The Ethics of Chivalry

Posted in Advice for Husbands, Marriage Coaching, The Prophet and his Wives on April 1, 2010 by Shaz

Written by Imam Zaid Shakir

In the literature discussing Futuwwa, which has been translated as Muslim chivalry, there is the story of a young man who was engaged to marry a particularly beautiful woman. Before the wedding day, his fiancée was afflicted with a severe case of chicken pox which left her face terribly disfigured. Her father wrote to him informing him of the situation and asking if he preferred to call off the wedding. The young man replied that he would still marry his daughter, but that he had recently experienced a gradual loss of sight, which he feared would culminate in blindness.

The wedding proceeded as planned and the couple had a loving and happy relationship until the wife died twenty years later. Upon her death the husband regained his eyesight. When asked about his seemingly miraculous recovery he explained that he could see all along. He had feigned blindness all those years because he did not want to offend or sadden his wife.

From our jaded or cynical vantage points it is easy to dismiss such a story as a preposterous fabrication. To do so is to miss an important point that was not lost to those who circulated and were inspired by this and similar tales. Namely, our religion is not an empty compilation of laws and strictures. The law is important and willingly accepting it is one of the keys to our salvation. However, the law is also a means to point us toward a higher ethical end. We are reminded in the Qur’an, “Surely, the prayer wards off indecency and lewdness.” (29:45)

The Prophet Muhammad mentioned concerning the fast, “One who does not abandon false speech and acting on its imperatives, God has no need that he gives up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari) These narrations emphasize that there is far more to Islam than a mere adherence to rulings.

This is especially true in our marriages. Too many Muslims are involved in marriages that devolve into an empty observation of duties and an equally vacuous demand for the fulfillment of rights. While such practices are laudable in their proper context, when they are divorced from kindness, consideration, empathy, and true commitment they define marriages that become a fragile caricature. Such relationships are irreparably shattered by a silly argument, a few wrinkles on the face, unwanted pounds around the waist, a personality quirk or a whimsical desire to play the field to see if one can latch on to someone prettier, wealthier, younger, or possibly more exciting than one’s spouse.

These are issues that affect men and women. However, we men must step up and do our part to help to arrest the alarmingly negative state of gender relations in our communities. The level of chivalry the current crisis demands does not require that we pretend to be blind for twenty years. However, it does require some serious soul searching, and it demands that we ask ourselves some hard questions. For instance, why are so many Muslim men averse to marrying older or previously married women? The general feeling among the women folk in our communities is that if you are not married by the age of twenty-five, then you have only two chances of being married thereafter –slim and none. This sentiment pervades our sisters’ minds and hearts because of the reality they experience. Many brothers who put off marriage until they are past thirty-five will oftentimes marry someone close to half their age, passing over a generation of women who are intellectually and psychologically more compatible with them and would prove wiser parents for their children.

Despite this problem, and the clear social, psychological and cultural pathologies it breeds, many of us will hasten to give a lecture reminding our audience of the fact that Khadija, the beloved wife of our Prophet, was fifteen years his senior. We might even mention that she and several of his other wives were previously married. Why is it that what was good enough for our Prophet is repugnant to ourselves or our sons?

A related question would be, “Why are so many of our brothers so hesitant to marry strong, independent and intellectually astute women?” Many women in the West lack the support of extended family networks, which is increasingly true even in the Muslim world. Therefore, they must seek education or professional training to be in a position to support themselves if necessary, or to assist their husbands; an increasingly likely scenario owing to the nature of work in postindustrial societies. This sociological fact leads to women in the West generally manifesting a degree of education and independence that might not be present among women in more traditional societies and times – even though such societies are rapidly disappearing.

Many Muslim men will pass over talented, educated women who are willing to put their careers and education on hold, if need be, to commit to a family. The common reason given is that such women are too assertive, or they are not the kind of women the prospective husband’s mother is used to. As a result a significant number of our sisters, despite their beauty, talent, maturity, and dynamism are passed over for marriage in favour of an idealised, demure “real” Muslim woman. The social consequences of this practice are extremely grave for our community.

