In this part of a lecture, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan presents a practical strategy for the Ameers of the family to do effective, subtle Dawah to those under their care.
What is it that truly makes a woman beautiful or attractive to her husband? This is probably the most ancient and oft-asked question that women have sought answers to for centuries in their quest to maintain the bliss of their marital homes. Every year, women spend millions on cosmetics, fashion products and fitness programmes, as they go the extra mile in trying to preserve their youth for as long as they humanly can.
For some married women, this zeal increases with age, with the multitude of single, younger women swarming outside their houses and around their husbands, adding to their worries and insecurities about their looks. True, most women beautify themselves for their own happiness, not for the world; but it would be a lie to say that they do not do it to look good in front of others, too!
Yet, in the middle of this beauty paraphernalia, you will find a simple, practicing Muslim woman, who does not go to the gym or the salon as a routine; does not splurge on clothes at boutiques and does not purchase expensive cosmetics. Yet, from the way her husband pampers her, caters to her whims and steals looks at her in social gatherings, it is obvious that he is still in love with her, even after years of marriage and the arrival of children.
You wonder: “How does she do it?”
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (rta) said: “It was said to the Messenger of Allah (sa): ‘Which of the women is the best?’ He said: ‘The one who makes (her husband) happy when he looks at her, obeys him when he tells her to do something, and does not disobey him with regard to herself or her wealth in a way that he dislikes.’” (An-Nasai)
Many people misunderstand this Hadeeth to imply that a good wife should be physically very beautiful. Nay, “who makes (her husband) happy when he looks at her” means that the wife’s behaviour, character, looks and conduct together please her husband, whenever he looks at her.
Muslim women should realize that the best way to be incessantly attractive to their husbands is to make themselves sincere worshippers and believers of Allah (swt); to love and obey Allah’s (swt) commands and laws and to observe His limits. An indicator of Allah’s (swt) love for a slave is that His creation on the earth also loves that slave. It is a simple solution: love Allah (swt) and others – including your husband – will love you.
Here are some tips for achieving that:
- Make self-grooming and beautification solely an act of worship intended for Allah (swt) pleasure first, before it being for the world or even yourself. He created the beautiful, unique you, and He deserves gratitude for it.
- Be grateful to Allah (swt) for what you are, i.e., accept how you look and be comfortable in your own skin. Be happy with your height, natural weight tendency (skinny, chubby or fat), complexion, facial features and quality of hair. If you are short, you can never be tall, so focus on your other positive qualities. Each human being has unique gifts granted to them by their Creator. This acceptance of Allah’s Qadr (decree) will lead to inner confidence.
- Be self-confident – this happens by gaining knowledge of the Quran and becoming closer to your Creator. Even a plus-sized woman can look attractive to her husband, if she is confident about herself, and a so-called twiggy-skinny woman with a ramp model’s figure can fail to attract her spouse, if Allah (swt) does not will it. Remember, there is no single definition of beauty. What is attractive to one man can turn off another. Nothing makes a person more attractive than self-confidence!
- An attractive person has no self-esteem issues. Stop pointing out your physical defects to your spouse (“Oh, just look at my big bum!” or “Do I look fat in this?”) and instead, focus on your plus points. Your husband will automatically notice you, when he sees you take care of yourself, without whining to him to say that you look nice.
- You do not have to go to a beauty parlour and splurge on a makeover worth Rs. 5000 every other month to achieve good looks. An epilator and some good pharmaceutical products (scented bath gels, shower creams, deodorants, conditioners and olive oil) at home can do wonders.
- Keep yourself clean and fresh-smelling every day, removing unwanted hair from your body every two weeks and maintaining impeccable personal hygiene. This includes fresh breath, a fragrant body, squeaky-clean hair, sparkling teeth and smooth feet, with soles and heels free of unseemly cracks. It does not matter if your nails are short or if you have not applied make-up. Prophet Muhammad (sa) was immaculately clean, so we should focus more on cleaning our bodies and cleansing our hearts from malice than going for hair highlights and a manicure every three months.
- Stop worrying that your spouse will look at others. Rise above such insecurities. So what if he looks elsewhere? Yes, it is Haram and it hurts, but if you bear it with patience, Allah (swt) will be sufficient for you. A strong, self-sufficient wife is the greatest turn-on for any husband. Self-sufficiency comes from positive thinking and positive actions that benefit others in society.
- Read up about and keep a keen interest in your husband’s profession. This makes him stay attracted to you. When his wife shows concern about his professional life, he will definitely want to come home to her and discuss career issues.
- “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Though this does not always apply, there is some truth in it. You do not have to be a gourmet chef a la Naheed Ansari to tantalize his taste buds – just practice making his favourite dishes, until you excel at it. This will nurture his love for you. Just do not try to become his second “mom”!
