Before Marriage Spouse

Successful Marriages: Part II

Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Issue Number One: Let’s Copy My Parents

The first pitfall that people recognized is: “We’re going to do it like my family did it. We’re going to do it like my mother and father did it.”  And she’s saying, “No, we’re going to do it like my mother and father did it.” And that goes into the anaaniyya that was mentioned earlier – the state of selfishness. Because the constructs which have been built in us, when it comes to marriage, no matter how hard we try to educate ourselves, are basically the constructs we learnt from our parents.  What we saw from our parents.

86225375_ff0160ec1a_bI’ll give you a good example.  I’m from Oklahoma.  My mother and father hate divorce. Alhamdulillah, my mother and father have been married almost sixty years without divorce.  I saw them get in fights, I saw a glass break or two.  But [it was] never physical.  I never saw my father get physical with my mother, ever.  Never in front of the kids.  They’d raise their voices.  They yelled at each other.  [When] we were little we said, “Are you guys fighting?” [They responded] “No we’re not fighting.  Go in your room and shut the door.” That’s what we do.  It’s ingrained in me and my brother not to like divorce. So I had another family member who got into a divorce – non-Muslim – and my mother and father’s reaction was like “Wait a minute.” Why?  That’s how I was raised.

Now I’ve learned – through studying in al-Azhar, through reading books, from sitting with scholars, from being around people like you – the concept of divorce we have in Islam.  But it’s very difficult for me to overcome that construct, because that’s what I saw, that’s what I lived.

So when we come into a marriage we have to be honest with ourselves.  As our dear Sheikh mentioned, we cannot make “I” the focus of everything – my family, my way of doing things.  This is a very dangerous problem that comes out of selfishness. What we have to strive for are general Islamic guidelines, general Islamic principles that take into mind the reality of the human being.

How many times did people come to the Prophet (s) and complain about [their wives]?  Never?  Come on!  Read the book on divorce and some of the collections of hadith. How many times did women [come to the Prophet]? Once a woman came to Aisha (it’s in Sahih Bukhari), she was black and blue because her husband beat her. Yeah, in Madinah! [Someone sounding shocked:] “Subhan Allah, how could you say that about the companions?!” It’s in Sahih Bukhari. So the Prophet (s) dealt with that.

When we come into a marriage situation instead of saying “I…I…I” we have to say “I” and “we”.  Because to take “I” out of the equation is not realistic, man.  I’m going to tell you something.  I love to give, but I love to receive.  I’m not going to lie.  I come home and my wife says, “You know I cooked for you this prawn biryani.” I’m not like, “I’m not happy, I didn’t give you anything.” Hey, I’m ready.  Bismillah.  Forget Atkins, man.  Let’s go for it.

So marriage is giving and receiving.  When I come to a marriage I have to fuse my identity, my constructs as a person with my wife.  And that doesn’t happen in one day, doesn’t happen in a conference, doesn’t happen through a Jumu`ah khutbah.  It comes through years of investment and cultivating relationships – trial by error.

One woman came to me and said, “If I could marry anyone it would be my dad.”

And I said, “Hey, wait a minute now…”

She said, “No, I would make him, I would make him!”

I said, “Look, you don’t make anything.  But you’re pleased with the qadr (decree) of Allah (SWT).”

To demand a brother to be your father or to demand a woman to be your mother is unrealistic.  Bringing in “I” and “we” [is important, after all] I want to benefit.  Why am I getting married?  I want to benefit.  I’m going to reap some benefit, she’s going to reap some benefit.  But the majority of it is a “we…we…we” relationship.  And that’s not easy.  It’s not easy to weld constructs together to form a relationship.  It’s not.  And that’s why marriage is a major factor in Islam. You know how many rulings come into play because someone gets married?  How many ahkaam (rulings)?  Around seventy-five rulings.  Just because of a contract for nikah. And Allah says that marriage is a strong, binding, heavy contract (4:21).  Why?  It is not easy getting married.

So number one, we have to realize, as was mentioned by one social scientist, one of the major reasons – and this was in America by the way, not overseas – that people have problems in their marriage is: “I’m [going] do it like my mom and dad did it.  I’m going to replicate everything.”

[One time] I met a Muslim brother who told me, “We have to replicate the seerah.  So for thirteen years we have to do this.  Then, in ten years, this is going to happen.  And after that, nas (people), they’re going to become Muslim afwaajaa (in droves).”

I said, “Brother, you’re a fool.”

He said, “Why?”

I said, “Show me once in history where history repeated itself like that, word for word, letter for letter.”

