Communication, Forgiveness, and Understanding Between Couples
Ahmad M. Abdullah
Any careful study of the Holy Quran would reveal that the Quran has given tremendous weight to marital relationships. The goal of the Quran is to instruct Muslim couples in matters related to running this sacred relationship economically, socially and sexually. The Prophet’s Sunnah has also come to compliment this process through the Prophet’s actions. Allah says in the Holy Quran (30:21), “And among his signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and he has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” In studying this verse, I found out that among the most important aspects related to marital life is the issue of communication and consultation.
“And among his signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and he has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” Quran (30:21)
At the outset, I believe that communication is central to a healthy marital life. It is the main source of tranquility, love, and the continuity of marital life. The absence of communication builds up to conflict that, which then could possibly end the marital life. The Quran reminds us that nursing a child is an important matter where both parents have to communicate and consult with each other. Allah says, “The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother should be treated unfairly on account of her child, nor father on account of his child, an heir shall be chargeable in the same way, if they both decide on weaning by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster mother for your offspring there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (the mother) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do (2:233).”
The Prophet’s Sunnah is full of cases where he (PBUH) showed his behavior and conversation with his wives on matters related to life and religion. He (PBUH) says that the good wife is the one that obeys her husband when he asks her to do something. The good wife is the one that if her husband swears that she do something, she do it. She is the one that if her husband travels, she protects herself, their home and his wealth. The Prophet did not intend to advocate a type of life where the husband is always absent, always issuing orders, but he meant the kind of loving and caring husband who consults and communicates well with his wife.
Empirical studies that have been done on Muslim marital lives have found a totally different image than what the Quran and the Sunnah have stated. There is an absence to communication, dialogue, and conversation. Both parties show violence and lack of wisdom. There are many reasons for the absence of communication between the two parties:
1- An ignorance and disregard for the importance of dialogue. Studies have found out that there is an absence of realization that communication is the essence of material life. There is also a misunderstanding that communication is a sign of weakness that makes one party ignore the other. We are not talking about marital secrets. We are talking about some husbands and wives resorting to isolationism from each other. Some husbands may not consult their wives, believing that they are incapable of taking part in a conversation with him on issues related to their martial life, the household, or public affairs. If this is the case, he should realize that he was mistaken when he had chosen her as his wife and companion. These men and partners forgot the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) when he came to umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her) and told her about a situation that had happened with the companions. He told her that he ordered his companions to slaughter their sheep and relax from Ihram, but none of them did so. She came up with a remarkable solution for the Prophet and the Muslims. She asked him to be the example by being the first one to slaughter and relax from Ihram. She felt that if he led by example, they would follow him and that is what happened. The Prophet (PBUH) did not want Allah to punish his companions for being disobedient to him. However, it is a mistake to think that communication means total harmony or always being quiet. However, fear of further disagreements should not stop people from communicating with each other. Communication is the vehicle for problem solving as well as the path to wisdom and healthy relationships.
2- Being busy and daily-life burdens. Parents come home exhausted from long days at work. The husband comes home so tired. The mother comes home to do housework, help the children in their needs, prepare dinner, etc. She comes back from a tiring job to do tiring work at home. The issue gets worse when one of them is absent for a long time, such as traveling abroad for study or work. We had a case where a wife was not at ease in joining her husband who had been absent for five years. She only used to see him one month out of every year. She continued to say that she felt they were drifting apart from each other. She felt that they had become strangers living with each other temporarily despite the fact that they have children. I said to her, “It seems to me as if you have not gotten married yet!” Being married means living with each other, sharing compassion, love, and respect to each other. Marital life is not only making love to each other and having kids.
3- Previous experiences and communication. Previous experiences have an impact on communication. In some cases, the husband or wife may not communicate with his/her partner based on a failed previous communication attempt. Thus, the wife may not consult or attempt to communicate with her husband in fear of being ignored as before. The husband may also not communicate with his wife because she does not listen, is talkative, misunderstands him, or does not react to his attempts. The solution to these problems is communication itself. However, the party who shut the door of communication before should initiate it. We also should remember that communication is a mutual process, and it needs continuous work.
4- The belief that action speaks louder than words. The general atmosphere of the marital life is love, which is a complex set of interrelated components. In the premarital stage, both parties express this love through words, flowers, gifts, letters, pictures, flirting etc. After marriage, partners may resort to silent expressions of love. Thus, they prefer to be silent and take actions without communicating their intention, believing that actions are enough. In fact, it is not.
One of the notable issues before marriage is long phone calls for hours and hours. However, they say that there is nothing to talk about when they get married. That is not healthy or accurate. Communication and dialogue sometimes means the other party cares and tries to understand and communicate. Silence means a “cold” relationship. Cold intensifies and makes a mountain of ice that gets bigger and bigger. Coldness leads to the attempt of one or both parties to find warmth outside the marital relationship. Some people mistakenly understand from the Prophet’s hadeeth that says, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment should either say good things or keep silent.” The intention of the Prophet is not to create a culture of silence on the familial and societal levels. In fact, the communication that is absent at our homes is also absent from the society at large on political, economic, media, and social issues. Communication and dialogue should start in the homes. It should be spread first among the members of the family, and then extend to the greater society after that. This is a healthy marital life, and the healthy societies.