Afflicted With Romance

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 They have either consciously withdrawn from the relationship or they are actively abusing their spouse physically or verbally.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.

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“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?

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36 responses to “Afflicted With Romance”

  1. AnonyMouse says:

    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! :)

  2. Shuaib Mansoori says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Very nicely written. Really like the title Afflicted With Romance

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

  3. Muhammad Ismail Khan says:

    Very nice article, masha’Allah.

  4. MUHAMMAD FASIH says:

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

  5. Mezba says:

    A timely Valentine’s Day post!

  6. Mezba says:

    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.

    • Hfz sp says:

      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

    • mimi says:

      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. Romance Reader says:

    Great article!

  8. Ramadan says:

    jazakilahu khayrah for the article

  9. Muslim says:

    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).

    • Sabeen Mansoori says:

      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. Sadaf says:

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

  11. Atif Fareed says:

    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. MaryamJamal says:

    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 says:

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

  14. Sabeen Mansoori says:

    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. Hafsa says:

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

  16. Curious says:

    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.

    • Sabeen Mansoori says:

      “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)

      • Curious says:

        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. Sister says:

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

    assalamualykum

  18. halima says:

    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. troubled says:

    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

    • Someone says:

      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.

    • Ayah says:

      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

    • Sabeen Mansoori says:

      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.

      • troubled says:

        @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!

  20. sharmeen says:

    very realistic article

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