“My Voice” Interview

With Dr. Mohamed Rida Beshir

Summer 2011 Issue

 

1) What means can the youth use to protect themselves from fiten?

Things to do

  • Exercise lowering of the gaze as much as possible
  • Manage your time well and get involved in as many volunteer activities as possible
  • Select good friends and company who would remind you of Allah and help you to be close to Him
  • Use the proper Islamic etiquettes when it comes to opposite gender interactions
  • Strengthen your spirituality by attending night prayers and participating in Islamic halaqas of Qur’anic studies and recitation
  • Follow the Prophet’s advice and fast voluntarily as many days as you can
  • Get married as soon as you are able to do so  

Things to avoid

  • Avoid being alone as much as possible
  • Don’t watch any TV shows, DVDs or movies that may contain material that could sexually excite you

 

2) When is it the right time for a person to get married?

The right time for a person to get married will be different from one person to another. The most important thing to decide the proper time to get married for a person is to make sure that he/she meets the criteria identified in the hadeeth of Prophet Muhammad SAAW. This criterion is the ability to get married. This ability has been explained by scholars as the physical and emotional ability to start a new family and be able to fulfill the needs of this new unit in the society. Many parents put hurdles in front of the couple who intend to get married by asking the potential husband for a huge mahr and many other materialistic things. These obstacles are cultural practices that have nothing to do with Islam. It is the parent’s duty to facilitate marriage for young people so they don’t fall into Haram.

So while one person may be able to get married while he/she is still attending college, another person may not be able to do so. The parents of the first person may be willing to support the new couple by hosting them in their own house for example until they finish there degrees and are able to move out on their own, while the parents of the second person may be reluctant to help.

 

3) What are the criteria one should consider in himself or herself before taking a step for marriage and how does one search for a suitable spouse?

  The criteria are the following:

  1. Proper understanding of the following:
    1. Nature of marriage
    2. Main objectives of marriage
    3. Foundations of marriage
    4. Gender relations in Islam
    5. Spousal relations in Islam
    6. Essential spousal obligations
    7. Qur’anic rules of communications
    8. Islamic way of resolving conflicts
  2. Physical ability
  3. Financial ability (ie: having enough means to support a family in the case of the husband)
  4. Emotional ability (ie: being emotionally ready and mature enough to carry the responsibility of taking good care of and maintaining the family)
  5. Basic idea about financial management

Some may think that this is too much; however, we believe that marriage is serious business because Allah SWT describes it as a solemn covenant in the Qura’an.[1] As such, it should never be taken lightly and one should prepare well to ensure a successful marriage insha’a Allah.

As for how one searches for a suitable spouse, we suggest the following:

  • Prepare yourself by reading relevant and authentic books on the subject of marriage
  • Make the intention that you want to get married as an act of obedience to Allah SWT and to follow the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SAAW and fulfill the purpose of your existence on earth as a vicegerent for Allah SWT
  • Compile a list of “must haves” and a list of  “nice to have” traits you are looking for in your potential match
  • Get your parents involved. Consult with them, listen to their advice, and keep them informed of your plans. Their experience will prove priceless during the process
  • Start collecting information. Use all possible avenues to collect as much information as you can. Some of the avenues where you can look for a potential match and find information are:
    • Family members and friends
    • Various local community activities
    • Islamic marriage websites on the Internet
    • Matrimonial desks available during national conventions
  • When you think that you have found a candidate that could be a good match, ask your parents to approach the potential candidate’s parents to start the process of getting to know each other at a deeper level before making the final decision. Parents should facilitate this process to give the opportunity for the couple to meet and get to know each other, of course, without violating any of the Islamic principles related to opposite gender interactions. An example of this could be through having a few family members from both sides (including adult family members) going out together to the same restaurant for a family lunch/dinner. However, in the restaurant you can permit the couple to sit together on their own separate table to have a more relaxed atmosphere and better opportunity to get to know each other.
  • Based on the initial meeting, both parties could agree to continue these kind of meetings and/or agree on other communication mechanisms to find out more about each other if they feel that the chance of being a good match is high. They could also agree to suspend meetings because the chances of being good match are low.
  • These meetings should not be extended indefinitely or more than needed to get to know each other. As soon as both parties feel that they have enough core values in common and feel comfortable enough towards the chances of the success of this match, an official engagement should be announced and official marriage contract (Katb Kitab) should follow soon after.
  • We would like to emphasize that during this process, families of both candidates should be closely involved to ensure that there is no violation to Islamic principles and to benefit the couple from their life experience                

 

4) Is being in love before marriage important?

Not necessarily. The main two foundations of marriage are Mawadah and Rahmah.[2] The most important thing is to make sure that during the selection process both candidates of marriage have the same objectives in life and have enough things in common to ensure keeping the Mawadah and Rahmah alive between them during their married life.

One may say, but Mawadah is another word for love and in reality, positive and healthy love is one of the components of Mawadah. But Mawadah is much more than just love. It is a very comprehensive kind of love. It is a love that brings the best out of the couple and makes them closer to Allah SWT and better humans. The word Mawadah describes the real love that ensures the commitment of both spouses to work for the sake of Allah SWT and be righteous people. This is clearly understood when one reflects on the use of the word Mawadah or its derivatives in the Qur’an. Here is an example:

“إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَيَجْعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ وُدًّا”

“Verily, those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, Allah will bestow Wooda for them.”[3]

The word Wooda is from the same root as the word Mawadah. Allah SWT emphasizes that this kind of great feeling will be bestowed on the believers as a result to their belief and righteous deeds.      

The love intended here is not the love of possessing and controlling; rather it is the love of comforting and considering. Associating the word Rahmah with Mawadah in the same verse is another witness to the nature of this love.

Finally, one may ask if this means that there is no place for romance in an Islamic marriage. The answer is, of course there is a place for romance in an Islamic marriage, but romance is not the main foundation of the marriage. Otherwise, when the fire of romance dies out, the marriage would suffer. The foundation of Islamic marriage is based on more tangible qualities that have the property of continuity and growth within a good marital relationship. At the top of these qualities are Mawadah and Rahmah.

 

5) How to deal with a situation where the parents of the girl refuse the boy or vice-versa?

Dealing with the situation will depend on the reasons of the parents for refusing the boy or the girl. Here are some valid reasons for parents to refuse a boy/a girl:

  • The parents are sure that the foundation for a successful match such as having enough common core values don’t exist between the boy/girl and their son/daughter
  • The parents know of certain shortcomings in the manners of the boy/girl that could not be easily tolerated or changed and could cause great harm to their son/daughter if they marry this candidate. Here are some examples of such serious shortcomings:
    • The person doesn’t observe or practice the basic Ibadat of Islam such as obligatory prayers, fasting of the month of Ramadan, etc.
    • The person is known to cheat or be dishonest
    • The person has a very bad temper and is known to be violent in his/her dealings
    • The person is using illegal drugs or has a problem with drinking

In such cases parents do not only have the right to refuse such a person, it is actually their duty to protect their own son/daughter by refusing such a person. The son/daughter should accept the advice of their parents and thank them for taking such a position that is only meant to protect them and ensure a better future for them.

However, if the parents’ refusal is not founded or based on sound reasons and the boy/girl have enough common core values with their son/daughter and are expected to be a reasonable match, in this case, everything should be done to convince the parents of the merits of this person. The son/daughter should try their best in a very kind and polite way to convince their parents that such a candidate is a good potential for a successful marriage insha’a Allah. They can also seek the intervention of a respected member of their community such as an Imam or a Muslim scholar to convince their parents. However, at no time should a son/daughter go against their parents and get married without their blessings. Marriage is not only a union between two people, it is also a union between two families and one of the objectives of marriage is to strengthen the Muslim community/society through having stronger family ties. When a son/daughter goes against the will of their parents, they are putting a big hurdle in front of the potential success of their marriage.      

 

6) Is cross-cultural marriage a good thing in our multi-cultural Canada ? Why? Or why not?

 There is no doubt that ensuring a successful marital relationship is a big challenge. As such it is important to reduce the number of factors contributing to this challenge. One of these factors is the differences between the couple in their cultural practices. However, this does not mean that all cross-cultural marriages are doomed to fail. As a matter of fact some cross-cultural marriages are very successful and stand the test of time. A little research into these successful cases reveals the following:

  • Both couples have the same objectives in life
  • Both couples make a deliberate attempt to take Qur’anic guidance and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad SAAW as their main reference in life. Whenever they face a difference in opinion in any matter, they always try to resolve it using Islamic principles rather than cultural customs/backgrounds
  • Both couples never ridicule each other’s cultural practices and are very accommodative of each other’s likes and dislikes. They also very much respect the cultural practices of their in-laws. They make it a point to not allow cultural differences to be a source of problems in their marriage.

Any couple who can strive hard to guide their marital life by the above principles will insha Allah end up with a successful cross-cultural marriage. However, if the couple are not willing to compromise and live according to the above principles, a cross-cultural marriage may be faced with more difficulties compared to a marriage of the same culture to say the least.         

 

7) How to sustain a marriage when we know that divorce is increasing in the society?

