Love is a quality that all human beings desire to inculcate within themselves. Whether we are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, etc. we all desire to love and to be loved. Married or single, every adult has an emotional love tank. When we feel loved by people significant to us, life is beautiful. When our love tank is empty, we struggle emotionally. Many problems in relationships among adults stem from an empty love tank. When we feel loved by our spouse, for example, the world looks bright. But if our love tank is empty, the world begins to look rather dark. No material success or gain can fill the spiritual love that is drawn from the love of Allāh and emulating the Sunnah of the Messenger in a marriage.
People are different; men and women are different. What makes one person feel loved will not necessarily make another person feel loved. By nature, we tend to express love to others in a way we wish to they would express love to us. When our spouse does not respond positively to our expressions of love, we get frustrated. The problem is not the sincerity of our love or that we do not love our spouse; the problem is that we are speaking the wrong love language. If we speak our own language but nor our mate’s, we will invariably fail to communicate our emotions and feelings properly.
In the marriage context (in particular) people express their love for their spouse, for example, through complementing their spouse – through words of affirmation. Others confirm their love through acts of devotions or services to their spouses. Others show their love through spending time with their spouses – giving them their undivided attention. Others express their love for their spouses through buying gifts. And others demonstrate their love through sexual intimacy and physical touch.
Everyone has a primary and secondary love language. Some people, for example, desire words of affirmation from their spouse more than anything else and that is their main method of receiving and expressing love. This does not mean they do not require quality time and the physical touch; however, this is what makes them click and shine. The inability of a person not understanding their spouse’s love languages can be devastating to a marriage. It is like a person speaking to you in Chinese while you do not know how to even say hello in that language! If you speak the same language you will be able to communicate, express and demonstrate your feelings and needs to that person directly and noticeably.
The five ‘love languages’ have been introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman in his New York Times best seller ‘The Five Love Languages’, which has sold over 5 million copies in America and has been translated in over 37 languages. In this book, he elucidates how people express and receive love. After contemplation and studying couples, he says, he realized that people universally fall in these five love languages. He explains how people can identify their primary love language and how best to express that in the various contexts.
Below are some reflections from the Sunnah on how the Prophet demonstrated his love to his wives based around the five love languages presented by the author. Of course the love languages are not limited to the five mentioned by the author. There are more than five but these are the fundamental and the most basic ones, which all races and people understand. There also are within these five love languages various dialects.
Before we continue, I would like to insert a disclaimer. Some people may be wondering why we as Muslims should refer to or even read books from non-Muslims. The reply is simple and obvious. We benefit and take good from wherever it comes from. The Prophet is reported to have said, “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer; wherever he finds it he has the right to take it.” (Ibn Mājah). This ḥadīth is weakened by some scholars; however, the meaning is sound and can be used at this instance. In addition, this topic is a human concern and is not just limited to Muslims. We learn these from human experiences and empirical evidences. The proceeding thoughts are a summary of some of the ways the Prophet expressed his love for his wives. It is hoped that this will be a reminder for some and learning for others.
1. Words of Affirmation – Express Your Feelings Verbally:
The words we use to express our appreciation and love for our spouse is of paramount importance in our endeavor to a blissful marriage. It is using words to affirm the other person. Sometimes complementing your spouse on how well she looks, or saying thank you after he has taken the garbage out, or complimenting the wife’s cooking (even though this particular dish is not to your taste buds. It is allowed in Islam!), helps to achieve that goal. It could be a written word – by writing a letter, or e-mail, text, Facebook, Twitter. There are many ways this can be accomplished. For some people, and I have observed this primarily in women, this is the best thing a husband can do for his wife.
If your spouse’s primary love language is words of affirmation, your spoken praise and appreciation will fall like rain parched soil. Before long, you will see new life sprouting in your marriage as your spouse responds to your words of love.
The Prophet was once asked by ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ, “O Messenger of Allāh, who do you love most?” The Messenger of Allāh replied “‘Ā’ishah.” ‘Amr then asked, “And amongst the men,” The Prophet then said, “Her Father.” (Bukhāri)
He showed his love even in her absence. SubhanAllāh! Note how the Prophet said, “her father,” and related the answer back to his beloved even though he was asked about whom he loved most among the men.
He would praise his wife in front of other people. The Prophet said that value of ‘Ā’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) among women was the same value of tharīd (bread soaked in soup) compared to other foods. (Muslim).
He declare his love for his wife openly. The Prophet said about Khadījah (may Allāh be pleased with her) “I have been given her love.” (Muslim). And many other such narrations.
