[These are brief notes from the first session of Marriage Workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed]
What does a woman want
If you divert your attention and only listen to her half-heartedly, she would know. That’s not respect. That’s disrespectful. The wife feels like I’m his life companion, here I’m sharing my thoughts with him and he’s not even listening to me. So she gets upset and frustrated. And she’s right in doing so. That’s her taqwah that she keeps talking to you. If you don’t listen to her there will be someone else out there willing to lend her the ear. You can fill in the rest of the blanks yourself.
Just like a man feels that the wife is not fulfilling me, the woman can feel the same way. The husband should be a means of bringing her to good. Scolding your wife in front of the children is disrespectful. One thing is to reprimand her, and one is to do it disrespectfully. You can make her understand. But if you do it disrespectfully she will only feel hurt. Sometimes the husband does it in a bragging way. It means he is flattering himself by hurting his wife’s heart. He is showing that he is the man and can talk to her in front of others like that.
The woman’s emotional need is devotion. She wants his devotion. How do you express your devotion? Expressing devotion means you give her priority. If you pick up her phone on 1st ring, she would acknowledge it as a sign of devotion. If there’s a problem, instead of beating about the bush, you can just tell her clearly that I’m busy at such and such time etc. But she needs to feel she is not at the bottom of the priority list.
Husband should never say: I’ll find someone better than you.
What does a man want
A husband wants support from his wife. He needs emotional support. When he makes a decision, he doesn’t want her to second guess him. He needs her to support him even if the decision is wrong. He doesn’t need you to tell him that you can’t do anything right. He already has too many people against him. He needs support in how to get out of that blunder. Saying you don’t do anything right is like kicking the man when he’s down. You don’t know what that support means to him. That’s when you should bring your co-operative side. When he’s down bring in your support.
Wife should never ever say: You don’t do anything right. If you criticize your husband like that he will automatically turn away from you.
The husband wants that his wife should accept him. The job of husband is to change for the better, the job of the woman is to accept him as he is. We are not talking about haram stuff. But generally the certain way he does things, maybe he’s not the most handsome, refined person to walk the face of this earth. The same way wife feels he should accept her, the same way the wife should accept him. Many good wives are exactly precisely like this with their husbands.
A husband wants the wife to emotionally praise him. Especially in front of her own parents. You are mistaken if you think he doesn’t have emotional needs. He will never ask you for it. But he needs it. If a woman communicates to me for help and all she does is complain then I turn my ears off – there’s something wrong there. Wife should never be all complaining and never praising. Once I even asked is there anything good? And she said no! Never be all complaining.
This is also a kind of gheebah. You should not say my husband did this. If you sincerely want advice say what if a man does this or this? That woman who doesn’t complain behind her husband’s back, won’t do it in front of him either. If you do it in front of them then he knows you will do it behind his back also. Men know this.
Never to be Second Guessed
When it comes to children, sometimes the men will enter into the realm of the wife. The wife should never second guess the husband. If he tries to get involved with the kids, don’t stop him, don’t laugh at him. You can observe silently and wait and talk to him later. That will also give you a more relaxed tone. It would not become an unwelcomed comment.
Sometimes a man wants to embark on something good but he’s a little bit unsure. The role of the wife is if she feels this is best for his akhira, she needs to encourage him to that deed, she needs to play the famous role of the woman behind him.
DON’T treat one another the way you want to be treated
The wife makes the mistake that she treats the husband the way she wants to be treated. He is not a woman! This golden rule does not apply when there is a gender difference! Fulfill his male emotional needs, not female emotional needs! Same for men: don’t treat your wife the way you want to be treated. If there’s a car that runs on gas, and you put diesel in it, it won’t work.
Mistake a man makes
Husband does not spend enough exclusive time with his wife. You have to make time out to sit with your wife, alone, separate from the joint family. Sunnah: take her out for a walk. Because a woman needs her own dedicated time when the husband sits, eats, talks to her.
Mistake a woman makes
If the husband makes a decision she doesn’t agree with, she doesn’t follow it. If you live in a country and there is a law you don’t agree with, you still have to follow it. You have to follow it even if you don’t agree. This has a lot of barakah in it.
Sometimes women get overly suspicious of the husband. She doesn’t believe anything he says. She starts denying and spying. Can you imagine the effect it can have on a person? How will the investigation affect him if he is innocent? How will he feel about those who make those charges against him?
Husband makes the mistake that he becomes overly possessive of his wife. Not talking about cases when someone is guilty, there the spouse has to be cautious. Once there was a case of a fellow married man in UK. He imprisoned his wife at home. She was literally locked in the house. He made sure the home was stocked with food and other requirements but the woman could not leave the house for a long period of time. The result was that the marriage fell apart. That was the husband being overly possessive. This is if the wife is innocent. She couldn’t even call her own mother. Even the husband attested to this that she was completely innocent.