Divorce is increasing in the society due to certain reasons. If we know these reasons, we can avoid them and in the process can sustain a healthy and successful marriage. Here are some of these reasons:

  • Having different objectives in life
  • Having the same objectives in life but not understanding the main objective of marriage
  • Basing the marriage on only love and romance rather than on Mawadah and Rahmah
  • Having different expectations and not having enough areas in common between the couple
  • Financial problems

By preparing oneself properly for marriage, avoiding the above pitfalls, and using the right process of selection as explained in detail in the answer of question 3, a healthy and successful marriage could be sustained insha’a Allah. It is also recommended that the married couple continue to nourish Allah’s gift to them (Mawadah and Rahmah) at various stages of their marital life. This could be done by exercising kindness and respect towards each other in all their dealings following Allah’s order in surat Al-Nisa’ verse 19

وعاشروهن بالمعروف

Both spouses should strive hard to acquire the good qualities that would help them to successfully fulfill their roles in the marital relationship and ensure a positive and healthy family life. The following are some of these qualities/attributes to name a few:

  • Commitment to the success of the marriage
  • Courtesy
  • Effective communication
  • Compromise
  • Being sensitive to each others feelings and needs
  • Sincerity
  • Sharing
  • Adaptation
  • Accommodation
  • Appreciation
  • Acceptance
  • Forgiveness
  • Trust and faithfulness
  • Patience[4]

 

8) What advice can you give to people who don’t want to get married?

Such a person needs to be reminded of the following points:

  • Marriage is the sunnah of the majority of Allah’s messengers Including our Prophet SAAW.[5]
  • Prophet Muhammad SAAW encouraged us to get married in many of his sayings
  • Through marriage, one can fulfill the most important role that he/she was created for as vicegerent of Allah SWT
  • Through marriage one can contribute to the well-being of the Muslim society when he/she brings up righteous children who can continue to work for the sake of Allah and carry the banner of ( لا إله إلا الله )
  • If you have seen many recent marriages ending in divorce, this should not be a reason to avoid marriage. As a matter of fact, it should rather be an incentive to go about your marriage in the right way. Most of the divorces taking place among Muslims are due to not following the proper selection criteria, not understanding the main objectives of marriage, and not nourishing the gift of Mawadah and Rahmah given to the couple by Allah when they get married.[6] Make sure to avoid such mistakes and you will end up insha’a Allah with successful and peaceful marriage
  • Remember that marriage will help you to be stronger in faith and will provide you with many opportunities to be closer to Allah SWT. Also, if you do everything with the proper intention, even things that are permissible, it will be counted for you as good deeds and you will be rewarded for doing them.    

         

[1] (Q4, V21)

[2] (Q30, V21)

[3] (Q19, 96)

[4] For more important qualities as well as their applications in ensuring a successful marital life, please refer to our book Blissful Marriage by amana publications

[5] (Q13, V38)

[6] (Q30, V21)

Khaleej-Times Interview

With Dr. Mohamed R Beshir

Co-Author of Muslim Teens

 

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and career?

I was born in Egypt and finished my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Alexandria University in 1970. I worked as a teaching assistant and then as an assistant professor after completing my Masters degree in the same university. I moved to Canada to finish my PhD in the area of telecommunications in 1973, and my wife joined me a year later. After finishing my degree, I joined a large telecommunications firm as a research associate in 1978. I worked with the same firm in various telecommunications positions, the last of which was a Senior Network Analyst. I retired from this firm at the end of 2010. We have four children, all born and raised in Canada, and we currently have eight grand children.

My passion for the area of parenting and family matters started with the birth of our first child. Noticing the unacceptable behaviour of many of the children in our community, particularly teens, was very alarming for my wife and I. At that point, we made a deliberate decision and commitment to do our best to make sure that our children would grow up in Canada as strong confident Muslims, both proud of their identity as well as positively contributing to their society. With my wife’s professional knowledge as a physician and her strong background in child psychology and my in-depth Islamic knowledge, we started our quest for excellence in parenting. It was neither a simple journey, nor an easy one. I dug deeper and deeper into the teachings of Prophet Muhammad SAAW and his companions’ guidance related to family matters. We extracted many wonderful principles to guide us on our quest for excellence in parenting. We also studied many books, took numerous courses, and travelled to conventions and conferences trying to meet successful parents and learn from their experiences. We undertook a self-search process to find out our weaknesses and strengths in the area of parenting, and came up with a plan to get rid of our shortcomings and enhance our strengths. We started putting what we learned into practice and we saw amazing results. The next stage was to share our experiences with our community. This was done first by delivering lectures and conducting workshops within our local community, but soon we were receiving invitations from many Muslim communities all over the world to conduct our parenting workshops. This gave us an opportunity to observe the different problems of children in various parts of the world, and unlimited access to parents’ concerns, which proved to be very useful in building our expertise in the area. At this point, we decided to document our experiences to make them available to a larger audience. Our first book, entitled “Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective”, was published in 1998 and became a best seller in no time. Currently, we have over 10 books on parenting and family matters, 4 of them are best sellers and many have been translated to many languages including Arabic. Please see the attached word document for the reviews of some of our books as they appear on amazon.com.

 

What prompted you to write this book and what has the response been?  

As indicated above, before writing “Muslim Teens”, we wrote our first book entitled “Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective.” Many communities invited us to speak about the book and to conduct parenting workshops. As indicated in the introduction of “Muslim Teens”, we have learned a lot from these workshops and gained tremendous experience related to teens’ problems through discussing and interacting with parents. It was very clear from these discussions that the most important issue and concern parents have in North America, without a doubt, is raising teens in a western culture. Parents are concerned about how to take good care of their children to ensure that they are non-troubled teens and contributing individuals to society and humanity in general. That is what triggered us to write Muslim Teens.

Alhamdulellah, the response has been great. Muslim Teens has been translated to many languages. Many editions have been reprinted, and it is one of our 4 best sellers on family matters in North America. We’ve conducted many successful workshops to various communities all over the world based on the book material.

 

What is the first advice you would give parents of Muslim teenagers?

The first advice I would give parents of Muslim teenagers is to parent their teens based on knowledge. Parents should equip themselves with the following areas of knowledge to succeed in parenting their teens:

  • Knowledge of the developmental stages of their teens and their characteristics
  • Knowledge of their teens’ environment
  • Knowledge of Islamic parenting skills. This is a topic with many different areas, but those that are most relevant to the parenting of teens are the following:
    • linking your children to Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala
    • being an approachable parent
    • using effective communication and dialoguing
    • controlling your temper and not acting out of frustration, and
    • being consistent

What is most challenging about bringing up teens?

There are many challenges in bringing up teens: peer pressure, norms of popular teen culture, risks surrounding this age group in modern society such as drugs, parties, gangs, etc. However, by far the most challenging aspect in parenting teens is the willingness of parents themselves to change and use more effective and successful parenting techniques with their teens. Many parents repeat certain patterns that were used with them when they were young without testing their validity for the time and new environment. Ali Ibn Aby Taleb said:

 

ربوا أولادكم على غير ما تربيتم عليه فإنهم خلقوا لزمان غير زمانكم

 

“Raise your children using ways different from the ways used with you, because they were created for different times”

Imagine this being said 14 centuries ago when the rate of change was very slow; how about now when things are changing so fast? I think parents should learn to adapt to new and more effective ways of tarbiyah. It is a huge mistake for parents to just follow their own cultural practices without testing and ensuring that these practices are based on Islamic principles and would work in their new environment and time.

 

Do you think parents are distracted by increasing life stress? Is there less time these days for them to have important conversations with their kids?

There is no doubt that nowadays parents are under many pressures and distractions which leave them stressed and end up affecting their relationships with their teens. Among these distractions are day-to-day pressures and the lack of a larger support system. With the modern lifestyle, there is less focus on family time and on building meaningful relationships with extended family, so the support of aunts, uncles, and grandparents is gone and everything seems to fall on the mother and father’s shoulders.

However, even though it seems like there’s more stress and less time, a lot of it comes down to time management and prioritization. Parents need to make a point of keeping their kids as their top priority in their day-to-day time commitments, as opposed to spending their time on things that are actually luxuries. For example, some families are more focused on keeping the house in perfect shape and having a fresh meal or eating out for dinner every night, but they have no time to talk with their children or share in common activities.

 

Could you recall any interesting incident in your work that you’d give as an example in teen parenting?

There is a fairly common problem we’ve seen over and over when it comes to parenting teens, and it’s the problem of the “second identity”. Parents come to us in shock, having discovered that their children are involved in all sorts of activities they don’t approve of, such as drinking, dating, or drugs, and that it was happening right under their noses but they had no idea.

What’s tended to happen in these cases is that the parents have underestimated how much effort is required with their kids, and so they have focused their time and energy on other areas, whether it be work, community involvement, etc. So, they keep busy elsewhere and come home exhausted, and even when they’re home, they’re not really interacting with their kids or involved in their lives. As a result, the kids have no one to guide them, and no oversight or follow up. It becomes very easy for them to “trick” their parents, saying they’re going to library for example, and instead going out to a party, or getting involved in drugs.

The parents don’t realize it, but they’ve put so much attention on other things that their family life is getting neglected and suffering the consequences. If they were paying a bit more attention, they’d be able to tell that their teens were getting caught up with the wrong crowd, but usually, by the time they notice the teens are in a very bad state. This absent parenting is especially common with fathers, who often think that their job is outside of the house, and leave all the work of actual parenting to the mothers, who can’t do it alone. As a result, it’s often the teenage boys who suffer the greatest consequences.

Even if parents are aware of what their children are doing, many parents make the mistake of simply stating that their teens’ behaviour is wrong and giving orders, and think this will be enough to stop the behaviour. However, teens in modern society have come to challenge and question every basic principle and value, even those that the older generation took for granted. Therefore, parents have to realize that changing their teens’ behaviour will involve a great deal of effort and closeness. There is a need for the teens and their parents to have a strong, open relationship in order for them to be receptive to their parents’ opinions or advice.

 

How do parents make the most of their time when talking to their kids about certain topics?

The best advice we can give on this front is for parents to make a point of being approachable, overall. If their kids see them as people who are generally reasonable, non-judgemental, and approachable, then the children will be a lot more likely to hear what they have to say on all topics, and even to come to them for advice instead of seeking it elsewhere.

