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Lubnah Abdulhalim


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If I started blogging early 2014, should I mark this year as ‘9 years as a blogger’ or should I count it as my 10th year as a blogger? Like, do I count 2023 minus 2014 or do I count 2014, 2015, 2016…to 2023? Or is it all the same thing, just different ways of saying it? Lol yeah right, Maths still is a nightmare. I had to ask three people to confirm that this is my 10th year 😀 Mathematicians, pardon my ignorance but at this point I just need divined intervention 😀

Anywayyyss, this is the 10th year good peopleee! Can you believe it?! It’s been a journey and a half alhamdulilah. Many of you have accompanied me from the very start when I was using Blogspot (old college days!) before migrating to this website. You’ve watched me grow and evolve. You’ve watched my voice and writing style become more distinct over the years. You’ve laughed with me, smiled with me, cried with me, grieved with me, thought with me and watched those thoughts change over time too. You’ve become part of my family, sharing the small and large moments with me. Many of you were there when the blog was nominated by BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) to be among the top 5 creative writing blogs alhamdulilah. You’ve witnessed the blog evolve too; from writing silly moments about my anxiety, Mombasa weddings, exorcism- the Mombasa version, literally having those nightmares about maths lol, my interesting thoughts while walking under-the-bridge tunnel at Buxton, my rejections and work failures, frustrations at the public offices, letters to my better half (my priorities have realllyyy changed by the way 😀 ), World cup and Olympics thrills, my happy people (more to come on this in shaa Allah 😀 ), my beloved family, my weak attempt at writing about travel (I just haven’t gotten to travel moreee) to the more serious topics on mental health, loss and grief, spirituality, and life lessons as the years go by. Alhamdulilah, alhamdulilah!

It has always been intentional for me to make the blog as diverse as possible so that anyone who opens my blog can find something relatable. And it is my hope that more people will continue to find laughter, benefit, inspiration, enjoyment and comfort in this website.

Many of you have supported me endlessly and unconditionally; you’ve read my work, shared it with your networks, given me feedback and positive critique, subscribed to the website and had firm faith in me even when I was going through long periods of writer’s block. I’ve had the honour of interacting with several of you, one on one, and you’ve helped me immensely over the years by giving suggestions, sharing ideas, sharing your own life stories and lessons, discussing life, joking about life moments, and letting me know that my work is being read and enjoyed. We’ve pretty much done life together-stumbling through it all and making our way towards growth. 

Over the years, we were also graced by different amazing and very talented writers who wrote as guests on this blog. Their witty, funny and interesting contributions spiced up this space even more.

For all this, I am deeply, deeply grateful. I have never and will never take this for granted. It is by Allah’s mercy and tawfiq and your support that keeps me going and motivating me to never give up on my dream as a writer.

As we mark this 10th year, I have two announcements to make:

First of all, to commemorate this milestone, I will hold a FREE online blogging workshop on the 28th of January, (2 p.m. onwards) to train 10 aspiring bloggers in shaa Allah. For anyone who is interested, kindly email me at info@lubnah.me.ke. (First come, First serve!)

Secondly, I’d love to invite you all to support me further in this journey. I am introducing a patronage program for the blog where readers can chip in and support in the growth and content creation of this website. There won’t be a standard fee (Don’t worry I am not pulling CBK’s bank to Mpesa charges sort of thing, albeit their failed attempt 😀 ) but rather it will be an open invitation for anyone to give whatever they feel, at whatever time is convenient. One can contribute weekly, monthly, whenever a blog is posted or whenever one feels generous 😀 Any amount is most welcome too! This will assist me to grow this website further, do more content creation, research and maybe even conduct more writing trainings!

If the blog has ever been relatable, a source of joy, smiles & laughter, comfort, inspiration, enlightenment, and made you feel heard and seen, then I’ll really appreciate your support.

Before I share the patronage details, here’s a reminder that my books are also available for purchase:

Reflection & Resurgence: A Believer’s Journey to Allah @ 1500/= (With Ramadhan approaching, here’s a book to consider for the spiritual month)

A Fire Within & Other Stories (by a couple of African writers that includes my short story) @ 950/=

Threads and Faces (by a couple of African writers that includes my poem) @ 650/=

Saida and The Eid Dress @ 230/=

For anyone interested to purchase, kindly text me at 0704 731 560

For your faith this far, I am beyond touched. May God bless each one of you immensely and for the support you grant me, may God bring you forth good people to support your dreams as well.

Below are the details on how to become a patron for our blog. Thank you once again. May your unwavering support be worth the while always, ameen!

Many times, across different types of relationships, we face some turmoil and challenges that may bring about animosity, chaos and intense emotions. One major cause of most relationship problems is communication. However, there’s one other issue that is critical in relationships yet remains rarely identified; our attachment styles.

Attachment is the emotional bond between an infant and parent/guardian and it is through this bond that the infant gets their primary needs met. According to renowned psychiatrist John Bowlby’s attachment theory, the relationships with our primary caregivers during our earliest years have a major and long-lasting impact on our social and intimate relationships, including connections made at workplaces. How we bonded with our parents and guardians sets the stage for how we perceive and build all our relationships thereafter.

There are four attachment styles, the last three are considered insecure:

1. Secure attachment

2. Anxious Preoccupied attachment

3. Dismissive Avoidant attachment

4. Fearful Avoidant attachment

It should be noted that parents don’t necessarily or intentionally choose these attachment styles. Most of the time, they’re unaware and it is just automatic behavioural patterns passed from one generation to another .i.e. an anxiously attached parent might have an anxiously attached child due to unhealed generational trauma and they raise their kids the same way they were. Nonetheless, other factors might also affect which attachment style a child adopts as they grow up, such as trauma, life experiences, environment, or the close relationships they have with others.

1. Anxious Preoccupied (High anxiety, Low avoidance): Also known as anxious ambivalent in children, is often associated with an inconsistent parenting pattern. The caregiver tends to give mixed signals by sometimes being responsive to the child’s needs and sometimes being misattuned or unavailable to the child. This may be very confusing for the child, make them feel unstable and regard their parents’ actions as unpredictable or unreliable. They may become very distressed when separated from their caregiver, and even when he/she returns, they continue to display anxious behaviour and do not appear comforted. 

Please note that this doesn’t mean that the parents intentionally neglect the child’s needs but it could be that the caregivers didn’t meet the child’s needs in the way that they wanted. As such, they opt to throw tantrums and become clingy to get their attention. These children tend to be very sensitive and self-sacrifice to take care of others even at their own expense. 

When one grows up with this style, one may have some of the following characteristics:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Need for constant reassurance
  • Being needy/clingy
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Depending on a partner for validation and emotional regulation
  • Codependent tendencies
  • Jealous tendencies
  • Low self-esteem
  • Highly sensitive to criticism 
  • Needing approval from others
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Difficulty being alone
  • Feeling unworthy of love and not being good enough
  • Self- critical and indecisive 
  • Overthinking tendencies 
  • May develop anxiety disorders as adults

2. Dismissive Avoidant (Low anxiety, High avoidance): This attachment style is formed when the child’s caregiver is absent or emotionally distant or busy or disinterested in their emotional needs. The child could be expected to be independent and the caregiver might also disapprove if the child shows any display of emotions. When the child is upset, their distress is regularly ignored or dismissed. Because their needs aren’t met, the child perceives that as rejection. They thus learn to detach from their feelings because they don’t trust that their caregivers will be there for them and they rarely seek comfort from parents/caregivers. So even when they’re separated from their parent they react fairly calmly and do not embrace their return.

As such a child grows up, he/she may develop some of the following:

  • Super independent 
  • Have a hard time trusting others
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness (Most of their relationships are surface level)
  • Uncomfortable expressing their feelings
  • Have commitment issues
  • Emotionally unavailable
  • Often feel self-sufficient and don’t need others
  • Feel threatened by anyone who tries to get close to them
  • May distance themselves or shut down during conflict
  • May find relationships to be suffocating

3. Fearful Avoidant (High anxiety, High avoidance): Also known as disorganized attachment, this style is often associated with childhood trauma or abuse. Fear for their caregivers is also present. The child grows up in a chaotic, threatening or abusive environment and because the caregiver shows inconsistent and unpredictable behaviour the child starts fearing for their safety. The child might seek closeness to the caregiver but at the same time, pull themselves away from them, due to fear.

When such a child is separated from their caregiver and then the parent returns, they may act oddly, by approaching them then turning away from them or freezing or even hitting the caregiver. All this is because of the childhood trauma they’ve experienced. In short, the parent is considered a source of both comfort and fear and thus the child adopts disorganized behaviour.

A child with a disorganized attachment may grow up to have some of the following symptoms:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Signs of both avoidant and anxious attachment styles
  • In relationships, they almost always expect and wait for disappointment, hurt and rejection to come.
  • Contradictory and unstable behaviours i.e. might be clingy one moment then dismissive at another.
  • They both desperately crave affection and want to avoid it at all costs.
  • They want to love and be loved but are afraid to let anyone in.
  • Likely to develop mental disorders such as personality or mood disorders or even substance abuse and self-harm.

4. Secure Attachment style (Low avoidance, Low anxiety): A child with this attachment style grows up with reliable caregivers who were quick to soothe, comfort and meet their needs. This creates trust towards the parents. The child feels safe, seen, understood and valued. They know they can depend on their caregivers to be there for them consistently and support them to explore the world around them to attain autonomy and independence.

The child feels safe to ask for reassurance or validation without punishment from the caregivers. When such a child is separated from their parent, they become distressed but upon their return, they welcome them warmly and with positive emotions.

As adults, those with this attachment tend to have healthy relationships and positive traits such as:

  • Ability to regulate emotions
  • High self-esteem and confidence
  • Great and effective communication skills
  • Comfortable being alone
  • Comfortable with closeness and mutual dependency
  • Easily trusting and bonding with others
  • Goal-oriented
  • Show healthy and balanced behaviours in relationships
  • Ability to open up and seek emotional support
  • Being easy to connect with
  • Ability to manage conflict well
  • Strong capacity to reflect on how you are being in a relationship

Take note that attachment styles aren’t everything in relationships and can be influenced by other factors as well. 

These styles are not permanent and can change over time through different experiences and variables in one’s life. For example, an individual with an insecure attachment can change to become secure when they’re in a relationship with an individual who has a secure attachment style and influences them to feel safe and calm as well. The opposite of this is also possible. Also, attachment styles are not mental disorders, even though they can make one more prone to certain disorders.

Nonetheless, we cannot undermine the impact of these styles on our relationships. Many times, people have unhealthy behavioural patterns and are unable to regulate their emotions without understanding the root cause of it all; attachment styles. These styles affect how we function, behave, think, connect with others and even feel. Inadvertently, they also affect how we raise our children and which kind of environment we provide for them. To break this dysfunctional cycle, it is important for each individual with an insecure style to actively work on changing to become secure.

How can one change that? Below is your answer.

Here are a few tips to acquire the secure attachment style:

1. Self-awareness is the first and most important step towards healing. Do some research on the topic so that you may understand the different attachment styles further and yourself better. YouTube can be a good place to start for we have many resources there concerning this topic. Personally, I love ‘The Personal Development School’ on Youtube for how they explain these matters, but the resources are so many.

Do understand that sometimes an individual could have different habits that are associated with different styles and this is because of the different experiences and traumas we face at different phases in our lives. We have several online quizzes on attachment styles that can help you in finding out which style you predominantly have. One link where you can conduct the quiz is here. They usually show you percentages of the attachment styles that you have according to your tendencies and habits. The biggest percentage shows your most predominant attachment style.

2. Once you have understood your attachment style, you should do some much-needed self-reflection and take the time to analyze your own emotions, habits, your triggers, how you deal with conflict, communicate and your interactions with other people. Pay attention to the emotional and physical sensations that come up around emotional intimacy. You could have a journal specifically for this and you could jot down what’s going on with you daily. This helps in not just understanding oneself but also gives you some relief from whatever emotions you carry with you.

3. This journey might not be easy so you must be ready to do the work however hard it might get. It is important to accept your weaknesses, unhealthy habits and the things you might need to work on. Be self-conscious about your thoughts and emotions and learn how to regulate them, soothe yourself, and positively interact with others.

4. Most of the time, we tend to attract people who will represent all the suppressed parts within us, or the parts that we wish were stronger within us or parts we’re ashamed of and wish to change. So for example, if someone is quiet and emotionally detached, they will attract a partner who is emotional and expressive. If someone is controlling and demanding, they attract a partner who is pleasing and submissive. If someone has a hard time asking for help, they attract a partner who asks for help all the time …etc.

A good example of such a case according to attachment styles is that anxious preoccupied individuals and avoidants tend to subconsciously attract one another despite the two being very opposite. The anxious one is impressed by the avoidant’s independence and mysteriousness as they wish they could depend less on others and be more self-reliant. The avoidant on the other hand is attracted to the anxious person because they provide endless love, warmth and intimacy-something they didn’t quite have while growing up.

But the problem is, the two individuals have very different needs when it comes to relationships. The anxious one wants closeness and intimacy from their partner and tends to be clingy and needy, while the avoidant one is intimidated by closeness and really values their independence and personal space. So despite their attraction, the relationship tends to become a chaotic trap of triggers and unmet needs. The two genuinely struggle to provide their partner with what they need. The avoidant feels the anxious one is too much, while the anxious one feels their avoidant partner is not enough for them. In fact, they call it the anxious-avoidant trap/dance/cycle, because the two individuals feel stuck. They have a hard time making it work but also a hard time moving away from each other. (You can read more about this here)

 It is thus very very important for a couple to understand their individual attachment styles and how they could be triggering each other. It is not impossible to make such relationships work but they need a certain level of self-awareness and willingness to grow and change for the better.

