Husband and Wife Relationship: An Islamic and Psychological Perspective (Part 2)
The responsibility of maintaining an optimal family life lies with both husband and wife. Taqwa and basic understanding of human psychology is extremely useful in achieving this goal, writes DR. AKHTAR HUSSEIN, in the concluding part of this essay. The first part was published in the August 2014 issue of Young Muslim Digest.
I have observed that there is a lot of conflicts in the family because Empathy is found lacking in people. Empathy is being cognizant of other’s feelings and dealing with them accordingly. Many people specially the religious and materially successful have the attitude that I am right and I do not care how any one feels. They shout and punish wife and children in very inappropriate ways without considering the emotional pain and hatred they may incite in the process. I know some children who have stated: “I will take revenge when I grow up.”
Once, a very religious man was upset with his fifteen year old son. He decided to teach him a lesson. He went to his son’s class room and slapped him in front of his class mates. The son lost interest in studies and his grades went down and he quit school. Now he is running a shop. The son was punished because he bought some thing from money gifted to him by someone without first taking his father’s permission. In another incident a man slapped his wife so hard that her hearing in the left ear was impaired. He did this in front of his teenaged son.
The following example from the Seerah of the Prophet (saws) is a beautiful illustration of empathy.
After the battle of Khaybar, two captive Jewish women were brought before Prophet Muhammad (saws) by Bilal, the Mu’adhdhin of Madinah. They had passed by those who had been killed in the fighting. One of the two women was shrieking and screaming, and rubbing dust in her hair, while the other was mute with shock.
The silent one was Safiyyah, the daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab, the chief of the Banu Nadir. The noisy one was Safiyyah’s cousin. Safiyyah could trace her lineage directly back to Haroon, the brother of the Prophet Musa (asws). Prophet Muhammad (saws) asked someone to look after the woman who was screaming and then took off his cloak and placed it over the shoulders of Safiyyah, whose husband and father were killed in the battle. Then the Prophet (saws) turned to Bilal and said,
“Bilal, has Allah plucked mercy from your heart that you let these two women pass by those of their men-folk who have been killed?”
This was considered a severe reprimand, for the Messenger of Allah (saws) rarely criticized the behavior of those who served him. Anas ibn Malik, for example once said,
“I served the Allah’s Messenger (saws) for eight years. He never once scolded me for something that I had done or for something that I had not done.”
Allah (swt) says in His Qur’an:
“It is by Allah’s grace that you have dealt gently with them. Had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have broken away from you. Therefore, pardon them and pray for forgiveness for them and consult with them in the conduct of public affairs. When you have resolved about a course of action, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.” (3:159)
Many of us claim to love the Prophet and are keen to follow his Sunnah but, at the same time, we are harsh in judging and treating our near and dear ones. Unfortunately, a lot of religious people have a condescending attitude and behaviour towards others.
Tolerance, Patience and Forgiveness
Allah (swt) says in His Qur’an:
“O you who believe! Surely from among your wives and your children there is an enemy to you; therefore beware of them; and if you pardon and forbear and forgive, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (64:14)
Following are examples of tolerance and forgiveness:
Once a man came to the Prophet (saws) and said: “Messenger of Allah, I have a wife who has something (wrong) in her tongue” (i.e., she is insolent). He said: “Then divorce her.” The man said: “Messenger of Allah, she had company with me and I have children from her.” He said: “Then ask her (to obey you). If there is something good in her, she will do so (obey); and do not beat your wife as you beat your slave-girl.”
The most telling example in this regard is that of Abu Bakr (ra). Among the many people who benefited from his generosity was a relative Mistah (ra). The latter, unfortunately became involved in the scandal about the Mother of Believers, Sayyida Aisha (ra), which was started by the leader of the hypocrites. It was a whole month of torment and torture for all involved, after which verses of Surah Noor were revealed exonerating her and prescribing punishment for those involved in the false accusation. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Sayyidna Abu Bakr (ra) vowed never to help Mistah again. Yet the Qur’an asked him to forget and forgive and continue helping his relative. He, therefore, continued his support of Mistah (ra).Your own wife and children are even more entitled to be forgiven.
A cursed person is one who is deprived of the mercy of Allah (swt). It is an indication of this deprivation that this sin is punished in this world as well as in the Hereafter.
The Prophet (saws) is reported to have said: “There is no sin more deserving of having punishment meted out by Allah (swt) to its perpetrator in advance in this world along with what He stores up for him in the next world than oppression and severing of the ties of the family.” [Tirmidhi]
It is important to appreciate that there is a significant difference in the psychology of men and women. If men understand this, they will be in a much better position to deal with their wives and other female relatives..Conflict avoidance and management will be facilitated. The sex hormones have a profound effect on the mind and behavior. The hormones in the men is stable from day to day, whereas in the females there is marked variation during various days of the monthly cycle and also there is manifold increase of various hormones during pregnancy. That is why they are more moody and at times very irritable and at times prone to depression and irrational behavior.
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) occurs in most women but the degree varies from mild to very severe. It starts 3-7 days before the onset of their periods. During this time they feel unwell, irritable, forgetful, asocial and withdrawn. Whereas, elderly ladies are very prone to depression, PMS in the young and depression in the older women commonly lead to conflicts between the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law. In one of my lectures, I talked at some length about PMT. At the end of the lecture a Turkish engineer came up to me and profusely thanked me and said: “You solved a major problem of mine.” He said, “I have been very upset by the erratic behavior of my daughter-in-law who, at times, has a bad temper, and I have been telling my son to divorce her, but he did not listen to me. Now I understand why she is, at times, very good and, at times, very irritable with a volatile temper.”
About 80% of women experience some premenstrual symptoms. Moderately severe symptoms occurs in 20% to 30% of women. About 2% to 6% of women are believed to have severe symptoms.
|Psychological symptoms||Physical symptoms|
|Anger & irritability||Fatigue|
|Oversensitivity||Sleep disturbance- too little or too much|
|Exaggerated mood swings||Appetite changes-overeating|
It is well-known that women like to talk more than men. It is estimated that women need to say 35,000 words a day and men 25,000 per day. Man uses most of those words at work and when he comes home, the wife is talkative and the man does not respond to her and she feels unloved and frustrated. Because of this complaint from one wife, I asked the man why he does not talk to his wife and children. He said: “They are much below my intellectual level and my knowledge so I do not enjoy talking to them.” It is the duty of the husband to satisfy the natural needs of his family and that includes talking to them at their level and showing that he loves them and cares for them.
The men focus on problem-solving and they are very good at that. The women are not too much interested in problem-solving. They are very emotional and when something bothers them, they whine and complain and want to talk in detail. The men if they hear about a problem and cannot find a solution get frustrated and do not want to dwell on it. Suppose there is a conflict between wife and his mother. If the wife complains, he gets very upset on her because he knows he cannot say anything to the mother. He gets frustrated because he does not find a solution. The wife, on the other hand, is not interested in a solution: all she needs is to vent her emotions and get some sympathy from the husband. Once she vents her emotions, she feels relieved specially if the husband shows some understanding of her view-point.
The following ahadith sum up the approach to dealing with females which is in agreement with the human psychology:
- Usamah bin Zaid (ra) reported: “The Prophet (saws) said, ‘I am not leaving behind me a more harmful trial for men than women.’” [Bukhari and Muslim]
- Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: “Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘Take my advice with regard to women: Act kindly towards women, for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of a rib is its uppermost. If you attempt to straighten it; you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain crooked; so act kindly toward women.’” [Bukhari and Muslim].
In another narration of Muslim, Allah’s Messenger (saws) said: “Woman has been created from a rib and will in no way be straightened for you; so if you want to benefit from her, you will benefit from her while crookedness remains in her. If you attempt to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her.”
