Cii Radio | 16 September 2014/21 Dhul Qa’dah 1435

Pre – marital counselling is an enlightening concept, but the light of this counselling need not burn out once Nikah has been performed and the marriage contract has been signed. In fact we should take the “pre” out of marriage counselling and regard the education of marriage to be a learning experience that runs throughout marriage.

Speaking with Sheikh Mukhtar Raban who hails from “The Windy City” of Port Elizabeth, Cii Radio learned about this important and often neglected aspect of marriage that Sheikh reiterated, should not end once “I do” is exchanged.

Many a time, scholars and counsellors have learned, marriage problems arise when a couple has not been adequately prepared for the challenges of marriage, when individuals are not well acquainted with their specific duties as spouses and when important issues were not discussed before the wedding. There are incidents when crucial information that must be disclosed is kept hidden, resulting in a great deal of pain and heartache later.

Preparation for a wedding does not begin with colour schemes and end with a menu. There is a lot of support and valuable preparation the new couple needs for this decision of a lifetime.

“Marriage education is an important aspect. As a Muslim we are continuously encouraged to seek Islamic knowledge. From the minute we are born there is always this process of empowering ourselves with Islamic knowledge. And especially when it comes to the Fiqh aspect of our lives, the practical application of Islamic law in our lives, we need to be familiar with the purpose of those particular acts and why they have been ordained and more so how to get to the eventual outcomes of that,” explains Sheikh Mukhtar.

Marriage is an important part of a Muslim’s life. It is the union which helps complete half one’s Imaan. It is an agreement and arrangement that a man and a woman have willingly entered into for the sake of Allah SWT. Owing to the fact that this is experienced through sharing, couples need to be familiar with the laws applicable to marriage and how they are accomplished in harmony for marriage is ultimately the growth of two people towards Allah SWT.

“This idea of spending your life with someone else, this concept is shared across the board. A flaw, a problem that we have from the global Muslim community is that we want to practice, or take our knowledge from what we see around us. But Allah SWT has ordained particular laws and attached to those laws is great wisdom from the life of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). There are so many beautiful incidents, narrations that can guide us, assist us to get the best out of an Islamic marriage.”

To save ourselves from delaying marriage, having the incorrect expectations of marriage or placing importance on the less important aspect of a partner, marriage education must begin from the adolescent stage not just a few weeks prior to the Nikah.

“When we look at the process of marriage, specifically prior to the engagement we have this issue of the selection of the spouse. You are going to be choosing someone who is suitable for marriage. There are conditions and recommendations for your potential spouse. It’s a bit difficult to want to, just before you get married, familiarise yourself with this because most likely you have made the choice already by then.”

It’s vital, explains the Sheikh, that one is familiar with what Islam prescribes as the recommended traits in a potential spouse. The responsibility lies with parents in bringing up children with the correct characteristics, the good traits of a spouse which will complement those of another, making them eligible for an Islamic marriage.

Muslim youth must be made aware that relationships outside of and prior to marriage are completely forbidden. When grappling with the choice of a spouse some might attach greater value to one characteristic over another. A child’s general Islamic Tarbiyyah (upbringing) is what influences this selection process. In Islam everything is focused on the important aspects of purity, nobility and goodness. Allah SWT places a lot of emphasis on the idea of being pure and good in our thoughts, actions, to what we consume, what we wear, where we work, how we earn our income and more to the spiritual sense of an individual.

From the Hadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhia wasallam) four aspects are considered when choosing a spouse, wealth, lineage, beauty and Deen. While these are valid considerations, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in this particular Hadith, also advises we favour the concept of Deen, of how close a person is to Allah SWT and how they practice upon the laws of Islam.

“Goodness will befall you if you favour the concept of Deen. Rasulullah (sallallahu alyhi wasallam) acknowledges that you may choose wealth, lineage or beauty. Some may put these before Deen. There is nothing wrong in doing that but one needs to understand where the emphasis lies.” The decision has to be the best one you make in your entire life. If you are choosing “good”, you need to live a good life.

“I think this is where many of our young brothers and sisters have a misconception. They first want to make the mistakes and then when they wish to get married they suddenly want to choose the most pious individual. If that is what you are hoping for then live the pious life initially and try and be obedient, obey Allah SWT, practice upon the laws of Islam. This will guide you and lead you to making the right choice.”

Many think the idea of love exists prior to the couple getting married. From an Islamic perspective, Allah SWT bestows the couple with true love and understanding and mercy once they are married. These are gifts of Allah for a marriage that pleases Him, for a couple that has their focus of being obedient to Allah SWT in order to obtain the fruits and bliss of marriage.

Whether one is married for 10, 20 or 30 years there is always the process of learning. We find this in the life of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) with him having married different types of women of varying ages and backgrounds. “For everyone, whether you are an aalim or not, if you are in a marriage you always have to receive the advices of Islam. That’s very important. It’s a reminder of how you can better this union. As human beings we will make errors in our marriages. There will be times unfortunately when we step over the line. We have Allah’s laws and the life and advice of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to assist us. Marriage education never ends. Always expose yourself to it.”

If couple’s fear seeking help because of the stigma attached with counselling Sheikh Raban advises the first step for a couple having difficulty is to try and work on it together.  “Have a moment or time in the week, a scheduled appointment in which both the husband and wife simultaneously increase their knowledge regarding marriage,” he says.

If a couple finds their problem to be more intense then they should seek external assistance by choosing a learned neutral individual.

“I always recommend that you never, ever run to the parents first. If you are having a marital problem don’t run to the parents because if you solve your problem there’s always this issue of them dealing with whatever it may be post-argument. It is always best to turn to Allah SWT and get the assistance of whom Allah has favoured with knowledge. Let them help you in that regard.”

For the long run, if all the boxes have been checked and couples have educated themselves in the theoretical perspective of marriage, and once married are going through the motions of living with someone else, a very important point is communication. Communication is vital. Linked to this is respect for the spouse.

“One of the skills that need to be perfected in a marriage is communication, the ability to talk to your spouse. You know we can’t really have ‘cave man’ mentality on the men’s side or the ladies just cutting themselves off from their husbands, not wanting to talk or engage with them. Attached to the intimacy, the comfort of your marriage is that you feel free to talk openly with your spouse, in a beautiful manner. If that is removed then the marriage will die a slow death because then the couple is no longer connected in terms of engaging one another verbally and providing that comfort.