When it comes to certain topics that parents want to raise with their kids, it’s important to frame the conversation in a positive way, not accusingly. Also, parents should not approach the conversation with preconceptions about how it’s going to go, but really stay open to listening to what their children are telling them or asking them. Good communication is key, and this means active listening.

Are parents afraid of setting rules because they think none of the other parents are doing it?

One of the main sources of negative parental behaviour is peer pressure among adults themselves. Many parents do certain things, or refuse to do them, with their teens for no logical reason. When you dig deep to find out why, usually the answer is that another family does it this way, and they don’t want to be seen as “less”. For example, there are families who will buy their teen a car as soon as he/she gets his/her driving permit. Then you find other parents in the community doing the same thing out of the need to “keep up”, which is madness. No one should be buying their teen a car because the neighbours did it. These decisions should be made based on the actual need or situation of the family in question.

Also, parents may not set rules because they don’t want to be the “mean” ones. Some examples are setting curfews, or even monitoring who your kids are spending their time with. Quite a few parents don’t like the kind of friends their kids have, and are afraid of their negative influence, but they don’t want to deal with having their kids be unhappy or lose friends in the short term, so they say nothing. What they don’t realize is that they are sacrificing their kids’ characters in the long term to avoid a fairly small problem right then.

 

What is the difference between today’s generation of teens and their parents (in terms of relationships) than the earlier generation?

There are quite a few differences when you compare today’s generation of teens with their parents’ generation. Specifically, when it comes to relationships, because of the extended family structure, there were many more multigenerational relationships. Young children, teens, adults, and the elderly all used to interact much more frequently. Now, it’s very typical for each generation to spend almost all of their time with others their own age.  As a result, the youth don’t naturally get exposed to the ideas and behaviours of those older than them. They have less respect for them and their own environment seems as though it’s the whole world.

Some of the other differences are that this generation is also much more exposed to what’s happening around the world and in other cultures. They don’t get their news from their families and their parents are really not able to filter what information they have access to. Finally, with previous generations, the cultural norms of society were more conservative, so even if parents didn’t do a great job, their kids were not at as much risk of “going astray”. Nowadays cultural norms are extremely liberal and parents have to be very careful to instil certain morals and values.

 

Is there anything else that you’d like to add as a message to your readers in the Middle East?

Don’t think that just because you’re in the Middle East, your kids are immune to western pressures. The world has changed and shrunk. With media, the internet, and social networking, kids from all over the world are subject to many of the same problems and pressures of dating, drinking, drugs, low self esteem, and other problems. As a result, it’s critical for parents to understand their kids’ environment, and not to simply assume it’s the same as the one in which they were raised.

Also, remember that parenting is the most noble task you will undertake in your life, but that it’s a full time job, so you have to give it the time that it really deserves. Done properly, the rewards are great insha Allah.

 

Why am I Doing this to my Kids?

Sources of Negative Parental Behavior

 

Our behavior toward our children can be easily categorized into positive and negative parental behaviors. Positive parental behavior is every act a parent does that helps his child feel good about herself and her identity as a Muslim and, as such, makes her proud of who she is and brings her closer to Islam. On the other hand, negative parental behavior is every act a parent does that results in his child feeling bad about himself and his identity as a Muslim and, in turn, this specific action, when repeated, affects the child’s personality negatively and drives him away from Islam. In this article we will focus on the   reasons behind negative behaviors of parents in an effort to help them recognize these reasons and try to avoid them when they interact with their children. This in turn will be of assistance to parents and help their efforts in raising Muslim children who are proud of their identity as Muslims and confident of themselves.

Here are some of the sources of negative parental behavior

  • Lack of experience: This usually happens with the first child in the family. Both parents have no experience and have never been through this before and don’t know what to do. They may have learned some theory, but this is not enough; they need the practical experience. Lack of experience also manifests itself with every new situation parents face. For example, when they are blessed with a second child, this is a new position that they have never been in before. When the child goes to school for the first time, again, this is a new circumstance they’ve never experienced before. Usually the solution to such a dilemma lies in asking other parents who have been through this before and learning from their knowledge and familiarity. However, one has to be careful not to ask just any parent. Always try to find someone with a positive and successful experience in raising children.
  • Only using inherited methods of Tarbiya: Most of us inherited certain habits and learned certain ways from our parents when we were young. These ways may have been suitable for our time and environment, but are not necessarily suitable for our children and their environment. As parents, we shouldn’t use all these inherited ways and apply them to our children without first ensuring that they fit their times and environment.
  • Blind imitation of others: This is where some parents are affected by peer pressure and follow others without checking the validity of their tarbiya techniques. For example, a father may buy a car for his teen as soon as the teen turns 16 years-old just because he found out that his colleague has bought a car for his son of the same age. He may even say: “Why shouldn’t my son have a car? We are not less than them in anyway.” This is blind imitation and usually is not healthy. Children are different and what agrees with one child in a certain place may not agree with another in a different place. As parents, we always have to try to see what is the best way to deal with our children.
  • Fulfilling unfulfilled desires through children: This is a common source of negative parental behavior. Some parents who couldn’t achieve certain goals during their youthful years tend to push their children to try to achieve these missed goals. A father who was hoping to be an engineer and couldn’t, for one reason or another, may force his son to study engineering even if it is against his son’s wishes. A mother who always wanted to be a medical doctor, and couldn’t become one for one reason or another, may push her daughter to study medicine even if it is not the daughter’s desire. This is a major source of negative parental behavior. If parents can convince their children that a particular field of study is good for them, and the child accepts it, that is all right. However, it is very wrong to push or force children to choose certain areas of study just because parents like them. Parents should not view their children as just extensions of themselves. They are complete human beings. They have their own personalities and their own ambitions.
  • Day-to-day pressures and lack of skills: There is no doubt that Muslim families living in North America face a tremendous amount of day-to-day pressure; especially in their early years of settling here. These pressures manifest themselves in feeling homesick, especially among women, non-working mothers, who spend most of their day at home, without much involvement in community affairs. Fathers usually face the pressure of work outside the house and as soon as they are home, they don’t want to go out again. They feel tired after a long working day and if their spouse asks them to go out with them they usually prefer to stay home. This could be a continuous source of friction between parents, which compounds the problem and is reflected in how they deal with their children. This type of problem can be solved easily if the women we are referring to acquire certain skills, like driving a car. During the day, they can go and visit other Muslim families, socialize with them, and give their children the chance to meet other children of the same age. However, some Muslim sisters are handicapped by the traditions of their country of origin that don’t allow her to gain the practical skills needed for the survival of the family in the West. These continuous day-to-day pressures have a big negative impact on the way parents deal with their children. It leaves the parents with the feeling that their children are more of a burden than a blessing, and are just too difficult to handle in this so-called modern society, far away from the support of the extended family.

By identifying these various sources of negative parental behavior, it is our hope that parents will take steps to deal with them and thus avoid them in their interactions with their children.

 

Where do you Fall on the Spectrum of Parenting Styles?

Every mom and dad has a parenting style based on his or her personality type, background and experience. Experts say that there are four styles of parenting; these are:

  1. Permissive
  2. Free-reigning
  3. Authoritarian
  4. Controlling

These styles each have their strengths and weaknesses, but in general, they either build self- esteem or tear it down. The fifth style is the ideal one. It is nurturing and setting limits. It is possible to scar your child’s self-esteem if your style becomes extreme. Though most parents fall somewhere between overly permissive and controlling, you should know the strengths and weaknesses of your style as a parent and make adjustments that move you towards the ideal. Let us now provide some details about these styles so you can discover which style best describes you:

  • Permissive. A permissive father often has trouble setting boundaries. He would make comments like, “All right, you can stay up A’isha, I know you like this program.” Or he will say, “Didn’t you hear me calling you for dinner? Well, sit down; I’ll put your plate in the microwave so you won’t have to eat cold food.” You see, this father is a strong nurturer and a weak limit-setter.   
  • Free-reigning. A free-reigning mother will sometimes get too wrapped up in her own affairs to tend adequately to the needs of her son. “Ahmed, if you think I’m stupid, that’s your problem.” she’ll say. Or: “Work it out yourself, I’m busy.” This type of mother is weak in nurturing and in limit-setting.
  • Authoritarian. An authoritarian father would often fail to listen to his daughter or show respect for her ideas or opinions. He makes comments like, “It’s time for bed, and no arguments Fatima.” Or “You are late for supper, that means you don’t eat tonight. End of discussion” This father is a weak nurturer and strong limit-setter.
  • Controlling. A controlling parent nurtures and sets limits for his child, but frequently goes overboard in supervising him, a trait common among perfectionist parents. A mother of this type will make a comment like, “Asmaa’, get off the floor or you’ll get your clothes dirty.” Or “Aly, this is what I want you to wear to the mosque.” This type of mother is a strong nurturer, but she sets too many limits.
  • The right balance, nurturing and setting limits. Moderation is promoted by Islam in every aspect of life. In surat Al Baqarah Allah says:

“And thus we have made you an Ummah of moderation (justly balanced Ummah)” (Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 143). On that basis, the ideal type of parent is the one who achieves the right balance between nurturing and limit-setting. They are firm in setting limits, yet they allow their children freedom within those limits. They make comments like “Sumaiya, I wish I could let you stay up, but you have school tomorrow, and I don’t feel good about you missing out on the sleep you need.” Or “You are late again for dinner Aly. How can we work this out?” This illustrates the ideal balance between encouraging children and disciplining them.

