At a time when divorces are on the rise and more marriages are on the rocks than those that are not, happy Muslim couples too, are hard to come by. More and more Muslim youngsters find themselves severely afflicted by the fitnah of it being easier to commit zina (adultery) than to get married. Also, once married, they face the fitnah of the ease of falling into, and enjoying, casual flings over the cell-phone or Internet, instead of being able to sustain an invincible marital bond over time.
- Always emulate the behavior of the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] with his wives:
Allah says in the Qur'an: "You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah, a beautiful example (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who remembers Allah much." [Qur'an - 33:21]
The Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] overlooked his wives' shortcomings, and tolerated their unreasonable behavior. The books of ahadith are replete with examples of how he ignored what he did not like about their actions, with a smile and patient silence. Once, when he became very angry with all of them, he left their company and resolved not to talk to them for a month.
Instead of shouting or verbally reprimanding your wife for every mistake, just ignore her. If she is fighting with you or being unreasonable, you can always leave the room and not answer back, which is the best strategy. When you will ignore her for some time, she will willingly relinquish the behavior which angered you.
- Treat her with respect, especially during intimacy:
Sexual gratification is the foremost reason why men get married, and they make serious mistakes right in the beginning, which cause the greatest blows to their marital relationship. Muslim men should fear Allah regarding how they handle their wives during intimacy.
Narrated Jabir Bin Abdullah [may Allah be pleased with him], "The Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] did not allow sexual intercourse before fondling (the wife)." [Abu Dawood]
It is a sad fact that nowadays, when a man gets married, he has already seen a lot of porn or sexually graphic movie scenes, courtesy the different forms of media available to him to satisfy his curiosity, which poison his mind about how to treat a woman, much before he actually brings home a wife.
O Muslim Brother! That innocent girl you bring home has no affinity to that sultry siren you've watched on TV - she's vulnerable, innocent and scared. So be gentle and get her to relax, and don't cause any irreparable damage by being hasty. In Islam, a woman is a jewel -- a gem, which should be taken care of and treated with dignity and respect.
Imam al-Daylami [may Allah be merciful on him] records a narration on the authority of Anas ibn Malik [may Allah be pleased with him] that the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] is reported to have said: "One of you should not fulfill one's (sexual) need from one's wife like an animal, rather there should be, between them, foreplay of kissing and words."
[Musnad Al-Firdaws of Al-Daylami, 2/55]
The good Muslim husband should, therefore, forget the marketing policies of Hugh Hefner's multimillion-dollar, testosterone-driven industry and focus on the advice of Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم]. Movies and romance novels are not the sources from which you should be drawing instructions for intimacy. Also, you as a Muslim should learn to respect women in general, before you get married.
Remember that when a prostitute came to ask Allah's Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] for monetary help, he helped her and did not treat her disrespectfully. What about you? Have there been times when you have seen or met a woman who tempted you, and you thought: "slut", or "whore"? Have you ever verbally or mentally used abusive words, such as "bitch", for any woman? Do you believe, due to your cultural baggage, that women are inherently evil; that Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, that women should be locked up inside the house because they lead men astray when they go out? Do you believe that women are inferior to men? Do you believe that women are the basic cause of the prevalence of decadence and sin? Do you shout at your mother and sister for not serving you your food or coffee when you ask for it? If so, you really need to change your thinking and attitude towards women before you enter marriage, because a man, who has truly grasped the essence of Islamic teachings regarding the kind treatment of women, will never, ever answer the above questions in the affirmative. And if he does, it is highly likely that he will disrespect his wife, and not be able to keep her happy.
- Maintain personal grooming and hygiene:
Once every two weeks, trim, shave or clip anything that grows on your body. Keep your hair and beard washed and combed -- smelling and looking clean.
Use the siwak (tooth-stick), floss, toothpaste, mouth-spray or mouthwash to maintain oral hygiene. Shower daily and use deodorants or other strong fragrance to smell good at home, not just at the Jum'uah or Eid congregation.
Remember that doing all this is the sunnah (way) of the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم], who abhorred any kind of body odour (mouth, armpit or foot) emanating from himself. Wear the colors and clothing styles that your wife prefers, if Islam permits them.
- Your wife is a consultant, not a personal valet or slave:
The foremost quality which Muslim men desire in a wife, after beauty and physical attractiveness, is that she be obedient and servile, and that she do their chores without being told e.g. ironing their clothes, cooking their meals, or doing the laundry.
