Nikāḥ kitāba, otherwise known as katb al-kitāb or “celibate marriage,” has become an increasingly common and preferred way of marriage for many young Muslim couples. A young man and woman may find themselves wanting to marry one another, but at the time are unable to live together. So instead of being engaged for long periods of time and making things difficult for the two, they choose to wed by nikāḥ kitāba.
This practice is actually a tradition of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who married 'Ā'isha, may Allāh be pleased with her, and delayed consummation until she was older.
After over 18 months of being married by nikāḥ kitāba, today marks the day my wife and I will be having our wedding party (known as ruksathī in Indian-Pakistani culture) after which will begin to live our lives together forever, inshā'Allāh. After a wonderful year and a half of a beautiful relationship Allāh blessed us with, we came up with what we feel is an essential survival guide for couples undergoing the same journey we just completed. If you are married by nikāḥ kitāba or will be in the future, then this list is for you.
1. Know your intention
Unfortunately, having the correct intention is often overlooked as the typically cliché and skip-over introduction point to anything. However, here as much as always, you will find it to be critically important. You, your spouse, and your families have agreed to join together in marriage and delay living together until later. In addition to being a tradition of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, it may also serve as a means of worshiping Allāh. You could have decided to practice other less sound relationship methods, but instead chose to perform nikāḥ right away. Always remember this goal of pleasing Allāh, as remembering Him in times of good as well as bad will make it much easier to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Don't play games
With long distance relationships, communication via the phone or internet may become your relationship's only lifeline. With such limitation, you're going to run into some roadblocks in getting important cues and messages through to your significant other. Since you have no avenue to use physical gestures to express your feelings, don't play guessing games with your spouse. If you're upset, just say it! Both of you don't want things to drag and the sooner you speak up, the sooner you'll find yourselves laughing together again.
3. Understand that your spouse has another life
You may find yourself at times frustrated that your spouse is busy and can't speak on the phone, or they don't pick up the phone whenever you find the chance to call. Don't stress it. This is simply a natural result of having a long-distance relationship. Whether the distance is across the globe or across the street, understand if the other is busy or cannot visit. Always believe they wish they could talk to you or see you more, and never accuse them of the opposite. There may be things on the other end you just cannot see to understand why they are so busy (i.e. actual fatigue, stress with school or career, family responsibilities, etc). Understanding that your spouse can be busy will help during times when communication and visits are hard to get going.
4. Increase your relationship with your in-laws
Use your time wisely to get to know not only one another but each others family while you're at it. Of course it may be difficult to remember your in-laws when all you can think about is the wonderful new person in your life, but don't forget the people that helped culture them in the first place. Make time to speak to in-laws on the phone, and remind your spouse to do likewise. When you visit one another don't only try to run off alone. Instead, spend time with your parents and siblings-in-law and build a relationship while everything is still sort of “casual”. Making way for in-laws may require more effort than is needed for one's spouse, but it will only strengthen the bond between you two for the long-run.
5. Make effort to schedule physical meetings
Not every couple in nikāḥ kitāba can easily visit one another, but if the means are there for you, take them. Physical interaction with one's spouse is very important, and must be a part of your relationship if the possibility exists. Sure you're limited to not being able to live with one another, but based on your agreed conditions in your marriage, make ways with your family and schedule to visit your spouse as much as you can. Being able to see one another can be one of the best ways to get through the time period which you have to endure before you eventually get to see each other every single day.
6. Strengthen your īmān with your spouse
You are undoubtedly going to find ways to visit one another, and even if you don't you will find yourself talking to each other every day. Remember that you're not just some random couple “dating” or in a relationship, you're married and you're Muslim. Therefore it's important to build your Islamic relationship with one another. Find local events, seminars, classes, halaqahs, or conferences and make plans to go attend them together. Buy each other Islamic audio CDs and books to read and discuss. Or, just take it back to the basics: maintain a consistent daily reciting of Qur'an and reading of the meaning to one another over the phone. Do something, anything; but just make you're sure doing it and doing it consistently. You can have the best emotional, mental, physical and family relationship ever, but without a solid spiritual foundation, everything else will collapse.
7. Be yourself
Marriage can be a bit scary in the fear of wondering what the other person will think about your habits, tendencies, and weaknesses. However, one of its beautiful aspects comes when you are able to be yourself in front of your spouse just the way you are, and your understanding and acceptance of one another further strengthens your love.
Don't try to hide behind formalities of what you think a spouse should or shouldn't do. This is the time to be who you are and let your spouse get to know the real you without the added pressure of living together. If your spouse becomes familiar with your actual self before your wedding party, the transition should be a lot easier when that cherished time eventually comes, bi'idhniAllah.
We hope you've benefited from this list for your current or future marriage. This advice is in no way exhaustive, and there are many other tips for couples in nikāḥ kitāba, so if you have anything else, please feel free to share it here.
We ask Allāh 'azza wa jal to bless all couples everywhere and give us all the ability to preserve our communities' relationships into the future, and that He makes marriage easy for those whom it is difficult and serve as a means to Jannah and His pleasure.