“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, and the ships which sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind, and the water (rain) which Allah sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive therewith after its death, and the moving (living) creatures of all kinds that He has scattered therein, and in the veering of winds and clouds which are held between the sky and the earth, are indeed Ayat (proofs, evidences, signs, etc.) for people of understanding.” (Al-Baqarah 2:164)
Allah’s (swt) created world, in which He has placed the humankind, is full of His signs. One of the signs of Allah (swt) is the change that naturally occurs in the world: the succession of seasons, the rhythm of night and day, and the death of plants followed by their revival. The laws of nature and the interdependency of ecosystems are His other signs – we, as Muslims, should strive to understand them and live in harmony with all of Allah’s (swt) creation. After all, living green is part of our Deen. Here are a few tips on how to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly.
Adjust your habits in accordance with the change of seasons: Alhumdulillah, the five daily calls for prayers establish the best rhythm for our days. As their timings change throughout the year, we should also try to adjust our lifestyles to the change. Staying awake after Fajr throughout the year would mean that we can make the most of the natural sunlight, and save on electrical lights. If we learn to accept that summers are hot and winters are cold, we can stop trying to control our environment by excessive use of air-conditioning and heating systems. It’s healthier and more eco-friendly to use fans instead of ACs in summers, and to dress warmly in winter instead of overheating houses. Technical inventions are there to make our lives easier and more comfortable. However, for us Muslims, earthly pleasures should not be priorities; rather we should use modern conveniences in moderation, bearing in mind the burden that their use puts on the planet.
Choose nature-friendly entertainment: To appreciate Allah’s (swt) signs and His blessings on the Earth, we should try to discover more of the beauty of nature. Allah’s Messenger (sa) has described the good things on Earth as ‘wealth sweet and green’, and green is also the colour associated with Paradise. Instead of letting your family spend a day in front of the TV, computer or a video game, go out and discover the natural beauty around you. And once you will learn to appreciate it, you will be more likely to protect it – both on the basic level by not spoiling the landscape with litter, and in bigger ways by embracing a more environment-friendly approach to life.
Walk more, drive less: Technical inventions have made our lives easier but have they changed it for the better? Mass transport using fossil fuels seriously affects the planet, damaging the atmosphere and using up natural fuel resources. The modern habit of driving everywhere along with the design of cities which forces people to use motor transport, also puts more strain on our health – as we walk less and do altogether less physical exercise, we are more likely to develop certain illnesses, such as heart disease, which significantly impact our quality of life. We cannot give up cars and other means of transport completely, and we know that without them travelling great distances would be impossible for most of us. However, we should reduce the negative impact on the planet by choosing to walk instead of drive whenever possible, share our car with more passengers and opt for more eco-friendly fuel solutions, such as CNG installations.
De-clutter and simplify: The more material wealth we possess, the more time and energy we waste taking care of it. At some point, having more things, even useful ones, could make our life more complicated, instead of easier. The solution is to simplify and de-clutter our lives; get rid of all unnecessary things and organize our housework in a more energy-efficient way. Do you know how much water gets wasted if you keep the tap running while brushing your teeth? And how much water could you save if you washed your fruit and vegetables in a bowl, instead of in running water? Turn the temperature on your water-boiler thermostat down, and you’ll save both energy and money. Let the natural sunlight in instead of turning on the electric bulb. There are many such ways to make your household more energy-efficient!
Grow a garden, plant a tree: The Prophet (sa) famously said: “There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.” (Bukhari) He also forbade cutting the trees of Makkah, as the city has been established as a sanctuary on the earth. (Bukhari) Trees play a vital part in producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide levels. The uncontrollable devastation of rainforests and the Russian taiga has been identified as one of the driving forces behind climate change and an increase in extreme weather conditions. So plant trees. It is such an easy way to gain great reward from Allah (swt)! Green-up your surroundings – try to find a patch of land to grow a garden on or make a herb or vegetable garden on your roof or terrace! Growing your own coriander and tomatoes will not only provide you with fresh produce, but also let you and your family appreciate the blessing of fruit and vegetables. Save trees from being cut by reducing your use of paper and wood, by buying wooden furniture from companies that are known for responsible use of forests, and by campaigning for more green belts and parks in your city.
Be the change you want to happen: We would all like to live in a better, greener and cleaner world; however, sometimes we tend to think that others are responsible for all the bad that is happening. “It’s the big companies, the governments, the system…” In reality, we are all responsible for our bit, and if we want the change to happen, we should start with ourselves. Living a greener life may sometimes require more effort, more work, and less comfort, but it should reward us with a clearer conscience, healthier lives and, Insha’Allah, reward from our Lord (swt).
A group of six twenty-year-old girls is sitting huddled together on the campus cafeteria stairs. They are all listening intently to one of the girls, as she describes the scene at her parents’ drawing room the night before.
“I entered with the tray of drinks. I was so nervous! As I stood in front of him with the tray…”, she pauses for effect, holding out her hand, displaying the sparkling rock on her finger.
There is a ripple of excited giggles, as the other girls inch in closer.
“He looked up at me! As he stretched out his hand to take the drink, our eyes met for a few seconds…”
Most people wistfully look back at their twenties as a time of youthful exuberance, carefree leisure, nouveau ambition, and as the time when physical health and good looks are at their peak.
Still, I’d guess that very few adults miss the anxiety and social pressure related to the marriage proposal process that starts in the twenties, entailing (for most) months or even years of earnest prayers coupled with frantic searches to find their other half.
I can still recall the confusion, anxiety, and stress related to marriage proposals during my early twenties. Finding a suitable spouse nowadays is still not an easy matter for single young men and women.
Youthful Dreams of the Future
No one wants to end up alone in life. Whether one begins to desire marriage during their teens, twenties, or thirties, the dreams and fantasies of a happily-married future commence almost as soon as a young Muslim hits adulthood.
As university or college graduation approaches or passes by, many a young Muslim adult finds him/herself fantasizing about romance, love, and marriage. Their hormone-fueled desires reach a peak as they hit the two-decade mark, and notwithstanding their career-related ambitions, seeking a spouse to settle down in blissful matrimony is a goal that fast begins to dominate their list of priorities.
Destination Within Sight, Entrance Forbidden
Let’s just bypass the whole Rishta (proposal) process for the sake of this article, much as I am tempted to comment on it, and assume that after much anticipation, prayers, networking efforts, awkward drawing room ‘interviews’, innumerable phone calls/Skype sessions, or even a couple of desperation-fueled Umrahs, a young singleton finally gets engaged with their parents’ consent and approval and is very happy and at peace with the decision.
As if the test of spending years praying for and using all practical means to seek a righteous spouse wasn’t enough, the next trial now begins.
This trial is yet another test of patience for any engaged couple who fears Allah (swt) and wants to abide by His commands, laws, and prohibitions, regarding their mutual interactions (or lack thereof).
If an analogy were to make the matter clearer, just imagine placing a large dish full of delicious food in front of a person who has been starving, and ask them to refrain from eating it.
Imagine what that would feel like!
Parents and Families Causing Undue Delays
Depending on the level of religious practice in every family, the difficulty or ease of the engagement period varies.
The commonly witnessed trend is that the more freely a couple interacts with each other before the Nikah, the more difficult it is for them to wait for the marriage, and the more prone they are to misunderstandings in the interim.
Sadly, many engagements break because of misunderstandings during this extended period.
As for the parents of an engaged couple, most tend to completely forget the intensity and awkwardness of unsatisfied sexual desires during youth. They tend to focus primarily on the practicalities related to the wedding and preparations for the parties/functions.
Many parents also tend to give undue importance to the participation/presence of close and distant relatives at the wedding, which causes further delays in the engaged couple’s Nikah.
In short, the longer the engagement, the greater the difficulty for the engaged couple.
What Does the Shariah Say About Talking to a Fiancée?
Islam is very clear about the allowed level of communication, frankness, and social mingling between men and women who are non-Mahrams.
All in-person, verbal, and written interactions between non-Mahrams should be need-based and restricted to a minimum. They should be carried out in a business-like and dignified manner, sans joking, laughing, teasing, and flirting.
Before the Nikah, even if two singles are betrothed, they are still non-Mahrams for each other, and are hence required to refrain from interacting freely.
“Before the marriage contract is done, the fiancé does not have the right to speak words of affection to his fiancé or to hold her hand because he is still a “stranger” (non-Mahram) to her and is like any other non-Mahram man. No one should take this matter lightly.” (IslamQA)
The above excerpt is from a Shafi source. Below, is one from a Hanafi source:
“And come not near to the unlawful sexual intercourse.” (Al-Isra 17:32) “Shariah only gives a person permission to see a prospective spouse once. Any further contact after this initial sighting is impermissible, let alone keeping in touch by calling and texting each other.” (AskImam.org]
Engaged couples are, therefore, not allowed by Allah (swt) to go out on dates, talk on the phone, Skype/email each other without necessity, or send each other text messages.
