When we think of the ideal marriage in Islam, we often cite the marriage between Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (AS) as the exemplary personalities that they are. We recall their piety, humility, and devotion to Allah (SWT). But do we reflect on the example that they portray for us in their behaviour, attitude, speech, and overall relationship with each other? While we venerate Imam Ali (AS) for his knowledge, wisdom, and perfection in faith, equally significant, and enfolded within his expression of faith, is the love and compassion that he had for Lady Fatima (AS). There are many lessons that we can take from the love that he brought into his marriage, from subtle acts of kindness to overt professions of love.
Many narrations illustrate how Imam Ali (AS) spoke to others of his love and admiration for his wife. Imam Ali (AS) has said about Lady Fatima (AS), “When I looked at her, my griefs and sorrows were relieved1.” While it was common practice to have more than one wife, Imam Ali (AS), in his loyalty solely to Lady Fatima (AS), never married another woman during her lifetime. He displayed profound respect for her emotions and autonomy: “By Allah, I did never anger her or force her to do something (unwillingly)…” 1
When it came to domestic affairs, Imam Ali (AS) would often lend Lady Fatima (AS) a helping hand rather than leaving household chores to be the sole responsibility of the woman — a mentality that stems from cultural notions and is often a cause of strife in relationships. He adhered to the statement of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), in which he says, “Every man, who helps his wife in her house, Allah will write for him as much as the hairs on his body (the reward of) worship of a year; fasting in the day and worshipping all the night, and Allah will give him like the reward of the patient and the righteous.” 1
The death of Lady Fatima (AS) was an immense loss for Imam Ali (AS). In one tradition, Imam Ali (AS) was noted to have expressed his grief over her death for a very long time, inciting the curiosity of companions: “Oh my Master, you command your followers to be patient, so what is this long grief?” 2 At her grave, he was noted to say, “My grief knows no bounds, and my nights will remain sleepless till Allah chooses for me the house in which you are now residing1.”
The acts of service, the expressions of love and kindness, and the heartfelt and unrestrained display of grief at her loss are all various love languages that Imam Ali (AS) displayed for Lady Fatima (AS), all of which strengthened their bond and fortified their faith together. Lady Fatima (AS) was equally devoted to her husband, supported him and his mission with passion and confidence, and defended his rights with her life. By understanding that these are all an embodiment of their impeccable character and a part and parcel of their faith, we understand the true meaning of what it means to harbour love between a husband and wife. These love languages are lessons for us in how we manage and conduct ourselves in our relationships today.