I AM A revert who has been living her life as a Muslim woman for 8 years now, al-hamdulillah. Like many reverts, I have a past. In my “past life,” I made a vow never to marry or have children. I grew up in a loving, two parent, Southern, middle class, Christian home.
I saw loving examples of marriages all around me; in my parents, who have been married for 37 years, and grandparents; married over 60 years before my grandfather’s death. Yet I denounced all of this for myself. I had better things to do with my life. You see, I had plans to join the Peace Corps after college and work in Central America or Africa. Yes, that was going to be a better contribution to mankind than the selfish, social convention of taking care of a husband and kids. I had big plans…
Today, I am married, seven years, with three children. Not at all what I had planned ten years ago. But then accepting Islam was not a part of that plan either. When I first began studying Islam’s history and women’s rights, so many of the fictitious misconceptions that I held on to started to melt away into enlightenment. I began to understand the “whys” of so many of the things I had questioned and arrogantly turned my back on as inferior, or outdated. Marriage as a necessity was a big one for me to accept and understand. I wasn’t going to let my decision about that one go quietly without a fight!
During my earlier years of studying and coming to know Islam and Allah’s desires for that which is best for us, I began to relent. Reluctantly at first, as I still secretly feared that Islam expected me to submit to an unbalanced role. It was around this time that I came across an ayah that started the chain of events that completely changed my ideas about marriage and becoming a wife:
And among Allah’s signs is this: that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, so that you might find rest in them; and He has set between you love and compassion. Truly there are signs in this for people who reflect. [Surat Ta Ha, 20:21]
Marriage is one of the most important aspects of life. It is so important that Prophet, Muhammad, spoke of marriage as being:
Whoever has married has completed half of his religion; therefore, let him fear Allah in the other half. (Bukhari)
Building a strong, lasting marriage requires dutiful work from both partners. Statistics show the divorce rate at over 50% for first marriages within the first 7 years. Two-thirds of these divorces are initiated by women; psychologists often refer to this phenomenon as the “Walk Away Wife Syndrome.” Wives living in less than satisfying marriages give up on the idea that their unions can be transformed into a happier, more caring partnership. They wait in quiet resignation for months or years until a particular event occurs that allows them an escape: It could be the children graduating from high school, or the wife earning a degree that will give her an opportunity to support herself and the children alone.
A loving marriage is the foundation of a happy family. A happy family characterizes a stable society. Husbands and wives often come to marriage unprepared for the rigorous work it takes to keep things in balance. The idea that marriage is “half the religion” is by no means an idle statement. Happy marriages do not just happen. They must be constantly cultivated and cared for by both partners committed to its success. Marriage can at times be a demanding test of our faith, but the rewards that come from treating your partner with love, compassion, and kindness can place us on the path to Paradise. Maybe your marriage has begun lovingly, but romance is fading. Why?
It is imperative at this stage that one be able to remove the focus from their partner and take a good, hard, and honest look at themselves. Both the Quran and Sunnah show believers that we hold the keys to our marital happiness. It is important that both partners be aware that “Whatever they have that gives them pleasure, they have to work for it—they really have to earn the right to be its steward.”[i]
For this article, I want to speak directly to the sisters and to recommend some ways of easing the common stresses of marriage with their husbands. Perhaps later, insha’Allah, there will be an article with suggestions for the brothers in this regard. Creating a strong marital bond can begin with just one of the pair recognizing the need for change and improvement, and taking the initiative.
Patient understanding is a necessity toward establishing a happy marriage. The Quran and Sunnah frequently exalt the virtue of patience in a believer. During a couple’s early years of marriage, patience may manifest itself in various situations. A couple may need to exercise patience as they each finish school and establish themselves in their chosen careers before being able to purchase certain material items such as a car, a larger apartment, furniture and so forth. Before marrying her husband, a wife may have been accustomed to living a more comfortable lifestyle in her parent’s home. In marriage, patience can help a wife to cheerfully adapt to a more modest way of living. She is better prepared for the fact that it often takes years of a couple working diligently together as a team to build resources and assets.