Again, we can ask ourselves, “To what extent does this practice conform to the prophetic model?” Our Prophet was surrounded by strong, assertive and independent women. His beloved Khadija, who we have previously mentioned, was one of the most successful business people in the Arabian Peninsula, and her wealth allowed the Prophet to retreat to the Cave of Hira where he would receive the first revelation.

Ayesha, despite her young age was an assertive, free-spirited, intellectual powerhouse who would become one of the great female scholars in history. The foundation for her intellectual greatness was laid by the Prophet himself who recognised her brilliance. Zainab bint Jahsh ran a “non-profit” organisation. She would make various handicrafts, sell them in the market and then use the proceeds to secretly give charity to the poor people of Medina. Umm Salamah had the courage to migrate from Mecca to Medina, unescorted, although she was ultimately accompanied by a single rider. She also had the vision to resolve the crisis at Hudaybiyya. These were all wives of the Prophet. To their names we could add those of many other strong and dynamic women who played a major role in the life of the fledgling Muslim community.

Another issue that is leading to many otherwise eligible women remaining single relates to color. If a panel of Muslim men, whose origins were in the Muslim world, were to choose Miss World, the title would likely never leave Scandinavia. No matter how beautiful a woman with a brown, black, or even tan complexion was, she would never be quite beautiful enough, because of her skin color. This attitude informs the way many choose their wives. This is a sensitive issue, but it is one we must address if we are to advance as a community. We may think that ours is a “colorblind” community, however, there are legions of women who have been relegated to the status of unmarriageable social pariahs who would beg to differ.

God has stated that “the basis for virtue with Him is piety; not tribe, race, or national origin.” (49:13) The Prophet reminded us that “God does not look at our physical forms, or at our wealth. Rather, He looks at our hearts and our deeds.” (Muslim) We debase ourselves when we exalt what God has belittled. God and His messenger have belittled skin color and body shape and size as a designator of virtue or distinction. What does it say about us when we use these criteria as truncheons to painfully bludgeon some of the most beautiful women imaginable into social insignificance?

Marriage is not a playground where the ego thoughtlessly pursues its vanities. This is something the chivalrous young man mentioned at the outset of this essay understood. It is an institution that helps a man and a woman pursue the purpose of their creation: to glorify and worship God and to work, within the extent of our capabilities and resources, to make the world a better place for those we share it with and for those we will leave it to. This role is beautifully captured in the Qur’an, “The believing men and women are the supporting friends of each other. They enjoin right, forbid wrong, establish regular prayer, pay the poor due, and they obey God and His Messenger. They expect God’s Mercy. Surely, God is Mighty, Wise.” (9:71)

Wives Dealing With Tough Husbands: Any Options?

Posted in Advice for Wives, Marriage Counselling on February 19, 2010 by Shaz

In Islam, a man has options to choose from when his wife misbehaves or
does something displeasing. For example, negotiating, then leaving her
bedroom, and finally hitting lightly (with miswak-tooth stick). My
question is, what if a man misbehaves? Does the woman have any options?
What if he does something extremely horrible? What can she do? I know
there’s divorce, but for women it’s by khul`, which is a complicated
process. Why do men have all these options plus divorce, and women only
have divorce? And even when they choose divorce, it’s a longer and
tougher process than the men’s. I know Islam is fair, but when I asked
people I know this question, they never gave me a satisfying answer.
Please help me.

Answer By Yasmin Mogahed
Salam, Rahma.

Thank you for your sincere question and desire to seek the truth. May
Allah make the path to truth easy on all of us.

Although this is not a fatwa, I pray that it helps shed light on the
perfect justice of the religion of Allah.

First, it is imperative to stress, as you already mentioned, that Allah
is the Most-Just. If we ever perceive any injustice in His religion, it
is due to our own lack of understanding, rather than a flaw in the
religion.

As you know, men and women were created different in order to complement
one another and live in cooperation, and not competition. As with any
system, whether in the context of a corporation or a family, each
individual is assigned a role based on his or her individual nature and
talents.

