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Afflicted With Romance

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By Sabeen Mansoori

Wedding season is once again around the corner. Many hours of the holiday season will be spent looking upon the beaming faces of the bride and groom and the guests arrayed in all their finery. People will smile and chatter, and at the center of it all will be the newlywed couple.  Why are weddings such a big deal? Why is there such a furor and excitement in the air? Is it that the two people standing up there are actually happy and the guests feel that if they get close enough to them it will rub off on their marriages? The entire British nation is hoping the prospective marriage of their prince will somehow make them forget their economic woes.

I have often wondered what goes through the minds of married couples as they look on. Those that Allah has blessed with some satisfaction in their lives fondly recall their own big day. Their eyes lock and they smile. But the reality of life is never a “happily ever after” affair. Some memory of a recent argument or disagreement intrudes upon the memory of the blissful past. But they brush aside the fleeting thought and sum up the total of their relationship; breathe a sigh of relief and say ‘alhamdulillah.’

There must be those that sit there and say to themselves, “Those deluded fools, they have no idea what marriage is really like. I hope they put in the ‘shut up and put up’ clause somewhere in their marriage contract.” Their marriage has left a bitter taste in their mouth and the sight of the sweet fruit in front of them stirs some long suppressed memory and brings a frown to their faces. They sum up the score on their marriages and continuously calculate their losses.

Then there is the category of people that have never tasted ‘mawadah‘ even in the beginning of their marriages. Marriage to them is synonymous to forced confinement with an unwelcome stranger. They have either consciously withdrawn from the relationship or they are actively abusing their spouse physically or verbally. Their despair is like a creeping shadow that engulfs everything that they come in contact with. Their eyes survey the hall still searching for some warmth to fill the emptiness of their lives.

The media bombards us with images and lyrics of “romantic love” and we are so inundated with these images and sounds from childhood that we cannot truly ever take them out of our subconscious expectations of our spouses.  Those of us that are blessed by Allah (swt) and guided back to the religion take this baggage of unrealistic romanticism with us into our newly transformed lives.

“And among His signs is this,  that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Qur’an 30:21)

When we read this ayah it seems like a “happily ever after ending.” A paradise in this world and the next. We simply replace the idealized image of the perfect spouse with a Muslim Prince Charming who brings additional characteristics of piety and is an excellent da’ee and recites Quran with perfect Tajweed. From the life of the Prophet we selectively highlight the race with Aisha. We recall how he stood screening her with his cloak as she watched the Abyssinians who were giving a display with their weapons in the mosque. We recall how he took the advice of Umm Salamah at Hudaibiyah when the companions, distressed by the recently concluded treaty, did not rush to obey the command of the Prophet (saws) to slaughter their animals. These images became the benchmark of our expectations for our spouses – any courtesy or affection that falls short of the standard of our beloved Nabi (saws) will just not be sufficient in our eyes.

We conveniently overlook the times when the Prophet’s household also experienced marital strife. Of course the Prophet (saws) displayed remarkable composure but he was at one point so displeased with his wives after the victory at Khayber that he separated from them and there was a rumor in Madina that he had divorced them. The incident of Ifk with his beloved Aisha must have been for all involved a period of extreme distress. Aisha said, “I have spent the entire night until morning unable to stop weeping and could not sleep at all. Morning found me still weeping.” Allah (swt) absolved her of all blame and declared: “Do not think it is bad thing for you; no it is good for you.” (24:11) There were many such incidents where the family of the Prophet (saws) resolved their differences with dignity and trust in Allah. But the point to be made is that they were very human in their relationships and dealings and they used their life circumstances to earn the pleasure of Allah.

We need to have realistic expectations of our spouses in all spheres: emotionally, physically and spiritually. We also need to ensure that we shield our children from the Cinderella stories of our time because they might potentially damage their future relationships. A closer, unbiased examination of the Sirah of the Prophet (saws) will go a long way in making our romantic dreams more firmly rooted in reality.  We can also pursue those romantic dreams and simultaneously earn the pleasure of Allah.  But we must not get ‘Tangled’ in the mythology of the ideal spouse. After all even if the glass slipper fit who would be foolish enough to walk in it?  And how far could you possibly get in a glass slipper?