Even meetings in the homes of their parents, with others present in the same room, are discouraged, if these will lead to freer interaction, gazing at each other or other forbidden actions.
Conclusion: Err on the Side of Caution
The cases of engaged couples that I personally know of, who have transgressed the boundaries set by Islam in their interactions before Nikah, are so many that I cannot count. Almost all cases commence with ‘innocent’ phone calls encouraged by their parents. These calls lead to the desire to meet more often in person. When the latter happens, even inside the drawing rooms of parents’ homes, physical touching is not long to follow. All of these actions count as footsteps towards Zina (adultery).
I therefore urge all parents to not delay their wards’ Nikah once they have found the person to marry them off to, and to not give more importance to the nitty-gritty of elaborate wedding functions, overpriced dresses, jewellery, and guest lists than their child’s Akhirah.
You are standing in front of a showcase admiring a crystal vase. You decide that you want to take a closer look. You pick it up and start examining it from every angle, admiring it even more now that you can see its intricate design. Someone calls you from behind. Startled and distracted, you drop the vase. It falls on the floor and breaks into a million pieces. Who or what will you hold as chiefly responsible for this?
- Yourself: you should have been more careful.
- The person who called you: after all, he or she startled you.
- The shelf on which the vase was placed before you picked it up.
While (a) and (b) might sound plausible, the third scenario is completely illogical. Why would you possibly blame the shelf of the showcase when it had nothing to do with the situation at hand?
Keep this analogy in mind and reflect over the Muslim marriages around you. We hear success stories as well as sad ones. In the case of the latter, at times, you find people ascribing blame to a number of factors which at times are not even related to the situation at hand.
Following are eight practical steps to take once you receive a proposal for yourself or for someone in your family who is under your guardianship. It is important to remember that problems in a marriage can stem from a deficiency in any of these steps.
Step 0: Take the Elimination Test.
- Prepare a list of qualities you do not appreciate and would never want in your spouse, for instance, greed, pomp, flirtatious behaviour with non-Mahrams, laziness, habitual and casual lying, etc.
- Prepare a list of professions that you would not want your future spouse to be in, for example, banking, modelling, etc.
- Prepare a final list of any specific thing that you cannot agree to, for instance, a working wife (for men), or a husband who travels extensively or lives abroad (for women).
- When preparing the aforementioned lists, do ensure that you include only those few things that are absolutely non-negotiable for you.
- Let your parents know that apart from the suitors who have any of the characteristics in your list, you would be happy to marry a suitor of their choice.
Step 1: Investigate.
- Conduct a thorough investigation, even if you think you know the family well. At times, people say: “We have known them for years; we know exactly how they are.” This is a delusion. Just because you know one or two members of the family doesn’t mean you know all of them.
- Investigate through the subordinates. Interestingly, a lot of families conduct an investigation using only the references that are given by the proposing family. You should aim to acquire a balanced opinion by asking those who are ‘under’ the family, so to speak. This might include the prospective groom’s subordinates at the workplace, who, by the way, would know a lot more about the temperament and conflict resolution strategies of their ‘boss’ than his friends and cousins.
- Profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. nowadays reveal a lot about the suitor’s likes, dislikes, values, and mannerisms. It may also tell you things you would not find through a formal investigation.
- Always schedule a one-on-one interview. Fathers may interview prospective grooms while mothers may interview prospective brides. In our culture, unfortunately, it is usually the girl who bears the brunt of answering daunting questions related to her physical features and housekeeping skills. Interviews with boys are minimal and are usually held in the presence of their parents, who answer on his behalf.
Step 2: Ask the right questions.
- Avoid extensive and irrelevant questions related to educational qualifications, career plans, and so on.
- Always word your questions using the principle of Hikmah (wisdom). You might put off the family if you conduct too many ‘rapid-fire’ rounds.
- Relationship of the suitor with Allah (swt) helps determine his or her priorities. Is he/she moderate in worship and does he/she want to grow in the practice of Deen? Is he/she rigid and has a one-track mind that can be stifling for the spouse later on? Is he/she a cultural Muslim, and careless about following Islam?
- You may inquire about the suitor’s salary and workplace timings but it is more important to find out what kind of spending habits he has, and how he strikes a balance between his home and workplace.
Step 3: Be practical.
- It is said that one should avoid marrying girls into households that are financially at a lower level than their own. This is because such girls may have adjustment problems later on. Likewise, it is said that when marrying boys, girls from equal or lower financial background should be preferred, as they would have fewer adjustment problems.
- Girls coming from small families should avoid getting married into large families living in a joint family system. This puts unnecessary strain on any marriage.
- While investigating and selecting, families (parents of the suitors) as well as the boy and the girl, must try to match their personal behaviour and value system. Habits can be altered or adjusted to. For example, a man may be a practicing Muslim but he may not be very good with handling finances. Even if he means well, he just doesn’t have the ability or skill to do so. A girl may be a practicing Muslimah but have average housekeeping skills. In such circumstances, the families must analyze what can be adapted to, and what cannot be compromised, before making their decision.
Step 4: Be cool-minded.
- At times, families are ‘dazzled’ by the proposals they receive. “We never thought they would consider our son/daughter.” They get so overwhelmed that they totally ignore steps 1-3 and rush into agreeing. “This is such a distinguished family. If we won’t accept the proposal now, we might lose the opportunity. They won’t wait forever.”
- Keep your cool in all such circumstances. This might seem to be the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’, but you still need to investigate and be practical.
Step 5: This is not the very last proposal to be received.
- At times, when a family (usually of girls) is desperate, it says ‘yes’ to the very first proposal that comes. There have been plenty of cases where parents rushed into a decision and deeply regretted it later.
- Have Tawakkul (reliance) on Allah (swt). He is the best of planners and He has created mates for each of his creation.
- Don’t treat a proposal as if it is the very last one that you will ever receive. Conduct an investigation, and be practical and cool-minded at the same time.
Step 6: Parents should obtain consent from the girl and the boy.
- At times, parents get so excited at the prospect of getting their children married that they conduct almost all the steps without bothering to ask their son/daughter if he or she is even interested in the proposal. This results in quite a few problems later on.
- As soon as you contemplate marriage for your son or daughter, the first question to ask them is whether or not they are already interested in someone and want you to initiate a proposal. With co-educational institutes and plenty of mixed-gender opportunities, this is not as far-fetched an idea as it may sound.
- If your son or daughter informs you that he/she is indeed interested in proposing to someone, don’t let that be a blow to your ego. Never contemplate emotional blackmailing of your son or daughter in order to steer them into an unwanted marriage.
Step 7: Salat ul-Istikhara and its interpretation.
- When you have conducted all the steps and are satisfied with the outcome, you may pray Salat ul-Istikhara. At times, parents keep praying Salat ul-Istikhara during the entire process, which is actually not a bad idea at all. This is because it ensures that if this proposal is not suitable for either of the parties, hurdles start appearing. These may include a negative aspect of the family that becomes apparent, an argument over a petty issue that escalates to a full-fledged dispute and so on.
- At times, either the children or the parents are so convinced that this proposal is right for them that they keep praying Salat ul-Istikhara and, at the same time, keep ignoring all the hurdles that keep coming up. It is imperative to trust Allah (swt)! If obstacles are coming in the way, then this union is not meant to be. Accept it and move on.
Step 8: Trust your sixth sense.
- It may happen that before or after you have prayed Salat ul-Istikhara, you get this gut feeling that this proposal is not right for you or your son/daughter. Don’t ignore such feelings. Keep praying to Allah (swt), and if this feeling persists, then it might be that this match isn’t right for you or your family after all.
Important Questions to Ask Your Prospective Spouse
- Why are you interested in getting married?
- How do you think getting married will bring you closer to Allah (swt)?
- What are your top three expectations from your spouse?
- What are your top three goals in life?
- What are your top three leisure time activities?
- To what extent does the practice of Deen feature in your lifestyle, apart from the five daily prayers?
- What are your top three pet peeves?
- How do you think disagreements should be resolved?
- If you wrong someone, do you apologize? How?
- What kind of a relationship do you have with your family members?
- When making important decisions, who do you consult and why?
- What is your vision for your future family?
To the prospective bride only
- How particular are you about observing Hijab?
- What are your plans after marriage: study, work, or stay-at-home?
- How will these plans change after having children?
- Are you in favour of leaving children with nannies or members of extended family, in order to pursue educational and/or work interests?
- Are you comfortable with home management skills?
- If your husband has to move abroad for work or study, will you be willing to migrate as well?
- Are you willing to live in a joint family setup if your husband cannot provide you with separate accommodation?
To the prospective husband only
- Are you particular about Hijab? Would you take care to ensure that your wife is not required to serve male guests of the house or attend mixed gatherings without Hijab?
- How will you handle conflicts between your spouse and your immediate family?
- If such conflicts increase, would you consider a separate portion or accommodation for your wife?
- Are you in favour of taking loans (credit-based or otherwise) to acquire such assets as house, car, etc.?