Your weight, height, BMI (body mass index), age and dress size are nothing but numbers. Either you can let these numbers thwart your optimism and control your self-esteem, or you can lead a balanced life in pursuit of Allah’s (swt) pleasure, according to the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa). That will grant you the peace of both mind and soul. Then, even if your husband finds you the most attractive woman on the earth, it will no longer matter because through his pleasure, it is the pleasure of Allah (swt) that you actually seek!
Just like any other teenager, I also wanted to marry a tall, dark and handsome young man. But as my late grandmother predicted: “I was a dark complexioned girl, so I found a fair skinned groom, so will you one day.” And, I did, indeed. I ended up marrying a short, fair and cute bloke. But that wasn’t the end of my fairytale; rather, it was the beginning.
I learnt an important lesson that marriage is not just about finding a good-looking mate. It is not about treating our husband as a genie found in a bottle who’s meant to please us by granting our every wish (justified or unjustified).
Marriage is much deeper and far more meaningful – a relationship between two individuals. It is a partnership, which entails dispensing each other’s rights. It is a companionship meant for sharing each other’s sorrows and comforting one another through hardship.
It also means to celebrate each other’s victories. It is always about putting our partner’s needs and desires before our own. It means to find our own happiness in his/her smiles and love our beloved with the warmth we had never felt for anyone before.
After twelve years of marriage, this is some of the wisdom that I can share. But it wasn’t so in the early years of matrimony.
The first few years were more about taming our egos and wild desires to criticize and constantly complain about the smallest things. When we were blessed with our first child, we set realistic expectations as parents and stopped demanding the impossible from one another. After the second child came into the picture, it was about extending our roles further as mom and dad. Now, it was fine for dad to change diapers and for mom to get the broken car fixed.
With the third child, we learnt that multi-tasking and strict budgeting was the only way to get ahead smoothly. This meant simple clothes for ourselves, if we were to have a decent wardrobe for our three little angels. This is just one of the many sacrifices that we have made together with a smile and have grown up to become mature and responsible parents. If someone would have asked us to make the same sacrifice in the very first year of our marriage, we would probably have killed him/her. But as I said, we lived the good times and the bad times together. When we look back, it gives us a sense of pride to have lived through it all as a couple.
Many people have helped me along my journey and taught me to change the way I used to think. May Allah (swt) bless them for this. They truly enabled me to discover a new perspective of marriage and love my husband – the only true hero in my life.
This doesn’t mean that my husband has suddenly become a perfect mortal, and I have awakened to this reality. It rather means that I have come to love him the way he is with all his flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses, as he has come to accept me with mine. He can still get on my nerves with his forgotten promises, missed appointments, over-commitments to others and last minute havoc-stricken actions. But now, instead of being angry or upset for days, I either mutter under my breath, ignore him or when I can’t bite my tongue, I scold him and eventually go back to loving him the way he is.
I have to remind myself constantly of the great many things he has done for me, without me even having to ask him. One such thing includes working day and night tirelessly to provide for the family’s comfort and well-being. I have a choice to stay at home, while he has to get up every morning and head for the real world. When the family goes for shopping, he is the last one to buy anything for himself and even then, only when I insist. In spite of hating household chores, he helps me with almost everything on Sundays. He tries to be the best father and husband.
Here, I would like to confess that I used to gossip about his late arrivals from office and the mess he leaves behind when leaving for work in frenzy, or giving too much attention to his own brothers and sisters. Not anymore. Now, I have vowed not to backbite, but instead to highlight the very best qualities in him.
I am grateful to my dear sister who very wisely pointed out to me: “Our husbands are fulfilling their duties as the Ameers (leaders) of the family. When Allah (swt) will question them, Insha’Allah, they will fare better than us, as compared to our roles as wives and mothers, because of our constant thankless attitude towards their contributions. Ingratitude and gossip is a major cause for many wives to break their marriages and eventually their peaceful homes.”
I also owe a big thanks to a sister in Islam. I was completely swept away by the way Na’ima B. Robert dedicated her book “From my sisters’ lips” to her better half. She wrote: “For my husband, the wind beneath my wings.” How freely she expressed her love, gratitude, trust and affection!
That’s another problem with us. As a cultural taboo, many of us are either embarrassed or self-conscious of expressing our true inner feelings as the Eastern brides or wives towards our spouses. But believe me – saying such romantic lines as ‘I love you’ every now and then can enliven our relationship.
And if we happen to be extremely uneasy or shy expressing our love candidly, we should at least try using such words as ‘sorry’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ more often.
So here we are! The next time any of us is tempted to compare her husband to any other man (be it her father, a celebrity or a complete stranger), she should remember all that he has done and goes on doing for her and her family, that too without having to ask him!
