This Sunday I have attended Yasmin Mogahed’s day-long seminar on marriage by Al Buruj Press, along with about 650 other people. Of course I have read her book and have been following her on social media for some time now, so it was quite an experience to see her in person. Even though I mostly saw her through a transmitted screen I was still impressed by her noor, confidence and charisma, which even transmitted through the screen. She came across as very amiable and gentle but at the same time respect commanding.
In regards to the event itself I must say I have been stunned by the fact that most people arrived on time even though it was a Sunday morning and people actually stayed until the very end at around 6.30 pm. I took my sweet time that morning expecting the event to run on ‘muslim standard time’ , instead upon my arrival I faced an overcrowded hall and had to make do with a single chair in a corner all the way in the back as there were no tables left. Early bird gets the worm I guess…
Despite marriage being the main topic of the seminar, Ustadha Yasmin actually talked a lot about the attachment to dunya and one’s relationship with Allah. However, as we soon learned these two are actually a prerequisite and foundation for a happy marriage.
Here are some of the key points that I took away from the seminar:
The issue of attachment
People tend to get attached and dependent on different things throughout their lives: Children always need entertainment, teenagers are attached to their looks, young adults need to prove themselves through university or work and middle aged people derive their happiness through their wealth and children. As we go through different life stages our attachments change, for example one day all we care about is our career and the next day our children or spouse become the whole focus of our life. All these attachments have one thing in common however: One day like the earth drying up and crumbling even after the heaviest rain, all these things will also disappear.
Therefore we will only experience loss and pain if we get too attached to the allurements of life such as wealth, children or a spouse because one day this will all leave us. The only one never leaving our side is Allah, therefore Allah is the one that we should have the strongest attachment to.
Istikhara, Istikhara, Istikhara
Istikhara is one of the most important duas and acts to do not just before marriage but before any kind of event. Many people misunderstand the act of istikhara however. Some just make istikhara one day before the marriage as an act of tradition and other pray istikhara and then wait for signs that will give them an answer and show them the way.
This is nevertheless not the purpose of istikhara. Istikhara is made up of two parts: First you acknowledge that you don’t know and can’t do anything without Allah. Then you ask Allah to give you or take away from you the object of your decision. Basically in istikhara you are not asking for any signs, you are asking Allah for khayr.
After istikhara it is not necessary to go looking for any signs, instead you should just trust in Allah to give whatever is more khayr for you or to keep you away in what is harmful for you.
Soulmates in Islam
The concept of soulmates actually originates from Islam but it is a different concept from what we know today. The islamic idea of soulmates is not two souls being reunited through marriage, instead there is a hadith that mentions how there was a gathering of souls before before this life. During that gathering the souls were in different groups and on this earth our souls get along well with the other souls from their respective groups in that gathering.
Imaam al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheeh that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying: ‘Souls are like conscripted soldiers; those whom they recognize, they get along with, and those whom they do not recognize, they will not get along with.’” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab Ahaadeeth al-Anbiyaa’, Baab al-Arwaah junood mujannadah).
Enjoy your marriage but don’t be dependent
We should enjoy our marriage and being with our spouse but we can never fully enjoy something that we depend on. A good example for that is the pleasure of eating a delicious cheesecake. A person who is starved and hasn’t eaten for 2 weeks will not be able to enjoy the cheesecake. Instead that person will just scoff the cheesecake without enjoyment, barely tasting the flavours , not noticing any faults and even eat it if it is rotten. The satiated person however will be able to fully enjoy the flavour or not eat the cheesecake at all if there is something wrong with it.
Don’t judge other people’s marriages and be grateful to Allah if yours is going well
An hiba, Arabic for gift, is never deserved. Never. We have to give our best in everything we do, including our marriage and Allah will reward us for our efforts. However the results of our efforts are entirely up to Allah’s will and therefore we get rewarded for our efforts and not the results. As a consequence we can’t be proud and ungrateful for what something we have achieved or else we would be taking someone else’s credit for this result. And who would like to take Allah’s credit away?
There is a hadith about a guy who did this and never acknowledged Allah for his wealth and success. As a result this guy and his whole wealth got swallowed by the earth.
So, if you see others having a bad marriage or getting a divorce, don’t judge them. Maybe they are working hard on it but Allah the all-knowing in his wisdom decided to not bless them with a happy marriage.
Marriage is half our deen but not half of us
In Sura al-Furqaan we are recommended to make dua for our spouses to become the ‘coolness of our eyes’. It is important to remember however that this is something that beautifies our lives but we can also live without it. Again, if we are dependent on our partner we will not be able to have a spouse ‘that is the coolness of our eye’, instead we will not feel happy due to that dependency.
