Lessons in Love from Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf)

8 lessons in loveProphet Muhammad (sa) is the ultimate role model for all Muslims, men and women, as we are all commanded by Allah (swt) in the Quran to follow the Messenger’s (sa) Sunnah. We look upon him as our guide. He possessed the best of manners, the noblest of character, and was the best husband to his wives. I am sure every Muslim woman wants her husband to emulate the example of the Prophet (sa), and to experience the deep love and tranquillity of married life just as the wives of the Prophet (sa) did. Yet we have to remember that marriage and love is a shared responsibility. If we want our husbands to resemble Prophet Muhammad (sa) in their conduct, we ourselves should also strive to be more like the Mothers of the Believers. Every one of these great women has a lesson we can learn from. If we want to become the best and most loving wives to our husbands, we should learn more about Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf), the first and the most beloved wife of the Prophet (sa).

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf) was born into a rich Makkan family. She inherited great wealth from her father, which she further multiplied by her successful business ventures. She used to send caravans with goods to neighbouring countries, and she would put trusted employees in charge of her merchandise. Having heard of the young man who was known in Makkah as al-Amin (the trustworthy), she decided to employ him. Khadijah (rtaf) sent with him her old and trusted slave, Maysarah, so that he could report to her about his dealings. The man she employed was no other than Muhammad (sa). Khadijah (rtaf) was so impressed by the success of his business trip, as well as by what Maysarah told her about him, that she became inclined to marry him.

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Defining my Hero

Jul 10 - Defining my hero

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!

A Wise Mother’s Advice

Vol 7 - Issue 1 A wise mother's adviceBy 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.”

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!