Quranic Wisdom on Marriage: The Surprising Benefits of Forgiveness

Throughout the duration of our brief time on this Earth, there is perhaps no one who is more intimately connected to us than our spouse. While the love we have for our parents and children is undoubtedly strong, that bond is not comparable to the one that we form and share with our chosen life companion. It is to them that we reveal our most intimate secrets and wishes. We care for one another deeply. We seek comfort and solace in each other. It is they that know us better than everyone else, sometimes even better than we know ourselves. It is our spouses who accompany and stand by us, day in, day out, through thick and thin, faithfully and loyally.

It is no surprise, then, that the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) identifies the death of a spouse as the most stressful event in a person’s life, followed closely by divorce.

The loss of a spouse is an extremely devastating experience, one that surpasses even the pain of losing a father or child. Why? Because marriage is a very distinct and unique kind of relationship. We enjoy each other’s company and struggle together through hardships, as a team. We share intimacy, have children together and enjoy nurturing them and watching them grow, as a team. We depend on each other to be there for us when we need them and to help us get back up when we fall in life. We take care of and relish each other like no other. We confide in one another and look to each other for sincere advice. There is a special form of closeness within marriage that we do not share with even our own mothers, siblings or closest friends.

With such a deep level of emotional and physical attachment, however, conflicts are bound to arise. When something that we cherish so greatly is at stake, it is only natural to be passionate about it and, sometimes, that means becoming embroiled in disputes.

This reality is reflected in the Qur’an, which reminds us that our possessions and children are merely a test from Allah; and that there is a great reward which awaits those who persevere through all the hardships and difficulties.

Moreover, know that, indeed, your wealth and your children are but a trial (fitnah) [for you] and that, assuredly, with Allah is a [far more] magnificent reward. (Qur’an, 8:28)

But does this mean that we’re doomed to just suffer in silence, enduring the pain inflicted upon us by our beloved partner? Sadly, this distressful dilemma often leads couples towards acting contrary to their best interests, doing things they go on to later regret, employing destructive schemes, which effectively end up tearing their relationship and their family apart.

From hurling hurtful insults to carrying out acts of physical violence, the repercussions of lashing out can be catastrophic. And yet, in the face of such trials, we are not devoid of hope.

As orthodox Muslims who are true to our faith, we acknowledge that Islam allows for the husband to employ hajr (separating from the wife in bed) and darb (striking the wife without leaving any mark or bruise and without causing injury) against the disobedient wife.

ٱلرِّجَالُ قَوَّٰمُونَ عَلَى ٱلنِّسَآءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ ٱللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍۢ وَبِمَآ أَنفَقُوا۟ مِنْ أَمْوَٰلِهِمْ ۚ فَٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتُ قَـٰنِتَـٰتٌ حَـٰفِظَـٰتٌۭ لِّلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ ٱللَّهُ ۚ وَٱلَّـٰتِى تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَٱهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِى ٱلْمَضَاجِعِ وَٱضْرِبُوهُنَّ ۖ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلَا تَبْغُوا۟ عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلًا ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّۭا كَبِيرًۭا

Men have whole charge over their wives, because Allah has favored the one above the other, and because they have spent well of their wealth: So righteous women are lovingly obedient, dutifully keeping everything secure when their husbands are gone through Allah’s own protection; While those who you fear may show rude defiance, first patiently admonish them, then draw away from them in bed, and failing all else, you may finally even strike them: And if they return to obedience, seek no way against them: Verily was Allah ever exalted in might over you, supreme in greatness. (Qur’an, 4:34)

However, these measures are reserved for extreme cases and are not the default mode of correction for every dysfunctional situation within marriage.

Allah and His Messenger ﷺ have taught us that patience and forgiveness are the keys to a happy, healthy and blessed marriage. Patience is an important trait that we must perfect in all of our social relationships, while forgiveness is essential for maintaining a harmonious relationship with our dear spouse.

Numerous verses in the Qur’an remind us to forgive our wives and to live with them in kindness.