The vital difference here is that the Lord of the universe is the one
assigning the roles based on His perfect knowledge of the nature,
strengths, and weaknesses of His own creation. In His infinite
knowledge, Allah has assigned men to be the managers, protectors,
maintainers, and providers of the family system. In the Quran, which
Muslims believe is the word of God, Allah says:

[Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has
given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support
them from their means] (An-Nisaa 4:34)

However, what many people fail to realize is that with this extra
authority comes a great deal of extra responsibility. Men will be held
accountable if their families are not protected and provided for.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

All of you are responsible and each of you is responsible for his
people. The Imam (i.e. ruler) is the guardian of his subjects and is
responsible for them. A man is responsible for the people of his house.
A woman is responsible for the house of her husband. A servant is the
guardian of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. Each of
you is responsible for his people. (Al-Bukhari)

Part of a man’s protecting his family means protecting their physical
needs. Providing food, clothing, and shelter falls under this
responsibility. However, his protection is not limited simply to
physical protection.

The man must also protect his family’s religion. In the same way he
would protect his family if they were struggling to find food, he too
must protect them if they are struggling with their religion. If his
wife or child is committing unlawful act, protecting them means doing
what he can to bring them back into the right path.

You will notice that the reference to admonishing the wife is in the
same verse, and follows the statement of men being the protectors and
maintainers of women.

Allah also says in the Quran what means:

[O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from Fire…]
(Al-Anaam 66:6)

Of course, saving each other from the displeasure of Allah goes both
ways. But note that even in a business model, when a manager is not
doing his job, the procedure for correcting him is different than the
procedure he takes to correct those he manages. Those on the team do not
correct the manager directly, but rather take their complaints to his
supervisor.

This is done because a manager’s authority over them would make it
ineffective to try to address him directly. Instead, they would go to a
person who has authority over him. In the case of a family this would
mean the imam, an arbitrator (from the family or otherwise), or a judge,
for example.

Also, note that when the wife is “misbehaving”, she is to be corrected
privately (within the family). When a man is “misbehaving”, he is to be
corrected outside of the private sphere (going to an imam, for example).
But, this is part of the extra responsibility of taking on a position of
power.

In any power structure, those who take on a position of authority must
be willing to be censured — sometimes publicly. When the Companion
Umar ibn Al-Khattab was Caliph, a woman publicly corrected him by
reciting a verse that contradicted what he had said. Omar responded with
a smile and said: “The woman is correct and Omar is mistaken.”
(Al-Qurtubi, 99)

When a person becomes a manager, with that power, comes the ability to
be publicly corrected, if one is not doing one’s job. Consider a college
classroom. Who is in the position of authority in this case? The
professor is. What happens if a student is loudly talking on their cell
phone and disturbing the class? The professor will censure the student
directly.

But what happens if it’s the other way around, and the professor is
talking on his cell phone rather than teaching the class? Will the
students go to him directly? Well, perhaps they might, but that may not
accomplish much, if he chooses not to listen. But are the students
powerless? No. Most students would recognize that going to the
professor’s supervisor would be much more effective.

In the same way, when a husband is not doing his job of protecting his
family, whether that means through negligence or mistreatment, the wife
should try to advise him. But if he refuses, the wife is told to go to
those who can have authority to make him change his behavior. A wife is
not powerless. It is quite the contrary.

The system put in place by Allah in fact ensures the rights of the wife.
Imagine if a wife was just left to compete with a husband’s extra level
of physical strength and authority, and there was no system in place for
the wife to go to his “superiors”. Imagine if those students had no
other avenue to change their professor’s behavior besides addressing him
directly. Chances are, they would not learn much in the class.

But there is one point, although often overlooked, which is extremely
important. Remember that Allah Almighty is always on the side of the
oppressed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Be afraid, from the curse of the oppressed as there is no screen between
his invocation and Allah. (Al-Bukhari)

So if a wife is being mistreated or oppressed in any way, Allah will be
her supporter. Consider the story of the woman at the time of the
Prophet who turned to Allah to complain of her husband’s injustice to
her. Allah not only heard her calls, He even revealed verses in the
Quran to respond to her. Allah says:

[Allah has indeed heard (and accepted) the statement of the woman who
pleads with thee concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in
prayer) to Allah. And Allah (always) hears the arguments between both
sides among you: for Allah hears and sees (all things).] (Al-Mujadilah
58:1)

Allah hears and sees all things. Could there be any greater comfort than
that?

I hope this answers your question. Please, keep in touch.

