Monday, September 26, 2011


On Marriage

I have been thinking about writing about marriage for a year or so now. This has been in the backdrop of a number of people I know either undergoing divorce or being separated.

There is no doubt that the number of resources on marriage have increased and diversified to address this issue in our communities. It is therefore hoped that this piece will add to the resource bank on marriage that already exists.

I decided to approach married friends to ask them what they thought were the two qualities which they have found to be the most important in making their marriage work, progress and be a means of positive growth for them. I received 28 responses from friends and their spouses. The responses are categorised by gender to help readers understand the ‘other’.

The respondents come from various backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, age, location, class and profession. Some have been married over two years and others over two decades. All respondents are Muslim. I am indebted to everyone for their contribution and honest insights and hope that this benefits all.

Last year I asked my Christian colleague who has been married for almost three decades to tell me what he thought was the secret of a long-lasting marriage. He replied with a simple message: If we can have a good relationship with God Almighty, we will find that we have a good relationship with our spouse (and everyone else).

Of course you will find many words repeat themselves here but I hope it will highlight the importance of those qualities and hopefully motivate us all to work towards developing them in our relationships. Enjoy!


Respondent 1:

1. Communication
2. Forgiveness
3. Appreciation

I had to add the third although you asked for two. I've found the above three things to be equally intrinsic to a healthy marital relationship.

Communication is the basis of any relationship, and helps build friendship, trust and intimacy with one's spouse.

Forgiveness is essential because we have to realise that we're not perfect and nor is the other person. If we can't forgive each other our shortcomings, mistakes or even at times a real emotional injury, how can we sustain a relationship? Sometimes we wrong those we love or they wrong us, if we're to have lasting relationships we have to forgive and continue building or rebuilding the relationship.

Appreciation keeps one grounded in the reality of the blessings one has. It prevents satan from creating boredom, distance, resentment, or other negative feelings in the relationship. It's so easy to take for granted what we have. In the same way children can - as youngsters especially - take their parents and all they do for them for granted, I think there is a danger of this happening in marriage too. Appreciating the other person and what they do for you etc can help keep bonds of love strong.

Respondent 2:

1. Trust / reliability
2. Friendship

Respondent 3:

1. Patience and a mother with good morals and values, whose always taught me from right to wrong and again brought me back to that very word – sabr (patience).
Reality is, I confide in her and only her, I know her advice will be selfless and unconditional, she has foresight which only comes with her experience and the authority to make me listen to that advice because she's my 'mum'.

2. Second quality - is doing things for the sake of Allah, often I remind myself when in difficult situations, what is the purpose of my marriage?? Who in reality am I pleasing: Allah or husband? By making him smile, in essence I have made my Creator smile.. It makes everything so easy

Why are there so many failed marriages around us, I often ask myself, what are my husband and I doing that works???
In answer, we’re best friends, we talk, we work things out, we don't shout and scream - yes disagree respectfully...
Take into consideration each other’s feelings...
Respect one another...

Respondent 4:

1. Listening and Understanding - try and see it from the other person’s perspective and taking their feelings and thoughts, into account, understanding that marriage is about the two of you not just you.
2. Patience and Communication are vital.

Respondent 5:

1. Mutual love
2. Mutual respect

It didn't require much thinking! And meant to say that my dear dear grannie used to say NEVER GO TO SLEEP CROSS WITH EACH OTHER!!!!

Respondent 6:

1. Caring concern
2. Appreciation

Respondent 7:

I would say that for the other half and myself, listening to each other is the most important thing - i.e. good, honest communication.

Second is to make time for doing things together (even if for a short while) that isn't related to chores or work. There's always a danger that the responsibilities take over, and you never unwind and relax in each other's company.

Respondent 8:

1. Respect
2. Patience

Respondent 9:

The two important qualities that I would classify as essential are:

1. Listening
2. Talking

Now this may sound so simple and to be honest it is, however, in order for you to do these two actions you are facing other challenges, such as swallowing pride, admitting you’re wrong, becoming humble and being completely exposed.

Listening, all you have to do is be quiet...BUT we have a tendency to interject or make our point or just flatly ignore what the other person is saying because we think they are wrong. However listening helps us see a whole new perspective it helps us understand where our partner is coming from. It creates respect and love because we have given time and been given access to go into and explore the beautiful mind of our other we are not mind readers. So why would we deny ourselves of such treasure.

Talking, if we can talk to our partner about our needs, wants, dreams, passions, then what else do we need. I find that if a husband and wife are not able to communicate then they will feel a void, a need to express themselves to another person, whilst they are just going through the motions of life with their partner. What is the point if your spouse cannot be your friend as well. Through discussion you can plan together a life that is more fruitful and help each other on the mission to God.

There are other things I could mention but these two are definitely my top priory because we know that communication is the birth of any action.

