What is a good Muslim Marriage like? By YM Site

You shall not enter Paradise until you have faith, and you shall not have faith until you love one another. Have compassion on those who are on earth, and He Who is in Heaven will have compassion for you.' (Hadith in Bukhari)

Firstly, a good Muslim marriage should show welcome. Even if the wife did not spend all her day in the home, but perhaps had some employment outside it - even so, the Muslim home should be ready to welcome the family and the guest.

It is the most miserable thing in the world to come home to a dark, locked house, totally empty and bereft of human presence -and this is particularly crushing to a new husband or a child. Any wife thinking of taking up some kind of employment should bear this in mind. Where children are involved, she should make some arrangement with a relative or helper so that they do not build up a mental picture of a home where they `don't count', where they do not feel welcome. As regards a husband, as he is an adult he should not ignore the problems, but be able to talk the thing through and see what the difficulties are, and be able to support the best possible solution that is acceptable to them both.

In an Islamic marriage, both husband and wife have responsibilities and duties, and both are individuals responsible before God for their own Records. Neither has the right to impose or force the other to do something against religion, or to make the other suffer.

It is no good, of course, the husband simply feeling `hard done-by' if he wishes to accept the wife's earnings as part of the total income of the household, but then makes a fuss if it is he who returns to the house first, and who might, perhaps, be expected in that case to light the oven or make the tea! Obviously, if the wife returns before the husband, it is she who gets the `dark emptiness', and she is naturally expected to accept this as part of the way things are. To some extent, it is not really `part of the way things are' any more, in a society where the women are increasingly joining the men as part of the country's workforce. This has to be acknowledged.

The correct Islamic attitude should always be to seek out the best way, and not insist on any code of conduct that is going to upset either partner, or make either partner suffer unfairly. It means that sometimes a husband may have to take the rough with the smooth, or it may mean that the wife may find it better for her marriage not to take full time employment, if this threatens to put too much strain on the marriage. Everything should be considered fairly and openly.

It is patently not all right to expect a highly intelligent woman to sit around at home wasting her life's talents by limiting herself to housework alone. It is true that there is serious unemployment in many Muslim societies, and a major influx of women into the jobs market would make this much worse and leave many families without one breadwinner, let alone two. But it is also true that the Muslim world is crying out for female doctors, nurses, lecturers and so forth, and these women have to undergo considerable sacrifice in order to get themselves trained, and expect to be able to offer their services to the community in much the same way as a trained man. It is not the duty of a Muslim man to be selfish and deprive the community of these talented and dedicated women, and expect them to limit themselves to the service of just one man. So many men take the talents of their wives for granted, and stultify their possible development, which is such a great pity, and a tragedy for society.

On another level, there are many women who cannot cope with being confined all day with children and domestic affairs, who long to go out to work simply to have something else to do, other people to see and talk to, and a little financial reward at the end of it. A Muslim man should realise that he is a lucky person indeed if his wife is happy to devote her whole time and attention to him and his needs, and those of their children and relations. He should count his blessings and never forget to appreciate what a treasure he has been granted.

In many Muslim societies it is taken for granted that a married woman will pass her life in this way, and only someone who has traveled extensively from Muslim country to Muslim country, and had access and the ability to observe the life of Muslim women, can comment fairly on the enormous weight of boredom that lies over the lives of many of these sisters.

It is not full Islam - for God would not have given women the ability to be professionally employed if He had intended a wholly different vocation for them. The Prophet's (s) first wife Khadija was first his employer, while his cousin-wife Zaynab continued to work after their marriage. She made and sold excellent leather saddles, and the Prophet (s) was very pleased with her work. When Islam began fourteen hundred years ago, the women around the Prophet participated in public life, were vocal about social inequalities, and often shared decision making with him. This continued through the golden age of Muslim civilization, when women occupied a far more central role in society than they do nowadays. There were colleges like Cairo's Saqlatuniya Academy which provided higher education for women, and were staffed by women professors. The biographical dictionaries of the great hadith scholars reveal that about a sixth of the hadith scholars in the Muslim middle ages were women. Historians today also marvel at the major role which Muslim women played in the medieval economy, a role made possible by the fact that Islamic law grants a woman the right to own and dispose of property independently of her husband, a law only introduced in the West at the beginning of the twentieth century! But it cannot be denied that over the past three hundred years of our history, women have increasingly disappeared from such positions. It is our duty to try and revive the classical Muslim tradition in this important area.

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