When I first started studying the Deen of Islam in-depth, I harbored an almost ‘awestruck’ respect and reverence of practicing, religious Muslims; the way a teenaged, star-struck fan admires a popular celebrity in modern-day pop culture.
The idyllic picture of their personal lives that I’d painted in my naive young brain was based on my admiration of their lofty morals.
I assumed that the more righteous a person was, the more perfect and discord-free their personal and family life would be. I presumed that they would never have any disagreements with other Muslims, much less with their close family members.
More than a decade later, today, I know better, both because of my personal life experience and as a result of gaining some knowledge of Islam since those bygone days of youthful naiveté.
Below I’d like to share some of the truthful facts about the marriages and family lives of righteous Muslims that Allah has allowed me to glean through the study of His Book and of the seerah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), including the lives of some of his companions.
Fighting & Differences
I have learnt that, even if both a husband and wife are very righteous and Allah-fearing, it is not possible for their married life to be devoid of differences and the occasional fighting.
A happy marriage between two righteous people does not mean a complete absence of fighting and disagreements between them, nor is it true that neither spouse will never dislike something about the other.
After marriage, every husband-wife duo will have to live through some days in which they are very angry at their partner; ticked off about something the latter did or said.
Being human, we all have shortcomings, and we all make mistakes, and after marriage, our mistakes and sins do hurt our spouse – the one person who lives with us day in and day out.
Several examples of this glaring reality of marriage viz. the presence of disagreements between righteous husbands and wives are present in the Quran and sunnah.
The first example is that of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his wives, when he once became so angry at them all, that he vowed to not speak to or visit any of them for a month. This incident created quite a furor in Madinah and shows us that, even though the Prophet and his wives were the most righteous of this ummah, and all of them were destined for Jannah, their married lives were not without the occasional fights and undercurrents of anger.
There were even days when the Prophet’s wives got upset with him, as proved by another relevant hadith that mentions how, during such times, when Aisha daughter of Abu Bakr would be upset with her husband, she’d swear by Allah by saying, “By the Lord of Ibrahim”, instead of, “By the Lord of Muhammad”, the latter being her normal preference. Another narration mentions how his wife Hafsah bint `Umar admitted to not talking to him sometimes during the day, in front of her father `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them all).
Another famous incident that is quoted in sahih ahadith, mentions how Ali ibn Abi Talib got his nickname ‘Abu Turab’ from his father-in-law, the Prophet. Ali once left his home in a huff after a disagreement with his wife, Fatimah daughter of Muhammad (may Allah be pleased with them both), and lay down on the dusty masjid floor so that some of his clothes/body got covered in dust.
This is indicative of how the happy marriage of Ali and Fatimah, one of the most righteous married couples in Islamic history, was not devoid of disagreements either.
An important point to note about this incident is that even though the Prophet clearly saw that Ali was angry, he lovingly called him by a nickname (perhaps to appease him?), which means that the older, close family members of the quarreling married couple (especially their parents and parents-in-law) should not make a big hullabaloo about their occasional trivial tiffs, unless the fighting gets serious in nature.
Hardship & Scarcity of Resources
The next fact based on real life, which my studies of the Quran and sunnah have taught me over the years, about marriages between righteous couples, is that they are almost always tested by the afflictions of hunger, hardship and/or straitened economic circumstances.
It is true that Prophet Muhammad deliberately chose to live a life of poverty, despite having full access to worldly resources that could allow him to live like a rich king (especially later on in his life), and all his wives supported him in this choice.
Allah had actually revealed Quranic verses offering his wives a choice: either they choose Allah and (staying married to) His Messenger whilst living in hardship, or they go for the luxuries of this worldly life. They all unanimously chose the latter, without hesitation.
However, there are other examples too. The Quran has made praiseworthy mention of a Muslim couple during the time of the Prophet, who honored and cared for their unexpected overnight guest to such a degree, that they both agreed to sacrifice the only single meal in their house that night, which was reserved just for their children, in order to serve it to their guest. They turned off the lamp before eating so that their guest would not find out that they were not eating anything.
Sahih Muslim has also recorded a narration about this incident. The Arabic word that Allah uses in the Quran to describe their situation is “khasasah”, which means, poverty, or dire need.
Whichever the era in time since Islam came to this world, one constant thing that I have observed in the biographical accounts of the lives of our pious predecessors (al-salaf al-salih) is that they endured poverty and hunger.
Young singles of this ummah who wish to marry someone righteous and henceforth live a life upon the Deen of Islam, should therefore be forewarned that the trial of hunger and poverty might come from Allah as a test of their marriage, but to recall that, as it is the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, it definitely has a lot of good in it.
If the husband and wife are able to weather this trial with patience and righteousness, they will emerge from it stronger and closer to Allah, both as a couple as well as individuals, Insha’Allah.
Separation by Long Distance
Lastly, yet another trying experience that many real life marriages endure, especially those between righteous couples, is being separated for a long time in the path/for the sake of Allah.
Many a time, if her husband is a da’ee who is actively involved in the propagation of Allah’s Deen, a wife will have to endure days, weeks if not months or years without him at home, living either with his extended family or just with her children, alone, busy raising their next generation.
However, it is not just du’at whose marriages are tested by the separation of husband and wife for long times. Sometimes, when the husband loses his job (which happens a lot, in many marriages, cue point number two above) and the family is direly in need of an income, the only job offer that Allah might send his way could be in another city or country.
However, modern government-enforced visa and immigration restrictions as well as other factors related to the schooling/upbringing of their children, sometimes prevent a wife from joining her husband in the other country where he works, leading to weeks if not months of separation, which takes a toll on their marriage.
The prime example of this in Islamic history, whence a righteous couple endured a trying separation for the sake of Allah, is that of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his wife Hajar. He left her and their infant son Ismael in the barren and desolate valley of Makkah, at the command of Allah, so that it could eventually become inhabited and the house of Allah could be built there.
Any modern-day Muslim couple who wishes to marry a righteous person and eventually live a married life according to superlative levels of taqwa, piety, and faith, should recall the marital challenges faced by our pious predecessors and how they faced the difficulties after getting married with exemplary patience (sabr).
The path to Jannah is thorny, but with a righteous spouse by one’s side, it becomes easier to tread than when trodden alone.