The two of you must have open and effective communication about your needs, worries and concerns so that you can also support each other in your healing journey. It might get very uncomfortable, especially for the avoidants but there is no shortcut to the process. The good thing is, the outcome is totally worth it!

Side note: Many times, the partners we’re seeking have traits and behaviours like one of our parents. The reason for this is that we’re trying to find an outcome that will be different from how it was with our parent. For example, if your father was inconsistent with you, you’d subconsciously find a partner who will also have inconsistent habits. The hope here is that you’ll be able to make them grant you the stability and consistency that you lacked in your childhood and thereafter heal your childhood wound.

We subconsciously get into such relationships in an attempt to heal that part of us that is insecure about our worthiness and to prove that we’re lovable after all. And sometimes it becomes a lifetime pattern of seeking such partners.

The way to avoid this pattern of attracting people who have unappealing behaviours like your parent, is by first trying to understand what you’re trying to heal. For example, are you trying to be loved by an abusive partner? Are you trying to attain affection from an avoidant? Once you identify what your core wounds are, then you can seek what you need from people who are actually capable of giving what you need-accepting you and proving to you that you’re not too much.

5. Working with a therapist may be the best way to go about this for they will guide you on how to regulate yourself and change for the better whilst taking into consideration your unique life story and personality.

6. If it might be hard for you to work with a therapist on this, you can enrol in online courses that are specific to your attachment style and they can help you navigate all types of relationships and emotions to attain a secured attachment. There are also some attachment-style workbooks that have practical exercises to deal with your style. Among the websites that offer such courses and workbooks include https://www.attachmentproject.com/ and https://university.personaldevelopmentschool.com/ among many others. There are also courses that are specific for couples of different attachment styles-showing them how their pairing works and how to navigate their relationships in a healthy manner.

7. Do understand that sometimes parents aren’t aware of how they’re emotionally affecting their children and are simply doing their best (abusive parents are a different case here). So you can acknowledge the effect they had on you, without blaming them for it. Most times they can’t undo anything they did and it is best if we all just looked forward and focused on the healing journey.

8. Regardless of the painful experiences of your past that shaped who you are, as an adult, it is best to leave the past where it is and take full control of your life now. Healing is an intentional choice that each one of us should make. So don’t allow your trauma to permanently ruin your emotional stability and how you relate with others.

9. Start working on building closer relationships with people by listening to their needs, worries and concerns as well. You could develop a step-by-step approach on how to effectively communicate with others, how to let them in and meet their emotional needs as well.

10. Do not beat yourself up for your shortcomings and don’t try to change everything at once. Have a system/plan which takes you step by step without overwhelming yourself. Remember that this is a long process and your effort is much appreciated. Involve a close friend or partner or even a trusted family member so that they can act as your support system and also hold you accountable. Most importantly, remember that consistency is key! Don’t expect your partner or your friends to do the work for you.

By consciously working through your unhealthy patterns and triggers, you can create satisfying relationships. So don’t give up! This is your personal project-strive to take intentional steps towards healing and healthier relationships.

Sources:

Kp_counseling (on IG)

https://attachment.personaldevelopmentschool.com/

https://attachment.personaldevelopmentschool.com/

https://university.personaldevelopmentschool.com/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/attachment

https://www.verywellmind.com/attachment-styles-2795344

https://fashionjournal.com.au/life/relationships-anxious-avoidant/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHQ4lSaKRap5HyrpitrTOhQ

https://psychcentral.com/health/4-attachment-styles-in-relationships

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/attachment-theory-and-the-4-attachment-styles

*Written in 2020*

I gripped the headrest in front of me with both hands. The car was zigzagging, and everyone in the matatu was screaming. The old lady with the shiny red lipstick next to me was clutching my arm. Everything was becoming blurry. I didn’t realize when exactly I had started crying, but I was. Silent whimpering. Even at my death, I would go silently.
Silent life.
Silent death.
Mediocre.

I could feel the back of my shirt soaking with sweat. My heart was pounding. So this is it? How sad. What will I be remembered for? Being at the library 24/7? Who’s even going to remember me anyway? I am but a very ordinary girl. Average. A commoner. You wouldn’t notice me in a room. Even I wouldn’t notice myself in a room. Few words, normal face, standard brains. So this is it then. My miserable, miserable end.

“Hey. Hey.” The old lady nudged me.

“Huh?” I said, my eyes popping out.

“Are you okay?”

“Wh…what?” I said, looking around. We had arrived at the final matatu stage.

“You have tears in your eyes. Are you okay?”

I swallowed hard. My hands were shaky. The old lady was staring at me.

“Um, yes, yes. I am fine, thank you.”

“It is the last stage. We have to alight.”

“Oh! Yeah!” I said as I moved out of the way so she could leave.

I sat back and closed my eyes. It is all in your head. It is all in your head. It is all in your head. I muttered under my breath.

“Mrembo, we need to go to the carwash,” the conductor said, interrupting my murmuring. “And, it’s about to rain.”

“Oh,” I said softly as I alighted.

I held my sling bag close to my chest and started walking home. It was already dark and I could barely see the small ponds of mud rainwater categorically formed on the road until I was in one. I sighed loudly as I removed my now-wet shoes from the pond. This is going to be a long night.

“Alyah! Maryam!” A bodaboda guy by the roadside called. “Zubeda? Aisha?” He kept on guessing. A smirk formed on my tired lips.

“As if you could ever guess my name huh!” I said to myself.

Behind me, I could still hear him. They never give up, these boda guys. They’d keep guessing names with the hope that you’d pay for a ride.

His voice was getting hoarse at this point.

“I am walking!” I shouted without turning at him.

“Si ungesema! Nkt!”

What was I to say though? Wasn’t it obvious that I was walking? I shook my head. I fastened my steps as I got closer to home. As I inserted the key to the front door, a voice called out.

“How many times do you look over your shoulder when you’re walking?”

“Huh?” I said as I looked in the direction the voice was coming from.

A young lady in a green, flowery dera emerged from the dark. Her black scarf was hanging on her shoulders and in her arms was a heavily covered baby. A medium-sized, grey duffle bag was on the floor right next to her.

“I asked; how many times do you look over your shoulder when walking?” She smiled.

I just stared in utter confusion.

“But I don’t.”

“You do. You looked back over your shoulder four times from the corner over there till your door,” she pointed.

I blinked.

She smiled wearily, “Do you remember me?”

“You do look familiar…you’re the girl…”

“Yes yes, I am the girl with the tattoo of a man’s name on my waistline.”

“Haha…Hashim was it? The tattooed name? ”

She laughed loudly, this time her dimples revealed. “Yes. Hashim. I knew you’d remember me for that.”

“Nooo… no no…” my face turned red.

“It is okay. We never interacted in class, but the tattoo was the talk of the class for the entire final year. Everyone remembers that about me.”

“Haha,” I said with a shaky voice. Then there was a moment of silence.

“Lamya with a Y…” she said with a weak smile.

“Asya with a Y too. Hahaha. I am surprised you remember me at all,” I shrugged.

“Well yeah, it was a class of fifty students but then you’d always go on and on about the Y in the class WhatsApp group whenever someone misspelt your name. Lamya with a Y. Lamya with a Y.” She rolled her eyes, then smiled again. Her smiles came so often, I noticed.

“Haha.” Another moment of silence. Is that what I’d be remembered for then?! I shuddered. “What are you doing at this side of the town anyway?”

She looked down.

“Ah! I’m so sorry, please come inside. Do you want to come inside? We could have a seat and talk more, you know, about the importance of the Y in my name,” I laughed.

She nodded and I hurriedly opened the door to my one-bedroom apartment. I was glad that I had cleaned up the house before going to the job in the morning. I invited her to sit on the mkeka as I excused myself to go remove my buibui and wash my muddy feet.

Until then, I hadn’t known how to ask about the baby. Well, it’s been five years since we completed college, we were already adults, of course, she’d have a baby. Most of my classmates were already married and had become parents by now. Not that I was in contact with anyone but I figured that should be it. I planned to casually bring up the baby topic later on.

Asya sat cross-legged; fidgeting with her long, black, curly hair with blonde highlights.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Startled by my voice, she tittered.

“Yes yes. I…I just need your help Lamya.”

“Can I get you something to eat or drink first? Then we can talk!” I touched her shoulder.

“No. No really. I am fine.” She kept shaking her leg and shifting her body on the floor.

I sat down next to her.

“I’m listening.”

“I desperately need a place to sleep… I am homeless at the moment. I could survive if it was just me…but this baby…my baby…” her voice broke.

My stomach churned.

Now here’s the thing. Asya was known, not because she brought trouble, but because she was trouble itself. A week in college wouldn’t end without Asya having another dramatic episode of some sort. She was either fighting someone or inciting fellow students to strike, confronting a lecturer, you name it…all sorts of trouble. Her name would be at the top of the list. Bringing her in for a meal –as I had intended- was one thing, letting her sleep over was another. I kept quiet.

“Just for tonight, I promise…for the sake of my baby, please. I will find a place by tomorrow evening in shaa Allah. I know we don’t know each other that much and maybe you wouldn’t be comfortable with such an arrangement but…”

My face became pale. Well, for one, I wouldn’t want to live with someone who’d read me like that.

I swallowed hard and then muttered, “Alright, don’t worry about it. Both of you can sleep here tonight.”

Asya looked down as tears fell on her green dera forming a wet patch. It was strange, to see Asya like this. The strong-willed, fierce, charismatic Asya that I knew from college was barely there and instead, there was this soft, almost unbelievably so, withdrawn woman. This wasn’t Asya. It was her skeleton.

“You need to rest. Let me get you some food then you can sleep alright? I insist. Please eat something?”

She nodded.

I hadn’t planned on making dinner that night because I was too exhausted. It had been the ‘Book Sale’ month at the library and we’d been the busiest. Luckily, there were some leftover mahamri and mbaazi in the fridge that I had bought earlier that morning. I quickly heated the meal and handed it to her.

I sat silently next to her as she ate, her baby closely next to her.

“So what’s your baby’s name?” I smiled.

“Muneera-with a double ee,” she laughed.

“Oh come on! Are you going to tease my Y forever?”

“Yes yes!”

“Can I hold her please?”

“Sure. She is 8 months old.”

I stood up and slowly kept my arm beneath the baby and held her below her neck with the other hand. Goosebumps formed on my arms. I held my breath. I can’t help but imagine dropping her, leading tragically to her death.

Muneera’s eyes rapidly moved around in almost an uncontrollable manner. Her skin was paler and she had freckles all over her face. Her hair was white and had a tiny nose like Asya’s. The nose must have been the only semblance between mother and daughter, I noticed. She is different. My heart sank a bit. The world is cruel to anyone different.

I started humming a lullaby as I patted her lightly on her back.

“Kingolengele mtotooo

Mtoto lala totooo

Mla ubwabwa wa motooo

Silie baba silieee

Ukaniliza na mieee

Machozi yako yawekeee

Nikifa unilieee

Jipigepige matekeee

Watu wakuzuilieee ee

Owaaa owaaaa mtoto ooowaaa”

“Hashim died,” Asya interrupted my singing.

I stopped and stood in my tracks.

“Inna Lillah waina ileyhi rajiun. I am so sorry to hear that Asya.”

“Yeah…he died a little over four months ago,” her voice broke.

I sat down next to her and cautiously kept Muneera, who was now dozing off on my lap.

“How did it happen?”

“Car accident. I couldn’t even recognize his face when we went to confirm the body found,” she sobbed, almost suddenly, which bolted me to a stand, the baby still in my arms.

What exactly does one do in a situation like this? How do you console a grieving widow?

Her cry was getting louder and with every wail, I felt chills throughout my body.

“Asya…Asya…what can I do for you?”

But she just went on with it. On and on. My head was now throbbing.

I squatted, unbalanced. One hand still trying to hold Muneera’s back and the other was hugging Asya clumsily.

Fueling my panic was Muneera’s sudden loud weep.

“Alright, alright there baby. Mama is okay, don’t worry about her. You go to sleep,” I whispered. I started walking back and forth in the corridor, singing all lullabies I could think of. Mother and daughter went on crying and crying and crying. At last, Muneera went back to sleep and Asya had stopped crying but was still sniffling loudly. The black scarf around Asya’s neck was now wet.

I took Muneera to my room, laid her on my bed, and left the door slightly ajar. I went and held Asya for what seemed an eternity. We both never said anything and she soon started dozing off in my arms.
“Asya, you should go to the bedroom and sleep with Muneera,” I whispered.
She shook her head to deny my offer.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay sleeping here?”
She nodded, her eyes still closed.

I slowly laid her head down on the mkeka where she was seated and brought a blanket and some cushions to make her comfortable. I picked the plate next to her; the meal was barely touched. I sighed as I stared at her frail body. For the first time, I realized how bony and gaunt Asya had become. Her pretty thick and healthy cheeks were bygone. Her complexion was pale and her eyes looked hollow, so hollow I thought I could sink in them.