However, it is a fact that there is a difference of opinion among Islamic scholars regarding whether it is obligatory or preferred (mustahab) for a wife to serve her husband. Majority declare it to be praiseworthy but not obligatory, even though most Muslim women happily do their household work themselves, without being asked.
The Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] did his personal chores himself, and we do not know of any ahadith in which his wives were known to serve him elaborately. Therefore, the good Muslim husband truly appreciates the work his wife does around the house. If she forgets something, he overlooks it and remains silent. He also consults her in important matters before making the final decision e.g. naming their children, changing his job, making an investment, going on a trip, having his family members move in, or in even small matters such as what she'd like to order for herself when they eat out at a restaurant. He never overlooks her say in these matters.
- Take care of her during her pregnancy and breastfeeding:
Unmarried men usually have no idea of the tremendous physical pain that Allah has decreed for the daughters of Adam. They find this out after marriage, when they witness their wife going through monthly cramps, or the rigors of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. If nothing more, it should increase their respect for women in general.
However, some married Muslim men stay out late at night with friends, at clubs, restaurants, games or the movies, while their pregnant or newly-mother wife stays at home with the baby. They hand over the responsibility of taking care of her to their mothers or sisters. This behavior is inappropriate, and it will cause hatred to develop in the wife's heart.
The good Muslim husband offers extra moral and physical support to his wife during these difficult phases in her life. Don't feel your manly ego busted if you have to give the baby its bottle or pacify it, while your wife attends to an older child or her own genuine needs. The Muslim husband is a doting and hands-on father; and this attribute makes his wife love him even more!
- Help her out in the household work:
Occasionally washing the dishes, vacuuming the carpets, making your own breakfast or tea (especially if your wife is asleep or not well), or cooking a simple meal will raise your status in your wife's eyes and increase love for you in her heart.
Contrary to what Asian culture dictates, a man doesn't become effeminate by doing household chores. He, in fact, becomes more manly and attractive to his spouse.
It goes without saying that chores such as getting groceries on the weekend, taking your wife to her doctor, fixing the faucet or mowing the lawn should also be taken care of by you.
- Praise her small gestures or good traits openly, especially before your family:
It takes only three small words to give your wife a compliment, and it doesn't have to be every day, but it will have an enormous impact on your marital relationship. Those three words could be "This tastes delicious", or "You look good". Also, if you praise her within moderation in front of your family members, even if she is absent, this would be a sadaqah on your part. Just don't overdo it because too much praise has a negative effect.
- Remember that your wife will age and her beauty will die:
Men have been programmed by Allah to desire beauty in women. However, a wise Muslim man knows that just like everything else in this world that glitters, the beauty of his wife (or of any other woman, for that matter), is temporary. Hence, he focuses more on her other important and more long-lasting good traits.
Allah says in the Qur'an:
"..and treat them (i.e. your wives) kindly; then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it." [Qur'an - 4: 19]
Most men desire children; however, they soon witness that having children makes their wives' bodies lose their shape. A good Muslim husband therefore, reminds himself that beauty is of secondary importance, especially when the Shaytaan makes non-mahrum women appear more attractive to him. He reminds himself that the only permanent pleasure of beholding perpetually beautiful women is reserved for righteous people in Paradise, and its existence in the world is fleeting, and a deception of Shaytaan.
- Do not look at other women:
It obviously follows that if you want to make your marriage a true success and a haven of love and mercy, you should obey the advice of the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] in the ahadith below:
Jareer ibn ‘Abdullah said: "I asked the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] about an accidental glance at a woman. He commanded me to turn my gaze away." [Al-Tirmidhi]
The Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: "O Ali [his cousin], do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second." [Al-Tirmidhi: 2701]
Therefore, do not hang around men who stare at and pass comments on women's bodies, who have a string of women friends, or who regularly attend mixed parties. Keep all kinds of conversations with women to a basic minimum, either at work, or on the Internet, or on your cell phone. Be business-like when talking to them due to necessity.
Sound boring? Well, you can't be a good Muslim unless you train yourself to obey the Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم], even if it goes against your base desires. And being a good Muslim husband can only be possible if you are a good Muslim first.
