By: Shannon Abulnasr
Originally published Friday, 19 September 2014 via OnIslam
Finding your mate can be a difficult challenge in itself, and also trying to learn more about them can become an even more challenging task.
However, after tying the knot, a new challenge emerges, which can be the hardest of them all - to develop and maintain a happily married life.
They always say that if you can make it through the first year, you are in the clear. So, how can you make it through that long rollercoaster of ups and downs in the first year?
Hopefully, you had the opportunity to get to know your spouse and their personality, their expectations and such before getting married. If you were able to accomplish this, it will be much easier to find happiness through hard times.
New Muslims tend to marry quickly after taking their shahadah due to pressure from society, and being told that their spouse can help them grow and learn the deen better, and more quickly. This is not always the case.
Marriage in the first years is difficult, regardless if religion is a factor or not. Lack of good communication is typically the number one cause for all divorces, even amongst non-Muslims. The second usually stems around financial problems that arise. Now, if we throw religion into the mix, it can either cause problems in the marriage, or provide comfort when a problem arises.
Psychology plays a huge role in learning to resolve conflict, and to find happiness with a spouse. You don't have to have a degree in psychology, but if you learn that men and women think differently and react differently to various things, it will get you a long way in your marriage.
If you and your spouse don't understand each other's psychology, you will surely find yourself in lots of arguments, feeling disappointed, frustrated, and ready to divorce. If you can learn how the other thinks, and how they feel about various things, you have something to work with, and can overcome it, but it takes two to make it work.
Both partners must be dedicated to learning each other's mentality so that they can understand the other fully. Without this, you will clash about every tiny detail about everything - from food, to money, to kids, to religion, to work, and expectations of the other, and much more.
“Problem Areas” in Marriages for New Muslims
More often than not, I encounter new Muslims that are facing some scary situations, usually due to their lack of getting to know their spouse, their families, and knowing what to expect from one another.
Most issues arise from cultural differences, while others are related to their practice of the deen. Either the new Muslim or their spouse is at a very different level in practicing Islam, than the other.
Sometimes the new Muslim is the more practicing spouse, and other times, it is the born Muslim that is the stronger one in the deen. This is why it is critical to discuss your “level of faith” before marriage, because if you are really new to the religion, and still learning about basic practices in behavior, social matters, etc. and you marry someone that is very strong in their deen, and are expecting you to be at their same level, this can cause problems if you or the other is not compassionate, and patient enough to deal with the expectations the other has for you.
In regards to cultural issues, one may tend to want to stick to their culture, especially in regards to holidays and social norms that conflict with the views of their spouse. Sometimes I find a new Muslim that wants to partake in non-Muslim holidays because they don't know how to manage the change yet, and the spouse is fervently against it to the point of feeling their new Muslim spouse is not really “Muslim enough” at that point to their liking.
You may have a spouse that feels that women are supposed to stay at home and only serve their husband, and not have a life outside the home. While Islam has restrictions on some things, many Muslims go the extreme and mix culture with Islam in various things such as this.
I mention this because these two situations are the biggest triggers for conflict in marriages with new Muslims that I've seen personally. If we look at these scenarios, we can begin to understand the various scenarios that can take place, and try to find a solution to work things out to feel happy with the choice of a spouse. You can find happiness, but it usually isn't without working hard to make it happen.
New Muslims have a duty to learn about Islam and implement it in their life as they learn. New Muslims can't be expected to be perfect overnight in all matters, so their spouses have to remain patient, and help them find solutions and easy ways to overcome various lifestyle changes without making them feel insulted, or “less Muslim”, or not worthy enough to be their spouse.
The new Muslim has an obligation to do their best to learn and implement what they learn too, so it goes both ways. You can only use the “well I'm new to Islam” excuse so much before you are resorting to using it as an excuse to not practice Islam properly. Always improve your adherence to Islam as a growing process.
Many new Muslims want to slack off in their learning after marriage, which their spouse may have issues with. On the flip side, many new Muslims tend to be the more religious of the two, because they are excited about their new faith and try to do everything right. This can be problematic if the new Muslim marries someone that is what we call a “cultural” or “Ramadan Muslim” who neglects their faith the majority of the time, leaving the new Muslim feeling like they married someone that doesn't take their faith seriously.
Now, How to Overcome These Situations?
For the first example, we will discuss the new Muslim that is the weaker in their practice than their spouse, who expected them to be more practicing than they currently are.
Sarah, a new Muslim of only 6 months, was only wearing her hijab when she prayed, or went to the masjid, and her new husband from Pakistan, was under the impression that she was wearing it all the time.
After marriage, he quickly discovers that she hasn't reached the level he thought she was at. He forces her to wear hijab at all times, and she begins to feel oppressed, and forced to do things she isn't ready for. He sees her reluctance and agitation as her not wanting to be a proper Muslim (in his eyes).
Sarah finds that her new husband is pressuring her into many other things that she either doesn't have much knowledge of yet, or just simply isn't yet ready to take that step. Regardless of the reasons, she is feeling like her husband is a dictator, and begins to lose respect, love, and affection for him, and it spirals downhill from there.
In a situation like this, if the husband will ponder over the huge change his wife has recently made, and how it is a complete change of all parts of their life, Insha’Allah he will respect her and appreciate her more, and will be there by her side teaching her, and encouraging her without forcing things on her against her will.
Stubbornness will emerge out of sheer defiance against feelings of oppression, but if he is patient and understanding with her, and helps her in this transformation, she will feel more love, compassion, and respect for him in the long haul. If he forces things on her, it will only push her away from him, and maybe Islam altogether!
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us:
“Woman has been created from a rib and will in no way be straightened for you; so if you want to benefit from her, you will benefit from her while crookedness remains in her. If you attempt to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her". (Muslim 1467 b )
The Prophet advised that a husband should not enforce his will upon his wife. However, if he wants to enjoy a happy life with his wife, he should overlook her faults and benefit from her good qualities and should try to alter her undesirable qualities with love and affection, rather than by force. Using force at such instances may break a woman rather than straighten her (as it would a rib).
Women can use this same tactic in dealing with their husbands. Compassionate encouragement gets you a lot further than force! Don't be condescending to one another, because it will get you nowhere fast!
For the second example, we will discuss common scenarios where the new Muslim is the stronger one in their faith than their spouse.
(Coming Soon) When Reverts Marry - Battling the Culture Clash (4 Part Series)
(Coming Soon) Revert Sisters Making Hijrah to Egypt (3 Part Series)