I stood there for a while as I nursed my throbbing headache with my sweaty hands. I decided to make a cup of coffee and sit close to Asya to ensure she sleeps well. I locked my doors, checked whether I had locked them properly, and then checked again, just to be sure. I then settled down on the floor, gazing blankly into space, thoughts racing my mind. Finally, I stood up and prayed Isha, and checked on Asya again before proceeding to sleep next to Muneera in the bedroom.


Muneera’s cry woke me up, but she was no longer by my side. Groggily, I walked to the sitting room. Asya was now breastfeeding her baby.

“Assalam aleykum,” she gave me a half-smile. Her eyes were red and swollen. Her hair dishevelled as if she’d been pulling her hair all night.

“Waaleykum salaam.” I was staring at her.

“Thank you Lamya, for hosting us,” she said, pulling Muneera closer to her chest.

“You’re welcome. What time is it anyway?” I said as I went to check my phone that I’d left by the charger.

5:22 A.M. Time for fajr prayer.

“Did you get some sleep?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

I excused myself to go clean up and before returning to my room, I stopped by the sitting room again.

“I’m going to pray…do you want to join me?”

Asya laughed, almost sarcastically. “God and I, we’re not friends.”

I opened my mouth, planning to say something wise or thought-provoking, but then my mind was blank.

“Are you sure?… I mean, are you sure you don’t want to join me?” I said finally.

She nodded without looking at me.

My heart sank.

“Well…will you go back to sleep then?”
“Not really. Not friends with sleep either.” Her eyes were on Muneera.

“Okay then, I’ve kept a clean towel in the bathroom for you in case you want to refresh. Let me pray then I’ll join you,” I said.

She nodded again and whispered another thank you.

After about twenty minutes of praying plus making breakfast for the two of us, I joined Asya once again. I noticed she had changed into a casual blue summer dress and her hair was now tied back into a ponytail. She had wanted to assist in preparing the breakfast but I insisted that she should just continue resting.

“Are you going to work?” she asked, glancing at me from head to toe.

“I will be, much later on. But if you’re wondering, yes, I am a morning person,” I chuckled.

Asya rolled her eyes then laughed, “Of course you are. Anyway, isn’t your boss going to question you if you go in late?”

“Well lucky for me, I’m the boss,” I laughed, “We’re two of us, I’m a co-owner of the library. Just a small one though, no big deal.”

“Oh! That is good! And of course, it is a big deal, you’re living your dream!” she said as she sipped her milk. She was quiet for a minute then, as if she’d been thinking about it a lot, she asked, “So what’s your story Lamya?”

“Haha, nothing much. The ordinary lady doing ordinary things.”

“I expected you’d be married by now,” she said quite casually. Swahilis have such a way to ask you very intimate questions and make it seem like they’re asking you about the weather.

I blinked.

“I was for a while…”

“You were??! I didn’t know that!” she exclaimed.

“Well, it didn’t last for long. I got married two years ago then I had a stillborn…” I said rather slowly. Asya gasped loudly. “Soon after that, my marriage died too,” I continued.

“Subhanallah! I am so sorry for your loss!”

“Yeah, I was going crazy, almost literally.” I paused momentarily. “It was the hardest phase of my life… I never thought I would ever be okay again. Stopped going to the library, stopped reading entirely, and meeting people was too exhausting for a long while…but I’m doing better now,” I smiled.

Asya stretched out her hand to hold mine without saying a word for a moment.

“I lied to you,” she said.

“What?!”

“About remembering you. Okay, not exactly lied but I didn’t give you accurate information. While I was panicking about being homeless, I talked to Jay from our class. Remember him? Our first and second-year class rep.”

I nodded.

“Yeah, so when I talked to him he told me I could reach out to you. You are one of the few who are still within the town, most people have moved, gotten married, and have families … I had forgotten but you’re the one who ensured I reached the hospital safely the day I fainted in class, and then you paid for the admission as well. I am ashamed that I forgot… but you know, it was the first year, the first semester. I do remember thanking you after I was released from the hospital but then that was that. I doubt we ever had another conversation ever again. Anyway, he reminded me of the incident, and just to ensure I knew who I was talking about, he mentioned you correcting people of your name all the time in the WhatsApp group. But after that, I pretty much could recall who you were.”

“Ohh!” I laughed, “It is okay though. I don’t think I would have remembered you either if you weren’t the popular girl back then.”

Asya laughed too.

“Why don’t we go for a walk?” I suggested.

Agreeing, Asya picked up the last piece of toast and took a big bite. Still chewing, she quickly opened her duffle bag and removed a blue and white leso, another heavier dress for Muneera, a tiny hat, and some sunscreen. Asya applied the sunscreen on Muneera, dressed her up from head to toe then lifted her carefully and put the baby on her back. Bending over, Asya tossed the leso over her back and tucked the bottom edge of the cloth under Muneera’s bottom. She then pulled the edges of the leso to the front of her torso, under her arms, and knotted the ends around her chest. Ready to leave now, Asya picked the same black scarf she came with the previous day and kept it loosely on her head.

We stepped out to the hues of orange and golden rays bursting out of the sky. We started treading on the tarmac road as the cool morning breeze kissed our faces.

“Asya…if I may ask…what happened to you? I mean, how did you end up here?”

“Whew! … Well… you do remember Hashim and I started dating in the second year yeah?”
I nodded.

“Well of course my parents didn’t know about it until our final year. After I did the famous waist tattoo of his name, Aziza and my other friends kept teasing me about it. Soon enough, the whole class knew about it. And of course, you know, such news spread fast. My cousin Saada came to know about it somehow and she told to my parents. Of course, my parents wanted to know who this Hashim was. He was summoned and he did come, to my parent’s dismay. They asked him all these questions like he was being interrogated. Anyway, despite Hashim clearly stating that he wanted to marry me once we finished university, my parents believed he was a bad influence on me and rejected him.” She paused.

“Funny thing is, I was wild even before I met Hashim. If anything, he was the one who brought balance into my life. He never even knew about the tattoo till after I had already done it.” She sighed.
“Oh?” I turned to face her.
She nodded. “I know my parents didn’t want to admit this but the real reason for rejecting him was because he wasn’t Swahili like us. You know how twisted our culture is sometimes when it comes to such matters…Okay, I get it that all parents want a stable, religiously steadfast man for their daughter but how fair is that if their daughter was neither stable nor steadfast? Anyway, whatever their reasoning, it was an outright no. I hated them for it, but we kept on trying to convince them for one whole year. Eventually, we gave up. We went to court and tied the knot,” Asya continued.

“I was really sad because my family cut me off after the wedding but Hashim took me to his family home where he lived alone with his grandfather and we were happy,” she smiled.

“Oh…where were his parents?” I asked.

“His mother died at childbirth…her name was Muneera and thus, our Muneera…” she smiled, “And his father died from pneumonia when we were in our third year in college. So it was just him, his grandfather, and his elder sister who was married in Malindi. Hashim was running a fish business and it was doing quite well mashallah. We were living the good life. His grandfather was so calm and easy to deal with, we rarely ever saw his sister and Hashim…Hashim was the best husband in the world,” her voice started breaking.

I held her hand and intertwined her fingers with mine. We were now approaching the pathway that would lead us to a supermarket at the end of the road. I needed to buy some groceries so Asya could have something for lunch.

“And then what happened?”

“Everything changed when Muneera came. No one prepares you for a child that’s not…normal, you know? The first time I held her, I knew something was wrong because of her white hair. When she turned three months she was officially diagnosed with albinism. I was devastated. We both were…Hashim and I. I thought it was a punishment from God…or a curse for hurting my parents. I blamed myself for it for days. I thought I couldn’t handle it, how was I, of all people, going to raise a child who will be looked at differently her entire life?”

“I am so sorry,” I muttered.

“It is alright… Hashim was more optimistic. He seemed so sure that we were the best parents Muneera could ever get. After a while, I realized I can manage too. I got accustomed to the stares from family and strangers. Hashim was very supportive so it didn’t really matter what anyone else thought, and his grandfather loved Muneera immensely. For a minute there, I thought we’d be okay; this small, cute family of ours. Well, that was until the accident happened. Our lives took another major twist. Because now it wasn’t just the grieving, it was the discrimination too.”

“From whom?”

“His sister.” Asya looked at me.
“After Hashim’s death, she and her husband had to come live in the house since they were the only other direct family members alive. I wouldn’t have minded staying alone with Muneera and taking care of Hashim’s grandfather too…but you know how it is. I guess they couldn’t trust me. Safiya, Hashim’s sister, didn’t have a problem with me but she kept looking at Muneera like…filth. She always seemed disgusted whenever she’d see her. At first, she never really said anything about Muneera but soon enough, she started dropping comments about how albinos were a symbol of bad luck or a curse. I tried to be patient with her; ignored her comments and dirty glares but then we started having ugly fights over it. This was home for me now. I didn’t have any other place to go to, so I had to swallow it all in.”

“My God! Some people are just so cruel,” I shook my head, my voice overshadowed by a speeding car.

“Whilst I was grieving the death of my husband, his sister made sure to make my life more miserable than it already was. I had to leave, Lamya. I just had to. As soon as I finished my eddah, I left the house. Hashim’s grandfather was so sad at my departure but I explained to him that I couldn’t take it anymore. I hope he will forgive me someday for taking his granddaughter away from him.”

“I don’t even know what to say Asya. What you’ve been through is terrible!”

“Yeah, so that’s when I called Jay and told him of my predicament. He told me he lives in Eldoret nowadays. He then suggested I should try finding you. It wasn’t easy but after several phone calls among different classmates, Susan finally gave me the direction to your home.”

“I’m glad they did. So what’s your plan now?”

“I don’t have one…yet. Jay said that he’ll call me this evening to tell me what to do. I’m not sure what his plan is but he assured me I’ll get help.”

“Ohh…in case he doesn’t find you a place you can stay with me for a few more days. I wouldn’t mind having company, especially this beautiful little princess.”

“Thank you so so much, Lamya. You don’t know how much this means to me,” she hugged me.

We now strolled into the supermarket and bought some groceries before heading back home.
“I miss them sometimes,” Asya broke the silence.
“Who?”
“My parents…my family…”
“I am sorry…Have you ever tried contacting them after the wedding?”
“Not exactly. I wanted to, but I didn’t have the guts to face them…talk to them…But maybe I will someday. I intend to, in shaa Allah.”
“In shaa Allah kheyr, you will be alright. You will be okay.”

When we finally got home, I prepared myself to go to the library. I showed Asya around the house to ensure she was comfortable and could access whatever she’d need. I left my spare key with her, said goodbye then promised to come back early from work and have dinner with her.

I locked the door. Checked it twice. Checked it a third time. I made a quick prayer that Asya and Muneera stay safe while I’m away then rushed off.


Seated next to my partner Suhayla at the praying mat right after dhuhr prayers, I decided this is the only opportunity I’d get to talk to her calmly. We were otherwise overwhelmed with work all day, all month. I explained to her Asya’s situation and then slowly asked, “Do you think we can find her something to do here? A job to get her by?”

“That’s so sad wallahy…I hope she gets help. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if we got her something to do but you know how tight our budget is. We’re barely making ends meet ourselves…I mean…what can we do?”

“Doesn’t have to be anything major for now. We could do with some help, especially this month. Perhaps just to help with cleaning and arranging the books, maybe make deliveries…until she gets a better job in shaa Allah.”

“Yeah well, suggest it to her if she’ll accept the little pay we have to offer at the moment.”

“I’m sure she’ll accept it. She is desperate at the moment. Thank you! Thank you!” I said hugging her by her side, feeling giddy with excitement.

I couldn’t wait for the day to end so I could give Asya the good news!


Barely two hours after the talk with Suhayla, a call came through on my phone.

Alex? My landlord? That’s strange. It is not yet the end month. I thought as I picked up the phone.

“Lamya!” he said with urgency.

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s a baby that’s been crying for almost an hour now in your apartment! Did you leave a baby alone? I’m surprised because I know you don’t have one.”

I stood up from my seat, my heart began to race.

“Alex, please do me a favour. I have a friend over. The mother of the child. Her name is Asya. Please go over to the apartment and check up on her. I am coming right away!”

He agreed.

“Suhayla! Suhayla!” I shouted, not caring one bit about the customers now staring at me.

“What is it Lamya?” she came closer to where I was standing.

“Something must have happened to Asya. My landlord has called about a baby crying for a long time. I can feel that something’s wrong! I need to go! Talk to you later!”

“Yaa Rabby!” Suhayla cried out, her palms on her head. “Okay go!…and please update me as soon as you get there!”

I hailed a bodaboda hurriedly and off we went. My heart was pounding and my hands were now filled with cold sweat.

What happened Asya? What happened?! My mind raced.

Finally reaching my destination, I jumped off the motorbike and quickly paid for the ride without waiting for my change.

At my doorstep, I realized that the door was wide open. I walked in just to find Alex holding Muneera in his arms, with two other neighbours.

“What happened??!!!” I exclaimed, “Where is Asya?”

“She wasn’t here…your friend, we didn’t find her when we came in. The door was open too.”

“What do you mean you didn’t find her?!” I said as I started looking frantically around the house; in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. She was nowhere to be seen.

I was feeling dizzy now, my hands trembling.

“Asya! Asya! Where are you?!” I shouted.

I noticed Muneera had quietened down. Moving around the house in circles, I finally realized that Asya’s duffle bag was gone.

