The other day a post on my Facebook newsfeed from an Islamic inspirational site showed an image with a couple facing each other, the woman looking up to her husband, her head tilted to the side. The caption encouraged wives to use this “subordinate” position for apologising to their husbands, claiming that it shows vulnerability and “gives the message that you are indeed sorry for your actions.” It had my blood boiling!
Why are women being taught this seductive manner of apologising? Do we err so often that a simple “I’m sorry” has become insincere? Or is it because our egos make it difficult for us to voice an apology? In my opinion, not only are both theories nonsense, but both are much more true about men. Men are the ones who tend to have issues asking for forgiveness, so why do we not see similar posts geared towards them? Where are the posts that encourage men to be the first to reconcile, even if it is simply to maintain peace in the home? You won’t easily find such posts, and here’s why: while we spend so much time teaching our daughters how to be good wives, no one takes the time to teach our sons how to be good husbands. We teach our daughters to maintain order in her home so that her husband is comfortable. We teach them that when there is a problem, she shouldn’t approach her husband as soon as he comes home after work. Rather, she should wait until after she feeds him, makes his tea and runs his bath. We teach them that when he is angry, it is best for her to stay quiet until he calms down, before explaining her point.
While I do not disagree with these methods, I am disheartened that the same advice is not passed on to our sons. We rarely say to them, “When you see your wife frustrated, don’t just leave the room to avoid her; try to comfort her, even if you think her reasons for being angry are unjustified.” No one says, “If you pull yourself off the couch to get a snack or something to drink, offer to get her the same.” No one says, “Sometimes she just needs you to be there… really be there.” No one says, “There are a million ways to show her you care, and even though it will take some effort to find which she likes best, you do have to do it.”No one teaches them the importance of fulfilling their wives sexually. No one says any of that.
Why are we always teaching our daughters how to be wives when we almost never teach our sons how to be husbands? Why do we not give our daughters this same courtesy? The sad truth is, no one cares. No one cares what kind of husband he will be; shy of physical abuse (and even then, sometimes they still don’t seem too concerned), he can be the worst husband in the world, but it’s up to his wife to suck it up and provide him with a happy home no matter how unhappy his careless treatment makes her. The bottom line of this double standard is that we give husbands the right to be neglectful, and then when the marriage falls apart, the wife is blamed for being unable to keep it together.
If we care about the wellbeing of our daughters and of the Ummah overall, we must spend more time advising our sons that their role in the home plays a significant part in its atmosphere. We must explain to them repeatedly that their responsibilities go far beyond just the financial aspect. We must ingrain in them – just as we do to our daughters – their spiritual and emotional duties as a spouse. Studies show that children whose mothers are happy are themselves better adjusted and happier, leading to increased happiness in adulthood as well.1But where does that wife’s happiness come from? If her husband neglects her, caring only about his own satisfaction, whether that be emotionally or intimately, there is no way she will be able to find happiness. If he expects her to carry the full load of child-rearing and act as though he is not responsible, this, too, will have a negative effect on her, and consequently, on the entire household.
If, however, we teach our sons how to communicate with their wives – complement her on how she looks, express pride about a professional accomplishment she has achieved, show appreciation for the warm cooked meals she provides, embrace her when she’s sad or frustrated, talk to her about things which are occupying your attention, spend time with her where you are fully present, etc. – then we give them the communication skills which are essential in making their marriage successful. By putting as much effort into teaching our sons how to be good husbands as we do to teaching our daughters how to be good wives, I have no doubt that divorce rates would decrease and there would be a sharp increase in the overall happiness in our homes. Many people are familiar with the hadith in which ‘Aishah (RA) states that Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) “used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it.”2 We must emphasise this in our homes, to our sons, and encourage them to emulate Rasool Allah (SAWS) in all his actions, including his treatment to his family.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that we should not teach our daughters, nor am I saying that we should not advise each other about how to improve ourselves as wives. Not at all. We must teach our daughters and continue to advise each other because marriage takes work. All I’m saying is that we need to make certain that our sons understand that marriage takes work from both parties. They must learn early on that just because women are more inclined to give in a relationship does not absolve men from giving; wives have desires and emotional needs for which their husbands are responsible. But the true advantage of being a husband is that the more he gives, the more he’ll get back. The happier he makes his wife, the more eager she will be to please him. Marriage is very much a positive feedback system; while both members give, the system produces more love and happiness. If one member slacks for a while, the system will continue to run, but only for a limited time. If either member doesn’t exert the required energy for extended periods of time, the system will fail. Honestly, it’s that simple.
Forgive me for having generalised throughout this rant; I know that there are many men out there who genuinely strive to fulfill their wives’ sexual and emotional needs, but the truth is, these are the minority. I pray that these men will serve as role models for all of the boys in their lives, teaching them through example how to be proper husbands. I pray that all mothers will manage to recruit their husbands so that together they can put increased effort into teaching their sons that a successful marriage requires both parties fulfilling the needs of the other. May Allah (SWT) bless our husbands and guide them to be the comfort their wives desire, just as Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was for his wives. And may He SWT bless our children and help us to raise them to be righteous spouses, always striving to comfort their partners.
- Sahih Bukhari. Call to Prayer (book 11, hadith no. 644)
Hend Hegazi is a freelance writer and editor who was born and raised in the USA.