“Libas” – Yours and Mine

14

“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.”

Don’t Give up Too Soon – Advice for Newly Weds

advice for newly weds

She has been sitting for hours, browsing bridal wear and makeup. It has to be the most perfect wedding from catering to dresses, from bridal shower to the actual wedding day, all according to the liking of her mother-in-law, whose appreciation and compliments she seeks. After all, she doesn’t believe in the typical in-law relationships.

The Nikah is only a few weeks away. She is excited about starting a family of her own. She glances at the photo frame on her night stand: her baby picture together with parents. They have always been at her side, excusing her reckless behaviour, encouraging her on her achievements and standing by her each time she stumbled. A tear trickles down her cheeks. Nothing can exceed her parents’ love for her.

*********

It has been a month since her marriage. Henna traces and the facial glow are gone. Honeymoon seems like ages ago. The excitement and fervour of starting a new life have vanished. What went wrong?

She feels unwanted. Her husband, the man with whom she dreamed endless conversations, countless romantic dinners, mutual values and eternal bliss, is the total opposite of what she expected.  Where did love, respect and kindness go?

She needs a break and requests to be dropped her at her parents’ place. Her husband gives a cold nod and grabs the car keys. What? He is not even going to stop her? Is it over already?

*********

She is back at her parents’. She needs peace for thinking it through. The thought of divorce has crossed her mind several times. In the lounge, her parents are praising their son-in-law, for he has allowed their daughter to spend a few nights with them.

She has not thought of what she will tell after the few nights pass. Maybe they will ask her themselves. Maybe he is missing her already and will come back to pick her. She picks up her phone for any missed call or text from him – there’s none.

Her phone does ring, but it’s her old school friend Sara, who is on a visit to Pakistan. They arrange to meet up for lunch.

*********

Sara recognizes her the moment she steps into the restaurant. After formal hugs, Sara shakes her: “Hey! What’s the matter? Why don’t I see the usual newly-wedded glow on your face? It has been only a month since your wedding.

She gazes at her friend blankly. Look at her! She’s beaming with joy even after five years of marriage, while I’ve already realized my wedding was a big mistake.

Sara now softens her tone: “Is something bothering you? Is the new routine overwhelming? I know. I have been married for five years, and every day brings a new surprise for me.”

“Ummm… it’s that… it’s… I don’t know,” she struggles to express herself.

Sara gently rests her palm over Anum’s hand: “When I was getting married, I was so excited about moving abroad and starting a new life. But you know what? Once we had done sight-seeing, dined at the finest restaurants, and shopped till we dropped, it seemed there’s nothing exhilarating in our lives anymore. Yes, I was expecting, and Yasir would routinely take me for appointments, but his frequent phone calls from work decreased. I felt he is not the person that I married. I felt unwanted, dejected and unloved. Thoughts of divorce constantly occupied my mind. I was unable to find my way; then, I did the only thing that I knew.”

Anum corrects her posture and sits upright. What? Did she go for a divorce?

“I woke up for Tahajjhud, laid my prayer mat and stood up in prayer. I cried my heart out to Allah (swt) – my only Wali. Out of self-respect, I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I didn’t want a divorce, but I also didn’t want to live in the same house like a stranger. I wanted a small happy family that went to bed with forgiveness, gentle kisses and sweet lullabies. Even though I didn’t see any visible signs of improvement, I kept praying. And you know what happened?”

“What?” Anum asks.

“After praying,” Sara continues, “I felt very relaxed, as if my worries had been taken care of. Then, one morning, Yasir came down to the breakfast table with his old chirpy, energetic self. He warmly came to me and whispered that my tea was the best in the world. I couldn’t believe my ears! Not only that – after breakfast, Yasir requested me to pack some extra muffins for his lunch, for he liked to show off to his colleagues his wife’s baking skills. From that day onwards, our relationship started to improve. He helped me with the house chores, went on walks with me and had all the time in the world for talking to me.”

“Really? Was prayer that effective?” Anum asked, unbelievingly.