There are times in every relationship when each partner may experience difficult days that manifest into irritability or being ‘short’ with others. When a man reacts unfavorably in such cases, a wife should make every effort not to bear a grudge against him. She should not make a habit of reminding him of these moments over and over at a later time as punishment. Patience and forgiveness will endear a wife to her husband, whereas resentment, fault finding and constantly being bombarded with past mistakes will only alienate him.
Let them forgive and overlook; do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? [Surat Al-Nur, 24:22]
When a wife truly accepts her husband, she accepts him completely as the man he is in this moment—without change. This is not an easy thing to do, which is why we must be careful and look to Allah’s guidance when choosing a spouse in the beginning. Through acceptance, a wife understands that her husband is a human being, part virtue and part fault, just as she is. She knows that there are things about him that could improve, and perhaps should improve, but she understands that this kind of change in his character must be done on his own initiative, of his own free will.
Wives may attempt to change their husbands for several reasons. Whatever the reason, it is futile. It creates a multitude of problems such as discord in the home, rebellion, or it may cool his feelings toward her. If a wife is to accept her husband as he is, she must understand that he may never change. She must be able to accept this. Oddly enough, sometimes when a wife does accept her husband at face value, he becomes more likely to change on his own. All a man may need from the woman is that he is free to love her acceptance of him as he is and for her to look to his better side. This is a much better incentive than her constant nagging.
Acceptance should not be confused with tolerance, which suggests “putting up with” a person’s negative ways. It is not a state of resignation. It is simply a realization that a wife’s responsibility is not in changing her husband, but appreciating him for the man he is, and allowing him the freedom to be himself. The key to acceptance is humility. We must realize our own human frailties and limitations, and therefore, begin to look first to ourselves for change.
Admiration and Respect for Your Husband
As deep as a wife’s need to be deeply loved and cherished by her husband is, so is the husband’s need to have his wife’s complete admiration and respect. Men enjoy receiving admiration from any source, but especially from their wives. Men want to be admired for their masculine qualities. A wife can look to her husband’s character, skills, abilities, achievements and dreams. Surely she will find much about him to admire and respect.
It is priceless when the wife can look past her husband’s human faults and explore the special qualities about him which are truly worthy of attention and admiration that others may fail to notice. She stands to receive his most tender love and devotion.
Staying True to Your Feminine Role
And the male is not like the female. [Surat Al-Imran, 3:36].
A wife’s feminine nature is the direct opposite of her husband’s masculinity. Although Allah the Almighty created us to be completely different, He ensured that each gender be complementary to the other—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
A woman who embraces her feminine nature and lives it completely has great appeal to her husband. Men and women are regarded as equal in Islam. Their roles are different but complementary; each is important and needed. We each have equal responsibility regarding our duties to Allah. Men have been given more responsibility over women due to the kind of physical strength they possess. It is a man’s nature to want to provide for and protect those that he loves. Our differences enhance our attraction for one another. Wives should appreciate this difference and do everything in their ability to preserve it.
A wife’s natural femininity awakens a chivalry and protectiveness within her husband. As he devotes himself to her care and protection, his love and tenderness grows. The saying, “We love whom we serve.” is very true. Wives care for their husbands in a similar manner. Perhaps she prepares nourishing meals, and a peaceful, comfortable home environment; or she ensures that he does not neglect his health. In this way, a husband and wife share devotion for one another that can greatly increase their love and compassion.
Keeping to the Will of Allah
Perhaps the most important key to a happy and lasting married life is for each partner to remember to seek Allah’s pleasure first. When we are dutiful in keeping that as our primary focus in every task we perform, all else falls into place according to His will. His will is best for us, over and above all of the things of this world that we so often become consumed by. The trial of marriage is two people making the choice to make things work in the best possible way, no matter what. Husbands and wives must truly devote themselves to marriage; each must submit to, and respect the other and the seriousness of married life. Each must understand the consequences of their actions within the marriage for this life and the next.
A woman came to ask the Prophet about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, ‘Do you have a husband?’ she said, ’Yes.” He asked her, “How are you with him?’ She said, “I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me.’ He said, ‘Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell.’ (Al-Hakim)
As a Muslim wife, I do not consider the challenging job of loving and caring for my husband, children, and home to be a burden. I enjoy that and I am fully aware of how much joy, stability and peace that brings to our lives together. I am thankful to my Lord for that.
[i] The Muslim Marriage Guide, Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood, 2000