God and Your Marriage
I won't pretend I know what God expects of us married folks, but I like to hear what others believe about this. So, back in August, I listened to a webinar on the subject by Ustadha Hedaya Hartford. It was an intro to an 11-week webinar course on The Successful Islamic Marriage.
Unfortunately, when I went to publish this review a day after writing it, everything I had written had vanished. I had really wanted to tell any Sunni Muslim readers about it in time to sign up, because I really enjoyed this sample of her work, but it was gone. Last night, the missing post suddenly reappeared. If you're interested in the course, please contact Qibla.com or do a web search for Hedaya Hartford, as she appears to teach for other organizations, write books, and even show up on YouTube.
What was especially interesting to me was that much of what she said sounds like it should apply as well to Christian or Jewish marriages, even though she based everything on her own religious texts. If you are familiar with the sacred writings of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion, I would love to hear from you on how her ideas fit with what you believe.
One of her frequently repeated points was that if you cannot protect your spouse from your angry outbursts, your addictions, or your parents' meddling, you don't meet the criteria for getting married. You are not fit to do what is required of a spouse. If you marry anyway, your temper or inability to control your parents' role in your marriage is no excuse for what happens. "Fix yourself," she said.
Another was that in the wedding ceremony (nikkah), you make promises in front of witnesses and acknowledge that God (Allah) is the best of those witnesses. Your marriage thus becomes a way of worshiping God. When you swear, belittle your husband or wife, behave unkindly, withhold generosity, or hurt the person you married, there are no excuses. How badly your spouse behaves should never dictate how you behave.
Under Islamic law, you concern yourself with your own character and should not to try to change anyone else's. This includes your wife or husband. It also means wives accept their husbands' decisions, up to the point where doing so would require them to disobey God's other rules.
Her answers to questions from women all over the globe were great. I am paraphrasing here.
Q: My husband wants to take a second wife, and I don't think I could ever get along with her.
A: Islam allows him up to four wives. It does not require that you remain one of them. Talk to him about how you feel. Some women can handle this situation, but not many.
Q. I want to get married, but I am a strong and independent woman. Must I really submit to my husband?
A. I, too, am a strong and independent woman, but this does not give me permission to invent other rules I think would be better than the ones handed down to us. I made sure I found a man who likes my strength and independence and is willing to discuss things before making decisions. With any other husband, I would have a very difficult time doing what is required of me.
Q. A man wants to marry me, but he says he will only marry a virgin. I want to marry him. Must I tell him I am not a virgin?
A. No, but you must tell him you are not a suitable marriage partner for him. You cannot start a good marriage by lying or pretending you know better than he does what's right for him.
Although she got there from religious texts and I got there through trial and error, I found myself agreeing with her quite often. If you are currently incapable of protecting your spouse from your problems, fix yourself. Don't react to your spouse from your gut; behave in a way you'll feel good about. Do not try to change your spouse to fit your expectations. Don't stay married if you cannot abide the life it offers you, but do look for a Third Alternative before you go. Don't marry under false pretenses; choose someone with whom you can enjoy being married.
I don't think I expected to agree with so much. I was almost tempted to sign up for the course just to learn whether she gets into the how-to. That is what I try to offer you. How do you behave in a way you'll feel good about when you don't like your spouse's words or deeds? How do you deal with a husband (or wife) who needs to fix himself? How do you stop expecting different character strengths? How do you choose someone with whom you can make a good marriage? If you take her course, please let me know.
And if you're from another religion, please leave a comment about how her beliefs about marriage mesh with those you have been taught. And please let me know about webinars where I can learn more about what's expected of married folks by your religion.