“Yes, Anum. Patience and prayer are the essential ingredients of maintaining your sanity when the entire world is collapsing. You’re a dear friend, Anum. Right now, I want you to go home and get on your prayer mat. Trust me, I’ve been there. Don’t give up so soon.”

Anum gives a faint, sceptical smile: How can it be? Just a prayer and everything is fixed? I don’t think Sara understands me well.

***********

Anum wakes up in the middle of the night well before the Fajr. She is about to go back to sleep, when she realizes that this is the best time for Tahajjhud – that’s what she does. Sitting on the mat, Anum cries, beseeching Allah (swt) to save her home. She begs for forgiveness and seeks guidance.

An hour later, Amma comes to check on her. She kisses Anum, when she finds her reciting the Quran: “Is there anything you would like to talk to me about, Anum? I hope Yasir is kind to you, and your in-laws treat you nicely.”

“Of course, Amma, what made you ask that?” Anum asks politely.

“I don’t see you hopping around the house and fighting with your sisters. I want to be sure that my daughter is fine,” Ama explains herself.

“Could be that your daughter has grown up and become wise?” Anum replies with a smile.

Amma looks at Anum silently, trying to believe her. She asks Anum, what she would like to have for breakfast. Anum hugs her mom and says: “Let me make breakfast for you, guys, today.” As she walks towards kitchen, Anum wonders, where did this sudden burst of positivity come from?

***********

It’s been three days of regular Tahajjhud and the five daily prayers. Still no word from Yasir. The prayer isn’t helping… Anum is exasperated. She asks herself: “Why can’t I call Yasir? Most men, I have heard, lack communication skills.” She dials the number. Yasir picks up immediately, and asks how she has been. Anum is surprised by this unanticipated warmth and love. They speak for a while, and then Yasir says he is coming in the evening to pick Anum up. He misses her.

************

Anum greets her in-laws with respect and love, reminding herself she should neither be judgemental nor impatient. She inquires about their health and well-being.

Once in the bedroom, Yasir and Anum go through the events of the past few weeks. They admit their mistakes and pledge to communicate with each other openly. They have promised they will live as each other’s clothing that adorns as well as hides each other’s flaws. They will not discuss their private matters with anyone, for help truly comes from Allah (swt) only.

As they turn off the lights, Yasir asks: “But Anum… How did you decide to come back? What made you call me?”

“Prayer and patience,” Anum replies confidently, “…and I would love, if we could both start offering Tahajjhud together as a couple.”

When the Better Half Returns Home (Part 2)

better halfOur last issue offered tips to the lady of the house in working smarter and resolving domestic conflicts. This time, we will take a paradigm shift and throw light on how the men of the house can contribute to strengthening marital relationships and avoid trivial conflicts by demonstrating more of generosity and loving kindness towards their better halves.