O you who believe! Indeed, among your spouses and your children are those who are enemies to you. So beware of them. Yet if you pardon and excuse and forgive, then [let it be known that], indeed, Allah is all-forgiving, mercy-giving. (Qur’an, 64:14)

O you who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit [like mere objects] the women [of your deceased; nor to hold them] forcibly [in order to have their wealth]. Nor shall you impede them [from marriage], in order for you to take away anything of whatever [possessions] you have given them, except when they commit flagrant indecency. So consort with them [only] in accordance with what is right [and honorable]. And should you [come to] detest them [after marrying them, then], behold: It may be that you detest something and Allah will place therein much goodness. (Qur’an, 4:19)

But if you divorce them before you have touched them [in intimacy], and you have already determined for them an obligatory dowry, then [give them] half of what you have already determined, unless they grant remission [of it], or the one in whose hand is the marriage contract grants remission [of it]. Yet if you [believers] grant remission [of the full amount], it is, indeed, nearer to [the virtue of] fearing God. Thus do not forget benevolence among yourselves. Indeed, Allah is all-seeing of all that you do. (Qur’an, 2:237)

Moreover, let not people of [moral] excellence and affluence among you swear off giving [charitably to] close relatives; and the indigent; and the Emigres in the path of Allah [in reproach for a wrong done]. But, rather, let them pardon and overlook [it]. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? Indeed, Allah is all-forgiving, mercy giving. (Qur’an, 24:22)

Sometimes, due to weakness, stubbornness, etc., a husband or wife may develop resentment towards their spouse and go on living with a desire for revenge. However, this retaliatory behavior is a grave mistake which departs from universal divine wisdom and usually causes couples to spiral downwards into ruin.

Everything that Allah commands of us is essentially for our own good. And today, many clinical discoveries converge upon the fact that these Qur’anic recommendations are the perfect guide towards developing healthy and successful relationships.

According to the research of Jennifer Ripley and Everett Worthington, PhDs and experts in couples therapy, there are over 2500 studies demonstrating the positive effects of forgiveness on marital satisfaction and happiness. This is an astonishing number, reflecting the importance and effectiveness of forgiveness in forging a successful marriage.

While some of these interventions were described in Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling (Worthington, 2005), it was first published (1999) before many forgiveness studies had gotten underway. In fact, in 1998 there were only 58 studies (reviewed by McCullough, Exline & Baumeister); by 2013, there were over 2500 studies!

Forgiveness not only benefits our relationships but also our physical health. Studies have shown that holding onto anger and resentment can increase stress; depression; anxiety; pain; blood pressure; and even risk of heart attacks. On the other hand, forgiveness can lower the risk of heart attacks; improve cholesterol levels; lead to better sleep; as well as reduce anxiety, depression and stress.

Karen Lee Swartz, M.D.—who is the director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital—notes that there is “an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.” This can then have a major impact on our health and physical wellbeing, resulting in more problems, whereas forgiveness, on the other hand, reduces stress levels and leads to better health.

Johns Hopkins Medicine states:

Whether it’s a simple spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.

There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.

It is thus no wonder that Allah has repeatedly urged us to forgive our spouses—as well as others—and to practice patience and benevolence within our marriages. Let us strive to follow His perfect guidance and reap the rewards of a happy, healthy and blessed marriage.

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of every successful and fulfilling relationship. It is an act of strength and pragmatism which can only be exercised by those who possess a remarkable degree of wisdom and self-awareness. In fact, forgiving one’s spouse is one of the greatest challenges of married life and yet, it is an essential ingredient for a happy and harmonious partnership and union.

Humans are inherently fallible and prone to making mistakes. It is therefore natural that every marriage will experience moments wherein trials and tribulations arise, but these are outweighed by all the moments of joy and blessings. The true test of a relationship lies not in the absence of challenges but in how one responds to them. The ability to forgive is a defining characteristic of a great spouse, and it is essentially what separates a successful marriage from a failed one.

In Islam, forgiveness is a fundamental value that is deeply ingrained within the fabric of society. While it is true that there are some mistakes that require action and can even lead to divorce, the attitude of the people of faith is always one of forgiveness. Remember, if you can both persevere together through each other’s faults and shortcomings, you may be reunited together, for eternity, in Jannah, where those shortcomings and faults will no loner exist. This is a powerful thought to always keep in mind. Usually, even in the most extreme of situations, those who are gifted with reason and wisdom understand that forgiveness is the path to inner peace and spiritual growth.

It is important to remember that forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness but rather an act of courage and compassion. It requires great strength of character and a deep understanding of the human condition. By forgiving your spouse, you not only free them from the burden of guilt but you also free yourself from the baggage of resentment and anger. The act of forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself and your partner, and it is the key to a fulfilling and meaningful marriage.

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Being merciful towards others is a way of being forgiving and the best of the best said that the one who does not have mercy, will not have mercy upon him.

Thanks Hud.