My 32 years of Islamic knowledge on Christian marriage proved untrue and unjust when I found myself in a church in Istanbul, Turkey, and saw first-hand the relationships of Christian couples. I will never forget the depth of amazement I went through in my conversations with these Christians and when I heard the teachings of the Gospel. One day in a conversation with a husband and wife, who were in their fifties, I was struck by their lovely and humble attitudes towards one another. As the wife spoke, the husband looked respectfully at her, showing a sincere gesture of respect in acknowledging her that this was her time, and lovingly waiting for her to finish her comments without interrupting her. His attitude was an eye-opening lesson to one who was from a pious Islamic background. I had not found such respect in the entire Quran and Muhammad’s biography toward any Muslim woman. I thought at the time that this wonderful family value was a product of Western modern thought. I never considered that it could be from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, in reading its words, I learnt new truths from its pages:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).Whereas the Quran says:
Take in thine hand a branch and smite therewith [your wife], and break not thine oath … (Q.38:44).The Gospel says:
Whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery. (Mark.19:9).Compare this with the teaching of the Quran that says:
And when thou (Muhammad) saidst unto him (Zeyd, Muhammad’s adopted son) …: Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah. And thou didst hide in thy mind (your desire to Zeyd’s wife) that which Allah was to bring to light, and thou didst fear mankind (who would see your desire to someone else’s wife as immoral) whereas Allah hath a better right that thou shouldst fear Him. So when Zeyd had performed that necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We (Allah) gave her unto thee in marriage, so that there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled (Q.33:37). [Descriptions in brackets are not part of the Quran but are in accordance with the Islamic traditions and commentaries.]This verse is saying that Muhammad desired to have Zeynab (the wife of his adopted son, Zeyd) as his own wife. So Allah (his god) rushed to bring his desire into reality, thus encouraging Zeyd to divorce his wife for the sake of Muhammad’s desire. After the divorce, Muhammad immediately took her as his wife.
We can see that Muhammad uses marriage primarily as an opportunity for fleshly desires and disregards the loving heart of the true God in marriage. The God of the Gospel ordained a one man and one woman union from creation, where spouses may experience edifying relationships with each other; teaching their children based on this love and unity, forming pillars in building healthy societies.
Islam considers the abuse of spouses and polygamy as piety, where Christianity considers it immoral. Having more than one wife, or disregarding the Christian marital values, which is prevalent in the Western countries, are the direct result of refusing God’s love; they have nothing to do with piety and righteousness, or with freedom, as many in the West claim. These ungodly attitudes, rather, are motivated by the love of self that encourages the misuse of power for selfish gain and is a threat to healthy relationships within a family.
God’s desire for marriage is for the husband and wife to practice their freedom in the context of being one in body, mind and spirit. As in a body, all members support and uphold each other, and none discriminates against any other. The Gospel puts this relationship in a wonderful way saying:
[T]hat there not be division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another (1Corinthians 12:25).In a similar manner, a husband and wife should truly be dependent on each other, having wholehearted interest in one another. One’s individual interests should not be at the cost of the other's, disregarding his or her rights as redundant or worthless. They must love each other completely; not fifty per cent, not eighty five per cent but one hundred per cent.
Love is the fundamental tool put forward by God from eternity as a creative and fruitful means for establishing a united family with a united hope. In a similar way, united families will, in turn, be able to establish united communities and nations. For this reason, love surpasses every other thing in God’s philosophy for marriage. Godly love destroys the separating walls between a husband and wife (as with any other relationships) and leads them to a sincere unity in spirit and flesh. As the Gospel says:
For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh (Matthew 19:5).Alienation from the marital values of the Gospel produces unfriendliness, fractions, rivalries, conflicts and separation. If a husband and wife wish to have effective values for the establishment of a joyful and loving family, they will find no greater source than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It truly is a blessing.