My eyes fell on Muneera again. The small, cute Muneera. My neighbours were looking at me with worried, puzzled faces, dumbfounded.
“Are you okay?” Alex’s voice seemed to come from a distance.

Oh my Lord! What am I going to do now?!

My head was throbbing. My body shook vehemently. My legs going numb.

“AAAASYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.” My voice shook the entire building.

The ground below me shook too.
A thud.
And then, darkness.

***

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To read part 3 of this series, click here

Pre-Marital Questions & Discussions

Kindly take note that these discussions are expected to take place in halal contexts and have to be respectable. The aim of the questions is NOT to interrogate or judge an individual but rather to understand his/her life better and also allow the other person to consider whether that aligns with what they want for themselves i.e. establish compatibility.

The questions are not expected to be asked in one sitting for that will definitely make it seem like an interrogation, but rather should be spread out during different conversations. You have to be strategic and sensitive in how you phrase your questions to avoid misunderstandings or hurting the other person.

The questions below are to give you an idea of the important questions to ask but shouldn’t necessarily be asked in the same manner. It is always better if one integrates the questions into the conversations so that the parties involved can feel at ease answering.

1. Religion:

What sects and school of thoughts do you associate with?

Who do you read Islamic knowledge from?

Who is your favourite sheikh?

Up to what level did you study religion?

What does being religious mean to you?

What Islamic conferences do you attend?

Which masjid do you go to? Do you pray all five times and in the masjid (for men)?

What are your thoughts on women being in da’awah/teaching?

What are your thoughts on mawlid, moon-sighting (like on the occasions of eid and Ramadhan)?

If there are some critical differences in ideologies/sects/practices, one can ask, ‘if we got married, how would we navigate around these differences? Which ideologies will we teach our children?’

2. Children:

Are you interested in having kids?

How soon into the marriage?

How many kids would you want to have?

What do you think is a father’s/mother’s role in their child’s life?

For the woman: Are you willing to pause your career to raise your children? Ideally, how long a pause would you want to take?

3. Finances:

What is your income bracket? (The father of the girl can also ask this)

Do you deal with interest? Or take part in any gambling/betting activities?

Are you in debt?

What kind of lifestyle do you have based on your finances?

What’s the nature of your work/business?

Do you have any partners in your business?

How comfortable are you discussing finances?

For the woman: Are you working?

Are you willing to contribute to home finances?

Would we share everything in a marriage or have separate finances?

Do you want to be involved in financial discussions?

4. Employment:

What kind of job do you have?

Do you like your job? (Frustrations from work can frustrate a marriage too)

What’s the time of your work? Do you have night shifts?

How many off days do you have?

How often do you have work travels?

For men: Are you okay if I have career ambitions?

Do you want a career woman or a housewife?

5. Education:

What level of education do you have?

Do you have a problem if I continue with my education even after marriage & kids?

What do you think of higher education for your daughter?

How far are you with your Islamic knowledge?

Would you say you’re interested in gaining knowledge even as you grow older?

6. Past:

Is there anything in your past that I should know about? Do you think it will affect our future?

TAKE NOTE: You should not expose your sins for Islam does not encourage that. So you shouldn’t say anything unless it can affect your future. For example, you have children from another woman, or a child out of wedlock or addiction which you may relapse in, or record with the police, or trauma such as domestic violence or sexual abuse or STDs which can affect one’s marriage. Be careful about what you say here for it can be used against you in the future. You don’t have to talk about your past relationships or mistakes, especially after you’ve already repented. Stick to only saying what is relevant to your present and future with this person and your marriage to them.

Also important to note, when someone comes to ask you for information about an individual for the purpose of marriage, you are expected to be honest and transparent, for this is a huge commitment. HOWEVER, you shouldn’t mention irrelevant past mistakes and sins that they have already repented from or stopped doing. Don’t mention who someone was dating or what kind of relationship they had or they used to skip prayers etc. Stick to what the person is NOW and mention only the parts of the past that can affect the present and the future as well.

7. Future:

What are your future plans and goals?

Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?

Are you planning on staying in the same country/city?

How do you see your future with your children?

Are you planning on marrying more than one wife? And for the woman: if it ever came to that, would you agree to be in a polygamous marriage?

8. Hobbies & Lifestyle:

What do you do in your free time? Do you like watching TV? Playing games? Reading books? How many hours would you say you spend on your hobbies?

Do you travel? If you do, how often?

Do you cook or eat out often?

Are you vegetarian or on a diet?

Do you eat healthy meals only or do you eat the usual?

Do you do any exercises? Go to the gym? Do you take part in any activities to preserve your health?

Do you use any drugs? Do you have any addiction?

In our society today it is also important to establish what the individual thinks about gender roles; what do you expect of your husband/wife in terms of roles in a marriage and in your home?

Also important; how active are you on social media? Are you okay with your spouse posting details about your life online example, your family photos, travels, home etc. How much information is too much information (to share online)? What boundaries must your spouse have regarding how they interact with other people, especially the opposite gender on social media?

9. Family:

Are you a family man?

Tell me about your family?

Where are you from? What’s your background?

How do you see your relationship with your in-laws?

Are you planning to live with your parents/family?

Are you okay if I bring my mum/dad to us in case that is needed?

What’s the plan for them when they’re old?

What are your expectations of me towards your family?

10. Red Flags to look out for in potential spouses:

When you’re trying to know someone, especially for the purpose of marriage, it is tricky to know all their mannerisms because most people strive to be at their best during this stage. However, when having these important conversations, be on the lookout for red flags. Alternatively, when doing a background check on an individual ask about these issues. Here are some of the red flags:

*Unfounded Jealousy: Earlier on, we miss out on hints of extreme jealousy because we find it cute when an individual is jealous about us. However, this could be a huge red flag that we’re overlooking. Sometimes an individual could stalk your every single activity on social media and ask for an explanation for everything you liked or posted or for people who commented on your posts. They could ask you about every opposite gender who commented on your post and whether you know them. Sometimes when interactions lack modesty, it is fair that they ask for clarification on the nature of the relationship with the individuals, but sometimes individuals have unfounded jealousy over very innocent interactions. You’d see that these individuals treat you like their property and become so possessive and sometimes would even want you to cut off your friendships with everyone in your life. Some even ask their wives after marriage, not to even look out the window. Most of the time, people with extreme jealousy also have controlling behaviours.

*Controlling behaviour: Someone wouldn’t tell you they have controlling behaviour but sometimes you can get hints of it during conversations. For example, a man could get angry that you went somewhere without telling him. Mind you, you’re not even married yet, perhaps only engaged. But he already feels entitled. And as much as it can seem like he’s just being caring, this could be a huge red flag. Some men don’t allow their wives to even drop the children at school without his permission first or if they run out of milk or flour, the woman isn’t allowed to go to the store next door unless she calls him first. Don’t get me wrong, a wife is expected to ask for permission from her husband but there should be discussions on what are the limits. Shaykh Waleed mentioned that for example a woman is going to visit her family, or going to a wedding, or wants to travel then she must ask for his permission. But when it comes to daily, normal, mundane activities, a woman should be given the freedom to live as a normal person. Even if you can’t catch these red flags from conversations, you can observe these based on how they treat their sisters and female relatives. Some females are not even allowed to have friends at all, and they’re not allowed to even step out of the house even if there’s an emergency. Marriage is meant to be a partnership based on trust, love, mercy and respect, and such controlling behaviours make it seem like a suffocating cage for the woman.

*Violent temper: Be on the look out when you see that the individual has a very bad temper like they’re always ready to strike. That is a huge red flag and this individual could potentially take part in domestic violence.

*Constant criticism: Some individuals never have a positive remark to say and are the first to criticize you about everything. Why do you eat like this? Why did you dress like that? You look fat. You’re lazy etc etc. Those individuals will just lower your self-esteem with their constant degrading remarks. Please note that positive criticism is different from the above-the intention is good and the person genuinely wants to see you grow and prosper.

*Substance abuse/Addiction: You ask about this directly and ask about it from his friends, colleagues and family as well.

*Scary divorce story: If the man/woman was previously married and the story that is going around is of a devastating incident in the previous marriage, then that could be a red flag. For example, a woman is said to have been divorced because she was doing sihr, or a man is said to have raped a minor…stories like those. The important thing here is to verify such information so that you don’t end up unjustly forming false opinions about an individual. Sometimes a bitter ex could start such despicable rumours just to get back at them for being divorced. So just make sure to verify such stories.

*Arrogance-never admits mistakes-never apologizes.

*Bad friends

*Missing swalah

*No modesty, no shame, indecent

*No respect for family

*Stinginess, miserliness

*Rudeness

*No proper hygiene, dirty

*No proper etiquette/manners; in talking, how they deal with people, in eating etc.

***

Recommendations:

*Medical check-up: It is highly recommended to do a medical check-up before marriage. Individuals usually do tests such as for STDs, HIV, Sickle cell tests, mental illnesses and other important tests. It is also recommended to ask your potential about their family medical histories; any prevalent diseases for example cancer, schizophrenia, bipolar, diabetes, obesity, infertility, disabilities and the like.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT meant to stigmatize or shame individuals who are ill or are prone to some illness because of genetics. Rather, it is just so that the individual is aware of one’s condition or future risks. Obviously, as believers, we have firm faith in the qadar of Allah and His plans for us, so having an illness doesn’t mean someone is invaluable or worthless. But as humans, we have to be prepared for what we’re signing up for. Some people have no financial capacity to take care of an ill individual (chronic) or one with a disability and some don’t have the emotional capacity either. I mean, people are different, and that is okay too. Someone might find out that a woman is infertile but still decide to marry her with the plan of pursuing different medical paths and praying to Allah in order to get children. For someone else, that can be very difficult for them to accept. So it is only fair that an individual knows in advance of one’s condition so that they can see whether they can handle that.

*Praying istikhara: It is highly recommended that both parties pray istikhara before officially accepting or rejecting a proposal. Involve Allah in your decision-making process. Here’s a guide on how to pray istikhara: click here.

*Pre-marital counselling: It is so unfortunate that many, many young people enter marriages with absolutely no idea on what marriage is really about. The fantasies of love, having a grand wedding, becoming ‘social media couple goals’ or having cute babies are what several people think about when it comes to marriage. Yes, marriage can be so beautiful but there are many practical aspects to be prepared for such as communication, finances, etiquette and the like.

It is thus without a say that pre-marital counselling is very crucial, especially with the ever-escalating number of divorces in our society.

The purpose of these sessions is to enable the couple to be aware of matters concerning the whole concept of marriage in regards to Islamic view, to assist them in developing skills to navigate their way through marriage successfully, to help them understand their desires and expectations and to help them lead a true Islamic married life according to the Quran and Sunnah.

Some of the topics covered include communication, sex and intimacy in Islam, conflict management/problem solving (dealing with self and outer circles such as in-laws, phones and friends), goals and dreams, responsibilities and finances and budgeting.

The gist of it all is that each of the two individuals meets the counsellor for the sessions separately and even pays separately. Then the final session, the couple meet the counsellor together and discusses issues such as their anxieties, worries, weaknesses, and strengths and asks one another meaningful questions as well. The counsellor guides the whole process since this is something new for the two.

The disheartening this here is, most of the time, it is the bride-to-be who attends all the sessions. Often, the groom-to-be only attends the final session in which they all sit with the counsellor and talk. One counsellor mentioned that approximately, from the 10 couples they’ve had, maybe just ONE groom attended all sessions. Most men do not find the need for this, which is unfortunate, because while the bride educates herself on how to be a proper, righteous wife and have skills to deal with the challenges of marriage, her partner avoids all that.

It is thus very very important to encourage couples to be, especially men, to attend these sessions. A good way of doing that is gifting them the course i.e. paying for the two to attend the sessions. Isn’t that a lovely wedding gift? It would save the two a lot of headaches trying to figure out things on their own and blindly, yet they can be guided and be prepared for it in an Islamic manner.

We also have valuable Islamic books on marriage and they dive deep into the important aspects of life in marriage. We should invest in such books and even gift such to the newlyweds.

According to the institution/counsellor, there are differences in the number of sessions. Some give 3, some 5 and so on. From my own limited knowledge, each session costs around 1k per individual within Mombasa. But again, that differs from institution to institution and counsellor to counsellor. Please do your own research for confirmation.

Some institutions that offer these services include;

Noor Counselling Centre: 0739 724 234 (Mombasa)

Talluful Quloob: 0111 222 205/0774 222 204 (Mombasa)

Family Resource Centre-Jamia Mosque: 0717 767 888 (Nairobi)

You can also ask your local imam or counsellors around your area where you can access such courses.

Please note: The questions mentioned above are not exhaustive. As an individual, think carefully about what is important for you and ask about that. Also, seek advice from elders and wise individuals that you look up to. As much as everything is predestined and we believe Allah’s plans are best for us, we should also do our due diligence and ‘tie our camels’ by asking the important questions, inquiring about an individual’s personality, character and deen from their friends, colleagues, neighbours, checking their social media, local imams and the like, before the marriage. Remember to be kind, sensitive and thoughtful in how you ask your questions. These are not meant to undermine anyone but rather to create an understanding of who the person is and what a future with them would look like. So be smart, thoughtful and wise!

Also, as stated in part two of this series, here is a timely reminder: Be moderate on the things you’re seeking in a spouse i.e. Be flexible; don’t be too rigid, too specific or have too high expectations. All human beings are flawed in some way, if you aren’t flexible or are seeking perfection, you might struggle for too long to find what you’re looking for, or never find it. Even with all these pointers mentioned throughout the series, know what is most important to you and what you need the most because many times, people have to make compromises on different elements in a person. Please note that I am not saying you should lower your standards but be realistic in your expectations.