Amr bin al-Ahwas al-Jushami (ra) reported that he had heard the Prophet (saws) saying on his Farewell Pilgrimage, after praising and glorifying Allah (swt) and admonishing people, “Treat women kindly, they are like captives in your hands; you do not owe anything else from them. In case they are guilty of open indecency, then do not share their beds and beat them lightly, but if they return to obedience, do not have recourse to anything else against them. You have rights over your wives and they have their rights over you. Your right is that they shall not permit anyone you dislike to enter your home, and their right is that you should treat them well in the matter of food and clothing.” [Tirmidhi]
Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, ‘A believer must not hate (his wife) believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” [Muslim]
Wife’s Attitude and Behavior
Abu Hurairah (saws) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, ‘When a man calls his wife to his bed, and she does not respond and he (the husband) spends the night angry with her, the angels curse her until morning.’” [Bukhari and Muslim]
In another narration: Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “By Him in Whose Hand is my life, when a man calls his wife to his bed, and she does not respond, the One Who is above the heaven becomes displeased with her until he (her husband) becomes pleased with her.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “It is not lawful for a woman to observe (voluntary) fasting without the permission of her husband when he is at home; and she should not allow anyone to enter his house without his permission.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: The Prophet (saws) said, “If I were to order anyone to prostrate himself before another, I would have ordered a woman to prostrate herself before her husband.” [Tirmidhi]
Umm Salamah (ra) reported: Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “If any woman dies while her husband is pleased with her, she will enter Jannah.” [Tirmidhi]
Narrated Abu Huraira: “Allah’s Apostle (saws) said, ‘The best women among the camel-riders, are the women of Quraish.’” (Another narrator said) “The Prophet said, ‘The righteous among the women of Quraish are those who are kind to their young ones and who look after their husband’s property.’” (Bukhari)
It is very clear from the above traditions of the Prophet (saws) that the wife must do her utmost to satisfy and please her husband. She should be obedient and eager to fulfill all his needs specially sexual. She should beautify herself, and use perfume and make up and dress attractively for him and display her love and affection toward him. The following hadeeth is an excellent example of a loving and considerate wife. The Prophet(ASWS) praised her behavior and Allah (SWT) blessed her and her husband.
Anas (ra) reported: “One of the sons of Abu Talhah (ra) was ailing. Abu Talhah went out and the boy died in his absence. When he came back, he inquired, ‘How is the boy?’ Umm Sulaim, the mother of the boy, replied, ‘Better than before.’ Then she placed his evening meal before him and he ate it; and, thereafter, slept with her. At last, she said to him: ‘Arrange for the burial of the boy.’ In the morning, Abu Talhah went to Allah’s Messenger (saws) and informed him of the event. He enquired, ‘Did you sleep together last night?’ Abu Talhah replied in the affirmative, on which the Prophet (saws) supplicated, ‘O Allah! Bless them.’ Thereafter, she gave birth to a boy. Abu Talhah said to me: ‘Take up the boy and carry him to the Prophet (saws)’ and he sent some dates with him. The Prophet (saws) enquired, ‘Is there anything with him?’ He said; ‘Yes, some dates.’ The Prophet (saws) took a date, chewed it and put it in the mouth of the baby and rubbed the chewed date around the baby’s gum and named him `Abdullah.
[Bukhari and Muslim]
The narration in Bukhari adds: “Ibn `Uyainah relates that a man from the Ansar told him that he had seen nine sons of this `Abdullah, every one of whom had committed the Noble Qur’an to memory.
Attitude of Husband
Narrated ‘Aisha: “Hind (bint ‘Utba) said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Abu Sufyan is a miser. Is there any harm if I take of his property what will cover me and my children’s needs?’ The Prophet said, ‘Take (according to your needs) in a reasonable manner.’” (Bukhari)
Narrated Al-Aswad bin Yazid: “I asked ‘Aisha, ‘What did the Prophet use to do at home?’ She said, ‘He used to work for his family, and when he heard the Adhan (call for the prayer), he would go out.’” (Bukhari)
Narrated Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari: “The Prophet said, ‘When a Muslim spends something on his family intending to receive Allah’s reward, it is regarded as Sadaqa for him.’”