Example of Misunderstanding
Once some children were talking with mother and had a disagreement. They were asking whether to do something this way or that way. Husband walks in and he doesn’t know the wife had already told the kids to do A. Husband says do it B way. Wife gets upset. This is completely unreasonable! This shows a lack of respect.
Example of Respecting One’s Wife
Once Syedna Rasool Allah sws was travelling with Safiya ra, in a wedding procession she couldn’t climb on the camel. Prophet sws went there and asked her to step on his sws thigh and then step on the camel. This is a way of respect. If Syedna Rasool Allah sws can offer his body then why can’t we do something like this for our wife?
Example of Devotion to the Wife
Syedna Rasool Allah sws married ummul momineen Syedna Khadija ra when he was 25. For so many years of his life, he was a one-woman man. This is also a sunnah that you have to do. Women need to be deprogrammed. They need to stop accepting this! What would you love for your own daughter? Love for your wife what you would love for your own daughter. The women are young they don’t understand this. This is a big problem in UK.
So after marriage, Syedna Rasool Allah sws married Syedna Aisha ra and loved her so much. Then Khadija’s ra sister came and he (sws) heard her voice and said Aisha Aisha its Khadija’s voice! She asked him (sws) later why were you so happy when you thought it was her voice? He (sws) replied Aisha she was with me when everyone was against me. Allah has put so much love for her in my heart there is nothing you can do to take it away from me. This is the sunnah devotion. Syedna Rasool Allah sws gave so much devotion to his (sws) wife.
Example of Accepting Husband the Way He is
Prophet’s (sws) daughter Zainab ra was married to a non-believer before the manifestation of naboowat. During migration, Zainab ra did not migrate to Madina and lived with her husband. She wanted to go to Madina, wanted him to accept imaan but she showed him that I accept you the way you are. She offered her mother’s necklace to free her kafir husband who had gone out on badr to kill prophet (sws)! (He (ra) later accepted Islam after Zainab (ra) passed away).
Example of Praising the Husband
Syedna Aisha ra once told Prophet (sws) that you (sws) are more dear to me than butter and dates.
Example of Support
When Syedna Fatima ra and Syedna Ali ra were really poor, one day they made some simple basic food for iftar. Syedna Ali ra gave all the food to a beggar but wife didn’t say anything.
Easy and simple way is to make your life the sunnah way. That’s easy. Making point by point notes is difficult and is the long way. The more and more husband and wife follow sunnah, the more their marriage will become successful.
Investment and communication
Example of investment is like a gardener. When a gardener puts seed in the ground he is always putting water and fertilizer to nurture it. No one else knows. People trample the seed with their food. But he keeps caring for the seed because he has faith in it. Then when the seed sprouts, he puts a stick and trims the leaves. The more and more he invests time in it, the more and more he can bear fruit and flowers from it. The couple is the co-care-takers and gardeners of the seed of marriage.
Husband and wife also have to learn the body language of the marriage. The gardener can look at the color of leaves and shape can tell that something is going wrong. Sometimes husband and wife are not able to read one another’s body language. Sometimes they can’t say too many words. Ideally, be so much tuned into the needs of your spouse that you understand what they want even before they talk about it. This can also happen. But that’s up to us if we want to give that level attention. Husband also sometimes doesn’t understand the signals or expressions of the wife.
Hadith: Story of 11 women
Once 11 women got together for a gathering and a meal. Each one of them said today we will talk about our husbands openly and clearly! This is the gist of it:
- My husband is like the camel on top of the mountain. There is no easy path (to climb up to him) and he is heavy and fat (doesn’t come down). [They are talking in symbols.]
- I’m not going to spread the news, what if he leaves me? [She didn’t say anything but said a lot with this statement. Shows her insecurity.]
- If I speak, he will give me a divorce, if I keep quiet then he will keep me [he is short-tempered and my only solution is to not say anything].
- He is like the cool spring night but I’m still afraid of him [She felt comfortable with him but at the same time he still had his jalal]
- He is like a lion on the outside, but he is generous on the inside. [Very strong personality, but very soft and generous in house].
- My husband eats all the food and drinks all the water, he drools when he sleeps and doesn’t even inquire about his partner.
- Either astray, and wounds people easily [he argues a lot and hurts others].
- Soft like a rabbit and fragrant like summer grass [very handsome and fragrant]
- Very tall and very generous [well-known and people would come to him for advice].
- My husband is maalik and he is beyond any praise.
- My husband’s name is Abu Zara and he has pleased me and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. My children are also very nice. [End of story is that Abu Zara ends up leaving his wife. She gets married for the second time, she says he still gave me more than the 2nd husband has ever given me].