Salam.

The Five Languages of Love

Posted in Love, Marriage Coaching, The Prophet and his Wives, Tips for a Happy Marriage on February 19, 2010 by Shaz

By Maria Zain

Marriage and family life expert Dr. Gary Chapman explains that each one of us speaks one or more of five different languages of love. The “Love Languages”, he says, refer to how we perceive that we are loved by the people around us.

Chapman categorizes the five languages into: 1) quality time, 2) services, 3) gifts, 4) positive affirmations, and 5) touch. He explains that every person speaks one dominant language, but also speaks one or two other languages of love at the same time. Tuning into one’s spouse, child, or family in general, and understanding their needs would be more effective when one is able to identify each person’s love language.

For example, a mother may identify that one of her children is acting out mainly because she is neglecting his love language of “quality time”. By identifying his love language, she will be able to tune into his needs more effectively by allocating more quality time with that one child.

Similarly, a husband may find that a rift in his marriage is being caused by him not understanding his wife’s language of love. If he realizes that her love language is, for example, services, he can then show appreciation and affection towards her by helping out with the housework, groceries, and chores.

Islam speaks of love in the highest regard. Allah (God) is known as the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful, and through those traits, showers His Grace upon human beings. Thus, it is no wonder that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a person of compassion and empathy like no other. He was continuously surrounded by people whom he loved dearly and who shared that mutual affection.

By reading through his biography, especially concerning his relationships with his loved ones, we can see that he spoke each of Chapman’s five languages of love, depending on who he was dealing with. This article will be looking at each of the five languages of love by providing a few examples of how this was shown throughout Prophet Muhammad’s life.

Spending Quality Time Together

Prophet Muhammad used to spend time with his comrades, laughing and joking. He made light of difficult situations and reminded his friends that it was also important to indulge in leisurely activities, as long as they did not contradict Islamic practices.

He was known to have played games with his wife Aishah, including racing her around open compounds, and watching performances together, such as an Ethiopian traditional dance during Eid. Besides this, he was always surrounded by Muslims in the mosque, wishing to ask questions about Islam.

Unlike other religious men who have been perceived as hermits, Prophet Muhammad was incredibly sociable, and welcomed many strangers to ask questions and participate in the Muslim community’s activities. They, in turn, became very attached to Prophet Muhammad and were further honored to spend even more time with him in attempts to emulate his practices and behavior.

He also made it a point to spend time with the Muslim youth, including his own children, grandchildren and other relatives. His relationship with his daughters such as Fatimah and Zainab was punctuated with special moments together. He also spent a lot of his time, even during congregational prayers, with his grandchildren: Al-Hassan, Al-Hussein, and Umamah, amongst others.

Providing Sincere Acts of Services

Islam’s recognition of leadership does not only involve making good decisions for the followers, but also to provide services for them. Much like a politician is required to serve his people, the husband and the father, as leader of a household, is also required to take care of his wife and his children by meeting their needs and sharing their burden of duties.

Prophet Muhammad used to busy himself in helping out with the household chores and even mended his own sandals and garments to avoid inflicting burdens upon his wives and daughters. (Al-Bukhari)

Men need to be reminded that although many women generally take care of the home, there are many rewards for helping out around the house too.

Services towards children in Islam can be seen as raising them with good manners, character, and providing them with the best, most well-rounded education possible. This is, of course, in addition to providing for their daily multiple needs.

Giving Gifts to Loved Ones

Islam praises the giving of gifts to each other, as long as they are not lewd in nature, or considered wasteful. Even before marriage, prospective bridegrooms are reminded that it is obligatory to give a marriage gift to the bride as a sign of appreciation for her and the relationship she is committing to. Additionally, the couple is encouraged to buy presents for each other as part of the wedding ceremony, and to pursue joy in doing so well into the marriage.

Prophet Muhammad also encouraged parents to be fair when presenting gifts to their children. At one instance, he refused to witness a father giving a gift only to one son and not to his other children. He was also seen to have presented an onyx necklace to Umamah, his beloved granddaughter.

He would often accept gifts himself and share them amongst his friends, and he was also known to give gifts to non-Muslim friends and neighbors to instill the good values of tolerance and respect between religions.