He was softly spoken. He would not censure his wives nor would did he ever raise his voice or his hands . Kind words penetrates and leaves an unforgettable mark that transcends anything else. This is why the wives of the Prophet all said that they would not want to spend their time with anyone else except the Prophet .
The Prophet’s love for ‘Ā’ishah was so well known that even after his death the salaf who took aḥadīth from ‘Ā’ishah would say: “‘Ā’ishah al-ṣiddīqah bint al-ṣiddīq, Ḥabibat al-Ḥabib narrated to me that…” Anas b. Mālik stated, “The first love we knew of in Islam, was the love of Muḥammad and ‘Ā’ishah.”
It also important to, occasionally, tell your spouse that you love them. Many people, for some reason or another, find it difficult to say ‘I love you’. Not because they do not love their spouse but perhaps it is the way they have been brought up or that they are following the status quo – that it is not manly to express your love for your wife. On the contrary, in Islam, this is the basis of chivalry and manhood as taught by the beloved .
2. Acts of Service – Show Your Love Through Actions:
Ever heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”? Using words to express your love for your spouse is not the only way; we should prove that we love our spouse through our actions as well as speech.
One of the ways of showing your spouse love is beautifying yourself for them. Ibn ‘Abbās would always brush his hair and make sure his appearance is pleasing before entering his home, he would say, “Just as I would like my wife to beautiful for me, I like to look beautiful for her.” (Tirmidhi). One can take part in beautifying their spouse; they can brush their spouse’s hair, and apply perfume on them just as ‘Ā’ishah used to do for Allāh’s Messenger . ‘Ā’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) reported: “When the messenger of Allāh was in the mosque he put his head in to my place and I combed his hair.” (Muslim)
The Prophet was described by his wife that ‘he was in the service of his family’ (Bukhāri). In other narrations, they explained that he used to help in the house. He would sew his own clothes, sweep the floor, repair his shoes, service himself (without asking his wives), etc.
Acts of service can be for instance taking the garbage out, cleaning the dishes, ironing the clothes for your spouse. Helping the wife in the kitchen once in a while. I have to emphasize the word ‘help’. It does not mean he becomes the cook and she helps! Unless the responsibilities have changed. And there is nothing wrong in the husband cooking for the family once in a while, is there?
One of the most important things is that one is clean so that their spouse is not repulsed by them, the Messenger of Allāh said, “Verily Allāh is pure and loves the pure, is clean and loves the clean, is beneficent and loves the beneficent, is generous and loves the generous.” In another narration, the Prophet described purity as being a part of faith.
If acts of service is your spouse’s primary love language, nothing will speak more deeply to him or her emotionally than simple acts of service.
3. Receiving Gifts:
‘In every society throughout human history, gift giving has been perceived as an expression of love. Giving gifts is universal, because there is something inside the human psyche that says if you love someone, you will give to him or her. What many people do not understand is that for some people, receiving gifts is their primary love language. It is the thing that makes them feel loved most deeply. If you are married to someone whose primary love language is gift giving, you will make your spouse feel loved and treasured by giving gifts on birthdays, holidays (Eids), anniversaries, and “no occasion” days. The gifts need not be expensive or elaborate; it’s the thought that counts. Even something as simple as a homemade card or a few cheerful flowers will communicate your love to your spouse. Little things mean a lot to many people.’
‘Ā’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “The people were waiting for ‘Ā’ishah’s (may Allāh be pleased with her) day to give their gifts, wanting by this to please the Prophet .” (Muslim)
4. Quality Time – Give Your Undivided Attention:
It is extremely important that a couple enjoy quality time with one another, especially after having children. This time can be used to learn more about one another’s likes and dislikes, or the time can be spent engaging in activities and hobbies that the couple enjoy together.
The passion in most marriages dies out after a few years due to the lack of quality time alone. Some may make the excuse that they do not find enough time, but this quality time can be even only an hour; you can go out to drink coffee together (alone), or you can go for a walk in the park. We must understand that this element of privacy is essential in order to have a healthy, lively relationship.
This is also an important reminder to Islamic workers (du‘āt and scholars). Much of their time is spent outside teaching, giving da‘wah, organizing events etc. Some brothers find it extremely difficult to find the right amount of time to give to their wives due to the great number of commitments they have outside. That is important and needed, but if your spouse is not receiving adequate time every week, then the marriage may start to show some rifts. This has unfortunately happen to many brothers I know to the point that one wife said to her husband, “May I check your diary so I can book some appointments with you?”
