Category Archives: Marriage

Beyond Expectations: A Muslim Woman’s Path to Fulfillment

In June 2024, ISIP had the honor of hosting Sister Hajira Firdouse, an esteemed therapist, for our International Lecture Series. Sister Hajira holds a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Psychology, focusing on counseling, clinical, child, and industrial psychology. She has published a case report in the Academy of Pediatrics and has been quoted by notable media outlets such as The Quint. Her expertise spans various psychology domains, and her research and insights have been recognized by both academic and media platforms. Her talk focused on the dynamics of modern marital relationships and the essential role of parenting within the Islamic framework. Emotional and Practical DifferencesSister Hajira began by highlighting the inherent differences between men and women. She explained that men are generally more practical, while women tend to be more emotionally driven and nurturing. These differences, if not understood and respected, can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts in relationships. Impact of Social Media and External InfluencesThe lecture touched upon the detrimental impact of social media and Western ideologies on men and women. Just as women can be influenced by online trends, men too can fall prey to misconceptions about masculinity propagated through various media channels. She also discussed the concept of real versus fake masculinity, emphasizing how social media influences ideals and behaviors in both males and females. The distorted portrayals of masculinity and femininity in media can create unrealistic expectations and pressures, making it harder to sustain a healthy marital bond. Roles and Responsibilities in MarriageA significant portion of the talk focused on understanding and fulfilling roles and responsibilities within marriage. Sister Hajira stressed that marriage is not just about individual autonomy but about mutual respect and support. She reminded the audience of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) regarding kindness and fulfilling duties towards one’s spouse. Marriage is considered half of one’s faith in Islam, demanding sincere effort and dedication. Expectations and Dynamics in MarriageSister Hajira elaborated on the different expectations men and women bring into marriage. She quoted that women often think about changing their husbands to fit their ideals, whereas men typically do not want their wives to change at all, preferring them as they were at the beginning of the relationship. This fundamental difference can lead to conflicts if not addressed properly.She advised women to master the balance of power and pleasure play, finding a middle ground between being submissive and dominant. Women should contribute to decision-making but be ready to follow their husbands’ lead, creating a sense of honour and respect within the marriage.Friendship vs. Frenemies in MarriageThe concept of being best friends rather than frenemies in marriage was another key theme. Harboring resentment and anger towards one’s spouse undermines the relationship. Couples should strive to be each other’s best friends, offering support, understanding, and respect. Social media often promotes conflict and disrespect, but Islamic teachings advocate patience and harmony. Parenting and Career ChallengesSister Hajira expressed concern over the increasing reliance on screen time and daycare, which can lead to developmental delays in children. She emphasized that modern parenting is not just about reducing screen time but also about increasing the quality time mothers spend with their children. “Time is money for children,” she stressed, highlighting the importance of being present. While pursuing careers is important, the primary duty of raising well-rounded, ethical children should not be neglected. She urged parents, especially mothers, to prioritize their roles as caregivers and to be involved in their children’s upbringing. Balancing Career and Home LifeThe talk also addressed the challenges faced by career-oriented women and the expectations placed on them. Sister Hajira highlighted the importance of balancing career aspirations with the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood. She advised women to treat being a wife and mother as a full-time career, emphasizing the need for mutual support and understanding between spouses.Understanding In-Laws and Maintaining Harmony Respecting in-laws and maintaining a harmonious relationship with them was another crucial topic. Women should honor their in-laws’ space and not make changes in their households without permission. Men should support their wives emotionally during the transition to a new family environment. Effective communication and conflict resolution are essential for a successful marriage. Sister Hajira advised against harsh language and recommended addressing issues calmly and respectfully. Feedback and open communication, while maintaining a high moral ground and mutual respect, are crucial.The lecture also touched upon mental health issues, including narcissistic personality disorder and depression. Seeking help and support when needed should not be taboo. Proper support and guidance can lead to improvement. Final ThoughtsSister Hajira concluded by reminding the audience of the ultimate goal in marriage: to please Allah and attain Jannah. By fostering a loving, respectful, and supportive relationship, couples can achieve worldly happiness and spiritual fulfillment. Women should focus on their character, fulfill their duties towards their husbands, and strive for excellence as wives and mothers.This insightful lecture by Sister Hajira Firdouse provided practical advice and spiritual guidance for navigating the complexities of modern marital relationships and parenting within the Islamic framework. Her emphasis on understanding, respect, and mutual support resonated deeply with the audience, offering valuable lessons for building strong, harmonious families.