Sharing Positive Affirmations

Lying is generally forbidden in Islam. However, because of Islam’s strong emphasis on practicality, lying is allowed in three very specific circumstances. One of those circumstances is when spouses are expressing love to one another. This means that a husband and wife can express undying love towards each other — even if they don’t necessarily mean it — as long as it is with the intention of strengthening the relationship.

For example, a husband may tell his wife that he loves her more than anyone on earth, where in actual fact this is untrue for Muslims, as Allah and Prophet Muhammad always come first for Muslims. However, this positive affirmation towards a spouse is permissible and, in fact, encouraged in Islam.

Positive affirmations provide a support system and encouragement for spouses to pursue what is in their best interest according to Islamic principles. Unwavering support and encouragement was a strength of Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife.

A popular quote by Prophet Muhammad that lived on many years after her death was: “She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand.” (Al-Bukhari)

It was very much through Khadijah’s support that Islam spread so strongly within the first decade of its introduction and from there the strongest bond of love was formed.

Showing Love Through Touch

The importance of showing love through touch is relayed by a Quranic verse that says what means:

{They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them.} (Al-Baqarah 2:187)

In this verse, spouses are likened to something as close to oneself as the clothes that one wears. This verse conveys many meanings, but one of them is the importance of touch in a relationship. Garments lie immediately on our skin, providing warmth and protection. This is very much like a spouse’s touch.

Prophet Muhammad often talked about the importance of intimacy and gestures of affection between husband and wife. He himself was known to rest his head on Lady Aishah’s lap when he felt tired, and in fact, he was in that position when he passed away.

Touch is also an important way to show affection towards children. Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatimah, relayed that her father would hold her hands and kiss her, and always welcome her into the room when she visited him. Fatimah would reciprocate the gesture for him too. Her sons were no less familiar to their grandfather’s embrace as they would snuggle on his lap while he supplicated to Allah to shower and bless them with His love.

Love God and Love Your Spouse

Loving one’s spouse is an important tenet in Islam, as the family unit represents an important cornerstone of the faith. Each family begins with a husband and wife, who then later become parents. In order for a marriage to flourish, it is important to remind each other about the importance of loving Allah. From then on, it becomes natural to love each other, to tune into each other’s unique needs and expectations.

Understanding the five languages of love is a great way to do this.

When spouses tune into each other, they are able to develop healthier relationships with each other, their children, their extended family, friends, neighbors, and the whole community. Learn of each other’s love languages, communicate using them, and let the love for Allah flourish even more.

What is “love”?

Posted in Love on February 11, 2010 by Shaz
Answer by Hwaa Irfan

As salamu `alaykum to you.

I think you have asked the million dollar question here. As short as your question is, it is not very easy to answer and many spend much of their lives trying to seek something that is other than what it is. I suppose I could say it is a feeling, but how many feelings do we have each day that are correct and have a healthy or unhealthy longevity when the next day comes?
I am assuming here that you mean ‘love’ as in the love between a man and a woman.
Romantic Love

This kind of love we are most familiar with because we have been nurtured on it through songs and the media in general. It is also a kind of addiction/obssession that can drive one to do haram acts. This is the nature of any addiction after all!

It is a desire that eminates from our lower desires and so is therefore rooted in the nafs an-ammarah bi`s-su (the self-comanding soul) (12: 53), which is dominated by the earthly senses and thus selfish. Romantic love is never happy unless it is being attended to by the object of that love, and is jealous when the person ‘loved’ has his attention elsewhere. This attention might be work, friends, family or another.

Recent studies in neuroscience, support the precautions called upon in Islam. Helen Fisher’s team at Rutgers University scanned the brains of couples who were newly in love while they gazed at photo’s of their sweethearts. Activity soars in the brain’s reward system. That result, Fisher says, in “fierce energy, concentrated motivation to attain a reward, and feelings of elation, even mania – the core feelings of romantic love”. Other areas linked with negative emotions and assessing other people’s intentions switched off. Romantic love also included activation of the hypothalamus, where the sex hormone testosterone is produced. Lust, the sexual part of love, is unsurprisingly, switched on in romantic love. – Scientific America

So, given the above results, if one becomes so engrossed with the person ‘loved’, one is unaware other people’s intentions, including the one who is ‘loved’. This where much emotional damage can be done to either party, especially when individuals become prey to the feelings of ‘romantic love’ which lead to pre-marital relationships. If the relationship moves towards marriage, the doors of reality flies open and there might be not so pleasant surprises. One of those surprises is boredom with each other, because the relationship was not based on anything more than emotions.

