Author: Zainab Bint Younus | Source: Al Jumuah
Marital Advice Lists are common to find in Muslim literature and lectures, yet the information is almost always targeted towards women. However, we all know that it takes two to tango – and so here is a list aimed at Muslim husbands in the hopes that they, too, will benefit and be able to improve their relationships.
1. Have taqwa and iḥsân
Know that you are responsible for your end of the marriage, regardless of how the other party treats you. Fulfill your wife’s rights without demanding yours first, and know that you seek Allah’s Pleasure over anyone else’s. Do your job with excellence, and don’t make it conditional. Iḥsân is not merely to worship in the ritual sense, but to conduct oneself in general with an awareness that Allah is Al-Raqîb (the Ever-Watchful), and to fulfill one’s duties in the best of manners.
Then he (Jibrîl) said, “Inform me about iḥsân.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet (know that) He sees you. (Muslim)
2. Respect her
Remember that Allah describes marriage as a bond of love and mercy – love ebbs and flows, but mercy and respect must always be there, even – especially – in times of conflict. Unfortunately, we tend to present respect as a quality that men need (“men need respect, women need affection”). The truth is, however, that one can love someone without respecting them… and this is very, very dangerous. To have mercy and respect one’s wife is to never assume that she exists merely as an extension of you or to serve your needs. To respect her is to honor her, to defend her from harm and others’ accusations, and to have husn al-ẓann of her.
In cases of disagreement, this respect translates as not forcing your own opinion upon her when there is Islamically acceptable room for differences of opinion.
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it bears repeating nonetheless – respecting your wife means never, ever, abusing her, physically or otherwise.
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [Sûrat Al-Rûm, 30:21]
Even in times of conflict, Allah tells us to behave in the most respectful and gracious of manners:
And do not forget graciousness between you. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:237]
Abû Mûsa Al-Ash¢ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
I asked the Messenger of Allah: “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.”
3. Be emotionally intelligent
Empathy, being attuned to the other person’s preferences, learning to understand their personality and responding appropriately without expecting to change them into something they’re not… supporting and respecting each other as both individuals and as a team. The Prophet (PBUH) was an emotionally intelligent husband, who knew the differences in his wives’ personalities and interacted with them in a manner best suited to each woman. He comforted Ṣufiyyah when she wept; he had spirited discussions with Âishah; and he encouraged Ḥafṣah’s zeal for knowledge.
In a famous narration known as the Hadith of Abu Zar, Aishah told the Prophet (PBUH) the story of eleven women who sat together and described their husbands’ qualities and behaviours. The eleventh woman, Umm Zar, described Abû Zar as a man who was extremely generous to his wife, showering her with gifts; who went out of his way to please her; who never rebuked her or verbally abused her; who made sure that she was comfortable and satisfied. To Umm Zar, there was no greater husband than Abû Zar- and the Prophet (PBUH) himself told Âishah, I am to you as Abû Zar was to Umm Zar, except that I will never divorce you.
4. Be a True Qawwâm
Know that being a qawwâm is a matter of being a good leader – not authoritarian or a dictator, but someone who inspires love and respect, who treats others with dignity and respect… The popular book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great resource for understanding what good leadership is. There are several excellent Islamic resources discussing leadership lessons from the life of the Prophet (PBUH). Strive to embody the Sunnah in your character, not just in how many rakahs a day you pray.
Âishah described the Prophet thus: His character was the Quran. Be the type of husband that a wife describes in such a manner.
Remember that as a qawwâm, you are responsible and accountable for the well-being of your household and those under your care.
The Messenger (PBUH) of Allah said:
Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amîr (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock…
5. Be friends before you become spouses
That might sound odd (or not) – but we often put so much pressure on ourselves to fulfill a role (husband/wife), that we forget to get to know each other as friends first. Every marriage will go through ups and downs, intimately and otherwise… and you’ll be surprised to realize how much having a solid, sincere friendship can pull you through the hard times.
One example of RasûlAllah’s “friendship” with his wives is his relationship with Sawdah bint Zamah. She was the first woman whom he married after the death of Khadijah, and although she was considered to be elderly and not as beautiful as the other women whom he would later marry, their relationship was one of camaraderie, confidence, and laughter.
6. Don’t be embarrassed or ignorant of female biology
Learn about it – from menstruation to female sexuality to pregnancy and everything else. You need to know this stuff – it will impact your life significantly, intimately and otherwise. Don’t laugh it off or act as though it’s not worth your time and attention. Women’s health is sorely misunderstood, and having a disinterested (or worse, disgusted) husband can make things even more difficult for women.
The Prophet (PBUH) did not shy away from these matters, either as a husband or as a Messenger of Allah. Instead, he constantly enjoined men to be aware of and sensitive to their wives’ needs – just as he was with his wives.