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    February 15, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    Very nice article, masha’Allah. I particularly like the last two sentences:

    After all even if the glass slipper fit who would be foolish enough to walk in it? And how far could you possibly get in a glass slipper?

    Think of the blisters! :)

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      February 15, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      Jazakallah Khair.

  2. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    February 15, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Very nicely written. Really like the title Afflicted With Romance

    May Allah grant us the proper Fiqh of His beautiful Religion.

  3. Avatar

    Muhammad Ismail Khan

    February 15, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    Very nice article, masha’Allah.

  4. Avatar

    MUHAMMAD FASIH

    February 16, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    MASHA ALLAH! May ALLAH grant every one the true knowledge of this true and beautiful Religion.

  5. Avatar

    Mezba

    February 16, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    A timely Valentine’s Day post!

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      February 16, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      It was posted on February 15th so it is more like a parting shot at it!

  6. Avatar

    Mezba

    February 16, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Very good article mashAllah.

    One problem I find with some religious Muslim families is that the boy and girl have no idea how to deal with each other as they have led very secluded lives, and then the parents try to influence the groom or bride with their own ideas to cause a conflict between the couple. This is especially true of desi couples.

    I advise all young couples to get their own place as soon as possible to grow at their own pace, and avoid the “joint family” that is more custom than religion. I was at the IIT in Toronto and the imam said something similar to this. Be close to the family, but get your own place.

    • Avatar

      Hfz sp

      February 16, 2011 at 5:04 PM

      Yes, agreed, couples oft lack the knowledge and marriage skills to prevent a situation escalating but isnt that upto the husband and wofe to learn about this skills?
      Another point, i dont quiet agree with inlaws and parents influencing the husbamd or the wife and causing fights. People always say that but why would your mother or in law jepordize the hapiness of son/ daughter by causing rifts?

      Jazakkalah fr the article

    • Avatar

      mimi

      June 3, 2011 at 10:20 PM

      Assalamu’alaikum,

      I don’t think a joint family system is the problem. In some cases a ‘joint family’ system may be the best living arrangement for a couple, and from what I’ve seen, it can be a wonderful experience iff their is mutual respect for privacy, and an understood division of responsibilities in the household.

      I really don’t like blanket statements that attribute this practice to be cultural and therefore un-Islamic. If your cultural practices are in the bounds of Islam then they should be respected. If your parents wishes are in the bounds of Islam- then their wishes should also be respected.

      In any case every individual should live as they are most comfortable so living arrangements and expectations of living arrangements should be discussed prior to the marriage.

  7. Avatar

    Romance Reader

    February 16, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    Great article!

  8. Avatar

    Ramadan

    February 16, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    jazakilahu khayrah for the article

  9. Avatar

    Muslim

    February 16, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    awesome article, JAK. I’ll still dreamin though ;) [i.e. this article did not crush my aspirations in this lowly life] im single so dont blame me too much. and … it’s wedding season! mabrook to the ummah in advance for our bros and sisters (i know a few already this spring/summer iA).

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      February 16, 2011 at 11:03 PM

      Please keep dreaming :) The intention was never to dash anyone’s romantic aspirations. Just reframe them in the light of the Sunnah and add a healthy dose of reality and inshallah you will be blessed in the dunya and the hereafter.

  10. Avatar

    Sadaf

    February 17, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    Great article Sabeen! May Allah reward you. :)
    Loved the ending, too.

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      February 17, 2011 at 7:47 AM

      Jazakallah Khair!

  11. Avatar

    Atif Fareed

    February 17, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Salams, Masha Allah good reminder for those like myself who have been married 25 years. A good spouse is a blessing from our creator.

  12. Avatar

    MaryamJamal

    February 17, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    Masha Allah a very nice article.And yeah marriage is something very beautiful in one’s life and it wud be really good if both husband and wife follow the rules of Quran and Sunnah.

    Jazak Allah khair for the good article.