- Are you able to save a portion of your salary?
- Do you have a credit card?
- If you lose your current job, would you take one offered by a bank (or an institution that deals in Riba)?
- If your wife is the only child and required to take care of ailing parents, how will you handle this situation?
- How adept are you in basic household chores and would you be willing to take care of them in exceptional circumstances?
- Are you particular about home-cooked meals? Would you make an exception, if your wife is ill?
“How do you like the newest addition to my wardrobe?” Hina twirled on the ebony floor. “It is grand!” I chuckled at her girlish antics as she continued to swirl her lovely lilac chiffon flares, the fabric catching a twinkle of gold here and there.
“A gift from hubby dear?” I asked my childhood friend.
Her pretty smile instantly transformed into a sour frown. “Yeah right! Do you really think he has the mind or the taste for this kind of stuff? Only I know what I have been through the past ten years of marriage.”
There she goes again, I thought regretfully. Hina’s tendency to magnify petty issues into significant ones almost always ensured that the slightest mention of her spouse enraged her.
“Just check out the fine trimmings in gold. Isn’t it a delicacy?” Hina went back to admiring her dress.
I could only nod with the faintest smile thinking what good it was if she was feeling so bitter inside and did not want to wear it for the most important man in her life: her better half.
“You don’t agree with me, do you?” she caught me off guard. It was as though she had followed my train of thought.
“No… it’s lovely!” I tried to persuade her with a generous smile.
“I didn’t mean the stupid dress. I am talking about my marriage!” Hina said curtly.
I sighed and stayed silent for a while. We had been through this conversation countless times, and I was wondering if it would do her any good to hear it once more.
“You know, Hina, the other day I read something that completely swept me off my feet.”
“Really, what?” she eyed me suspiciously.
“Allah (swt) says to married men in the Quran: ‘It is made lawful for you to have sexual relations with your wives on the night of As-Saum (the fasts). They are Libas [i.e. body cover, or screen, or Sakan (i.e. you enjoy the pleasure of living with them) for you and you are the same for them…’ (Al-Baqarah 2:187)”
“It is meant for kind-hearted, loving and God-fearing men, not Adil,” Hina spoke quietly, gazing downward.
“Do you know what that means?” I continued, ignoring her comment “The wife is a resort for her husband, and the husband is a resort for her. Don’t we head to resorts on holidays for enjoyment? This is the kind of relationship that Allah (swt) has ordained for a married couple – to be a source of happiness and contentment for each other. And, naturally, that can only happen when we suppress our desires to lash out in anger at each other, let go of the past mistakes, prevent ourselves from being thankless for the present, and not show mistrust for the future.” I tried to reason with her.
“But what if it is mostly his mistakes… for how long can I preservere?” Hina challenged with tears welling up.
“Love him more than you love this outfit!” I whispered. “He is your Libas. This will one day go out of style and will be either stowed away or donated to the destitute. But your relationship is to stay. What does your Libas do for you? It makes you appear beautiful, it hides your flaws, it protects you from harmful weather, and it states who you are. It is the first thing anyone sets eyes on.”
Hina stared silently then began to sob softly.
“Hina, dear…” I held her soft hand in mine.
“If you lift your garment in public, it is you who will be undressed, not others. May Allah (swt) bless you with wise company, but most people around us relish juicy gossip. Don’t undress yourself before them. Also, if you wash your dirty laundry in public, do you really think your problems will go away? If your husband comes to know of this, will it create an atmosphere of pleasantness or bitterness between the two of you? No matter what misgivings there are between you, they must be solved by both of you. Cherish your relationship with him like a prized gown that embellishes you.”
“It is so hard,” Hina wept like a child.
“I know! It is especially hard when your Libas has been torn, tattered and left at the mercy of cruel gales for so long. Ask Allah’s (swt) forgiveness and pray earnestly to Him for help every day. Take the initiative and stay steadfast. Don’t let anything or anyone come between you and your Libas. Allah (swt) willing, you will love him and adorn him like never before, and he will do the same for you, eventually.” I reassured her, silently praying to Allah (swt) to grant her wisdom, patience, courage, and above all, tranquility.
I do not know what happened the next year or so, as I lost touch with Hina. One morning, as I was sipping my coffee, I received an email saying: “To my beloved seamstress who taught me how to carry myself in style. By the way, I also want to quote something to her that I later found in the Quran, following my counselling cum fashion designing session with her a year ago: ‘It is He who has created you from a single person (Adam) and (then) He has created from him his wife (Hawwa), in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her…’ (Al-Araf 7:189) May Allah (swt) love you as much as I do. It was you who helped me appreciate my Libas.”
“And they lived happily ever after” is how almost all of our childhood fairytales concluded. The media, movies, and novels are all thriving on the man-woman relationship. Unfortunately, they glamourize just one aspect of marriage and delude the youth into believing that it is all about roses, romance, and riches.
The institution of marriage is so much more than that. It is indeed an enchanting bond, but it also entails responsibilities, duties, compromises, and sacrifices. The latter is something we often find we are not ready for!
In order to live a pleasant and successful married life, we have to set right our perspective: happily ever after is only in the hereafter and marriage is just a transit towards it. Do not expect everything to be perfect; the bumps are bound to come. They are only a test for you to pass as you move on to the next world, which is eternal.
The Ground Reality: Life is a Test!
We, as human beings, are not wandering on the earth for nothing. Allah (swt) has created us for a purpose. He says in the Quran: “Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed.” (Al-Mulk 67:2)
We are like students giving an exam. This examination phase is a prelude to the long life in the hereafter. Every coming day and every role that we have is a question paper from Allah (swt) that needs to be filled with answers learned from the Quran and Sunnah. The one who answers correctly shall be granted the ultimate success.
Through the treatise of Nikah, the bride and groom actually enter into a new and tougher exam. From being just sons/daughters and brothers/sisters, they are promoted to many more roles, the most significant of which has to do with forming a new family. Stay calm! Just like a mother does not require her two-year-old to fetch heavy suitcases for her, Allah (swt) does not burden a soul with more than it can bear. You are put through only as much as you can handle.
Every Muslim marriage is set in motion by the Khutbah of Prophet Muhammad (sa). The Nikah sermon is a treasure chest of reminders and advice. Like a guess paper, it hints at the most vital areas that we need to focus on in this stage of life.
Pleasing Him (swt) Together
Can you imagine people talking about death at such an auspicious occasion as marriage? Did you know that the Nikah sermon does talk about it? The first Ayah mentioned by Muhammad (sa) is: “O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. [Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always], and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allah.” (Al-Imran 3:102)
Your death can be in a state of submission to Allah (swt) only if your life has been the same way. Amidst the joy, when one is most likely to forget Allah (swt), Muhammad (sa) is reminding the couple of Him. It is Allah (swt) Who has blessed you with a spouse; your foremost loyalty should be to the ever-loving Rabb (swt). Adorn yourself with Taqwa; be mindful of Allah (swt), His likes and His dislikes at all times. You must not anger Him in order to satisfy others. Eventually, your return and accountability is to Him.
Taqwa (God consciousness) and striving for Allah’s (swt) pleasure should form the foundation of our homes. Strive to be a believing couple in the truest sense and make your dream come true: a perfect life – together forever in the gardens of eternity.
Moreover, remember that Ali (rtam) and Fatima (rtaf) are not the only examples for us. Sometimes, we may encounter a situation like that of Asiya or Lut (as). Their spouses weren’t their partners in Deen; however, this did not become a hindrance for them as they passed their test.
Strengthening the Ties of Relationship
The second most significant lesson in the Nikah sermon is to maintain the ties of relationship. It is not just you anymore. The married couple becomes intertwined in many new relationships.
According to a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa), the most beloved act for Shaitan is to cause a rift between a husband and a wife. Beware of this enemy between you and make it a principle to forgive and reconcile. If one is angry, the other must keep calm at the time.
Regarding the in-laws, remember that Islam is a religion of moderation; it does not demand that we comply with everything the in-laws say, nor does it allow that we forsake them completely. In our culture, unfortunately, one extreme is leading to the other. From having too much influence, they are now being outclassed completely, not even given the status and rights equal to that of a neighbour! Treat your parents/siblings and those of your spouse equally and remember the two golden rules: Ihsan and avoiding negative assumptions.
On a side note, do not peek into the “exam papers” of others to point out their mistakes. Pay attention to your own and worry about the rights you have to give. Insha’Allah, Allah (swt) will take care of yours.
Cherish Your Garment
The look of her magnificent dress was being ruined by the scorn on her face. Yes, sometimes we may have the very best, but our attitude of ungratefulness and picking faults can complicate our life.
Allah (swt) has used the perfect parable for the husband-wife relationship in the Quran. He says: “They are Libas [i.e. body cover, or screen, or Sakan, (i.e. you enjoy the pleasure of living with her – as in Verse 7:189) Tafsir At–Tabari] for you and you are the same for them.” (Al-Baqarah 2:187)
Libas is a means of covering; it adorns us, highlights our beauty and saves us from cold and heat. Always be grateful for your spouse without comparing him/her to others. A dress may look beautiful on someone else, but for you it might not even be your size!
