Does anyone really know what love is?
On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will Allah, Most Gracious bestow love. (1)
Love is an important part of human life. It is both giving and receiving; it allows us to experience another person and lets that person experience us. Often we look at love selfishly, as something we want and need; but true love, because it is part of our relationship with Allah (swt), is selfless.
One of Islam's most important principles is "none of you is truly a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." (2) How can this be possible - don't we love for ourselves more than anything else naturally? The answer lies in the fact that true, selfless love stems not from the body and material comforts, but from the ruh. On this spiritual level, it is possible to truly share your love with another person.
Selfish and selfless love - what's the difference?
There are two types of love - selfish love and selfless love - they are the exact opposites of one and other. Selfish love is conditional love; you simply want your needs to be met, and if the person you have chosen to love doesn't serve your needs, you reject that person and search elsewhere. Although it may seem beautiful for a time, such love without growth is bound to fail. When the person you love wants help, you may give it. But once the price becomes too high, if you feel you are giving more than you are receiving, you simply stop loving. After all, there is only so much discomfort that you are willing to tolerate for another person.
Selfless love, though, means rising above your own needs. It means going outside of yourself, truly connecting with another person's ruh and therefore with Allah (swt). There are no conditions to selfless love; when Allah (swt) is the focus of our love, we do not constantly redefine our wants and needs.
Selfless love - how can you get some?
Abu Dharr (ra) heard The Prophet (saws) say: The best of the actions is to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah. (3)
To achieve selfless love, you must first learn to love yourself, to create harmony between your body and ruh. This means understanding who you really are and what you have been put on this Earth to accomplish. If you are in conflict with yourself, how can you expect to reach a comfortable love with another person?
If you don't find a way to love Allah (swt), to love Allah (swt) who gave you your ruh, you will be on a constant search for love. We often turn to unhealthy forms of love to replace this lack of inner love.
What makes a successful marriage?
It is He Who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power over all things. (4)
The key to a successful marriage is appreciating its divine nature. When a husband and a wife introduce Allah (swt) into their relationship, they become one, with an unseen hidden bond that makes their unity, their marriage, far greater than the sum of its parts.
Two people may love and care for each other, but without a love for Allah (swt), they have nothing to bond them eternally. Such a bond is necessary, besides being two strangers with different personalities and backgrounds; a husband and a wife differ biologically, emotionally, and spiritually and will undergo many transitions in their lives.
Creating trust in marriage
Every successful marriage must include trust. Trust does not come overnight; it takes time to build. But once established, it serves as a solid foundation that will support a marriage through any issues that arise.
Trust does not come from perfect behaviour; it comes from personal accountability. No one can be expected to be perfect, but they can be expected to be accountable, to acknowledge their shortcomings. Trust means that you have demonstrated that your partner can depend on you, that you have the integrity to act properly even when no one but Allah (swt) is watching.
Spend time with your partner engaged in spiritual activities - study the Quran together, pray together. Schedule time to talk about the emotional and spiritual paths that you are both on. Share your goals, your visions - your dreams! Make sure that you commit time to discuss not only the 'business of the household', but your Iman and your Deen as well.
Commitment is based on a family mission statement. But sometimes it is the little things that matter, that prove to your partner that you are committed. Doing the shopping. Cleaning up the house. Asking if there is anything you can to do when the other is busy. When one partner travels, he or she should bring back a gift for the other. Even when you are working on something independent of your home and marriage, you should try to involve your partner as the constant love in your life.
The most critical element in achieving a peaceful, loving marriage is learning to cultivate harmony at home, learning to communicate and handle the things that come up in any marriage. Learning how to get around an argument, how to make-up, how to cope when things are going poorly. Above all, a loving union is remembering that love, all love is for the sake of Allah (swt).
The Prophet (saws) said "Allah shall ask on the Day of Judgement, ' Where are those who loved for the sake of my Greatness? Today when there is no shade save Mine, I shall have them in My Shade.'" (5)
2) an-Nawawi Hadith: 13
3) Abu Dawud: Book 40, Number 4582
5) Sahih Muslim: Kitab al Birr wa al Silah