Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his folk, companions, and followers
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
I pray that you are well, and in the best of health and spirits. May Allah grant you all good in this life and the next. Barak Allahu feekum.
When one spouse is fire, the other should be water. The time to deal with a problem is not when the other person is angry, but after they are angry. When your husband is angry, take the means of defusing the anger—just as when a house is on fire, one’s immediate duty is to put out the fire rather than busying oneself with identifying the criminal. After this, one should take effective means to resolve the issues that lead to the anger.
Remember the words of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), in which he outlines the sunna of action in life:
“Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will be mindful of you. Be mindful of Allah, and you’ll find Him before you. And if you ask, ask Allah. If you rely, rely on Allah.” [Related by Tirmidhi, who deemed it sound and rigorously authentic (hasan sahih)]
This entails that before we act, we should first look to Allah and what pleases Allah. Then, we should seek means that are in accordance with the guidance of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), and pleasing to them. With this, we take the means with a heart firmly reliant on Allah. If we do, we’ll find success and serenity.
Successful conflict resolution focuses on the future and on the issues rather than the other person themselves. Discuss how can we (as a couple) make things better—rather than the past and on apportionment of blame (you did such-and-such).
Problems should be discussed, but in this positive forward-looking manner. While one expresses one’s feelings, one should do so in a positive manner, and with empathy to the other party—even when they are wrong, express your agreement for the issues where they do have a point. Frame your suggestions in a way that your spouse will see the benefit of—and highlight the direct and indirect benefits in this for him and for the marriage itself. (Try to be smiling when you speak.)
Such discussion should be made in the context of the Qur’anic paradigm for successful marriage: successful marriages are those in which there is a spirit of love and mercy, and a striving to deal with one’s spouse ‘in the best of ways.’
Remember the words of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak the good or remain silent.” [Related by Bukhari and Muslim] This hadith also relates to actions, by textual indication: one only acts when one’s actions are good.
Successful marriages resolve problems not only at the level of reason and discussion, but at an emotional level: if you express your love and sympathy for your husband through your words, actions, dealings and through affectionate physical contact, for example, he is far more likely to sympathize with your concerns and return to being reasonable.
This doesn’t mean, in any way that you are ‘giving in’ to him by treating him well. Rather, this is the way to get your way, and to heal the wounds that pain your marriage. It is also the way most pleasing to Allah Most High, and closest to the sunna of the Chosen One (Allah bless him and give him peace), who said, “The best of you are the best to your spouses, and I am the best of you to his spouses.” [Tirmidhi, and others]
Seek your rights in the same way. The point isn’t just to ‘make a point’ by getting angry at your husband for his shortcomings, and then for things to stay as they have always been. Rather, the point is to pursue a way of actually getting your due rights, and to heal and strengthen the marriage relationship.
When you are angry, focus on calming down. Then, reason with yourself first—about what is really upsetting you, rather than just incidental issues that triggered your anger (and which aren’t really the roots of your displeasure).
Then, raise these issues in a positive manner that is forward-looking, in the abovementioned spirit of love, mercy, and acting in the ‘best of ways.’ Seek to discuss the matter in the context of the two of you as a couple on a path to a successful future, rather than the context of two individuals in the heat of dispute. If you look towards a successful future, problems seem small and resolvable; if you just look towards problems themselves, they seem huge.
And Allah alone gives success.
You asked for good materials on marriage. The best book on Islamic marriage in English at present is Ustadha Hedaya Hartford’s Islamic Marriage.
The writings of John Gottman are very useful. I’d recommend The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. A good friend of mine, Shaykh Mostafa Azzam, recommended Gottman’s writings. Though I trust Shaykh Mostafa’s opinion more than I trust mine, I was skeptical. But it is really some of the best literature available.
The following is a useful PDF article on the topic (and the links it
gives are also good):
Promoting the Health and Well-Being of families During Difficult Times
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