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 Allah 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, insha’Allah. After a wonderful year and a half of a beautiful relationship Allah 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 Allah. 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 Allah, 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 Iman 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 Allah ‘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.
So You Are The Wali, Now What?
The way most Muslims (as well as conservative Christians and Jews) live, a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage from the father.
The father is not just a turnstile who has to say yes. He is a “wali” or protector and guardian of his daughter’s rights. So he will be asking some serious questions that would be awkward if the woman had to ask them.
Furthermore, in the Muslim community today esp. in the West, there are many converts that seek out a wali because they have no male relative who is Muslim. In this post, I share some guidelines aimed at the wali in his new role and stories that are useful.
Being a wali is not an honorary role. You’re not just throwing out the first pitch. You’re actually trying to throw curveballs to see whether the proposal checks out or has issues.
Here are some questions and demands a wali should make:
Background check: Call and meet at least four people that were close to the man who has proposed and interview them. There’s no husn al-zann (good opinion) in marriage. As a potential suitor, you are rejected until you prove yourself, much like an application for employment. These days, most people’s background can be found on their social media, so the wali has to spend time scrolling down. Keep scrolling, read the comments, look at the pictures, click on who’s tagged in those pictures. Get a good idea. You are a private investigator *before* the problem happens, not after.
Check financials: You need to see the financials to make sure they are not in some ridiculous debt or have bad credit such that they can’t even rent an apartment or cover basic needs. You want some evidence that he can fulfill the obligation of maintenance.
Check the educational background or skill set: This is a given. If it’s solid, then it can outweigh lack of funds at this moment.
Check medical records: If this is a stranger, the wali needs medical records. There was once a wealthy, handsome young man that was suave and a seemingly amazing prospect who proposed for a girl who was comparatively of average looks and from a family of very modest means. The mother and daughter were head over heels, but the dad had enough common sense to know something was up.
“Why would he come knocking on our door?,” he asked.
So the father demanded medical records. The guy never produced them. When the dad pressed him, the man admitted, he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and that’s why he couldn’t find anyone else to marry him.
Now note, there are legitimate cases where people have a past when they have made mistakes. This happens to the best of us, and the door for tawbah (repentance) is open. In those cases, there are organizations that match-make for Muslims with STDs. People should act in a responsible manner and not damage the lives of other humans beings.
Lifestyle: It is your job to check if the two parties have agreed on life essentials such as religious beliefs, where to live, how to school kids, etc?
In-laws: Have you at least met the family of the suitor and spent some time with them to make sure there’s nothing alarming?
Engagement: Contrary to popular understanding, there is such a thing as engagement in Islam. It’s an announcement of a future commitment to marriage. Nothing changes between the fiancees, but nobody is allowed to propose anymore. The purpose of engagement is to give time for both parties to get ready. For example, the groom may want to save up some money, or the girl may be finishing up college. Also, it’s easy to put on a face during the get-to-know process, but it’s hard to fake it over an eight or nine-month period. I remember a story where a young woman was engaged, and four months into the engagement they discovered the young man was still getting to know other women. He basically reserved the girl and then went to check for better options. Needless to say, he was dumped on the spot. Engagements are commonly a few months. I think more than a year is too much.
Legal/Civil: The marriage should be legal/civil in the country where you will settle. If you accept a Shariah marriage but not a civil one, know that you’re asking for legal complications, especially if a child enters the picture. (Ed. Note- we realize that some countries do not allow legal registration of more than one marriage- if that is a consideration please look at all options to protect your ward. There are ways to get insurance that can be set up.)
Mahr: Get 50% of the dowry upfront (or some decent amount) and whatever is scheduled to be paid later should be written and signed. I’ve seen too many cases where a really nice dowry is “promised” but never produced.
The dowry should be commensurate to current standards depending on the man’s job. For example in our area in America 5, 7, or 10k is a common range.
In sum, there are very few things in life that are as bad as misery in marriage. The wali’s job is to eliminate the bad things that could have been avoided. If that means he has to be demanding and hated for a few months, it’s worth the cost.
It’s preventative medicine.
The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’
As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.
While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:
The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.
I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,
The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.
First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.
Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.
More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:
Al-Arian mentions that,
“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.” He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban. But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.
These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.
Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:
This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.
What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?
What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.
Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?
If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.
If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.
When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.
Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch
5 Tips for Surviving Ramadan. In The Summer. When You Have Small Children.
By Afaaf Rajbee
This time a few years ago, I anticipated Ramadan with anxiety. I had 3 children, all under the age of 5, and was part of a large, busy household of working men and women. When Ramadan finally arrived I was petrified inside at whether I would be able to cope with running after my youngest daughter, managing the school and nursery run with the older two, as well as keeping the house in order and preparing iftar for the family in the evening.
A year later, that anxiety has been replaced with something more positive; Ramadan is challenging there is no doubt about it. But I wanted to share some practical tips, as a mum, that made last Ramadan that much more manageable and a time of spiritual benefit.
1. Prepare the evening meal first thing in the morning. Decide on your menu and write it down into checklist form. This is the time to marinade, whizz up chutneys and even get out serving dishes. All the effort you invest early on will give you more time before Maghrib. It’s amazing how hectic it can get in the kitchen just before Maghrib – and when you’re dehydrated and tired it’s difficult to cook quickly. Instead, try to make your mornings your most productive time in preparing iftar.
2. Use salah times as the markers that divide your activities. I always set myself a target to get everything done in the kitchen before dhuhr. This way I avoided that feeling that I’m taking time away from work to pray salah. Dhuhr salah was a great way to end a productive housework-focussed morning in the kitchen and helped me refocus on the next tasks – whether that was having to go out or completing more housework or listening to a lecture or reading Qur’an.
3. Make sure you pray Asr before you start getting iftar on the table! So many times I’ve nearly missed Asr because of getting carried away in the kitchen – and this is true for so many mothers I’ve spoken to. I’ve found after the kids get home from school and I’d fed them and helped them with homework or reading, ‘Asr was a good marker to tie up that stage of the day.
4. Put the kids to bed as early as you can. Your evening ibadat, Qur’an reading and taraweeh depends on this. Leave bedtime any later and I guarantee you’ll most likely fall asleep with your kids and you’ll wake up 6 hours later feeling awful just having missed sehri, still wearing your day clothes and still having your contact lenses in… That was not a great evening.
5. Ramadan is not the time to deviate radically from your normal routine and responsibilities – else we would simply not receive its benefit. Yes, we should increase in certain types of ibadah – read more Qur’an, pray more nafl salah – but running a household, going out on errands, engaging with our children and keeping them safe is also part of life and hence part of our ibadah. Fasting was not prescribed for a week, or just a few days, but a whole month. The beauty of this duration is that it’s not so long to be a physical or mental burden but also it’s not so short that you can suspend your daily activities like a holiday. By normal activities, I’m referring to that ironing pile, the paperwork, hoovering. I found that even during the 20-hour fasts I could still pursue my normal routine but at a slower pace. If you do this, you’ll have no build up of housework that you’ll have to spend ages compensating at Eid time.
As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of routine. But routine becomes monotonous and depressing if there is no time invested in personal growth, pursuing your passions or helping others. But generally, mothers of small children are tired; remember that Allah knows your situation and that every aspect of our daily life can become an act of worship if our intentions are to please Him.
Afaaf Rajbee is a graduate in International Relations from the LSE, which surprisingly didn’t prepare her for life as a mother to 3 children. She is part of the Charity Week team and volunteers her skills for a variety of different organisations.