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Khutba delivered at the Great Mosque of Granada on the 28th of June 2019.
Allah says in the Quran:
They are clothing for you and you for them. (2:187)
Saidina Ali, may Allah have mercy on him, said that one of the names by which Allah calls the Prophet, peace be upon him, in the Qur’an, is “You who are enwrapped in your clothing“, this is also the name of one of the Surahs of the Quran. The next Surah is called “The enveloped in the cloak” and it also refers to the Prophet, peace be upon him.
In a Hadith transmitted by Aisha we are told that after a period of retreat in the cave of Hira, the Angel Jibril went to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed: “Read/Recite, in the name of your Lord who created, created man from clots of blood.” After this encounter, the Prophet returned to his home with a heart trembling with fear and told Khadija: “Cover me! cover me!”. This first revelation was followed by an interval of time in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, did not receive any revelation, until one day, while walking, the Prophet, peace be upon him, heard a voice from above and when he looked up he saw Jibril sitting between the heaven and the earth and once again he ran home overwhelmed and in a state of fear and excitement and again asked Khadija to cover him.
After this, the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked Khadija: “What’s wrong with me?” and told her what had happened to him and said: “I fear for my soul.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, feared that he had lost his mind. Khadija said: “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You maintain good relations with your relatives, you tell the truth, you help the poor and the destitute, you treat your guests with generosity and help to those who are in need.”
This is a clear and beautiful description of what it means that men and women are a “clothing” for one another.
The Surah “The enveloped in the cloak” continues:
(1) Oh, you who are enveloped in your cloak! (2) Arise and warn. (3) Magnify your Lord. (4) Purify your clothes. (5) Shun all filth. (6) Do not give out of a desire for gain. (7) Be steadfast for your Lord.
These ayats succinctly summarize what is expected from us, as human beings, whether we are a man or a woman. The first verse says: “Oh, you who are enveloped in your cloak!”. You, that before the force, the power and the majesty of the Revelation, need to gather yourself in yourself. The Revelation, the Qur’an, has been completed and it is the last of the Messages sent to humanity through the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. However, the moment in which we might experience the reality of our circumstantial existence, in which we might be aware of the ultimate Reality of life, is something that we all have to go through at some point in our lives. And it is at that moment when we will need someone to clothe us, to cover us, to help us gather ourselves up. Someone who, in a moment that might closely resemble madness, reminds us of who we are and with whom we can put into practice the verses that follow: (2) Arise and warn. (3) Magnify your Lord. (4) Purify your clothes. (5) Shun all filth. (6) Do not give out of a desire for gain. (7) Be steadfast for your Lord.
This is the noblest thing in which men and women can collaborate. To stand next to each other and proclaim the truth; to recognize, magnify and worship their Lord; to help each other purifying the inner and the outer; to protect each other from that which is abominable, low and vulgar and to be generous with one another and with everyone else without expecting anything in return.
This might be a part of the meaning of the following Hadith:
“Whoever Allah provides with a righteous wife, Allah has assisted him in half of his religion. Let him fear Allah regarding the second half.” (al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ, 992)
This is true for both men and women.
This Hadith is often explained by referring to the necessary qualities for a marriage to work: courage, generosity, mercy, patience or the covering of each other’s faults. No doubt that these qualities are all necessary to make a marriage flourish and last. But we can farther reflect on this Hadith in a way which does not contradict this but complements it.
In another hadith the Prophet, peace be upon him, says:
The believer is a mirror of his believing brother. (Adab al Mufrad)
First and foremost, our wives or husbands are sisters and brothers in our belief and, therefore, as the Hadith says, a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected. What we see in the other is the projection of our perception of what the other is, and, therefore, a reflection of ourselves.
The closer we place a mirror in front of an object, the greater the imperfections will appear, but we should not forget that, in this case, what we are seeing is a reflection of ourselves and that these imperfections are our own.
We need the other to know ourselves. The human being constantly projects outwardly the idea of who he is and what is the world; it is only through the encounter of his gaze with the gaze of the other that returns it that he can be aware of his circumstances.
Life is the constant encounter with the other, everything that is not I is other than me, and through this encounter we continuously discover ourselves. The isolated human being, without contact with the other, cannot know himself. This encounter with the other creates in the human being the perception of separation; he is a reality differentiated from the rest of creation, he is part of it, but it is different. This outward perception of separation is what brings about difference and what requires a Sharia.
Creation is the manifestation of the Power and the Will of Allah in millions of different forms, all of them indicating to the Creator. But the human being acknowledges within himself a quality which makes him different from the rest of creation; a quality that he recognizes in himself and that he recognizes in his peers.
When he stands in front of a human being of the opposite sex, whom he recognizes outwardly different but inwardly equal, he might begin to live the experience of the underlying unity in the manifestation of differences.
Allah has made the creation in a complementary and dynamic duality. The Quran says:
And We created all things in pairs so that hopefully you would pay heed. (51:49)
And in a Hadith transmitted by our mother Aisha, may Allah have mercy on her, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
Women are counterparts to men. (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 113)
We find this duality in everything that we observe. The finite and the timeless; the material and the spiritual; the determined and the undetermined. In the human being this duality is gathered; a part of his reality is finite and the other he perceives it as timeless; he is material and spiritual, determined and undetermined. Opposites are gathered in the human being and give birth to a new space: the meeting place of these two realities.
