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10 Habits of Happy Muslim Couples (Part 2 of 2)

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6. They make each other bloom

 

Did you know your spouse was a separate person with a unique mind, heart, body and soul before they married you? And did you know that they still are that individual person, only with you by their side?

 

Marriages begin to go headlong into constant unhappiness when one or both spouses forget this fundamental fact: marriage makes people partners, not parts of each other that must be controlled and bossed over. As unfortunate as the truth may be, your spouse has a lot more roles to play in life than just being your spouse; and whenever you restrict them from doing justice to all their roles, you’re going to be the cause of their constant frustration, which will only spill into your own marital relationship.

 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has created each of us to contribute in so many ways during our life on this earth and has blessed us with the potential to be all that He wants us to be. Be that amazing person who motivates, encourages and helps your spouse discover and use their God-given potential and traits to bloom and be a source of joy and mercy to the world. Don’t stop your spouse from being kind and loving to their parents, don’t stop them from being helpful towards their colleagues and relatives, don’t make them cut ties that you know they should keep, don’t compel them to bottle up their talents when you know their skills can be used in a halal way to bring about a lot of good, don’t control their every relationship and acquaintance with other people like an air-traffic controller, don’t bark orders and rules and taunts at them at every opportunity: don’t make your spouse wither into a dull, lifeless, thorny, poisonous weed; because that is not what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created them to be – that’s what control freaks make out of the people they live with.

 

Happy Muslim couples are partners in growth and productivity: They acknowledge that their spouse is a slave of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone and marriage does not change that. They acknowledge their spouse’s other roles and responsibilities and encourage them to do justice to all of them. They recognize each other’s unique traits and talents and catalyze their spouse’s growth and worth as an individual.

 

 

7. They make time for each other – no matter what!

 

Sorry, there’s just no excuse not to give at least half an hour (okay, 15 minutes when you’re just too exhausted) of undivided attention and love to your spouse. Because the truth is, you’re not married just to slog all day to get money home, or to produce kids and take care of them 24/7. Before you know it, your bosses and jobs will change and you’ll be retiring and replaced, and the kids would’ve married and moved out. And the only person you will be left with is that spouse (read: stranger) you always put second to everything, who would’ve become too used to being neglected over the past 30 years to be that warm companion you’ll desperately be needing in your old age.

 

Your relationship needs exclusive attention every single day. Just like you’re saving everyday to build that comfortable house for the future. What’s the fun if you’re going to end up alone in that house, sleeping next to someone you don’t even recognize anymore? Instead, imagine this: you’re (finally!) going to be alone in that house with the person who’s listened to your worries and stories every night, who you’ve taken walks with everyday, who’s been there to lean on when you’ve been weak, who you’ve celebrated all your achievements and successes with: someone who’s been a friend indeed, every single day. Now is it really that hard to give half an hour of your time everyday to the person who deserves it most?

 

 

8. They fight the real enemies: ego, evil eye and shaytan

 

 

Ego

 

Here’s what the growth curve of a Muslim couple that’s learnt to manage marital conflict looks like:

 

1st year of marriage: blame all conflicts on spouse

2nd year of marriage: blame all conflicts on spouse, shaytan, evil eye and magic (seriously)

3rd year of marriage: blame spouse for ‘causing’ conflict and take nominal blame for reacting absurdly

4th year of marriage: make sure spouse takes at least half the blame for conflicts

5th year of marriage: agree that your spouse has been right all along and there’s something you need to change about yourself

 

If you ask every happily married couple that’s successfully made it past the first five years, they’ll tell you there’s no bigger enemy to marital happiness than: ego.

 

Ego is the defense mechanism of the lower self, and ego in marriage sounds like:

 

This is who I am and you better get used to it”

I wouldn’t have said/done that if you didn’t say/do what you did”

It’s all because of you”

Does it look like I care anyway?”

 

And ego sounds very, very familiar.

 

This is because the lower self is a covert enemy lurking within each and every one of us. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) records Yusuf’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) observation of the lower human self in the Qur’an:

 

“… Verily, the (human) self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills). Verily, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 12, Verse 53]

 

This doesn’t mean we are all inherently bad, but that we all have lower selves that are inclined to be oppressive, unruly and unjust; and it is only Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy that can make us rise above our destructive, narcissistic lower selves.

 

Why ego is the biggest threat to a marriage is because it is an enemy from within. Ego is like a deceptive double agent that distorts reality and makes us deny and justify the wrongs that our lower selves commit towards our spouses, convincing us that we are right; while we are oppressing our own selves and our spouses and actually walking a path of humiliating self-destruction.