By Umm Isam
How many of us have been counselled by our mothers on the eve of our marriage? If we are among the few, we should consider ourselves to be fortunate because this tradition is vanishing. Sometimes it seems that the planning of the perfect wedding steals the very essence of this very important moment in one’s life.
A popular counsel was given by Umamah Bint Al-Harith to her daughter Umm Iyas bint Awf on the night of her wedding. She said: “O my daughter! You are about to leave the home, in which you grew up and where you first learned to walk, to go to a place you do not know, to a companion with whom you are unfamiliar. By marrying you, he has become a master over you, so be like a servant to him, and he will become like a servant to you.” (“You can be the happiest woman in the world” by Dr. Aid Al-Qarni)
A servant to our husband? Did we hear it correctly? Any wife would hit the ceiling after reading this. But what exactly did Umamah mean by the word ‘servant’? She didn’t imply that one should be inferior, enslaved or trampled, as we might immediately think. She meant serving our husbands with sincerity, winning their trust, being dependable in times of need and respecting them. Isn’t that the definition of a truly worthy servant? And what will be the consequence of this conduct? Our husbands will gladly serve us! Isn’t that also every married woman’s dream?
Umamah further described ten qualities of a remarkable wife, who will almost always be able to win the heart of her spouse:
The first and second advice is to be content in his company, and listen to and obey him. Sarah, a married lady in her thirties, observes: “We are so occupied with finding faults in our spouses that it is next to impossible to experience a feeling of contentment in each other’s company. We would rather sit in front of the TV and spend hours viewing our favourite heroes’ movies and shows, than sit even for a couple of minutes with our husband to enjoy his company. And then we complain when our husbands don’t give us time or would rather read the newspaper in the bathroom than be with us.”
Interestingly, we have also heard the generation of our grandmothers, when women would not even speak a harsh word to their other halves out of respect or fear of them. It was simply something unheard of, and so were disputes and divorces. Today, with a more defiant woman emerging on the scene, many husbands are literally spoken to no better than the Chowkidar of the house. Criticizing, taunting, misbehaving, ridiculing – all this is justified as confidence and liberalism. One may think that some wives today behave more like mothers-in-law towards their husbands rather than their spouses! Imagine Allah’s (swt) displeasure. It is understandable that there will always be arguments and disputes in a household. The point is not who is right or wrong. It is mainly a question of handling the situation with wisdom and dignity. Apparently, we have given up both.
The third and fourth advice for a wife is to always try to smell and look good. Now, this shouldn’t be too difficult. We generally dress up for others, especially when going out. It would be far more effective to do the same when staying at home or awaiting our spouses’ arrival. Hina shared: “I always used to be so pressed for time that whenever my husband arrived from work, I was a rotten mess – sometimes, all sweaty from frying onions in the kitchen. But after reading this piece of advice, I try to do all the smelly and sweaty stuff in time, so I can take a quick shower and change right before my husband comes home. When I did this for the first time, my husband instantly inquired: ‘Where are you off to?’”
The fifth and sixth quality a caring wife must have is to prepare meals on time and ensure peace in the house when her husband is asleep. If we consider ourselves, we will realize that we lose temper most when we are hungry or when our sleep pattern is disturbed in any way.
The seventh and eighth piece of advice is to manage servants and children effectively and take care of the husband’s wealth. It has been noticed that men stay away from home if they know that after a hectic day at work, they will find chaos at home. If the wife maintains a proper spending budget of the household and other expenses that the husband is paying for, she will show him that she appreciates his hard work. A friend once said: “It is really pitiful to notice that many women are constantly complaining in public, how little their husband makes and that it is almost impossible for them to survive.”
Finally, it is advised that a faithful wife should never disclose any of her husband’s secrets and always try to obey his orders. Huma Hassan says: “If spouses are like garments protecting and gracing each other, imagine your horror if your garment starts to reveal your waistline in public.” Our husband will never trust us if he suspects that we give away all his secrets.
Umamah Bint Al-Harith concluded: “Be careful, my daughter, of showing joy in front of him, when he is upset, and do not show sorrow in front of him, when he is happy.” That is all about using our common sense coupled with consideration.
The above counsel is about creating an individual, who cares about and is cautious of her own conduct. She demonstrates a high level of humanitarian values and, consequently, is a source of pleasure for those around her. I can’t possibly imagine a home of peace and love, without a wise woman, exhibiting the aforementioned qualities. Can you?
Text of Umamah bint Al-Harith’s Advice
“The first and second of them are: be content in his company, and listen to and obey him, for contentment brings peace of mind, and listening to and obeying one’s husband pleases Allah (SWT).