Most parents see themselves in one or more of the above categories. Our goal as parents should be to build our strengths, work on our weaknesses and try to move towards the ideal. Here are some suggestions to help you begin this move:

  • Be honest with yourself. Circle the quotes from the above examples that sound most like you. Find out which parenting style you identify with, and which category you fall in.
  • Encourage yourself. Make a list of your parenting strengths and how they can benefit your children.
  • Encourage your children. Note one weakness in your parenting style. What message does it send to your children? What can you do this week to make this message more encouraging? Can you say to them I’m sorry for this and adjust your style to improve this weakness?
  • Talk to other learned members in your community, especially those who have some religious knowledge and practical experience in successfully raising good, well-behaved, and confident children. Have regular meetings with them and learn from their experiences.
  • Make a decision. No matter what style characterizes you, decide and promise yourself not to overprotect, humiliate or demand perfection from your children. These three are the main contributors to raising a child with low self esteem. Remember that Allah said:

لا يكلف الله نفساً إلا وسعها

“Allah does not put a burden on any soul more than what it can bear.” (Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 286).

The prophet, peace be upon him, said:

ما أمرتكم به فأتوا منه ماستطعتم

“Whatever I order you, do as much as you can.” [Agreed upon]

  • Read Parenting literature written from an Islamic perspective and use various principles and experiences detailed in the literature to modify and improve on your style.
  • Perform Salatul Hajjah ( صلاة الحاجة ) more often and make lots of dua’a to Allah to help you improve your parenting style.
  • Keep in mind that the purpose of this exercise is to help you as parents in raising happy and righteous children, with high self-esteem.
  • Monitor your progress and repeat the exercise if needed.

Remember, parenting is the noblest task that a person can assume and will be highly rewarded by Allah SWT. It is worth the effort, hardship and time that one would endure in the process.   

 

Written by Mohamed Rida Beshir

 

In his wonderful book Letters to My Elders in Islam, Dr. J F Dirks, under the title of “On Spousal Abuse” says, “a couple of years ago, a social worker at a community mental health center in a distant American city contacted me about an urgent problem a member of her staff was encountering. It seems that one of our Muslim sisters had sought help at their clinic because she had been physically abused by her husband on several occasions. While the husband had agreed to meet with the mental health staff, he had adamantly insisted that it was his religious right to beat his wife and had apparently proceeded to quote from the Qur’an in support of his claim.

ٱلرِّجَالُ قَوَّٲمُونَ عَلَى ٱلنِّسَآءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ ٱللَّهُ بَعۡضَهُمۡ عَلَىٰ بَعۡضٍ۬ وَبِمَآ أَنفَقُواْ مِنۡ أَمۡوَٲلِهِمۡ‌ۚ فَٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتُ قَـٰنِتَـٰتٌ حَـٰفِظَـٰتٌ۬ لِّلۡغَيۡبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ ٱللَّهُ‌ۚ وَٱلَّـٰتِى تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَٱهۡجُرُوهُنَّ فِى ٱلۡمَضَاجِعِ وَٱضۡرِبُوهُنَّ‌ۖ فَإِنۡ أَطَعۡنَڪُمۡ فَلَا تَبۡغُواْ عَلَيۡہِنَّ سَبِيلاً‌ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّ۬ا ڪَبِيرً۬ا

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and their husbands) and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g., her chastity, property, etc.) As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.”[1]

The social worker informed me that this is not the first such occurrence of spousal abuse by a Muslim husband. She went on ahead to tell me that community health clinics and battered women’s shelters around the country were ever more frequently encountering cases where Muslim husbands were claiming that it was their religious right to strike their wives, often leaving them horribly beaten”[2] 

The Soundvision web page on Domestic Violence is full of horror stories on Muslim husbands physically abusing and mistreating their wives. In some cases, this abuse even resulted in death[3].

Having counselled many Muslim families, we know that this ill and unacceptable behavior exists among some Muslim husbands. The irony of the situation is that, as we have seen in Dr. Dirk’s story, most of those who practice this crime justify their actions using the Qur’an. They always quote verse 34 of Surah Al-Nesaa’ (Chapter 4) which is known among Muslims as the verse of Qawamah.

Does Islam Promote Spousal Abuse?

There is no place in Islam for spousal abuse. There is no doubt that Islam liberated women and contributed positively toward the restoration of women’s dignity and rights. Any fair-minded people who study the original sources of Islam, i.e., the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad SAAW, would undoubtedly and easily reach this obvious and clear conclusion. However, many cultural practices of some Muslims from different ethnic backgrounds are completely contrary to Islam’s teachings regarding women. These practices have certainly contributed in a negative way to the status of women in Islam. Islam holds women in a very high and noble position as mothers, as wives, as sisters, as daughters, as aunts, and as grandmothers. Needless to say, if we compare the situation of women before the advent of Islam in various corners of the globe, including the Arabian Peninsula itself, with what Islam did for women, we can see the huge difference in women’s status and rights in favor of Islam.

However, this is not the image and impression that non-Muslims have about Islam and Muslim women. In fact, it is not even the understanding among many Muslims, due to so many cultural distortions. Realizing this, in the recent century particularly, many scholars have elaborated in various works in many languages on the true status of women in Islam. Among these works are, Status of Women in Islam and Polygamy in Islamic Law by Dr. Jamal Badawi, Women in Islam and Muslim Society by Dr. Hasan Turabi, Feminism and Muslim Women by Sajda Nazlee, The Place of Women in Islamic Life by Dr. Yusuf al Qaradawi, and Women Between Islam and Western Society by Maulana Wahududdin Khan[4]. These books have enriched the Islamic library and provided much needed material for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to understand the true position of Muslim women in Islam.

On the other hand, many unfair writers, orientalists, secular Muslims, and supporters of the feminist movement, have tried to condemn Islam and label it as demeaning, humiliating, and unjust toward women. They have accused Islam unjustifiably by saying that its teachings encourage the mistreatment of women and favor the male gender over the female, which is far from the truth. In recent years, with the increase in domestic violence, particularly in North America and among Muslim families, these writers have also incorrectly tried to link this increase to the concept of Qawamah. Let me say it loudly and clearly, our faith has no room for domestic violence, but unfortunately some Muslims are committing it, sometimes in a fit of rage or as a way to resolve marital conflicts. This is completely unacceptable from an Islamic point of view and is strongly condemned by Muslim scholars, leaders, and community activists alike. Islam should not be held hostage by the behaviour of certain ignorant and disobedient Muslims.

Facts about Family life in Islam

To shed more light on this issue, we would like the reader to consider the following facts:

  • The two most important foundations of the spousal relationship in Islam are Mawadah[5] and Rahmah,[6] as stated in the Qur’an.[7]
  • In many places in the Qur’an, Allah SWT advises husbands to treat their wives in a very kind and dignified way, even during the most difficult times of a relationship, such as times of separation and divorce.[8]
  • Numerous teachings of the Prophet Muhammad SAAW emphasized being gentle and kind in all dealings, and particularly in the marital relationship. Here are some examples:
    • “Kindness and gentleness are not found in anything, but they add beauty to it, and if they are withdrawn from anything, it is defected.”[9]
    • “Those who are deprived of leniency are deprived of all good.”[10]
    • “Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all affairs.”[11]
    • “Allah is kind, and He loves kindness and confers upon kindness that which He does not confer upon severity and does not confer upon anything else besides it (kindness).”[12]
    • “A believing man (husband) must not dislike a believing woman (his wife). If he dislikes one of her traits, he should remember that there are other traits that he likes.”[13]
    • “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives.”[14]
    • “The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I’m the best among you to my family.”[15]
  • The Prophet Muhammad SAAW used to be in the process of serving his family, but when prayer was called, he would go out for prayer.[16]

The above is obvious testimony that Islam promotes a kind, positive, and healthy relationship between husband and wife. The spirit of the spousal relationship in Islam is that of compassion and cooperation, for the good and wellbeing of the family in particular and of society in general. Islam doesn’t promote a spirit of ill treatment, hatred, and violence – far from it. However, to achieve the positive spirit of kindness that is sought, both husband and wife have to work together in properly understanding the concept of Qawamah and in purifying and cleansing their souls.[17]

Some may argue these points, asking how this fits with the Qur’an’s use of the word Daraba[18] as one of the means to deal with the wife in the case of Nushooz,[19], as stated in the Qawamah verse.[20]

To respond to this argument, one has to look and examine the verse at hand on a deeper level. This work was detailed in my book on Family Leadership.[21] Here is the main conclusion of this research after surveying various books of Qur’an interpretation:

General interpretation of the verse

In general, verse 34 of Surah Al-Nesaa’ speaks about four main ideas. These are:

  1. Men are entrusted by Allah and given the responsibility to be the leaders of the family institution. They have to provide for the family and take full care of its needs.
  2. The main two reasons Allah appointed men to be the leaders of the family institution have to do with the attributes He SWT endowed them with, as well as the responsibility of men to do their best to financially support and provide for the family.
  3. Women are divided into two camps with regards to the issue of men’s leadership of the family. The first camp is represented by women who are righteous and obedient to Allah and to their husbands, as long as the husbands don’t ask or instruct their wives to do something contradicting Allah’s orders. The second camp is represented by rebellious and persistently disobedient women.
  4. A three stage approach should be followed in dealing with persistently disobedient and rebellious women. First to admonish them, second to forsake them in bed, and finally to Udhdhribuuhon.

