By Na’ima B. Robert
A true Muslim marriage is about husband and wife helping each other attain paradise says Na’ima B. Robert
My husband is ill. He lies in bed, in the dark. I try to keep the children quiet. I try to keep them from disturbing him. I try to get them to sleep without too much fuss.
When all is peace, I tiptoe into the room. I feel his forehead for signs of a fever. I ask him if he needs anything. He needs to drink fluids, Vitamin C. I know this. And I also know that he won’t ask.
So I go to the kitchen, put the kettle on. I mix him a drink – lemon to fight the cold germs, honey to soothe his sore throat, fresh mint leaves to lift the taste a little. I say ‘Bismillah’ before I pour the hot water, make a little prayer for his well being, before taking it to him. He smiles through his discomfort. I have brought him ease.
But I wave away his thanks. It is nothing.
I am his wife. That’s what I’m here to do.
Some may sneer at these small acts of kindness. Some may shake their heads pityingly at this description of servitude. But they don’t understand my life or my motivations. They do not know, do not understand that I married my husband for the sake of Allah.
Our goal, from the outset of a marriage arranged by mutual friends, was to help each other to attain Paradise. Nothing more, nothing less.
We went about our marriage the traditional Islamic way. We didn’t date, we didn’t cohabit, we didn’t spend any time alone. We met a few times, in the company of my guardian, asked each other innumerable questions, discussed every issue that was important to us. My husband flew halfway across the world to obtain my parents’ consent and we were married, with a marriage contract and a mahr (dowry paid to the bride) but no pomp or ceremony, in a room in Baker Street.
To be sure, an Islamic marriage is quite different from that of other faiths or of no faith at all. There are roles and responsibilities to be taken care of, rules and guidelines to be followed. These rules are in place to promote a smoother partnership and a union that is pleasing to God. Many of these rules and guidelines may seem old-fashioned, restrictive even, particularly in an age of ever-evolving morals and mores. But as guidelines set down for us in the Qur’an, the Book of Allah, we trust in their wisdom and we live by their strictures.
These teachings help us set our priorities straight. They help us to tame our ego. They show us to how to give selflessly, expecting our reward from God alone. They teach us to be patient and gentle with each other. They teach us how to be loyal and faithful in word, thought and deed. They teach us to be grateful for the small mercies, for the little kindnesses, for the barely noticeable gestures that embroider our lives together. These are lessons we are learning every day. I know that one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe fifty years from now, I will return to my Lord and then, only my good deeds will count for anything. Only my selfless deeds, performed for the sake of God, will accompany me.
Of course, some may say that I am painting an overly rosy picture. They will quote stories they’ve heard, articles they have read, prejudices they have formed. All these could be true. Or they could not be. I can only speak my truth. I can only tell my story.
My husband’s fever has broken. I smile and praise Allah.
It is nothing. That is what we are here to do.
* This article was first published on www.timesonline.co.uk
Na’ima B. Robert is author of From my Sisters’ Lips , a look at the lives of Muslim women. She is founder and editor of SISTERS , the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. Her latest children’s book, Ramadan Moon, is published by Frances Lincoln
Muslim Marriage: A Portrait
By Na’ima B. Robert