Finally, it is so important to stay steadfast to the deen throughout this entire process. Pray to Allah at every single step and ask for His barakah, ease and tawfiq. Strive to have a wedding that adheres to Allah’s laws and without any haram or extravagance. It is so important to start this new journey while Allah Subhanahu Wataala is pleased with us.

May Allah forgive our shortcomings, guide us to the straight path, grant us wisdom while choosing our spouses, ease throughout the process, and barakah throughout our lives. May Allah protect our souls from attaching to people who aren’t meant for us and grant us contentment in whatever He chooses for us. May He grant us spouses who will be the coolness of our eyes and the comfort for our souls. May we be blessed with pious offspring who’ll love Allah and be attached to the deen. May Allah make our marriages a source of happiness and peace for us rather than a test and source of calamity. Ameen, Ameen Ya Rab.

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Sources:

‘Fiqh of Love’ course by Al Maghrib Institute

Islamqa.com

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That was the final part of our series. I hope it was beneficial to you dear reader. Thank you so much for your time 🙂 Till next time in shaa Allah!

To read part 2 of this series, click here

Considerations For Marriage

Please note that the whole purpose of this segment is to give you a guide on how to go about the process of choosing a spouse, not rules to be followed strictly. Life is not simply black and white and fate is very very mysterious. So many very unlikely individuals have had very successful marriages and so many who seemed well put together ended up divorced. There is no 100% guaranteed formula for a successful marriage because at the end of the day, as much as we make the choices, fate could have very different plans for us. Many things differ from era to era, case to case, individual to individual, culture to culture and context to context so please read the following with an open mind.

5. Age

They say age doesn’t really matter and over the years we’ve had individuals with huge age gaps and the opposite of that as well and still managed to have a healthy marriage. Shaykh Waleed Basyouni mentioned that sometimes when there is a huge age gap there can be a disconnection between the two. For example, right now Gen Z, they’re very different from previous generations. They are in a totally different era. They have different mannerisms, wordings, jokes, lifestyles and values that older generations might not necessarily agree with, understand or connect with. As such, it is advisable to have a smaller age gap, but if otherwise, just understand in advance how that can affect your interactions as spouses then decide whether that works for you.

6. Physical Attraction

Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder and one man’s meat is another man’s poison. As such, it is very important that an individual is physically attracted to the person they intend to marry. This should be based on their own opinions not what others think/feel about the individual. Some individuals have stronger chemistry and connection from the first time they meet and for others, the attraction grows over time and as they know more about the person. However, Shaykh Waleed mentioned that when considering an individual, that physical attraction shouldn’t be completely zero. There should be at least some attraction which then gives you room to grow in love with them. But if it is completely zero, then perhaps you should consider someone else. Physical attraction cannot be forced; it is a natural thing. So even if someone has very good character and deen but you feel nothing at all towards them, then you shouldn’t feel guilty to decline the offer.

I understand that sometimes the pressure from the family is a lot and they would mock your decision to decline a person you’re not physically attracted to, but at the end of the day, you’re the one who will live with this person for the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean the individual is ugly or entirely unattractive. In fact, to someone else, they could be the prettiest/most good-looking person they’ve ever seen. But you don’t see or feel it that way, and that is okay. We, human beings are like art. And art is very subjective. Each one is drawn to something different. It would be very unfair to both of you if you accepted someone you don’t feel attracted to and then spent your years wondering how it would have been if you found someone else or waited for someone you’re attracted to. You both deserve better than that. And if you’re on the receiving end of a rejection, do know that one person’s rejection doesn’t mean that you’re unattractive to everyone else. It can be as hard as it gets, but have faith that there is a person decreed for you who will absolutely love everything about you.

It is also important to note that sometimes people look very different in photos and in real life. You could be attracted by someone’s photo but when you meet them in real life, you would feel differently about them. As such, make a point to see an individual in real life before proposing.

There is also another wisdom in seeing a person before marriage because you could notice something in their mannerisms that could enhance your attraction to them or otherwise. Shaykh gave an example of a woman who was proposed to by a very good-looking and fashionable man. When he came to her home to meet the family, the man ate in such a disgusting way that the woman was immediately put off. And this happens. Sometimes people are put off by seemingly small things or what they would consider their pet peeves and reject the proposal. Please note that this does not in any way mean we should seek perfection (because that is never attainable) but rather, when it comes to physical attraction, it is entirely upon you to decide what is something you can live with and what is not.

From Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If one of you proposes marriage to a woman, if he can look at her to see that which will encourage him to go ahead and marry her, then let him do so.’ I proposed marriage to a young woman, and I used to hide where I could see her, until I saw that which encouraged me to go ahead and marry her, so I did so.’” According to another report he said, ‘a young woman of Bani Salamah. I used to hide from her, until I saw that which encouraged me to go ahead and marry her, so I did so.” (Saheeh Abi Dawood, no. 1832, 1834)

From al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah: “I proposed marriage to a woman, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Have you seen her?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Look at her, because it is more fitting that love and compatibility be established between you.’” According to another report: “So he did that, and he married her and mentioned that they got along.” (Reported by al-Daaraqutni, 3/252 (31, 32); Ibn Maajah, 1/574)

7. Culture

Allah Subhanahu Wataala said in Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 13: “O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may ˹get to˺ know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.”

Interracial/Intercultural marriages can be as beautiful as they get. They give us a chance to appreciate our different cultures and traditions. Yet when we are entering into a different culture, we should be prepared for what comes next.

We do have tribes and races that are very traditional and really uphold their culture and values, for example, Indians, Arabs, and other types of Asians. Then we have like Western cultures that are a bit flexible and more easily embrace others’ cultures. So it may be easier for an American for example to embrace the culture of their spouse. But imagine when two strong traditional tribes come together, there might be some challenges that will come about. For example, (not to be stereotypical or anything but these are just examples so as to illustrate how two different traditional individuals can merge) an Arab woman getting married to a Chinese, Indian or Mexican man. Please note that this is not to say that it can’t happen in a healthy way, it is possible. Yet when an individual is about to enter into a family of a different strong culture, it is important for them to take time to understand the other culture, calculate the risks, consider the clashes in lifestyles, gender roles and expectations and think about their willingness to adapt to that other culture.

Also, when an individual or a family states that they prefer someone from their own tribe or culture, let’s not rush to label them as ‘racist’ because sometimes, people actually prefer someone with a similar culture, so as to avoid interracial clashes. This doesn’t make them racists. By all means, we should seek what we believe will make us most comfortable. I know in Mombasa we hear people a lot of times saying in a negative tone ‘wanaoana wenyewe kwa wenyewe’ but there is nothing wrong with that (unless this is done because the said tribe feels superior or undermines others). Otherwise, if it is just based on preferences then this does not equate to racism. We have to understand, some people/tribes/cultures are open to new and different experiences, and some prefer familiarity and that is okay too.

The question then comes, where do we draw the line between personal preferences and racism/colorism?

Personal preference in the case of marriage is when an individual, for example, is attracted to a certain skin tone, or certain physical features that are mostly found in a certain tribe/race. So it is okay for someone to say I would love to have a dark wife or a fair husband or a wife from this tribe. In its original sense, this is very natural. Each individual loves different features and sometimes these features are predominant in a certain tribe.

Racism/Colorism is when an individual discriminates against certain people because of their race or color. Like when someone says, ‘I would never marry a dark-skinned man or I would never marry from this tribe’ in a tone that insinuates that anyone with dark skin or from this particular tribe can never be beautiful. It could also mean, this individual has classified an entire group of people based on race or color to show them as unattractive. That is undermining the tribe/race/color, and this is what is wrong.

I know racism is as real as it gets and I will not in any way try to sweep it under the rug. However, let’s not be quick to judge others’ intentions and classify them as racists.

Additionally, we have to be careful about how we show or talk about our preferences. As much as each individual has a right to have personal preferences about certain tribes, skin tones and even body types, we have to be sensitive not to sound degrading to those with features other than what we prefer. For example, (and this is very common), someone could say they prefer petite or slender women, and that is very okay. However, some go ahead and explain why they don’t like women who are curvier or why ONLY petite women can be attractive. Some are even insensitive enough and say such comments in front of curvier women or on social media platforms. This is very inappropriate and just wrong. We’re human after all, and we need to treat others with kindness regardless of our opinions.

8. Financial stability

Marriage is of course a huge responsibility and the man becomes responsible for the maintenance of his wife and family.

A hadeeth was narrated by al-Bukhaari (5066) and Muslim (1400) from Ibn Mas‘ood, who said: “We were with the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), young men who had nothing of wealth. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said to us: “O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding one’s chastity. And whoever cannot afford it should fast, for it will be a shield for him.” 

This hadith means that if a young man can afford the cost and duties of marriage, he should hasten to get married and protect his chastity. Naturally then, when choosing a spouse, the families ask about the man’s work and income in order to identify whether he can take his responsibilities as required. This thus is an important factor to consider.

Yet still, on the other hand, this does not in any way mean that one has to be super wealthy to be married. It doesn’t mean either that if one is poor they shouldn’t get married. Allah, may He be exalted, says: “And marry those among you who are single (i.e. a man who has no wife and the woman who has no husband) and (also marry) the Salihoon (pious, fit and capable ones) of your (male) slaves and maid-servants (female slaves). If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His Bounty. And Allah is All-Sufficent for His creatures needs, All-Knowing (about the state of the people)” [an-Noor 24:32].

As indicated here, “Poverty in and of itself is not an impediment to marriage if the husband is religiously committed and believes sincerely in his Lord, and the woman is likewise. If a person sincerely puts his trust in Allah, wants to keep himself chaste, and seeks that which is with Allah of bounty, there is the hope that Allah will help such a person and grant him provision from His bounty. At-Tirmidhi (1655) narrated, in a report which he classed as hasan, from Abu Hurayrah, who said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “There are three whom Allah is bound to help: the mujaahid who strives (in jihad) for the sake of Allah, the mukaatib (a slave who has made a contract of manumission with his master) who wants to pay off his manumission, and a man who gets married, seeking to remain chaste.”. It was classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh at-Tirmidhi. 

As such, these cases vary according to people’s situations and customs.

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Sources:

‘Fiqh of Love’ course by Al Maghrib Institute

Islamqa.com

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Thank you for reading, I pray this was beneficial. Please stay tuned for part 4 as we delve into the questions to ask potential spouses, identifying red flags and involving Allah Subhanahu Wataala in the entire process.

To read the first part, click here

Considerations For Marriage

Before we start on what things to consider, here are essential things first:

*Know what you’re looking for.

*Be moderate on the things you’re seeking in a spouse i.e. Be flexible; don’t be too rigid, too specific or have too high expectations. All human beings are flawed in some way, if you aren’t flexible or are seeking perfection, you might struggle for too long to find what you’re looking for, or never find it. Please note that I am not saying you should lower your standards but be realistic in your expectations.

For example, you say you want a husband between the age of 30-35 years but he must be making five or six figures income. I mean, yeah we do have some who do make six figures in that age group but how many?! True, you might actually be lucky and find one, but realistically, is that possible? Are you in an environment that has such individuals? Are you coming from an extremely wealthy family that has connections with other extremely wealthy families that can give you a network to find such an individual? Are you in any way exposed to such individuals? How much do you earn yourself? What are you bringing to the table that would interest such a man/woman to marry you?

Know your worth yes. Have standards yes. Don’t put yourself down yes yes yes! But be realistic, be smart, please.

*Be very aware of the assumption of ‘He/she will change.’ People only change when they are aware and want and put in 100% effort to change. So when considering any individual, see them for who they are NOW, not what they potentially could be in the future if they change. This can easily be one of the most painful ways to harm yourself. The only way this could work is if you find a person already in the process of working on themselves and changing their bad behaviours through taking concrete steps like going for therapy, or rehabilitation (in case of addiction) or having a concrete plan to cut down on their habits (and following that plan!), or acquiring skills that will help with the improvement of the self, not just fake promises and empty words.

* Marry someone who understands your situation. For example, you’re a revert and have no family that is still in touch with you. You’d want someone to understand your situation and not take advantage of you. Or you come from an abusive family and have strained relationships with the members. Some people don’t understand these situations and still expect you to just tolerate the abuse. Or a widow/divorcee with children from a previous marriage-she’d need a man who understands that these children will become his responsibility after marriage.

Another example, an Israeli sister reverts to Islam and wants to get married to a Palestinian whose family is in Gaza. There’s quite a conflict of interest here because each has their family in the warring places, so how will this work? Will the wife understand if the husband refuses to go visit his Israeli in-laws? Will she understand if the husband’s family do not accept her? Will she understand when her husband tells the children about the Palestinian occupation in his own view of things? I mean, some people do take these risks and do get married. But it is important to be prepared for the challenges that come after that.

*Be careful not to let anyone abuse you or take advantage of you. For example, someone wants to marry you in order to acquire citizenship or a green card or a prestigious job in your father’s company etc. Or a man wants to marry a wealthy widow to take advantage of her wealth, or a man wants to marry a revert without paying mahr or giving her very minimal amounts due to her lack of knowledge on her mahr rights. This just shows that someone has no respect for you and your emotions; they’re simply using you.

