to inspire thought and conversation.
To all the newly wed or soon to be couples out there, I offer you my wedding sermon…
Marriage is not just a legal contract; it’s a spiritual one too. This spiritual covenant is, perhaps, most beautifully described in the Qur’an when God says that a wife is like a garment for her husband, and a husband is like a garment for his wife (2:187). If we think what a garment does – it beautifies, elevates, comforts, covers and completes a person. Likewise, you are called to be this for each other through this spiritual covenant.
Marriage has a very real and high purpose. The Qur’an puts it this way: “so that you may dwell in tranquility” (30:21). It is tranquility that gives you a taste of the spiritual home that you came from and the home to which your soul yearns to return to – the abode of the hereafter that is filled with gardens for the righteous. So help each other cultivate this garden of tranquility here on Earth in preparation for that garden of tranquility that awaits.
To grow this garden, God gives you as a wedding gift two seeds with which to plant your flowers and trees: “And God places between [your hearts] love and compassion” (30:21). Love is to always want for your spouse what you want for yourself – Prophet Muhammad’s golden rule. It is to think of your spouse and to consider him or her well when you are together and when you are not. Love means commitment and loyalty. Compassion is to strive to be and remain empathetic toward each other throughout life, and to never allow apathy to settle between yourselves. It means listening to each other and being there for each other during times of ease and difficulty. And it means being able to forgive each other for shortcomings often and readily.
Every garden needs three things to grow beautifully and healthily: fertile soil that you can plant your roots in, sunlight everyday and nourishing rain that visits often enough.
Let the fertile soil of your marriage be God consciousness. If your marriage is rooted in the powerful idea that God has brought you together and that you’re, in the end, responsible before God in how you treat each other, then your marriage will be rooted in something that can withstand even the heaviest of storms. So pray together often. Fast together when you can. And go out and give in charity and serve the needs of others always. You will find God with you.
Let the sunlight everyday be gratitude – gratitude to God, yes, but also gratitude to each other. Recognize the blessing that each of you is for the other. Let no day go by in which you do not exchange gifts of gratitude. The simplest gifts, like a warm smile on a rainy day, can be the most valuable of these gifts. Giving each other your time, no matter how busy life gets, is the most important of these gifts. And, don’t let a day go by in which you do not say “Thank you” or “God bless you,” simple but important words of appreciation.
And, let the nourishing rain be patience and perseverance. This is simply because life is not always easy and being in a relationship is not always fruits and peaches. It takes struggle, sacrifice and hard work. Take each other by the hand and commit to going forward through every peak and valley with fortitude. And as God says, do this not grudgingly but with “beautiful patience” (70:5).
In conclusion, every couple has a critical decision to make: whether this garden of tranquility will be just for yourselves and your own enjoyment, or whether this garden will be for all those around you – your families, relatives, friends, community and society. I would submit to you that a holy marriage is one that chooses the latter. And this is why we pray, “May God unite you in all that is good,” because God has brought you together to be a force for spreading goodness in the world beginning with those who are closest to you. Therefore, let your marriage be about something much greater than your own selves.
We pray, then, that when people walk through your garden of tranquility and eat the fruits thereof, they say this is surely “from among the signs of God…for those who ponder” (30:21). And we pray as God asks the righteous to pray, “O our Guardian-Sustainer! Grant that our spouses and our children are a coolness for our eyes, and make us foremost among those who are God-conscientious and righteous” (25:74).