In this counseling answer:
“With all your compassion and love, be patient and do not force her, but seek to improve your knowledge and understanding. Practice compassion and love in the home so that she may bear witness and that your deeds may soften her heart. Give her space and sleep separately. If there is to be union, let it come from her willingly.”
As-Salamu ‘Alaykum brother,
Indeed, your journey has been a long one, and we ask you not to weaken now at a time when the forces against you seem so strong. You seem to be well rooted in Islam, so, like a tree, try to claim your rights and take further nourishment from that which feeds you.
If there was an error in making this marriage, then it was the basis on which you wed. Even though in your soul you wanted to get married to a practicing Muslim, you heart confused your wife’s attributes with your soul’s desire. It might seem like a strange thing to say, but from all what you have been willing to share with us, it seems that you are a blessing sent to this family. The brother you met in Germany gave you sound advice, and you have tried to do your best with what your wife’s parents have failed to do. It may even be that her father was relieved by your offer of marriage as compensation for the rest of his children.
“It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said to his uncle at the time of his death: ‘Make a profession of it that there is no god but Allah and I will bear testimony (of your being a Muslim) on the Day of Judgment.’ But he (Abu Talib) refused to do so. Then Allah revealed this verse: ‘Verily thou canst not guide to the right path whom thou lovest. And it is Allah Who guideth whom He will and He knoweth best who are the guided’ (xxviii. 56).” (Muslim)
This does not mean that there is nothing to be done. In fact, there is a lot that you can do, but even as Islam is a religion of knowledge, it is also based on choice and free will. Isn’t it better that your wife returns to Islam of her own choice and with conviction?
Qadar (fate, predestination) can sometimes be a difficult concept to understand, but within the world of the seen and the unseen, the laws of Allah (swt) cannot be changed. Even though it might seem that total submission, without question, without proof, and without understanding, is what is expected, how much we understand and are able to apply is up to us.
“Surely, there are people who worship Allah (swt) out of the desire for reward, and this is the worship of traders. Surely, there are people who worship Allah (swt) out of fear of punishment, and this is the worship of slaves. And surely there are people who worship Allah (swt) out of gratitude, and this is the worship of the free” – said fourth caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib who was raised by Prophet Muhammad (saw).
If the direction in life that your wife seems to want to take was meant to be then she would not have married you. It might sound strange, but there is the story of a drug addict, a single mother, who had her children taken away temporarily by Social Services. The children would be returned to her on condition that she should ‘clean up her act’, so she did.
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The mother took some evening classes, found a respectable job, cleaned up her apartment and distanced herself from the kind of friends that led her astray and the day came for inspection by Social Services. That day was the evening before her children were to be returned. Her apartment was inspected and lying on the top of the garbage bin was a needle. As hard as it was for the Social Worker, she could not approve the return of the children. With shock and dismay, the mother cried for their return, but the decision remained because although the mother had temporarily relapsed out of nervousness, the leaving of the needle on top of the garbage bin was a deliberate act. Subconsciously, she feared failing at what she had worked so hard to become again – a mother!
What has this to do with your wife? Why did she become your wife? It could be because she thought somehow that although her father had accepted you because you love Islam, you were a new Muslim and ,therefore, not conversant with Islam.
On both counts, this proved to be a fortunate proposal from her point of view. She knew how much you loved Islam, after all, you had discussed it with her quite a bit before marriage. Yet, for her, this could be countered by the kind of relationship you had before marriage which was not Islamic. You helped to set her free from practicing Muslim parents as her emotions desired. But is this really what her fitrah (pure nature) wants?
Your wife has remained with you all this time and has given birth to two beautiful sons. And even though, as you say, “sex doesn’t happen without a struggle; she’s very cold and selfish in bed,” to an extent she does concede. I repeat what the brother said to you, “…give her more time.”
“Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason? And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].” (Quran 2:44-45)
Do her threats of divorce go beyond threats? If not, enjoy being a father to the sons that Allah (swt) has blessed you with, for you have helped germinate the seed of Islam that is growing inside of them. As your sons, they are more your responsibility than hers as they grow older. Do not let her words and deeds harm you or them, but do not react to them and then maybe one day she will stop long enough to return to the road to Islam.
Yes, Allah (swt) hates divorce, but know that Allah (swt) is All Merciful. If in your heart of hearts you feel that you cannot continue, then it is within your right to divorce or to seek a second wife. However, be prepared for a difficult separation as far as the children are concerned. Seek Istikharah (supplication for guidance) and wait. Perhaps, what you have to offer to this marriage will be a sign to her brother and sisters; this is under the Will of Allah (swt).
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.