The third and fourth of them are: make sure that you smell good and look good; he should not see anything ugly in you, and he should not smell anything but a pleasant smell from you. Kohl is the best kind of beautification to be found, and water is better than the rarest perfume.
The fifth and the sixth of them are: prepare his food on time, and keep quiet when he is asleep, for raging hunger is like a burning flame, and disturbing his sleep will make him angry.
The seventh and eighth of them are: take care of his servants (or employees) and children, and take care of his wealth, for taking care of his wealth shows that you appreciate him, and taking care of his children and servants shows good management.
The ninth and tenth of them are: never disclose any of his secrets, and never disobey any of his orders, for if you disclose any of his secrets you will never feel safe from his possible betrayal, and if you disobey him, his heart will be filled with hatred towards you.”
A marriage is usually said to be a blend of many different ingredients. These ingredients, on the face of it, seem quite common from one marriage to another. Every couple will name these ingredients to be love, understanding, loyalty and friendship; however, the way in which these are put together to form the perfect blend varies for every couple. And that is what actually makes every marriage unique.
Hiba spoke to a few newly-married wives to get their views on what they feel are the two most essential ingredients of a successful marriage.
“There are many actually – respect, forgiveness and understanding,” said Sarah Anwar, who’s been married for a year and a half. “Keeping faith in your spouse and in his/her decisions is very important, since it gives you the feeling of being secure and also makes your spouse feel more confident. Then comes respect. Once you’ve lost it, it’s gone forever. You might not believe in giving personal space to your spouse, but respecting the other person for being him/herself is very important. After all, we all have our own shortcomings. By understanding I don’t mean taking everything your relationship has to offer, but it’s better to try to see the other person’s perspective at times.”
Hania Tahir, who’s also been married for a year and a half, interestingly felt that honeymoon was an essential ingredient of any marriage. “It’s the magic ingredient that strengthens your bond and allows you to become comfortable with each other in a way that early married life with a million dinners a week can never allow. Strolling around in a foreign country, staying out late and talking, talking, talking for hours and hours brings you closer better than anything else. I credit it for laying the foundation for my marriage,” she said.
“The second ingredient is to pick your battles. I cannot stress how important this is. There may be a thousand million things that bother you, but many of these are tiny and not worth fighting over. Before I got married, I’d have scoffed at the concept of apologizing even if you don’t mean it, but I’ve since learnt that that’s far better than both of you glaring daggers at each other,” she added.
“Willingness to cooperate with each other and trusting one’s spouse are the essential ingredients of a successful marriage,” said Faria Saleem, a wife, with a year of family life behind. “There are many issues which have to be handled diplomatically, if you want to avoid unnecessary conflicts. You have to know when to speak and when to remain silent.”
“Trust and compromise are very essential in a marriage,” said Javeria Idrees, who’s been married for a couple of years and has a baby daughter. “Trust will keep your life going and compromise within the boundaries of right and wrong will create more room for both of you.”
With new couples being aware of their issues and the ways to make a marriage work, why then does conflict arise? And what is the best way of dealing with that conflict?
“Talking the problems out,” said Sarah Anwar promptly. “You don’t have to be disrespectful while doing so, but if you keep the lava simmering inside, it’s going to take all the good things away, when it bursts. Compromise and tolerance are major factors of conflict resolution. Always believe in your spouse – whatever he is doing is for your own happiness. Plus, every individual is unique; we have conflicts even with our siblings, who are brought up by the same parents under the same condition in the same house. So how can we expect a person, who has lived his/her life in different conditions and is brought up differently, to be exactly like us?”
Hania Tahir was all for diplomacy. “Don’t raise your voice!” she advised. “Say all the horrible things you want, but disguise your tone. It makes a world of a difference. Pretend you’re being nice. At the end, profess (exaggerated, if need be) declarations of love. If you’ve exhausted your persuasion supplies, and the spouse irritatingly continues to disagree with you, swallow your pride and give up your own stance. At the end of the day, your choice is between sticking to your guns and maintaining a smooth relationship. I pick the latter, and if it means giving up a few things along the way, none of them are more important than a snarl-free marriage. Oh, and the best way to drive your spouse up the wall is to bring up something from a previous fight or something annoying you noticed two months ago. If anything comes up, resolve it as soon as possible. If more than two days pass and you’ve not mentioned it, give it up and move on. It’s not fair to your poor unsuspecting partner.”
Talking to these young wives and mothers gives the impression that they are indeed aware of the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of a marriage. It is also very encouraging to note that, based on their personal experiences, they are more inclined towards diplomatic handling of issues, rather than an emotional, spontaneous response. With so many marriages on the rocks these days, one can only hope that these young women will set an example for those around them. After all, as one mother put it: “It is not easy to give up your personal space in this age of individualism, but, eventually, you have to trust the other person in doing as minor things for you as ironing.”