Therefore, it is very important to set aside some time for the family. This could be by including family time in your weekly diary.
The Prophet would allocate time and days to each one of his wives adequately and fairly.
5. Intimacy – Physical Touch:
Intimacy strengthens the bond and connection between married couples. It is a means by which husband and wife can satisfy their desires. Intimacy is also the means by which one can show their spouse love and affection. This increases the happiness, comfort and security within the marriage. Being intimate does not just refer to sexual intercourse; it also includes kissing, embracing, touching. Both spouses have the duty to be sexually available to one another, and both husband and wife have the right upon their spouse to have their conjugal rights and desires fulfilled.
It is from the Sunnah of Allāh’s Messenger to passionately kiss ones wife. ‘Ā’ishah narrates that the Messenger of Allāh would kiss one of his wives and then leave for prayer without performing wuḍū’. ‘Urwa b. Zubayr (her nephew) says, “I asked ‘Ā’ishah, ‘It must have been you?’ (Upon hearing this) ‘Ā’ishah smiled.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dāwūd, Nisā’i)
When any of the wives of the Prophet were on their menses, he would make them wrap around their lower body and he would fondle them. The wife of the Prophet Maymunah said, “The Messenger of Allāh would be intimate with his wives above the izār (waist wrapper) when they were menstruating.” (Bukhāri).
When ‘Ā’ishah was asked, “What was the first thing the Prophet would do when he entered his house?” She said that the first thing he would do was use the miswak; the ‘ulemā’ commented on this and said that it was so he could kiss her. (Bukhāri)
The Messenger of Allāh would take off his upper garment when he got into bed with one of his wives so that she can feel his skin and thereby feels some sort of intimacy.
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim reported that the Messenger of Allāh forbade from engaging in sexual intercourse before foreplay. (Tibb al-Nabawi) In a ḥadīth, the Messenger of Allāh said, “Not one of you should fall upon his wife like an animal, but let there first be a messenger between you.” “And what is that messenger?” they asked, and he replied: “Kisses and words.” (Daylami)
Jābir ibn ‘Abdullāh narrates: “I was in the company of the messenger of Allāh in a battle. The Messenger of Allāh said to me, ‘Did you marry?’ I answered, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘A virgin or a non-virgin?’ I said, ‘A non-virgin.’ The Messenger of Allāh said, ‘Why not a virgin so that you may play with her and she can play with you?’” (Bukhāri)
In order to obtain optimal results, each spouse should know what pleases their partner, and this can only be known through communication.
Entertaining One Another:
The Messenger of Allāh encouraged his followers to play with their wives and entertain them. He said, “Every game a person plays is futile except for archery, training one’s horse and playing with one’s wife.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Mājah, Aḥmad)
In illustration of this practice, ‘Ā’ishah records that on more than one occasion she and the Prophet raced and sometimes she won and sometimes he won. Most men nowadays consider it far beneath their dignity to play any sort of game with their wives, and their marriages are the duller and poorer due to this.
Gentleness and Kindness:
If we want to know what gentleness is, then we must look at what Allāh said about him in the Qur’ān: “And we have not sent you except as a mercy to mankind.” (21:107).
The Prophet once advised ‘Ā’ishah, “There is not gentleness in anything, except that it becomes more beautiful, and there is not harshness in anything except that it makes it ugly.” Allāh says to the Prophet in the Qur’ān: “It is part of the Mercy of Allāh that you did deal gently with them if you had been severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you.” (3:159).
‘Ā’ishah narrated that the Prophet never raised his hand to any of his wives or servants. If we look at his marriages we see that he was gentle with all his wives in both speech and action. When a member of his family or a servant of his would call on him, he would reply saying: “Labbayka! (at your service).”
The Prophet commanded the men to fear Allāh regarding women, and to treat them with kindness because they were only made lawful to them through the words of Allāh (i.e. the marriage contract). He said, “And enjoin on one another goodness towards women; verily they are married to you: you have no power over them at all unless they come in for a flagrantly filthy action; but if they are devoted to you, then seek no way against them. And verily, you have rights over your women, and they have rights over you.” (Tirmidhi).
Finally, a person’s primary love language may be words of affirmation; it does not, however, mean that a spouse only focuses on this. What it means is that he or she should give more importance and priority to this aspect but at the same time he should not neglect other aspects. The spouses should have a comprehensive outlook and prioritize the languages to suit the needs of their spouse. If someone is able to fulfill all of the basic love languages then that is better.
So what is your love language?