*Don’t give up hope on what you’re looking for. Marriage is a matter of fate and Allah knows which is the best time for you. Have patience, do your due diligence by searching and make lots of dua that Allah grants you what you want and what is kheyr for you. In your dua, mention the qualities and characteristics you’re looking for. Don’t be shy and don’t limit yourself in what you ask for, for it is only with Allah that there are absolutely no limits in asking.

So what are the things you should consider for marriage?

Please note that the whole purpose of this segment is to give you a guide on how to go about the process of choosing a spouse, not rules to be followed strictly. Life is not simply black and white and fate is very very mysterious. So many very unlikely individuals have had very successful marriages and so many who seemed well put together ended up divorced. There is no 100% guaranteed formula for a successful marriage because at the end of the day, as much as we make the choices, fate could have very different plans for us. Many things differ from era to era, case to case, individual to individual, culture to culture and context to context so please read the following with an open mind.

1. Love

So in the first part of this series, we mentioned how we shouldn’t overestimate the importance of love ALONE in a marriage. As much as that is very true, we can never deny how essential it is for the growth and nurturing of that marriage.

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “We do not see for those who love one another anything like marriage.[Sunan ibn Majah 1847]

This hadith acknowledges that two individuals can in fact have feelings of admiration and affection before marriage, and the best thing for them is to get married so as to safeguard their chastity and complete half their deen. When love is pure and for the sake of Allah then it is one of the most beautiful things.

We further understand the importance of love in marriage when Allah Subhanahu Wataala said in Suratul Rum, verse 21: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”

I remember watching this very insightful clip by Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan where he explains this ayah and he said, “Allah mentioned one thing about marriage that is on top, number one. Everything else is later. He said he made you into spouses for the purpose that you could find peace (tranquility). Sometimes you could love someone without respecting them. You can love someone without being honest with them. You can love someone without caring for them properly. You can love someone but hate their family. And all of these things, you know what they do? They take away the peace. So even if love is there, peace is not. And when peace is not there, the purpose of marriage is gone. The purpose is not love; this comes from Allah (As stated in the ayah above). The purpose is not care (or mercy) that comes from Allah too. Your purpose is to find peace.” (Watch it here)

So the question then becomes, what gives you peace? Is it being respected? Is it being valued? Is it being understood? Is it being prioritized? All the above? Whatever it is, that is what you should be looking for.

I absolutely love poetry so here’s one of my favourite pieces by Andrea Gibson:

“Lately I’ve been thinking about who I want to love, and how I want to love, and why I want to love the way I want to love, and what I need to learn to love that way, and how I need to become, to become the kind of love I want to be. And when I break it all down, when I whittle it into a single breath, it essentially comes out like this: before I die, I want to be somebody’s favourite hiding place, the place they can put everything they need to survive, every secret, every solitude, every nervous prayer, and be absolutely certain that I will keep it safe. I will keep it safe.”

This isn’t plain old love, this is about being someone’s love and some more; bringing them peace and being their home-their safest haven. Being a source of warmth, calm and support for them 🙂

Again, hopeless romantics, this is in no way an undermining of the importance of love in marriage. If you love someone, do marry them, for marriage without love is tasteless. But please do consider the other important things to you too. The hope and prayer is that we get to experience the love, the peace and the mercy all at once, ameen!

2. Deen

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman is married for four things: for her wealth, for her lineage, for her beauty or for her piety. Select the pious, may you be blessed!”. (Riyad as-Salihin 364)

And in another hadith, the prophet peace be upon him said, “When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks your daughter in marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so there will be temptation in the earth and extensive corruption.” (Mishkat al-Masabih 3090)

It is without a doubt that religion is the most important thing to consider in a future spouse. The question to ask oneself is, ‘when I say I want someone religious, what exactly do I mean?’ Religion has levels to it. Someone could say I want a man who is Muslim and fulfils the obligations i.e. prayers, saum, zakat, hajj..khalas. That is enough for me.

Someone else could say I want a man who not only fulfils the obligations but observes the sunnah as well and avoids innovations and major sins i.e. fasting Monday and Thursdays, gives charity regularly, prays qiyam, does not listen to music, follows Qur’an and Sunnah.

Someone else could say I want a man who has studied the Islamic shariah or is an imam or is a hafidh…

You get the gist? Religiosity has levels to it and it is very important for you to know exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s why:

People are on different journeys towards Allah and to some extent, we expect our partners to join us in those journeys and help us grow. However, we also have to be realistic about it. Some individuals are willing to improve their deen and grow and some people are comfortable where they are. So what of those unwilling to become better in their deen? They never said they want to change, why are you giving yourself that task then? People ultimately change because they want to, not because someone else wants to. Advice is golden, sure, people do influence each other to become better, sure. But marrying someone and you’re not pleased with where they are at with their religiosity then trying to force it down their throat thereafter is very frustrating for both parties.

For example, an imam marries a non-hijabi woman. If the woman herself has continuously (and not just for the sake of marriage) shown interest in improving her Islam then that is a different case. He most probably will be a positive influence on her. But imagine him marrying her and then forcing her to wear the hijab. In his opinion, this is his responsibility, this is his wife…that is all true. But you also knew the woman you intended to marry wasn’t wearing hijab, why accept her if you were not pleased with how she is, in the first place?

Or in the case of a pious woman marrying a man who only prays during Ramadhan and he doesn’t even see a problem with that. It then becomes a torment for the woman, trying to push him every single day to pray.

In short, marry someone who doesn’t have a huge gap with your level of religiosity or marry someone who has a higher level than you if you intend to acquire their assistance in your journey to Allah. This does not in any way mean you should undermine anyone. Our imaan is always going up and down and perhaps someday, the person you once looked down upon could one day be closer to Allah than you. However, to avoid problems and unrealistic expectations between the couple, it is advisable that we seek people who are at least close to us or slightly higher than us. This also includes considerations of their sect, aqeedah and avoidance of innovation and major sins.

3. Character

Religiosity without good character traits is not enough. This is because our religion highly promotes good character and thus our prophet peace be upon him was sent to us as a role model and a guide so as to direct us on how to be noble human beings.

This is important to look out for because sometimes seemingly religious people might have such bad behaviours and even abusive habits. So even if you’re pleased with someone’s piety, check out their character too.

Some of the good character traits and qualities to be observed in a person are:

*Generosity and kindness (not just in money but everything i.e. generous in your smile, generous in your giving, generous in your assistance to others by using your time or energy etc)

*Patience

*Wisdom and Maturity

*Faithfulness

*Etiquette in talking, eating and how you act around others

*Smiling face

*Modesty (both men and women)

*Beauty

*Compassion/Loving nature

*Fertile women (The prophet peace be upon him said, ‘Marry the one who is fertile and loving, for I will boast of your great numbers.’ (Sunan an-Nasa’i 3227). Ibn Qudaamah said in al-Mughni:  It is mustahabb that she be from a family whose women are known to bear many children. This comes as a high suggestion from the prophet peace be upon him, nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that infertile women shouldn’t be married. Just as it is permissible for a woman to marry an infertile man, it is also permissible for a man to marry an infertile woman. 

*Virginity for both man and woman (This does not mean the widows and divorcees are not valued, but rather, this is mentioned because the first experiences cause a strong emotional connection between the couple. Nonetheless, the prophet peace be upon him also advised the marriage of divorcees and widows in other contexts. So this differs according to the context).

4. Suitability and Compatibility

“When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks your daughter in marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so there will be temptation in the earth and extensive corruption.”

In the explanation of the hadith above, shaykh Waleed Al Basyouni mentioned that when the prophet said ‘someone whose religion and character you are satisfied with’, the word ‘satisfied’ means that you as a father/walii finds this individual as a suitable match for your daughter. Suitable not just in terms of their religiosity or character but also in terms of other matters. This means that sometimes a good, pious man could want your daughter for marriage but may not be suitable for her in one aspect or another.

Lineage and status: Many people consider family lineage and status in order to avoid incompatibility between individuals, however, we do have several cases during the prophet’s time where women of very high status were wedded to ex-slaves or sons of ex-slaves. For example, it has been reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) married Fatimah bint Qays who was a Qurashy to his freed slave Usamah ibn Zayd (may Allah be pleased with them). The prophet also asked Banu Bayadah to marry off one of his daughters to Abu Hind who was a cupper. There are so many such incidents that happened during the prophet’s time. This is based on the general meaning of Allah’s Saying: “Verily, the most honourable of you with Allâh is that (believer) who has At-Taqwâ [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqûn (the pious)].”

Read the response below to a question on marrying above one’s social level from the website islamqa.info.

Social level may refer to lineage, wealth, education, profession or job, or it may mean all of them. If a man’s religious commitment and character are pleasing, then he is compatible with the woman, no matter what her social level, according to the more correct view. This is the basic principle and the ruling of sharee’ah. But it remains to examine the situation of each suitor and whether he is suitable to marry one whose social level is above him, or not. 

It seems – and Allaah knows best – that if the difference is great in terms of lineage, wealth, education and profession, that it is not advisable to go ahead with this marriage, because there are usually problems from the woman or her family. There may be differences in lifestyle and the ways in which they do things, which may put the spouses off one another. 

But if the difference is small, or it has to do with one area but can be made up for in another area, then there is nothing wrong with it in that case, such as if the husband is poor but he is highly qualified, or he is qualified for a decent job, or some of his family are of high standing and so on. 

Then there are cases in which the woman and her family are so righteous that they are above looking at material concerns and measuring people thereby, and they may want to choose a husband who is poor because of his righteousness and so on. But it is better if the husband is the one who is of a higher status.   

Whatever the case, the precise advice in each case depends on complete knowledge of both parties and their families. Perhaps you can seek advice from someone whom you trust in your community.

Personality: There is also the aspect of compatibility in personality. Perhaps a woman is very social and likes spending time outdoors i.e. an extrovert, while the husband is more of an indoor individual. Not that a marriage of these individuals will not work, for we have many of such contrasting personalities and they have succeeded in their marriages. The thing here is, it is important to know of these things before the marriage so that you can think of whether this works for you. For example, the extroverted wife would want to often times go visit her family and go for outings and events, and maybe the introverted husband would not be comfortable living with such a woman. It is thus important for the two to discuss how they can manoeuvre their different personalities and meet halfway so as to avoid frustrations in the marriage. Sometimes individuals decide to break off their deal based on the same.

Another example is, you might dislike very talkative and loud individuals, while someone else might find the very quiet ones to be too boring. Someone else might like individuals who are humorous and crack many jokes, while someone else might consider such individuals to be too unserious with life. Someone might like individuals who are ambitious and passionate about their careers while someone else might feel these individuals are just workaholics and have no life apart from their work. So as they say, one man’s poison is another man’s meat. What might work for you, might not work for another. So it is important for the two individuals to regard whether their personalities are suitable for each other, and if not, whether they’re still willing to go ahead with the marriage and what strategies will they have in place to balance their life.

Lifestyle: Considerations of one’s lifestyle should also be considered. For example, think of a man who is a social media influencer and he highlights his life online. Perhaps he might expect his wife to become part of this lifestyle and maybe attend events with him. Maybe he also travels a lot and stays away from home many times. Yet perhaps the woman values her privacy greatly and would not like to be subjected to fame. And perhaps she wouldn’t want her husband to be far away from her most of the time. A marriage between the two could lead to problems if boundaries are not set from the very beginning and strategies are not kept on how to balance their life.

Think of a very educated woman who has built her career throughout her adult years. Then a man marries her then asks her to stay at home and refuses for her to do any sort of work. Some women are actually okay with being housewives and dedicating their lives to nurturing their homes and children but some are not. As controversial as this topic gets, the bottom line is this: If what a woman is doing with her life is not appealing to you, kindly find someone else who will be what you need. You need a housewife? Find a woman who is ready to be one. You want a career woman who is empowered financially? Find one who is already that or is willing to take up a career. Don’t wait until after marriage to force anyone to live a life they didn’t sign up for.

Interests and Hobbies: When it comes to interests and hobbies, it is often better when potential spouses have similar interests and hobbies. These will give them an opportunity to bond further and get to spend their free time together. For example, individuals who both read could discuss their favourite books and give each other suggestions. Individuals who both love fitness could go for walks together or do fitness programs together. For individuals who both enjoy travelling, they can save money and time to travel together. For individuals who love nature, they could start their own small garden at their home or something like that. No two people will ever be 100% similar but having some similarities in interests can be advantageous in a marriage.

Education: If a woman who loves to seek knowledge is married to a man who dropped out of school because of a lack of interest in studies, then some problems might arise in their marriage. For example, the man might not see the need for his wife to keep studying and spending money on different courses. He might consider this a waste of time and money and might lead to constant complaints and fights on the same issue.

As such, it is advisable that individuals marry those who are almost similar in their education levels. The shaykh gave an example of a woman who had two degrees from Harvard University and was married to a young pious man who had only studied the deen and was an imam but he had no secular education at all. The shaykh explained that he knew both individuals and they were both pious and of very good character. Yet their marriage faced many challenges because each one of them had a very different way of looking at matters. This in no way means that one of them is better than the other. They both were good people, they just weren’t compatible.

Again, there are many couples who have healthy, loving relationships while having very different personalities, interests and even education levels. This should not discourage you to consider someone. Just be aware of those differences beforehand, think carefully about whether that works for you or not and how you can each healthily cope and adjust to your differences.