Narrated by Abu Hurayrah: “The Prophet (saws) said: ‘Among the Muslims the most perfect, as regards his faith, is the one whose character is excellent, and the best among you are those who treat their wives well.’” (Tirmidhi)
“The most complete believer is the best in character, and the best of you is the best to his womenfolk.” (Tirmidhi)
Narrated by Aisha, Abdullah ibn Abbas: Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” (Tirmidhi)
The Prophet (saws) said: “The entire world is full of resources, and among them the best resource is a righteous wife.” (Muslim)
Narrated ‘Aisha (ra): “Eleven women sat (at a place) and promised and contracted that they would not conceal anything of the news of their husbands. The first one said: ‘My husband is like the meat of a lean weak camel which is kept on the top of a mountain which is neither easy to climb, nor is the meat fat, so that one might put up with the trouble of fetching it.’ The second one said: ‘I shall not relate my husband’s news, for I fear that I may not be able to finish his story, for if I describe him, I will mention all his defects and bad traits.’ The third one said:‘My husband is a tall man; if I describe him (and he hears of that) he will divorce me, and if I keep quiet, he will neither divorce me nor treat me as a wife.’ The fourth one said:‘My husband is a moderate person like the night of Tihama which is neither hot nor cold. I am neither afraid of him, nor am I discontented with him.’ The fifth one said:‘My husband, when entering (the house) is a leopard, and when going out, is a lion. He does not ask about whatever is in the house.’ The sixth one said: ‘If my husband eats. he eats too much (leaving the dishes empty), and if he drinks, he leaves nothing, and if he sleeps he sleeps alone (away from me) covered in garments and does not stretch his hands here and there so as to know how I fare (get along).’ The seventh one said: ‘My husband is a wrong-doer or weak and foolish. All the defects are present in him. He may injure your head or your body or may do both.’ The eighth one said:‘My husband is soft to touch like a rabbit and smells like a Zar’nab (a kind of good smelling grass).’ The ninth one said:‘My husband is a tall generous man wearing a long strap for carrying his sword. His… house is near to the people who would easily consult him.’ The tenth one said:‘My husband is Maalik, and what is Maalik? Maalik is greater than whatever I say about him. (He is beyond and above all praises which can come to my mind). Most of his camels are kept at home (ready to be slaughtered for the guests) and only a few are taken to the pastures. When the camels hear the sound of the lute (or the tambourine), they realize that they are going to be slaughtered for the guests.’ The eleventh one said: ‘My husband is Aboo Zar’ and what is Aboo Zar’ (i.e., what should I say about him)? He has given me many ornaments and my ears are heavily loaded with them and my arms have become fat (i.e., I have become fat). And he has pleased me, and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. He found me with my family who were mere owners of sheep and living in poverty, and brought me to a respected family having horses and camels and threshing and purifying grain. Whatever I say, he does not rebuke or insult me. When I sleep, I sleep till late in the morning, and when I drink water (or milk), I drink my fill. The mother of Aboo Zar’ and what may one say in praise of the mother of AbooZar’? Her saddle bags were always full of provision and her house was spacious. As for the son of Aboo Zar’, what may one say of the son of AbooZar’? His bed is as narrow as an unsheathed sword and an arm of a kid (of four months) satisfies his hunger. As for the daughter of Aboo Zar’, she is obedient to her father and to her mother. She has a fat well-built body and that arouses the jealousy of her husband’s other wife. As for the (maid) slave girl of Aboo Zar’, what may one say of the (maid) slave girl of AbooZar’? She does not uncover our secrets but keeps them, and does not waste our provisions and does not leave the rubbish scattered everywhere in our house.’ The eleventh lady added, ‘One day, it so happened that Aboo Zar’ went out at the time when the milk was being milked from the animals, and he saw a woman who had two sons like two leopards playing with her…. (On seeing her), he divorced me and married her. Thereafter, I married a noble man who used to ride a fast, tireless, horse and keep a spear in his hand. He gave me many things, and also a pair of every kind of livestock and said, ‘Eat (of this), O Umm Zar’, and give provision to your relatives.’ She added, ‘Yet, all those things which my second husband gave me could not fill the smallest utensil of Aboo Zar’s.’” ‘Aisha then said: “Allah’s Apostle (saws) said to me, ‘I am to you as Aboo Zar’ was to his wife Umm Zar.’”
The most important message is the concluding sentence of the hadeeth. The Rasool (saws) has praised and endorsed the pampering of his wife by Aboo Zara. All Muslims must understand the message of this important hadeeth which has been reported by Bukhari and Muslim.
Islam lays great emphasis on love and kindness between the family members. Allah (swt) has placed love and mercy between the spouses. Good spousal relationship is essential for the development of healthy, dynamic children who will be emotionally equipped to raise a loving family of their own and contribute to the welfare of the society according to their abilities. Dysfunctional families result in emotionally damaged children who are prone to develop a variety of mental diseases, have difficulties in trusting others and are unable to attain their full potential. The responsibility of maintaining an optimal family life lies with both husband and wife. Taqwa and basic understanding of human psychology is extremely useful in achieving this goal. If someone observes that the family is dysfunctional he should seek professional help.