Whenever you feel resentful about something in your spouse, start making a mental list of all the positive qualities he/she possesses. Especially, make a list of all the qualities your spouse has that your father/brother or sister/mother do not have! An instant “Alhumdulillah” will for sure come from the heart.
Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “A believer must not hate (his wife) believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim) The same rule goes for believing women.
A husband and a wife constitute the basic unit of the Ummah. They are the producers of the future Muslim generation. Today, the Ummah is facing a severe shortage of quality men. For this unit to raise courageous Muslim leaders, sincere Mujahideen, devoted Daees and true scholars, it needs to be strong and productive! Aim high and build your home over the bricks of Taqwa, gratefulness, and Ihsan.
What is true marital love? Let’s take a look at some examples found in true stories:
Exchange of Lovely Compliments
Once, the Prophet (sa) was sitting in a room with Aisha (rtaf) and fixing his shoes. It was very warm. Aisha (rtaf) looked at his blessed forehead and noticed that there were beads of sweat on it. She became overwhelmed by the majesty of that sight. She stared at him long enough for him to notice. He asked, “What’s the matter?”
She replied: “If Abu Bukair Al-Huthali, the poet, saw you, he would know that his poem was written for you.”
The Prophet (sa) asked: “What did he say?”
She replied: “Abu Bukair said that if you look at the majesty of the moon, it twinkles and lights up the world for everybody to see.”
The Prophet (sa) got up, walked to Aisha (rtaf), kissed her between the eyes, and said: “By Allah, O Aisha, you are like that to me and more.” (Baihaqi)
Reassurance of Love
Aisha (rtaf) and the Prophet (sa) would use code language with each other denoting their love. She asked the Prophet (sa) how he would describe his love for her. Prophet Muhammad (sa) answered: “Like a strong binding knot.” The more you tug, the stronger it gets, in other words.
Every so often Aisha (rtaf) would playfully ask: “How is the knot?” The Prophet (sa) would answer: “As strong as the first day (you asked).” Then, he said: “By Allah, nothing will harm me in this life, when I know that you will be my wife in Paradise.” (Abu Nuaym in Hilyat al-Awliya, 2/44; quoted by Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Lisan al-Mizan, no. 760, Ash-Shawkani in Al-Fawaid, no.1180)
Keeping an Eye on the Real Prize
According to the scholars (Ulema), there was once a very beautiful woman married to a dark man, whose features made him look extremely strange and scary. They were both, however, very happy together, because both were very righteous individuals, who were devoted to Allah (swt). One day, the husband happened to smile in happiness, as he looked at his wife, and at this, she said: “We are the entrants of Paradise.” Her husband asked how she came to know this, and she continued: “When you look at me, you smile in gratitude, and when I look at you, I exercise patience. A Hadeeth says that both the grateful and the patient shall enter Paradise.” (“Islam and Marriage” by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad)
Consideration for the Other
Aisha (rtaf) relates: “By Allah, I saw the Prophet Muhammad (sa) standing at the door of my room when some Abyssinians were playing with spears in the mosque. The Messenger of Allah (sa) screened me with his cloak so that I could watch the spear-play over his shoulder. He stayed there for my sake until I had seen enough.” (Bukhari)
While on a journey, Prophet Musa’s (as) wife had to stop because of a headache. Musa (as) told her to rest while he fetched firewood to build a fire for warmth. Here we have an excellent example in which we see prophets engaged in providing ease and comfort to their wives. Hence, men should not shy away from any kind of work and responsibility but embrace the opportunity. (“Islam and Marriage” by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad)
Being Patient for the Sake of Love
The son of Abu Talhah (rtam) and Umm Sulaim (rtaf) had been ailing. Abu Talhah (rtam) set out on a journey, and his son breathed his last in his absence. Very worried that her husband would be extremely saddened at the news, Umm Sulaim (rtaf) she sat contemplating what she should do. She then bathed the child’s body and laid it in the cot with a blanket over it. She requested her family members to not inform Abu Talhah (rtam) about the child’s death immediately.
When Abu Talhah (rtam) came back, he asked (his wife): “What about my child?” Umm Sulaim (rtaf) said: “He is now in a more comfortable state than before.”
The husband hence thought the child was sleeping. The couple ate together, discussed his trip, and retired for the night.
The next morning, she said: “Abu Talhah, if some people borrow something from another family and then the members of the family ask for its return, would they resist its return? He said: “No.” She said: “I inform you about the death of your son.”
He was annoyed at that. Later, Abu Talhah (rtam) came to Allah’s Messenger (sa) and informed him about this. Whereupon, he asked: “Did you spend the night with her?” He answered: “Yes.” The Prophet (sa) then supplicated: O Allah, bless both of them.”
As a result of this blessing, Umm Sulaim (rtaf) gave birth to a child. The Prophet (sa) named him Abdullah. (Muslim)
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Al-Hujurat 48:13)
In Ayah 13, we look at what Allah (swt) has commanded to all of humanity, not just believers. The call is to every member of society – a general rule for everyone on how to interact with each other or groups comprised of each other. Islam gives equal respect to everyone because, as humans, we are all Allah’s (swt) creations.
شَعَبَ – The same word is used for coral reef in the Arabic language. This word has two opposite meanings – separation (branching out) or connection (at the base), i.e., starting from one point and separating out or starting from branches and gathering into a single point. Example: From Adam (as) and Hawwa come every human being or all human beings go back to one father and one mother. All nations branch out into tribes and also further into smaller family groups. They all look different, as every person is unique based on their skin color, facial features and other characteristics. There is no concept of racism in Islam; it is not tolerated by Allah (swt). Allah (swt) created everyone – believers and disbelievers – equal. Think about it:
- Why do you put people down?
- Why are you proud of yourself?
- Why do you fight people?
- Why do you not see everyone as equal?
- Why do you differentiate among people?
- Do you have anything to do with the creation of another being?
Each tribe speaks a certain language or has a certain financial/educational status; Allah (swt) chose our nation and tribe for us. We think we know best, but only Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) know best. The true blessing is that of Iman. Why should we degrade others due to something they have not and cannot choose? This Ayah removes discrimination, stressing that no one is better than another. The point is that we benefit from each other’s cultures and learn from shared virtues. The fact that we are born in a certain country or into a certain family does not give us the right to be arrogant due to heritage. This was Allah’s (swt) will alone; our existence is not our choice.
Preserving the bonds of kinship (Silatur-Rahim) has significant importance in Islam. Getting to know each other is vital for the success of societies. We should know who our relatives are in order to appreciate the family structure and enjoy good relationships with our kin. Being aware of relationships among families, tribes, and nations creates empathy and love within that structure.
Finally the closest to Allah (swt) and the most valued by Him is one who has Taqwa (piety). The criteria are not family association tribal links or skin colour – the defining factor is Taqwa. Only Allah (swt) knows what is in someone’s heart; only He can decide who has Taqwa. Your tribe, nation or family will not give you honour in front of Allah (swt). Your tribe, nation, or family name will not bring you closer to Allah (swt). Only Taqwa is the measuring scale for your relationship with Allah (swt). We are warned that we must not be judgemental about another person. Prophet Muhammad (sa) chose Bilal ibn Rabah (rtam), a former slave, for calling out the Adhan. He did not choose anyone from his family or other Arab Sahabah; no one questioned him – they all simply accepted his decision. This is what our attitude should be like; if Allah (swt) chooses someone, He knows best. It is not because of what we see in them and how we judge them. Hence, the Ayah ends with “Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”
Allah’s (swt) knowledge encompasses everything – the apparent/hidden, future/present, possibilities/impossibilities, seen/unseen – nothing is hidden from Him. Allah (swt) is All-Aware of the “hidden” things – even the small things hidden in your heart. When used with the word العليم, additional depth and nuances are added to the meaning. Allah (swt) is All-Aware of things deep inside, hidden, secret, and unseen. He knows everybody’s secrets and so He is the only One Who can judge and assess Taqwa.
Keep in mind that this command and the attributes of Allah (swt) mentioned in Ayah 13 come after verses that talk about backbiting, calling others hurtful names and making false accusations, or, in other words, all the things a person uses to ridicule others. Allah (swt) now tells us that we are not qualified to judge. During the Farewell Sermon (Hajj), the Prophet (sa) advised the Ummah that the only redeemable quality on the Day of Judgement will be a person’s level of piety in front of Allah (swt) not who he was in life, his family name, or his connections; none of the latter things will benefit him. The test is Taqwa, and only Allah (swt) has knowledge of who the best is.
- If a person thinks very highly of his family name or status, it will lead him to transgress the boundaries defined in this Surah. He will become proud and arrogant.
- On Judgement Day, one of the questions that will be asked is: “Where are the pious?”