- Do not use the Qur'an and ahadith to establish your authority:
It is very common for Muslim men to pointedly remind their wives in the first few days after marriage, of the Qur'anic verses and ahadith declaring their superiority and special rights over her. The most common reminders are: the husband's right to take up to four wives, without his wife's consent; the hadith that if prostration were permissible to other than Allah, the Muslim woman would be commanded to prostrate to her husband; the fact that Islam gives the husband the exclusive right to issue divorce verbally, call her for sexual intimacy at any inopportune time, or restrain her movement outside the house, even for visiting her blood relatives.
So many Muslim women I know were told by their husbands in the first month of marriage that they could only visit their parents for such-and-such number of days per month, and they could of course not work or study, even if they were involved in righteous Da'wah work or religious education, only once or twice a week.
What impact does this action - of reminding your wife of your superior rights - have on the innocent and well-meaning Muslim girl who has come to your house? What will she think of you, if you say these things to her? What does saying such things to her imply about you as a person? Definitely, that you, as a man, are insecure, and are using your Islamic rights in a feeble attempt to establish authority over her. A man who is self-confident and righteous will never use this inappropriate method to try to overshadow and dominate his wife. He doesn't feel insecure in his status as her husband; he does not think that the only way to "have her all to himself" is to trap her in his house, making her serve him all day like a personal valet.
Therefore, a good Muslim husband should never remind his wife of his higher status, unless she persistently disobeys him or does actions that are forbidden by Allah. The best way to make her obey you is to let her have everything she wants -- within Islamic limits of course -- and to focus on giving her, her rights, over and above what she deserves. She will then automatically become the devoted, faithful and obedient wife that you want her to be.
- Your wife's adherence to religious obligations and her education are your responsibility:
After years of marriage, eventually a time comes when most Muslims husbands have no idea how their wives spend their days. It doesn't bother them to know that their bored wives gossip for hours on the phone, watch excessive movies and television, or waste time doing window shopping, attending ladies' lunches or tea-parties, or hip-hopping from the mall to the tailor to get new outfits made.
A good Muslim husband is aware that his wife's secular and religious education is his responsibility. He knows that Allah will question him about this, so he strives to make sure that his wife gains knowledge of the Qur'an and attends sermons, halaqah's, seminars or workshops for gaining knowledge of Islam. He also spends on her secular education, if she wants to pursue a degree.
It is imperative that the husband make his wife fulfill the obligations of Islam, by using gentle reminders and arranging her education about Islam. He should ensure that she performs the five daily prayers on time, fasts during Ramadan, pays the zakaah on her gold/silver/money, and wears modest clothing with hijab in front of men. She should also be taught how to recite the Qur'an properly, and trained in implementing the essential principles of Islamic character-building in the upbringing of her children.
- Keep unnecessary jealousy in check:
A point to note is that being concerned about your wife's activities and pastimes does not justify spying on her or being unnecessarily suspicious, overbearing and nosy about her affairs. Let her have a productive and intellectual life during the day. Your job is to fulfill your responsibility of her religious character-building, but do this by dealing with her in the most beautiful manner.
It is of course, one of the lowest deeds, to suspect your wife of displaying her beauty or flirting with other men without any credible evidence. Pathological jealousy is a disease that destroys love between a husband and wife. Don't mix the praiseworthy "ghiyarah" [protectiveness from harm and from falling into sin] that Muslim men should possess about their families, with this poisonous jealousy. Remember that to slander a chaste woman in any way, is a grave sin that incurs Allah's wrath.
- Maintain her privacy from your family:
Most husbands cannot afford separate accommodation during the first years of marriage, even though this is a right of the wife (especially if she comes from an affluent family), necessitating living with the husband's family in the same house for a few years.
A good Muslim husband should manage matters in such a way, by having diplomatic negotiations with everyone in the house, that his wife's privacy is maintained. This is especially important if his brothers, uncles, male cousins or male servants are dwelling freely within the house, frequenting the same kitchen and sitting room. Many families bring their daughter-in-law home after her marriage, without realizing that from now on, proper measures need to be observed in order to follow the Prophet Muhammad's [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] advice:
It was narrated from Uqbah Bin Amir [may Allah be pleased with him] that Allah's Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said, "Beware of entering upon women." A man from the Ansar said, "O Messenger of Allah! What about the in-law?" He said, "The in-law is death."
[Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim]
This hadith implies how careful a Muslim husband should be about his male relatives entering upon his wife, especially in her private space (such as her bedroom). You as a husband, can ensure the following:
- Ask your family to not enter your wife's room unless she approves e.g. when she's lying down, or if she has closed the door.
- Ask your brothers not to hover outside her bedroom door.
