بِسْم الله الرحمن الرحيم
We praise the One Who created all of mankind from a single pair. May the best benedictions and peace be upon His beloved, Muhammad, (peace and blessings be upon him). To proceed:
1996 was a transformative year for me for many reasons but there are two that stand out. It was in that April that I entered Islam and it was on Sept. 3rd that I married my wife. Two weeks out of prison I found a masjid in the phone book and called to get directions so I could attend Jumu’ah. The brother on the other side of the phone asked where I was located and I told, “I live over on the East Side with my girl friend.” “What? You can’t have a girlfriend…come and stay at the masjid until you get things sorted out.” “Thanks akhi, wa salaamu alaikum”.
That is an abridged version but it carries the gist of what was said. I called to get directions, I didn’t even know where the place was and they want me to stay there. What? So, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “we’re getting married.” No proposal, just a declaration. Alhamdulillah she loved me and was game so, two weeks later on a Tuesday I left the check in with my probation officer and headed to the court house…late for my wedding (which is kind of a trend in my life). My girl stood there in her tight jeans and her shirt exposing her midriff and I had on some Boss shorts and a T-Shirt as we stood in front of the judge and two witnesses…and her mother. (And before anyone challenges our marriage – you must learn what a so called “Islamic marriage” is first and know: her people offered her to me and I accepted!) We couldn’t stop giggling and laughing, not believing we were actually going through with it – we had know each other for years but only been together for little over a year, most of which I was in prison. The judge became angry and scolded is that this is not a joke, it is a serious matter and seemed to dismiss us as doomed from the start. That is the impression I got from most people honestly…especially those who knew me.
Understand, this woman remained by my side through thick and thin. It’s true we dated when I was 15 and she dumped me. And she wasn’t nice about it either. (She knows!) but that was for the best, and Allah knows best! We met up again in July of ‘95 when I was released from jail and went by the Farm store to get some supplies for a night of celebration…she was working and gave me her number. We hooked up shortly afterwards…but then, back to jail I went and then off to prison. She was paying on a bail I owed…while I was in prison! I was facing six different cases, each consisting of multiple charges and she was out there working, paying a lawyer to ensure I had a chance. She worked around the clock at a Royal Farms and used that money on me – and us, securing an apartment for when I got out. As for me, I was a piece of … well, you get it. All I had was love and yet she married me on that Tuesday afternoon.
After our marriage we went to the movies, walked around the harbor, got some cheese steaks and headed home. The next day I was back to work. We were broke and I needed my job. That November she entered Islam – not for me, not due to me…but if we are gonna be real, I would say, despite me.
This is my memories and I am certain my wife has her own and most likely, though the details are there, the experience of it all was very different for her. She loves to mention that I borrowed three quarters before I finally got her engagement ring to come out of the bubble machine…hey, I said I was broke. I will leave her telling to her.
Not the most romantic story ever, for sure…but that is real life for you. What is more, it’s a chapter of my life. Tomorrow it will be 21 years…by Allah’s permission, we proved all the doubters wrong. Still in love and still going strong. Perhaps stronger now than then thanks to experience and maturity. Still broke and now with 9 children, 4 of which are disabled, I could never be who I am except that Allah made her a means to it. She is my rock and my strength, my support and my handhold…she is my wife.
I am not only sharing this to share a chapter of my life, not that anyone could tell from my posts this last month, I tend to be a very private person.. I am not just sharing this to honor my wife, though this is one intention. I also am not just sharing it to make mention of my anniversary – though that too is a part of it. The greater reason I am sharing it is to offer some advice to everyone who reads it: How did we make it 21 years? Especially with all the trials and hardships we continuously face along the way?
The short answer is this: Islam. Don’t talk about it, be about it. If your going to be a Muslim, then BE a Muslim. Don’t half step and put on a show in the masjid and act like something else at home.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I made so many mistakes!!! I was young and immature and just plain ignorant even years after we got married…but she kept it real even when I fell short. At the same time (I hope) when she felt weak, I strove to be there and elevate her as well…so in this way we helped each other keep our heads above water. Don’t think things were perfect! This isn’t a story book – things got real…a lot! But we kept it real…we were ourselves and we both had a dislike for fakes…and that carried us sometimes. Just clinging to our Islam…that is what saved us every time.
That is a general answer. But let me offer some specific advice. This is what you really need if you want your marriage to work, if you want your family to work…and know, i’m still working at it: practice the sunnah of the best of creation (may the best benedictions and peace be upon him)!!! One of my best friends, Talibudeen, he told me years ago what means, “practice the sunnah in the home, with your family, so it flows from you naturally outside the home, with others.” That is a reality! With that advice, I will give you three short narrations to cling to and then two others as a bonus:
The first is the first Hadith a traditional student will take from his teacher, the first unbroken connection back to the beloved of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him, the Hadith of mercy. The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “the All Merciful will show mercy to those who shown mercy; show mercy to those in the earth and the one in the heavens will have mercy on you.” Now ask yourself, who has a greater right to your kindness, compassion and mercy than your spouse and children?
The second narration is one oft quoted but seldom understood. It is the prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) saying what means, “none of you attains to faith truly until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” How many things would we overlook if we just reflected on how we would want to be treated and spoken to if the shoe was on the other foot?
The last narration of the three is extremely important for our families!!! Upon being asked, “which of the Muslims is most virtuous/best (afdhal)?” The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) responded, “the one whom the (other) Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hands.” Our scholars have taught that this means directly and indirectly! Ask – who is more deserving of protection from the harms of your bad character, your tantrums and your abuses than your spouse and children?
As for the two “bonus” narrations, they are that the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) informed us that the believer is the mirror of the believer.” When you look at your spouse, know to some extent it is a reflection of yourself and your family is always a reflection of you. I don’t just mean that you command they wear a mask in front of your peers – rather, in the home, away from others, in private…that is where the mirror is most reflective. If you don’t like what you see, change what is within you.
The last narration is this, the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised us, from the excellence of one’s Islam is that they leave that which is not meant for them.” If we would leave off the rumors, the gossip, the distractions and the foolishness of others (specifically social media) and focus instead on our families…sharing that which is meaningful for our families in this life and he next, concerning ourselves with that which we are accountable for personally…our families would truly benefit. This point is vital as so many couples fall apart due to loneliness and so many children act out due to need of attention. Be mindful!
Is my wife perfect? No. She is a perfect fit for me though. Am I perfect? Absolutely not!!! But I want so badly to be better for her. Understand that marriage is not easy! It’s all about sacrifice – it’s about being burned to be a source of warmth, comfort and light. If you are selfish and believe it’s about you…I pray Allah protect you from what you are sowing. What I understand is this: there is no room for selfishness in Marriage.
Now someone may be going through it and yell, what about my happiness? I would say return to the narrations above. You will find mercy when you give compassion, you will find faith when you love for others, you will be able to submit when you protect others from yourself and you will find happiness when you are a source of happiness for others. But know this well, happiness in this life is fleeting and illusory. Be with Allah, follow His beloved (peace and lessons be upon him) and, by His grace and Mercy, you will find the true happiness which never fades.
So, By my Lord’s permission, tomorrow makes twenty one years. These last few have been even more of a struggle for me (in no way due to her!) and only Allah knows what the future holds…but I am sure I can face it boldly as long as my Provider permits His beautiful, strong and wise slave to remain by my side…and I ask Him, by Him, for her for Him…ameen.