Narrated Umm Salamah:
While I was laying with the Prophet (PBUH) under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. I slipped away and put on the clothes for menses. He said, “Have you got “nifâs” (menses)?” I replied, “Yes.” He then called me and made me lie with him under the same sheet.
7. Be responsible
Being “a good Muslim husband” doesn’t just mean fulfilling the basic rights as a husband and leaving it at that. Being a good Muslim husband means that you are on the ball as a responsible adult – whether it’s paying the bills, taking out the trash, cleaning a mess in the house, or being an engaged father (not ‘babysitting’). Doing these things is not a “kindness to the wife,” or “helping out at home.” It’s not “extra credit” and deserving of lavish praise. It is part and parcel of being a grown man responsible for his surroundings, his family, and himself. Do these things out of mindfulness that Allah will never waste your efforts for His Sake.
I asked Âishah what did the Prophet use to do at home. She replied. “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.” (Bukhâri)
I was asked, “What did the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, do in his house?” I said, “The Prophet was a man among men. He would remove fleas from his clothes, milk his sheep, and serve himself.” (Musnad Ahmad 25662, authenticated by Al-Albani)
8. Don’t pursue your nawâfil at the expense of your wife’s farâ’iḍ
One issue that many men fall into is that in their zeal to engage more in ibâda, they end up burdening their wives even more – to the extent that she is barely able to pray her five ṣalawât with khushû. Both spouses should encourage and facilitate opportunities for each other to strengthen as Muslims, but mothers of young children especially need their husbands to step up so that they can have the necessary time they need to reconnect with Allah and flourish spiritually. (And no, that doesn’t just mean five minutes here and there.)
Ramadan is a time when this becomes more obvious than ever – for example, many men will go to Ṣalat Al-Ṭarâwîḥ while leaving their wives to deal with the children, in addition to having cooked ifṭâr beforehand. On a daily basis, though, go out of your way to facilitate your wife’s ibâda and spiritual connection.
Narrated Abû Juḥaifah:
The Prophet (PBUH) made a bond of brotherhood between Salmân Al-Fârisi and Abû Al-Dardâ’. Salmân paid a visit to Abû Al-Dardâ’ and found Umm Al-Dardâ’ dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied, “Your brother Abû Al-Dardâ’ is not interested in (the luxuries of) this world.”
In the meantime Abû Al-Dardâ’ came and prepared a meal for Salmân. Salmân requested Abû Al-Dardâ’ to eat (with him), but Abû Al-Dardâ’ said, “I am fasting.” Salmân said, “I am not going to eat unless you eat.”
So, Abû Al-Dardâ’ ate (with Salmân). When it was night and (a part of the night had passed), Abû Al-Dardâ’ got up (to offer the night prayer), but Salmân told him to sleep and Abû Al-Dardâ’ slept.
After sometime Abû Al-Dardâ’ again got up but Salmân told him to sleep. When it was the last hours of the night, Salmân told him to get up then, and both of them offered the prayer.
Salmân told Abû Al-Dardâ’, “Your Lord has a right on you, your soul has a right on you, and your family has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who has a right on you.”
Abû Al-Dardâ’ came to the Prophet œ and narrated the whole story. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Salmân has spoken the truth.”
9. Learn conflict resolution skills
One big reason that couples end up going to Shuyûkh for counseling is because they simply haven’t learned how to communicate and resolve conflicts in a healthy manner. It’s not even about one specific issue or another; it’s about learning how to deal with whatever issues arise, in the most respectful and appropriate manner possible.
The Quran and Sunnah urge positive reconciliation between believers, and especially between husbands and wives.
And live with them honourably. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good. [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:19]
And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement is best. And present in [human] souls is stinginess. But if you do good and fear Allah – then indeed Allah is ever with what you do, Acquainted. [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:128]
10. Love your wife for who she is
Not because she’s the person who cooks for you or does your laundry. Not because she’s the mother of your child(ren). Not because you’ve settled into routine and you feel comfortable having her around and she knows how to work the coffee maker and where the family’s paperwork is filed. Love her for her. Her personality traits, her talents, her hobbies, the things about her that make her unique.
Notice them, appreciate them, compliment them. Let her know that you don’t just see her as wife or mother, but as an individual on her own. Know that long before she married you, indeed long before she was born to her own parents, she was created as a separate soul – a human being whose primary identity is as a slave of Allah.
And most importantly – let her know that you love her, with all the pride and openness that RasûlAllah (PBUH) demonstrated when he was asked, “Who do you love most?” and he responded, simply and beautifully, “Âishah.” (Source: Bukhari)
There are of course numerous other pieces of advice that can be dispensed on the topic – everything from giving gifts to resolving in-law issues to arranging date-nights and so on. However, more important than specific behaviours are the principles behind them – and it these principles which have been highlighted.
In short, Muslim men should strive to match the standards set by RasûlAllah (PBUH) when he said:
The best of you are those who are the best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.