By Leli Nurohmah

The writer has interviewed several women in regard to the issues of marriage. The answers given are diverse, among others: “For me, marriage is the stage that must be undergone as a woman. When we have grown up, we have to get married, taking care of a husband, having a child and grandchild, and finally die”. Another answer is also given, “When I got married, I was still a student in the school, still liked playing. My father said, “My daughter, you do not need to go to school anymore. You have already been proposed. Next month, you become a young wife of Mr. Fulan (fictitious name)”. 

The answers given sound very familiar to our ears. After marriage, a woman is entered into a new world which is much different from her previous life. When she has become a wife, the woman is usually better known by her husband’s name rather than her own name. Even, marital status often eliminates her real identity. Often, we hear the names Mrs. Darmawan, Mrs. Sugeng, Mrs. Syamsuri, which replace their teenage names like Yunita, Tini, Aisyah, and so forth. 

In the context of domestic life, the cases of violence against women and children are very common problem.  The house does not always become a safe place for women and children. Many cases of domestic violence happen and strangely free from a legal process, because women victims do not dare to report such violence to the police officer. Some women still perceive that domestic violence is considered a disgrace that needs to be concealed from the public . 

Another concerning issue related to marriage is the issue of polygamy that still becomes a lifestyle of some men, especially who have an economic stability and social status. Many researches have shown that polygyny triggers  violence against women and children in many ways, be it emotional, physical, sexual and economic violence. The last issue  is a secret marriage (unregistered marriage—in Bahasa called ‘nikah sirri’) whose negative impacts are so much experienced by women and children. Again and again, the victims of unregister marriage are the women and children because they don’t have any legal protection from the state. 

How does Islam teach us about marriage? If we refer to the goal and wisdom of marriage within Islamic tradition is really great and beautiful. Al-Hamdani (p.20), for example, mentions that the wisdom of marriage is to establish a family binding and to strengthen the bond of affection between the couple. The family which is united with the bond of love and affection is a solid and happy family. Another viewpoint, Tandjung (p.20) states that the wisdom of Islam to encourage marriage is to avoid human beings from any harmful acts, calamity, slander, and others. 

With reference to the literal definition of marriage, it contains a meaning of ‘aqdu tamlik (a contract which indicates an ownership). In this case, the woman assumed to belong to her husband, after getting separated from her father. With a such definition—the consequence is a domination, unbalanced power relationship between the husband and wife—, the wife seems to be an absolute possession of her husband and lose her independent authority. All control of a wife’s life is in the hand of the husband. A wife has no power to oppose or rebel when her husband commits violence against her under pretext to  give a lesson.

As if, such view has rooted in the subconscious of the woman. When the woman loves her opposite sex, the next stage is a marriage that becomes an estuary and a vessel for sharing affections. The aforesaid wrong opinion of the woman in regard to marriage, at the beginning of this writing, is regarded as a proper understanding and that is how the woman is supposed to be. Thus, love is defined as the elimination of woman’s identity and the acceptance of tough responsibility that she has to bear with it voluntarily on behalf of love. 

It is very interesting what is stated by Collins (1987, p.102) about a romantic love of a woman in the marriage. He says, traditionally, many people think that love will end with a happy marriage. In fact, after the cake of the wedding has been shared and the wedding dress is taken off, the woman must return to the real life forever until the death is coming. A woman then must prepare to organize her new house, being a wife, and a mother.

Further, Collins in his writing (p.101) explains the views of Greer (1987) and Firestone (190) that the scenario of romantic and non-romantic love is one thing of many other temptations which lead the woman to the gender-traditional roles and under the domination of man.  The bond of love makes her dependent on the husband so that the work sharing based on the dichotomy of gender role is obeyed with pleasure without any protest.

If we refer to the religion, especially Islam, there are some principles that can be our guidance for undergoing marriage. First is the principle of freedom to select a spouse. Selecting spouse is the right for a man  as well as a woman, as long as it does not violate the stipulated provisions of the shari’a. Before Islam, a female does not have the right to select, even herself is fully owned by her father or her guardians. Second is the principle of mawaddah wa rahmah (Surah 30:21). Mawaddah means affection, while rahmah means compassion.

Mawaddah wa rahmah is formed from a sincere mood and a will to sacrifice for the shared happiness between a wife and a husband. The husband and wife should have been united with the bond of mawaddah and rahmah since the marriage contract, so they will be really tenacious in undergoing the ocean of marriage. Third is the principle of complementary and protection as stated in the Qur’an (QS 2: 187). The verse implies that as a creature, male and female have weaknesses and excellences. No one is perfect in everything and no one is completely having a weakness. To live, the husband and wife need each other. Each must function to meet the needs of the partner, like clothes to cover the body. Fourth is the principle of treating the spouse politely (mu’asyarah bi al-ma’ruf). Mu’asyarah bi al-ma’ruf can be understood as a friendship and kinship which are established together in accordance with the tradition and situation of the society, but not against religious norms, common sense, and human nature as well (Husein Muhammad, p. 107). 

It is clear that the basic principles as explained above will provide protection for each spouse in the family. Besides, the message of equality between men and women is very obvious in these principles. We admit that the patriarchal culture is still dominant in our society until nowdays. The position of man is superior, while the position of woman is inferior. Based on those phenomena, it is time to return the spirit of marriage to its initial objectives and in accordance with the principles of Islam so that the harmony of life can be achieved. 

If the domestic life cannot run as the expectation then—according to the Qur’an (QS 2: 229-231)—the husband must determine one of the two options: first, fulfilling all rights of the wife and committing all of his duties with courtesy and second, breaking the marriage bond and liberate his wife in a proper and polite manner (ma’ruf). There is no other choice. Therefore, the attitude of the husband who neither want to fulfill  the rights of the wife properly, or to divorce her  is completely against Islamic teaching.

The injunctions and the basic principles about marriage assigned by God are not supposed to be a mere ornament or “dream” which is difficult to be realized in our life. Because, the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, the Messenger of Allah has provided us the best example (uswatun hasanah) about how to achieve tranquility, affection, and compassion (sakinah mawaddah wa rahmah) in the family, has not he?*

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