Key Arabic words

After reviewing various available translations of the verse in the literature, we find that the two key Arabic words most relevant to this topic are Qawwamoon and Udhdhribuuhon. My research on the word Qawwamoon in various dictionaries as well as the use of the word in the Qur’an shows that it is a comprehensive word that means family leadership or guardianship. It covers and encompasses a wide spectrum of qualities and meanings that can contain at least the following elements:

  • Carrying responsibility and trust
  • Taking care of or caring for
  • Protecting and safeguarding
  • Maintaining
  • Supporting
  • Providing
  • Offering family leadership
  • Helping and assisting
  • Cooperating
  • Coaching, mentoring, and guiding
  • Consulting and counselling
  • Providing security and safety
  • Managing the affairs of
  • Administrating and supervising
  • Bringing good values to the relationship

As for the second word, a review of the use of the word in the Qur’an and various literature and translations, and keeping in mind the context of the verse at hand, show that there are three groups of meanings for the word. These are:

  1. Beat or hit them in a gentle manner or lightly. Some scholars prefer to use the word strike instead of beat or hit
  2. Distance yourself from them
  3. Have sexual intercourse with them

Upfront, we refuse to believe that the meaning of the word Udhdhribuuhon is an order from Allah SWT and a licence for men to beat, hit, or strike their wives even lightly. Our rejection of this meaning is based on the Prophet’s practice. As reported in Sahih Muslim, he SAAW never laid a hand on a lady or a child. Had this been an order from Allah SWT to use, the Prophet SAAW would have been the first one to comply.  

The Qur’an does not promote spousal abuse

After doing a detailed study of this verse, we can declare with certainty that Islam and the Qur’an do not promote spousal abuse. Here is some of the evidence and witness to that fact:

  • In the verse of Qawamah, Allah SWT appoints men to be the protectors, maintainers, and supporters of their womenfolk. They have to be kind, and do their best to provide for them and bring every good value to the relationship. It is illogical to think that Allah SWT would ask men to do this and in the same verse would allow them to physically abuse women.
  • The word Daraba was used in the Qur’an to indicate many meanings, as the analysis of Dr. Abusulayman showed in his book Marital Discord, Recapturing the Islamic Spirit of Human Dignity.[22] The meaning he selected is for the husband to distance himself from his wife if the first and the second stage suggested in the verse of resolving the conflict doesn’t work out. The next stage after this would be for family arbitration, as suggested in verse 35 of Surah al-Nisa’. This is a very legitimate understanding, and it fully agrees with the spirit of human dignity promoted by Islam in all areas of life, and particularly in family relationships as we indicated above.
  • Another meaning of the word Daraba in the Arabic language is to have the very close intimate relations that take place between married couples.[23] A husband would first use the two stages described in the verse. He would admonish his wife (the stage of Mawe’zah) first, then he would refuse to share her bed (Hajr fi al Madaje’) for a certain period of time with the purpose of making the wife realize the gravity of the situation and the seriousness of its consequences. After this, he would be able to return to having intimate relations with his wife. This intimate act, particularly after a period of abstinence due to an existing conflict, is known to bring spouses very close to each other and could open the door for gentle discussion, which may help in easing the tension and resolving the disagreement.
  • As for those who insist that the meaning of the verb Daraba in this context is to hit or inflict physical pain, before using the verse as permission to do this, we remind them of the following:
    • The Prophet Muhammad SAAW never hit with his hand either a servant or a woman, but, of course, fought in the cause of Allah. He never took revenge on anyone for torture inflicted on him, but, of course, exacted retribution for the sake of Allah when the injunctions of Allah were violated.[24]
    • The Prophet Muhammad SAAW, on many occasions, advised the believers to be kind to their womenfolk and not to hit them.
    • According to the majority of scholars, the three stages described in the verse should only be used if the Nushooz is certain.
    • The husband cannot use the third stage of the process before exhausting the first two stages. This means that he should not use his hand to hit or inflict physical pain on his wife before admonishing her first and staying away from her in bed for a period that could range from one month to four months. If the first two stages are to be followed properly, then certainly, by the time the third stage is to be applied, the husband will be completely calm and may not at all hit his wife.
    • As Sh. Muhammad Al Ghazaly said, “looking closely at the Sunnah of the Prophet SAAW, however, I cannot find a justification for this last measure (darb) except when the wife refuses vehemently and persistently to engage in intimate relations with her husband, or when she brings male outsiders into their home in the absence of her husband, both of which represent, as we can see, very serious problems indeed.”[25]
    • Even if a husband decided to apply the third stage after a month or four months, it is symbolic at this time, and he must observe certain etiquettes in administering this disciplinary measure, such as:
      • Using a very soft object such as a tooth brush or a Miswak;
      • Avoiding the face; and
      • Not yelling, shouting, humiliating, or calling her bad names in the process.

Considering all of the above, it is clear that the process recommended by the verse of Qawamah is very gentle and has nothing to do with domestic violence. It is completely different and can’t be compared to domestic violence in any way. Domestic violence is usually resorted to as the first option to resolve the conflict by those who practice it. It is done in a fit of rage and has nothing to do with Qawamah[26]Qawamah cannot and should not ever be used as an excuse to practice the heinous act of domestic violence, which clearly falls outside the realm of the beautiful religion of Islam. 

[1]              Q4, V34

[2]              Dr. Jerald F. Dirks, Letters to My Elders in Islam, Amana publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, First Edition, 2008, pp 93-94

[3]              See Soundvision web page on Domestic violence at http://www.soundvision.com/Info/domesticviolence/

[4]              Please refer to the reference section of my book “Family Leadership (Qawamah) An Obligation to Fulfill, Not an Excuse to Abuse” Amana Publications, First Edition 2009 for a more exhaustive list on works about women in Islam

[5]              Mawadah emphasizes a deeper sense of love with gentle and kind treatment, which brings the best behaviour out of the person and the relationship and contributes to the righteousness of both spouses.

[6]              Rahamah means compassion, leniency, and kindness.

[7]              (Q30, V21)

[8]              (Q2, V228, V231, V233), (Q4, V19)

[9]              Muslim.

[10]            Muslim.

[11]            Agreed upon.

[12]            Muslim.

[13]            Muslim.

[14]            At-Termezi.

[15]            At-Termezi.

[16]            Al-Bukhari.

[17]            See chapter 7 of our book Blissful Marriage; new edition, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, 2005.

[18]         Daraba as an Arabic word has many meanings such as travel, depart, block, prevent, distinguish, draw, strike, part and separate, etc. See Dr. Abdulhamid A. Abusulayman’s, Marital Discord, Recapturing the Islamic Spirit of Human Dignity. The International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, VA, USA, 2003.

[19]         Comes from the word nashaza, meaning (“It became raised” or “it rose”). The technical or legal meaning of the term nushooz is when each spouse transgresses, treats the other in an improper way, and is hostile towards the other. See the detailed meaning of the word Nushooz in Dr. Saalih ibn Ghaanim Al-Sadlaan’s, Marital Discord (al-Nushooz). Translated by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo. Al-Basheer Publications and Translations,  1996.  

[20]            (Q4, V34)

[21]            Dr. Mohamed Rida Beshir, “Family Leadership (Qawamah) An Obligation to Fulfill, Not an Excuse to Abuse” Amana Publications, First Edition 2009

[22]            Same as number 18.

[23]            Aby Alqasem Al-Husain Muhammad known as Raghib Al-Asfahany, Al Mufradat fi Ghareeb Al-Qur’an. Dar Alma’refah lel- Tebaa’h wal Nashr, Beirut, Lebanon.

[24]            Muslim.

[25]            Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ghazaly, A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an” Volume I, page 63, translated by Ashur A. Shamis. International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, Virginia, USA, 1420AH/1999AC

[26]            Check the Soundvision web page on Domestic Violence for more details on the reasons for such ill and unacceptable behaviour

 

There is no doubt that the ultimate goal of every Muslim is to be admitted to Paradise (جنة الخلد). However, do we really know what Paradise is? Do we know what to do to achieve it? And above all, can we achieve Paradise in our earthly life (دنيا), particularly in our homes? To answer these questions, one has to look at the main sources of information in Islam. These are the Qur’an and Sunnah, the teachings of Prophet Muhammad SAAW.

The Qur’an describes many of the physical and non physical joys one can experience in Paradise. However, these descriptions are only to make us able to imagine how beautiful Paradise is and they really only give us a glimpse of what to expect as far as our imagination and knowledge can bare (take). These descriptions given in the Qur’an as well as the ahadeeth of Prophet Muhammad SAAW cannot match the real joy in Paradise. After all, Prophet Muhammad SAAW has said:

فيها ما لا عين رأت ولا أذن سمعت ولا خطر على قلب بشر

“It has what no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, and what no mind could ever imagine”[1]

Paradise is Allah’s reward for those who lived their lives according to His guidance. It is Allah’s reward for those who built all their relationships on the proper foundation of Allah’s orders and instructions in the Qur’an and the clear manifestations illustrated vividly by His messenger Muhammad SAAW in all areas of life.

Can we have Paradise in our homes?

The question that arises in our minds now is: can we live a peaceful and serene life in this earthly life as close as possible to the peaceful and serene life we will experience in Paradise insha’a Allah?

The answer to this question can be easily found in the Qur’an. Allah SWT says:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحاً مِّن ذَكَرأَوْ أُنثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ

“Whosoever acts righteously, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely grant him/her a good and wholesome life, and We will surely grant such persons their reward according to the best of their deeds.”[2]

The closest we can get to Paradise in this life is the (حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً ) indicated in the above verse. However, we should clearly understand that this does not mean that everyone who acts righteously, whether male or female, and is a believer will have six figure salaries, the latest car models, a boat, and a huge house with the best furniture. This good and wholesome life is related mainly to our feelings and manifested nicely in our relationships.

Let us now examine the most important relationships we have in our homes and see how we can make our homes like Paradise through building those relationships on Allah’s honorable rules and His upright guidance. The two most important relationships we have in our homes are the spousal relationship and the parent-child relationship. For the rest of this article we will limit our discussion to the spousal relationship. Insha’a Allah in a future article we will elaborate on the parent-child relationship and how it can contribute to making our homes as close to Paradise as possible.

