Promoting Collaborative Dialogue in Marriage

collaborative dialogue

“And they lived happily ever after.” This statement is, arguably, the most common modern myth about marriage that we are conditioned to believe. However, popular media fails to show us what actually happens afterwards. The reality of successful marriages is that they are neither trouble free, nor effort free. The Quranic objective of the marital relationship is to cultivate an environment of tranquility, love, and mercy among the spouses. It is unrealistic to think that these blessings of marriage can come about by chance.

Marriage is a contract, a commitment to a new relationship, and a fulfillment of half your Deen (religion). The newly-formed connection is not just physical – it extends into your emotional and spiritual worlds. Therefore, it is crucial to make a conscious intention to take this bond as seriously as a collaborative project. A study on arranged marriages by Dr. Robert Epstein, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, found sacrifice and commitment to be the most powerful factors that strengthen love.

Allah (swt) says about the spouses: “They are Libas (clothing/covering) for you and you are the same for them…” (Al-Baqarah 2:187) This implies that they assume protective, intimate, and expressive roles for each other the way clothes do for our bodies. Zauj – the Arabic word for spouse – itself indicates the complementary nature of the spouses. Nouman Ali Khan, founder and lead Arabic instructor at Bayyinah, explains that the word Zauj (pl. Zaujain) actually means ‘counterpart’. This is why the sun and the moon, day and night are also called Zaujain in the Quran.

Some therapists and psychologists agree that there is a direct link between the quality of your talking and the quality of your marital relationship. Improving your communication skills can contribute greatly to satisfaction, growth, and conflict resolution in marriage. A key skill for successful marital interactions is learning to hold a collaborative dialogue. Let us look at what such dialogue is like and ways of incorporating it in your life.

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Happy parents raise happy children- Make a happy Muslim Family!


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Raising a happy family is the most difficult task in such a moving and scattered life. What does it take to create a better lifestyle, when modern life threatens to overwhelm us?

Here are six secrets to create a joyful family life.

Balancing work and home

It’s not easy balancing your work and home, but how you manage it can make quite a difference to your relationship with your family. Having a balance between work and home is the key for having a good happy life.


Rather than taking discipline as a punishment, you should use it as a way of teaching. Disciplined living is not just for kids; parents should also live accordingly. They should be aware of how to meet the needs without hurting, or offending anyone.

Setting boundaries

We often use boundaries to protect our family, but it is important that you try to explain why boundaries are there- rather than issuing orders. Because sometimes being protective and possessive makes the space less.

Joint decision

Listening and valuing every family member’s view point create a healthy and comforting environment. When each family member tends to value the other, it creates the air of love with in the home. Joint decision does not only involve everyone, but it also helps to achieve a productive outcome.

Quality time and communication

Try to organize some time together as a family. This will give you all a chance to connect, and talk about the important issues- as well as- the more fun topics. Communication is important during both good and tough times; try to communicate, and make everyone around comfortable and happy.

Be flexible

Flexibility at times is necessary. It’s good to have a routine, but it’s not the end of the world; if it’s interrupted sometimes for spontaneous fun, it will make the family bond strong Insha’Allah.


Errors in Connection

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“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego and over self.”


The importance of listening extends far beyond academic and professional settings; it helps us develop an understanding and caring relationship with others, whether it is with our family or friends. In order to develop good listening skills, we have the life of the Prophet (sa) to guide us. He is an example for others to follow as a husband, a father and a leader – roles, which he fulfilled in the best possible manner. His concern for the poor, the orphans and the weak has no parallel. For achieving all of this, he had one key personality trait – excellent listening skills.


Relationships are all about communication. When you aren’t communicating properly, it’s easy to feel frustrated, anxious and alone. Most of us focus more on speaking than listening.

Not only poor listeners are perceived as being rude, but they also miss out on important knowledge and an enjoyable bond with their family and friends.


We all carry with us preconceived notions that hinder us from being good listeners We are so preoccupied with our own thoughts and feelings that when someone talks to us, we get easily distracted and caught up in un related thoughts. Instead of hearing what the other person is saying, we focus on what we ourselves want to say next. In short, we listen for answering others, not really for making them feel heard. Let’s take a look at the qualities, which prevent us from being effective listeners.


  1. Mistrust. A major reason, why people don’t listen to anyone’s advice, is because they fear being deceived or manipulated by others; as a result, they stop listening. There are stages to being distrustful: doubt, suspicion, anxiety and fear. For example, when a colleague tries to give a genuine piece of advice, fear overshadows this act of generosity, leaving in its wake doubt, anxiety and fear. On the other hand, if we trust Allah (swt) to guide us and base our decisions on the Quran and the Sunnah, we will never have an issue of whom to trust. No fear, anxiety or self-doubt.