Tips for Man of the House

  1. On returning from work, before you step into your home turf, take a deep breath and relax your body. Thank Allah (swt) for another incredibly exhausting but successful day to get over. Count the many blessings sitting on your platter, such as your health, home, family, job, and life itself that we generally take for granted.
  2. Switch off your working man mode. Never let office troubles to tag along home, because they will neither let your mind relax nor enable you to enjoy your family life. Initially the task may seem insurmountable, however, with practice and effort you will learn to control your thoughts. Most certainly you would never want your wife to keep calling you at work for leaking taps and blocked drains, since that is not the place or time to discuss it. Similarly, it is unfair to steal family’s quality time for work worries.
  3. Greet your wife and family with a genuine smile. You do not have to drag your feet and carry a frowning face or a gruff gesture to validate, how you had to rough it up at work. As someone wisely said that the most beautiful attire you can wear is a smile, and it is not even expensive!
  4. Sit down, take a glass of cool water and remove your shoes. If you have kids, ask them to get your slippers or put away your shoes or briefcase for you.
  5. Take a minute to look at each and every family member to notice some positive difference either in their appearance or mannerisms. It may give you an opportunity to make their day by uttering a compliment. Bovee states – the small courtesies sweeten life, the greater ennoble it. At times a good sense of humour also unwinds stress and lifts low moods.
  6. If you have old parents living with you, give exclusive fifteen minutes to half an hour to them, depending upon your arrival time. You may request for a snack or tea with them, while they chat with you or even share their concerns. They will love the priority and significance you give them and shower their blessings on you.
  7. Spend quality time with your kids to enhance bonding. You may offer Isha prayers together. If time permits, play a game, listen to their stories at school or simply ask them questions about their day. If they are ready to hit the bed, help them change or brush their teeth. You may read a book to them or simply share an interesting incident with them. This is also a suitable time to narrate a Prophet’s story, revise Duas and Surahs or simply teach your kids to thank Allah (swt) for His blessings He bestowed upon the family during the day.
  8. You may take some time to relax yourself by simply doing what you like. Take a shower, change clothes, take dinner, watch television, read the newspaper, chat on the phone or simply lie down peacefully.
  9. But wait! Before you go out like a light, make time for a heart to heart with your sweetheart! Who? Your wife, of course! Ask her, how her day was, and what stormy seas she had to sail through to keep the peace and quiet of your life intact. A man once shared with Richard Carlson (Psychologist) that for every 5% he improved his listening skills, his marriage improved by a whopping 50%.
  10. Motivation and acknowledgment are the key words for the crossword puzzle of most marriages. While you may have attended workshops and seminars teaching you to reward and recognize your team and peers on the job, make no mistake that everybody operates on the same pattern. It is sad that we are quick to recognize and compliment complete strangers, but unconsciously and at times deliberately choose to ignore our loved ones, who deserve our appreciation the most. Dishing out genuine praise is one of the intangibles of life. There is no way to quantify exactly how much good it does. But it can improve any relationship enormously.

The fact is that you live only once. Is it really worth making yourself miserable all your life? Never! Don’t let miseries get in your way of living to the fullest, because it won’t happen again. You will live only once! So be wise and embrace life with gratitude. All the best and happy living!

When The Better Half Returns Home – Part 1

better half

After having a wretched day at home or outside, the first tempting thought that comes to a fatigued wife’s mind is to dump the despair on husband dear. If she can resist calling him at work, she impatiently waits for the day to end. Her eyes stay on the clock ticking ever slowly. There opens the door and she takes a deep breath ready for the kill. As soon as she sights her husband, she swiftly moves forward and pours the entire molten lava boiling within her on top of her spouse!

The husband already looks battered after toiling through the day. If he is the silent crusader, he will listen to his wife with occasional nods not daring to stop her tirade. He will silently pray to God for her tape to run out soon so he can rest his ears and relax his mind. If conversely he is the confrontational type, he will give her a piece of his mind to shut her mouth. That will be the end of all conversations for the day. The wife will end up with a swollen face and hurt feelings. The husband will end up with a quiet and peaceful evening to himself.

One cannot help but wonder how those women on television look so pretty when their husband comes home. The house is spick and span, the children are neat and tidy, even the pet looks ecstatic and well-kept. Don’t they have worries like unaccommodating in-laws, uncontrollable children, unmanageable servants, unending house chores, unannounced guests or uncountable bills to settle? Probably not on their planet but on earth, life is certainly not trouble free. So, is there a better way to handle these small matters amicably?

Following are some tips to help you revisit your daily schedule and relieve unnecessary stress from building up. It will certainly not do your work for you but facilitate a different approach to go easy on yourself.

