Friday, May 7, 2010

Tips for a Better Husband and Wife Relationship

Although many Muslims may right now be in failing marriages and on a fast track to divorce and its terrible consequences, there are many ways to put their marriage back on the right track if the husband and wife are sincere in their desire to reconcile. The following principles can be used by Muslims whose marriages are already in trouble or by Muslims who would like to avoid trouble in their marriage.

Examples of Negative
Relationship of Husband & Wife

Many Muslim husbands and wives treat each other like adversaries rather than partners. The husband feels that he is the boss, and whatever he says goes. The wife feels that she must squeeze everything she can out of her husband. Some wives never show their husband that they are satisfied with anything he does or buys for them in order to trick him into doing and buying more. They make him feel like a failure if he does not give them the lifestyle that their friends and families enjoy. Some husbands speak very harshly to their wives, humiliate them, and even physically abuse them. Their wives have no voice or opinion in the family.

Marriage In The Eyes of Allah

It is very sad that this relationship which Allah (SWT) has established for the good has been made a source of contention, deception, trickery, tyranny, humiliation, and abuse. This is not the way marriage is supposed to be.


Allah (SWT) described marriage very differently in the Holy Quran: '. . . He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts) . . . " (Holy Quran 30:21, Yusuf Ali Translation).

Do not be a Tyrant

Regardless of whether or not Islam has made the husband the head of the household, Muslims are not supposed to be dictators and tyrants. We are taught to treat our wives well. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was reported to have said: 'The most perfect Muslim in the matter of faith is one who has excellent behavior; and the best among you are those who behave best towards their wives" (From Mishkat al-Masabih, No. 0278(R) Transmitted by Tirmidhi).

Be Partners in the Decision Making Process.

Follow the principle of 'Shura," and make decisions as a family. There will be much more harmony in the family when decisions are not imposed and everyone feels that they had some part in making them.

Never be Emotionally

Never be emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive to your spouse. The Prophet (SAWS) never mistreated his wives. He is reported to have said: 'How could they beat their women in daytime as slaves and then sleep with them in the night?"

Be Careful of Your Words

Be very careful what you say when you are upset. Sometimes you will say things that you would never say when you were not angry. If you are angry, wait until you calm down before continuing the conversation.

Show Affection

Show affection for your mate. Be kind, gentle, and loving.

Be Your Spouse's Friend

Show interest in your mate's life. Too often, we live in the same house but know nothing about each other's lives. It would be great if the husband and wife could work together for the same cause or on the same project. They could perhaps establish a husband/wife prison ministry, take care of orphans in their home, or lead an Islamic weekend class.

Show Appreciation

Show appreciation for what your spouse does for the family. Never make your husband feel that he is not doing good enough for the family or that you are not satisfied with his work or his efforts, unless, of course, he is truly lazy and not even trying to provide for the family. The Prophet (SAWS) was reported to have said: 'On the Day of Judgment, God will not look upon the woman who has been ungrateful to her husband." (where is this hadith found) Show your wife that you appreciate her. If she takes care of the house and the children, don't take it for granted. It is hard work, and no one likes to feel unappreciated.

Work Together in the House

The Prophet (SAWS) is known to have helped his wives in the house. And if the Prophet (SAWS) was not above doing housework, modern Muslim husbands shouldn't feel that they are.

Communication is Important

Communication, Communication, Communication! This is the big word in counseling. And it should be. Husbands and wives need to talk to each other. It is better to deal with problems early and honestly than to let them pile up until an explosion occurs.

Forget Past Problems

Don't bring up past problems once they have been solved.

Live Simply

Don't be jealous of those who seem to be living a more luxurious life than your family. The 'rizq" is from Allah (SWT). In order to develop the quality of contentment, look at those people who have less than you, not those who have more. Thank Allah (SWT) for the many blessings in your life.

Give Your Spouse Time Alone

If your mate doesn't want to be with you all the time, it doesn't mean he or she doesn't love you. People need to be alone for various reasons. Sometimes they want to read, to think about their problems, or just to relax. Don't make them feel that they are committing a sin.

Admit Your Mistakes

When you make a mistake, admit it. When your mate makes a mistake, excuse him or her easily. If possible, never go to sleep angry with each other.

Physical Relationship is Important

Be available to your mate sexually, and don't let your sexual relationship be characterized by selfishness. The Prophet (SAWS) was reported to have said: 'It is not appropriate that you fall upon your wives like a beast but you must send a message of love beforehand."

Have Meals Together

Try to eat together as a family when possible. Show the cook and the dishwasher, whether it is the husband or the wife, appreciation for his or her efforts. The Prophet (SAWS) did not complain about food that was put before him.

Be Mindful of Your discussion Topics

Never discuss with others things about your marriage that your spouse wouldn't like you to discuss, unless there is an Islamic reason to do so. Some husbands and wives, believe it or not, complain to others about their mate's physical appearance. This is a recipe for disaster. Information about your intimate relations should be kept between you and your spouse.


Many of us treat our spouses in ways that we would never treat others. With others, we try to be polite, kind, and patient. With our spouses, we often do not show these courtesies. Of course, we are usually with our spouses at our worst times --- when we are tired and frustrated after a hard day. After a bad day at the office, husbands usually come home angry and on edge. The wife has probably also had a hard day with the children and the housework. Wives and husbands should discuss this potential time bomb so that if they are short-tempered with each other during these times, they will understand the reasons rather than automatically thinking that their spouse no longer loves them.

Good marriages require patience, kindness, humility, sacrifice, empathy, love, understanding, forgiveness, and hard work. Following these principles should help any marriage to improve. The essence of them all can be summed up in one sentence: Always treat your spouse the way you would like to be treated. If you follow this rule, your marriage will have a much greater chance for success. If you discard this rule, failure is just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Muslim Women Working Outside the Home

Many families, especially in the West, consider it normal and even necessary for the wife to have a job outside the home---either to make ends meet or to make it possible for the family to maintain a certain quality of life. Presented below is an Islamic view on women working outside the home.

Disintegration of Families:

However, the family in the West is disintegrating, and many believe that this lifestyle is a major part of the problem. With the mother and father both working outside the home, the children's lives are often filled with loneliness, lack of training, and perhaps frustration and anger with their rarely present parents. These children are often left in the hands of baby-sitters (some good, some not-so-good, and some really bad) and the infamous one-eyed baby-sitter, the TV. The parents goal of improving their family's financial situation by having two breadwinners often backfires, and the family is sometimes harmed or destroyed in the process.

Muslim Households
Affected by Western Lifestyle


Muslims in the West are now beginning to face this same problem. Many Muslim women are now pursuing higher education and careers in such fields as medicine, law, education, computers, and engineering. When they get married, they may want to continue working in their chosen profession.

Potential Problems for
Ladies Working Outside their Homes


Depending on how the situation is handled, this could cause major upheavals in the Muslim family. Several potential problems might arise.

The husband may feel jealous or worried about his wife who has the chance of being flirted with by male coworkers, forced at times to work alone with males, or even sexually harassed at work, Although wearing hijab, conducting herself in a purely professional manner, and drawing the line with male coworkers when necessary may prevent these problems, the potential for danger is still there.

Less Quality Time Together

Moreover, with both husband and wife employed outside the home, the opportunities for the husband and wife to spend quality time together may be dramatically decreased, especially if they have different work hours.

Household Responsibilities Unattended

A major problem that often comes up in this kind of marriage is determining who is responsible for certain aspects of taking care of the household. Although it might be possible to hire a person to help with the cooking and the cleaning of the house, security and privacy might be sacrificed. If a relative is available to help, such as a live-in mother or mother-in-law, it might be easier. However, if nothing like that is available, tension may be inevitable. Although the husband definitely needs to help in the house, he is the one who has the ultimate responsibility for supporting the family, and he may feel that he should not be expected to work outside the home and cook and clean the house as well. He might feel that since his wife is not obligated to work outside the house and if they don't need the additional income, she should take care of the house. Arguments about household responsibilities are likely to become commonplace.

Women Taking Jobs Away from Women

An indirect problem caused by more and more women working outside the home is that sometimes men, who have the ultimately responsibility for providing financial support to their families, cannot find adequate jobs because so many are taken by women to earn extra income or merely to satisfy their desire to have a career.

These serious problems for the family and the society might occur even before any children are born. They will likely get worse afterward. In addition, other problems will likely arise.

