So, Allah jalla wa ‘ala says in al-Rum, 21:
“Another of His signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquillity: He placed love and mercy between you. There truly are signs in this for those who reflect.”
There are many things to say about this magnificent verse but we do the random stuff remember?
So look at this – “He placed love and mercy between you” – just two characteristics in any old order right?
Behave. You *know* Allah doesn’t just do “any old order”!
This verse exposes the *true* reality behind all marriages, and the solution for saving them too.
See, Allah starts with the basic concept of “love” because it is really only present in the initial stage of a marriage that ignites the relationship between you, a state where there is such an attraction and forgiving nature to one another that the time period is actually called a “honeymoon period” because of just how taken they are with each other.
Actually, this doesn’t work in English. In Arabic however it makes much more sense. See, “love” is a big thing in Arabic with a bucket load of words referring to different types, levels and intensity of love. The word used in this verse is مَّوَدَّةً (mawaddah) which of course a translator can only translate to “love”, but as Allah tells us to deeply reflect on the verse at the end of it, we should realise that this is not some generic ordinary “love”, but rather one of the most intense types of love that is found when men and women get together. It involves passion and intimacy that one expects at the onset of a relationship yet it is a lesser love and level to the next higher category of love which is known as العِشْرَةُ (‘ishrah) – and ‘ishrah is only achieved as the linguists said when a significant time has passed between a husband and wife. In normal human terms it is as deep as love can get between a couple. And ‘ishrah by definition, has mawaddah as only its opening stage.
If you’ve understood *that* then you will realise that mawaddah is only limited in its impact at the beginning of a marriage, and as Allah now tells us, it will *not* be enough for a *successful* marriage in the long term.
That’s because once that initial love starts to fade and the water starts to run dry, something bigger and more important needs to kick in: MERCY.
To give the example of a dish: you might have a fabulous recipe and lovely fresh ingredients which you throw into the pot and everything starts cooking great, but now for the final perfect result we have to put the gas right down and let it simmer and trot along for the next few hours.
Leave the gas too high and *it* will burn out and it will burn everything in the pot.
Turn the gas off, you get no dish.
Put it on a low slow gas, you’ll get a perfect result at the end. And yes, that low gas is “mercy”.
That is why Allah put love and mercy in this order, to show us that although love is important, it’s not the vital ingredient; indeed, what is love except a second hand emotion as a golden oldie once told us?
Allah tells us that we need to activate the mercy button pretty quick in a marriage. We shouldn’t wait until the love runs out, but if it ever does, then being merciful – to one another’s mistakes, irritations, bad habits, laziness etc etc etc that all married couples know all too well – will be the solution to saving that marriage.
Of course this isn’t easy and there will be many legitimate complaints but most of the time this is a perfectly good relationship that is just struggling and needs as much mercy as you can possibly muster. As much Sunnah as you can possibly muster. As much hadith like “When you see something that displeases you, look to that which pleases you” as you can possibly muster.
Allah could have said “mercy and love” in the verse, but that doesn’t fit with our human experience. And because He is the Creator of the human experience, His accuracy in the verse is what we expect!
In summary: love ignites a marriage and mercy sustains it.
-Sh. Abu Eesa