Being Married to a Toxic Spouse

By Zaheda Motala Living with a toxic or narcissistic spouse can be an emotional roller coaster, where self-confidence is shattered, personal boundaries are constantly violated, and one’s sense of reality is distorted.  Case Study Sara was a pious and righteous 20-year-old girl who had always strived to please Allah. She had been married to Akbar, a successful businessman, whose charismatic presence had initially drawn her in. However, after the honeymoon ended, just in the first month of their marriage, Sara noticed that Akbar was consumed by his ego. He constantly sought praise and approval from her, and as much as she tried, she couldn’t please him. Over time, Akbar’s behaviour grew increasingly toxic. His need for attention and validation manifested in verbal aggression towards Sara. He would belittle her, dismiss her opinions, and make her feel small and insignificant. Sara, always trying to keep the peace and salvage the marriage, silently endured the emotional torment, believing that she could somehow change\ Akbar or find a way to make the marriage work. However, the constant emotional strain began to take its toll on Sara. She felt isolated, her self-esteem crumbling under the weight of Akbar’s toxic behaviour. She found herself withdrawing from her family and friends, feeling unable to share the truth of her suffering with anyone. Nights were spent in tears, silently praying pleading for guidance from Allah and relief from the pain of her situation. It was during one visit that Sara’s mother asked her why Sara would not visit her for weeks on end, to which Sara’s tears flowed without restriction. Sensing her daughter’s distress, she knew something was wrong and intervened. Seeing the toll that the marriage was taking on Sara, she gently urged her to seek help. Understanding that seeking therapy was still stigmatised in some circles, especially in the context of marriage, Sara’s mother assured her that seeking professional guidance did not contradict their Islamic beliefs. She reminded Sara of the importance of mental and emotional well-being, and how seeking help when struggling was not a sign of weakness, but rather a proactive step towards seeking healing and peace. Encouraged by her mother’s words, Sara found the courage to seek therapy. Through her sessions, she learned to recognize the signs of emotional abuse and manipulation. She discovered that the dynamics of her relationship with Akbar were deeply unhealthy and that she wasn’t alone in her suffering. She began to understand that her worth was not defined by Akbar’s words or actions and that she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness. Her therapist, a kind and understanding woman, also helped Sara integrate Islamic teachings into her healing process. Together, they explored the concept of patience, not as a passive acceptance of abuse, but as a strength for healing.  With the guidance of her therapist and the support of her mother, Sara found strength in Dua and Tahajjud Salaah. With a newfound sense of self-worth, she firmly expressed her boundaries and expectations for their marriage.  Conclusion  While the road to healing was not easy, Sara began to set healthy boundaries to seek relief from the toxic grip of Akbar’s demeaning behaviour. To begin with, she started doing the social work that she used to do before marriage. At first, Akbar resisted by saying, “There’s no need for you to work”. However, Sara explained to him politely but firmly, that it was not work but service to humanity. Helping others and putting a smile on people’s faces gave Sara inner peace. She returned home content and feeling accomplished.  With time, Sara’s newfound assertiveness and self-respect began to shape the dynamics of her marriage with Akbar. While he initially resisted the changes, Sara’s unwavering commitment to her well-being began to influence Akbar’s behaviour. He gradually recognized the strength and resilience within Sara.  Advice  What should one do if married to a spouse exhibiting toxic or narcissistic behaviours?: 1. Make dua to Allah Tala for protection against the harmful actions and intentions of a narcissist.  2. Consider thinking of one’s spouse as a Ma’zhur (one who is excused by the Shariah due to an illness or excuse). Although they might not legally qualify as one, the perspective may help create an understanding in the mind. 3. Make Dua and ask Allah to help your spouse heal from their bad toxic traits. Continue to make Dua for them.  3. Allah promises an increase in bounties for those who show gratitude. Therefore, shift the focus on the spouse’s good qualities and remain grateful to Allah for the goodness.  4. Once in a while, feed your spouse’s ego by showering them with the compliments they want to hear. However, don’t over-exhaust yourself. Be genuine.  5. Set healthy boundaries, with all due respect, where you don’t allow yourself to be trampled upon.  6. Seek professional help from a learned Islamic Counselor.  7. Strengthen your connection with Allah.  8. Try to cope with your spouse’s behaviours by not taking them personally’ and putting a temporary shield between their behaviour and you. Suppose they belittle you by passing a nasty comment, then put a barrier between that comment and yourself and do something that brings joy to your heart like watering the plants, praying, or baking.  9. Continue to pray this dua in abundance: اللھم لا تسلط علینا من لا یرحمنا، ولا يخافك فینا Allahumma laa tusalit alayna man laa yarhamna wa laa yakhaafuka feek 10. Recite this Ayah throughout the day –  وَ اُفَوِّضُ اَمْرِیْۤ اِلَى اللّٰهِؕ-اِنَّ اللّٰهَ بَصِیْرٌۢ بِالْعِبَادِ 11. Please seek professional help and support especially if verbal abuse becomes physical.  Conclusion  In the end, Sara’s story serves as a reminder that seeking help and guidance is not at odds with our Deen. Rather, they are essential tools in navigating the complexities of life and striving towards emotional and spiritual well-being.