- The righteous will be honoured in front of everyone on the Day of Judgement.
We should focus on building our own character and safeguarding our Iman.
Adapted for Hiba Magazine by Tasneem Vali (Canada)
I would like to share with you a story about despair. It is an inspirational story, especially for those who are going through difficult times in their lives. It is the story of the Dua (prayer) of Prophet Musa (as) in the Quran. We all know the mistake he made in his youth: he accidentally killed a man, and then he ran away from Egypt until he came to the waters of Madyan. A lot of things must have happened on the journey from Egypt to Madyan. It was not a short journey, yet Allah (swt) chose not to mention that and instead focused on the following details in Surah Qasas:
“And when he arrived at the water of Madyan (Midian) he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: ‘What is the matter with you?’ They said: ‘We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man.’ So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’ Then there came to him one of the two women, walking shyly. She said: ‘Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered (our flocks) for us.’ So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said: ‘Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are Zalimun (polytheists, disbelievers, and wrong-doers).’ And said one of them (the two women): ‘O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.’ He said: ‘I intend to wed one of these two daughters of mine to you, on condition that you serve me for eight years, but if you complete ten years, it will be (a favour) from you. But I intend not to place you under a difficulty. If Allah will, you will find me one of the righteous.’ He [Musa] said: ‘That (is settled) between me and you whichever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice to me, and Allah is Surety over what we say.’” (Al-Qasas 28:23-28)
It is important to note the details of the story. Allah (swt) chose a select number of real life stories to appear in the Quran, and He chose which details to share with us. There are no unimportant details in the Quran. The story begins with Musa (as) wearing rags, weary after a long journey, wanted by the law (with the order for him to be killed on sight), homeless, jobless, and penniless. In short, he was at the lowest point anyone can reach in life. It ends with Musa (as) employed, with a home and a family. How did this drastic change take place?
Musa (as) made a mistake, he repented for it, and he wanted to be forgiven. When you want to be forgiven by Allah (swt), you look for an indication of His forgiveness. One of the indications of forgiveness is that Allah (swt) sends you opportunities to help others. Musa (as) helped the two girls. Then he sat down in the shade away from them; he didn’t stick around and try to make small talk with them. He sat down at a distance and prayed to Allah (swt). He stated his position: he was bankrupt and in need; in Arabic it means “my back is broken”.
We know Musa (as) is a strong man; yet he is expressing his utter helplessness before Allah (swt). The good he asks for has two meanings. One is that he is asking for the chance to do good deeds in order to atone for his past mistake. He knows what he has to make up for. So he is expressing his willingness to volunteer for the next project. The other good he is asking for is a positive change in his situation in life. It is a prayer of desperation from a man who has nothing left.
What happens next? In response to his prayer, one of the girls comes to him with an offer to pay him for his help. She had gone home with her sister and relayed the event to their father, who, being an old man, could not go out to work and had to depend on his daughters to take care of the sheep. He trusted his daughters’ description of Musa (as) to the extent that he sent only one of them, alone, to bring him back to the house. When Musa (as) came, he told the old man his whole life story, with the two girls listening in the background. One of the girls called her father to the side and advised him to hire Musa (as). The old man understood that she liked him and he resolved to make him his son-in-law. If he could trust him enough to look after his sheep, he could trust him enough to marry his daughter. He had also solved the trouble of having a male shepherd working in a house with two unmarried girls. He married his Arab daughter to a child of Israel; he chose good character over ethnicity. The only marriage mentioned in the Quran is interracial.
I would like to give some advice especially to Desi people. When someone offers you something, the first thing you say is “no, thanks”, as a show of self-respect. When you are truly in need, don’t bother with that; take the good Allah (swt) sends your way. Musa (as) didn’t ask the girls for money; he asked Allah (swt). The job offer came because of the prayer. What I’m trying to tell you is let’s take the example of a job. If a friend tells you about a good job, that is from Allah (swt). Take it!
All those brothers who are trying to get married, there is hope for you in this story. You cannot arrive to meet your prospective father-in-law in a worse state than Prophet Musa (as) did.
You may say, “But he was a prophet! Something special like that won’t happen for me.” Every Friday, we’re supposed to recite the story of the people of the cave. In Surah Kahf, we see the story of the youths receiving the miracle of being saved from the polytheistic society; we see miraculous help being sent to non-prophets. You just have to ask. Help will come in ways you cannot imagine. We have to be people of optimism and hope. We have to be people who learn prayers from the Quran and make them with a sincere heart.
You can watch the original lecture at: http://bit.ly/prophetmusaprayer. Condensed and edited for Hiba Magazine by Iqra Asad
- Spend from what is beloved: Make a part of your routine to spend a portion of your wealth, even if it is a small one, for Allah (swt). “By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness), unless you spend (in Allah’s cause) of that which you love.” (Al-Imran 3:92) Cut down on one dress or the new mobile model and spend in charity or an Islamic book or the like. Take advantage of the time when spending is easier so that giving up when it is harder would not be as difficult.
- Volunteer: Engage in volunteer work that may help you attain the pleasure of Allah (swt). Volunteering demands time and effort and trains you to be committed to a cause without the expectation of material/monetary returns. It is the Sadaqah of your health and resources. Whatever capability you have, whether it is teaching, writing, graphic designing, etc., use your skills for the benefit of the Ummah.
- Productive habits: A Mumin is someone living a purposeful life – he does not merely drift wherever the tide takes him. Set some attainable weekly goals for yourself. How much time will I dedicate for learning the Quran and seeking Islamic knowledge? What Adhkar will I add to my daily routine? Take the pain to attain these small goals – part with a little sleep, a little procrastination, and some of your desires and, you will see that with time, giving up for Allah (swt) will become a habit.
- Prioritize your brothers/sisters: “None of you will believe unless you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (Bukhari, Muslim) This is a golden rule that can solve many problems in our individual and collective lives. If we love that no one rebukes us and talks ill about us, then we should love the same for our brothers/sisters. If we love that we have the best that money can buy, then we should also remember those who cannot even afford a meal a day. If we love safety, we should remember those having to live under constant bombardments. This love should not just be lip service – if it comes from the heart, it will enable you to act upon those feelings for the benefit of those in need. Rein in your Nafs by putting yourself in others’ shoes.
- Keep an eye on the prize: Hook yourself to the remembrance of the afterlife and the high price Allah (swt) is paying for all that you are sacrificing for His sake: Jannah, the everlasting (Tawbah 9:111). “A place in Paradise as small as the bow or lash of one of you is better than the entire world and whatever is in it.” (Bukhari)
It was after listening to a lecture from the “Dawa-e-Shafi” series by Ustazah Dr. Farhat Hashmi that I decided to write to her. The lecture was related to homosexuality. My motive for writing was the sake of a grieved mother, a student of mine, who had recently discovered that her 22-year-old son is gay. Ever since her discovery, she had been trying to figure out a way to guide her son away from this act of immorality out of concern for his salvation.
With Ustazah’s permission, I would like to share what she wrote in response to my letter:
Wa Alaikum Assalaam Wa Rahmatullah,
It is very painful indeed to see children caught up in such acts, especially for mothers who at times are so helpless that they go into a state of despair and depression. Very often mothers approach me with various disturbing issues concerning their children. This has continuously played on my mind as to how these children can be helped and their mothers consoled.
It made me reflect as to why children suddenly take a turn towards the wrong; maybe they are seeking attention or are involved in the wrong company; maybe they are watching movies or wrongfully using the internet; maybe some major change in their lives has made them emotionally and spiritually weak; or maybe they were hurt by someone and the negative feelings were building up inside of them. There could be a number of reasons but what is the solution?
A mother generally faces many challenges and obstacles, when dealing with her children. This in and of itself is a learning experience and an adjusting process for both the mother and her child. No great change happens overnight. It is a slow and painful process. Being a mother of four as well as a ‘mother’ to so many students and their children has, Alhumdulillah, enabled me to learn a lot. I wish to share with you what I have observed, learned, and understood.
When faced with such an untoward or unfavourable situation, what should we do? How should we react? Below are some of my very humble suggestions:
- Turn to Allah (swt). Offer extra prayers especially at the time of Tahajjud, seeking Allah’s (swt) help and guidance. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer)…” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)
- Make Dua. Especially when you unexpectedly wake up at night, make Dua, because that is the time of acceptance. Recite: “La ilaha illallahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu wa huwa ala kulli shai’in qadeer. Alhumdulillahi wa subhan Allahi wa la ilaha illa Allahu wallahu akbar wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahil aliyil adheem.” And make your Dua.(Bukhari)
- Continuously seek forgiveness.This is a solution to the problems of this world.It is related that a man came to al-Hasan al-Basri and complained to him of poverty. He said to him: “Ask forgiveness of Allah (swt).” Another man came to him, complaining that he did not have any children. So he said to him: “Ask forgiveness of Allah (swt).” A third man came to him, complaining of the barrenness of his garden. So he said to him: “Ask forgiveness of Allah.”