Mother's Return to Work
May Affect Her Child

If a child is born, decisions must be made about whether or not the mother will return to work and, if so, when? Some jobs expect the woman to return to work very soon after the child is born. Others may allow her to take off more time to be with her child without the risk of losing her job. In addition, the parents must consider how the mother's returning to work will affect their child. Mildred M. El-Amin writes in Family Roots: The Quranic View of Family Life:

'Who Will Care for My Child," an article in the January 1989 edition of Plain Truth magazine, written by Sheila Graham, presents some important considerations for new mothers. More and more experts are acknowledging that infants and toddlers do not thrive physically, mentally and emotionally in day-care institutions. Research reveals, '...babies under the care of someone other than their mother for more than 20 hours a week during the first year of life are adversely affected...are insecure and more likely to be excessively aggressive and uncooperative in school."

The article continues, 'Human infants acquire more knowledge before they are a year old than they will in any other comparable year of their lives. By the time the baby is 5 or 6 months old, most mental and physical abilities that are acquired will depend upon the response and interest of parents, especially the mother." . . . Too long have women's value as the primary nurturers and educators of their children been devalued and downgraded. Women who choose to stay home with their children must never again feel they need to apologize for their occupation. Many of the devastating problems we see with our children today are rooted in a lack of bonding with parents in the early years of life, particularly a lack of mothering. The needs of new mothers are approached in a much more civilized manner in some other parts of the world than in the United States: In Sweden, following child birth, women receive 90% of their gross income for nine months; Soviet mothers receive full salary for 1 and 1/2 to 2 years, and 50 to 75% for the third year, and are guaranteed their job; British women receive 18 weeks maternity leave; French women receive 16 weeks. In the U.S., the average is one month maternity leave, and often this is without pay. (1991, 192-193)

Who Will Take Care of Children

If both mother and father work outside the home, how will they arrange for taking care of the children? They could try to arrange their schedules so that one parent will always be able to be with the children. However, if they work different shifts so that one can always be home with the children, they will inevitably have very little time to be together as husband and wife and as a family.

Hiring a Baby-sitter

If they hire someone to baby-sit their children, they may sacrifice some of their security, their privacy, and their children's best interest. A baby-sitter can look after their child, but she will not care as much about their child as its parents do. She will have more priorities than insuring that their child is properly trained and taught. If she spends 8 hours a day with their child, three hours may be spent on the telephone and three watching television. The other two hours their child may be napping. She may be with their child, but it may not be the quality time the child needs and deserves.

Screening a Baby-sitter

In addition, parents must not only be concerned about the quality of the actual baby-sitting, they must be extremely careful about the person they allow to baby-sit their child. They must either have personal knowledge of the person's character and integrity or be able to verify through a reliable source their character and integrity. Merely getting a reference from the baby-sitter and calling is not enough since baby-sitters can use a friend or relative as a fake reference. The parents will be leaving their child with this person. They should not leave their child with someone they would not even trust their car or money with. The same is unfortunately true for day-care centers. In the past years, some day-cares have come under intense scrutiny for their alleged mistreatment and abuse of children. Again, having a relative or very close friend available to watch the children will help. But this is not always possible. With older children, taking them to school during the day will help if the parents work at the same time the child is in school.

More Time in Daycare = Less Quality Time with Parents

No matter how good the care, children who grow up with baby-sitters and in day-cares and who have little quality time with their mother and father will likely be negatively affected. For some, it may be extremely harmful to their personalities and their development. Parents in this situation will have to decide whether or not the mother's working outside the house is worth the risk.

Women Working Outside
may Lead to Marital Problems


For many women, working outside the home will be a major problem and may ultimately lead to separation, divorce, and the destruction of her family.

When is it Desirable
for Women to Work Outside


Although the mother's working outside the home is clearly risky, there are situations where it might be necessary. Sometimes, a husband is truly unable to financially support the family alone, and the additional income of the wife is truly necessary. Moreover, some jobs, such as women doctors and nurses for women, are needed by the Muslim community as a whole. Also, some women may feel an emotional need to do some kind of work. They may feel the need to help others, to find solutions to the problems in the world, or to be active members of the society. They may not only want to work because they need the money, but because they feel the need to find an outlet for what they consider their God-given talents and abilities.

In Family Life in Islam, Khurshid Ahmad writes: ÒA man's major responsibilities lie outside the family. He is to support the family economically and materially . . . . . A woman's major responsibilities lie within the family." (34)

Although it seems that Allah () has not required women to go outside and work to support the family, it seems that it is not prohibited in certain circumstances. In Woman in Shariah (Islamic Law), Abdur Rahman I. Doi writes : 'Islam does not require women to participate in trade, the vocations or professions unless it is very necessary. . . . [T]he realm of activities for which men and women are created requires a woman to look after her matrimonial home, bring up children in a befitting manner and so on. If she is not neglectful of these duties, or she has reliable household help available to look after her children and relieve her of some of her domestic work, while at the same time she needs a little income to supplement her husband's earning, there is no objection in the Shariah if she goes out to work, but only with the consent of her husband." (147)

Question to Ask:
Is Working Outside Beneficial to Family


The question though does not necessarily come down to whether it is allowed or prohibited in Islam for the woman to work outside the home. Many will be able to establish a position that for them it is allowed. However, the essential question is whether it is beneficial or harmful to the family.

Since many Muslim women today are opting to pursue careers, solutions to the many problems pointed out above must be found.

Some Desirable Occupations for Women

There are several kinds of work that a Muslim woman can do to supplement her or her families income without seriously affecting her family or risking her honor: working from home; teaching women or children; and working as a nurse or doctor especially in obstetrics, gynecology, or pediatrics are a few possibilities.

Women can Work From their Homes

Although in the past, home-based businesses for women often meant child-care, typing, sewing, making clothes, or making handicrafts, the modern trend of the home-office has changed this drastically. Today, many other jobs can be done from home. Writers, editors, artists, software developers, researchers, web-page designers, inventors, publishers, telemarketers, and many others are now able to work in their home-offices. It might even be possible to establish medical businesses from home with doctors or nurses making house calls rather than working in a hospital or medical office.

Benefits of Working From Home

Working in a home-office would also allow the wife and mother to be more flexible with her schedule, to work it around her husband and children's schedules and, thus, provide a better home environment. Encouraging younger women who are preparing for a possible career to choose one that can be done from home would be a wise start toward solving the problem of Muslim working women.

Women Working Part-Time in Outside jobs

However, if Muslim women decide to pursue careers that are not able to be done in the home, they might be encouraged to work only part-time. They can still have a career, but spend more time with the family as well. Since most Muslim women who have careers do not really need the money, and since many companies would be happy to hire them part-time in order to avoid having to provide fringe benefits to them, this is probably a viable solution for many. It would also free up many jobs for men who need them to support their families.

Performing Charity
Work to Keep Oneself Busy

If Muslim women just want to work and don't need the money, they can also do charity work as they like on their own schedule. They can utilize their talents and abilities and still have time to devote to their families.

The important thing is that we should start encouraging female Muslims who want to have a career to plan ahead for a career or a work situation that will not cause too much upheaval in the family and that will be best for the children. If they are really concerned about what is best for the wife, the husband, and the children, each family should be able to come up with a plan that can work for all.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Ideal Muslim Husband: A Review

Most Muslim men would like to be ideal husbands. And most Muslim women would, no doubt, like to be married to one. But, for some reason, the men are not ideal husbands, and the women will almost surely admit that they didn't marry one. So, why the discrepancy between our sincere aspirations and reality? Is it an inability on the part of the man, an impossible goal; or is it perhaps that we do not even know what an ideal Muslim husband is?

Wrong Concept of an Ideal Husband

A look at the matrimonial section of an Islamic magazine will quickly demonstrate that many Muslim men and women do not know what an ideal Muslim husband is. Muslim men looking for wives advertise themselves as doctors, engineers, and financially secure. Muslim women appear to be on the lookout for an established professional or more likely a handsome MD. Rarely do Muslim men and women even mention character, religious convictions, and attitudes as a priority. At most, they might be mentioned as a sidebar. It seems that many of us believe that a man is an ideal Muslim husband if he is handsome, makes a lot of money, and comes from an influential family. And the divorce rate among Muslims continues to rise.

Standard of Judging an Ideal Husband

As Muslims, we must base our judgment on what makes an ideal Muslim husband on the guidance of Allah () and the example of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), not on the standards of a TV sitcom, the culture in which we were born, or our own materialistic mentality.

