In the complicated fabric of human relationships, many myths abound. Realities are either distorted or brushed under the carpet to present a delusive, picture-perfect ‘mirage’ of happiness.
One of the negative trends mostly ‘brushed under the carpet’ in Pakistan are extra-marital affairs, commonly known in international media as ‘cheating’. I can identify at least half a dozen such cases, some that have gone as far as Zina (adultery). Some of them resulted in broken homes damaged beyond repair, and a sad reminder of how a marriage can be ruined due to the mistake of one or both partners.
Saima*, a happily married and well-off mother discovered her husband having an affair with her maid. Her entire world came crashing down. After a volatile confrontation, her husband begged forgiveness and vowed to mend his ways. However, just six months later, she discovered him texting women on his cell phone. Once again, he asked for forgiveness. With divorce out of the picture for the sake of her children, she continues to live obediently with her husband, but a broken heart filled with disgust and hatred for him. Outwardly, she remains the ‘picture perfect’ urban housewife, complimented for her well-maintained youthful looks and elegant sense of style.
Mahira had a fling with her husband’s best friend, who visited her house often; both of them had children at that time. She decided to end her marriage to be with him, but he could not leave his family for her. Since her divorce, she has been living with her ageing mother. Her adult children are married and leading their own lives.
Uzma’s husband admitted to his long distance affair with a single Muslim woman over the Internet. He had married Uzma after a romantic relationship and they had three children. She also took care of his elderly widowed father, who resided with them. Her husband admitted to have visited his girlfriend on a foreign ‘business’ trip. Now, he wants to marry his girlfriend and bring her into their current home; however, Uzma has told him that if he does, she will leave. Divorce, on the other hand, is out of the question to safeguard their children’s future.
There are many such cases of distressed, heartbroken, married women, who have ‘the other woman’ in their lives. Sadly, the reverse is also true: Muslim men catch their wives cheating on them primarily through Internet and cell phone. Instant communication has become extremely easy in real time. This has exacerbated the problem of casual flings, as the recent media hype surrounding the personal life of a world-class golfer has proved.
Young, married Muslims of today are enthusiastically adding their ex-college friends, including ‘old flames’, to their Facebook, Twitter and Google IM lists. They peer too easily into each other’s intimate lives through candid pictures and frank status updates. Carelessness in these online relationships welcomes Shaitan, the enemy of our faith and good deeds, to wreak havoc in our marital relationships.
The husband-wife relationship is an extremely close one sealed in Allah’s (swt) name – and a very fragile one, too. It is the prime target of Shaitan, because it forms the building block of the future Muslim generation.
It is very important to realize that some basic Islamic rulings regarding the restrictions on inter-gender relationships and communication exist for the benefit of our own faith, as well as, of course, for protecting the sanctity of our families’ close bonds.
Observing the Islamic restrictions of not conversing too freely with members of the other gender, either in person or online, is a necessary step in protecting the love between husband and wife. Similarly, socializing in mixed gatherings should be curtailed, as all Islamic scholars are unanimous in their opinion that mixed gatherings open the door to Fitnah (temptation). What can then be said about the current trend of young married couples attending drink-and-dance parties at hotels and private homes of friends in their social circle? We ask Allah (swt) to protect us.
Furthermore, care must be taken in employing servants, who roam around freely in our homes. Leaving young maids clad in provocative clothing alone in the home with one’s husband or son is a risk that many housewives naively take. Similarly, many Muslim men have no qualms about allowing non-Mahrams, from personal car drivers to their brothers and cousins, to enter upon their wives in their absence.
I can empathize with the heart-rending emotional state of any person, who has a cheating spouse. Briefly, the advice I can give them is:
- Seek help from Allah (swt) through extra prayers and sincere Duas. Join a Quran class to soothe your anguished heart and troubled soul.
- Do not make a hasty decision; rather, persevere with patience as much as you can.
- Assess your feelings about the situation honestly and unburden yourself only on someone trustworthy, who can keep secrets. Remember, matters like these cause gossip to spread like wildfire. Do not divulge intimate details to anyone.
- Talk to your spouse without being confrontational. Tell him/her how you feel. Request him/her to end the affair and repent to Allah (swt).
- Have hope – couples have successfully overcome such marital blows and moved on, falling back in love. It is not impossible to repair a marriage that is hit by an affair.
- Try to forgive for the sake of Allah (swt); really, it is possible! Not to mention, very liberating.
- Strive to think positively and avoid company of people with negative thinking. Consciously keep in mind the positive qualities in your spouse.
- Divorce should only be the very last option. If you really feel you cannot continue and want a separation, first talk to your elders / trusted scholars. Consider your financial conditions, especially if you a female. Children are, of course, a major consideration, too. Finally, do an Istikhara and supplicate. Insha’Allah, you will reach the right decision.
Muslims should always remember that sincere repentance (Tawbah) wipes out sins from the book of deeds. A repentant person is as if he never sinned at all. If Allah (swt) can forgive someone, who gives up a sin and changes for the better, why shouldn’t we?
*Names of individuals have been altered to protect their identity.