Tips For Lady Of The House

  • Wrap up all your house chores at least an hour prior to your husband’s usual arrival time. Remember, even if you were granted 48 hours instead of 24 in a day, there will still be something left out screaming for your attention. A simple make over can work wonders and lifts up your mood. Besides, husbands also hate to come home to a worn out wife who gives them sore eyes. Even if they don’t comment they will certainly notice the effort and feel pleased with you. Besides that you will even earn a bonus reward from Allah for dressing up for your husband, Insha’Allah!
  • Goethe wisely pointed out that ‘He is happiest, be he king or peasant who finds peace in his home.’ When your husband arrives, greet him with genuine enthusiasm. Thank Allah for your family’s safety and good health. It may be tempting to throw your heartfelt miseries point blank at your husband but hold on to them patiently. The point is, sharing your troubles now would not earn you any benefit. Firstly, he may be tired and not in the best frame of mind to offer you sympathy or solutions. Secondly, all your efforts may never be appreciated and the cause may be defeated. Present your case at the best time so it earns the attention it deserves. As Benjamin Franklin put it, ‘He that can have patience can have what he wishes.’
  • Frances Brooke observed that worries are like a horse. They keep you going but don’t get you anywhere. Put your worries on the back burner and your mind in the present time. You may allow your husband some time and space with the kids or his parents if they happen to live with you, since both are hardest to convince to wait around. Meanwhile prepare him a snack or tea if he wishes so. You can get on with preparing the dinner or take care of remaining house chores. Or you may simply join them in their fun and play or discussion.
  • Some times there are genuine urgencies that cannot wait. This may include a doctor’s habitual appointment, something the kids want for school on a short notice, grocery shopping, visiting a sick relative or some other important social commitments that do not fit into your family schedule. As long as it does not become a routine, you may request your husband to help you take care of it, even if it means sacrificing his peace and comfort at home. Once in a while he should not mind it.
  • As per routine, ask your husband how his day had been. Work these days has become a market place of stress. Many times men bring it home bottled up inside of them. As humans have an instinctual need to be heard, just listening about their challenging tasks and reassuring them towards the positive lightens their burden.
  • Once you have allowed him his breathing space, gently open your can of worms. Here what needs to be checked is your tone and choice of words. The trick to be able to persuade any man is with love and tenderness. The minute a wife tries to wear the pants in a relationship, it’s like you have stepped on a cat’s tail. Men hate it when their egos are bruised. Michelet rightly states that, ‘Women are perfectly well aware that the more they seem to obey the more they rule.’ Handle your spouse like a fragile glass. Once you have won him over, not only he will be able to see your point of view but support it too.
  • Lastly and most importantly, each night before you call it a day focus on the positive aspects of your life in comparison to others around. There are always countless examples among us who make us realize how lucky we are to have what we have got. The key word to peace and contentment is appreciation. Learn to appreciate virtues of your better half and remember them for Allah has mercifully given great set of qualities to all of us in spite of our shortcomings. Make no mistake that happiness is hardly a set of circumstances. It is more of a state of mind. If you postpone being happy on the basis of ideal circumstances, you will never find it guaranteed. So start living now. You will enjoy the present for it is the best gift you can have!

The Prophet (sa) as a Husband

our role modelKindness

Allah says in the Quran: “…and live with them in kindness, even if you dislike them perhaps you dislike something God has placed much good in.” (An-Nisa 4:19). The Prophet (sa) said: “The best among you is he who is best to his family and I am the best among you to my family.” (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

He was even kind to the relatives of his wives. An old woman came to the Prophet (sa) and he smiled at her, showed her respect, and asked her, “How are you? How have you been doing?” She answered, “I am fine, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, O, Messenger of Allah.” When she left Aisha (rta) asked, “Why did you welcome this old woman so warmly in a way that you do not welcome anyone else?” The Prophet (sa) replied, “She used to come and visit us when Khadeejah was alive. Do you not know that honoring the ties of friendship is a part of faith?” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Generosity

The Prophet (sa) was so keen to keep his wives happy that he would call Aisha (rta) to enjoy some innocent kinds of entertainment.

Aisha (rta) reports that on one occasion, the Prophet (sa) was sitting, and he heard some noise from people and children outside. There was a group of people gathered around some Abyssinians who were dancing.

