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Nov 22, 2009

Successful Marriages

Issue Number One: Let's Copy My Parents

The first pitfall that people recognized is: "We're going to do it like my family did it. We're going to do it like my mother and father did it." And she's saying, "No, we're going to do it like my mother and father did it." And that goes into the anaaniyya that was mentioned earlier – the state of selfishness. Because the constructs which have been built in us, when it comes to marriage, no matter how hard we try to educate ourselves, are basically the constructs we learnt from our parents. What we saw from our parents.

I'll give you a good example. I'm from Oklahoma. My mother and father hate divorce. Alhamdulillah, my mother and father have been married almost sixty years without divorce. I saw them get in fights, I saw a glass break or two. But [it was] never physical. I never saw my father get physical with my mother, ever. Never in front of the kids. They'd raise their voices. They yelled at each other. [When] we were little we said, "Are you guys fighting?" [They responded] "No we're not fighting. Go in your room and shut the door." That's what we do. It's ingrained in me and my brother not to like divorce. So I had another family member who got into a divorce – non-Muslim – and my mother and father's reaction was like "Wait a minute." Why? That's how I was raised.

Now I've learned – through studying in al-Azhar, through reading books, from sitting with scholars, from being around people like you – the concept of divorce we have in Islam. But it's very difficult for me to overcome that construct, because that's what I saw, that's what I lived.

So when we come into a marriage we have to be honest with ourselves. As our dear Sheikh mentioned, we cannot make "I" the focus of everything – my family, my way of doing things. This is a very dangerous problem that comes out of selfishness. What we have to strive for are general Islamic guidelines, general Islamic principles that take into mind the reality of the human being.

How many times did people come to the Prophet (s) and complain about [their wives]? Never? Come on! Read the book on divorce and some of the collections of hadith. How many times did women [come to the Prophet]? Once a woman came to Aisha (it's in Sahih Bukhari), she was black and blue because her husband beat her. Yeah, in Madinah! [Someone sounding shocked:] "Subhan Allah, how could you say that about the companions?!" It's in Sahih Bukhari. So the Prophet (s) dealt with that.

When we come into a marriage situation instead of saying "I…I…I" we have to say "I" and "we". Because to take "I" out of the equation is not realistic, man. I'm going to tell you something. I love to give, but I love to receive. I'm not going to lie. I come home and my wife says, "You know I cooked for you this prawn biryani." I'm not like, "I'm not happy, I didn't give you anything." Hey, I'm ready. Bismillah. Forget Atkins, man. Let's go for it.

So marriage is giving and receiving. When I come to a marriage I have to fuse my identity, my constructs as a person with my wife. And that doesn't happen in one day, doesn't happen in a conference, doesn't happen through a Jumu`ah khutbah. It comes through years of investment and cultivating relationships – trial by error.

One woman came to me and said, "If I could marry anyone it would be my dad."

And I said, "Hey, wait a minute now…"

She said, "No, I would make him, I would make him!"

I said, "Look, you don't make anything. But you're pleased with the qadr (decree) of Allah (SWT)."

To demand a brother to be your father or to demand a woman to be your mother is unrealistic. Bringing in "I" and "we" [is important, after all] I want to benefit. Why am I getting married? I want to benefit. I'm going to reap some benefit, she's going to reap some benefit. But the majority of it is a "we…we…we" relationship. And that's not easy. It's not easy to weld constructs together to form a relationship. It's not. And that's why marriage is a major factor in Islam. You know how many rulings come into play because someone gets married? How many ahkaam (rulings)? Around seventy-five rulings. Just because of a contract for nikah. And Allah says that marriage is a strong, binding, heavy contract (4:21). Why? It is not easy getting married.

So number one, we have to realize, as was mentioned by one social scientist, one of the major reasons – and this was in America by the way, not overseas – that people have problems in their marriage is: "I'm [going] do it like my mom and dad did it. I'm going to replicate everything."

[One time] I met a Muslim brother who told me, "We have to replicate the seerah. So for thirteen years we have to do this. Then, in ten years, this is going to happen. And after that, nas (people), they're going to become Muslim afwaajaa (in droves)."

I said, "Brother, you're a fool."

He said, "Why?"

I said, "Show me once in history where history repeated itself like that, word for word, letter for letter."

And that's what leads to extremism in Islam. The same thing in marriage [when people say] "I'm going to replicate what my mother and father did." Then why'd you get married? Stay home with your parents! [They say] "I want to relive, I want to rehash what happened in my household with my mother and father." That's impossible. So what you're going to have to do is be humble. The first step is humility. The Prophet (s) said in an authentic hadith, "Nobody will humble himself for Allah except that Allah will raise him." So when I come into the marriage, I can't be like Frank Lucas, American gangster [saying] "I'm going to enforce everything on people." No, I must be humble and I must be willing to say, "You know what, I must surrender some things here. I'm going to have to be honest."

And communicate with your spouse. Talk, man, talk! If you don't talk, somebody's going to walk.

So first and foremost, the "I" and the "we" is a combination. Definitely as an individual – and I'm not a social Darwinist – but as an individual you're going to benefit, as a person, from marriage. Why'd you get married in the first place? Because you want to benefit. You want to benefit this deen (religion), you want to become a better Muslim. So you reap the benefits in this life and the next. Secondly, investing and being humble and mature enough to deal with issues as a family.

How many sisters and brothers have came to me and said, "You know one time I was talking with my wife about something, akhi and I said to her this and she said 'Oh my God, I can't believe you did that!'" Come on, relax. That's your husband. You got to carry him and be there for him.

Sometimes sisters might say, "You know when I was in seventh grade I let this guy push me on the swing." [And the husband exclaims] "Oh, you've stained my honor as a husband!" Come on, man. Unrealistic. Unrealistic expectations.

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