“Say you’ve only got someone’s attention for 20 minutes…what is the most critical message which demands delivery on the topic of a happy Muslim marriage?” This was the question that resounded in my head in the build-up to this article.
– Should I offer a list of principles that govern a happy Muslim family?
– Should I relay a series of scenarios illustrating tricky marriage situations and their potential solutions?
– Or, should I share a list of 10 generic pieces of advice and recommendations?
Whilst there is scope and certainly a need for such lengthy discussions, I came to the conclusion that instead of cramming these messages – which will most likely be forgotten – I will instead share only one, in the hope that it is readily recalled and easily applied. The question that then followed was: What will that message be?
I began to scan over the many conversations I have had with couples in conflict. How many couples have sat before me with war-weary faces stained by countless tears. The love that once shone so brightly, has been replaced by contempt of equal measure. The passion which could have moved a mountain, is now substituted with scornful rage. Wedding photos discarded in a joyless empty home, a painful reminder of lost love. When once the faintest touch of their hands would exhilarate, it now causes their skins to crawl. Despite sitting together, it is clear that they have grown oceans apart.
As I recalled the many case studies, I brought to mind the insights I have gathered of senior and more experienced scholars and also their management of such disputes. I attempted to pinpoint what I felt had been the single most effective piece of advice in, not only diffusing the dispute, but in also reigniting the flame of eternal love between the disputants. I found it to be one particular recommendation;
Work together as a Muslim couple towards a common Islamic goal.
What I had consistently come to realise was that many (if not most) quarrelling couples answered the following question in the exact same way: “Do you have a joint Islamic activity of any sort?” “No.” At first, the couples are not usually too impressed with the suggestion, so I list some of the outcomes they can expect if they were to apply this advice:
It will establish an immovable rock of love in your relationship
Since our belief as Muslims is that Allāh is Al-Qawiyy (the Most Powerful) and Al-Bāqi (the Most Enduring), the logical conclusion is that a relationship centered on a Lord of such attributes will also become the most powerful and most enduring of all relationships.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
ثلاث من كن فيه وجد بهن حلاوة الإيمان: أن يكون الله ورسوله أحب إليه مما سواهما، وأن يحب المرء لا يحبه إلا لله، وأن يكره أن يعود في الكفر بعد أن أنقذه الله منه، كما يكره أن يقذف في النار
“There are three qualities that, whoever has them, will taste the sweetness of īmān:
(1) To love Allāh and His Messenger more than anyone else
(2) To love a person only for Allāh’ sake
(3) To hate returning to disbelief after Allāh had saved him from it, in the same way that he hates to be thrown into the Fire.”
Why is it that when we talk about love for Allāh’s sake – the truest of all love – our minds automatically shift to our Muslim teachers, or perhaps to our friends who attend the same study circle in the Masjid? Have you not considered that you can love your spouse for Allāh’s sake as well? Unlike love that is founded exclusively on carnal desires or having children, love for Allāh’s sake is the strongest anchor as it is set upon the Most Powerful Himself.
As a rule, the distance between Allāh and a couple is proportional to the distance between the spouses themselves. Likewise, the nearer the spouses draw to Allāh together, the nearer they will find themselves drawn to one another.
The more times you sit down together to partake in your joint Islamic activity, the more you have loved each other for the sake of Allāh. The more you have loved each other for His sake, the closer you have become.
It will evict pettiness from your lives
My experiences have taught me that there is a very strong correlation between couples who do not have a joint Islamic activity or lofty aims and their susceptibility of falling out over the pettiest of matters. In fact, such couples are too embarrassed to even share their problems with a counselor due to the pettiness of such matters, that is if they can even remember them.
Since the couple have not busied themselves with noble matters, Shaytān busies them with the most trivial ones instead because of the window of opportunity that has been left open for him. As for couples who have invited Islam into their daily or weekly schedules, whose minds and priorities have ascended to new heights that transcend this world and creep into the Hereafter, they find themselves far too busy to be slowed down or become hurt by petty things.
The husband will not kick up a fuss if dinner is too salty. The wife will not complain if her husband returns from work late. Neither spouse will wage war at the other if the toothpaste cap goes missing. The overarching life mission of the couple therefore becomes acquiring the pleasure of Allāh, thus expelling pettiness from the homes by virtue of the joint Islamic activities.
It will assist you in the sacrifices you need to make for Islam
During the time of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), a dispute happened between two men over the ownership of a palm tree. To settle the disagreement, the Prophet requested one of them to hand over the ownership of the palm tree to the other in return for a palm tree in Paradise. The man refused. Abu Dahdāh caught wind of this offer, so he approached the man who refused to hand over the palm tree and said to him, “Sell me your palm tree in place for my orchard,” to which the man agreed. Abu Dahdāh then made his way to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and said:
يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، إِنِّي قَدِ ابْتَعْتُ النَّخْلَةَ بِحَائِطِي فَاجْعَلْهَا لَهُ، فَقَدْ أَعْطَيْتُكَهَا
“O Messenger of Allāh, I have purchased the palm tree with my orchard, so hand it over to him, for I have handed it over to you.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said over and over again:
كَمْ مِنْ عَذْقٍ رَدَاحٍ لِأَبِي الدَّحْدَاحِ فِي الْجَنَّةِ
“How plentiful are the sweet date clusters that Abu Dahdāh now has in Paradise!”
Immediately, Abu Dahdāh returned back home to his wife and said:
يَا أُمَّ الدَّحْدَاحِ اخْرُجِي مِنَ الْحَائِطِ، فَإِنِّي قَدْ بِعْتُهُ بِنَخْلَةٍ فِي الْجَنَّةِ
“O mother of Dahdāh, walk out of the garden, for I have sold it in place for a palm tree in Paradise.”
Her response was unconditionally supportive:
“What a successful transaction!”
She then made her way to her children and took out from their mouths the dates that they were chewing, then emptied their pockets and sleeves as well, and then left the garden for its new owner to take possession.
What heart cannot be awestruck at such a narration, without knowing whose behavior is more impressive; Abu al-Dahdaa’s who sold his entire orchard for a palm tree in paradise, or his wife’s unreserved support of her husband’s quest for Allah’s pleasure. Regardless, this joint Islamic activity illustrates the example of a couple willing to back each other when sacrifices for the religion are required. What can possibly be more motivating and empowering than a spouse who says, “Do what you need to do for His sake – I have your back”?
It will make your spouse the most attractive person to you
A Moroccan brother relating his journey to repentance mentioned how he was raised in an upper-class family, only ever mixing with the elite. According to him, beauty was – somehow – far more prevalent in their midst. He said:
“After I found my way back to Allāh, I began to search for marriage, but because of my background, my eye had become accustomed to certain standards. I made so much du’ā for a wife of very specific characteristics. Each time I did ‘Umrah, drank Zam Zam water, or was in prostration, my hands were raised in du’ā and my description to Allāh of what I wanted was the same each time. Years passed by and my du’ā did not change one bit, until the day came when Allāh would send the very mirror reflection of my du’ā to the home of my parents, after which we were married.”
“As I was asleep one night, I briefly woke up to turn from side to side, only to catch a glimpse of my wife who was standing in the middle of the room in her full Hijāb. There, in complete silence and pitch-black darkness, she was in the middle of her night prayer. I had no idea that this was her habit. It was only a brief snapshot before I fell back to sleep, yet the image of her standing in prayer was etched onto my mind forever. As a result, whenever I would witness beauty that my insinuations suggested may top the beauty of my wife, this image of her in prayer at night would appear before me, and at once I realise that I have the most beautiful woman in the world.”
It will ease the intensity of the interrogation within the court of Allāh
With the exception of a minority, most Muslims will not be granted access to Paradise until they first provide satisfactory answers to a series of questions within the court of Allāh on the Day of Reckoning. No one can claim to be caught off guard on that Day, because these questions have been fully detailed by the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) so that you and I can make full preparations for them, in good time. One of these questions relates to your family.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
إن الله سائل كل راع عما استرعاه ، أحفظ ذلك أم ضيع ؟ حتى يسأل الرجل عن أهل بيته
“Allāh is going to ask each shepherd about his flock, whether he upheld this trust or abused it, until a man will be asked about his household.”
Ensuring the presence of a joint Islamic activity is undoubtedly a means of easing the intensity of this upcoming interrogation before Allāh.
It will become the reason for your joint entry to Jannah
Since they had made an active effort today in coming together for the pleasure of Allāh, the couple will be blessed with angels on the Day of Judgement who will usher them together into Paradise.
إِنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْجَنَّةِ الْيَوْمَ فِي شُغُلٍ فَاكِهُونَ (55) هُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُمْ فِي ظِلَالٍ عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ مُتَّكِئُونَ(56)
“Indeed, the companions of Paradise, that Day, will be amused in joyful occupation. They and their spouses in shade, reclining on adorned thrones.”
At this point in a conversation, the couple I am speaking to are sold. They love the idea of working together towards a common Islamic goal. They realise the extent to which they had suffocated their relationship by not doing this.
The question that usually follows is: what does a joint Islamic activity look like? Below are a few suggestions that have proven to be love-awakening, mercy-inducing, and relationship-transforming methods.
A weekly drive to the local Masjid to attend a class
A friend of mine told me that one of the most empowering phases in his Islamic life for both him and his spouse was their drive to their local Mosque to attend a weekly class. Afterwards, they would dine at a local restaurant and reminisce over what had inspired them and share their notes. He said that him and his spouse made a date out of it and were at their happiest.
Even if you need to drive a little further out, it is worth the investment. Do not be afraid of asking your family to tend to the children for those few hours each week, and find a way of returning the favour.
A movie night
Consult people whom you trust to create a playlist of engaging and heart-softening Islamic material online. Create such a playlist that will last you for 6 months at a pace of two videos a week, for example. To get the ball rolling, you may wish to start with Sheikh Omar Sulaiman’s lecture series titled “Angels in your presence”. The length of the lecture is irrelevant – the key word is consistency.
