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Agony Aunt: How to Navigate Spiritual Differences With My Husband

by in Relationships on 14th April, 2024

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Assalamu alaikum, I’m struggling to be patient with the fact that my husband and I are both at very different stages in our spiritual journey. It can be quite disheartening when I’m excitedly talking about my growth and gaining Islamic knowledge and I see that he doesn’t share the same excitement. I also don’t see him try the way I want him to. I have raised this with him and he acknowledges and agrees but I’m not seeing any action per se. I’m not sure how to move forward as I keep making dua that Allah opens my husbands heart up and he becomes closer to the deen. I am struggling as to what to do since communicating is not working.

Maya Areem responds:

Asalamu alaykum,

It’s clear that you’re facing a deeply personal and challenging situation, one that requires both patience and understanding. 

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s spiritual journey is unique and progresses at its own pace. It can be difficult when two people are on different pages when it comes to their deen, especially people who are so close to us. Ultimately we want our loved ones to want to develop themselves when it comes to Islam and it is encouraging to be with someone who does this. While you experience enthusiasm and growth, your husband’s path might look completely different by the Qadr of Allah (SWT). However, a marriage is meant to uplift you and you deserve a partner who wants to put in the work into creating the kind of environment and values you want for your married life. 

In the first instance, perhaps have an honest conversation and ask him if this is something that he actually wants to attain and is a priority to him. Try to understand:

  • What is it that stops him from taking action? 
  • Is this an internal thing or a need for external motivation? 
  • Is he saying he wants to strive as he thinks this is what you want or is it something he genuinely wants to do? 

An honest conversation here of him setting out his intentions and blocks can help get on the same page, if it is not something he wants to work on, that is then a separate conversation. 

If being more proactive about his deen is something he wants to work on and you feel it is in your capacity to offer him support, have a conversation on what that support can look like. If he isn’t stopping you from pursuing your spiritual journey or preventing you from obeying Allah (SWT), then extending patience and support to him in this instance will help navigate through this period and foster love and blessings within your relationship longer term.

If he wants your support, consider making an intention between you and Allah (SWT) that you are going to work to support him and then reassess it every few weeks. Renew this intention often as it is a difficult task to take on.

In either case, I would also encourage you to seek a support system outside of your marriage that is able to match your enthusiasm and development. It may be that for this season, your development in your deen sits in other circles. InshaAllah over time he will be able to support you too but it is crucial for you to also be able to develop your deen independent of him.

If he asks for your support in the honest conversation above about being able to work together, there should be some mutual understanding where he agrees to actions so that you are not left to convince him each time to take action. Perhaps ask him to set some bare minimum goals for himself to work on weekly, daily or monthly. Patience and gentleness here are key, as well as the Prophetic way. Pushing too hard or expecting immediate change can create tension and strain in the relationship.

It is said in the Quran:

“And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults), and ask (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affair…” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:159)

I understand that you have already attempted communication. Try to recite the dua of Prophet Musa (AS) before talking to him:

رَبِّ ٱشْرَحْ لِى صَدْرِى وَيَسِّرْ لِىٓ أَمْرِى وَٱحْلُلْ عُقْدَةًۭ مِّن لِّسَانِى يَفْقَهُوا۟ قَوْلِى

Rabbish rahli sadri wa yassirli amri wah lul uqdatan min lisaani, yaf kahu kauli

“My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance] and ease for me my task and untie the knot from my tongue that they may understand my speech.” (Surah Taha 20:25-28)

This is a beautiful dua where you can ask for Allah’s help in making someone understand what you are saying in a way that touches their heart and opens their mind.

Lead by example, offering gentle encouragement and support while giving space to your husband as he explores his faith. A supportive environment can be conducive to open and comfortable discussions on beliefs and experiences. This can also show him the positive impact your spiritual growth has had on your life through your actions and behavior, which might incline him to follow suit.

However, at the same time I also understand that implementing these tips puts the bulk of the load on you, which can feel unfair. In order to maintain your own mental well-being, firmly communicate and set some timelines for him to adhere to in terms of his spiritual growth. If you still feel that there is a lack of effort for him, maybe talk to your local Imam or a trusted elder to mediate for you because as a Muslim woman, you absolutely deserve a husband who shares your values and is committed to nurturing the kind of environment and beliefs you want to bring into your home. 

It is important to remember that for some people, change comes from within, but for others, change happens slowly due to the influence of their external surroundings. Look around in your social circles and befriend people who are religious and closer in age to you and your husband, as peers and friends play a big role in influencing our actions. 

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“A man is upon the religion of his friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” (Tirmidhi)

Consider attending an uplifting Islamic lecture or class together once a month. Follow up these sessions with a meal or coffee where you can have spiritual discussions in a relaxed setting. Spiritual growth is not just confined to salah or gaining knowledge through a lecture. Why not sign yourselves up for volunteering at the masjid for charity events? You can make it a weekly or monthly ritual, one that can also create chances for coming across like minded individuals leading to beneficial friendships. This can also create a healthy environment separate to you for your husband’s faith to develop and flourish through the bonds of brothers and community. 

In the meantime, focus on strengthening your relationship and creating a warm and loving atmosphere at home. We all have flaws that are invisible to us. List down his good traits and appreciate them every time these thoughts enter your head. A marriage requires understanding, respect, and love. It is not easy for someone to break old habits, all of which require time and effort.

If you are frustrated by his inaction, try motivating him by setting routines that don’t require a lot of effort from him initially, like putting on an Islamic lecture by a scholar that may resonate with him while you are eating dinner together. You can choose an interesting podcast during a road trip that not only discusses faith, but also practical and general world issues through the lens of Islam. He might listen in even when it feels like he’s not paying attention. When these routines have been set, then it will come naturally to him to pray with you as well and show similar enthusiasm when it comes to the deen, inshaAllah. 

I also understand that it is not easy to be patient when you have been making constant du’a. Many of the early believing women also waited for and made constant du’a for their husbands to come to Islam in their own way, including the daughter of the Prophet (ﷺ), Zainab (ra).  While it’s natural to want the best for your husband and to make du’a for him, ultimately, his relationship with Allah (SWT) is personal and between him and his Creator. Which is why setting a timeline is so important for both of you. Hopefully, this can motivate him while at the same time, help you in dealing with the uncertainty that can come with waiting for someone to change.

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to make the following dua frequently:

يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك

Ya muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi ‘ala dinika

“O Controller of the hearts make my heart steadfast in Your religion.” (Tirmidhi)

May Allah (SWT) grant your husband the love of deen that is combined with beneficial knowledge and actions. Ameen

Love + Duas,

Aunt Maya

If you would like some wisdom from Aunt Maya, send in your problems here! Please note Aunt Maya may consult the opinion of others from time to time and ask the Amaliah community for their advice too. Aunt Maya is not a licensed therapist or mental health professional.

Maya Areem

Maya Areem

Maya is a teacher by day and student by night. She hopes to pass on what she learns.