I was unsure whether to publish I met a girl on Instagram…7 months later we got married. It’s rare that I share personal things about myself or my family, but the piece went viral and received a fantastic response. We received lots of comments from people saying how they could relate to our story – and a few negative comments which was expected. What surprised me was that so many people called it ‘a beautiful love story’ and ‘a fairy tale which shows dreams really do come true.’
My wife and I found this surprising because, well, we never saw it like that.
After we prayed istikhara, everything else fell into place. Our ‘getting-to-know-each-other’ phase and marriage seemed natural, and it felt as though we were slowly being brought together by a calming, gentle pull. But the idea of a ‘fairy tale’, to us, is farfetched.
There is a perception among many not-yet-married young Muslims that marriage, and the lead up to it, is a fairy tale. Marriage is often visualised, wrongly, as waking up every morning together at fajr, happy, smiling and in love, dreamily praying tasbih on each other’s fingers, and then going to bed together at night, happy, smiling and in love.
While this image is somewhat true, the reality is not quite like that. But I don’t blame young Muslims for thinking this. First, many of us have never had partners before, so don’t exactly know what relationships are like, and what it takes to sustain one. Secondly, in our turbo-sexualised modern world, where it seems like everyone else has tasted the sweetness of a relationship and pretty much only you haven’t, that dream-like yearning to be with someone becomes a slightly delusional state where you over-romanticise relationships, hoping that you will soon be in one. And, thirdly, we are fed all sorts of nonsense on the TV and in films, and think marriage will be somewhat similar to a disney fairytale, or, if you’re asian, a Bollywood hit.
Yes, there’s all the love, happiness and romance that comes with marriage, but it’s by no means like that all the time. It’s been said so many times before but it’s worth reiterating: marriage is tough work. You will learn things about yourself that you never knew. It takes a lot of sacrifice, persistence and patience. You need maturity, seriousness, a certain amount of life experience, the willingness to compromise and ability to express your feelings in a careful, loving but straight forward way. Whilst this may seem cliche, and an obvious thing to say, young Muslims who are increasingly attracted to the idea of marrying young, need to know this. Marriage is not halal-dating. It’s a big life step.
Some comments from my wife:
There are Muslims who don’t have jobs / are still in school / have very little maturity / have chauvinistic and unrealistic ideals about the opposite sex and think they’re ready to get married. This is not to say they cannot get married, but these are big obstacles (unless you’re a chauvinist…then don’t get married please). Yes, in the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, people got married very young, but their level of maturity was very different than ours today. Muslim men and women also need to know the basic rights and responsibilities of husbands’ and wives’ in Islam. As a husband, what is expected of you? And as a wife, what are your responsibilities? Study the fiqh of marriage before you get married. It’s actually really important. You wouldn’t sign a contract before reading the terms, would you?
Also, there are deeper social issues that we need to address. (Before I get attacked by the internet, I’m generalising here. I’m just talking from the many experiences I’ve had with people over the years – so chill out). Men – you need to remember that to expect your wife to dress like a model every day, cook a three course meal every night and look like a goddess 24/7 is completely unrealistic. It’s ironic that some men have this expectation especially when they’re the ones laying around looking like (and smelling like) they haven’t showered for three weeks, unable to even boil an egg.
On top of that, practicing Muslim men often want a woman who knows about popular culture but doesn’t participate in it. They expect women to be fashionable, but not too fashionable so that they attract the attention of others. They want a woman to be confident talking to a guy, but they don’t want her to have had friends of the opposite sex. They want her to know about Islam, but not too much (lest the woman realises all of her rights and knows what the man is doing wrong). I’m sorry, but what planet do you live on? Again, this may seem obvious, but I know a few guys who genuinely have this oxymoronic and ridiculous expectation, and because of it, they’ve reached their mid 30s still searching high and low for a woman who does not exist. Good luck!
Women too, can be unrealistic. They must realise that a man is one single human being. A man cannot be your best friend/superman/millionaire/father figure/lover/spiritual guide/hot-guy-you’ve-been-stalking-on-the-internet (or in my case, instagram ;)) all at the same time. Stop having silly expectations! Keep them humble. I’m not saying compromise on the important things – like a man’s faith, compatibility, honesty etc. but realise that a man is not going to be the perfect ideal husband from the get go – especially if he’s getting married young. Marriage, particularly young marriages, are a learning curve for both the wife and husband – you help each other grow into the spouse and person you want to be. Many women also idealise marriage by subconsciously thinking they will not need anyone else once they have a husband. Whilst being married shakes up the priority list of people in your life, you still need your friends and family, so don’t push them aside.
Closing thoughts from the both of us
Being a human being in today’s crazy world isn’t easy, especially being a Muslim, and it’s understandable why we need someone who we can find comfort and protection in. But rushing into marriage can be more dangerous than not being married if you’re not prepared.
So how do you prepare? You prepare by taking life seriously. You prepare by slowly working on your flaws (which begins by accepting you have them) and being realistic about your thoughts on a wife/husband. Like we mentioned earlier, be the things you are looking for in a partner.
From a spiritual perspective, you prepare by emptying out yourself, so that you can be filled with love for your partner. Try your best to rid selfishness. A heart that is full of ‘me’ does not have space for anyone else. Marriage can be described as a mirror: you are forced to reflect on who you are. Your spouse holds up a mirror in front of you and allows you to see your faults. It’s then up to you to work on them. Your spouse is the one who tells you, without saying a word, who you are. And, if you view life as a journey to God, there is nothing more important than spiritually purifying yourself before you meet Him.