Marriage is something that should compliment and not complete us. It is half our deen and not half of us because marriage is a training ground to learn, acquire and practice virtues that make us good muslims. Patience and generosity for example are virtues that are being built and developed in a good marriage and that help us become better muslims ultimately. It is easy to read about having those virtues but when married you will be tested if you really have patience or generosity among others. However these virtues are not build easily in a marriage. Growth through marriages comes through struggle.
The real source of love
All human beings are in desperate need of love, it is part of our nature. Even our negative attributes often come from love: We hate the events or people who took away what we love and we fear the things that might take away what we love.
But how do we ultimately receive love from Allah and from people? There are two hadiths who answer this:
“Allah says: ‘The most beloved things with which My servant draws nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My servant keeps drawing closer to Me through performing voluntary acts until I love him. And when I love him, I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, his sense of sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks. If he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection I will protect him…” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
When Allah loves someone, He will make him beloved among the people. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel saying: ‘Allah loves so and-so; O Gabriel! Love him.’ Gabriel would love him and make an announcement amongst the inhabitants of the Heaven: ‘Allah loves so-and-so, therefore you should love him also.’ And so all the inhabitants of the Heaven would love him, and then he is granted the pleasure of the people on the Earth.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim (2673)]
In other words Allah will love us if we are not attached to dunya but to him and people will love us if we don’t depend on what they give us such as respect and love. We don’t get respect or love by begging for it. No one loves beggars in this world, except for Allah.
Allah is the source of love, the all giving. Allah is the only one who we can always beg (eg make dua) to give us love and he will never turn us down.
The different primary needs in men and women
Men: Their primary need is to be respected.
Women: Their primary need is to feel loved.
If a woman feels unloved by a man she often responds by having an ‘attitude’ e.g. being disrespectful toward the man, who in turn reacts by being unloving and the woman reacts with more attitude. The same way a man can start the cycle by being unloving towards his wife. No matter who started the behaviour, it can lead to a vicious cycle which only worsens with time if no action is taken.
Communication patterns and differences between the genders
Women feel better through talking about their problems. They confide their problems to their close friends, which is also a sort of proof of trust towards their friends. If women don’t want to share their problems anymore with their friends, it is often seen as a sign of distrust and distance towards them.
Similarly women react hurt and suspicious if their husband doesn’t want to talk about his problems to them. Men however don’t necessarily feel better by talking about their problems and they don’t expect their close friends to confide their problems to them. Instead, men sometimes just like to ‘go into a cave’ and come back when they have solved their issues.
Additionally men respond to problems by giving solutions e.g. if their wife tells them about something that is bothering them, they intuitively respond by either giving possible solutions to solve the problem or by pointing out that the situation is not really a serious problem. Women meanwhile don’t talk about their feelings or problems to get this sort of answer, they just like to talk about it and get reassurance. Therefore they often feel invalidated if their husbands tell them that there is no issue or that they are exaggerating. The feeling of invalidation leads to her getting even more upset because she has to defend her feelings and the whole situation could end in an argument.
The bottom line is that women should respect their husbands’ space and not insist if they don’t want to talk and need time. Wait for the man to come out of his cave on his own.
Men at the same time should learn to just listen to their wives feelings and problems and not respond by telling them what to do or that there is no issue, instead they should just give a shoulder and reassure.
Some communication Dont’s for your marriage :
- Constant criticism
- Stone Walling
- You statements
- Rude tone
Reading tips by Ustadha Yasmin
Ustadha Yasmin has some of the relationship advice from different authors and studies. Here are some that she recommends:
- Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray
- Relationship research by John Gottman, which you can read here: http://www.gottmanblog.com/
The Dhikr Challenge
Ultimately our relationship to Allah is the foundation of our relationships with all other human beings. The key is to have a strong relationship with our creator, which in turn makes us stronger and better human beings that are full of love and therefore capable to give and receive love.In order to build that strong relationship with Allah, try the following dhikr challenge:
- Stick to your salah. Salah is like oxygen for our hearts, without that oxygen our hearts will die. No healthy heart without regular prayer. It is not just enough to pray, praying on time is very important. The same way that you wouldn’t take your life saving tablets too late or all at one time, the same way you shouldn’t delay your prayers.
- Have a relationship with the Koran. Read and reflect on it daily, even if it is just one ayah.
- Make a lot of dua. Download a dua app on your phone and start reading duas after every fajr and evening salah.