Islamic scholar and philosopher abu Hamid al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him) wrote any man whose daughter had many suitors asked Prophet Muhammed on how he should decide. Prophet Muhammed said: “To the one who fears God; because if he loves her, he will be kind to her, and if he hates her, he will not wrong her” and “Whoever gives his daughter in marriage to a licentious man has betrayed her womb”.

We underestimate the level of bio-chemical reactions that are taking place in our bodies when it come to emotion, but mostly, it does not even occur to us that it is anything other than emotions, but even thought as a bio-chemical base. The point of this is, we should realize that when we allow a certain negative emotion to occur, that we not necessarily in full control of ourselves ones the hormones react to those emotions.

Neuroscience has found that:

Higher levels of testosterone and estrogen are present when one feels lust.
Levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin increase when attracted

Unconditional Love

{“And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!”} (Rum 30:21).

Unaware as to wether you are a Muslim or not, the above quotation is from our book of guidance, the Qur`an. Much advice is given, including the relationship between a wife and husband. It does not merely speak of a physical intimacy, but most importantly, emotional intimacy which is an essential ingredient in unconditional love. It is a process of getting to know the other person as he is (not as you want him to be), to share in duties and responsibilities and to always be there as a friend. This is more important than any physical intimacy because it is the basis, of intimacy and the key to a bonding relationship that provides a buoyancy through the difficult times. It is a process of building trust, the kind of trust whereby the couple can get to know each other’s weaknesses and strengths without taking advantage or wanting to. The husband is an open book to the wife and vice versa with both respecting and sharing in each others needs, aspirations, time. There is:

Mutual trust
Tenderness
Acceptance is unconditional approval in a relationship. No one is perfect.
Open communication is the ability to discuss anything with your spouse.
Caring is genuine concern for your spouse’s well-being. If you do things you know hurt your spouse, you cannot have healthy intimacy.
Apologies are the remedy for mistakes that spouses inevitably make. Recognizing mistakes, taking responsibility for them, expressing remorse for any hurt caused, and making a commitment to change the hurtful behavior are all essential to mending the relationship after a mistake
Forgiveness is the process of letting go of anger, desire for revenge, and obsessive thinking about times your spouse has hurt you. It includes giving your spouse permission to have weaknesses, make mistakes, and change.
Appropriate boundaries are the limits you place on a relationship. The limits can be created individually or as a couple. These limits include saying “no” when your spouse asks you to do something that goes against your values or is more than you can handle.
Friendship is the ingredient that lines a loving relationship. True friendship means that you will be there for one another and is the boat that takes you through rough times.
Neuroscience has found that the hormone Oxcytocin also boosts trust, which is an important step in developing a loving relationship

Oxcytocin and vasopressin levels are higher in marriage = long term relationships signaled by the deep level of trust and bonding between spouses.
Spiritual Love

Loving for the sake of Allah takes a a good healthy marriage even further, because there is a love greater than the both of you and includes family, relatives, friends and all creation. This is what unites humanity in our Creator and as a marrired couple pray and worship together, it adds an unbreakable dimension the the marital relationship. In Islam this is referred to as tawhid, where there is a self-respect, modesty and remiss of arrogance or pride. Loving for the sake of Allah means loving others (including ones spouse) regardless of their flaws. When this aspect is strong within a marital relationship, physical intimacy becomes less important. Jealousy and possessiveness dwindles because the level of emotional bonding is so great.

Sheikh Muhammad Maulad tells us:

“The actual physical heart in our breast beats at about 100,000 times a day, pumping two gallons of blood per minute, 100 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for an entire life time! The vascular system that sends this life-giving blood is over 60,000 miles long: it is more than two times the circumference of the earth. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the heart starts beating before the brain is formed; the heart begins to beat without any central nervous system. The dominant theory was that the central nervous system is what is controlling the entire human being from the brain, yet we know now that in fact the nervous system does not initiate the heartbeat. It is actually self-initiated; we would say, it is initiated by Allah subhanahu wa T’ala”.