 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

 

A believer is the mirror of his brother. When he sees a fault in it, he should correct it.”

 

There’s no one who mirrors our souls to us more accurately than our spouse, because no other human being gets to see us as intimately and habitually as they do. As a natural consequence, spouses stand the highest chance of facing our ego: the defensive wrath of our lower selves. But allowing your lower self to prevail in your marriage instead of seeing your marriage as a means to purify yourself is your own (disastrous) choice. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surat Ash-Shams:

 

And the soul (self) and He who proportioned it. And inspired it its wickedness and its righteousness. He has succeeded who purifies it, and he has failed who instills it .” [Qur’an: Chapter 91, Verse 7-10]

 

Our spouses actually personify the mercy of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) when they mirror our flaws to us so we can rise above our lower selves. They make us discern our innermost weaknesses that we could not have seen for ourselves, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has blessed us with them for our own spiritual purification and salvation.

 

The next time your spouse is desperately trying to get something about yourself across to you:

 

1. Just listen. Listen carefully and objectively, especially if they have been repeating it for a very long time.

2. Control the urge to defend yourself: look for the truth in your spouse’s words first.

3. Ask yourself: “Has anyone pointed this out about me before?” The answer could very likely be a yes, and if it is, then you’re definitely looking at a flaw that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants you to work on and get rid of.

4. Realize how merciful Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is being to you through your spouse. Thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and your spouse sincerely for caring so much about your success in the hereafter and making you a better person.

 

Try this 4-step exercise the next time you face conflict in your marriage. I promise you’ll see marital conflict in a whole new light: your spouse will no longer be the enemy and you’ll realize just what a big blessing they are for you!

 

 

Evil Eye

 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

 

The evil eye is real.”

 

I am always in awe of the power of this extremely concise hadith, because it delivers three vital messages about the evil eye in one 5-word sentence:

 

  • the harm of the evil eye is very, very real (in case you were even thinking otherwise)

  • do not put yourself in its way; and

  • take measures to protect yourself from it

 

If you agree with point one, the second and third points just follow naturally. Muslim couples today are actually serving their marriages on exquisitely decorated social media platters for the evil eye to devour: not just the ceremony, but every single verbal and non-verbal marital exchange, meal, meeting, moment, mood and micro-second!

 

You cannot be friends with 500+ people on social media, half of whom may be trying hard to get married for a long time and keep shoving your marital happiness in their face. Not only is it unnecessary, it is highly insensitive.

 

Happy Muslim couples do share their marital happiness, but sensibly. Before sharing anything about your marital life with the public, ask yourself:

 

Is it necessary to share it with all the people I’m about to disclose it to?

Will it make any of them long to be in my position?

Is it better off being private?

 

Not putting your marriage in the way of the evil eye is the first way of protecting it from its harm. Reading the morning and evening adhkar, the duas prescribed for protection against the evil eye as well as constantly thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for your marriage and your spouse fortifies this protection immensely.

 

 

Shaytan

 

Remember all that incomprehensible pre-wedding drama between your spouse’s family and yours, or those regular ridiculous flare-ups that you realize made absolutely no sense after you and your spouse cooled down (e.g.: when “why did you turn off the light when you know I was reading?” ends in “marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life!” – W.H.A.T?!): yes, all those absurd, bizarre arguments that sprang out of nothing and all the other senseless discord in your marriage are the best compliments of shaytan.

 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

 

Iblis (shaytan) places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension); the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: I did so and so. And he says: You have done nothing. Then one amongst them comes and says: I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife. The Satan goes near him and says: ‘You have done well and then embraces him.”

 

Shaytan doesn’t have any principles when he seeks to create marital discord: in fact, the rule is that he attacks from where you least expect it. Like through your normally loving, religious and sensible parent/sibling/well-wisher who begins to magnify some irrelevant flaw in your spouse that was somehow never an issue before you tied the knot. Shaytan perpetuates his whispers through their tongues, and you unwittingly believe them because they are your loved ones. And thus begins insane marital strife.

 

Here’s how to protect your marriage from the shaytan:

 

  • Read the mu’awwadhatayn (Surat Al-Falaq and Surat An-Nas) and morning and evening adhkar daily.

  • If your spouse is behaving in a way or saying things they normally don’t, politely say: “honey, let’s not let the shaytan get to us.” This is a tried and tested way to defuse a senseless argument before it starts.