The Spousal Relationship

This is a very special relationship and one of the noblest ones to the extent that Allah SWT described it in the Qur’an as one of His signs:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“And among His signs is this. He created for you spouses from among yourselves that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you Mawadah[3] and Rahmah[4]. Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect”[5]

In this relationship, in addition to observing the main ingredients for a successful and happy spousal relationship, both spouses have to work together to make sure that their family life is built on the two wonderful foundations indicated in the above verse, Mawadah and Rahmah.

Main ingredients for a successful and happy spousal relationship

Among other ingredients for a successful and happy spousal relationship, the following three are very crucial: commitment, trust and faithfulness, and effective and healthy communication. Let us now discuss these ingredients in further detail:

Commitment refers to the dedication and contribution of both spouses to the success of their marriage. Recognizing the seriousness of the marriage covenant by both spouses will go a long way in making them ready to do what it takes to not only keep the marriage going, but also to make it a very successful and rewarding experience. We remind both spouses to remember that Allah SWT described the marital relationship in the Qur’an as a Solemn Covenant[6]. Both spouses need unyielding commitment to resolve problems and work out any differences that may occur at the beginning of the marriage as well as later on. It is normal for conflicts to occur in the marital relationship; they do happen, no matter how close the spouses are. Even the prophet SAAW had conflicts with his wives. A strong commitment to the success of the marriage helps spouses resolve these conflicts and avoid further complications in the marital relationship. Marriage is not about getting what you want; rather it is about wanting what you get. You need the commitment in order to be able to be flexible and accommodate each other and, in turn, get along well with each other. To do that, it takes both spouses, not the wife alone or the husband alone.

Many people from this generation are affected by the individualistic attitude of North American society. The environment can have an unhealthy, even detrimental, impact on individuals and groups unless they do their best to resist its effects via self-elevation and strengthening their personalities through exercising the highest level of minding Allah’s instructions and becoming close to Him. Without such closeness to Allah and self-elevation, spouses tend to choose the easy way out whenever they are faced with a problem that may require making a sacrifice rather than working hard together to try to solve it. In so many cases, divorce takes place for the most trivial reasons because of a lack of commitment and the wrong understanding of what marriage is all about.

Commitment is a great asset to the marriage. It requires spouses to practice patience and put the success of their marriage ahead of their own individual wants. They need to look at the family institution as a sacred bond and they should be willing to do what it takes to ensure its success.

Trust and Faithfulness is another very important ingredient for the success of any relationship. In marriage particularly, trust between spouses is crucial in building a very healthy, sound relationship between husband and wife. Trust is a quality to be earned and not demanded. It is foolish for any spouse to think that, just by asking the other spouse to trust him/her, he/she would. It is not enough just to say to your spouse, “Trust me.” Spouses really have to work hard to earn each other’s trust. For us Muslims, earning this trust would mainly depend on our behaviour and not putting ourselves in situations that could be misinterpreted or misunderstood by our spouses and create doubts in their minds.

One great asset we have as Muslims that helps generate an atmosphere of trust and maintain a high level of faithfulness in our family life is the set Islamic etiquettes of gender relations. For this wonderful atmosphere to exist, both spouses must practice these etiquettes. Islam provides us with wonderful guidelines for every aspect of our lives. Gender relations are no different. The verses of the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad SAAW offer clear guidance on how the two genders should interact with each other. This guidance covers a variety of areas such as the allowed and non-allowed mixing, nature of conversation and tone of voice, dress code for both genders, visitation guidelines, and the allowed members of families to visit in the absence of one of the spouses, just to name a few. When all the rules and guidelines are practiced by both spouses when dealing with a person from the opposite gender, it creates and enhances the highest level of trust between them.

In addition, spouses should always be transparent with each other and shouldn’t leave any room for doubtful thoughts to develop in each other’s minds. It is extremely important that our spouses perceive our actions correctly, especially in certain situations. Actions shouldn’t be left unexplained or left to the other spouse to guess at. Otherwise, they may be misunderstood by the other spouse. The prophet SAAW gave us the best example in this as indicated in the following Hadeeth:

It was narrated by the mother of the faithful Safyah RAA who said, “When the prophet SAAW was in Ietekaf, I went to visit him at night. After we chatted, he walked me back. Two of the Ansar were passing by. When they saw the prophet SAAW, they rushed away. He said, ‘Do not rush, she is Safyah  Bint Hoyay’.

They said, “Subhan Allah, O prophet of Allah (indicating that they are not suspecting anything wrong with the prophet SAAW.)

He said, “The Shaytan is as close to the son of Adam as if he is running in his blood. I was concerned that he would instill some evil thoughts in your minds.”[7]

The above incident is a clear indication that the prophet SAAW made sure that those two companions understood that she was his wife. He didn’t want their thoughts to wonder and come up with the wrong conclusion. This indicates how important it is to be transparent and make sure that others perceive your actions correctly, particularly when it is related to interactions with members of the opposite gender.

Effective and Healthy Communication is the third main ingredient. It is an essential skill that both spouses should try to acquire and practice regularly. Effective and clear communication reduces the chances of misconceptions and, consequently, minimizes the frequency of marital conflicts. In some cases, it can even help spouses avoid these conflicts completely. Active listening is one of the main components of effective communication between spouses. Both should try their best to use it and exemplify it on a regular basis in their daily interactions. To help you do so, here are the components of active listening:

  • Listen – Listen to verbal messages and body language. The actual words of a conversation carry less than 20 percent of the meaning that we understand. We respond more to the speaker’s tone of voice, eye contact, facial expressions, body position, etc. (Taping some family time together, with the permission of everyone involved, and then viewing them while focusing on body language, can be informative.)
  • Reflect – You should repeat back what you believe your spouse was saying and feeling without judging or trying to solve the problem. Allow your spouse to elaborate.
  • Clarify – Find out if your understanding is correct or if you have misinterpreted. Are there important details that you have overlooked?
  • Empathize – Empathize by trying to put yourself in your spouse’s position. It may help to try to recall a similar incident that you have experienced. Tell your spouse you understand and care about how s/he feels.

This sort of effective listening will not only ensure that you really hear what your spouse is saying, but it will also signal to her/him that you can accept and understand all the that s/he wants to share. This is the beginning of good, lasting, effective communication between both of you.

When your spouse feels that you’re keen to listen to her/him and suspend your judgment, s/he will be more attentive and open to your views and will respect your feelings as you did with hers/his. This will greatly enhance your relationship and create an atmosphere of mutual respect, contributing to the well-being of the marriage. Insha’a Allah this atmosphere will undoubtedly increase the level of commitment to the marriage and elevate the intensity of the other qualities and skills needed for a successful marriage such as trust, care, courtesy, contribution, acceptance, and willingness to compromise for each other and accommodate each other.

The Dialogue You Want

Communication in marriage should never be one-way. Dialogue is a must in marriage. Scholars categorize dialogues into three main styles. These are Collaborative Dialogue, Combative Dialogue, and Cut Off Dialogue. Spouses should aspire to always achieve Collaborative dialogue.[8]

We should use phrases such as: “What do you think of such and such?”, “Can you please get such and such?”, “Would you like to do such and such?”, and “How about if we do such and such?”

We should avoid phrases such as: “Get up”, “Take this” “Go there”, “Did you do this?”, and “Why don’t you bring that?”.

Building our Family life on Mawadah and Rahmah

To successfully build our family life on Mawadah and Rahmah, other important qualities have to be in place in the spousal relationship. They have to be adopted and practiced regularly by spouses. The following is a list of these important qualities and elements[9]:

  • Mutual Respect in all their dealings with each other
  • Acceptance and Accommodation of each other
  • Forgiving and Forgetting each other’s mistakes
  • Appreciation of each other’s company and contribution to the success of family life
  • Willingness to Adapt to new situations
  • Willingness to Compromise in matters of likings and habits
  • Being Sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings
  • Being Caring and Courteous toward each other
  • Supporting each other
  • Satisfying each other’s intimate needs
  • Sharing thoughts, hobbies, activities and time

And all of the above requires Open Mindedness and Understanding, as well as a great deal of Patience, particularly at times of conflicts.

Observing the main ingredients for a happy and successful spousal relationship as discussed above, and building our family life on Mawadah and Rahmah, will no doubt contribute positively to making us close to Allah SWT and will help us in getting closer to the good and wholesome life described in the opening verse of this article[10]. This way we can insha’a Allah achieve a glimpse of Paradise in our homes.

[1] Ibn Majjah and Ahmad

[2] Qur’an: Chapter 16, Verse 97

[3]Mawadah is one of the most important foundations on which marriage in Islam is based. It emphasizes a deeper sense of love that brings the best out of both spouses, wonderful communication, and kind treatment.

[4] Rahmah is the other foundation of marriage. It means kindness, compassion and leniency.

[5] Qur’an: Chapter 30, Verse 21

[6] Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 21

[7] Agreed upon

[8] See pages 85 and 86 of the new edition of Blissful Marriage, by Drs Ekram and M. Rida Beshir, Amana Publications, 2005 for many examples of each dialogue style.

[9] In a future article, we will elaborate on these qualities and elements insha’a Allah.

[10] Qur’an: Chapter 16, Verse 97

 

                        Imad is 16 years old. He is an average high school student. He lives with his parents and his older brother Mohsen. He spends a lot of time sitting at his computer. Whenever his parents invite him to go to a community activity, he declines their invitation and says, “I don’t enjoy going there.”

One night, Imad’s dad came home early in the evening, which rarely happens because he usually stays late at work. When the mother called everybody down for dinner, Imad answered, “I’ll eat later, I’m busy right now.”

                        The dad was hurt and said, “Here I am, coming home early to have dinner as a family, leaving tons of work behind, and your son is too busy for me!”

                        One night, Imad’s mom told him that Ahmad from the community youth group called to inform him that there will be a soccer game on the weekend and asked if he wanted to play. Imad nodded in agreement.

                        On Saturday, Imad’s mom went to his room to remind him about the game and found him on his computer. “Are you still sitting in front of your computer?” she asked,  “Haven’t you gotten tired of talking to a machine yet? You’re going to be late for the game, hurry up and get ready.”

                        “I’m not going,” Imad replied, “I don’t know anybody there.”

                        “Go to the game Imad,” his mom said, “you will meet other young people and get to know them.”

                        Imad looked up and said, ”You don’t understand how it feels when you don’t have any friends. Chat rooms are better. At least I have Mona to talk to. She understands me.”

                        The mother was shocked and said, ”What’s the matter with you, Imad? Are you spending all this time in front of the computer talking to girl instead of going out and making real friends?”

                        “So what’s wrong with that,” Imad answered, “I don’t even meet with her.”

 

Questions

1. Judging from the case, do you think the way Imad spends his time will help him to have a balanced personality and enable him to build the social skills needed for a healthy life?

2. In your opinion, why doesn’t Imad want to attend the soccer game or to participate in the community youth group activities?

3. What are the benefits and harms of spending a long time in front of the computer? Do you think there is a big difference between this and spending long hours watching TV?

4. Imad didn’t rush down to have dinner with the family when his dad came home early. Why do you think he stayed upstairs? What do you think of the dad’s reaction when Imad didn’t come down?

5. Imad thought that he wasn’t doing anything wrong by talking to Mona through the chat room. What do you think?

6. For a 16 year old, the need to be understood is very important. What could the family do to make sure that this need is fulfilled in a proper way?

7. Suggest some practical ways for the family to help Imad changes his computer habits.

 

Analysis of “The internet Dilemma”

  • Judging from the case, do you think the way Imad spends his time will help him to have a balanced personality and enable him to build the social skills needed for a healthy life? Imad is isolating himself from interacting with real people by refusing to attend youth activities and family get-togethers. He spends the majority of his time in a chat room, which will not help him to develop the social skills needed in real life situation. For a person to have a balanced personality, he needs to develop in many different aspects: spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually and physically. He needs to have the appropriate amount of interaction in all these areas. Imad is only concentrating on one aspect of his personality, his need to socialize, and he is doing it in a very limited way by spending so much time in chat rooms. To truly develop the social aspect of his personality, Imad must socialize in real life settings. This means going out, meeting people, and taking the risk of rejection when trying to make friends. Since Imad was too afraid to take this risk, he spent time in front of his computer instead, however, he still needed to fulfill his need to communicate and so once he discovered the chat rooms, he delved right in. This kind of socialization is very limited and will not teach Imad about how to deal with people.
  • In your opinion, why doesn’t Imad want to attend the soccer game or to participate in the community youth group activities? It is likely that when Imad goes to such activities, he finds out that most of the youth there already know each other and have already formed their groups of friends. This makes it hard for him since he is new to the group. Unless the group really makes him feel welcome, it will be difficult for him to take the initiative and join in. It is also possible that Imad is not confident in his athletic ability. If he feels that he is not good at sports then he won’t want to meet people while playing sports. He will likely feel self-conscious and worried that people won’t want him on their team because he will only bring them down.
  • What are the benefits and harms of spending a long time in front of the computer? Do you think there is a big difference between this and spending long hours watching TV? Spending a long time in front of computer for reasons other than studying or conducting useful research is not advisable. Though there are some benefits such as becoming very skilled and efficient at maneuvering through the Internet, the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. Firstly, all the time Imad spends in front of the computer is taking away from time he could spend in other, more useful activities. In short, it is waste of time. Another drawback is that the Internet is laden with moral garbage and it is very easy to run into all sorts of harmful things on the Internet. The more time he spends on the computer, the more likely he is to view the harmful and negative things. Of course, the computer screen also emits rays that are harmful to the eyes. Another potential drawback to spending long hours in front of the computer is that he can become socially isolated and accept this as a natural way to live. This is just to name a few possibilities and is by no mean an exhaustive list of the effects of time spent on the Internet. As for the difference between sitting in front of the computer or watching TV, the main difference is that some activities on the computer require the user to not be as passive as he would be if he had been watching TV, but parents should be aware that much of what was available on TV has become available through the internet now. Music videos, songs, lyrics, interviews with rock stars and actors can all be watched, heard, and read on the Internet. Furthermore, these are all more convenient through the computer than the TV because the user can access them these at his own convenience and is not restricted by the time that they are available, as he would be with TV.
  • Imad didn’t rush down to have dinner with the family when his dad came home early. Why do you think he stayed upstairs? What do you think of the dad’s reaction when Imad didn’t come down? Because the father is rarely home, the relationship between him and Imad is not strong at all. If Imad doesn’t have a strong bond with his father, it’s normal that he wouldn’t rush down to greet him. Since the father doesn’t go out of his way to spend time with his teenage son, the son doesn’t go out of his way to spend time with the father either. Why would Imad make time for his father if his father doesn’t make time for him? The dad’s reaction was also very negative. Though the father may not mean it, the phrase that he used when describing Imad to his mother, saying, “your son is too busy for me!” has plenty of harmful implications. First of all, when he refers to Imad as the mother’s son this implies a sense of disowning towards his own son. It is very hurtful for any child to hear his parents refer to him as somebody else’s son, even if that person is his other parent. The other implication of this reference is that Imad’s father is blaming the mother entirely for Imad’s behavior and is not taking any responsibility for Imad’s actions himself.
  • Imad thought that he wasn’t doing anything wrong by talking to Mona through the chat room. What do you think? Although the chat room is not a physical room and people are not physically in one place, that doesn’t make it a good place to communicate without worries or regulations. There are Islamic rules and regulations that should be followed whenever there is a need for communication between the two genders. Chat rooms, e-mail messages, and private messaging over the internet are all modern ways of communication which should follow the same Islamic regulations that are appropriate for the intended purpose.  So Imad’s idea that nothing is wrong with him spending hours talking to Mona over the Internet is clearly wrong.  He shouldn’t do that, as they have no legitimate reason to spend that time together.
  • For a 16 year old, the need to be understood is very important. What could the family do to make sure that this need is fulfilled in a proper way? The family has a big role to play in order to help a 16 year old feel that he can relate to others and be understood. First, both parents, especially the same gender parent, should take an interest in the teen’s life and devote some time to interacting and listening to him. Parents should listen to his feelings, his concerns, what is troubling him, as well as his interests. When the parent is able to listen and show empathy without jumping to conclusions and passing judgments, he learns a lot about his teen and can usually figure out what is troubling him. Through dialogue, discussion, and compromise, both the parents and the teen can reach a mutual understanding regarding issues and concerns. When teen feels that he can relate to his parents and that they understand his situation, he will come to them with his problems and he will take their advice with lots of consideration instead of going to others who may lead him to do something harmful or foolish.
  • Suggest some practical ways for the family to help Imad changes his computer habits.

 

 To help Imad have the right habits when using the computer:

  1. Place the computer in an area of common use in the home and not in a closed room. For example, it could be placed in the family room or in a general study room.
  2. Help the teen to have the proper Islamic knowledge regarding personal responsibilities for one’s use of his own senses such as eyes, ears and mind. You can quote the verse from Surah Al-Israa’, “Verily the hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those ones will be questioned” (Q 17, V 36).
  3. Help the teen to have proper Islamic knowledge and practices regarding how he spends his time and teach him to take responsibility for his personal growth. You can quote the saying of the prophet PBUH, ”Be keen to gain what would benefit you and seek help from Allah”.
  4. Help the teen to have proper Islamic knowledge and practices regarding regulations related to opposite-gender interaction.

        It is advisable that parents educate themselves regarding these issues. Through constructive interaction, dialogues, discussions, and asking their teen to do some research on the topic at hand, they can all come up with the proper way to deal with any issue. Here is a reminder that the TAQWA of Allah is a must for parents to open the doors of knowledge and wisdom to their children as indicated in Surah Al-Baqarah,

“…وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللّهُ …”

“ … So have TAQWA towards Allah and Allah teaches you” (Q 2, V 282)   

 

 

I feel like we are growing apart

Zahida and Tarek have been married for four years and they have a son, Ali, who is one year old.  Zahida is very concerned about her family, she feels that her relationship with Tarek is not at the level where it should be.  Zahida feels that her and her husband are growing apart.

Before Zahida and Tarek got married, they spent a lot of time planning their life.  They discussed their priorities and agreed that they will share their lives together.  They both promised themselves that they wouldn’t let “it” happen to them.  They never wanted to turn into “the two strangers living under the same roof with a bunch of kids”.

Since they got married, both Zahida and Tarek have been very busy and under a lot of pressure. Tarek has been working long hours to prove himself at work, while Zahida has been studying hard to get her college degree.  They did not have much spare time, but with the little spare time they had, Tarek always wanted to spend it quietly with his wife at home or go on the internet, while Zahida desired to spend it going out on a walk or taking a hike at the park.  Whichever way they ended up spending the time, one of them was always unsatisfied and displeased.

One year ago, Allah SWT blessed the couple with baby Ali. Zahida and Tarek were very happy to be blessed with Ali and are doing their best to take good care of him, which requires lots of time, particularly from Zahida

Tarek complains that even after Ali goes to bed, Zahida talks about him and nothing else and that this is beginning to annoy him very much. Tarek feels that as a couple they don’t know how to talk about anything but AliTarek tried a few times, without success, to try to get Zahida to talk about other subjects saying “Zahida, do you notice that all you ever talk about is Ali”?   On the other hand, Zahida complains that Tarek doesn’t put enough effort into sharing in the activities she enjoys.  She says that other than eating and sleeping, they do nothing together.

