The Marriage of True Minds
In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Is it a coincidence that some of the world’s greatest works of literature concern love and marriage? One thinks of Nizami’s Layla and Majnun, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, to name only a few. Love stories are compelling because they speak to the human condition and the soul’s deepest desire for connection. Sometimes these stories are about a forbidden love, which the lovers are unable to consummate, or they manage to come together but with considerable opposition to their union. I remember reading The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice as a teen, and being mesmerized by the dashing Moorish military commander who falls in love with the fair Desdemona. This was probably the first interracial, interspiritual relationship I ever read about in literature. Their story has a tragic end, but it’s worth noting that Desdemona’s father disapproved of the union.
Religious parents and sacred Scriptures have cautioned against being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)?” Likewise, the Quran says:
“AND DO NOT marry women who ascribe divinity to aught beside God ere they attain to [true] belief: for any believing bondwoman [of God] is certainly better than a woman who ascribes divinity to aught beside God, even though she pleases you greatly. And do not give your women in marriage to men who ascribe divinity to aught beside God ere they attain to [true] belief: for any believing bondman [of God] is certainly better than a man who ascribes divinity to aught beside God, even though he pleases you greatly” (2:221).
Before the revelation of this verse, Muslim women were able to marry non-Muslim men, even the Meccan polytheists. Two of the Prophet’s daughters were married to Abu Lahab’s sons. Both women were divorced by their husbands for accepting Islam. Abu Talib, the Prophet’s beloved uncle and guardian, never accepted Islam, but his marriage to Fatimah bint Asad remained sacrosanct until his death. After the revelation of verse 2:221, Muslim women were forbidden to take non-Muslim men as their husbands to protect their Islam and their right to religiously rear their children. I find it significant that this revelation was needed in a period of hostility when the nascent faith was threatened and such unions would result in genuine hardship and difficulty for women living in a patriarchal society.
I do not object to the Biblical or Quranic teachings given above but would like to posit that such verses are only relevant in the marriage of disparate minds. And is perfectly inapplicable in the case of the marriage of true minds. That is why Abu Talib’s marriage to Fatimah bint Asad is so beautiful and produced the likes of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah ennoble his face), the fountainhead of almost every Sufi lineage in Islam, save one!
Similarly, the Bible verse above poses two questions: Can righteousness fellowship with unrighteousness and darkness the light? No. Unless of course, the “unbeliever” is righteous and guided by the Light. Does this mean they have to be Christian or Muslim or a particular race? No, not at all. In almost every culture and place, parents have tried to match children according to what they have in common with another family. This increases the odds of a happy union as nothing important will be open to dispute, such as religion, ethnicity, culture, customs, status, physical appeal, etc. And it’s prudent guidance that has stood the test of time.
And yet, we are now witnessing a time of global communion, in which the world is becoming a village and we are all interconnected. Marriages between interracial and interspiritual couples are becoming more common. And even though there is still opposition to this in some quarters, it is a worthy endeavor and a step toward “making the whole of humanity, as one single-family in the Parenthood of God” (Salat, Hazrat Inayat Khan).
May we experience the marriage of true minds, and rise above the distinctions and differences which divide us to unite in the Real.
With abiding love and gratitude,
PS. A marriage of true minds doesn’t have to be a physical union, it may be a platonic relationship too. One of the best quotes I read this week said: “Feeling safe in someone’s energy is a different kind of intimacy. That feeling of peace and protection is seriously underrated.” Shout out to Capt. Guffey for sharing it with me!
PPS. See Dr. Uday Shinde’s article “Spirituality: Do Beliefs Matter?“ for further discussion of this topic.