The human being feels realized when he is aware of this reality, whilst at the same time, this realization longs for the union with its opposite counterpart to be completed, for there is nothing in creation that is perfect or complete in itself, except Allah. So it seeks the union with its opposite counterpart, be it a man with a woman or vice versa; and when the union between these two parts of duality occurs, the human being is liberated and in that moment of liberation, in what might constitute the ultimate act of outwardly letting go of oneself, a new life is born. Necessarily separation follows the union. Without separation there can be no union and the separation can only occur after the union.
This is only possible when both, man and woman, are each a whole in themselves, a unique expression of the manifestation of their dual essence.
In this regard the hadith that we have mentioned says that whomsoever Allah provides with a righteous spouse, He has given him half of the Din. That is, he has placed next to him or her the possibility of half of the understanding of reality, the half that he will need so that, once his potentiality is realized separately, he can experience the union of the duality. And the Hadith continues: “Let him fear Allah regarding the second half.” Because it is only through Taqwa, the reverential consciousness imbued with fear of Allah, that the human being can realize himself and attain knowledge. Allah says in the Quran
Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge. Allah has knowledge of all things. (2:282)
The Messenger of Allah said:
There is nothing like marriage for two who love each other. (Ibn Majah)
As we have said in the first part of Khutba, the nature of the manifestation of creation is a dynamic duality. Every essence needs a form and every form is the manifestation of an essence. Marriage is the most perfect form, the form Revealed by Allah, to enable the occurrence of an authentic encounter between man and woman -the essence-, and so that once this has taken place, it might be protected by the form.
When there is no clear form the essence is scattered, diluted, mixed and corrupted until its fragrance disappears. When the form is not an expression of the essence it is an empty, rigid and lifeless form.
In the union between a man and a woman, the external form is one for all: marriage. But the essence is infinitely diverse and depends on the alchemy that occurs from the mixing of the character of those who compose it. There is not a unique essence for all, this would be an impossibility on top of a cruelty, since it would reduce, simplify and standardize the human experience to the same model.
The standardization of form allows us to focus on what is important, which is the composition of the essence, with the reassurance that maintaining the form guarantees a secure receptacle for what we are creating. But when attention is focused on the form -on rights, duties and obligations- and the essence is out of sight, it becomes restrictive, narrow and heavy.
In a saying of Imam Malik we find:
Whoever applies himself to jurisprudence without applying himself to the science of the heart will have been corrupted. And whoever applies himself to the science of the heart without applying jurisprudence, will have fallen into heresy. And he who unites both will have found the truth. (Ali al-Adawi, vol 2, p 195)
In this saying, Imam Malik shows us the consequences of not taking into account the essence and the form knowing that each has its place and deserves its recognition.
In a famous Hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, says:
A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her Deen. So you should marry the one with the Deen (otherwise) you will be losers. (Sahih al-Bukhari 5090)
This applies to both men and women. When the Prophet, peace be upon him, mentions these reasons, he is mentioning, in a summarised way, the possibilities by which a man or a woman may feel attracted to each other. Three of them are material, external, and the fourth is internal and spiritual. And he tells us that, if we want to have a successful marriage, where form and essence have reality and coherence, we should choose the Deen. It is worth mentioning that, in the language of the Hadith and the Quran, when we speak of success or failure, it refers to both, success in this life and the next.
There are two points that I would like to mention regarding this Hadith.
“Choose the Deen” is often translated as “Choose the religion” and it is often understood as “the religious person”. But this is a restricted and crippled concept of what is Deen. The Deen implies someone’s understanding of himself, the creation and its place and purpose in it. It is obvious that from this understanding is manifested a manner of acting and behaving in the relationship of the individual to himself, to others and to the creation, but this manner of behaving is not limited to the moments in which he or she fulfils his worshipping acts, even though these might very numerous, or the external appearance, but it is observed -and perhaps more pertinently- in the manner in which he conducts himself in all acts and behaviours. It is clear that when two people with a similar worldview -regardless of which-, i.e. a way of understanding themselves, their circumstances and what they have to do, undertake a common task, it is much more likely that it will prosper. Thus, in marriage, which is a continuous common task, this takes paramount importance.
The second point that we can highlight from this Hadith is that there is not a single reason to choose a spouse. The Hadith implies a hierarchy in the order of these reasons, which on the other hand are not mutually exclusive, and puts the Deen as the heaviest one on the scale and the one that will give us success, but it does not deny the others. One of the reasons for this is that the human experience and the particular circumstances of each one can be many and varied and they might require different answers. What it does imply, however, is that we have to be aware of why we decide on one reason over another and what is our intention when we choose someone to start this enterprise.
Intention requires sincerity towards oneself, honesty about the reason why we are choosing one possibility amongst others and about what we expect from this union. When sincerity and honesty are not present what we find is that the result of our action does not correspond to what we hoped to obtain.
Sincerity towards oneself and our circumstances is not an easy task because it implies self-knowledge and knowing how to read the situation in which we find ourselves, but it is essential not only for marriage but for every task we might undertake. Life is a constant choice of one possibility amongst others and a constant change in us and in our circumstances that forces us to have to constantly rediscover who we are.
This task, to know oneself, is, after all, what we have been created for. Since real knowledge of oneself leads to knowledge of our Lord and this to worshipping Him.
And knowledge -not information- is a gift from Allah to those who have Taqwa. As we mentioned before:
Allah says in the Qur’an
Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge. Allah has knowledge of all things. (2:282)
O Allah, we ask you to make us people of Taqwa, and through this to give us knowledge and that knowledge will make sincere.