Two units of joint Salāh before you sleep
Make a habit of praying together at night, but start with something manageable, like two units that you carry out together after your ‘Isha prayer (and its Sunnah), and before your Witr prayer. Couples – especially those who quarrel or complain of a relationship devoid of mercy – truly have no excuse in missing this, as the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
رَحِمَ اللهُ رَجُلًا قَامَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ، فَصَلَّى وَأيْقَظَ امْرَأَتَهُ، فَإنْ أبَتْ نَضَحَ في وَجْهِهَا المَاءَ، رَحِمَ اللهُ امْرَأَةً قَامَتْ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ، فَصَلَّتْ وَأيْقَظَتْ زَوْجَهَا، فَإن أبَى نَضَحَتْ فِي وَجْهِهِ المَاءَ
“May Allāh have mercy upon a man who gets up at night to pray, then wakes his wife and she prays, but if she refuses, he sprinkles water in her face. May Allāh have mercy on a woman who gets up at night to pray, then wakes her husband and prays, and if he refuses, she sprinkles water in his face.”
Couples are quick to argue that mercy is missing in their relationship, but very slow in doing what is required to bring it back. Here, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) personally makes du’ā that mercy enters the lives of couples who pray at night, and his du’ā will not be rejected.
Ramadan fasts that need making up
Most women will have days of Ramadan that need to be made up and require encouragement to do so. This can be converted into a marriage investment opportunity by specifying the Monday of each week to fast together as a couple whenever possible. According to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), there are two forms of happiness that the fasting person experiences, one of which is during the breaking of the fast. How many opportunities of happiness have couples who miss this weekly moment missed out on? Set your alarm from now.
Husband and wife reading club
Create a reading list for just you and your wife. Populate the list with both Islamic and useful non-Islamic reads. Endeavour to complete one book a month. Whether you are shopping or taking a walk, or just milling around the house,you will never be short of interesting conversation-fodder that many couples complain they lack. Furthermore, this activity nurtures listening skills and paves a solid pathway to expressing views and interests, which are dangerously absent in many marriages.
To get the ball rolling, here are three books I personally recommend:
- Surah Ya’sin – The Heart of the Qur’an, by Sheikh Asim Khan
- Muhammad ﷺ: 11 Leadership Qualities that Changed the World, by Nabeel Al-Azami
- Atomic Habits, by James Clear
Husband, wife, and children
Whilst husband and wife need time together, children also need time with their parents. Islamic nurturing can be acquired during a fun road trip, as children observe their parent’s mutual respect for one another, their mother’s dedication to the proper Hijāb, their father’s eagerness to pray on time even if under a tree, and their recitation of the Qur’ān during parts of the journey. These moments can be far more effective than what is learnt in a classroom or a book.
As a suggestion to get you started, consider signing up to the mailing list of familyevents.org.uk, who provide highly enjoyable opportunities for Muslim families in the UK. If you do not have access to something like this in your region, then be proactive. Learn from their model and replicate something similar, even if at the scale of two or three families.
A regular trip to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine
Al-Aqsa requires your support, but your family also requires the support that Allāh gives to the visitors of places of barakah (blessing). Al-Aqsa is a place of barakah. Visit as a couple and inhale from its pure air. Prostrate on its blessed land and supplicate to Allāh on its holy sanctuary for the aid of Al-Aqsa and the aid of your family. Find a recommended travel agent that offers a full programme and book your trip.
Design a joint Islamic project together
Henry Ford once said: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
The difference between success and failure is a great team. Great things are never done by one person. When you and your spouse are goal-oriented, your mistakes are smaller, your quarrels are fewer, your lines of communication are wider, your sense of unity is clearer, your marriage satisfaction is greater, and your bond is immeasurably stronger. This bond is bound to fade if you are both constantly working apart.
Your joint Islamic project could be to:
– Understand 90% of the Qur’ān in Arabic within 3 years
– Set up a modern da’wah office/cafe within your locality
– Memorise the entire Qur’ān with one ijāza (license) in tajwīd each within 5 years
– Set up a specialist tajwīd institute within your region within 2 years
– Raise funds for 3 promising students of knowledge in your locality to further their Islamic education overseas.
Start a frank conversation from as early as now. Pinpoint your strengths, brainstorm ideas, consult other teachers and families, and find your common goal. Do this for the sake of Allāh, then for the sake of the Home of the Hereafter, then for the sake of your marriage.
The core message of this entire article is to work together as a Muslim couple towards a common Islamic goal. I have demonstrated six benefits that can be expected by those who act upon this advice. I then suggested eight ways of how you can do this practically. May this be the beginning of something great for you and your spouse. I am keen to know how you fare.
 Al-Bukhāri and Muslim, on the authority of Anas
 Ahmad, on the authority of Anas
 Ibn Hibbān, on the authority of Anas
 Al-Qur’ān, 36:55-56
 Abu Dāwūd, on the authority of Abu Huraira
 The set of rules governing the way in which the words of the Qur’ān should be pronounced during its recitation.