  13. Adnan

    Adnan

    February 17, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    Mashallah…I really like the writing style. Well written and thoughtful…

  14. Avatar

    Sabeen Mansoori

    February 18, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    I would like to thank everyone for their comments and prayers. This is my very first post online and your words of encouragemnt really mean a lot.
    Please make dua that Allah (swt) keeps my intention pure and gives me the ability to write more.

  15. Avatar

    Hafsa

    February 18, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    Haha! Now I get the ‘Tangled’ pun. Masha’Allah, nice article. Jazakallahu Khayran. =)

  16. Avatar

    Curious

    February 18, 2011 at 9:30 PM

    As salam alaikum,

    Nice Article.

    I think its best to step into marriage without having any expectation from your future spouse whatsoever. Remember, the root of all pains is “expectation”. However, be prepared to fullfil all your fard obligations (no matter how your spouse turns out to be ) as you will be questioned by Allah about this aspect.

    This approach will make your mind strong enough to deal with any shocks and difficult situation in the married life. And of course, if you are rewarded with a good and loving spouse, this approach will increase that joy and happiness manifolds, inshaAllah.

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      February 19, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      “Remember, the root of all pains is “expectation”. “

      It is true that unfulfilled expectations lead to heartbreak but as human beings we cannot help but expect appreciation. The solution is not to deny your essential humanity but to expect from the the All-Hearing, All-Knowing Who promised:
      “….”Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another….” (3:195)

      • Avatar

        Curious

        February 19, 2011 at 11:48 PM

        Yes, Having expectations from Allah is part of faith and when it comes to unfulfilled expectations from Allah, then its again a part of faith to have trust on Allah that Whatever Allah does is / will be somehow good for us..

        My comments were actually for NOT having expectations from mortal beings. Yes, its difficult but i personally feel that it helps a person to stay realistic/pragmatic and also helps in guarding him/her from emotional/psychological breakdowns when a relationship goes sour..

  17. Avatar

    Sister

    February 19, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    Jazakillahu khairaan.Nice article.Mashaallah. Highly recommend everyone to join http://www.likeagarment.com/

    assalamualykum

  18. Avatar

    halima

    February 19, 2011 at 10:24 PM

    So what I gather from this is that you shouldn’t put your expectations so high in a wedding/marriage/potential spouse? A little confused but nice read.

  19. Avatar

    troubled

    February 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    salam.. since their are many ladies out here.. the problem im facing is somewhat related to this.. my problem is that im a 25 year old desi girl and my parents are looking around to get me married.. the problems that my parents are facing in this process are 1. i wear a hijab.. i started wearing it around 2 years ago and noone in my family wears it.. so after i started wearing it, i had a few seemingly perfect proposals like of a cardiologist who was doing his fellowship with the stanford univ and had done a phd from oxford university as well.. but his parents asked mine that the boy wants to know if i would wear the hijab after i get married too.. and my mother told them that i do it by my own choice, so i probably would afterwards.. and that was the end of the story… and many other seemingly perfect stories ended on a similar note.. 2. the other problem is that i have a very good professional education.. better than a lot of boys.. and i feel that i want to look upto my husband and so he should at least have an education as good as mine, if not better.. i fear that otherwise i mite not intellectual compatibility with my partner.. is this an unrealistically romantic expectation??
    i always prayed to god to just came that one guy who is meant for me and his family come and meet with us.. and now so many people have come and gone for whatever reasons, that i have lost count.. and all this is making me very depressive.. i dont know if this merely a test from Allah swt or its the result of something im doing.. please pray for me that this extremely difficult time passes soon for me and my parents

    • Avatar

      Someone

      February 21, 2011 at 7:17 PM

      I suggest you read the book Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. The author goes through the exact same situation you are describing. Hope it helps.

    • Avatar

      Ayah

      February 21, 2011 at 8:15 PM

      Salaams Sister,

      I completely understand your dilemma. Regarding suitors turning you down because you are a hijabi, I would say thank Allah for that. If they don’t want someone who maintains her haya and modesty chances are they aren’t as practicing as you or as much as you would like them to be. In my experience I have learned that duah is the best solution. Also in Islam we believe that if we want the help of Allah we must help others. So if you know of other single sisters looking to get married, try to help them out as best as possible with the intention of gaining reward and help from Allah in finding you a righteous husband.

