Beautiful Weaves – Relations with In-Laws

Beautiful Weaves

The Man Who Marries – The Most Critical Player

In a Muslim household, the man of the house is the Ameer (leader). He is the shepherd, who will be held accountable for his flock. He is their leader; he knows them, nurtures them and trains them to become effective members of the Ummah socially, physically, emotionally, mentally and, most significantly, spiritually.

Consider a household in which a set of parents just got their son married. The entire family lives together under one roof. Who will be the Ameer of this family: the father or the son? Until now, it was the father, of course, but now, after their son has wedded, he needs to become the Ameer for his own family as per Islam’s demand. His wife and his offspring to be born will be his responsibility all the way.

The greatest problem that joint family setups and over-protective parenting of today poses is that the man, who is married, hasn’t grown up to be a man. He is clueless about his role, obviously untrained, living in the shadows of his parents and sometimes even financially dependent. This automatically spells disaster. If he has no vision for himself, his wife or the family to come, he will not be granted any freedom to take his decisions either.

He will be an easy prey to manipulation from either side, be it his wife or his parents. Since he will have little courage to stand up for anyone’s rights, he will be controlled. This man will never be able to do justice with any of his relations, because he will eventually tilt towards the oppressor. The oppressed may be the parents or his wife and family.

If boys can go through vigorous and multiple years of academic education and career counselling, why aren’t they prepared for such a pivotal role of their life that will determine their eternity: hell or heaven? And if this sounds too dramatic for you, read on:

“And those who break the Covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives), and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse (i.e. they will be far away from Allah’s mercy), and for them is the unhappy evil home (i.e. Hell).” (Ar-Rad 13:25)

It is the effectiveness of this role as an Ameer that defines a man’s success and place in his family. If he is able to provide financially, decide wisely, love empathetically, forgive patiently and, above all, treat everyone justly, he will command everybody’s respect and earn Allah’s (swt) mercy, too.

The best means to train yourself is to seek guidance from the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (sa). Parents of boys should offer to them opportunities for taking decisions; it doesn’t matter whether they are wrong or right. They should be encouraged to learn conflict resolution skills. Parents can discuss varied scenarios from home, school, workplace, market and elsewhere and invite them to analyze situations and resolve issues. Shura (advise) should be sought from them, concerning important family matters, so these boys groom into competent Muslim men.

All these means are stepping stones to empowering them for their future role as Ameers of their own families. If they are old enough to marry and be accountable before Allah (swt), why do parents think that their sons are not mature enough to lead their own flock?

Father – The Navigator

With the passage of time, the role of a father has been diminished merely to that of a bread winner. Once he stops putting food on the table for his family, he is not remembered much. This may be due to the fact that while he was striving hard to finance the needs of his family, he was hardly around for bonding with them.

In Ibrahim (as), we see a dynamic father whose genes, sacrifice for Islam and prayers to Allah (swt) prove the obedience we all know Ismail (as) for. Sahih Bukhari narrates that after the death of Hajrah (as), Ibrahim (as) came to visit Ismail (as) and his family; however, Ismail (as) had left Makkah before his arrival. He met Ismail’s (as) wife instead and inquired about him. She replied that he had gone to search for livelihood. Then, Ibrahim (as) asked her about their condition and way of living. She said, complaining to him: “We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution.” Ibrahim (as) replied: “When your husband returns, convey my salutation and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house).” When Ismail (as) returned home, he felt something unusual. He asked his wife, if anyone had come in his absence and she narrated the whole message to him. Ismail (as) told his wife: “It was my father, who visited you, and he has told me to divorce you. Go back to your family.”

Ismail (as) married another woman from the tribe of Jurham. Ibrahim (as) stayed away for some time, as long as Allah (swt) wished; he again visited his son but did not find him. He came to Ismail’s (as) wife and asked her about him. She replied: “He has gone to search for his livelihood.” Ibrahim (as) then inquired: “How are you getting on?” asking about their sustenance and living. She replied: “We are prosperous and well-off (i.e., we have everything in abundance). Then she thanked Allah (swt). Ibrahim (as) asked: “What kind of food do you eat?” she answered: “Meat.” “What do you drink?” “Water.”