Participants on this Video

Using examples from the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), the words of the Holy Quran, and personal experience, a panel of Muslim men and women --- Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Abdallah Idris Ali, Dr. Ingrid Mattison, Khadija Haffagee, Mariam Bhabha, and Abdul Malik Mujahid --- talk about the qualities of a Muslim husband and the Muslim family.

Main Contents of this Video

They discuss such matters as a husband taking advice from his wife, communication within the family, the husband's helping the wife in the house, consultation (Shura) within the family, being a good example for the children, overlooking bad qualities in one's wife and focusing on her good qualities, and sharing the responsibility of raising the children.

First Characteristic of an
Un-Ideal Husband: Hot Temper


A major problem in some Muslim marriages unfortunately is the husband's hot temper and harsh behavior. Some even go so far as to abuse their wives. Dr. Quick gives a word of warning to these men who often come from cultures that teach them to be tough and macho. He says that there should be no violence between husband and wife and that Muslim men should not be the kind of tyrannical fathers whose children run away and hide when their father comes home. He says that we have to separate our non-Islamic cultures from Islam. The ideal Muslim husband will base his behavior on Islam, not on his Arab, American, or Pakistani culture.

Second Characteristic of an
Un-Ideal Husband: Egoistic


Another major problem in Muslim marriages is the husband's failure to consider his wife's opinions. In fact, Abdallah Idris Ali says that the failure of the Muslim Ummah as a whole has to do with our failure in practicing the concept of Shura (consultation). People think that they are right and others are wrong, he says. We will do much better if we consider the opinions of others and let them feel that they are a part of the decision-making process. Along the same lines, Dr. Quick points out that if a woman makes a true (haqq) point, the husband should submit to it. He should in no way reject a point just because it comes from a woman. Demonstrating the huge difference between the way the Prophet (SAWS) dealt with his wives and the way Muslim men deal with their wives today, Abdallah Idris Ali tells the story of the time when Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was sleeping under one cover with his wife Ayesha, and he asked her permission to get up to pray.

Third Characteristic of an
Un-Ideal Husband: Unhelpful


The failure to help in the house and to help with the raising of the children are well-known weaknesses of husbands. The video makes it clear that Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) helped in the house, and Abdul Malik Mujahid says that a man cannot be an ideal Muslim husband, or even close to a good husband, if he leaves the responsibility of children completely to the mother. Khadija Haffagee tells the story of a father who took a three-month-old infant to pray with him and after the prayer did the 'tasbih" on the child's hand. This, she said, was training by the father. Dr. Quick warns that when training our children, we should be careful not to raise sons with a double standard where they have no household responsibilities. If we do, they will likely grow up with the attitude that they don't need to do this kind of work --- that they are above it.

Prophet: An Ideal Father

As a beautiful example of a healthy father-child relationship, Abdul Malik Mujahid tells the story of how the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) used to stand up for his daughter Fatima, kiss her, and give her his seat when she came to him. This was in an age when people preferred sons and looked down on having daughters. With this simple act, the Prophet (SAWS) showed us how to express love and affection for our children --- an essential quality for an ideal Muslim husband.

An Ideal Ex-Husband

Being an ideal Muslim husband, however, goes even farther than the marriage, Dr. Quick points out. Even after a divorce, a Muslim husband must strive to be the best ex-husband. A husband shouldn't be Mr. Kindness in marriage and then treat his wife badly in divorce, Dr. Quick says. He must divorce her in the best manner with good treatment.

Other Valuable Advises

This video goes beyond just talking about an ideal Muslim husband and deals with ways to improve the family. It attempts to prevent many marital problems by advising young people who want to get married. After informing them about what makes an ideal Muslim husband, it cautions them to be concerned about these qualities ---not just the material aspects --- when considering a prospective spouse.

In fact, what emerges from the video is that being an ideal Muslim husband has very little or nothing to do with the amount of money one has, physical beauty, or the prestige of one's job. Rather, it has to do with one's commitment to Allah (), one's knowledge of and willingness to follow the guidance of Allah () and the Prophet's example, and one's commitment to do righteousness even in difficult situations. The ideal Muslim husband should be humble, gentle, kind, considerate, caring, loving, open to good advice, willing to cooperate with others in the family rather than dictate rules, helpful in the house, involved in raising the children, and never abusive either physically or mentally.

No doubt, this is a very tall order. Becoming an ideal Muslim husband will certainly not be easy. It will take a jihad against 'jahiliyyah" thinking, selfishness, ego, vanity, anger, pride, and arrogance.

Bottom Line

Full of excellent advice, encouragement, and wisdom, this video should help any Muslim husband to improve. Although there are no guarantees that he will ever become an ideal Muslim husband, it will, InshaAllah, start him on the way.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Selecting a Marriage Partner

Marriage is recommended for partners who share a common way of life. The matrimonial partners should be able to fulfill their purpose of creation as defined by Allah. They should be able to effectively carry out their responsibility as care-takers (khalifah) of earth. They should share the common goal of building a well integrated Muslim community and be able to work harmoniously towards it.

Criteria for Selecting a Marriage Partner

Normally the criteria for selecting matrimonial mates are many: wealth, beauty, rank, character, congeniality, compatibility, religion, etc. The Quran enjoins Muslims to select partners who are good and pure (tayyib)

"Women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity "(Quran 24:26)

Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended Muslims to select those partners who are best in religion (din) and character.

"A woman may married for four reasons: for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion (and character). So marry the one who is best in the religion and character and prosper". (Bukhari and Muslim)

Prophet Muhammad (S) assured the bounty of Allah to those who wish to get married and live a pure and clean life.

"Three groups of people Allah obliged Himself to help them: Mujahid in the cause of Allah, a worker to pay his debt, and the one who wants to marry to live a chaste life". (Tirmidhi)

Freedom to Choose a Marriage Partner

Islam has given freedom of choice to those who wish to get married. The mutual choice of the would-be-spouses is given the highest consideration:

"do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner" (Quran 2:232)

The process of mate selection should be a function of a healthy balance between the freedom of choice of the would-be-spouses and consideration of the influence and consent of the parents/guardians.

The freedom of choice of those who wish to get married should not preclude the influence and consent of the parents/guardians nor should the parents/guardians ignore the wishes and consent of the would be spouses.

Falling in love is not a pre-condition for marriage in Islam. However, for the purpose of selecting an appropriate mat, the would-be-spouses are allowed to see and/or talk to each other.

Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended:

"When one of you seeks a woman in marriage, and then if he is able to have a look at whom he wishes to marry, let him do so". (Abu Dawood)

The would-be-spouse are allowed to see each other for matrimonial purposes under the direct supervision of their mahram relatives. This provision is expected to be conceived and executed with piety and modesty.

Prophet Muhammad (S) instructed:

"No man has the right to be in the privacy with a woman who is not lawful for him. Satan is their third party unless there is a mahram". (Ahmad)

The would-be-spouses residing in non-Muslim societies are recommended to enter into a pre-nuptial commitment to safeguard Islamic values and Muslim personal law.

How to Help Muslims Get Married: Tips for Imams

Imams in North America do more than deliver a weekly Khutbah and lead prayer. They are, whether they and others realize it or not, responsible for their community's emotional and psychological well-being as well.

So Imams don't just officiate marriages. They have to become involved with them as well. This role can take three main forms.

1. Being a guardian for sisters

Alhamdulillah, a large number of those converting to Islam are women. Most of these sisters should and do seek marriage with a Muslim. The problem though, is that they don't have the family support needed in seeking the right mate. In most cases they have been cast out of their families because of their conversion to Islam, or they just don't want non-Muslim family members involved in their marriage decisions.

This is where you, as an Imam, must step in .These sisters need to have a third party to advise and mediate on their behalf. Being new to the Muslim community, they don't usually know who is who and can be easily deceived. These Muslim women must be protected against abuse and deception on the part of men who may take advantage of their lack of knowledge of the community.

Imams should not wait for a sister to approach them. Once you see such a Muslima inquire discreetly if you can help in this important area of her life. She may feel shy asking you directly, so you may have to take the first step.

2. Vouching for good brothers

An Imam is a great reference for a brother who regularly attends a mosque and is Islamically involved. Helping practicing, honest and decent brothers marry with your “stamp of approval” will possibly increase their chances of getting married. Many Muslim women's parents and third party will feel a sense of assurance if an Imam vouches for a brother than if a friend or relative does.

3. Providing the right information

The Imam is also the best person to ask to confirm someone's Islamic practice. A brother may say he attends Mosque X in city Y, but this can only really be confirmed by the Imam there, who knows, for example who attends which prayers in congregation, who comes only at Juma or only on Eid.