Respondent 10:

1. Trust
2. Communication

Respondent 11:

1. Trusting each other in every matter

2. Having made a decision to follow the Islamic way of life, so there is no conflict. Before we made this decision there was a lot of conflict between us due to cultural and extended family pressures.

Respondent 12:

1. Patience - think twice before accusing / criticising / complaining.
2. Say Salam (Greeting) with a smile when you leave each other / see each other everyday.

Respondent 13:

… there are two things that my marriage has lacked to a great extent and I would advice all married people to make these two things part of their lives:

1. Communication
Communication is the most important thing if one wants to make a marriage work. Talk to one another about anything and everything. Tell each other how your day was; tell one another what you’re thinking and feeling, and just be open and honest with one another. That is the best way to not only get to know one another but also to build a good understanding and appreciation of one another.

2. Make decisions together
This is so important. No matter what the decision is: big or small, make that decision as a couple because you should both be happy with what's going on and what's gonna happen.

Respondent 14:

1. Trust
2. Acceptance

(Ultimately good character flows through the above two qualities when they are being used / tested. If good character wasn't present when trust and acceptance is being tested, then think we would have broken up by now).

Respondent 15:

1. Most important thing for me is communication... being able to talk about a situation that may be bothering me or my husband and getting it out in the open. Once that's done you have cleared the issue or problem or blockage and can move on to the next task.

2. Spending real quality time together. Having some down time, the reason why you got together in the first place was because you displayed the character of "you". The man or woman you were before you got together was obviously endearing and so marriage should not be the reason why that character gets lost...

Respondent 16:

Ability to:

1. Communicate
2. Compromise

Respondent 17:

1. Patience
2. Self-sacrifice

Respondent 18

2. Trust

1. I believe it is very important for spouses to remain open and engaged with each other and to talk and listen to each others views, opinions, general feelings and even day to day talk about how their day was etc. This keeps the couple close and also prevents bad feelings being bottled up.

2. Trust is also key to a relationship, spouses do not need to live in each others pockets, they should both lead their own lives, have their own friends and trust each other with their wordly affairs. They should be able to condife in each other with trust.

Respondent 19:

After some consultation, my good lady and I came up with:

1. Acceptance of the other as they are, and willingness to be flexible and not rigid (being willing to sometimes sacrifice what I am for what he/she is).

2. Patience.


Respondent 20:

Marriage much like the alchemy of happiness is a complex but wonderful mix of many different ingredients and components.

What makes a marriage work on a Monday could result in it becoming vulnerable on a Thursday.

I was asked to consider two qualities I thought would be important in a marriage, I should point out that the two qualities I've highlighted today may not be the same as what I may have said next week if I was asked the question then. Relationships never follow linear routes, marriage may be seen as conventional and traditional but it is anything but on a day to day basis as you face the many different challenges and blessings thrown your way.

Marriage like eman (faith) fluctuates requiring lessons and inspirations to be drawn from different components of it’s fabric and DNA, in much the same way that we call upon Allah in our time of need by His different Names and Attributes according to our need and our circumstances of the time.

A marriage without trust is like a sea without water or a religion without prayer. Trust is the foundation of any marriage representing an unspoken contract that if not breached will be the glue that holds a relationship together. Where there is doubt there is human failing, where there is trust there is success that comes from the strength of the other.

Eman (faith) is also a key component of a successful marriage. A good marriage will strengthen one's faith and strong faith will strengthen a marriage: they are as complimentary as the Quran and the Sunnah. Strength in the deen (religion) comes from having compassion and a strong marriage requires compassion and understanding of the other. Through compassion we learn forgiveness and acceptance of both our own and our partner's shortcomings. It is a virtue that too often can be breached despite one's best intentions and when we lose compassion we find the destructive ability to inflict hurt to those we love.

May Allah make us of those who are compassionate and understanding and not of those who desire to judge or harm.

Respondent 21:

1. That which engages the soul.
2. That which engages the body.

Respondent 22:

1. Abiding by the rules of Allah Ta'ala and the ways of the Prophet (Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam)

2. Realising each marriage brings it's own unique, laughter, sharing

Respondent 23:

1. Upholding good character, especially restraining negative emotions and negative words.

2. Mercy and concern for one's spouse

… both, for the sake of Allah, seeking Allah therein and thereby.

Respondent 24:

1. Patient
2. Forgiving

Respondent 25:

1. Mutual respect for each others family.
2. Concern for each others aakhirat (Hereafter).

Cause I'm sure girly stuff like love, trust, flowers will be already mentioned by others.

Respondent 26:

1. Space for each others growth and expression. Acceptance of difference.
2 Mutual and deep understanding of each other.

Respondent 27:

1. Tolerance
2. Forgiveness

Respondent 28:

My wife's - and I agree:

1. To trust each other
2. To be friends with each other

Both can take time.

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From reading everyone's experience, the most common factor in successful marriages boils down to having 'sabr'
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