 

Questions:

  • Is this a common problem
  • Is this a serious problem
  • What do you think the cause of the problem is?
  • Tarek and Zahida made a promise to themselves before they got married. What can they do to fulfill this promise?
  • Do you know of a similar situation?

 

Analysis of “I feel like we are growing apart”

1. Is this a common problem?

Yes it is a common problem, especially in the first few years of marriage.

 

2. Is this a serious problem?

We believe it is a serious problem because it affects the feelings of each one of them toward the other. Usually each spouse is left with the impression that the other spouse doesn’t care about his/her feelings and needs. This becomes a vicious cycle that creates a huge gap between the couple.

 

3. What do you think the cause of the problem is?

The cause of this problem can be summarized in the following:

  • Both Tarek and Zahidah consider their own needs to be the most important to them and don’t consider the needs of the other spouse as legitimate or as important as their own needs.
  • The expectations of Tarek from his wife and the expectations of Zahidah from her husband were never discussed in detail or mutually agreed upon. Each one of them has certain expectations from the other but has never communicated these expectations clearly to their partner.

 

4. Tarek and Zahidah made a promise to themselves before they got married. What can they do to fulfill this promise?

Most probably, Tarek and Zahidah have seen a model of “the two strangers living under the same roof” and they didn’t like it, and that is why they made this promise before marriage. However, sometimes things are easier said than done. It is not enough just to theoretically believe in something. It takes effort, hard work, self-discipline, and a strong will to change oneself. But above all, it takes an open minded attitude. Both Tarek and Zahidah may agree on the principle that it is important to compromise, but when it is actually time to compromise and sacrifice one’s preference, s/he doesn’t feel like doing this, and thinks that it is not fair, and that her/his need is more important. They get into the attitude of “if he/she really loves me, he/she will do it for me”

 

Before we discuss what both of them can do together to fulfill their promise, we would like to remind the reader that all the ingredients of a successful marriage we mentioned in chapter four as well as throughout this book will certainly help make things easier.

 

Let us now see what both can do together to fulfill their promise:

  • Be indispensable; Both Tarek and Zahidah may like to consider making themselves indispensable to each other. There is a great benefit for this. It cements and bonds the two spouses together at an emotional level, as the memories they have about the time they spend together are highlighted by a feeling of comfort, satisfaction, and joy. Each of them would feel that the best time they ever had is when they are around each other. If Tarek is away on a business trip, Zahidah would really miss him and would be eager for him to come back. If Zahidah is away visiting her parents, Tarek would be counting the days, eagerly awaiting her arrival.
  • Learn to compromise in a graceful way; Compromise is a basic requirement for the success of any relationship. A spouse, who puts his/her partner’s need ahead of his/her own, is sending a strong message of love, consideration, and sincerity. No message could be more powerful than this, even gifts or a thousand “I love you” notes. On the same token, a return of the compromise by taking turns in putting the other spouses’ desires first is an assuring message that the love is mutual. If the same spouse keeps giving in to her/his partner’s need and, hence, keeps putting off his/her own needs, they will end up feeling rejected and uncared for. He/she will feel like all his/her partner cares about is the service he/she provides, not he/she personally. No matter how many times they hear, “I love you”, they won’t believe it; it will sound phony to them. At this point, he/she will begin to feel resentment and question whether he/she should compromise at all. He/she will also start taking a new stand on the way he/she deals with his/her spouse.

Whenever spouses compromise, they need to do it in a graceful way and with willingness and acceptance, otherwise, it doesn’t carry a loving message.

  • Keep in touch; It is very important that the two spouses keep in touch at an emotional level, such that each one of them is assured that her/his partner still strongly loves and cares for her/him. In a busy life such as that of our times, people are always living under pressure. Tarek and Zahidah need to get away from the every day routine, and spend a little time, just the two of them. They can arrange to leave the baby with a family member or a friend. Going for a walk twice a week, lunch or dinner in a restaurant once every couple of months, or a picnic at the park for an afternoon, will help them stay in touch. Such outings will give them an opportunity to listen to each other’s concerns, exchange ideas, and brainstorm solutions to the issues occupying their minds. This requires willingness from both of them. Also, Zahidah should talk to Tarek about how she feels. This will help the relationship stay on the right track as long as it is done in a caring way and not a blaming way. Tarek and Zahidah should also consider reading a book together or following up on each other’s Qur’anic memorization, even if it is just couple of verses a week.
  • Keep the romance alive; To enrich their relationship and stop it from turning into a dry mechanical one, Zahidah and Tarek should do their own little things to keep the romance alive. Writing notes of kind words and buying each other little gifts is one way to do it. Also doing something special for one another is a great idea; for example, Zahidah could prepare Tarek’s favourite meal, and Tarek could prepare breakfast in bed for Zahidah every now and then.
  • Maximize efforts and time; Tarek and Zahidah need to learn to be more efficient and organized. This can save them a lot of effort and allow the couple to have some free time. Preparing simple meals rather than complicated ones, and considering cooking enough for two to three days at once may be a good idea for their purposes.
  • Be patient and allow room for adjustment; Both Tarek and Zahidah need to allow each other some room while adjusting to the new perspective of looking at things. They need to overlook any behaviour that might look too withdrawn or resentful and give the other spouse enough time and room to adjust and accept the new situation.

 

Can you relate to this problem or know of a similar situation? Comment below and let us know!

 

I’d just like to be able to come home to a quiet house and relax

Kareema and Ahmed have been married for about a year. Kareema moved from another city to Ahmed’s city after the wedding and is studying for her Master’s degree, while Ahmed works full time. Ahmed has always been very involved in Islamic activities in his city. Kareema used to be very involved in Islamic activities in her old town, but has found that there aren’t any activities for sisters here. She has looked for sisters’ halaqas (study circles) or public lectures at university and at the mosque but can’t find anything. Kareema is starting to feel depressed about this and brings up the problem with some other sisters she has met at university. She’s happy to find a few sisters who are interested in starting a halaqa with her, but unfortunately, they all live in different parts of the city and Kareema is the only one who lives in a central location that is easy to get to. Together, the girls discuss their schedules and find that the only possible times they are all available to meet is either Tuesday or Thursday night. Kareema tells the other girls she’ll check with her husband about using their apartment for their halaqa, and if not, they can always try to book a room on a weekly basis at the university.

That night, over dinner, Kareema tells Ahmed about the halaqa idea excitedly, but Ahmed doesn’t look happy about it. “I don’t know, Kareema,” he says, “I’m already so tired when I get home from work. I don’t think I could stay out later on a week night.”
“It’s okay,” Kareema answers. “You can come home and just go to our bedroom or the study. We’ll just be in the living room.”
Ahmed shakes his head. “It’ll be too noisy. Honestly, I’d just like to be able to come home to a quiet house and relax.”
Kareema tells Ahmed that the other possible location is on campus, but asks him if he can pick her up after the halaqa, since the bus from university to their building doesn’t run past 8 p.m. and she doesn’t drive. Ahmed tells her that he’d be too tired to come get her, and that he’d really rather they found a time during the day to do the halaqa, and then she could do it on campus or at their place. Kareema explains that a lot of the sisters study full time and wouldn’t be able to make it during the day, and that this is really important to her, but Ahmed says it’s just too hard, and that maybe next semester the schedules will work out and she’ll be able to start a halaqa during the day.

“I can’t honey. I’m just too tired after working all day.”

 

Why this use of Qawamah is inappropriate

  • Ahmed isn’t considering Kareema’s needs to socialize and gain knowledge with sisters
  • It is the responsibility of the husband to provide the means for his family members to be educated, particularly in matters of religion
  • The compromise Ahmed would have to make (ie going to their bedroom or the study one night a week while the women hold the halaqa in the living room) is really not unreasonable at all and is a very small price to pay to help his wife fulfill her social/educational needs.

 

Laiyla and Lotfi have been married for 9 months. As the couple married young, Laiyla is still finishing her undergraduate degree. One evening, Laiyla has to go to her university campus for an important group meeting for one of her course projects. Laiyla takes the metro to campus and attends the meeting with the rest of her group at the university library.

The meeting runs a little late and Laiyla finds that it is almost 10:45pm by the time they are done the meeting. She calls Lotfi on his cell phone to find that he is still at his office, working late. Lotfi tells her to wait for him in the library and that he will come pick her up once he is finished sending an important email to a client. Laiyla replies that if she heads out now and takes the metro home it will only take her 20 minutes and she will be home before he’s even finished the email.

She explains to him that they’ve both had a long day and that it would be easier for both of them if she just took the metro home instead of having to wait for him and have him make the trip all the way down to her campus from his office and then go back home. But Lotfi insists that it’s not safe for her to take the metro at this hour alone and asks her to please just wait for him to come pick her up. “I know you’re tired dear, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Maybe you could read a book until I come.”

Laiyla agrees to wait for him and decides to check her email in the library until he comes.

 

Why this use of Qawamah is appropriate

  •  Lotfi’s request that Laiyla not take public transportation at 11pm is reasonable because many big cities’ public transportation and metro systems aren’t very safe at that hour, and Lotfi is in charge of protecting Laiyla’s safety.
  • Even though what Lofti did required sacrifice from him  and extra time and effort, he did the right thing because it is part of his duty as a husband to look out for the well-being of his wife and be concerned about her security
  • Lotfi offers Laiyla an alternative solution to her idea which is that he will come and pick her up, which will only mean that she will have to wait on campus for a little while longer.