With this level of connection, the strong bond between a couple will extend to the family, relatives, neighbors and in turn heal society as a whole.

The Language of Men: Understanding Your Husband’s Needs

Posted in Advice for Wives, Communication, Marriage Counselling on January 26, 2010 by Shaz

Question

As salamu ‘alaykum

What do you think should be as a wife if a husband always criticize the wife from the way she eat, dress, talk, most of the time putting her down and the husband feels superior though she already did what he wants, but it is still not enough for him and still got criticize.

Answer by Dr Karima K Burns(Naturopathic Doctor, Herbalist – Waldorf School of Thought )

This situation can happen with husbands and with wives and can sometimes indicate an abusive relationship, however, usually it indicates a mutually dissatisfying situation for both spouses. You have not indicated you are being abused in this enquiry, provided details about yourself or examples of specific situations so I will approach the situation using the second scenario. Additionally, since you have written to me (and not your husband) I am going to approach the question with a solution that you can try yourself.

If you were seeing a counselor together or your husband had asked this question I would have a slightly different answer. However, there is one rule in relationships that has stood true across all time – you can only guarantee change if you work on your own problems. There is never any guarantee with others, as their actions and feelings are beyond your control.

Because of this it would be useless for me to provide you with information about what your husband could do. I am providing information about what you can do, and how you can understand the situation more clearly. Not because you are at fault or the only person at fault, but because, since you have asked for help, I want to give YOU the tools to regain control of your happiness in this marriage.

In the second scenario I mentioned above, the marriage has become unbearable for both spouses and the focus has turned to criticism instead of love and understanding. You may perceive that only your husband is being critical. However, your e-mail indicates that you are also critical of him. In your e-mail you are stating that your husband “puts down his wife” ,that he “feels superior”, that he is “not satisfied with what he has” and that he “criticizes his wife.”

These are four very negative statements about your husband. He most likely can sense that you feel these negative feelings towards him (and perhaps more?). Even if you don’t express these feelings he can feel this in two ways. If you do express negative feelings he will feel this in three ways:

1. If you express sadness, negative feelings, dissatisfaction, anger, etc…he will feel you are not happy with him. He wants to be able to make you happy. Knowing you are unhappy will make him very unhappy.

2. If you feel these feelings about him and do not verbalize them they will come out in non-verbal ways and he will sense them.

3. A man’s sense of worth in a marriage is often tied to his feeling of self-worth as a husband and father. A man, to be happy in a marriage, needs to feel he is a good husband and father and that he is taking good care of his family. If you are not letting him know or feel he is successful then he will be unhappy and be more likely to reflect this back to you.

This is different from what makes a woman happy in a marriage. Women are often happiest when their husband and children show that they love her. Women also want to feel they are able to make their families happy. However, most prominently, they thrive on feelings of love in the relationship. Although men also need love, men thrive more on accomplishment in the relationship.

When your husband feels successful and able to make you happy he will be more and more encouraged to continue this behavior. This may seem impossible. You may be thinking, “How can I let him know he makes me happy when he isn’t making me happy?”

To accomplish this you need to turn your focus from the negative and be able to reflect back to him, for some time, only the positive aspects of what he is doing for you as a husband. Forget, for a time, the things he is doing “wrong” and focus on and communicate to him the things he is doing “right”.

Does he support you financially? Is he handsome? Does he thank you for the meals you cook? Is he kind to his family? What good qualities does he have that you are thankful for? Why did you first love him? Why did you first marry him? Does he still have some of these qualities? Let him know about these things daily.

It may take some time for you to see some change. It depends on how long you have been married, how long this negative situation has been going on, and how dedicated and sincere you are in trying to change it.

If you can give this some effort and be patient, and give him some time to trust you again and really hear you, he will start to feel safe again in the relationship and will feel free to stop criticizing you and start complimenting you and enjoying your company.