- Give in charity.Allah (swt) will give to you. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘Spend, son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.’” (Bukhari and Muslim) Sadaqah gives protection against all kinds of evil. Sadaqah wards off affliction in this world and punishment on the Judgment Day.
- Turn your attention to the situation at hand and rationalize. Reflect upon your routine and your child’s routine. Are you spending enough time with your child and is it quality time? If not, then set aside a portion of your day for your child – just you and your child. Sit with him. Talk to him. Even if your child is busy with something else, be present for them. Be around. Be available. So that when they need you, you are there.
- Bond with them.Take them where they would like to go. Do things they like to do, while keeping within the limits of the religion.
- Travel together. If possible, travel to another city or country for a short duration (e.g., a month or two) just so that you are alone with your child – only you and your child. No siblings, no one else. This will give you a chance to bond with and understand your child.
- Listen.Listen. Listen some more to them. Make them feel important and that you care for them. Be a friend.
- Trust them and keep them in your trust. Do not discuss your child’s problems or behavior with others, especially in front of your child. This can have a negative impact on the child and, in some cases, may also lead to severe retaliation.
- Be positive.Avoid a negative reaction and always speak positively. Acknowledge the good that they are engaged in and encourage them.
- Try to offer prayers in different Masajid. No matter where you are and what you are doing, instill in them the importance of prayer. Visiting different Masajid, even if it happens to be in a mall, will help to keep them focused.
- If needed, change your child’s circle of friends, because a person is known by who he befriends.The Prophet (sa) said: “A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” (Abu Dawud)
- Introduce them to good company. Introduce them to youth engaged in welfare work. Also, look out for gatherings where they can learn from the company of knowledgeable and experienced people.
- Again I will say: Duas. Continue making Dua to Allah (swt) for help and guidance. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad (sa)) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)
Insha’Allah, with the help of Allah (swt), you will see your child confiding in you slowly and gradually. You will see them turning towards the right path, even if very slowly. In the process, do not make them conscious about this change but at the right moments show your appreciation for their efforts.
I do hope that the above will be a source of support and guidance. May Allah (swt) make all children a coolness of their parents’ eyes. Ameen.
Warm tears made their way silently down my flushed cheeks, as I looked at the dusk outside my bedroom window. As the dying sun painted the western sky with orange-grey hues, I was gripped with a sadness that permeated my whole being. My husband had just told me that the surgeon who had performed lumpectomy on my chest had said the tumour did not look good to him, and that it was definitely cancerous.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we had celebrated the Valima of my younger sister. I had secretly been pleased by the fact that the clothes from my trousseau were actually hanging quite loose on my figure, even after twelve years of marriage and a twin pregnancy. Little did I know that this was, in fact, a premonition of a deadly disease that had invaded my body.
I felt in perfect form with so much to do with one-and-a-half year old twin girls and three sprightly sons. I was always on my feet, attending to my flock with an undying devotion and determination. The moment I mentioned feeling a tiny lump, my husband, a surgeon himself, insisted that I have it examined. I had a strong family history of breast cancer, having lost a paternal as well as a maternal aunt to the ravages of the ailment, so he thought this should be dealt with without further delay.
My father, also a doctor, wanted the best surgeon to see me, as he had only recently watched his younger sister lose the battle to this aggressive warrior. When he set up an appointment with a male surgeon, I was filled with dread. I just could not bring myself to accept the idea of me, who shielded my femininity from non-Mahrams, to go through the shame of having to expose myself. After much gentle persuasion from my husband, I was able to see the elderly surgeon, who immediately put me at ease with his professional efficiency and kind demeanour.
So here I was, a few days after the operation, sitting in our car in the hospital’s parking area, looking at the world that had changed drastically in a few minutes. Everything seemed to have taken on a surreal quality. I knew, of course, that everybody had to die, but I had not anticipated that time to come this soon. What now? Is my time up already? I tried to remember what it was that I was supposed to have done in this life. And what was it that I had to pass on to my children?
I badly needed to hold on to something. “Tell me one supplication,” I asked my sister over the phone. She recommended the Dua of Prophet Yunus (as). Yes! I mouthed the words out loud: “La ilaha illa Anta [none has the right to be worshipped but You (O Allah)], Glorified (and Exalted) are You [above all that (evil) they associate with You]. Truly, I have been of the wrong-doers.” (Al-Anbiya 21:87)
As we walked down the super clean corridor of Shaukat Khanum hospital, I looked at my husband and said I was sorry that he had to go through the pain and trouble of all this. I thought my condition would add to his already stressed life as a busy neurosurgeon. The time and money that would go into this long ordeal really made me feel guilty that I had brought this on him. He was surprised that I should say this and lovingly reassured me that we were in this together and he would fight this foreign invader with me all the way, Insha’Allah.
Back home, my mother knew nothing of this. She was planning a dinner for my newly-wed sister, when I remarked that this was not an occasion for festivity. “I have cancer, you know,” I blurted out tactlessly, entirely insensitive to the fact that my firstborn aged eleven was in the room. To this day, I remember his reaction. It was as if somebody had punched him in the stomach. The colour drained from his face, as he hurriedly left the room, stumbling on his way out.
After giving birth, never does a woman look at a suffering child except that it tears her apart. She knows that to see your offspring slowly slipping away is unquestionably a parent’s worst nightmare. So I recognized the heart-wrenching love that a mother feels for her child writ large on the face of the woman seated across from me. She was trying her utmost to pacify and soothe the small girl in her lap, who was writhing in raw pain. Tears welled up in my eyes, as the toddler continued to cry. At that moment, I was so thankful that it was I who had contracted cancer and not one of my children.
In the hospital, a pretty teenage girl chirped happily with her brother. There was no indication that she was in any way troubled or weighed down by anything. This was astonishing, because when I happened to glance down, she had only one leg. The other had been amputated, I presumed, as the malignancy gnawed and lashed with a vengeance, wreaking havoc in her body. Allahu Akbar! I appreciated the blessings I enjoyed every moment of my life. I wanted to drop down on my face there and then in adoration of my Benefactor.
Bald children and young adults lined up on the chemotherapy beds made my heart go out to them. Their lives had suddenly stopped and had started to revolve around just one reality: that of the vicious nature of their illness. The world outside the hospital went on as usual, but for these patients, it seemed as if they were floating in space, watching this whole drama of life. For me, the lens through which I saw the world had certainly been vivified. Now I saw with crystal clarity the purpose of creation.
A few days after my diagnosis, I walked to a corner shop with my seven-year-old son to buy biscuits for my twins. The pure pleasure that I felt from this simplest of exercise cannot be put into words. Holding my son’s hand and feeling the cool breeze on my face exhilarated me in a delightful manner. It felt good to be living and glorifying my Creator. Later at home, I relished every moment with my loved ones, savouring each precious second.
Nothing rectifies the soul more speedily than the prospect of your own mortality. Once you realize you are not here forever, it gives a sense of urgency to your life as never before. I had fallen in love with the Revelation some years ago, but lately I had not been getting any time to spend with it. But now, as I waited for appointments or tests, I found solace in the Divine Scripture. I was surprised to see musical programmes on television sets in the hospital lounge. Why would anyone want to listen to music, I thought, when his or her life was hanging in the balance and his or her soul is yearning for its Master?
This beautiful Ayah of Surah Naml: “Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him, and Who removes the evil…?” (An-Naml 27:62) had me mesmerized. It kept reverberating in my heart and mind all the time as I lay on the cold operating table. Just minutes before, I had held the hand of my husband and had asked him if he was happy with me, because if I were not to survive this major surgery, I wanted to make sure he was pleased with me as a wife. I related to him the Hadeeth whereby the Prophet (sa) guaranteed Paradise for a woman who died while her husband was uncomplaining of her. As they wheeled my trolley away, he jokingly remarked that he was sure I would be back to vex him.
Every small gesture of kindness registers in your brain when you lie frail and vulnerable in a starched gown with strangers steering you towards the operation theatre. I recall with vivid lucidity my sister-in-law saying in a protesting whisper, “O, please, let her keep on her veil”, because she knew how much my Purdah meant to me. How nice and caring! Those words really warmed my heart.
The day I came home after the mastectomy, I inspected the bandages on my body. So ruthlessly mutilating had been the surgeon’s knife, it almost felt like my gender had changed. Sorrowfully, I mused about the new me but not for long, as I had plenty to take care of at home. I had a month to recuperate before chemotherapy. My doctor had advised me not to carry any weight, so it was really heart-wrenching to see my twins cry but to not be able to comfort them by lifting them in my arms or cradling them to sleep.
I let the sweet, melodious Ayahs of the Quran surge through my body during chemo. The captivating recitation seemed to speak directly to my heart. On occasions, my eyes would shed a lone tear simply because the words were so very sublime, just out of this world. How could one not be affected by this? Trust mankind to leave the heavenly for the mundane, the beautiful for the ugly, and the breath-taking for the mere plain.
