The Islamic Garden
Love as a Gift
If you love someone there are a lot of days to remember. People think it is very important not to forget birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s day. Our expressions of love are often expected to take on the form of a present, flowers or something tangible and without such things, our love is considered to be lacking. But really, how important is it that we focus the meaning of love onto specific days and onto material items that ultimately fade and die away?
As human beings we are motivated by different things. We struggle through each day and constantly deal with people and all the joy and harm which that entails. Maybe we are looking for a better and more secure future, or to impress someone or maybe we just want money. But few will argue that the greatest motivating factor in life is love. People have been known to do the bravest, strangest and most amazing things in the name of love! And this love emerges from a place deep within the heart; it has absolutely nothing to do with material objects.
It is a human need that we look for a soul mate; someone to share our life with. It is a dream to have a trusted person by our side to share life. When life gets tough and we feel alone we might gaze at the sky longingly, wishing and hoping to have that special someone to fill in all our gaps. Our thoughts, in such cases, move far beyond the tangible transient world; they enter the realm of the spirit, the world that exists just a step away from our mundane existence.
Despite all mankind’s developments and inventions, no one is able to say what it is that brings two people together. It might be attraction or a spark of interest but whatever it is, we have no control over our feelings of love. It is not within our power to increase them or get rid of them. Quite simply, such feelings are a gift from Almighty Allah and our job is to simply manage them because loving feelings are just like seeds that can either grow and develop, or fade and die away.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that getting married is half of our faith. When we think about all the interaction, soul searching, self-modification and compromise that go into making a relationship work, we can see the wisdom in these words. The person in your life acts like a mirror image showing you your strengths and your weaknesses. In a successful loving marriage relationship the couple learns to accept the differences in each other, respect those differences, give and take, and continue to be loving, sensitive and caring even when they feel estranged. This is an ongoing, day to day life endeavor. It is not something to be taken lightly and the amount of commitment, dedication and effort involved can never be expressed in a few words or a gift. At most, such things would be a mere token.
We walk past shops with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, cards, and stuffed toys all surrounded by advertisements giving us the message that ‘if we really love that special person we have to buy…..’ Now sometimes a gift of this sort touches the heart of your loved one and can put a little spark into the day, but the problem arises when such things are expected and the true sincerity and meaning of love is lost amid the glitter, ribbons and gift paper.
Love is deep, meaningful and beautiful. It can never be compared to a commodity on display. However, small kindnesses, gestures and a listening ear can show that special person in your life how much you care.
Let’s not forget how Almighty Allah described the marriage relationship: "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect" (Quran 30:21).
The financial crisis has touched countries all across the world and many people are forced to be careful with their money, so if a couple has defined the expression of their love through materialism, they will certainly not be satisfied. Where does this leave such a couple?
If they base their relationship on the myriad of feelings and emotions that bind them; they will not be dependent on exchanges gifts and giving material items to keep that connection alive. The greatest foundation that connects a couple is feelings of friendship. If a couple can have realistic expectations of each other and focus on enjoying positive interaction they are much more likely to have a happy marriage.
A loving relationship is not sustained just by romance but by the everyday activities the couple shares, keeping promises, being there for each other, being honest especially in times of conflict and each maintaining a character that is easy to love and be loved. As the honeymoon period wears off it is the friendship that exists between the couple that drives them to a higher level in their relationship. This can only happen when each person is aware of their weaknesses and acknowledges that the relationship must always be worked on; it must be continually nurtured.
The greatest gift a couple can give each other is forgiveness. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) asked his Companions, “Do you wish that Allah should forgive you?" They said, “Of course Prophet of Allah.” He responded, "Then forgive each other."
We are human beings and will ultimately hurt each other despite the love we feel. Therefore, one of the main components of a happy marriage is that the couple is able to forgive. They should never hold grudges or be judgmental towards each other. The challenge for both parties is not to dwell on the wrongs said or done or to lay blame, but to move past it. If the couple is too stingy to forgive, this higher level in their relationship will not be achieved.
When it comes to exchanging gifts, we should remember the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), "Exchange presents with one another, for they remove ill feelings from the hearts." (Tirmidhi)
At the same time, however, we should fully realize that the long-lasting love that we all hope for does not have a price tag and grows from a place in our hearts that is far removed from this material world.