In this article , sister Sabeeha Rehman gives a summary of an interesting session that was part of ISNA 2016 program entitled “The Spiritual Marriage: Love for the Sake of Allah”
Speakers: Heather Laird Jackson, Sohaib Sultan
Begin before you begin
“Preparing the foundation for a marital home begins at the pre-marital stage.” I looked across the hall at Heather Jackson, clinical psychologist and cultural consultant. I am sure she is not proposing ‘dating’. But she is proposing ‘get to know one another’. I leaned forward.
Four Leading Causes of Marital Conflict
The couple must discuss these in the pre-marital phase:
- Financial: their views on managing finances
- Sexual: the expectations
- In-laws: to what extent will they be involved in their lives.
- Raising children: their views, particularly in interfaith marriages.
Do Your Due Diligence
Ask these questions:
-Role of spouse?
I am not sure what she means by that. But hang on. There is a Q&A
Discuss your views on spirituality. Prayer and fasting does not necessarily cultivate spiritual awareness. Talk about how you enjoy and develop spirituality.
Be aware of character weaknesses e.g. jealousy and arrogance. Come to an understanding that ‘we are in this together and are a benefit to each other.’
Communication is key. Learn early on how to do this.
Meet with the family and see what they are like.
It is important not only to know his/her views, but the degree to which the prospective spouse is flexible. No one can predict how one will respond to changing circumstances, but it will be helpful to know if there is a willingness to bend and compromise.
By having this conversation, you will be able to predict what life together will be like, there will be less unwelcome surprises, and you will be prepared to welcome your life together.
I get it. If an employer sees the value in conducting a background check for an applicant, why should a prospective couple shy away from having a crucial conversation.
Khadija Covered Him with a Blanket of Love
Imam Sohaib Sultan reminded the audience that marriage has a purpose: to draw spouses together to dwell in tranquility and be a source of beauty for one another. Allah has placed loved and compassion between the hearts of husband and wife. Khadija did more than cover Prophet Muhammad (SAW) with a blanket; she covered him with love and blanketed him with comfort.
I had not thought of this analogy. It’s beautiful!
We Oversell Marriage
Imam Sultan startled me with his next statement: “We oversell marriage.” Marriage is talked about as a way to solve problems. It is a blessing and a Sunnah, but it is not a medicine or Band-Aid. It is a sacred relationship with rights and responsibilities toward one another. If those R&Rs are violated, it becomes a tribulation. We can’t say: if he gets married, everything will be fine. It doesn’t work that way.
Makes sense. And it takes courage to say that.
Even the best marriages are a trial. It has to be that way. Why? Because the purpose of marriage is to grow in our relationship with Allah, and build up our values that Allah has enjoined.
How is that?
Marriage requires us to be engaged faithfully.
Marriage enjoins patience.
Marriage encourages forgiveness and compassion. If you start holding grudges in a marriage, it will weaken your relationship.
Marriage makes you confront your shortcomings.
Marriage is the testing ground and the spiritual playground in which you discover the beauty of Allah.
Spirituality in Marriage
For starters, don’t assume what the spiritual needs of the spouse are. If you seek spirituality in prayer, don’t assume that your spouse does too. She or he may find a connection with Allah while taking a nature walk. Find out what his or her source of spirituality is, and invest time in enjoying the spiritual banquet—take that nature walk together. May Allah unite you in all that is good.
My Question is Answered
And I didn’t even have to ask.
Q: How do you approach the question of ‘genetics?’
A: Genograms, Heather explained, is the history of generations. It identifies patterns of behavior in the family, and if these are identified in the pre-marital phase, they can be worked on and corrected. There may be a history of domestic violence in the family. In such cases, people choose spouses who continue that trend. Counselors can break the cycle by helping people choose the right spouse. Mental health professionals do this testing in the first session.
This, I have to admit, was news to me.
Q: How does one manage living with in-laws?
A: Often there is an expectation that the in-laws will live with the couple after they reach a certain age. Clearly, one of the spouses has never known the in-laws, and there is that tension.
To resolve this, ask if it is in the best interest of both parties to be living together? Would it be better if the in-laws live close by? Sharing of spaces is hard; people are territorial.
Seek premarital counseling. Imam Sohaib will not perform a marriage ceremony unless they do pre-marital counseling. Heather recommended that the couple set boundaries in pre-marital discussion, e.g. you will not call my mother names. And if at a later stage a decision is made to live together, get marital counseling.
Why Wait Till Marriage?
Q: How do we cultivate our youth so that these issues don’t develop?
A: Youth development starts with the parents. They have to set a good example. Your children are watching you; they see how you share, and how you work through your problems. Counselors: teach them the language of emotions i.e. listening, non-verbal communication; and empower them on dealing with the opposite sex.
Remember, there is always a third party in a marriage. Allah. He is watching. Keep that in mind and it will bring you closer.