There was a three-week break between each dose of chemo, which they called the Red Devil at the hospital due to its brutal strength. Two weeks were spent in fighting back nausea and fatigue, but the last week was always superbly normal, which made me very appreciative of the immense blessing of health and vigour, which most people do not use wisely. One thing is for certain: the threshold of pain in humans is pretty low. A simple surgical procedure can send searing pain ripping through the body. At such instances, I pleaded to be saved from chastisement in the grave and penalty in the Hereafter.
After the second round of chemotherapy, while I was brushing my hair, a big tuft of it came in my hand. Oh! I was filled with apprehension, and my heart felt heavy. I watched forlornly the silky brown long tresses just falling apart from their roots. Never again, I thought, would I take the favours and bounties of Allah (swt) for granted. I began to wear a scarf at home and was so self-conscious that I would not allow even my husband to look at my hairless head. But one day I took off my protective covering, completely forgetting the presence of my four-year-old in the room. He was so utterly taken aback that he gasped with eyes wide open: “You are Nangi (naked)”.” I think maybe he meant to say Ganji (bald), but in his shock, the word got twisted around.
The glitter of the stars, the scuttle of the night creatures, the occasional hoot of an owl and the bright spectacular halo around the full moon add to the sheer beauty and spell of the night. These are the signs the Quran talks about, I whispered, breaking the pre-dawn silence. I had come full circle. The mercy and grace of the Magnificent Lord of heavens and earth had given me a new lease on life, Alhumdulillah.
Tribulations come, I realized, to pull the carpet from under your feet, to make you stop dead in your tracks, and to compel you to turn to your Creator in submission and humility. I had made a vow on the hospital bed that if Allah the Almighty (swt) would grant me another chance, I would dedicate my life, Insha’Allah, to learning His Deen and teaching it to my progeny. It has been my dream and invocation ever since.
Changing of habits takes time. Lifestyle modification according to the Sunnah requires a lot of effort, perseverance, and most importantly, Duas.
A renowned Arab doctor, Al-Harith, states that “diet is the head of medicine”. We should begin the change by incorporating whole wheat or multi-grain breads, Chapati (Roti), raw milk or natural dairy, cane sugar, rock salt or Himalayan salt, white butter and mustard oil, organic chicken and eggs in our diet. Olive oil should be used, but avoid overheating it, as it then becomes toxic.
Abu Hazim narrated: I asked Sahl bin Sad: “Did Allah’s Apostle (sa) ever eat white flour?” Sahl said: “Allah’s Apostle (sa) never saw white flour since Allah (swt) sent him as an Apostle, till He took him unto Him.” I asked: “Did the people have (use) sieves during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle (sa)?” Sahl said: “Allah’s Apostle (sa) never saw (used) a sieve since Allah (swt) sent him as an Apostle, until He took him unto Him.” I said: “How could you eat barley unsifted?” He said: “We used to grind it and then blow off its husk, and after the husk flew away, we used to prepare the dough (bake) and eat it.” (Bukhari)
Imam Ibn al Qayyim, in the light of Prophet’s (sa) guidance, explained the phenomenon of preventive measures hundreds of years ago. There are two kinds of prevention strategies: first is to abstain from what might bring illness (for a healthy person); the second is restricting one’s self from something which might intensify the illness (for an ailing person).
Foods and healing
Imam Ibn al Qayyim says that the type of food that one finds tasty and is preferred by the person will be accepted by the body and, hence, digested in the best possible way. As recorded in Ibn e Majah, Ibn Abbas (rtam) narrates: “Once, the Prophet (sa) visited a sick person and asked him: ‘What do you have a taste for?’ The man said: ‘I have a taste for wheat bread, or I have a taste for a cake.’ The Prophet (sa) then said: ‘Whoever has wheat bread, let him send some to his brother.’ He also said: ‘When your ailing patients have a taste for something, give them some of it.’” (“Healing from Medicine of the Prophet (sa)).
The two-meal concept
Extensive research has been carried out on the benefits of fasting. The two-meal concept is being embraced globally, especially by naturopaths, integrative medical doctors, and holistic nutritionists. The scientific roots of this lie in the body clock that Allah (swt) has placed in our brains, that is, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which regulates the peak times of dominant body functions. Breakfast should thus be consumed from four to nine in the morning, which marks the peak of digestion. From nine in the morning till four in the afternoon is the time for intellectual functioning, when the system is best for educational tasks, religious duties, household tasks, and office work. The harmony of mind, body, and soul enables a person to experience these peak timings. Lastly, dinner should be taken from six to seven in the evening. During the day, when the brain and body are performing intellectually, small snacks can be taken to boost the brain and maintain energy.
Hot and cold foods
Consumption of extremely cold or extremely hot foods is a grave error. Boiling soups and chilled drinks, for example, give a shock to the stomach. The temperature of the food is of utmost importance, as it helps in digestion. If we take very cold foods, the stomach contains them until the temperature is normalized, and, hence, digestion is delayed. We have to remember that Allah (swt) has naturally made the internal temperature warm.
During summers, most of us are in the habit of drinking juices and refrigerated water in large amounts. Excess water intake can be dangerous for the kidneys and skin, and can cause water retention. One should abstain from commercialized bottled water, and use filtered or boiled water at home instead. Water intake is healthiest if taken half an hour before meals and one and a half hour after meals.
Other lifestyle changes
Lastly, proper stress management and sleep is also very important for the overall health of an individual. Spiritual people have more healthy eating habits than others. We should apply the concept of Sabr and Shukr (patience and gratitude) while we make the necessary changes in our daily life. Also, we should contemplate over the Prophet’s (sa) way of eating, sleeping, and worshipping Allah (swt) in order to realize that our body is an Amanah and it has a right over us.
Adapted by Mariam Saeed from “Sunnah Living is Healthy Living” – A Webinar organized by Hiba Magazine and Fasiha.
- When she feels wronged or has committed wrong.
Due to our human nature, most of us tend to move into a reactive mode in two phases of our life: a) when someone has been unjust to us and we are looking for allies and evidences to prove our innocence, and b) when we have perpetuated injustice upon others and try to evade responsibility, either out of ignorance or guilt. In both cases, a spouse’s relationship is tested. It is not recommended to encourage incorrect behaviour but it is best to first reassure your wife that you love her, in spite of her being the victim or the victimizer. Once your emotional account is loaded and she appreciates your sincerity, she will normalize faster and overcome the emotional disturbance within her.
- When she falls ill.
Today, nobody welcomes sickness, unlike the Sahabah and our predecessors who got worried when Allah (swt) did not send them ailments. They would think that perhaps He (swt) wanted to grant everything to them in this world and, hence, hold back any chances for repentance. Yes, one should never pray for illness, but when it arrives, it is advised to exercise patience. Help your wife to do that by spending some extra time with her. If that is not possible, ask her what will comfort her. Perhaps employing some reliable help for the house for cleaning or cooking, or maybe letting her spend time with her own family would help. Inform her that her recovery means a lot to you. A bouquet of flowers or something she loves will always cheer her up, too.
- When PMS arrives.
This is a state that men most misunderstand because they are not educated about it. Biologically, a woman becomes very vulnerable during her menstruation period. Due to her hormones, she may become moody, depressed, unnecessarily angry, and at times weepy, too. And you may or may not even be the reason for a battle she decides to pick. It is best to exercise patience with her and not demand things she would not be able to deliver in such a volatile state of mind. The Prophet (sa) is known to rest his head in Aisha’s (rtam) lap while she was menstruating. He handled her very gently and fondly. In the absence of intimate relations between spouses, some women also feel unwanted and under-valued. Hence, a reassurance of your love for her will bring back her sense of belonging.
- When your baby is on the way.
Most women are pampered when the first baby is on the way. However, they do experience a mixture of emotions ranging from elation to fear of labour and the upcoming responsibilities. They still need your support every now and then, especially if you live in a joint family setup and do not get sufficient time together. If the pregnancy is a difficult one, where the woman experiences severe nausea and vomiting, and is prescribed bed rest, it is even more challenging for the mother-to-be. For women who are expecting a child and who already have kids to worry about and care for, you can provide trusted help for the house, occasional retreats to her family’s care, if that comforts her, and your tender understanding.
- After your baby has arrived.
Amidst the joy of a new baby and postpartum pain of delivery, a new mother is literally besieged with emotions and responsibilities. She has sleepless nights, emotional and physical distress of establishing breast feeding, postpartum bleeding causing weakness, biological developments in the body, influx of guests and family wanting to greet the newly-arrived baby, and in case where she has older children, the guilt of not being able to take care of them. On top of that, she is not able to offer Salah, which makes her spiritually vulnerable. Also, after the arrival of the new baby, the husband and wife sometimes don’t get sufficient time together to talk and share. Hence, make the additional effort to fulfill her needs and spend time with her, facilitating her in her efforts to re-build emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Quranic recitations can be played for the mom and baby to protect them from Satan’s attack.