Initially he may not trust what you are saying, or he may be so used to hearing critical things he may not understand what you are saying or really hear you at first. So please be patient and continue. Only the most severe of situations can withstand the force of so much positive energy. If you are able to infuse this relationship with as much positive energy as possible – in as many ways as you can think of – he will be unable to resist the “new mood” of the house and will naturally fall into the new patterns you have created. It may take a little time (1-3 months) but it will happen Insha-Allah.

What to Do After Saying “I Do”

Posted in Advice for Wives on January 23, 2010 by Shaz

Understanding Men And Women

Posted in Communication, Marriage Coaching, Marriage Counselling, Tips for a Happy Marriage on January 21, 2010 by Shaz

By Karima K Burns

This is a commonly misunderstood topic between men and women. Men usually state that women complain too much and women usually state that men don’t care about their feelings. However, neither is completely true. Many men do care about their wife’s feelings. However, perhaps not in the same way their wife cares about theirs.

In the world of the female, a woman cares for many people in her household on an emotional level. She is often the one to tuck the children into bed, offer hugs, food for nourishment and general caring and emotional support. Because of this, women often feel it is important to listen to the emotional needs of their family so they can continue this support.

In the male realm, men are also concerned about the needs and feelings of the woman, however, usually in a different way. Men are most likely to judge their wife’s happiness on her physical comfort level rather than her emotional comfort level. This does not mean that he does not care. This simply means that he may not understand how important the emotional level is for her.

If the wife needs emotional support she will often need to ask for it directly. If a wife waits for a husband to understand her emotional need to be close to him when she is upset, she may wait “forever”. However, if she is able to say, “I had a very hard day today could you give me a hug and hold me for a little bit?” then this helps translate her need back into the physical and tangible world that the man is better able to understand. He can easily understand what she wants, can offer than to her and feel he is a success in offering that.

This is also very important for men.

Women usually console people in the family or offer emotional support because they feel this is their duty and it comes naturally to them. In some ways a woman cannot avoid doing this as she is naturally inclined to. She does not feel the need to be successful. However, she does sometimes feel the need to be appreciated.

Men, on the other hand, are not seeking appreciation, as much as they want to feel successful. When a man provides emotional support to a woman he often does not feel successful. Most women will not find the male version of emotional support adequate and will tell the man he is “doing it wrong” or “doesn’t understand her needs” or “said the wrong thing”. This creates insecurity in the men. They want to be successful and to feel they have helped their wife and made her happy. If the man is constantly told he is doing it “wrong” in the emotional realm, he will quite often retreat back into the physical realm where things are easier for him to understand, measure, and deal with.

To help any man be more able to meet the emotional needs of his wife one needs to:

1. Be direct about those needs. He does not have to approach you or “read your mind” or “know your needs” to prove he cares or that he loves you. It is an act of love to perceive someone is in need and to assist them, yes. However, it is also an act of love when someone requests help and you say “yes, I will help you”. So if you have to ask your husband for help, don’t feel badly. When he says, “yes” this is a sign of his love. It is not a sign of anything negative if he does not perceive your needs.

2. Accept what he offers. A man will rarely be able to offer the level of emotional support a woman can. Realize this and accept what he has to offer for what it is. It may not “sound right” or be exactly what you need but if you take it for its intention rather than artistic quality then you may find a real “gem in the rough”. You also need to take the man’s personality into account. Is he usually silent? Then being silent during your time of need is not a lack of caring, it is a normal state for him. He may only be able to say one or two sentences.

3. Encourage him and show him he has succeeded. This will encourage him to continue supporting your emotional needs either in that moment or in the future. Make sure he knows you appreciate what he did. Did he listen? Did he give you a hug? Did he help cook dinner? Did he offer a phrase (however clumsy) in an effort to help you feel better? Be sure to acknowledge what he has offered.

4. Remember that men like to “solve problems”. If you share an emotional need he may try to help you by suggesting solutions. Often, what you want is just to be listened to. Men have a hard time understanding this. They want to solve the problem and make you happy. You can try asking him “just to listen” (although the temptation to solve is too big for most men) or you can simply decide not to share all the details and just skip directly to what you need to help you feel better. Would help around the house be good? Would a hug help? Would chatting in general help? Would going for a walk together help?

If men and women can better understand how the other one sees the world, less resentment will exist and more efforts towards understanding and love can happen.

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