- No one should rummage through her cupboard or handbag unless she approves.
- She should not be ‘deliberately' overheard when she's talking on the phone.
- If she has gone somewhere with your permission, everyone else in the house needn't know where she's gone and for how long.
- Her laundry should not be hung in a place where your male relatives can see her personal garments.
- Sometimes, she should be allowed to eat her meals in privacy with you, where she will be comfortable. Note that scholars opine that the husband cannot force his wife to have all her meals with her in-laws. If she does so happily, it is praiseworthy and recommended.
Lastly, don't reveal her secrets or personal affairs to your family members. If they ask too many questions, make it politely clear that this kind of questioning behavior is not right.
- Respect her family:
Never unnecessarily degrade or demean any of her relatives, by pointing out their faults or making fun of them. If someone from her family is being unreasonable, by interfering in your matters or intimidating her against you, you can intervene to stop this action. However, always be polite and respectful to them.
- Don't stand by mutely if your family members oppress your wife:
The mother-in-law makes the heavily pregnant daughter-in-law cook the bread on the hot stove, while the husband sits at the dining table, waiting, along with the rest of the family. The sick daughter-in-law is made to bring in the heavy laundry load as she winces with pain, but the husband sits with his family watching TV. The aunt-in-law comes for a visit and constantly criticizes his wife's culinary skills in front of him, but he pretends he doesn't hear.
How often do we see this scenario in our joint family households? What should a good Muslim husband do?
He should quietly get up and help his wife, politely say something in her defense, or ask her to stop doing the work and take over himself. I guarantee that his family members might not like this action of his, and they will expect his wife to refuse his help, but the husband and wife should stick together as a team. Eventually the message will go across, and the in-laws will know that his wife is not their servant, but a member of the family who should be cared for.
- Ditch the TV on weeknights:
The average Muslim husband spends more time giving his undivided attention to TV or his laptop than to his wife. Yes, wives nag. Yes, they are full of complaints when you return from work, and you'd rather unwind on the couch with your favorite TV show and a warm drink than with her "boring" monologue. However, keep in mind that this will have a detrimental effect on your own marriage. Marriage, like your career, needs your time, serious attention and work. It doesn't bloom and flourish on its own.
Ditching the TV entirely has had enormous positive impacts on households, and not all of them are Muslim. People have testified to becoming more productive after they chucked the TV out of their homes, finding more time for their families, themselves and for fun outdoor activities.
If you can't remove the TV from your home, at least move it out of your bedroom! You will see the positive impact of this on your marital relationship, insha'Allah. Also, if your household has several television sets, reduce them to just one, and keep it in the family room. Never have your meal while watching something on TV.
- Steer away from both extravagance and miserliness:
It is not uncommon for husbands to give in to their wives' unnecessary demands -- expensive foreign vacations, clothes, jewelry, a new car or a bigger house. Some even go as far as to relinquish their own relatives financially, because their wife's demands are always first to be met. On the other extreme, we witness Muslim men who listen only to their parents about how to spend their money, and fulfill all the latter's demands, giving money to all far-flung family members, but keeping their wife and children in one small bedroom for years on end, providing them just the bare minimum in order to sustain their living.
The good Muslim husband pays his wife her dower (Mahr) in full, the morning after she has come to his home. He hands it over to her to spend as she wishes, not to her father or any other male relative. Also, he maintains a delicate balance in spending on his wife, children, parents and other relatives. He does not cave in to the unnecessary demands of any of them, and always fears Allah in ensuring that he fulfills the responsibility of adequately providing for all his family members.
- Remember that the rib is bent:
Finally, the good Muslim husband should keep in mind that women of the world always come with their shortcomings - they are, at times, cranky, emotional, irrational, moody, sharp-tongued, gullible and prone to tattle. They have two hormones gushing in their bodies, as a result of which their moods and feelings swing between extremities like a pendulum. Put up with her irrational behavior - the unjust accusations, suspicion, complaining, crying, screaming, and shouting - for the sake of Allah. Remember that Allah made her that way - i.e. she's beautiful to behold; you can't do without her company; the house seems desolate when she leaves; but when she's with you, she will display her negative traits too. Be patient and overlook them.
Narrated Abu Hurairah [may Allah be pleased with him], Allah's Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said:
"Woman was created from a bent rib. If you want to enjoy her, you enjoy her while she is still bent. If you will try to straighten her, you will break her."
[Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim]