.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
م’s top three favourite things about his wife are that: [our aunt chimes in and says, “first thing, I know. Her looks.“]
م affirms this. “Yeah, she’s very pretty, Maa Shaa Allah.
Her understanding. There were a lot of times before I even started the marriage talks, or brought it up with my parents, when I’d discuss some things with her, to make sure we’re on the same wavelength, or at least that she understood. Because if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t understand stuff, then it’s like you’re talking to a fan. There’s no point. […] Her understanding’s very good.
And then, I’d say, she’s closer to the Deen than I am.” So that “definitely” inspires him.
Then, س’s three favourite things about her husband are that: “He’s funny. [She says this while laughing]. Which I’m not. It’s not fair!
I like his curly hair. [م says that she has forbidden him from cutting it. “I’m not allowed to cut my hair.”]
That he’s intelligent.”
م is twenty-one years old, while his wife, س, is six months his junior. They attend the same university, Allah hummabārik, at which م studies Economics, while س is studying for a degree in Creative Writing [the numbers and the letters. The romantic in me wants to say… ‘yin and yang‘]. But م also occasionally helps his wife with her academic work. “Basically, when she gets her degree [In Shaa Allah,] my name’s on it.”
م likes to spend his time going gym, driving and working on his car, especially with friends. Cooking, from time to time. He works, studies, spends time with family, and has his own photography business, Allah hummabārik. DIY, also: recently, he had a bit of a freak accident involving his fingernail, and a drill. [In spite of these certain isolated incidents,] I think his mother, in particular, has raised him to be responsible, especially what with him having three younger siblings he also helps to take care of.
س also studies, and works; she goes out with friends, goes to her mum’s house sometimes, and is also an incredibly talented painter, Maa Shaa Allah. She mainly works with acrylics, and recently she completed a gorgeous Dome of the Rock painting.
م says that, before deciding to get married, “being financially stable is definitely important, but that doesn’t mean you need to have a big income.
“You don’t want to be struggling, oh, when’s my next pay cheque coming in. But if you have a pay cheque coming in, regularly, then you are stable.”
م and س (whose initials, in English, are ‘M’ and ‘S’. Maybe they should open up a supermarket together…) also have the same favourite car: the Nissan GT-R. So that’s why م hired one of those, for his Walima day [they had signed the papers, in their separate homes, the evening before. Then they had spent some time together, that evening. And the next day had been the day of the wedding feast, in a garden venue].
س’s favourite colour is pink; م’s favourite colour is purple.
“My favourite colour’s dark purple,” my little brother adds, about himself.
س moved into م’s house (although there are other ways, in general, to tackle that important question of where to live). م swapped rooms, to get a bigger one, and they did it all up. And the couple have recently returned from a trip to Portugal.
م is my first cousin, mum’s side. We had attended the same school, same classes, from Nursery up until Year Eleven. And, some six months ago (August 2021) I got to see my cousin marry his love, in a lovely garden venue, surrounded by family and friends (albeit, the guest list had to be limited, slightly, as a result of el pandemic).
I guess we knew that something had been up, about a year prior to his NikkaH, when م started… singing ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran, while driving around in his characteristically questionable ways.
Getting married at the age of twenty: our parents had their weddings at that sort of age. My nan had been around fifteen. But of course, now there is a greater focus on ‘getting your education, getting your career’ before thinking of ‘settling down’.
“Why did you decide to get married at the age of twenty?”
م’s response: “Because I was twenty at the time, and I wanted to get married.”
“How did you approach her family and everything?”
“I approached my parents first, [and then told our aunt and uncle].”
م’s parents had been the ones that had approached س’s family. But the course of true love, as ever, found itself riddled with some difficulty, some struggle. [All the best things are though, aren’t they? It takes patience.]
So, how did س’s family take it [the proposal]?
م says: “That’s a good one.”
“Not well,” says س.
What does it mean, to be a good Muslim?
I have noticed that the first thing that people seem to tend to say, in response to this question is: “Salaah” (the Islamic ritual prayer, at least five times daily). Salaah helps you to nurture your connection with your Creator; it inspires you to do good, it is a source of daily comfort as well as a reminder, and it really helps with dealing with temptations and bad habits and all.
“If you fix your Salaah, everything else sort of fixes itself, falls into place.”
“But also understanding [is important],” م adds. “Like, reading a lot.”
My aunt and her husband had also been there, at my nan’s house yesterday. My aunt had been twenty-eight years old, I believe, when she got married, some five years ago, I think. [If it happens for you, it happens when Allah Wills for it to happen. And not a moment before or after that. Allah closes the doors of what is not meant for you, and opens what is.]
My aunt and uncle now have a daughter, a three-year-old energetic little one, Maa Shaa Allah, who had informed me yesterday that she has been… talking to walls… and that they have been talking back, and she even ‘got into a fight with one, and she won‘ [???] Kids are hilariously adorable; a true blessing from God.
م, prior to marrying س, had a “long conversation” with our aunt, during which, according to our aunt, he said that when he had come across س, he thought that she’s a “really good person, she’s got all the qualities that he would seek in anybody. So why delay?”
Then م adds, in sort of emo mode: “plus, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes, you know what I mean?”
My aunt jokes: “He just trapped you, س, innit? That’s it.”
I asked my little brother (who is nine years old) what a soulmate might be. “It’s your soul’s mate.”
But then he says, Tumar Mata, which means ‘your head‘, in Bengali.
Yesterday, my little brother started walking around, holding out his hand, with a fake ‘mic’. But, “no holding the microphone“.
Along م’s journey within Islam, he says that his parents had been important. His teachers. And his auntie.
Our auntie mentions that when م had been little [and, our grandfather had passed away when we were around eight or nine years old, Allahu yerhamuhu], some of our aunt’s former schoolmates had tried to give م some words of comfort, at the masjid. “Don’t cry, it’s okay.”
And apparently, young م had replied: “I’m not crying. Alhamduli Llah, my Dada’s [paternal grandfather, in Bengali] in a better place.”
According to م, the benefits of getting married relatively ‘young’:
“It keeps you away from Fitna (evils, temptations).
It’s also a Sunnah [from the Prophetic, SAW, example] to get married young.
It’s one of those ones where everyone’s always like, I can’t wait to grow old with a person. But the earlier that starts with a person, the longer that stretch will be. You know what I mean?
Like, you’re not just ‘growing old’ with a person. You’re growing with a person.”
Some more pearls of wisdom from my cousin, then:
“Being with someone, and being yourself at the same time… it’s about downtime. You’re not gonna be in each other’s spaces 24/7. And you’ve got to be okay with that.”
Sometimes, for example, when س goes over to her mum’s house: “I’m not with her, she’s not with me. We’re doing our own things.”
“There’s some times when we’re at home, and she’s doing one thing in one room, and I’m doing another thing in another room. You need that time away.”
My aunt adds that one of the best things, one of the healthiest things in a relationship, is to have your own hobbies. Separate from one another. My uncle adds a bit to this: be distinctive, essentially.
You need your own friends, familial networks. And to not feel ‘trapped‘ or excessively dependent on your spouse. That, as م says, would likely result in it “eating away at either one, or the other”.
“You need friends. You can’t talk to one person, 24/7. You need your own life.”
“If it’s a healthy relationship, you’ll have your own time.
We spend time together, we go out together. But there’s nights where I go out with my friends. More time, I try and tailor that to when she’s going to her mum’s house. That’s her time alone, that’s my time alone.
I don’t [go out until very late] all the time like I used to. But I still see [my friends], and sometimes when I see them, I take her with me. And one of my friends is married as well, so he brings his wife sometimes. And I bring mine. And they’ve gotten quite close.
It’s not that it [going out with friends etc.] stops. It’s just that it changes.” And, also:
“I’ve gone football every week since I’ve gotten married.”
Ultimately, it’s about ‘not taking the mick’. “Have your time together. If I go out with my friends every day, but then I don’t take her out, or don’t spend time at home with her, I’m taking the mick.“
And م does not subscribe to that notion that marriage is about “two halves becoming a whole”. He thinks it is more about “two wholes, coming together”.
When you get married, “subconsciously, everyone expects you to change. Even with your friends: oh, you’re not gonna come out much. At home: you’re gonna be like this, you’re gonna be like this.
A lot of people used to say that to me: ‘oh, we’ll see after marriage‘. And then I got married, and then they’re like, bro, you’re the same. And, I’m meant to be the same, you know what I mean? I’m not meant to ‘change’.“
He agrees, however, that, via marriage, you’re supposed to be
‘better’, as yourself.
“But in terms of how other people see me, that shouldn’t change. Like, I was me before the marriage, and I’m me after the marriage. If I change that, then I’m no longer the man that she married.”
So, how do م and س balance each other out?
I know that my cousin has a more ‘extroverted confidence’ about him. س has a more quiet confidence about her, Maa Shaa Allah.
“I talk a lot,” says م.
“I don’t.” says س.
م and our aunt talk about how there are likely to be more clashes, if, say, both partners are talkative and more headstrong.
م adds that “there are times when she [his wife] talks more, and [he] talk[s] less.” But he says that this seems to happen more so when they are by themselves. Outside, he is the ‘loud’ one, and she’s the ‘quiet’ one. “You need that balance though.”
Who is the better chef out of them both?
“Me, man.” my cousin quickly answers. “Woah! That’s a rude question.”
“He can cook curries,” س explains. And س says that she can make pasta.
“I’m a better chef in general,” م declares, jokingly. “Come on man!”
And: who’s the bigger nerd out of the two?
“Me.” م says.
“Depends on your definition of ‘nerd’, innit”. م talks a little about his more ‘nerdy’ interests.
Our aunt jokes that م likes to think he knows ‘everything about everything’ but م insists that he doesn’t “know everything about everything,” and that if he doesn’t know something, he “won’t argue about it”. My aunt loves (and teaches) Biology, and she says that when speaking to م about things like heart disease, he’ll just be like, “yeah, yeah, I get that…”.
In response to a question about how marriage can sometimes be over-romanticised, by people in general, and by Muslims: م thinks that the people of Twitter, on the marriage question, seem to be more “grounded” now. Whereas, on Tik Tok and Insta:
“All you see are the ‘highs’. All these couples blow up because,” [he continues, mockingly,] “‘Oh, they’re so cute together. Oh, look at the way he looks at her, when she’s not looking at him.”
“It’s like, bruv, when the recording’s done, how do you know that they’re not just getting up and leaving each other? You can’t base it on that one minute, that 30 seconds, that you see.
“And it’s not healthy to constantly see couples ‘always happy with each other’. It’s not realistic. Look, you’re not always going to be ‘happy’ with each other. But that doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a split if you’re not ‘happy’.”
Because when you compare yourself to filtered, unrealistic, unnatural expectations: any time you, and/or your relationships, don’t match those, you may feel inclined to think that you are ‘falling short’, that something is ‘inherently bad’. But we’re human.
Our aunt says that, perhaps especially with the younger generations, there seems to be this real emphasis on the plan and the build-up to a wedding: “the cars, the set-up, the aesthetics. What ring you get. All of this is highlighted so much now.
It’s all about the day. They don’t even think about what’s going to happen afterwards.”
So, realistically, how do you go about preparing for a marital relationship?
م says: “You’ve gotta be sure of yourself, first.
Because you can’t go into a marriage thinking, ‘I’m going to get married and this person is going to ‘fix me’. Or, ‘I’m going to become better. Because this person is going to make me better’.
Like, yeah, your partner will make you better. But it’s not like, ‘Oh, I don’t do this. My partner’s going to do that for me. You need to fix that yourself, and then go into the marriage. And then you work on that, together.“
“At the end of the day, you come together. It’s two people, coming together.”
“Marriage is one of the provisions for the Ākhirah,” my aunt says. [Ākhirah: the eternal life after this one]. “That you can help one another, in terms of, towards your Ākhirah. I feel like it’s a means of easy Jannah, basically. [Jannah: Heaven.]”
My aunt’s husband adds that marriage is not about “meeting a standard which you aren’t, to make the other person happy.”
“You have to be who you are.“
Ultimately, perhaps, the most important thing is: sharing values.
My aunt, as aforementioned, loves Biology, cooking, working on arts and crafts projects, taking part in mosque groups and projects, and taking care of children. Her husband loves Ertugrul, and that whole ‘Turkish aesthetic’. He loves cooking too, spending time with his daughter, being involved with mosque things, and learning about Islamic history.
“When he’s telling me about history, I can’t… I can’t have that same interest. But everything else, I think we have [similar] interests.”
My aunt’s three favourite things about her husband, besides his looks, are: “his level of patience. I love that. Understanding, definitely. And I think there’s a lot of challenges we’ve had in life, since we got married. And if it wasn’t for his understanding, it would have been a difficult one.
And he’s goal-orientated [talking about legacy and such].”
Now, her husband’s favourite things about her: “She can think for herself. Rather than, ‘Oh yeah, I agree, I agree, I agree’. It helps a marriage [to be different, and to have some different views].
Because of her activeness/activism. [It inspires him, to be more productive, and also contributes to having a “strong and healthy household”].
Looks is one of the reasons why I went ahead with the marriage as well.”
“Is it?!” م interjects. “Is that why you fell in love with my dad?” [Apparently, prior to my aunt meeting her future husband, it had been her elder brother (whom she really trusted, to choose for her) who had met with our future uncle. Twice. Spoke to him, “already decided that I’m going to be marrying this guy. But we hadn’t met yet!”]
“I’ve got many other stuff [that my uncle loves about my aunt,] but I’ll keep it humble, innit.”
According to a Hadīth from At-Tirmidhi (a particular compilation of reports from and about Prophet Muhammad SAW), marriage is half of one’s religion [i.e. Deen, Way of Life]! And, why might this be the case?
My aunt thinks there’s “multiple reasons” as to why this is the case. One is: because by getting married, you are protecting and preserving yourself from certain forms of Fitnah, and you’re enjoying a Halāl, legitimate relationship. “So that’s one thing. And now, with that person, they will be your companion.”
“And because it is difficult. Marriage is difficult. So, if it’s going to be half your Deen, Deen is not just going to be sugar-coated and easy. It’s going to be [difficult] as well.
With marriages, the best advice I’d give to anyone is to always be open and honest with one another. There’s no point putting on a ‘face’ [e.g., one way with your husband, another way with your friends.]. He should know me, better than anybody. And I should know him, better than anybody.
I shouldn’t have to be different in front of him. I shouldn’t have to put a ‘front’ on.”
Did you feel like your lives ‘started again’ when you got married?
“No,” says م.
“It just continued,” our aunt says.
س says that it was a bit different for her, what with being “in a whole new house,” with new people. And sometimes, when she would go back to her mum’s house, she would look around at “this whole other life that [she] used to live.”
Apparently, “you know what she does, yeah, every other month”, م’s wife comes and stands next to him, and says, “you’re kind of tall, you know.”
Allah created humankind “in pairs” [Qur’an, (78:8)]. Earth and sky, sun and moon, day and night. He has imbued and equipped the male with certain general strengths and characteristics, and the female with certain other ones.
م says that being a man, more than mere XY chromosomes, is to be, “ultimately, a protector. A backbone.”
“Bro, fam, let’s not even go onto the topic of Gheerah [protective jealousy]. There’s certain man that are getting married now yeah, and if you’re non-Muslim, fair enough. [Muslim men should not be about ‘sharing women’]. There’s Muslim men that don’t see a problem with sharing their wives.”
He talks a bit about ‘casual’ areligious relationship culture: “Your girlfriend wears revealing clothes. Your girlfriend goes to parties without you. She has ‘friends that are boys’, you have ‘friends that are girls’. You go out with these girls, [go out partying, even though you have a wife.] This that.”
“When you’re married, yeah, all your blessings are now ‘one’, but so are your sins. As a man, you have a duty over your wife, to protect her from sinning, and from the eyes of other men, and from putting her in a certain situation in which she’s doing something wrong, or something can go wrong.
Sometimes it could be down to the fact that no one’s ever told her that before. But you’re the man. You should be telling her about that. [He agrees that the man is the leader of the family unit].
Some people don’t have that guidance.
“When you sign that NikkaH paper, you’re saying that you now take responsibility for the safeguarding of this woman. So, if you’re not doing your part, you’re not a man. You can be as ‘big’ as you want, you can have as much money as you want, you can have such a high ‘status’. But ultimately, if you’re not protecting your wife from this stuff, you’re not protecting your sisters, your mum, from this stuff, you’re not really a man. You’re not doing your job.“
Husbands and wives have responsibilities over one another.
My aunt expresses something about how “that little baby”, her nephew: look how much he’s grown.
And maybe: to be a woman means to be soft, and strong.
My uncle says that “women are the stabilisers of society”, while men are the “establishers”. My aunt says that women are the “foundation”.
“For both men and women, it’s about accepting what Allah created us for. […] There is that element of difference in roles.”
م says that, in a household, the man is the “protector”, but the woman of the house is like “the strength of the house”.
And I decided to use this opportunity to ask my mum if I could marry outside of my race [it’s not frowned upon in Islam, but in my ethnic ‘culture’ it can sometimes be.] My mum said no. But that’s okay, because she said no to having a cat initially, but later she warmed to the idea, and now guess which family has a cat that my mother simply adores?
Allah is Al-FattaH. He opens doors, and we just have to do our best, and have faith.