Ibrahim (as) said to his daughter-in-law: “When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.” When Ismail (as) returned, he asked his wife, if anyone had called on her. She replied: “Yes, a good-looking old man came to me.” She praised him and conveyed his message to Ismail (as). Ismail (as) replied: “He was my father, and he has ordered me to keep you with me.”

This is the true concern a father has for his son – to be married to a virtuous and God-fearing girl, who safeguards the progeny and serves as a content, loyal and loving companion. Ibrahim (as) ensured that his son builds a strong Muslim home, not the sustenance he was earning, the kind of camel he was riding or the amount of savings his bank account held.

Ismail (as), in turn, was a devout son, who understood what his father meant and immediately paid heed to his command, as he realized Allah’s (swt) pleasure lied in it.

Mother – The Door to Jannah

Often parents end up spending more than 70% of their earnings (and sometimes all their savings) on the well-being of their children. They don’t keep accounts of it, of course, but it is understood that the very best that comes to the family directly goes to kids.

It is natural for these parents to feel insecure, lonely and at times, abandoned, when their kids (especially married sons) begin their own family lives. The situation is worse, if they have not taught the Islamic values and responsibilities the son has to fulfil towards his parents in terms of kindness, care and time spent together. Adding fuel to fire, a stranger in the form of a daughter-in-law steps in. She is viewed with great suspicion and mistrust. She is perceived as a competitor to the mother-in-law, especially when the son forgets to balance his roles and set his priorities.

Often out of envy and possessiveness, mothers do not want to let their sons go, thinking that they will be loved less and altogether forgotten one day. This may assume extreme measures in cases of single mothers, who are either widowed or divorced. Seeing their children settling in their marital lives gives them fear of losing them.

Parents should ensure that their married children assume the new challenges of life independently and patiently. It is recommended to spend on their children, but it is imperative to invest in one’s retirement and for old age comforts. In case the kids are unable to support them, these parents must have financial independence for themselves. It is a great relief to be able to sustain oneself at an age, when one has no income and many medical expenses.

In terms of expectations, married sons (and not their wives) should be held accountable for the parents. If the sons themselves are not available, they have to hire help or arrange any other required means to take care of their old parents. However, if parents do not teach their children the value of this care, it is very unlikely that the sons will ever serve them. It is the custom of disbelievers to consider daughters-in-law to be slaves, servants or caregivers for their husbands’ elderly parents. In Islam, it is the duty of the son or the daughter equally, married or not.

If the daughter-in-law is a God-fearing soul, she will proactively participate in whatever she can contribute. However, it should be considered that if she has children and her own parents to look after, she might be pressed for time. Sadly, parents seldom marry their sons to such practicing Muslimahs, as recommended by our Prophet (sa). Today, many brides are selected purely on the scale of materialism. When homes break up or men surrender before their headstrong wives, parents are the first ones to be thrown out of the family photograph.

When mothers-in-law are the dominant force, another gloomy question lurks – whose house is it? If the daughters-in-law actively participate in the kitchen, they are considered to be interfering, their management skills are incompetent or they are too concerned about impressing their husbands. If they stay aloof, they are considered to be indifferent, lazy or useless.

Management skills of two ladies can be poles apart yet good in their own ways. There is no perfect recipe for running a house. Management styles are as diverse as the people involved. However, in joint family setups, this is a very common stumbling stone. A mother-in-law, who has been managing the home turf for the past twenty-five or so years, is naturally the ‘queen bee’. She can’t be stripped of her title and honour. The daughter-in-law, who has just joined the family, has her own dreams, ideas and priorities; she might find all of these are being trampled upon. The kitchen is a woman’s dominion, which may easily turn into a battleground. For maintaining peace in home, kitchens must be separately owned and managed.