He said: “O, Aisha, come and see!” I put my cheek on one of his shoulder and looked through the gap. Then he asked, “O, Aisha, have you had enough? Have you had enough?” I said: “No, just to see how much I meant to him and I saw him shifting his weight from one foot to the other.” (Nasai, Bukhari and Muslim)

Patience

Once, the Prophet (sa) asked his family for some food, which he could eat with bread, they told him, “We have nothing apart from vinegar.” He asked them to bring it and said: “How good a simple food is vinegar.” (Muslim)

One of the charactistics of the Prophet (sa) is that he never criticized food, if he liked it, he ate it and if he did not like it, he simply left it. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Easy-going nature

Umar (rta) said: “We Quraish used to have control over our women. When we came to Madinah we found a people whose women had control over them, and our women began to learn from those women.

One day my wife was angry with me, and was arguing with me. I did not like this but she told me, ‘Do you not like my arguing with you? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet (sa) argue with him. They get angry and keep away from him all day until night falls.’ So, I went to see Hafsa (Umar rta’s daughter) and asked her, ‘Do you argue with the Prophet (saw)?’ She said: ‘Yes’. I asked her, ‘Do you get angry and keep away from him until night falls?’ She said: ‘Yes’.

I said: ‘The one who does that is doomed to loss! Do you not fear the anger of Allah on account of the anger of his Prophet (sa)? Soon you will be condemned! Do not argue with the Messenger of Allah, and do not ask him for anything. Ask me for whatever you need.'”

Umar (rta) came to the Prophet (sa) and told him about the conversation he had with Hafsah (rta), and the Prophet (sa) just smiled. (Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, Nasai)

Conversations between the Prophet (sa) and his wives should not be assessed as that of a prophet and his wife, but as between a man and his wife; after all they were human beings.

Good Humour

Narrating an incident, Aisha (rta) said: “I came to the Prophet (sa) with some Harirah (a dish made with flour and milk) that I had cooked for him, and told Sawdah (rta) (Prophet’s saw other wife) – as the Prophet (sa) was sitting between me and her – “Eat.” She refused; so, I said: “Either you eat or I will fill your face!” She still refused, so I put my hand in the Harirah and dubbed her face with it. The Prophet (sa) laughed, put some Harirah in her hand and told her: “Do the same to her!” In another report: He lowered his knee (moved out of the way) so that she could get even with me, then she took some and wiped my face with it, and the Prophet (sa) smiled. (Al-Haythami 4/316, Al-Muntakhab 4/393, Kanz al ummal 7/302).

Once, Aisha (rta) was talking very boldly with the Prophet (sa). Abu Bakar (rta) happened to come and he grew so angry at his daughter’s behaviour that he wanted to beat her but the Prophet (sa) prevented him. After Abu Bakar (rta) had left, he remarked, “See, how I save you.” (Abu Dawood)

Independence

Prophet Muhammad (sa) never demanded or bothered his family members. In spite of a challenging and time-consuming mission he managed to run many of his own errands. His wives reported that he would often sew his torn clothes, repair his worn out shoes, milk his goat. (Ahmad)

Fairness and Steadfastness

Prophet (sa) was easy going in other matters, but was very firm in the matters of religion. Once during the course of conversation, Aisha (rta) described a woman as short. The Prophet (sa) interrupted her and said that this amounted to back biting. (Masnad Ahmad)

Sense of Justice

Aisha (rta) stated,” Allah’s Messenger (sa) used to divide his time equally amongst us and would pray, ‘O, Allah, this is my division in what I posses, so please do not hold me to blame for the division (of affection) which only you control.'” (Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, and At-Tirmidhi)

In another statement Aisha (rta) related that when Allah’s Messenger (sa) was ill he called all his wives and said: “Verily I am no longer able to visit all of you, so, if you do not mind that I remain with Aisha, please allow me to do so.” (Abu Dawood).

Allah says in the Quran: “Men are in charge of women by (right of) what (qualities) Allah has given one over the other and what they spend for maintenance from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard…” (An-Nisa 4:34)

This position of Qawwam (maintenance) means the man is completely responsible for his wife. It is indeed a difficult one. But every Muslim can find a solution to all challenges of his marital life from our beloved Prophet’s (sa) own exemplary role as a husband.