Lessons from the hadith
a. Women speak in symbols. They have a symbolic language and men sometimes need to read between the lines.
b. A woman needs the assurance that you will never divorce her. It’s a sunnah way of saying, I will keep you like a queen and I will never ever divorce you.
What Women Say and What They Mean
We never ever go out: Husband will say we just went out a month ago! Actually she means symbolically. She never speaks literally. She means I need some time to go out of the house. Don’t treat her words on face value. She means take me out. You need a translator for this.
Everyone ignores me: Husband says I don’t ignore you! That is not the answer. It means I need your attention now. She means you have gotten so involved in everything I don’t know when you are coming and when you are going. She means don’t spend too much time on work.
This house is always a mess: Husband says not always. She means I want you to make it tidy NOW.
Nobody ever listens to me: Husband says I listen to you… sometimes! It means listen to me NOW. This is called melodramatic behavior, no offence to women. This is a tendency in women. That’s the way they are. She is not giving factual historical statements. She means I like spending time with you. I miss spending time with you. If the husband could translate that he would be happy to know this.
There’s no point in me saying anything anymore: Different husbands will give different reactions to this (laughs). What she means is that it’s not your words that will help me, it’s your actions that will help me. I don’t want your words I want your love.
What Men Say and What They Mean
Give me some space I don’t want to talk: That’s what they mean. In some sense this is a sunnah of Syedna Rasool Allah sws. We want to escape and go into khalwa (solitude) during stressful situations. Example, Prophet sws used to go to Mount Hira. Men are like turtles, they retreat into their shells.
Men have their own way of dealing with this. Women have their own way, she says don’t go away, be here with me, I need to talk about it. Man needs time and she doesn’t understand his need for space. She starts probing and she starts thinking what’s going on. Then shaytan tries to answer for her. Whenever you ask the question that what’s going on? Shaytaan will answer for you, maybe he is having an affair etc. Then she insists even more forcefully. Maybe he just genuinely needed that time. Instead of drawing him into conversation, turn to Allah swt and make dua for him and make ruju to Allah swt.
When woman is upset she starts global broadcasting. She broadcasts it to anyone tuned into her channel. This is the complete opposite way of dealing with stress. A man consoles himself by dealing with grief individually.
Similarly, men should not say to women deal with your grief on your own, stop telling anyone, stop complaining, stop whining. She is going to share her grief. The man should give the wife the ear she needs. He should say, broadcast it to me! Share it with me. I should be the first one you should share it with.
Responsibilities of men
Allah swt has put certain responsibilities on both men and women. Spouse should understand this that these responsibilities need to be fulfilled!
Earning rizq-e-halal. The wife needs to understand and give him space for these responsibilities. Sometimes he may not pick up the phone. Deal with it.
Caring of parents. This is the Haq of mother over him. It’s a responsibility he has to fulfill. He simply must DO it. Sometimes these rights will make him spend time out of the home longer. Sometimes it will be out of his control.
Huqooq Allah. There are some things that he MUST do. He must go to masjid to offer salah. Yes you could say that I know you were chatting with friends after maghrib, come home early . But you cannot say don’t go to the masjid at all.
There are also some types of worship that are not a must do. But some men need to do them. They need it for their own salvation. Like sometimes he has to be in good company, getting ilm of deen and spending time in dhikr. All nafal ibaadah I’m calling it dhikr here. A person does dhikr in two sense.
One is for spiritual purification to stay away for sin that is fard.
Then there is another dhikr that is to get closer to Allah swt it’s strongly recommended, but it is not fard. But if husband feels its keeping him away from sin then it becomes wajib for him.
Men should remember to have a balance in these activities with the family. Give and take. Sometimes you have to be away to be with dawah or to be with the shaykh. Sometimes you have to take away time and give it to family. But it has to be give and take on both on both sides. Wife should realize that he needs it. And especially if it makes him better at deen. The more he will be better at deen, the better husband he will become.
Responsibilities of women
Haqooq Allah. Let her fulfill all of her faraid and wajibat. Sometimes it happens that the woman has not yet prayed her isha, let her pray isha. Have sabr, don’t put her in that situation that it becomes difficult for her to pray it.
Haqooq ul ibaad. Children have rights over her too. If the child wants to sleep with her, the man should let the child sleep with her. It’s her duty and she must fulfill it. Her parents also have rights over her. Going to her parents’ home and spending time with siblings etc. within a reason and certain level is also haqooq ul ibaad.
Managing the house. I’m saying this openly that this is the woman’s job. Woman’s responsibility is managing that. If she needs to do something for the house you need to give her space for that.
A woman needs taqwah as much as men. But she can take less time out for that. If she can do it online then husband should be more lenient with her that you are not going anywhere and the children are also with you. The husband should be more accommodating in these things. If she feels she doesn’t feel anything in prayer, my tongue gets into backbiting then, it’s also wajib for her to engage in religious pursuits that will curtail these sins.