Muttaqi (pious and God-fearing) mothers are a gift of Allah (swt). They are the binding force of the family. With their invaluable experience, they have a great opportunity to transfer priceless traits to the next generation and leave behind Sadaqah-e-Jariya for themselves.

Daughter-in-law – The Peacemaker

Not long ago, mothers taught their daughters the valuable skills of becoming good wives. Nowadays, this mental preparation and training is increasingly skipped. Since no university offers such courses, for many girls, life after marriage may somewhat resemble a bomb exploding in their face. What? I can’t sleep until noon? I can’t chat on my mobile for hours? I have to cook breakfast for my husband that early? I need to clean up my room? I have to mingle socially with my in-laws? That’s it! I am filing for divorce!

You might think this is an exaggeration. However, tragically, it is true. Young girls of today sometimes want to break up simply because they cannot cope with their roles as wives and mothers. For maintaining the perfect figure, they never ate well; thus, their bodies lack the nourishment required for physical challenges of house chores and child bearing. They were raised to go to school, attend college and take up a job – not for being a part of home management. In other words, they were expected to behave like men. Thus, it is only natural that they revolt, when they are expected to do anything else. They feel as if someone else’s role is being imposed on them.

In some cases, married couples, who live with the parents-in-law, enjoy privileges without participating in responsibilities. In other extreme stories, daughters-in-law are treated like servants. With no love for the parents-in-law in her heart, anger and disdain for her husband, because he wouldn’t stand up for her, and frustrated to the core, she sizzles until she can’t take it anymore. The results are easy to predict: the couple gets a divorce, the couple moves out to a new dwelling after an ugly brawl with the parents, or lives on ‘unhappily ever after’.

What does Allah (swt) say about this? After commanding us not to sever ties of kinship, He also advises us to fear Him and be patient. It is impossible to love, honour and care for people, if we think selfishly – Allah (swt) always has to be in the centre. A girl has no blood ties with either her husband or his family. These relationships require nurturing and tending to on a daily basis. It is like a group of strangers coming together and making an effort to like and live with each other. Some will take more initiative, while others might just sit back and do nothing about it.

As a true agent of change and devout Muslimah, every young married girl must grab the opportunity to make that effort. If there is a misunderstanding, do not prove it right by behaving just like that; prove it wrong by behaving otherwise. It takes a while for strangers to become friends – it requires time and hard work. Also, positive thinking and sincere prayers are like a rescue boat sailing high on the stormy seas, whereas self pity, jealousy and lack of empathy for others is like the “Titanic”, running into the iceberg that sunk it.

For solving problems, we should first understand the parties involved and address their obvious and hidden intents by asking: Why do they behave in a certain way? Once the root cause is unearthed, it is easier for us to devise our own strategies in handling the situation. Also, always separate the problem from the person. Just because someone behaves a certain way doesn’t mean that this person is malicious or downright wicked to the core.

Husband and wife are like garments for each other; they are meant to protect, beautify and confide in each other. A wife is the source of solace, comfort and enjoyment for her husband. Honouring the parents of husband is like honouring him. If a husband treats his wife well, it is because of the upbringing he has received at the hands of his parents. Later, when the young wife becomes a mother, she realizes the pains his parents must have gone through in raising him. It is the right of every parent to be respected. Our in-laws are not our blood relations. Yet, they are no less in significance, as our ties with them will influence the happiness of our own marriage.

May Allah (swt) grant us the forbearance and wisdom to build strong Muslim homes. Ameen.