  1. Defensiveness. It is difficult to react positively to criticism or being proven wrong. It makes us defensive; we try and rationalize to compensate for being human – not perfect. This defensiveness hinders us from overcoming our faults, so we can seek ways to create deeper and more meaningful relationships with our family, friends and colleagues. Keep in mind: what doesn’t destroy you, only makes you stronger – thus, learning from our mistakes is wise.

    The Prophet (sa) was always open to learning and taking the advice of Sahabas, when it came to worldly matters.

    During the Battle of Khandaq, it was Salman al Farsi’s recommendation to dig the trench – the Prophet (sa) did not feel threatened by a friend offering a better strategy, even thought he was the commander in chief.


  1. Racism and Pride. The Prophet (sa) clearly taught us in his last sermon that no one is superior to one another on the basis of race and colour, but we fail to apply this basic principle in our lives. We shun away those in need. We find it hard to give them our attention, because we feel that they are beneath us and not deserving of our time. Let us remind ourselves that it was this feeling of superiority and pride that made Shaitan disobey Allah (swt), when he refused to bow down to Adam and was removed from Allah’s (swt) mercy.


We can achieve better listening skills by adopting what we learn from the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (sa). Let us take a look at what can help us become better listeners.


  1. Be a good listener. When we talk to someone, we wish to see them give us their complete and undivided attention. We wish to have our opinions and feelings understood. Likewise, when others speak to us, we should also listen to them attentively, without judgment and bias. Yes, they may be wrong, but how can we clear any misunderstandings between us, if we don’t hear them out first? ]“None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Bukhari, Muslim)


  1. Use appropriate body language. We learn from the life of the Prophet (sa) that he was a good listener.

    It is described in the Seerah that when someone spoke to the Prophet (sa), he used to turn his whole body toward them, so that he was completely facing that person.


We often fail to adopt the proper etiquettes of listening, when interacting with people. We are distracted by our gadgets, barely nodding our heads to give a false impression that we are listening. Listening is an act, which requires not only our ears, but our entire body:

  1. Face the person, who is talking to you.
  2. Put away any distractions, such as your mobile.
  3. Be attentive and maintain eye contact, when appropriate.
  4. Give facial feedback by smiling or looking concerned.
  5. Nod your head and lean forward to make the person feel welcome.
  6. Put your arms by your sides or on your lap, do not ‘block’ the other person by crossing them in front of you.


You will be surprised by how these small changes in your body language can impact your relationships.


  1. Give the benefit of doubt. Many times negative experiences impact the way we listen to others. We tend to develop negative feelings and preconceived notions about others. Every time they speak to us, we become judgmental and refuse to listen to what they have to say. Our prejudices creep into our daily interactions, till they create rifts between us. Try to think well of the person you are talking to, regardless of the arguments you may have before.


  1. Keep calm. When someone misbehaves with us or says things that make us upset, it is test of our endurance and patience to remain good listeners. In such situations, we must remember to keep our calm. We find that the Prophet (sa) didn’t get upset very often. His patience is exemplified in the incident, where he helped the old woman carry her heavy load out of the city, while she kept calling him names.


Every single day we get plenty of opportunities to develop our listening skills. Let us keep in mind the above advice and work toward becoming better listeners.


By Ayesha Salam and Zahra Nayyer


Prayer: Is it a one-way communication?

Picture courtesy:

Picture courtesy:

My Quran Reflections Journal
Gems from Taleem ul-Quran 2015

Day 21 Reflection
(Al-Baqarah 2:186)

Sometimes, the inner ‘me’ screams. It screams to be set free! Free of guilt, pain and misery.

Sometimes, I feel like shouting out loud and crying to Allah (swt) to let Him know that I cannot take it anymore – that I have had enough and am losing the courage to remain steadfast; that I have to drag myself to the prayer mat, and that sometimes I don’t even want to pray.

Then I realize: who is it that needs my prayers? Allah (swt) doesn’t for sure. It is a one way communication anyways. I would cry to Him and tell Him what I am feeling, but He won’t answer me.

Really? Is prayer just a one-way communication? No! Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “My Lord is Near (to all by His Knowledge), Responsive.” (Hud 11:61)

“My Lord is Near (to all by His Knowledge), Responsive.” (Hud 11:61)

I may not be able to stop my shouts, screams and complaints. I may not be able to pray regularly or with as much zeal as I do pray on particular days; yet, I shouldn’t give up! I must drag myself to the prayer mat and pray. There’s no way out! If I don’t let out my inner feelings to Allah (swt), how else would I feel relieved? How else would I find peace?

