“When talking about marriage, Allah says your spouses are garments for you. A garment may or may not fit perfectly—-but either way, it covers imperfections, protects and beautifies.” –Yasmin Mogahed
By Zaiba Hasan
July is one of the most popular months for Muslim couples to get married. My spouse and I were no exception; our nikkah (Islamic wedding) was on July 31 a couple of decades ago (22 years to be exact). Just finishing my sophomore year of college, I naively and excitedly waited for my wedding with the anticipation of the schoolgirl I literally was. We were so focused on the clothes (I refused to dress up), the makeup (I did my own), and the hair (put in a loose bun), we never thought about what would happen afterward.
When my new husband whisked me away on our honeymoon (because that’s what we were supposed to do, right?) I suddenly found myself across the world in a room with someone whom I loved but didn’t actually know. With feelings of panic, I thought to myself, “Now what?”
I recognize that the fun part of getting married is the wedding, and I know you will have fun navigating the trends, color schemes, and new bridal traditions that are popping up all over. However, with 32 percent of Muslim marriages ending in divorce, I feel that it is incumbent on parents (grandparents, elder aunts and uncles, etc) to help teach their kids about what happens when the party's over.
It is our responsibility to give them the guidance as well as the tools they need to navigate the married world and provide them a fighting chance to beat the statistics. These important conversations should be had when your adult child or someone you are close to starts to consider marriage.
If you have read anything that I have written in the past, then you know that for me, modeling is always number one. We need to show our children by example how real relationships work– the good, the bad and the ugly. If our children do not have role models to follow, how will they know how to handle similar circumstances later?
Gone are the days when we hid our true feelings from the children. Arguing constructively, communicating openly and going to therapy when needed are all healthy, effective ways of showing up in your relationship. Modeling this behavior with your children allows them the opportunity to see firsthand that relationships take work, and that anything good worth having requires effort on both sides and the maturity to put someone else’s needs before your own.
Remind them that they will be on the same team as a couple, and when getting married you are fulfilling half of your deen.
Not the most popular topic between parents and their children. Trust me, I understand! However, as a community we need to take the negativity and shame out of something that is not only natural but a healthy part of marriage. Fear- and shame-based approaches to discussing sex are problematic for a multitude of reasons. The creation of intimacy is something that binds a married couple and at times softens the edges. Create an atmosphere of openness around this topic and allow your children to come to you with questions and concerns.
Feel free to direct them to other resources on this topic
if you are feeling apprehensive. Remember, you want to direct the narrative – not Tiktok or Instagram or (gasp!) their peers (although peers who are married may be able to give good advice as well).
Your son or daughter comes to you and tells you they’ve met “the one.” What’s the first thing you do? I would send them to pre-marital counseling, without hesitation. I have already started this conversation in my house with my older kids. It is one of the main prerequisites before any wedding planning begins.
This is the time to talk openly about how the new couple will deal with finances, roles in the marriage, values, children, family relationships (i.e. in-laws). Marriage isn’t just about having someone to cuddle with on a Friday night while you binge-watch Netflix (though that is a bonus). Premarital counseling will help the couple improve their communication skills, set realistic expectations, and give them a base for conflict resolution that they will use for years to come.
Let’s keep in mind that both parties are coming into the relationship with their own values, opinions and family history. In helping them establish a healthy foundation of mutual respect and understanding and open communication from the beginning, you – as a parent – are providing your child with an opportunity for success. That is a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come.
Nikkah contracts originated more than 1,400 years ago. This is a contract that outlines for the couple their rights and responsibilities towards one another. In essence, it was the “OG” prenuptial agreement. Discuss with your child, way before a potential significant other is ever in the picture, that this document was prescribed as a form of protection, for all parties. In having this potentially uncomfortable conversation at the beginning of a courtship, we prepare for whatever negativity might arise during a discussion of this topic during wedding planning.
If you as a parent have laid the foundation for your child from the beginning, you are opening up space to enjoy all those amazing things that the wedding season has to offer, like dress shopping, venue planning, invitation creation ... or scrapping all of that and deciding you’d rather host a destination wedding for the couple and give them a down payment for their home instead. (A mama can dream!) By doing the hard work to build the foundation of marital success, you are opening up space for everyone to enjoy the (Insha’Allah) lifetime ride.
Until next time,
Zaiba Hasan is part of the dynamic duo behind the award-winning podcast, Mommying While Muslim. She is a spiritual parent coach at Emerge Parenting Solutions (launching January 2022), interfaith mediator and sports mama extraordinaire. Look for her on the baseball fields and basketball courts in the DMV (Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area cheering from the sidelines.