As well, Imams are often asked for help by Muslims in their mosque and are keenly aware of their problems at some level. This can also help a third party seeking information about a prospective candidates who attends your mosque.

4. A note about Gheebah (backbiting)

While backbiting is generally forbidden by Islam, marriage investigations are an exception to this rule.

As an Imam, you may be told information about a person in confidence: financial problems, family abuse, drug and/or alcohol consumption, etc. While these and other problems should remain the business of the individual who has told you in general, in the case of marriage, you must provide complete information about someone you know has a problem.

If a father wants to know about the character of a brother who has proposed to his daughter, and you as an Imam know this brother does drugs, drinks, lies or steals, you must tell this father. His daughter's life is at stake here.

Seeking the right husband or wife is something to be commended for. It is also the responsibility of the Muslim community to help those who are seeking marriage in fulfilling this Sunnah and part of our faith.

How to Help Muslims Get Married: Tips for Parents

Sad but shocking reality: the divorce rate amongst Muslims in North America is one of the highest in the world.

According to New York-based Muslim sociologist Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Muslims in Canada and the U.S. have a divorce rate of 33 percent.

The world's highest is the general U.S. population's of 48.6 percent, followed by the United Kingdom's of 36 percent.

Many assume divorce means problems began in the course of the marriage, whether it was communication breakdown or irreconcilable differences.

But there are many difficulties that lead to divorce which could have been avoided right from the beginning. This could have happened if individuals, parents, guardians and Imams had played their role right when communication between two Muslims seeking marriage began.

Below, we give you some tips and advice of what you can do:

HOW PARENTS CAN HELP:

The older woman noticed her instantly.

The twenty-something girl was an American Muslima, her white skin and Caucasian features bore testimony to that. She was perfect for her dear son Muhsin.

As she walked closer to her, she noticed the young woman talking to someone of a darker complexion.

The woman rushed up.

“Assalamu alaykum,” she said smiling at the American Muslima.

“Wa alaykum as Salaam,” replied the sister and her friend in unison, both a bit startled by the enthusiasm and ardor with which they were being greeted.
“I would like you to marry my son,” said the woman barely inches away from the American Muslima, and making no eye contact at all with her friend.

“But, but why,” she stammered.

“Because you are white and you are wearing a Jelbab. You will make a perfect wife for my Muhsin!”

(This is based on a true story, in which the ethnicity of two of the people involved has been changed

*******

While some would be surprised at the candor and bluntness of the older woman in the above-mentioned scenario, such scenes are not uncommon. Many parents seem to think approaching a prospect out of the blue will “reserve” this person for their son/daughter.

If you as a parent want to play an effective role in helping your children seek the right mate, things have to be done differently.

1.Understand your role

Your role as a mother or father is not to be the final arbiter of your child's marriage. This may be how marriages were arranged “back home” in a Muslim country, but it is not the Islamic way. Nor is this way acceptable to most Muslims who have grown up in the West.

That said, the parents have a tremendous responsibility in the process. They:

    a. suggest individuals as prospective spouses b. thoroughly screen and check proposals, call references c. act as the third party between the two candidates
2. Talk to your kids about what you both want.

Winnipeg, Canada-based Muslim social worker Shahina Siddiqui says parents have to sit down with their kids and openly discuss what kind of husband or wife s/he is looking for.

You may live in the same household as your children and think you know them inside out, but many parents are shocked to find their kids' ideas about who they want to marry can be drastically different from what they expected.

Marrying cousin X or Y from “back home” may just not be acceptable.

Or the nice boy or girl from the local cultural community who is highly educated and very well-off financially may be of little interest to a son or daughter because of their lack of Islamic knowledge and practice.

Open-mindedness and clear communication may reveal a side of your kids that may be hard to swallow. However, you must remember that marriage primarily affects the two people involved in the relationship. They must like the person they are marrying.

3. Clearly outline the rules of meeting a potential mate

Siddiqui says parents must set boundaries as to how and when they will meet prospective candidates.

Too often, Muslims stray by thinking seeking a mate is an excuse to engage in dating. Dating occurs when a man and woman spend time alone together. This is usually not with the intention of getting involved in a long-term or serious relationship. It is just to “have fun”. There is no little to no serious discussion of future plans and/or the intention to marry.

Dating can occur amongst two Muslims seeking marriage if they want to go out alone, with no third party present to “get to know each other”. This can also develop through hours of unnecessary phone or e-mail conversations.

Setting the boundaries of meeting a prospective mate is your responsibility as a Muslim parent.

The rules to remember include the following: the meeting must be chaperoned so the two are not alone together, both prospective partners are lowering the gaze and both are sticking to the topic in the course of discussions (for more explanation of some of these points see the article 6 Etiquettes of Seeking a Spouse at www.soundvision.com).

One suggestion Siddiqui gives in this regard is to avoid late night meetings between prospective candidates and chaperones because at the end of the day, people are tired, their defenses are down. For this kind of a meeting, all parties need to be very alert.

4. Give an allotted time for the meeting

Meetings between prospective spouses must not last for an extremely long time, like being away most of the day to meet this person. Parents should give an allotted time for the two to meet and talk.

5. Investigate thoroughly

One of the reasons for many divorces is the lack of proper investigation of a prospective marriage partner before marriage.

Parents have this heavy responsibility of finding out as much as possible about the individual who will possibly spend the rest of their life with their son or daughter.

Investigation does not mean just asking two or three family friends or community members. Deeper digging is necessary.

The case of one Imam's daughter in the U.S. serves as a chilling example.

This Imam asked a Muslim brother to check out a boy who was seeking marriage with his daughter. On the surface, all seemed fine. But upon further investigation it was discovered that he drinks alcohol. This fact was also confirmed by two other Muslims. The mediator in this case told Sound Vision that he never would have guessed, looking at the boy, that he drinks.

Aneesah Nadir, Director of Social Services for the Arizona Muslim Family Health and Social Services in Tempe provides another good way of fact checking on a proposal.

One sister she knows received a proposal from a brother who lived in a different city. To check this prospective mate out, one of her relatives went to the mosque this person attends and observed and talked to him without him knowing he was her relative. Her relative found the brother unsuitable and let her know about this.

6. Be honest

Parents as well as individuals looking for a spouse must be honest with regards to their credentials, background and other pertinent details about their personal lives.

Inflating your son or daughter's educational credentials, for example, will only backfire when checking reveals this is untrue.

7. Take your time.

Siddiqui stresses the importance of not rushing a son or daughter into marriage. If you find someone for your son or daughter at a two-day Islamic conference, for example, and this is the initiation of the process, more time must be given to checking facts and references.

Ideally, she says references should always be asked for and checked out before meeting in person. And this goes for boys and girls.

8. Never Be pushy

(Another true story)

A young Muslim sister, practicing, Hijab-wearing, bright (she was studying at one of America's most prestigious universities) stepped in front of a moving train in Chicago and killed herself.

Why?

Because her parents refused to listen to what she was looking for in a husband. They wanted to hand pick and completely decide who she would spend the rest of her life with.

This incident is an extreme example of the kind of pressure some parents apply to get their kids to marry the “right one”, often in complete variance with what the young man or woman is looking for.

Needless to say, this is not condoned by Islam. Neither is suicide as a way out of difficult situations.

Another form of pressure is put on those who are given a proposal. It is not uncommon to see sisters or their parents pursued by the parents of others who are interested in their son or daughter. This can even reach the level of harassment at times.

Forced marriages are not only unIslamic. They pose a danger to your children's future, as well as that of your grandchildren. Would you want your grandchildren to experience the pain and emotional turmoil of a divorce which could have been avoided if both parties had had more say in the choice of a partner?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6 Etiquettes of Seeking a Spouse: An Islamic Perspective

Muslim conferences and conventions (like the one being held by the Islamic Society of North America & Muslim American Society, Imam W. D. Mohammad, this Labor Day weekend) are just one of the many places Muslims in North America often meet potential spouses either to make a decision or to initiate the marriage communication process.

Other places include fundraising dinners, regional seminars, lectures, at the home of a relative or friend, and the local mosque.

Sadly though, Islamic guidelines pertaining to proper conduct between the sexes are not always respected at these meetings.

It is not uncommon to see or hear about potential candidates meeting in private, brothers and sisters “scoping the territory” for a spouse that looks good at Muslim events like conferences or lectures, or starting up a flirtatious conversation with someone they are interested in. None of these things fall within the guidelines of Islam.