After all, I am human. I need an outlet. So prayer is not a one-way communication. Allah (swt) is the All Hearing and the All Knowing. It is my need that He hears what I wish to speak to Him. It is my body’s limitation that it has to fall in Sujud to rise in the state of Iman. It is my mind’s manipulation that it has to feel that it is being responded to, to feel loved. It is my heart’s desire to be consoled, to be able to feel cared for.

So there’s no harm in shouting, crying and screaming in pain to Him. But, there’s greater peace and everlasting bliss in knowing that indeed He hears even our silence. He understands our sobbing and aching, even if we were to weep silently in our solitude, Subhan’Allah!

And according to His promise, He will respond too in His way. In the way, He sees it best for us. We need to have complete trust in Him!

“And when My slaves ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me, then (answer them) – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls upon Me…” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

So, the next time I feel I don’t want to pray, I would drag myself to my praying spot and perform all actions as I should, believing that the Turner of the hearts knows best, how hurt my heart is at that point in time! Insha’Allah!

Do you sometimes feel the same, too?

Lessons for Parents in the Nikah Sermon

nikah sermonLike other special occasions in Islam (Jummah and Eid), the Nikah ceremony too is marked by a Khutbah, in accordance with the practice of our beloved Prophet (sa).The Nikah sermon is an essential part of every Muslim wedding. However, unfortunately, women rarely get to hear it, and the men who do hear it seldom understand the meaning.

Whatever the Prophet (sa) did or said had a purpose behind it. The Khutbah of Nikah is not just a ritualistic repetition of a few words. This simple, concise, and yet profound sermon contains a message for all those who are involved in the making of a new family: the bride, the groom, and their respective parents and siblings.

Let us, as parents, ponder over and extract lessons pertaining to the marriage of our children.

From the Lips of Our Beloved (sa):

“Praise be to Allah (swt). We seek His help and His forgiveness, and rely on Him. We seek refuge with Allah (swt) from the evil of our own souls and from our bad deeds. Whomsoever Allah (swt) guides will never be led astray, and whomsoever Allah (swt) leaves astray can be guided by no one. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah (swt), and I bear witness that Muhammad (sa) is His slave and Messenger.

O you who believe! Fear Allah (swt), as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allah (swt). (Al-Imran 3:102)

O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person, and from him He created his wife, and from them both He created many men and women, and fear Allah (swt), through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah (swt) is ever an All-Watcher over you. (An-Nisa 4:1)

O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah (swt) and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth.” (Al-Ahzab 33:70) (Nasai and Abu Dawood)

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Intimacy After Engagement


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.” (]

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.

Reaching a Win-Win Solution

win win solution

Consider the following incident and the two scenes that follow. The situation is similar but the interaction between key players is significantly different.

Asma’s final examinations are about to commence. She is in the eighth grade and her studies are tough. To allow her time to study and avoid late nights, her mother has already politely declined invitations to two family weddings. A couple of days before Asma’s exams begin, her dear friend (who studies in another school) comes to visit. She has brought the invitation card to her elder sister’s wedding, scheduled to be held on a Thursday. Since the next day is her exam, Asma knows she would not be allowed to go. Still, upon her friend’s insistence, she decides to talk to her mother.

Scene A

Asma’s mother refuses to budge. She categorically tells Asma that no parties or weddings will be attended in the middle of the exam week. Asma gets very upset. She has been studying hard and feels she deserves a break of an hour or so. Her mother tells her that she would be spending time getting dressed and then commuting: total of two to three hours. Then, she would want to stay till dinner and, hence, would return late night. She’d be too sleepy the next day. Asma says she will go, no matter what. Her mother says, no, no matter what. Both Asma and her mother get into a terrible argument that results in tears and silent treatment.

Scene B

Asma thinks a little bit before approaching her mother. She notes the time and the venue of the wedding. She mentally calculates the time she would be spending getting dressed and commuting to the wedding. With all this preparation, she talks to her mother and requests her to allow her an hour to attend the wedding. She assures her mother that she will do the preparation for next day’s exam well before time, will spend maximum fifteen minutes on getting ready and will not stay for the dinner at the wedding. She will simply go, meet everyone and then return. The break will be good for her and she would probably feel more refreshed for the paper next day. Asma’s mother thinks it over and then allows her to attend the wedding, if all conditions are met as put forward by Asma.

Note the difference in the two scenes. In the first, Asma and her mother engaged in positional bargaining: each has a ‘position’. They both argued tooth and nail to win that position. Eventually, they made up but it was not a happy arrangement for both. In the second, Asma and her mother engaged in interest bargaining. Asma knew her mother was not against attending the wedding per se. Her ‘interest’ was to ensure Asma’s exam did not get affected. Once Asma had identified all possible scenarios that her mother could oppose, she managed to convince her and attend the wedding without disobeying her.