In times of happiness, one is emotionally self-sufficient and might not need to hear terms of endearment so often. “I love you” should therefore be said and felt more often in times of distress and misery.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers (Qawwam) of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.)…” (An Nisa 4:34)
Allah (swt) says that men are the Qawwam of women. The word Qawwam is derived from the Arabic verb Qama/Uqeemu, which means ‘to stand’. Qawwam is an exaggerated/excessive form, which indicates constant standing. Just as a bodyguard continuously stands guarding a VIP, the man of the family is supposed to watch over and protect the women of the household. The verse above explains that he is given this function because he is required to spend his wealth on them for their maintenance. When one spends on someone continuously, it is natural that he will protect them from all dangers. He will empathize with them and will be inclined to manage their affairs with their best interest in mind.
The applied meaning of Qawwam thus encompasses a range of responsibilities of the man, which include financially providing for his family, protecting them, empathizing with them, understanding them, managing their affairs, making decisions that affect them after proper consultation with them, providing the space and opportunities for the constant learning and growth as well as catering to their every physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, educational, and financial need. In short, his role is that of an enabler of success of all members of the household. In order for him to carry out all these responsibilities successfully, he has been granted the leadership role of an Ameer of the family.
Abdullah bin Umar (rtam) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects; a man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for his subjects; a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them; and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
It is apparent from the above Hadeeth that every group of people should have a leader for its proper function. It is not possible for a group to have two leaders or else chaos will ensue. Thus, for a family unit, Allah (swt) in His infinite wisdom has chosen the men to lead. It does not matter how weak the man is or whether he earns less than his wife; he is supposed to be ultimately responsible for all family members.
This does not mean that the man of the house is a dictator, who does not consider in his decisions the Shoora (consultation) of all his family members. It does not mean that he is to be feared by those under him, or that he can enforce decadent cultural restrictions, which have little to do with Islam. Rather, the husband should study the Prophet’s (sa) Seerah deeply for improving his leadership skills. For supporting the husband, the wife is required to be obedient to the husband, as stated in the above verse. However, it is worth noting here that the wife’s obedience is first to Allah (swt), then to the Prophet (sa), and only then to the husband. Thus, if the husband makes demands against the commands of Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa), she should decline to be obedient.
Part of the responsibility of the Ameer is to engender leadership skills in those under him. The primary manner to do so is to be good role models themselves. Children may be trained to accept more responsibilities at a young age, for example, they can be asked to take care of their pets, be the captain of their school cricket team, be the imam at home leading their siblings and cousins in Salah, or babysit their siblings while the parents are away. Leadership skills can formally be learned in a Boy Scouts / Girl Guides troop. The key element in making the next generation future Ameers of their families and societies is to make them feel empathic towards others. This can be done by engaging them in charitable services for those less fortunate than them. Lastly, by providing them with comprehensive Islamic knowledge, parents would help them understand their roles as young adults. The guidance from the examples of the Prophet (sa) and his companions are invaluable in this respect.
Men are made responsible for a gamut of their family’s needs and, hence, are given leadership roles by Islam. Like everyone under a leader, the wife is required to help the leader by being obedient to him, provided nothing is being demanded against Islamic principles. The man of the family should consult with his family members and do everything that is in their best interest. He should use his position responsibly to help all the family members develop themselves. He should not misuse the privilege of leadership he is given. He is responsible to pass on good leadership skills to their offspring, so that they become exemplary future Ameers.
“To live means to work. Work is the life of a person.” (Voltaire)
We spend the largest portion of our life at the workplace. In fact, our entire life is aimed at earning what we would spend on our livelihood. Eight to twelve hours at work, eight hours for sleep, two hours in commuting, an hour for getting ready… and what is left? We eat so that we can live, and we spend our life on earning our sustenance. I urge you not to waste your time at the workplace.
Are you surprised? Just think about it – does it make sense to live only for eating? Most probably, your earning is sufficient for providing you not only with food but also with clothing, a place to live, treating yourself from time to time with something nice and, once in a while, for taking a vacation. I dare to assume that among my readers are also those who earn sufficiently and are able to afford nearly everything they wish for. Yet, we work too much and have too little time for anything else but work. Is it worth it to spend the precious time allotted to us by the Most High on such trivial pursuits?
However, I do not urge you to adopt a lazy and parasitic lifestyle. Not at all. You should work and work a lot. When I say “do not waste time at work”, I mean “do not waste it on useless pursuits”. Any time that you spend on something other than for Allah (swt), the Most High, is wasted. Whatever we do with the Niyyah (intention) other than that is useless for eternity.
If we pose the question “where to work?”, then the obvious answer is “wherever it is beneficial”. Any efforts we put forth towards caring for those close to us and their well-being can be filled with deep meaning if we continuously keep our Niyyah focused by reminding ourselves Who we are doing it all for? Whose pleasure are we seeking? Who is our real boss? This is the factor which transforms the otherwise senseless and tiresome situation of “living so we can eat and eating so we can live” into a spiritual act of service to Allah, the Most High. Reaching such a level of commitment is not as difficult as maintaining it; however, in this lies true happiness and success.
Furthermore, simply having the intention of “I will do it for the sake of Allah (swt)” is not enough; the quality of the work has to match the intention. This is because “for the sake of Allah (swt)” means “for seeking His pleasure” which is possible only if He accepts what you are doing. What job can be done for the sake of Allah (swt)? It can be any job, including housework, as long as it does not involve anything forbidden. Some people think that working for the sake of Allah (swt) is possible only in the field of religion, which is not so. What matters is not where but how we work.
The most important question, the answer to which will help you stop wasting time at work, is: how to work? For the sake of Allah (swt) you have to perform your duties in the best manner, as He does not accept anything other than that. A person who leaves for his work in the morning and returns home in the evening does not do anything which would draw him nearer to Jannah if he does not put his best efforts into doing it. It is necessary to keep in mind that your boss is not this “mean and evil guy” in charge of you, but the One for Whose sake you have made the intention to work. Likewise, it is as necessary to remember that your salary is not that “meagre amount of cash which is not enough for anything anyway” but your real salary is your professional activities that are written down in the Book of Life as your good deeds, accepted by your Supervisor. Religion is like a magic wand that changes reality; everything is transformed when viewed through a spiritual lens. The most annoying and senseless job turns into an act of worship, a way of expressing love, a deed with a capital letter.
If you could see how Allah (swt) the Most High watches over you during every minute of your work, would you allow yourself to be careless, to take endless tea breaks or to spend your work time on empty conversations? If the management installs security cameras for observing their employees, it significantly increases their productivity. A believer knows that even without such cameras in place, he is continuously being observed by the One Who hears and sees everything – the One Whom he is serving. The money you earn by carrying out your duties late and negligently is stolen money. For example, if your work time is eight hours with one hour for lunch break, but you spend three hours of it on idle pursuits, do you have any right to take money for this time? If your management would know of the tasks you have not completed, they would not pay you for them in full. Thus, it is unfair to carry out your duties partially while receiving full payment for them. Your earning stops being Halal if it is earned unjustly. It is even more unjust in front of your own self and your soul to think that you are working for the sake of Allah (swt) while carrying out your duties non-seriously – if you do that, you are merely cheating your own self! Besides, the Most High cannot be deceived into accepting badly performed duties. The only way out for a careless employee is to repent.
If only I could work in the field of religion…
Some Muslims think that if they would be working in the field of religion, it would be easier for them to work for the sake of Allah (swt) only. The truth is that the responsibility level of such employees is so high that it makes their work not easier but more difficult. However, a hardworking person, not a lazy one, a true professional, not the one who purchases his diploma, and any person who continuously remembers where and for whose sake he is working, is a representative of Islam. Imams and Alims are not the only representatives of the field of religion. People working in Islamic educational institutions, Islamic shops, facilitating enforcement of Deen anywhere, etc., also belong to the same field and are also responsible for shaping the image of Muslims. If any one of them carries out his duties heedlessly, he directly harms the religion of Allah (swt). Instead of taking upon yourself such responsibility and failing to fulfill it, it truly is better to be a simple sweeper, who keeps in good order the territory entrusted to him.
We work according to what we get paid
Sometimes we hear the following complaint: “If only I would be paid more, I would work better”. If you have taken up this job and are not satisfied with your salary – leave and find another job! However, the unique position of a believer is such that he knows that no matter where he is or what he is doing, he would not receive more or less than his Rizq. What is decreed for you today will definitely reach you, no matter where and for what salary you are working. If you are working for the sake of Allah (swt) on a small salary but sincerely, you are richer than the one who works for the sake of his Nafs (desires), no matter if he carries his duties out well or not. And if you are working for the sake of Allah (swt) but underperform deliberately, then you are poorer than the most poor and are living in self-deceit.
I pray to Allah (swt) the Most High to accept what we are doing for His sake and teach us to do it in such a way that we would not be ashamed of it on the Day of Judgement. Ameen.
Translated for Hiba by Laila Brence. Source: http://islam.ru/content/obshestvo/9947