Below are some Islamic principles,both general and specific, to consider if you will be be meeting or seeking a potential spouse for yourself or someone else at a conference, lecture, the mosque or another event:

1. Ask yourself: Why am I getting married.

‘Because all of my friends are' is not a legitimate reason. This is a good question to ask even if you are meeting the person to make a final decision because it will be a reminder about the real purpose of marriage from an Islamic perspective.

Marriage, from an Islamic perspective, is part of faith and it is part of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

As well, “my intention should be I am looking for someone with whom I will build a family,” says Imam Muhammad Nur Abdullah of St. Louis, Missouri, a member of the North American Fiqh Council. He has conducted pre-marriage counseling in the U.S. for the last 20 years.

“Marriage is a commitment and relationship that starts in this Dunya (world) and will continue Insha Allah in Paradise together,” he adds.

2. Ask yourself: what am I looking for in a spouse.

Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet Muhammad said: “Men choose women for four reasons: for their money, for their rank, for their beauty and for their religion, but marry one who is religious and you will succeed” (Bukhari, Muslim).

This of course, applies to women as well.

However, religion it seems, is not always foremost in the minds of many people. In fact, it's probably the last factor on too many Muslims' list.

According to Tasneem Qadeer, one of the seven volunteers who runs the Islamic Society of North America's matrimonial service, being a doctor or a lawyer is much more important to many Muslim women than piety.

And the men are not any better. Many matrimonial advertisements for instance, demonstrate a key demand for a wife who is “fair, slim and beautiful”.

“If we want to have healthy Muslim families then Deen has to be first,” says Aneesah Nadir, Director of Social Services for the Arizona Muslim Family Health and Social Services in Tempe.

She is one of the co-developers of the program “Marriage the Islamic way”, which teaches various aspects of marriage such as how to find a spouse, the wedding and the post-wedding marriage relationship with your spouse.

3. If you're looking for a spouse lower your gaze.

This may seem like a contradiction, but it's not. Looking for a spouse who has the right qualities and whom you are physically attracted to does not mean throwing out the obligation to lower the gaze for both sexes and leering or ogling the person.

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do” (Quran 24:30).

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms...” (Quran 24:31).

“Scoping the territory”, from this perspective, would not be Islamically acceptable.

Imam Nur Abdullah notes that looking at a potential mate is recommended according to the Hadith:

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: The Prophet said: “When one of you asked a woman in marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so. ...” (Abu Dawud).

This means the two potential spouses can look at each other but not ogle or stare.

Abdullah also notes there is no limit on the number of times the two people can look at each other.

However, both should fear Allah and remember the purpose of this is to satisfy the need for physical attraction to the person you are marrying.

He also notes it is not permissible for a man to see a potential wife without Hijab, since he is not her Mahram (a relative with whom marriage is not possible, or legally her husband). Abdullah says seeing her face and hands are enough to determine attraction.

4. Get someone to help

Marriage is not something to throw yourself into all by yourself. Getting the help of someone, especially parents, relatives, an Imam, and/or respected and trustworthy members of the Muslim community to either look for the right spouse and initiate and participate in a communication process is very important.

In fact, even some non-Muslims have come to see this as a more viable way of meeting someone instead of getting involved in the disappointing dating game or picking someone up in a nightclub or bar.

Involving others, by the way, does not mean signing over your right to say yes or no to a marriage proposal. It simply increases the likelihood of finding out important information about a prospective partner in a way that maintains rules of Islamic modesty (i.e. not meeting alone, see next point).

Getting that third party involved also helps verify if the person you are interested in is decent, honest and respectful. This person(s) often checks out references, asks about the individual's character and behavior, and looks out for your best interest in general.

This person should be a trustworthy Muslim, since you are seeking a Muslim in marriage, and would want someone familiar with the Islamic way of doing things.

For those blessed with Muslim parents, remember that they are probably your best allies and helpers in seeking the right husband or wife. They have known you all of your life, and have your best interest at heart.

However, parents must be open and attentive to what their children are looking for, and never forget the element of choice. Ultimately, it is their son or daughter who is going to make the final decision. They must never become too pushy or aggressive, whether this pressure is being applied on their own son or daughter, or on the person s/he is interested in.

If parents, other family members, an Imam or members of the community are not available, you can also try seeking a husband or wife through the matrimonial services offered by a number of different Muslim organizations.

Always ask for references

This is also where your “third party” comes in handy. Not only will they be able to be your reference. They can also check out a prospective mate's references.

A reference can include an Imam who knows the brother who proposed to you, a sister who knows the woman you may want to marry well, a family friend, a boss, a co-worker, and/or business partner.

A note about honesty and references: the people you ask may know something not very nice about your prospective spouse. Remind them that if they reveal this information, they would not be backbiting from the Islamic perspective. In fact, in the case of seeking marriage, complete information should be given about an individual, both good and bad.

The advice of one of the companions of the Prophet, Umar Ibn al-Khattab can help in this regard:

A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and spoke in praise of another. Umar asked him: “Are you his nearest neighbor such that you know his goings and his comings?”

“No.”

“Have you been his companion on a journey so that you could see evidence of his good character?”

“No.”

“Have you had dealings with him involving dinars and dirhams [money] which would indicate the piety of the man?”

“No.”

“I think you saw him standing in the mosque muttering the Quran and moving his head up and down?”

“Yes.”

“Go, for you do not know him...”

And to the man in question, Umar said, “Go and bring me someone who knows you.”

(quoted from Islam The Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid, p. 66)

This gives you three types of people you can ask about a prospective mate's character: a neighbor, business colleague or someone who has traveled with them.

5. When you meet, don't be alone

Umar related that Rasulullah said: “Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Shaytan makes a third” (Tirmidhi).

Also, Ibn Abbas related that Rasulullah said: “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a relative within the prohibited degrees” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Meeting alone, in the hotel room of one or the other potential spouse for example, is forbidden.

The two cannot be in a situation where no one else can see or hear them.

Instead, a discreet, chaperoned meeting should be set up. The chaperone, while allowing the two to talk, is in the same room, for example.

As well, parents or guardians should set a time limit, recommends Winnipeg-based social worker Shahina Siddiqui. A whole day, for example, is too long for this kind of a meeting.

6. When you speak, be businesslike and to the point.

The purpose of meeting and talking to each other must also remain within Islamic guidelines. That means no flirtatious speech of a sexual nature on either side.

Imam Nur Abdullah says some of the topics discussed can include each other's interests, financial situation of the man, who is Islamically responsible for providing for his wife and children, and the two potential spouses' relationship with their parents.

He notes that conversations between potential mates cannot be talking just for the sake of talking. There should be a firm and clear intention of either pursuing engagement and marriage, or, if one of the two or both the man and woman feel they are not compatible, a quick end to the relationship.

This ensures both sides are safe from getting hurt more than they could in this kind of a situation and remain within the bounds of Islam, Insha Allah.

With regards to questions pertaining to a person's sexual history (for example, has s/he had a boy/girlfriend, does s/he have any type of sexually transmitted diseases), Imam Nur Abdullah says these things have to be investigated at the very beginning, when the communication for marriage begins. This is not something that should be brought up at the last stage.

Other topics that should also be discussed at the early stages include level of Islamic knowledge and practice, future career and education plans, home making skills and where the couple will live right after marriage and in the future (state and/or country).

The Imam also says the couple can even get a blood test to ensure both are healthy. Some states even require this before marriage.

Seeking marriage is something highly recommended in Islam. While looking for a potential mate should be something Muslims help each other with, this cannot be done at the expense of Islamic rules pertaining to modesty and respect between the sexes.

Please note: If you will be attending the ISNA convention, the Islamic Social Services Association is having open house at ISNA on Sunday Morning at 8:30 to 9:30. You can get more information about this at the information booth, where you can ask about Sr. Aneesah's marriage program. It is also useful for anyone interested in social services can be professional.

Purpose and Obligation

Definition of Marriage

Nikah is an Arabic term used for marriage. It means "contract". ("Aqd in Arabic). The Quran specifically refers to marriage as "mithaqun Ghalithun,". Which means "a strong covenant".

"and they have taken a strong pledge (Mithaqun Ghalithun) from you?" (Quran 4:21)

The seriousness of this covenant becomes obvious when one finds the same tern i.e., Mithaqun Ghalithun, being used for the covenant made between Allah and the Prophet before granting them the responsibility of the Prophethood. (Quran 33:7)

The Quran also uses the Arabic word "Hisn", suggesting "fortress" for marriage. Marriage is considered the fortress of chastity.

