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