Q: In the Quran, what is the significance and meaning of describing spouses as each other’s garments?
A: This verse comes from one of the most beautiful, poetic and profound metaphors of the Quran.
Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) states “Permitted for you, during the night of the fast, that you approach your wives. They are your garments, and you are their garments” [Al-Baqarah; 187]. Each spouse is described as a ‘garment’ to the other. This description most aptly describes the act of intimacy between the spouses, for during that act, each spouse sheds his or her other garments and then wraps around the other, taking the place of clothes. Also, just as clothes protect their wearer from the external elements, similarly each spouse protects the other from external passions that would harm a marriage.
Combining between the various explanations of this beautiful metaphor found in the books of tafseer, we can derive many meanings from it:
- The act of procreation is so intimate that it is literally as if one of the spouses covers up the other, just as clothing covers up one’s body.
- One primary purpose of clothing is to conceal one’s nakedness, since this nakedness (or awrah) is embarrassing to display, and should be hidden from the eyes of others. Similarly, each spouse conceals the other spouse’s faults and does not reveal them to others.
- Clothing protects one from the external elements, such as heat and cold, similarly, spouses protect one from another from external desires that originate from many different sources by satisfying these desires within the confines of marriage, so that external passions are removed.
- Clothing is the primary method through which humans beautify themselves. Without clothing, one is incomplete and naked. Similarly, spouses beautify and complete one another; when a person is not married, he or she is not yet complete and has not reached his or her full potential. Marriage is as essential part of being fully human, just like clothes are an essential part of being fully civilized.
- Clothes are only worn in front of others, and are not necessary in front of spouses. It is only in front of one’s spouse that the other spouse can discard his or her garments.
- Clothes are the closest thing to one’s body. Nothing comes between a person and his or her clothes. So the analogy of spouses being ‘like clothes to one another’ implies such closeness – there is nothing, literally and metaphorically, that should come between spouses.
May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) grant us with good spouses. Ameen.
Checked & Approved by Molana Mohamed Aadil Saleh (Bradford, UK)