      As to finding someone with the same or higher level of education as yourself, ask yourself whether you are educated about Islam. After all it is the knowledge of the deen and its implementation that is going to save you in the akhirah and what will earn you the pleasure and love of Allah – not matters of the dunya. What if a brother who only has a BA but does a decent job and masha’Allah is very deeni and has a good character comes along. No one is perfect, but what if he is sincere in being a good Muslim, in being conscious of Allah and tries his level best to grow as a Muslim. Would you turn him down just because of his “lower” degree and professional background? Then compare him to a brother how has the educational qualifications you are looking for but isn’t so focused on Islam and cares more about the dunya. Perhaps he only prays 3 times a day and fasts during Ramadan but mixes freely with other women, doesn’t work hard to increase his ilm of Islam nor does he implement whatever he has learned about the deen, in his life. Compare the two and ask yourself who will have more knowledge about your rights over them as a wife, about how well they are supposed to treat you, about their obligations towards you and who could help you strengthen your iman and become a better Muslim thereby making it easier for you to attain Jannah.

      Hope this has helped

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      February 21, 2011 at 10:41 PM

      the problems that my parents are facing in this process are 1. i wear a hijab….2. the other problem is that i have a very good professional education.

      The fact that you you love Allah and His messenger and want to express this love by obeying His command and wearing a hijab is not a “problem.” The fact that you are, mashallah smart, and have used the innate abilities that Allah has blessed you with to get a good education is also not a “problem!” Alhumdulillah, your parents are blessed to have a daughter who is devout and smart and stands up for what she believes in.

      The fact that you are “desi” can however be problematic in certain situations! ;) Some ‘practicing’ desi parents and matchmakers would probably have thrown out Prince Charming because he does not have an MD or Phd attached to his name! The cultural tags and artificially created criteria, whether from the east or the west, put needless pressures on families. Do not demean yourself by weighing yourself on their scales. Their scales are not just. The boy has to be phenomenally educated but God forbid the girl be anywhere his intellectual equal!

      The Prophet’s advice to those who were ready to marry was:
      “A woman is married for her deen, her wealth or her beauty. You must go for the one with deen, may your hands be in the dust! (if you fail to heed)” [Muslim]
      Even though this advice is directed towards the men, the desirable characteristic indicated in the potential wife is ‘deen’ or piety. There is a slight dichotomy in your desire to keep wearing your hijab and the fact that you would consider the proposal of a man who disapprove of it as a “seemingly perfect proposal.”
      Do not become disheartened. Everything is a test from Allah (swt) and inshallah you will be blessed with a husband who does not require you to trade in your deen and intellect to get the position of wife.

      • Avatar

        troubled

        February 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM

        @someone.. thanx a lot for the recommendation.. i am going to get the book rite away hoping it helps.
        @ayah and sabeen.. thanks a lot for the kind words both of u! u have no idea how much it means to me right now. i think we should all pray for the young girls around us who are not in the marriage market yet, that they dont go through all this.. sabeen, i said ‘seemingly perfect’ coz what i meant was it seemed perfect TILL i knew that the guy had a problem with the hijab.. but your point is well taken. :) i know of this hadith about the criteria for marriage.. and i do want deen too.. i want somebody who VALUES the hijab instead of rejecting it.. but i also feel that i want somebody who is intellectually compatible with me.. from what i understand of marriage in islam, i think u should look for compatibility too.. please correct me if u think i am wrong about this???
        please pray that Allah blesses me with ease!

        • Avatar

          Sabeen Mansoori

          February 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

          Ameen.

  20. Pingback: Afflicted With Romance | Islam Café

  21. Avatar

    sharmeen

    March 2, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    very realistic article

  22. Pingback: Afflicted with Romance « ihsaanlife

  23. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    October 31, 2016 at 7:59 AM

    Nice to see an article about Valentine Day in Islam

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#Life

5 Tips for Surviving Ramadan. In The Summer. When You Have Small Children.

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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 subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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.

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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