  • If you find yourself starting to get angry, seek refuge in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) from the shaytan immediately.

  • If you hear anything negative about your spouse from anyone, examine the words for signs of shaytan’s whispers and traps. If there’s anything that may cause you to have even the slightest ill-feeling or resentment towards your spouse, consciously recall all the good in your spouse and compare it to what’s being said about them: you’ll see the false/irrelevant claims quickly dissipating.

 

9. They sense each other’s stress

 

You know those times when your spouse is just not being their normal self or getting ticked off by every little thing? Or when you do something special and they didn’t even seem to notice? If you look a little deeper, you’ll find there’s definitely something that’s bothering them (and it is not you). No matter how annoyingly they may be behaving, try to find out what’s wrong; try to sense their stress. They’ll most likely be having a problem at work, be down with an illness or close to that time of the month, or the kids would’ve done a fantastic job at driving them mad all day. Shaytan waits to use these moments of stress to spark an argument, because the spouse under stress doesn’t have the energy to fight him when their mind is exhausted by other troubles. He waits for the calmer spouse to eventually get annoyed, pick up the bait and say “what’s gotten into you?” and BAM! If you focus on putting your finger on what’s bothering your spouse and offering them support instead of getting worked up yourself, you immediately kill one more chance for shaytan to get to your marriage. Happy Muslim couples empathize with one another. Once you’ve figured out what’s bothering your spouse, give them the space, comfort or help they need to de-stress. Ask them if they’d like to take a nap, be alone for sometime, take a break from the kids, get some help with their work or spend some time with their friends or family, if it’ll make them feel better. Agree with your spouse to do this whenever either of you is acting out till you learn to sense each other’s stress just through your expressions, and your mutual intuition develops into a beautiful, unspoken language of care and understanding.

 

10. They are conscious of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in conflict

 

There isn’t a single marriage where there isn’t any conflict or disagreement of some sort or degree. It is only the way in which conflicts are managed that distinguishes the health of one marriage from the other.

 

Of all the ways to manage and minimize marital conflict, the most powerful way is remembering that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is watching our every single move and expression, and hearing our every single word. And it is all being recorded for a Day when He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will be the Judge. Bringing this to mind during conflict helps us refrain from giving in to our lower selves and the whispers of Shaytan in the heat of the moment, and saves the marriage from a lot of irreversible, long-term damage.

 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

 

I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right… ”

 

And when he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked by Mu’adh bin Jabal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

 

O Prophet of Allah, will we be brought to account for what we say?’ He said: ‘May your mother not find you, O Mu’adh! Are people thrown onto their faces in Hell for anything other than the harvest of their tongues?'”

 

The truth is, hell begins on earth when the tongue isn’t controlled during marital conflict. The humiliation and hurt inflicted by the tongue sows deep resentment and spite. That’s why Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an:

 

And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces among them. Indeed Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.”[Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verse 53]

 

If you disagree with your spouse over anything or are hurt by something they did or said, bring Allah’s presence to mind first to help lower your anger and approach the issue calmly. Then put your concerns across as gently as possible because gentleness is far more likely to make your spouse see your point than lashing out at them. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her):

 

Aisha! show gentleness, for if gentleness is found in anything, it beautifies it and when it is taken out from anything it damages it.”

 

Marriage in a nutshell

 

I remember giving a talk on love and relationships to an audience of young girls when I’d been married for just about two years. In my talk, I’d mentioned the verse of the Qur’an where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

 

Women impure are for men impure, and men impure for women impure and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity…” [Qur’an: Chapter 24, Verse 26]

 

In the Q&A session, a girl from the audience asked: “but what about all those couples we see where one spouse is so good and the other is the complete opposite?”

 

I’d answered: “The verse is the general rule, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) may choose to test some of us through our spouses.”

 

Just then, someone in the front row of the audience put up her hand and requested to speak. She was one of the other guest speakers, a renowned author and a woman full of wisdom, and someone who was married for many more years than me. She said:

 

What a person looks like to us is not necessarily what they are behind closed doors. So before judging whether a person is right or wrong for someone, remember that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chooses spouses for us not to test us but to help us purify and improve our own selves.”

 

Three years from that talk and I still haven’t come across a greater truth about marriage. Indeed, as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said, in this beautiful relationship are signs for those who give thought. Marital happiness is not an end but a state; a state that can easily be achieved by just seeing marriage for what it really is: a means of attaining physical, emotional and spiritual tranquility through the loving and merciful companionship of a spouse.

 

Author : Zaynab Chinoy

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