The Purpose of Marriage

As a meaningful institution, marriage has two main purposes:

 To ensure preservation of the human species and continuation of the human race,

"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord, Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them has spread abroad a multitude of men and women" (Quran: 4:1)

 To provide spiritual and legal foundation of the family

"And of His signs is this: He created for you mates from yourself that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, therein indeed are portents for folk who reflect". (Quran 30:21)

Through Marriage, the conjugal relationship between a man and a woman becomes lawful. It provides a legitimate outlet for recreation as well as procreation. Islam regards sex as natural and good, but restricts it to the partners of marriage so as to ensure the responsibility for its consequences.

"Your women are a tilth for you so go to your tilth as you will, and send (good deeds) before you for your souls, and fear Allah, and know that you will (one day) meet him. Give glad tidings to believers, (O Muhammad)." (Quran 2:223)

Marriage provides spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological companionship. This companionship generates and sustains love, kindness, compassion, mutual confidence, solace and succor (sakinah). It lays a spiritual and legal foundation for raising a family. The children born of the matrimonial union become legitimate and mutual rights of inheritance are established.

Marriage: A Religious Requirement

Marriage in Islam is a recommended as a religious requirement.

"Marry those among you who are single and (marry) your slaves, male and female, that are righteous" (Quran 24:32)

Prophet Muhammad (S) declared:

"When the servant of Allah marries, he has fulfilled half the (responsibilities laid on him by the) faith; so let him be God conscious with respect to the other half". (Mishkat)

Marriage has also been commended as the way of the prophets.

"We indeed sent messengers before you (O Muhammad), and We assigned them wives and children" (Quran 13:38)

Marriage, in fact, is specifically considered the tradition (sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (S) when he declared:

"Marriage is my Sunnah, whoever disregards my (sunnah) path is not from among us". (ibn Majah)

Islam discourages celibacy and encourages marriage, as Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended:

"Whoever is able to marry, should marry". (Bukhari)

An-Nikah The Marriage

Mutual Agreement of Bride and Groom

Marriage (nikah) is a solemn and sacred social contract between bride and groom. This contract is a strong covenant (mithaqun Ghalithun) as expressed in Quran 4:21). The marriage contract in Islam is not a sacrament. It is revocable.

Both parties mutually agree and enter into this contract. Both bride and groom have the liberty to define various terms and conditions of their liking and make them a part of this contract.

Mahr

The marriage-gift (Mahr) is a divine injunction. The giving of mahr to the bride by the groom is an essential part of the contract.

'And give the women (on marriage) their mahr as a (nikah) free gift" (Quran 4:4)

Mahr is a token commitment of the husband's responsibility and may be paid in cash, property or movable objects to the bride herself. The amount of mahr is not legally specified, however, moderation according to the existing social norm is recommended. The mahr may be paid immediately to the bride at the time of marriage, or deferred to a later date, or a combination of both. The deferred mahr however, falls due in case of death or divorce.

One matrimonial party expresses 'ijab" willing consent to enter into marriage and the other party expresses 'qubul" acceptance of the responsibility in the assembly of marriage ceremony. The contract is written and signed by the bride and the groom and their two respective witnesses. This written marriage contract ("Aqd-Nikah) is then announced publicly.

Sermon

The assembly of nikah is addressed with a marriage sermon (khutba-tun-nikah) by the Muslim officiating the marriage. In marriage societies, customarily, a state appointed Muslim judge (Qadi) officiates the nikah ceremony and keeps the record of the marriage contract. However any trust worthy practicing Muslim can conduct the nikah ceremony, as Islam does not advocate priesthood. The documents of marriage contract/certificate are filed with the mosque (masjid) and local government for record.

Prophet Muhammad (S) made it his tradition (sunnah) to have marriage sermon delivered in the assembly to solemnize the marriage. The sermon invites the bride and the groom, as well as the participating guests in the assembly to a life of piety, mutual love, kindness, and social responsibility.

The Khutbah-tun-Nikah begins with the praise of Allah. His help and guidance is sought. The Muslim confession of faith that 'There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His servant and messenger" is declared. The three Quranic verses (Quran 4:1, 3:102, 33:70-71) and one Prophetic saying (hadith) form the main text of the marriage. This hadith is:

'By Allah! Among all of you I am the most God-fearing, and among you all, I am the supermost to save myself from the wrath of Allah, yet my state is that I observe prayer and sleep too. I observe fast and suspend observing them; I marry woman also. And he who turns away from my Sunnah has no relation with me". (Bukhari)

The Muslim officiating the marriage ceremony concludes the ceremony with prayer (Dua) for bride, groom, their respective families, the local Muslim community, and the Muslim community at large (Ummah)

Marriage (nikah) is considered as an act of worship (ibadah). It is virtuous to conduct it in a Mosque keeping the ceremony simple. The marriage ceremony is a social as well as a religious activity. Islam advocates simplicity in ceremonies and celebrations.

Prophet Muhammad (S) considered simple weddings the best weddings:

'The best wedding is that upon which the least trouble and expense is bestowed". (Mishkat)

Primary Requirements
1) Mutual agreement (Ijab-O-Qubul) by the bride and the groom
2) Two adult and sane witnesses
3) Mahr (marriage-gift) to be paid by the groom to the bride either immediately (muajjal) or deferred (muakhkhar), or a combination of both
Secondary Requirements
1) Legal guardian (wakeel) representing the bride
2) Written marriage contract ("Aqd-Nikah) signed by the bride and the groom and witnesses by two adult and sane witnesses
3) Qadi (State appointed Muslim judge) or Ma'zoon (a responsible person officiating the marriage ceremony)
4) Khutba-tun-Nikah to solemnize the marriage

The Marriage Banquet (Walima)

After the consummation of the marriage, the groom holds a banquet called a walima. The relatives, neighbors, and friends are invited in order to make them aware of the marriage. Both rich and poor of the family and community are invited to the marriage feasts.

Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

'The worst of the feasts are those marriage feasts to which the rich are invited and the poor are left out". (Mishkat)

It is recommended that Muslims attend marriage ceremonies and marriage feasts upon invitation.

Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

"...and he who refuses to accept an invitation to a marriage feast, verily disobeys Allah and His Prophet". (Ahmad & Abu Dawood)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Restricted relations for Marriage

Marriage is forbidden between very close blood relations and between those individuals who were both breastfed by the same woman (see wet nurse). See also mahram for a fuller discussion of unmarriageable kin; Muslims are free to marry anyone not in these prohibited classes.
Abu Hurairah narrated:
The Prophet forbade that a woman should be married to a man along with her paternal aunt or with her maternal aunt (at the same time). Az-Zuhri (the sub-narrator) said: There is a similar order for the paternal aunt of the father of one's wife, for 'Ursa told me that 'Aisha said, "What is unlawful because of blood relations, is also unlawful because of the corresponding foster suckling relations."
—Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 46
`Abd Allah ibn `Abbas narrated:
It was said to the Prophet, "Won't you marry the daughter of Hamza?" He said, "She is my foster niece (brother's daughter)."
—Volume 7, Book 62, Number 37

Punjabi wedding traditions

Punjabi wedding traditions and ceremonies are traditionally conducted in Punjabi and are a strong reflection of Punjabi culture.

The actual religious marriage ceremony - among Sikhs and Muslim the weddings are conducted in Punjabi or Urdu; among Hindus, the wedding is often conducted in Sanskrit. There are commonalities in ritual, song, dance, food, and dress. The Punjabi wedding has many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times, including many famous Punjabi dances.