Please also note that having similar lifestyles, interests and personalities does not mean there will be no challenges at all. Even siblings born under the same roof and with the same parents have different ways of doing things. So what about someone from a different family, background and sometimes even different culture? As such, do know that there will still be adjustments and compromises to be made throughout the marriage.

*

Sources:

‘Fiqh of Love’ Course from Al Maghrib Institute.

Islamqa.com

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Stay tuned for part 3 as we delve deeper into other considerations for marriage. Thank you for reading, and please subscribe below! 🙂

“A man asked a shaykh what advice can you give me on how to do tarbiyah on my son. The shaykh asked him, how old is your son and he replied, he is only two months old. The shaykh replied, ‘You are late, you have already missed the train. The best time to seek advice on tarbiyah of your child is when you were ready to choose a spouse because true tarbiyah starts by choosing a righteous spouse for your children.”

(Quoted from Ibn Qayyim’s book by Ahlul-Athar twitter page)

I recently started doing a marriage course at Al-Maghrib institute called ‘Fiqh of Love’, one of the most eye-opening and thought-provoking courses I have ever come across. If it was possible, I’d advise every single Muslim to take the course because it not only covers in-depth Islamic aspects and rulings on marriage but psychological ones as well. I just HAVE TO share some very important tips shared, especially on how to choose a spouse.

*Please note some of the views that will be shared are my own.*

So let’s start from the beginning:

LOVE

First of all, remove it from your mind that love is everything you need to sustain a marriage. That is an unrealistic view that’s very commonly romanticized in our society. Love is important yes, it nurtures a marriage yes, it brings out the most beautiful aspects of marriage yes…but is it the only thing you need to take with you into marriage? Absolutely not!

It is natural for people to feel some attraction, chemistry or connection towards another, and that is counted as the initial stage of love. Now during this phase, a lot of happy chemicals take over our bodies and bring out the excitement in us. And as these hormones continue existing in us, most often than not, people tend to become blinded by the other person’s character traits and behaviour.

According to sciencedaily.com, in an article named ‘What falling in love does to your heart and brain’ the writer states:

“MRI scans indicate that love lights up the pleasure center of the brain. When we fall in love, blood flow increases in this area, which is the same part of the brain implicated in obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

“Love lowers serotonin levels, which is common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders,” said Mary Lynn, DO, co-director of the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, SSOM. “This may explain why we concentrate on little other than our partner during the early stages of a relationship.”

Doctors caution that these physical responses to love may work to our disadvantage.

“The phrase ‘love is blind’ is a valid notion because we tend to idealize our partner and see only things that we want to see in the early stages of the relationship,” Dr. Mumby said. “Outsiders may have a much more objective and rational perspective on the partnership than the two people involved do.”

You will sometimes find people who were once very deeply in love eventually end up in resentment over the same traits that initially attracted them to each other. For example, a woman could admire how charismatic, charming and outgoing a man is and choose to marry him for such traits. However, once the happy hormones have subsided, the lady starts getting irritated and feeling insecure when she realizes that the man is not just charming to her alone. She’d probably become overly jealous when she sees him interact with other people and how much attention he gets. And maybe the man doesn’t really have strict boundaries with others and this might agitate the lady. Mind you, these were the same traits she adored in him at the start, she knew how much attention he was getting but because she didn’t actually evaluate whether that personality will work with her overly jealous one, it brings out resentment in her.

Please note that I am not in any way saying that a charming individual is the wrong choice of spouse lol, nor am I saying it is okay to be overly jealous or violate boundaries…but rather, from the beginning, let not love blind you from critically thinking about your choices. You have to be self-aware about your own strengths, weaknesses, what exactly you need in a partner and be practical in how you make those choices.

There is this one very deep and profound quote by a poet called Taylor (from Unicorn Empire on Tumblr: https://bit.ly/3CQucqX) that moves me every.single.time!

“A lot of people ask me what my biggest fear is, or what scares me most. And I know they expect an answer like heights, or closed spaces, or people dressed like animals, but how do I tell them that when I was 17 I took a class called Relationships For Life and I learned that most people fall out of love for the same reasons they fell in it. That their lover’s once endearing stubbornness has now become refusal to compromise and their one track mind is now immaturity and their bad habits that you once adored is now money down the drain. Their spontaneity becomes reckless and irresponsible and their feet up on your dash is no longer sexy, just another distraction in your busy life.

Nothing saddens and scares me like the thought that I can become ugly to someone who once thought all the stars were in my eyes.”

In a follow-up post after the above trended on Tumblr, Taylor said:

“After my teacher introduced us to this theory, she asked us, “is love a feeling? Or is it a choice?” We were all a bunch of teenagers. Naturally, we said it was a feeling. She said that if we clung to that belief, we’d never have a lasting relationship of any sort.

She made us interview a dozen adults who were or had been married and we asked them about their marriages and why it lasted or why it failed. At the end, I asked every single person if love was an emotion or a choice.

Everybody said that it was a choice. It was a conscious commitment. It was something you choose to make work every day with a person who has chosen the same thing. They all said that at one point in their marriage, the “feeling of love” had vanished or faded and they weren’t happy. They said feelings are always changing and you cannot build something that will last on such a shaky foundation.

The married ones said that when things were bad, they chose to open communication, chose to identify what broke and how to fix it, and chose to recreate something worth falling in love with. The divorced ones said they chose to walk away.

Ever since that class, I have never looked at relationships in the same way again. I understood why arranged marriages worked. I discovered the difference between feelings and commitments. I’ve never gone for the person who makes my heart flutter or my head spin. I’ve chosen people who were committed to choosing me, dedicated to finding something to adore even on the ugliest days.

To conclude her post she added: ‘I no longer fear the day someone who I swore was the universe can no longer see stars in my eyes, as long as they still chose to look for them until they find them again.”

I think it is noteworthy to mention, Islam doesn’t reject the concept of love. It is natural and happens without our permission. Yet, what we choose to do with that love/attraction is considered our choice and responsibility. Religion gives us guidelines and limits to observe when it comes to our emotions because many times it can lead one to lose the akhera or both the akhera and dunya (May Allah protect and guide us).

There is so much wisdom in why our religion discourages emotional attachment before marriage. It is not to make us miss out on something we consider beautiful, but rather, to protect our souls from a considerable amount of pain and heartbreak that can be avoided.

Imam Ahmad said: “Don’t expose yourself to what you cannot handle.” Sometimes we think we’re smarter than everyone else and can handle whatever happens. But the reality is, we’re human beings and we all are weak to some extent. When Allah asked us to lower our gaze and protect our private parts, it was because HE KNOWS that that can be the greatest source of pain and despair for humankind.

Going back to the initial point on how love can blind us from being practical and realistic, the shaykh mentioned during the course, an incident that happened between a Muslim lady coming from a very rich background and a Muslim man who was struggling to make ends meet. The two fell in love and the man approached the girl’s family to propose to her. The family were against the marriage because they felt that the man wouldn’t be able to give their daughter the same kind of lifestyle and comfort she had at her father’s home. Mind you, this girl came from a wealthy family such that they had two house helps, and one of them was dedicated to serving the lady alone.

Despite the family’s objection, the girl insisted that she wanted the same man to be her husband. She said she doesn’t mind if he is poor. She is ready to eat plain bread and water. She is ready to make all sacrifices for him. The two eventually got married. After a while, the lady approaches the shaykh crying; she is pregnant and still loves her husband, but she cannot take it anymore. She is really frustrated because she is not used to doing any house chores and it is a big struggle for her. The husband on the other side is frustrated because she can’t seem to get it right and keeps comparing his wife to his mother’s abilities.

Now, we’re not saying that two people coming from different lifestyles and financial stability (or the lack thereof) can’t lead to a healthy marriage BUT it takes more than love to handle such issues. With love, people tend to think ‘we can overcome ANYTHING’. Yet for that to actually happen, more traits and actions are needed like open communication, compromise, patience, support, mercy, compassion, and kindness. If the couple had taken the time to communicate about the impending challenges before the marriage (or at least early on in the marriage) and come up with strategies and plans on how they’d cope, then maybe things would have turned out differently.

This doesn’t mean there is no hope for the couple to fix their marriage, but it always better to be proactive and prepared in such scenarios.

All we’re saying is, don’t make love your main or only criterion in choosing a spouse. Instead:

1. Work on being the right spouse: This means you actively strive for personal growth and development. Understand yourself; your needs, your strengths, your weaknesses, your preferences, your goals and what you want in life.

Questions to ask oneself include:

Am I ready for marriage? REALLY being ready for the life after marriage, not just the fun wedding part.

What are my likes and dislikes?

What are my positive and negative traits? (Be honest and realistic)

What are my weaknesses and how can I work on them?

How can I become a better human being?

What are my preferences?

How would I like my future spouse to be?

Knowing your triggers: What situations or kinds of people bring out strong (mostly negative emotions) in you? What makes you angry? What kind of person you cannot stand at all? What kind of behaviours puts you off or frustrate or irritate you?

If you already have an interest towards a person, and you’re working on being the right spouse, ask yourself: What will I contribute to this relationship? What will I be serving? Am I giving as much as I am receiving? (Those already married can reflect on these questions too).

Most importantly, have the intention of becoming the best version of yourself. Each one of us has baggage to work on, so none of us can say we have achieved the ultimate growth. We’re continuously exposed to different kinds of trauma and difficult situations that we need to learn and grow from. There is no end to the process. According to your intention, Allah will help and assist you.

2. Connect with Allah: Seek knowledge. Strive for closeness with Allah. Work on doing better and more in your ibadah. Know which ibadah uplifts you the most and use that to nurture yourself. For example, for some people, reading Qur’an brings them the most peace. For others it is praying tahajjud. For others it is charity etc. Once you identify what works best for you, use that as a tool to keep you grounded and at peace. When uplifted, you will definitely interact better with your spouse and those around you.

Allah Subhanahu Wataala says: “And be not like those who forgot Allah and He made them forget themselves.” When we’re distant from Allah, we’re distant from a crucial part of ourselves. How can we forget ourselves then expect to find a good match?

When you’re connected to Allah, you’ll choose someone connected too.

Moreover, make dua often for yourself, your future spouse and your offspring. Even if you haven’t found a person yet, pray for your future spouse; their well-being, their religiosity, their peace of mind, their growth, and their rizq. Ask Allah for what you’d love to see in them; whether character traits, personality type, piety level and even physical traits. Ask Allah to enable both of you to be wonderful spouses to each other and wonderful parents thereafter. Ask Allah for good offspring thereafter who’ll be obedient, pious, intelligent etc…whatever you want, ask Allah without limiting yourself.

3. Search for the right spouse: Find someone who will bring you closer to Allah. Someone who can be a good parent. Someone who is compatible with you. Someone who will support and help you along the way. And someone who will bring out the best in you.

Ask yourself: What exactly do I want in a spouse? Ideally, you could have a list of what your spouse MUST have, Negotiable things you want and Non-negotiables.

For example, a man says, my wife MUST observe the proper hijab, she preferably should have a university degree but if she just has a college diploma that works for me (negotiable), and she mustn’t be working in a field that requires night shifts (non-negotiable). Please note that this differs from person to person and it is okay for whichever preferences one has.

Another example, a woman says: My husband MUST have a halal income, he preferably should be a hafidh but if he isn’t, then he should at least be able to read the Qur’an fluently (negotiable), and he mustn’t have any kind of addiction (non-negotiable).

Alternatively, you could put your expectations into categories; Most important, least important and Able to compromise. The important thing is to identify these things beforehand. By the way, these lists aren’t limited to qualities and traits only. They also include physical features as well.

One interesting tip that shaykh Waleed Basyouni shared about what to do when considering a person is; look at whether the person meets the qualities you need, then have deen the last and final quality to check off. For example, a lady says I want a man who is ambitious, religious, financially stable and tall. If the man she is considering has all the above (or some, according to what is negotiable to her) then finally she considers his religiosity. Is he pious? If yes, she goes ahead. If not, she cancels the deal. This makes the process easier because sometimes you can get someone who is religious but doesn’t have the other qualities that are also important to you. So you keep deen as the final consideration to tick off for it is the most important one; the deal maker or the deal breaker.

In conclusion to this first part, do know that it is okay to fall in love but take your brain with you. Don’t get overly attached to anyone. Maintain your boundaries and protect your chastity.

Love is not always enough to sustain a marriage (or any kind of relationship).

It is also important for individuals to know the difference between love, obsession, infatuation, lust and sympathy/pity. Each individual should be able to identify and NAME which emotions they are experiencing. It gives one clarity on how to deal with those emotions once identified.

That’ll be the end of part one. Some of the points above will be talked about further in the follow-up articles of this series. Kindly subscribe below to receive the latest articles in your email box 🙂

As an empath and a deeply sensitive person, I spent most of my years caring for others to the point of codependency. I always sought to help, assist and take care of others, entangling myself in deep attachments that were not always healthy and that sometimes made me lose myself. As years went by, I learnt the very hard way that human beings will disappoint you deeply-whether intentionally or otherwise. They definitely will. This is because, at the end of the day, we’re humans- we’re flawed by nature. We all make mistakes and sometimes, you and I will be on the receiving end of these wrongs.

Some people will use you and then abandon you, some will betray you, and some will hurt you in unimaginable ways even if they weren’t out to do so from the start. And I came to realize much later on that the reason I always ended up hurt in my relationships with others, was because of my deep attachment to them.

I put my people on a pedestal and had such high expectations of them because, in my view, I would do the same for them, and much much more. I made them my objects of admiration and sometimes obsession, blinding myself from the fact that you cannot own another human being, regardless of how much you do for them or what they mean to you.

At the end of the day, each one of us has our own story, struggles, flaws, baggage, expectations and goals. And however much we pour into other people, they are not obliged to do the same for us. It is true that in our religion, love and brotherhood are highly promoted, yet the reality is, how many people sincerely care about those around them?

When we attach our happiness and fulfilment to worldly things and mortals then it is a recipe for pain. We shall keep pursuing it-whether it is the love of human beings, or their approval, wealth, status, or fame- it will never fill us. Instead, we will become slaves to these attachments.

“Anyone whose heart is attached to the creation, hoping for someone from the creation to help him or provide for him or guide him, then his heart submits to them and (according) to the degree that his heart submits to them, he becomes their slave. This holds true, even if he is outwardly a ruler or guardian over those whom he treats as masters. The wise one looks at realities and not at appearances. So if a man’s heart is attached to his wife, even though that is permissible, his heart remains a prisoner to her and she may rule over him as she pleases – though outwardly he is her master and her husband. In reality, he is her prisoner and her slave, especially if she knows how much he is in need of her and how much he is in love with her and how much he feels she cannot be replaced by anyone else. At that point, she rules over him as the tyrant master rules over his subjugated slave, who cannot escape or go free. Indeed for the heart to be taken as a prisoner is a much greater matter than for the body to be taken as a slave or prisoner. Even a body that is a slave can have in it a serene and peaceful and happy heart. As for the heart that is a slave to other than Allah (the Exalted), then that is true humiliation, imprisonment and slavery.”

-Ibn Taymiyyah Rahimahullah

An older sister in Islam that I really look up to sat me down the other day and told me her story of being deeply betrayed by her very best friend of about twenty years, and then went on to say, “You’re naturally a giver and I see how you care about other people and how you go extra lengths for them…I of course do not want to discourage you from helping others and being there for them, I just want you to be careful about how much you give of yourself. We do want that genuine, amazing sisterhood, but beware, this is not the world for it. This is not the place to lay out your entire heart for people. We can hope for that in Jannah in shaa Allah. As for now, know your limits. Don’t go above and beyond for people at the detriment of yourself.”

I have been sitting with her statements to date and I ponder a lot about them. Reflecting on my past and how my deep attachments to people mostly brought me extreme pain and disappointment, it totally makes sense. The life of Dunya has no value in the long run, except for what we shall have prepared for the next life. And perhaps it is high time we accepted that we can never truly find fulfilment in this life through other creations. It is only by our relationship with Allah Subhanahu Wataala.

This reminds me of something I read a while back, quoted from Ibn Al Qayyim Al Jawziya Rahimahullah: 

“If a heart becomes attached to anything other than Allah, Allah makes him dependent on what he is attached to. And he will be betrayed by it.”

The pain, grief and heartbreak we experience from our objects of attachment are meant to remind us that Allah alone is the One we can fully rely on, have high expectations on, and trust completely. It is comforting to know that regardless of what happens, or how much we falter, He will always be merciful to us. Always awaiting our return. The hurt is meant to return us to Allah, the only One who will never fail us.

Even as I continue to unlearn so many things in my life, I realize I cannot do this without the help of Allah Subhanahu Wataala. I realize that I have no one but Allah to protect my soul from unhealthy attachments, from being blinded by love, and from holding onto what is not meant for me. He is the one who can fill the void inside my heart with peace and serenity regardless of who or what is in my life or the circumstances I am facing. I thus aim to have Allah as my very closest friend; the only one I know for sure will never hurt me and the only one I can lay bare to all my baggage and pain, without shame or fear.

Some of my favourite duas that I recite to seek Allah’s love, closeness, and protection are:

يارب إزرع في قلبي حبك، أشغلني بك وحدك، قربني إليك أكثر كي لا أبكي إلا من أجل شوقي لنور وجهك .. اللهم حُبك

My Lord, plant in my heart your love, occupy me with you alone, bring me closer to you so that I do not cry except for my longing for the light of your face. Ya Allah, your love…

‏اللهم إني أسألك حبك، وحب من يحبك، والعمل الذي يبلغني حبك، اللهم اجعل حبك أحب إلى من نفسي، وأهلي، ومن الماء البارد

O Allah! I ask You for Your Love, the love of those who love You, and deeds which will cause me to attain Your Love. O Allah! Make Your Love dearer to me than myself, my family and the cold water.

يا حي يا قيوم ، برحمتك أستغيث ، أصلح لي شأني كله ، ولا تكلني إلى نفسي طرفة عين

O Ever-Living, O Self-sustaining and All-sustaining, by Your mercy I seek help; rectify all my affairs and do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for the blink of an eye (i.e. a moment).

At the times when I am so overwhelmed by situations or other beings, and desperate to find peace in only Him, I keep my mouth wet with the short form of the first dua: 

اللهم أشغلني بك وحدك 

O Allah, occupy me with You alone i.e. Your worship and Your love.

May Allah strengthen our souls and Imaan. May He guide us to Him and make us among those who rely upon Him alone. May He grant us beautiful friendships, connections and relationships that will thrive both in this world and in Jannah. May He protect us from the unhealthy attachments of this world and the fitna and all the evil in it. May we always have the wisdom to only pursue His pleasure and love, Ameen.

No one can deny it- relationships can be very hard. We all want healthy, balanced, nontoxic and magical connections that can feature on other people’s hashtags as #couplegoals, #friendshipgoals or #parentinggoals. We all want that fulfilment in our lives. Yet sometimes, in our attempt to have these fantastic relationships, we go up and beyond to achieve them, to the detriment of ourselves. Whereas caring for your people is an act of love, when it goes to unhealthy extremes then it becomes codependency.

The word ‘Codependency’ was first used to refer to patterns where partners of substance abusers were deeply entwined in the destructive lives of their loved ones. However, the word is currently used in broad terms to refer to being overly focused on helping, rescuing or controlling others at one’s own expense. The individuals involved take over the responsibility of meeting the needs of others while neglecting their own. They become the rescuers, the savers in a toxic relationship and continue to give themselves beyond limits. 

Coming from dysfunctional families is one of the common causes of codependency in adulthood. Most codependent traits usually develop due to childhood trauma, especially in cases where a parent/caregiver has an addiction, is abusive, neglectful or mentally ill. Codependency is thus a learned behaviour and can be passed down from one generation to the next. The individuals caught up in these unhealthy relationship patterns are referred to as ‘Codependents’.

Melody Beattie in her book ‘Codependent No More’ defines codependents as:

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behaviour affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour.

The other person might be a child, an adult, a lover, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a grandparent, a parent, a client, or a best friend. He or she could be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a mentally or physically ill person, a normal person who occasionally has sad feelings, or one of the people mentioned earlier.”

Most times, a codependent doesn’t realize the impact of this imbalanced relationship despite the persistent misery they feel in their lives. This is mainly because most codependents are under the impression that they’re caring and simply trying to fix a relationship with someone they love. However, the problem is that this reliability and giving often develop to very unhealthy degrees and it is the caregiver who suffers the most.

To ensure that you’re not caught up in this rollercoaster, here are some signs of codependency to look out for:

  1. Feeling responsible for other people’s actions, feelings, thoughts, problems and needs.
  2. Regularly try to change or fix people even when the problem is beyond you.
  3. Inability to say no even when something makes you uncomfortable.
  4. Apologizing and feeling guilty often even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
  5. Have people-pleasing tendencies yet feel used/a victim.
  6. Fear of rejection, abandonment or being disliked.
  7. Have trouble setting and holding boundaries.
  8. Have low self-worth & self-esteem- feel unlovable.
  9. Worry a lot and sometimes lose sleep over problems or other people’s behaviour.
  10. Try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.
  11. Feel exhausted, irritated, hopeless, frustrated and anxious.
  12. Self-sacrifice to avoid upsetting others.
  13. Desperately seek love and approval.
  14. Don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with yourself and look for happiness outside.
  15. Have a difficult time asserting your rights.
  16. Don’t trust yourself or other people.
  17. You easily lose yourself in other people’s plights, dramas, needs, problems, or needs.
  18. Feel trapped in relationships.
  19. Afraid of conflict or making mistakes, are very sensitive to criticism & seek perfection.
  20. Stay loyal to your compulsions and people even when it hurts i.e. have a hard time letting go.
  21. You feel frustrated and resentful when others don’t want your help or advice.
  22. You derive a sense of purpose from taking care of others.
  23. Your relationships can have an obsessive quality.
  24. You have difficulty accepting help.
  25. You’re hard-working, overly responsible, and may give to the point of exhaustion or resentment.

The question now becomes, how can you overcome codependency? Here are some ways to do it:

  1. Prioritize self-care and your needs rather than sacrificing them for others.
  2. Stop caring too much about people’s problems and needs. Don’t try to change or fix people and let them make their own choices.
  3. Value yourself instead of seeking approval from others.
  4. Practice self-compassion rather than judging/criticizing oneself.
  5. Say no when you don’t want to do something.
  6. Stop obsessing over what is not in your control.
  7. Ask for help when you need it. You don’t always have to take on the role of a helper/caretaker, sometimes be the one receiving the help.
  8. Set boundaries, be assertive and don’t allow people to take advantage of your kindness.
  9. Detach yourself emotionally from people, situations, experiences, behaviours and problems.
  10. Choose to find happiness in your life regardless of other challenges or unhappy situations you’re facing.

The first step to healing is being aware of your codependent tendencies and accepting that you care to unhealthy levels. You can decide to read more, work on yourself and overcome codependency but in cases when it is severe, you might need the guidance of a therapist. Here again to remind you that going to a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy, yet there are some important patterns and behaviours you might need to unlearn and sometimes you need assistance on how to go about it.

Everything is a process. Remember to be kind to yourself as you take this journey, and be patient until you finally acquire peace of mind and personal growth. This will assist you in leading a better, healthier, more fulfilling life together with your loved ones.

*

To read more on the same, check the references below:

*Book: Codependent No more- By Melody Beattie

* https://www.livewellwithsharonmartin.com/end-codependent-relationships/

*https://mind.help/topic/codependency/coping/

*https://www.counselingrecovery.com/blog-san-jose/signs-of-codependency

There you are…silent, withdrawn…a wall covering you from the outside world.

Beloved…I know this world has been cruel to you. You’ve been mishandled, mistreated and abused in a way that the world is not the same in your eyes. You’ve been shown in more ways than you thought possible, how more ruthless life can be- people can be. You’ve been hurt so much you find no other way to survive but slide back into your shell, your own bubble, your safety net. Somehow along the way, you came to a conclusion that the only way to make it through is by separating yourself from the world. That way, circumstances and people have little chance to hurt you. But they still do, don’t they?

Life and people have this ability to make things worse. They invade spaces. Turn the world upside down. Make your life more miserable. More detestable. Make you question whether you really should be here.

I know that you barely came across kindness, even when you needed it the most. Even when you gave it out the most. So you sit in your silence and take in whatever silence has to offer. Whether it is dark memoirs of the past, distressing thoughts of the present or the anxiety-inducing possibilities of the future. You don’t really want to let anyone into your bubble because well, they never will get it, will they? What are the chances that someone will see the battle scene that your soul is and still choose to sit with you until you’re ready to stand up once again? Be gentle with you, and your scarred soul. Be patient with you as you lick your wounds and find yourself once again. Seems impossible right?

Yet I am here to tell you that it is quite possible to find good, pure souls, with no strings attached, no ulterior motives whatsoever, who’d be willing to hold your hand and be there for you. Help you, guide you, be there for you. Where are they, you ask? Well, perhaps you need to first break that wall surrounding you don’t you think? Open the door, and allow people to be there for you. Accept help when it is offered. Ask for help when you need it. Embrace vulnerability- don’t stick to the thought that independence is what will protect you from the cruelty of this world. It just causes burnout most of the time.

I understand that shutting down and being in your bubble is your only protection-your coping mechanism, but you’ll never understand the beauty of deep friendship and love and intimacy unless you break that wall. See yourself from the eyes of those who care about you. Allow yourself to learn and grow from your own experiences and the experiences of the people around you. Accept that the trauma you faced has affected how you view the world and perhaps be open to view it from the lenses of others.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you forget the hard-learnt lessons you’ve gained thus far, but rather, making the choice to not allow yourself to drown in the what-ifs, could-haves and would-haves. No one can take away your story, and what impact it had on you. No one can underestimate what life did to you. It remains to be your story, yet you’re the one to decide what to do with it.

One of my favourite quotes in my book ‘The Striving Soul’ is, ‘Everyone has a struggle. Make yours count.’ And I like it because I do believe that regardless of the obstacles we face in life, we do have some choice on which way to handle the present and the future. Your struggle could be greater than a lot of other people yet that only means you have a greater ability to shine and thrive. Greater resilience. Greater strength. Because if anyone else was in your shoes, perhaps they wouldn’t have made it to where you are right now. All you have to do now is use that pain to create something wonderful for yourself.

I know this life has not been easy on you. But please take the risk. Don’t allow the fear to cripple you. Sometimes the only thing separating you from greater greatness is you stepping out of your bubble. Perhaps it will be better than you ever imagined. Perhaps it will be all you will ever need to become the best version of YOU.

Beloved, I pray you heal. I pray the world becomes kinder and gentler with you.