In our daily interactions with our parents, spouses, children, neighbours or in-laws, we do encounter situations, in which we do not agree with another person. This is natural; what matters is how we deal with these differences to reach a win-win solution. There are basically two approaches towards resolving conflicts. Positional bargaining may result in a compromise, but one or both parties are usually not happy with the outcome. On the other hand, interest bargaining leads directly to a win-win solution, as it takes into account diverse interests and aims, rather than one’s position over a specific matter.

Despite interest bargaining being more beneficial, position bargaining is more popular. This is mainly because:

  1. It requires no or very little planning and preparation. Mostly, it depends upon a person’s position at the time of discussion or argument.
  2. It is very convenient, because it does not require planning or thinking through.
  3. It works most of the time and gives us results, even if not always wise.
  4. It can be applied to any situation.

On the other hand, interest bargaining requires some serious work. It needs proper planning and thinking through to reach creative solutions.

For example, 18-year-old Saad finds it difficult to wake up for Fajr and almost always gets into an argument with his mother about it. Position bargaining would mean that both Saad and his mother would come to a compromise: if Saad gets up for Salah for three days, he can miss it for three days, and his mother would not argue. However, this cannot be done, because the Salah is Fard (obligatory). No matter how tired Saad is, there is no excuse for missing the prayer. Once this premise is established in their minds, they can come up with solutions on how Saad can wake up for Fajr. This may include Saad educating himself on the importance of praying Salah on time, avoiding late nights, keeping multiple alarms and so on. It is important to note that the mother is not arguing to defend her position; she is defending a vital principle.

Similar is the case, when problems take root between in-laws. A frail, elderly mother-in-law, who is widowed and mostly bed-ridden, lives with her only son and his wife. The wife wants a separate portion in the house, because it is very taxing for her to look after a sick individual the whole day. She argues with her husband to hire a maid for the mother-in-law and move upstairs. Her husband can reach this compromise through position bargaining, and do as his wife suggests. However, he outlines the interests of them both:

  1. He wants his wife to be happy and content, and his mother to be taken care of.
  2. The wife wants some relief from the daily responsibilities of caring for the mother-in-law.
  3. The mother-in-law needs the company of her son’s family.

The son decides to hire a reliable maid, who can take care of his mother’s medical needs, so his wife can get some relief. The wife then agrees that she will not move to a separate portion, and, instead, will supervise the maid and give her mother-in-law company. This way, all parties are happy.

What are the attitudes of those, who engage in interest bargaining?

  • The interests of all parties in an argument are addressed for an agreement to be reached.
  • The focus remains on interests, not positions.
  • Parties search for objective or fair standards that all can agree on.
  • All parties believe that there are multiple satisfactory solutions.
  • Parties are cooperative problem-solvers, rather than opponents.
  • People and issues remain separate. People are respected, while interests are bargained on.
  • All parties are willing to search for win-win solutions.

How can you initiate and work on interest bargaining? Here is a quick guide:

  1. Identify your interests/needs in a particular situation. Be specific about what your needs are and how important they are to you.
  2. When negotiating or having a discussion, inform all parties about your respective interests. Make sure your needs are understood.
  3. Now, specify the problem. Word it in a way that it appears solvable by a win-win solution.
  4. Identify general criteria that must be present in an acceptable solution.
  5. Work toward an agreement.
  6. Identify areas of agreement, restate them and, if needed, write them down.

It is important to implement the following, during this process:

  • Educate and be educated about interests of all parties.
  • Assure that all interests will be respected and viewed as legitimate.
  • Show an interest in others’ needs.
  • Do not exploit another negotiator’s weakness. Demonstrate trust.
  • Put yourself in a ‘one down position’ to other on issues where you risk a small, but symbolic loss.
  • Start with a problem solving, rather than competitive approach.
  • Provide benefits above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Listen and convey to other negotiators that they have been heard and understood.
  • Listen and restate content to demonstrate understanding.
  • Listen and restate feelings to demonstrate acceptance (not necessarily agreement) and understanding of intensity.

All too often, we are so caught up in one-upping others and winning the argument that we forget the following authentic Hadeeth: “The most despicable amongst people in the sight of Allah is the ruthless argumentative (person).” (Muslim)

“I guarantee a house in Jannah for one, who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right.” (Abu Dawood)

At the end of the day, the purpose of any argument or conflict should be to reach a win-win solution. A well-known saying is: “Lose the argument, not the person.”