Songs of the bridegroom's side
    • Mangane di geet: sung at the time of engagement
    • Maneve de gaon: songs sung to welcome the bridegroom
    • Gharouli de geet: sung for the gharoult or dowry
    • Chounki charanvele de geet: songs sung when the bridegroom sits on the chounki wooden bathing seat
    • Sohhle: songs of happiness and joy
    • Ghoriyaan: sung at the time of riding to the bride s house
    • Sehra: sung at the time of tying the bridegrooms flower-veil
    • Kangana: sung when the bride and bridegroom enter the house together for the first time.
Songs of the bride's side
    • Suhag: which is sung by the bride in praise of her parents and the happy days of her childhood and in anticipation of happy days ahead.
    • Jaggo: procession song to call the neighbours to the wedding.
    • Churra charan vele da geet: sung when the chura, ceremonial bangles are worn by the bride.
    • Janj: sung when the janj, marriage procession, is to be greeted.
    • Milni: sung at the ritual introduction of the two sides.
    • Ghenne de geet: sung when the bride is adorned with jewels.
    • Siftan: song in praise of the bridegroom
    • Chhandh: evolved from poetry, songs of joy.
Sitthniyan (crude, teasing songs)
    • Song sung when the bridegroom's procession is being welcomed.
    • Song sung when the wari, or gifts from the bridegroom’s side, are being exhibited.
    • Song sung when the groom's party sits down to the meal.
    • Song sung when the daaj, dowry or the bridal gifts, are being displayed.
Others
    • Lavan Phere :sung at the time of the actual wedding ritual.
    • Mahinya :sung when the girl is preparing for the wedding and is bathed by the women at home. It goes for both men and women.
    • Vedi de geet : sung while erecting the marriage pandal.
    • Khatt: sung at the time the maternal grandparents present gifts to the bride on an overturned tokra, or basket.
    • Pani vaarna: welcoming the bride to her new home.
    • Bidaigi: sung when the bride is being sent off in the doli.
    • Ghughrian: sung when the doli arrives at the groom s house.
    • Shahana: sung by mirasis in praise of the bridegroom.
    • Til Methre: sung while welcoming the bride and orienting her to the family.
    • Pattal: song sung before meal.

CELIBACY

The Sunna of the Prophet (s) was marriage, and he regarded total celibacy as unnatural and against the will of Allah. Anas ibn Malik recorded the case of a man who decided that all troubles were caused by marriage, and so instead of marrying he would pass his life in prayer. When this came to the attention of the Prophet (s), he said: `By Allah, I keep nafl (optional) fasts, but I also discontinue them; I pray at night, but I also sleep; I also marry women - and this is my sunna. Whoever shuns my sunna is not of me.' (Bukhari.)
`O young people! Whoever among you is capable of sexual intercourse should marry, for that is more modest for the gaze and safer for the private parts; and whoever cannot, should fast, for that is a form of castration.' (Muslim)
A'isha recorded that he said: `Nikah (marriage) is my sunna, and he who shuns my sunna is not of me.' (Muslim)
`Anyone who refuses to marry is shirking his farm-work, wasting the seed, and leaving idle the appropriate tools created by God; he sins against the purpose of creation and the wisdom visible in the evidence of natural structure. The man who refuses to marry has severed a chain of being, a previously unbroken chain linking his own existence to that of Adam.' (al-Ghazali)
A bachelor once asked Imam al-Ghazali: `Which should I choose: marriage, or total devotion to God? 'Both', he replied.
It is related that after his death, the pious bachelor Bishr al-Hafi appeared to someone in a dream, and was asked: `How has God treated you? 'I have been given a high rank in the Garden of Paradise,' he said, `and was allowed to look upon the stations of the Prophets; yet I never attained to the ranks of the married.' When asked what had become of Abu Nasr al-Tammar, he replied: `He has been raised seventy degrees above me.' People were surprised, and asked how this could be, and he answered: `He earned that by his patience with his little daughters and his family burdens.'
Celibacy of the unmarried is to be solved by marrying someone suitable as soon as possible, in the light of one's financial circumstances, while widows and divorced people should try to remarry.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wedding In Pakistan

UBTAN
Uptan is a paste made from turmeric, sandalwood powder, herbs and aromatic oils, which groom's mother brings for bride. She blesses bride and applies “uptan’ to the bride's hands and face. Groom's sister also does the same, and a thick string called a “gana” is tied to the bride’s arm. “Uptan” is applied to the bride's skin each day leading up to the wedding. Similar ceremony is held for the groom, where bride's mother, sisters, cousins and friends bring “uptan” for groom and rub it on his skin.
DOLKI
Dolki is a popular ceremony of singing traditional wedding & popular songs accompanied by two or three percussion instruments Dolki being the main. The girl is officially treated as bride (dulhan). She wears traditional Pakistani yellow outfit. Her brothers, sisters, and cousins bring her (bride) in the dholki party.
RASM-E-MEHNDI

Rasm E Mehndi (Henna Party) takes place a day before the wedding. It’s a ceremony mainly of women. They apply Mehndi (Henna) to the bride's hands and feet, sing, dance, and bless the bride. Sadka (warding off evil) is performed on the bride i.e. donating money circling three times on the bride’s head. Traditionally mehndi was brought by groom's parents. Mehndi (Henna) is applied in beautiful floral designs and sometimes groom's name is written in designs. After the ceremony dinner is organized for the guests. Traditionally, the bride is not allowed to take part in the celebrations and keeps her face hidden in veil. Rasm E Mehndi is organized for grooms also in some parts of Pakistan.
BARAT
Baraat is procession of family, relatives, and friends of groom that accompany the groom to bride’s home for official wedding ceremony. Groom makes his way to the bride's home on a richly decked horse or in a car and “baraat” follows in different vehicles. Groom is given warm welcome by the bride’s family with flower garlands and rose petals. Family and relatives of the groom and the bride exchange glasses of juice or sherbet along with money. Guests are welcomed by the bride’s sisters by playfully hitting them with a stick wrapped and decorated with flowers.
NIKAH
Nikah is purely Islamic official wedding ceremony that usually takes place at the bride’s home. Nikah is attended by close family members, relatives, and friends of groom and bride. Usually, the men and women are made to sit separately, in different rooms, or have a purdah, or curtain, separating them.
Nikah-naama (document of marriage contract) is registered in Nikah. The Nikahnaama contains several terms and conditions that are to be respected by both parties (bride & groom). It includes bride’s right to divorce her husband. Nikahnaama specifies “Meher,” the monetary amount the groom will give the bride. Meher includes two amounts; one that is due before the marriage is consummated and the other that is a deferred amount given to the bride at a time to be determined. The Meher guarantees the bride's freedom within the marriage, and acts as the bride's safety net.
The fathers of groom and bride (Walis) act as witnesses to the wedding. If father is not available, the senior male, brother or uncle performs the ceremony. Islamic Imam (called maulana or maulvi in Urdu) reads selected verses from the Quran and waits for the Ijab-e-Qubul (proposal and acceptance) of wedding. Usually, the groom's side makes proposal and the bride's side conveys her assent. Maulvi and witnesses (gavah) take the Nikahnaama to the bride and read it aloud to her. She accepts the Nikahnaama saying 'qabool kiya,' meaning 'I accept and signs it. The Nikahnaama is then taken to the groom and read aloud to him. He accepts saying 'qabool kiya and signs the document. The Maulvi and witnesses (gavah) also do sign the Nikahnaama contract and the wedding becomes legal. The Maulvi recites the Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quran, and various durud, or blessings to mark the closing of Nikah ceremony.
After the wedding is legally announced, dishes of dates and misri (unrefined sugar) are served to the groom's family. Groom is then escorted to his bride where he’s allowed to site beside his wife. This is the time when sisters-in-law of groom play pranks and tease the groom.
MOOH DIKHAI
Mooh Dikhai is the ceremony of first time “showing of the face” after the Nikah. The couple is made to see each other in the mirror and the bride unveils her face that she keeps hidden during the Nikah. The custom of Mooh Dikhai is also called “Aarsi Musshaf.” The bride and groom share a piece of sweet fruit, such as a date and family and friends congratulate the couple and offer gifts. Dinner is served to the guests. The sisters, friends, and female cousins of bride take this opportunity to steal the groom's shoes and demand a sum of money for shoes. This is very popular custom and groom usually carries a lot of cash, due to the popularity of this custom. He pays money to get back his shoes and girls divide the money among themselves.
RUKHSATI
Ruksati is the ceremony to bid farewell to the bride before her departure to the groom's house. She says goodbye to her parents, close friends and family. The Quran is held over her head as a blessing. It’s a pretty touching moment. Although this practice is un-Islamic but a lot of Pakistani families have come to adopt it.
Several traditional games are played at groom’s house. A tray full of a mixture of water and milk is placed before the couple and a ring is thrown into the mixture and husband and wife are asked to find the ring. The one who finds the ring is considered winner and dominant partner in the relationship. The couple is asked to untie the “ganas” (thick strings) that were tied on their writs before wedding. The one who unties it first is considered the dominant partner in the relationship. Bride eats kheer (sweet, pudding-type desert) out of the groom’s hand. This customs are designed to make the couple more intimate before the physical relationship. Groom washes the feet of the bride in a basin of water that is sprinkled into the four corners of the house. It’s believed that this brings wealth, prosperity and luck into the home.
WALIMA
Walima is ceremony to announce the wedding to community and friends. It’s a grand reception hosted by the groom's parents. Relatives, friends and community people are invited to the reception and wedding is celebrated with great fun and festivities.
CHAUTHI
Chauthi is the custom of bringing the bride back to her parents' home the next day, or on the fourth day after the wedding (depending on family tradition). Usually bride's brothers perform the Chauthi and goes to fetch their sister home.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Turning S-e-x Into Sadaqa