Happily Ever After – The Life that Everyone Wants

Happily Ever After

Everyone wants to live happily ever after; however, not everyone can. For the young, the phrase ‘happily ever after’ usually translates into getting married. Shaykh ash-Shanqeeti, a teacher of great Ikhlas (sincerity) with over two hundred thousand students, was not married until 48 years of age. His students were after him to get married, but he refused out of fear of offending his mother. He got married after her death. When asked why he didn’t marry earlier, he replied: “The one who has Allah (swt) on his mind, the Quran in his heart and the problems of the Muslimeen on his shoulders has no time for marriage.”

This is the true ‘happily ever after’.

The prophets and the messengers tasted the sweetness of faith, though they faced trying times in their lives. Prophet Moosa (as) felt it when he was pursued by the Pharaoh. Prophet Ibrahim (as) felt it when he was thrown into the fire. Prophet Yusuf (as) felt it while he languished in prison. Prophet Muhammad (sa) felt it during his stay in the Cave of Thawr, while migrating to Madinah. Prophet Yunus (as) felt it when he was swallowed by the whale. The Sahabah felt it when atrocities were committed against them.

A renowned scholar of Islam Ibrahim ibn Adham has said: “We are living in such sweetness that if kings knew about it, they would fight us over it with their swords.” Note that he was a very poor man. This shows that happiness does not come from money.

Ibn Taymiyah, another scholar of Islam, has said: “There is a Paradise in this life. Those who do not enter it here shall not enter it in the Hereafter.” When he was thrown into prison, he said: “What can my enemies possibly do to me? My Paradise is in my heart; wherever I go, it goes with me, inseparable from me. For me, prison is a place of (religious) retreat (Itikaaf); execution is my opportunity for martyrdom (Shahadah); exile from my town is only a chance to travel (Siyahah).” For such scholars, real imprisonment was the imprisonment of the heart by Allah (swt).

In the contemporary world, we see a lot of people with plenty of money and fame. Yet they do not live ‘happily ever after’. Rather, they either die as lonely individuals or commit suicide out of depression. Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley are only a few examples.

On the other hand, we have one Surah in the Quran, whose recitation gives immense happiness and a feeling of being blessed. That is Surah Ad-Duha. Consider its first verse:

“By the forenoon (after sun-rise); and by the night when it is still (or darkens); Your Lord (O Muhammad [sa]) has neither forsaken you nor hated you.” (Ad-Duha 93:1-3)

This Surah was revealed when Prophet Muhammad (sa) had not received the revelation for six months, and was fearful that Allah (swt) might be angry with him. The first verse of the Surah instructs to look at the Sun and its brightness, and forget the doom and the gloom. Depressed people usually sleep during the day and stay awake during the night. Hence, the very first verse swears by the forenoon and then by darkness that Allah (swt) has not forgotten His Prophet (sa) nor is he angry with him. The Surah then goes on to mention three remedies for depression:

“Therefore, treat not the orphan with oppression, and repulse not the beggar; and proclaim the Grace of your Lord (i.e. the Prophethood and all other Graces).” (Ad-Duha 93:9-11)

The three sure-fire cures for depression include:

  • Consider the condition of the orphans and never say ‘no’ to them;
  • Don’t shun the poor; treat them kindly;
  • Enumerate the praises of Allah (swt).

When faced with any problem, one should do the above, plus recite as many invocations as possible, in order to rely upon Allah (swt) only. The Prophet (sa) once saw in the Masjid a Sahabi, who was worried about his debts. He (sa) taught him the following Dua to recite during such a time:

“Oh Allah! Truly I seek refuge in You from anxiety and grief; and I seek refuge in You from inability and laziness; and I seek refuge in You from miserliness and faint-heartedness; and I seek refuge in You from the burden of debt and the coercion of men.” (Abu Dawood)

Practical Ways to Achieve Happiness

Here are a few:

Stop looking in the rear-view mirror: Do not dwell on your past. If you keep looking back, while driving a car, you will crash.