And that’s what leads to extremism in Islam.  The same thing in marriage [when people say] “I’m going to replicate what my mother and father did.” Then why’d you get married?  Stay home with your parents! [They say] “I want to relive, I want to rehash what happened in my household with my mother and father.” That’s impossible. So what you’re going to have to do is be humble.  The first step is humility.  The Prophet (s) said in an authentic hadith, “Nobody will humble himself for Allah except that Allah will raise him.” So when I come into the marriage, I can’t be like Frank Lucas, American gangster [saying] “I’m going to enforce everything on people.” No, I must be humble and I must be willing to say, “You know what, I must surrender some things here. I’m going to have to be honest.”

And communicate with your spouse.  Talk, man, talk!  If you don’t talk, somebody’s going to walk.

So first and foremost, the “I” and the “we” is a combination.  Definitely as an individual – and I’m not a social Darwinist – but as an individual you’re going to benefit, as a person, from marriage.  Why’d you get married in the first place?  Because you want to benefit.  You want to benefit this deen (religion), you want to become a better Muslim.  So you reap the benefits in this life and the next.  Secondly, investing and being humble and mature enough to deal with issues as a family.

How many sisters and brothers have came to me and said, “You know one time I was talking with my wife about something, akhi and I said to her this and she said ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you did that!’” Come on, relax.  That’s your husband.   You got to carry him and be there for him.

Sometimes sisters might say, “You know when I was in seventh grade I let this guy push me on the swing.” [And the husband exclaims] “Oh, you’ve stained my honor as a husband!” Come on, man.  Unrealistic.  Unrealistic expectations.

Next Post – “Problem Number Two: Marriage Makes Me Happy”

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • Jazak’Allahu Khairan Imam Webb and also to Sister Fuseina. This was a great look into an aspect of marriage that I now realize many falter on – lots to learn indeed! Of course, it was entertaining as well! Looking forward to the next part. Ma’salaam

  • Salam to everyone,
    MashAllah very informative. I think what you’re trying to say is, in a marriage the husband and wife should accommodate the differences of each other. There is always a stand off when one doesn’t agree with the other on an issue, this in turn leads to feuds. My point is the following: in a work situation we work with colleagues who may have different views from ourselves, but we will always find a middle ground to get the work done. We accommodate the diverse personalities of our colleagues and put differences aside to ensure the smooth running of the team. Why should the family home be any different???

    To all couples who are constantly arguing – take my advice: don’t fight over petty things!!!!!! I’ve come across many cases where the arguments are over trivial matters. Please just stop it!!

    Lastly, leave the past in the past. If you’ve called a truce and have moved on, don’t keep bringing up the past. Just leave it.

    SubhanAllah, people just don’t have the patience anymore. Some people treat their other half like their enemy rather than their loving companion.

    Sorry people!! I apologies for going off on a rant……but when it comes to the family unit, it really upsets me to see people give up at the first hurdle.

  • yeah, marriage like everything in life is not easy.
    its going to be a pain…
    ain’t that shame… nothing is like in the movies.
    we don’t find soulmates by bumping into them in the malt shop
    and live happily ever after fighting some bully.
    we’ll all doomed lest by mercy and rehmat of Allah(swt).
    That’s only thing that get me up at fajr. Otherwise… i would sleep the endless sleep.

  • There are 3 main things that gave me sakeenah and guidance in my early years leading up to marriage (you know–that time of your life when all the single brothers and sisters got their antennas up and wiggling about, looking to receive “the signal”, the connection that will herald the coming of your soulmate:)…
    #1 I once overheard a sister giving precious nasiha to another. She said something I’ll never forget: “Marriage is not about finding the right person; it’s about BEING the right person.”
    #2 A precious dua for those waiting for marriage, the one Sayyidina Musa said when he met those women at the water hole! (Say it over and over:)”Rabbi inni limaa anzalta ilayya min khairin faqeer.” My Lord, I am [impoverished] in desperate need of any good you send down to me!
    #3 Most sisters (and brothers too!) start off with a LOOOOONG list inside their head of all the things they THINK their future spouse has to have… He has to be independent, love to cook, pray all his prayers inc. nawafil, make enough money so we can travel, and on and on. (Some ppl’s lists are more materialistic and outward, others are more about Deeny requirements) Either way, it’s just not realistic. That’s not how we meet people. Is that how you decided who your best friends would be? NO. It was just something inside of them that you connected with that makes them beloved to you, even if they don’t come close to “measuring up” to your list! I met someone who had everything I thought I needed in a spouse, but at the end of the day I couldnt marry that person because I just didnt feel that Allah was drawing me to that person, there was no “chemistry”, I couldnt envision myself with them. So I decided to break off the relationship. And I decided to just throw out my list and leave it to Allah to decide what was best for me. My focus should be on what I can do to make myself a better “spouse-to-be” for my future partner (going back to #1).

    Within a month, by an amazing turn of events, I met Mr. Naseeb and the rest is history. Wa Alhamdu Lillah! :c)

  • Ok this is awesome mashAllah. Now I have to figure out a way to send this to my fiance….
    JazakAllah Khair Brother Webb and Sr Fuseina for transcribing.

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