An excerpt from 'The Muslim Marriage Guide', By Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood (Amana Publications), reprinted in Beliefnet.com

"Women shall have rights similar to the rights upon them; according to what is equitable and just; and men have a degree of advantage over them." (Quran, 2:216)
They do indeed! This passage of the Holy Quran was revealed in connection with the rights of women following a divorce, but it also has a general sense. One basic right of every person taking on a contract never to have sex other than with their own legitimate partner is that each spouse should therefore provide sexual fulfillment (imta') to the other, as part of the bargain.
Now, every man knows what sexual things please him--but some men, particularly those who have not been married before and are therefore lacking experience, don't seem to know much about how to give the same pleasure to the woman; even worse, some men do know but they can't be bothered to make the effort. Yet this is vital if a marriage is to succeed and not just be a disappointing burden for the woman, and it is a vital part of one's Islamic duty.
It is not acceptable for a Muslim man just to satisfy himself while ignoring his wife's needs. Experts agree that the basic psychological need of a man is respect, while that of a woman is love. Neither respect nor love are things that can be forced--they have to be worked for, and earned. The Prophet (s) stated that in one's sexual intimacy with one's life partner there is sadaqa (worship through giving):
God's Messenger(s) said: "In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa." The Companions replied: "0 Messenger of God! When one of us fulfils his sexual desire, will he be given a reward for that?" And he said, "Do you not think that were he to act upon it unlawfully, he would be sinning? Likewise, if he acts upon it lawfully he will be rewarded." (Muslim)
This hadith only makes sense if the sexual act is raised above the mere animal level.
What is the magic ingredient that turns sex into sadaqa, that makes it a matter of reward or punishment from Allah? It is by making one's sex life more than simple physical gratification; it is by thought for pleasing Allah by unselfish care for one's partner. A husband that cannot understand this will never be fully respected by his wife.
Neither spouse should ever act in a manner that would be injurious or harmful to their conjugal life. Nikah is the sacred tie between husband and wife, that sincere and devoted love without which they cannot attain happiness and peace of mind.
"Of His signs is this: that He created for you spouses that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy." (Quran, 30:21)
Now, every Muslim knows that a man has a right on his wife. However, because nikah is a contract never to seek sexual satisfaction outside the marriage bond, Islam commands not only the women but the men in this respect, and makes it clear that if a husband is not aware of the urges and needs of his wife, he will be committing a sin by depriving her of her rights.
According to all four orthodox jurists, it is incumbent upon the husband to keep his wife happy and pleased in this respect. Likewise, it is essential for the wife to satisfy the desire of the husband. Neither should reject the other, unless there is some lawful excuse.

Now, it is fairly easy for a woman to satisfy a man and make herself available to him, even if she is not really in the mood. It is far harder for a man to satisfy a woman if he is not in the mood, and this is where an important aspect of male responsibility needs to be brought to every Muslim man's attention, and stressed strongly.

The jurists believed that a woman's private parts needed "protecting" (tahsin). What they meant was that it was important for a Muslim husband to satisfy his wife's sexual needs so that she would not be tempted to commit zina out of despair or frustration.
A Muslim wife is not merely a lump of flesh without emotions or feelings, just there to satisfy a man's natural urges. On the contrary, her body contains a soul no less important in God's sight than her husband's. Her heart is very tender and delicate, and crude or rough manners would hurt her feelings and drive away love. The husband would be both foolish and immoral to act in any way unpalatable to her natural temperament, and a man selfishly seeking his own satisfaction without considering that of his wife is a selfish boor. In fact, according to a hadith:
"Three things are counted inadequacies in a man. Firstly, meeting someone he would like to get to know, and taking leave of him before learning his name and his family. Secondly, rebuffing the generosity that another shows to him. And thirdly, going to his wife and having intercourse with her before talking to her and gaining her intimacy, satisfying his need from her before she has satisfied her need from him." (Daylami)
This is another of the things implied by the saying that one's wife is "a tilth unto you." (Quran, 2:223) The imagery is that of a farmer taking care of his fields. According to Mawlana Abul-Ala Mawdudi:
"The farmer sows the seed in order to reap the harvest, but he does not sow it out of season or cultivate it in a manner which will injure or exhaust the soil. He is wise and considerate, and does not run riot." (Afzalur Rahman, Quranic Sciences, London 1981, p.285)
Likewise, in the case of husband and wife, the husband should not just:
“Take hold of his wife and rub the seed and finish the business of procreation. The damage in this case could sometimes be irreparable, because a woman, unlike a farm, is very sensitive and has emotions, feelings, and strong passions which need full satisfaction and attention in a proper and appropriate manner.” (Afzalur Rahman, Quranic Sciences, London 1981, p. 286)
If this is not taken into consideration, and the wife is not properly prepared to start lovemaking, or is unsatisfied when it is finished, there could be many psychological and physiological complications leading to frigidity and other abnormalities. Indeed, many husbands eventually become disappointed with their wives, believing them to be frigid or unable to respond to their activities (unlike the sirens on the film or TV screen), and they wonder what is wrong with them. A possible explanation will follow in a moment.
Allah created male and female from a single soul in order that man might live with her in serenity (Quran, 7:189), and not in unhappiness, frustration and strife. If your marriage is frankly awful, then you must ask yourself how such a desperate and tragic scenario could be regarded by anyone as "half the Faith." According to a hadith:
"Not one of you should fall upon his wife like an animal; but let there first be a messenger between you." "And what is that messenger?" they asked, and he replied: "Kisses and words." (Daylami)

These "kisses and words" do not just include foreplay once intimacy has commenced. To set the right mood, little signals should begin well in advance, so that the wife has a clue as to what is coming, and is pleasantly expectant, and also has adequate time to make herself clean, attractive and ready. As regards intimacy itself, all men know that they cannot achieve sexual fulfillment if they are not aroused. They should also realise that it is actually harmful and painful for the female organs to be used for sex without proper preparation. In simple biological terms, the woman's private parts need a kind of natural lubrication before the sexual act takes place. For this, Allah has created special glands, known to modern doctors as the Bartholin glands, which provide the necessary "oils."

It is still possible to read old-fashioned advice to husbands that a desirable wife should be "dry"--which is remarkable ignorance and makes one really grieve for the poor wives of such inconsiderate men. Just as no one would dream of trying to run an engine without the correct lubricating fluids, it is the same, through the creative will of Allah, with the parts of the female body designed for sexual intimacy. A husband should know how to stimulate the production of these "oils" in his wife, or at the very least allow her to use some artificial "oils." This lack of knowledge or consideration is where so many marital problems frequently arise.
As Imam al-Ghazali says: "Sex should begin with gentle words and kissing," and Imam al-Zabidi adds: "This should include not only the cheeks and lips; and then he should caress the breasts and nipples, and every part of her body." (Zabidi, Ithaf al-Sada al Muttaqin, V 372) Most men will not need telling this; but it should be remembered that failure to observe this Islamic practice is to neglect or deny the way Allah has created women.
Insulting a wife with bad marital manners.
Firstly, a husband must overcome his shyness enough to actually look at his wife, and pay attention to her. If he cannot bring himself to follow this sunna, it is an insult to her, and extremely hurtful. Personal intimacy is a minefield of opportunities to hurt each other--glancing at the watch, a yawn at the wrong moment, appearing bored, and so on. A husband's duty is to convince his wife that he does love her--and this can only be done by word (constantly repeated word, I might add--such is the irritating nature of women!), and by looking and touching.
Many people believe that the expression in the eyes reveals much of the human soul. Certainly the lover's gaze is a most endearing and treasured thing. Many wives yearn for that gaze of love, even after they have been married for years. If you cannot bring yourself to look at her while paying attention to her, she can only interpret this as a sign that you do not really love her. And even though it may be irritating to you, and seem quite superfluous, most women are deeply moved when a man actually tells her that he loves her.
Sex is clean!
A modest upbringing is part of good character. The Prophet (s) himself said: "Modesty brings nothing but good." (Bukhari and Muslim) But another, also important, part of Islamic teaching says that all of Allah's creation is beautiful and pure, particularly when it is part of the body of human beings, who are designed as His deputies upon the earth. In some religions, people traditionally believed that the woman's private parts are in some way unclean, or dirty, or even evil.