Remain positive in the face of the negative: Every trying circumstance has something good in it. Renowned poet, Al-Mutanabbi, wrote some of his best poetry while he was sick. Good comes when you are least expecting it. Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Abi Sahl Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi was an Islamic scholar, who was imprisoned by the Khaleefah. He spent fifteen years in prison. While in prison, he used to dictate to his students the content of his book “Al-Mabsoot”. He is known for his excellent memory, because of which he was able to quote the works of other scholars.

Be patient, when doing Dawah: Don’t let people get to you. Expect criticism, when you enjoin good and forbid evil. Persevere with sincere intentions. Remember: if people criticize you behind your back, they are only increasing your good deeds and decreasing their own.

Attributes of People who Think Positively

  • They are curious. They look at a goal and then think of ways to achieve it.
  • They have leadership qualities. They approach challenges maturely and take calculated risks.
  • They never give up. If they fail, they try even harder.
  • They are focused and have self-respect.

Attributes of People who Think Negatively

  • They have neither vision nor clarity.
  • They are followers, not leaders.
  • They dread challenges.
  • They avoid hard work.
  • They give up hope after every failure.
  • They are frustrated with life and have low self-esteem.

Unlocking the Positive

If you feel you tend to think negatively, follow these strategies for staying positive:

Develop a clear vision: Why are you here and what do you want to do? Define your purpose of life and follow it. Think about what gives you peace of mind and happiness, and make it your goal.

Goals: If defining a vision seems impossible, write down three main goals related to Allah (swt), your family and finances. Work on those.

Ask others: Ask people, who know you, to point out your strengths and weaknesses. Work on them.

Aim for Firdaws: Strive hard to achieve excellence and the highest level in Paradise called Firdaws.

Supplicate: Ask from Allah (swt): “Oh my Rabb! What do you want from me?”

Last, but not the least, think about what the word ‘create’ stands for: current, reality, explore, alternatives, take action.

Current: You want to do Dawah, and you want to enjoin good and forbid evil. This is your current goal.

Reality: You don’t know how or where to start.

Explore alternatives: You join an institute to learn Islamic knowledge first and then explore options to impart it from that institute only.

Take action: You search and explore your options, and choose an institute. Then, you enrol in it.

Don’t come to the end of your life wondering, why you were here in the first place. Take the first step today and ‘happily ever after’ will be no longer out of reach, Insha’Allah!

Adapted from a lectureshop organized by “LiveDeen”. Transcribed for “Hiba” by Umm Ibrahim.

Pro-activity = A Peaceful Marriage

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By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

A world famous business and family consultant was in the middle of an important meeting and things were running behind schedule. He received a note from his wife that she needed to speak to him urgently. The counsellor stepped out to take the call. His wife impatiently reminded him that they had invited guests that evening and that she needed him to be home on time.

The counsellor, already facing a tough day at work, gave into the pressure of the moment and rudely told her off. While he was walking back to the boardroom, he realized his mistake. But the curt words had already been spoken and the relationship was stressed.

He tried to wrap up what he could and hit the road to reach home. In the privacy of his car, he stepped back to observe his behaviour without being defensive. As he stood apart from his own life, and replayed the conversation in his mind, he realized he had been wrong. He understood his mistake and prepared himself to make necessary changes and improvements.

He realized his wife had only made a reasonable demand, as she was in a tough social situation. Expectations had been created, and he wasn’t there to help fulfill them. Instead of understanding, he had reacted abruptly.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized that his actions had been off track. This was not the kind of relationship he wanted with his wife. Then, he began to think of what he wanted out of their relationship. It was care, empathy, love and patience. If he wouldn’t have been sucked into his worry for work and would have responded to his wife with more consideration, the results of the incident would have been completely different. As he reached home, his irritation had disappeared. The counsellor didn’t think of his work worries, but about his wife only. His heart was filled with feelings of love and understanding. He immediately apologized to his wife. She reciprocated. The closeness and warmth of their relationship was restored. And they enjoyed a lovely evening together.

