Where the River Meets the Sea: Lessons in Marriage Mastery for the Muslim Woman
by Heba Alshareef

The Nile River is generally regarded as the longest in the world. It has been valued since the beginning of time. Through it, an ancient civilization was born. In it, traveled a young baby alone in a basket, who would later grow to be an honored prophet of Allah SWT.
The waters of the Nile, besides being used for cultivation from thousands of years back, have been revered in history books, praised in poems, studied by architects and explorers, and even considered a gateway to the afterlife by those who followed pagan religions.
Still, there is this point near my mother’s ancestral home in Egypt, called the Rosetta Branch, where the Nile River meets the Mediterranean Sea. I stood there on the banks of the river, and the sands of the sea. The sea azure, so breathtakingly beautiful, so strong. And next to it the Nile, surrendering it’s weakness; muddy, minute. Right there, where the river meets the sea, the Nile doesn’t seem to be all that anymore. In fact, she seems rather petty and insignificant.

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Those who know me, who’ve experienced coaching calls with me, will all attest to the fact that I am a champion of strength. Strength of purpose, strength of vision, strength of self-image. And they may be surprised that in this article, I am encouraging submission. But one doesn’t have to be removed from the other. As women generally, and as wives specifically, we can be both strong and weak. And when you find the ability to balance your strengths and weaknesses, you will find the ability to master your marriage.

Muslim women should live by this hadith: The Prophet SAW said, “A woman who offers her fard salah, fasts the month of Ramadhan, protects her chastity, and obeys her husband, will enter jannah from whichever door she chooses.”

And much debate has risen over this hadith and others like it. Haters would use it to defy the status of women in Islam. But they would have missed so valuable a point.

Allah SWT has made it simple for the woman. It is not degrading, but enlightening.
Allah SWT knows the nature of women. He, ajja wa jal, is our creator. He knows what we need. And when we have husbands, good, Allah-fearing husbands, then He, SWT, has given us the formula that will make us happy in this life and happy in the next.

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Some of us women work, some of us are in school, some look after their homes and children, and some of us subscribe to all of these roles. But the most important role, the one we should give top priority to, is the role of outstanding wife.

Years ago, my mother, like so many Muslim mothers read me the advice of Omama bint Alhareth to her daughter on her wedding day. I couldn’t find a translation that does the Arabic justice, but there are 10 things that she mentioned that I have lived by since then. And Alhamdullilah, my marriage is now considered a mastered one; and one of my choosing.

She said:

“Be his slave, he will be yours”
“Be a good listener”
“Respect his judgment, his decisions”
“Do not let his eyes fall on anything filthy of you.”
“Be weary of his sleeping time”
“Be weary of his meal times”
“Be mindful of wasting his money; do not be cheap, but practice moderation”
“Do not disobey any of his orders”
“Do not share his secrets with anyone”
“Do not show happiness when he is sad, or sadness when he is happy”

Really, really reflect on these. How have you been living up to them? Have they become second nature to you so that you do them without even thinking? It has to be so. And if it is not, make it so! Start now. Mirror his moods, listen to his thoughts. Don’t bother him when he’s napping and make sure his supper is ready on time. Don’t betray his confidence even to your best friend or your mother. Be his slave and he will be yours. Trust me, the formula works.

Marriage is an institution, it’s a structure that provides for generations and generations. If your marriage is a happy one, the children that rise from it will be happy and they will have the techniques necessary to make their marriages happy ones as well. Marriage is the Sea. And in order to allow our individual marriages to flourish, grow, and prosper, we must stand on its sands and surrender.

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