This piece was written in reflection to close friends experiencing abuse in marriage. I wrote the piece after some of my dearest childhood friends ended up in abusive and toxic marriages. As an empath, it broke my heart and affected me mentally to the point where I couldn’t sleep properly for months. I tried to find solutions to their problems, but I realised it isn’t always simple to leave these types of marriages. I also read the horror stories on various Facebook groups for mothers and every story shattered me. What I realised is that, it’s important to prevent women from ever entering these toxic marriages by ensuring rights are met at the start of a spousal search. No doubt, it isn’t always straightforward to filter out unsuitable men as some people are forced and pressured into marriages. However, I believe if even one person were to read the article and it made them think or reassess their marriage criteria then this would be a small positive step in protecting women against marital abuse.
Marrying your true love is an exciting chapter of life. It is the epitome of tranquillity, peace and comfort that humanity craves so deeply. The thought of two independent souls united through the holy state of matrimony with mutual love, respect and commitment brings me so much joy. I love the radiant facial glow of couples both young and old who are truly happy and in complete love. Love is the single greatest emotion that connects people together. When you have a similar spiritual, emotional, intellectual and mental capacity as your significant other, mountains become tiny humps and harsh waves appear as Zamzam water drops. That’s not to say there won’t be any challenges, but you will overcome any hardships as a team.
How can we find a compatible spouse who will love us and journey with us through life’s many trials and heartache?
How can we find an equal who will hold our hand and bring us solitude and calmness after a long day at the office?
How can we find our happily ever after?
The answer is very simple. Before you conduct lengthy background checks and converse with a potential spouse to see if your character and personality traits align, it’s paramount you ensure the suitor is eligible to marry. Marriage is a legally binding contract – whether you marry legally or/and Islamically, it is a contract between the state or/and God. The step of checking marriage eligibility is similar to making sure an employee is a suitable candidate for a role at your firm. When hiring someone, you need to examine if the candidate has all the relevant qualifications, work experience, good character and references to qualify as an employee. Similarly, when you intend to marry someone, there are conditions from the Qur’an and sunnah which a man must meet before he can put a ring on your finger.
If the prospective spouse meets these requirements – you should make sure he is able to fulfil your rights. As with any contract, there are rights and responsibilities laid down by state or Islamic law and marriage is no different.
In essence, a studio flat would suffice. With the cost-of-living crisis we are currently facing, it is understandable that not every man would be able to provide his wife with a studio flat at minimum. If a man is unable to afford a studio flat in areas where the rent or house price is high e.g London, he could relocate to a more affordable place if his circumstances allow. If a woman is unhappy with a studio flat and wants to live in a more spacious/luxurious home, she can contribute towards the difference. What’s essential is that the husband is able to afford at least a studio flat and is willing to pay for it.
If a wife wishes to live with her husband’s family, there will be no sin upon her husband. Living with the in-laws can work greatly for some people, and if a couple is happy with this arrangement, then there is no harm. If at any point, she decides she wants to move out, her husband must make arrangements for that. A husband must intervene if there is any ounce of oppression towards his wife, he must support her and resolve conflict harmoniously.
Shaykh Akram Nadwi comments that providing clothes every six months is a guideline and the type and amount of clothing varies depending on need and what type of clothing a wife wears. He also mentions if a woman doesn’t want new clothing every six months, he doesn’t need to provide it.
Hiring a house helper is common in some societies such as the gulf region, where it is more affordable compared to the UK. If a husband cannot afford to hire help for cleaning and cooking, he may live in a compact property so there’s less to clean. He may decide to cook simpler foods in the oven or a pressure cooker if he doesn’t have much time to cook before or after work.
If a wife wishes to contribute financially or if she wishes to cook, she can and this will be a great act of charity. This must however be her own wish, she must not be pressured or forced into doing so.
It is clear by the above-mentioned responsibilities of a husband that marriage is not easy. Marriage is an act of worship that requires much effort. Men must meet the conditions of marriage and be able to fulfil their marital responsibilities.
Once you have found a man who is able to fulfil your rights, you should then learn about his character, personality and goals. You can consider whether you have a similar mindset and envision a similar future. It is also important that you are physically attracted to your potential spouse. Unfortunately, people engage in long discussions with a suitor, speaking on topics that will determine compatibility without ensuring the man in question even qualifies for marriage. It is vital you only consider a man for marriage if he is financially able to provide you with private accommodation – it is your God-given right and not a favour. Allah SWT says in the Quran: “Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by Allah over women and tasked with supporting them financially.” (Qur’an 4:34) Allah SWT has given men this financial responsibility – it’s in the nature of men to be a household leader and support their wife and children. Some people question what a wife is supposed to do with her time if it is not her responsibility to support the family financially nor do the housework. She is free to do the following:
To work and spend her earnings as she wishes
To raise her children
To engage in charity work
To complete housework (if she wishes to)
So many women throughout Islamic history have built mosques and schools – as women don’t have financial responsibility, they’re able to spend their income on these incredible projects.
Marriage isn’t only governed by laws but by Ihsan (striving for excellence) too. Couples should thrive in mutual respect, love and kindness.
The Prophet ﷺsaid, “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Tirmidhi; Ibn Majah).
Allah SWT clearly states the importance of kind treatment in the Qur’an, “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them. On the contrary, live with them in kindness and equity.” (Qur’an 4:19)
I hope this guide serves as a useful tool in your spousal search. It is important for women to reclaim their rights to protect themselves from potential oppression. Men who are able and willing to fulfil your rights with love, will never intentionally oppress you. A man who fears God, will never harm you and will honour your rights. Every woman is worthy of finding a good man – a man who will treat you as a human being by fulfilling your rights and never abusing nor oppressing you.
May Allah SWT guide us towards righteous spouses, who will fulfil our rights, love us, protect us and never oppress us. When you fear there’s no one suitable out there for you – remember the comforting words of your Lord, “Good men are for good women and good women are for good men.” (Qur’an 24:26) Trust in God, make the effort to seek a God-fearing partner, have patience and make dua. Your high calibre husband will find you – respect yourself, love yourself, understand your worth and God-willing, true love will be yours.
Please note the views are that of the Hanafi madhab
Sunan Ibn Majah by Ibn Majah
Maryam Akram is 27 years old of Indian origin. She is a certified personal trainer, Hatton boxing coach and nutrition coach. She offers individualised coaching, in person and online, that supports women to lose weight and develop a healthy, positive relationship with food. She studied Arabic at SOAS, university of London and at An-Najah university in Nablus, Palestine. She advocates for women’s rights and is working to bring change in the South-Asian community. She enjoys reading poetry in the evening and going for long nature walks. Currently, she resides in Newcastle, UK with her husband and two children. IG: @eatliftbox