Isn’t this a very common pitfall for all of us in our family life experiences? Whenever we are caught in the heat of the moment, we almost instantly explode, instead of responding on the basis of our deepest values. The counsellor suggested that “what we all need is the pause button – something that enables us to stop between what happens to us and our response to it, and to choose our own response”.

As individuals, we have the capacity to develop this ‘pause’ button. It can be done by acting pro-actively, using the ability to act on principles and values, rather than reacting upon emotions or circumstances. The four unique gifts that Allah (swt) bestowed upon all the human beings are: self-awareness, conscience, imagination and will power. These are the gifts that we saw the counsellor apply in his example, too.

Initially, it may take time to develop them and undo the habit of reacting. With time, with conscious effort and constant reminder to oneself, spouse and family, it can be possible to control one’s angry thoughts and choose a more decent response.

These gifts can be developed and used over time to improve the quality of family relationships. The counsellor suggests that some families should even determine a signal to help them cut through or prevent angry responses.

Just as the heat is turned on and an argument is imminent, we can say a chosen phrase or word out loud, switch the lights on and off, gesture a thumbs down with our hand. This could compel all to stop and disengage immediately.

As Muslims, for us, the best guidance comes from the Prophet (sa), who advises us to either recite ‘Aoodhu Billahi min As-Shaitan nir Rajeem’ or hasten to change our position, or get a glass of water or proceed to perform Wudhu. This space gives us time to get a grip on ourselves and understand the circumstances better in the privacy of our thoughts before we respond negatively.

It is said: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”

The marriage counsellor went on to describe how this one paragraph has been so compelling, so memorable and so staggering that it has influenced the rest of his life. In his own words: “I cannot begin to describe the effect that idea had on me. I was overwhelmed by it. I reflected on it again. I revelled in the freedom of it. I personalized it. The more I pondered over it, the more I realized that I could choose responses that would affect the stimulus itself.”

Animals have no space between stimulus and response. They are totally a product of their natural instincts. We need to understand this difference very carefully and behave in a manner that befits Allah’s (swt) best creations in the world – us. May Allah (swt) grant us the strength to be pro-active and help our spouse and families imbibe it, too. Ameen.

Being Proactive

Jan 11 - Being Proactive

How can family members be proactive?

There are two types of people in the world: proactive and reactive. Proactive individuals make choices based on values, whereas reactive people make their choices on impulse, as animals do.

To understand the difference between the two, you can imagine a bottle of water and a can of soda. What happens when you shake a bottle of water? Nothing. It simply remains cool, composed and in control. But what happens when you shake a can of soda? It pops! It lets out fizz, bubbles, sound, etc. It goes out of control.

If you want to be proactive, embrace the following immediately:

1. Be kind

In relationships, the little things are the big things. Such sincerely spoken words as ‘thank you’, ‘please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘you go first’ and ‘may I help you’ contribute towards a pleasant atmosphere. Helping family members with small chores when they are least expecting them goes a long way towards building relationships of trust and unconditional love.

2. Apologize

For most of us, our sense of security is based on our image, our position or on being right. Apologizing means draining all the juice from our ego. But remember – even if our temper surfaces only one hundredth of 1% of the time, it will affect the quality of our entire life, if we do not take responsibility for it and apologize.

3. Be loyal to the absent

Always talk about others, as if they were present. Imagine if our loved ones overhear us making disloyal comments about them, how hurt they would be, and how ashamed we would be. Never lend your ear to gossips; soon, the conversation will loose its spice and shift to other interesting subjects.

4. Forgive

You will always remain a victim, until you forgive. Once you have done that, you will open the channels through which trust and unconditional love can flow. You cleanse your own heart and give others a chance to change.

5. Never presume

Most of us impose our plans on others without taking their convenience into consideration. For instance, if you know that your elder sister has to submit a really important assignment on a Monday, you should be considerate and NOT invite your friends over on the weekend and expect her to entertain them. Ask such questions as: “Is this alright with you?” before planning anything that affects the rest of your family members.