20 May 2008

Between Marriage and Studies

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Whoever follows a route in pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise." (Muslim)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "When a person gets married he has completed half of his religion, so let him fear Allah with regard to the remaining half." (authenticated by Al-Albani)

These two sayings of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) are guidelines for a Muslim's life. We should strive to follow both, completing ourselves holistically. But what happens when marriage and education collide, shattering our carefully planned lives? Which then is preferable — marriage or studies?

Undoubtedly, the importance of marriage in Islam cannot be overemphasized. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Oh youth! Whoever of you can get married should get married for it helps in lowering the gaze and guarding one's chastity" (Agreed upon).

Marriage is a beautiful institution designed for a man and a woman to fulfill their natural needs for each other and to create a family. It is the basic foundation of all societies. A society without marriage will most certainly be riddled with problems. Islam encourages us to marry young to prevent us from sinning.

However, Islam is for all ages and takes into account the situation of the time. In today's world, education is empowerment. It gives people confidence to use their intellect and confidence in themselves. We find many young women who are practicing Islam at the university, furthering their education, yet maintaining their modesty. In this way they are preparing themselves to be able to contribute to their society and raise the level of their children and their family. If such a person gets divorced or widowed, she will have something to fall back onto. Does it have to be a cold, hard choice between marriage and education? Why can't it be both?

Let us take a glimpse into the lives of four women. Sameera is 18. She has just completed her high school certificate and wants to study law. However, she has received a good marriage proposal. Upon seeking advice from a sheikh, she was told to abandon her studies and get married. She wants to do what is "Islamically" correct, but she also wants to be happy within. Raeesa is 28. A medical doctor, she is now specializing to be a cardiologist. A beautiful woman, she has rejected proposal after proposal, intent on her studies. Having a successful career is important to her, and she feels marriage can wait. Tasneem is 22. She has her bachelor's in psychology and is now pursuing her master's. Soon after graduating, she got married. For her, marriage completes her. She has what she's always strived for — a good education and a good husband. Amina is 32. She was happily married for ten years, content with her life. Then, suddenly and shockingly, her husband divorced her. She had lived for her husband and children, and now finds herself floating aimlessly. Now she wished she had studied first, as her parents had wanted.

Tasneem's story is clearly the scenario we all want to enact. She's satisfied on all levels. Islam is about moderation on all levels. Therefore, we should never choose the extreme option. Why is it that when a young woman talks of wanting to further her studies, some people immediately assume she cares only for her career and will neglect her family? Most young women who have studied will tell you otherwise.

They study to satisfy their natural thirst for knowledge. There are also a large number of women who would rather not work. They will place their families before their careers, and prefer to work only part-time or not at all. There are many who feel that education on all fronts enables them to practice their deen more strongly. It enables them to help others on many levels.

For example, a psychologist will deal with a patient's problems in an Islamic manner, guiding the patient closer to Allah. So you don't want to be forced to choose either marriage or studies? Is there a way you can do both? In the Arab world especially, people often make the official marriage contract but don't move in together right away. The marriage is not consummated, but they may legally spend time alone together. In this way, both the man and woman may pursue their studies while married. This system holds many advantages and is gaining popularity among Muslims in non-Muslim countries, too. In this way, a couple may get to know each other better prior to living together. They may save for married life, and no matter what their pursuits, they are safe in the knowledge of being married.

Our every action is based on intention. If we are studying for the benefit of mankind, for the cause of our Muslim Ummah, then our studies will be a source of reward for us. Let us use this precious education wisely. There are some scholars who say that a girl's schooling should stop once she possesses the basic skills of reading and writing. I cannot but disagree with this. We are all aware of the famous saying "If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation." How then will it be possible for a woman who possesses only basic literacy skills to teach her children? What knowledge will she impart to them? If the love for learning has not been instilled in her, how will she instill it in her children?

`A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was one of the greatest scholars of Islamic history. She memorized over two thousand Hadith, and the Companions sought knowledge at her feet. The important point is that no matter what a woman studies, as long as her intention is to use it for the benefit of Islam, it will be a source of reward for her. Let us not deny women a basic right, but let women not abuse this right either. Let women not have to choose between two basic needs. Let them be allowed to live harmoniously with fulfilling both.

http://www.islamonline.net/English/Youth/BetterMe/LifesChallenges/2006/0\ 8/04.shtml

No comments:

Post a Comment