With housework, children and a myriad of other responsibilities on our hands, it is easy for us to overlook the manner in which we interact with our spouses on a daily basis and, consequently, the etiquettes we display towards them. So let us return to our role models, the female companions of the Prophet (SAW) , reminding ourselves of the means by which we can display the most excellent of manners with our spouses.
We begin by returning to the occasion of the first revelation, the event which would change the lives of many to come. After Allah (SWT) revealed the first verses of the Qur’an, the first person the Prophet (SAW) sought help and comfort from was his beloved wife, Khadijah (RA). When he returned to her in fear, relating to her what had happened, she responded with great wisdom and eloquence, “No, for by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You uphold the ties of kinship, speak truthfully, help the poor and destitute, serve your guests generously and assist those who are stricken by calamity.” (Bukhari)
So when our own spouses confide in us about problems they are facing, let us remember the example of Khadijah (RA), for she did not respond with negative emotions, despite the great matter in front of her. Rather, she reassured the Prophet (SAW), gave advice with coolness and simplicity and firmly gave her pledge of support to her husband. It was for this reason that the Prophet (SAW) later on said about her: “She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand.” (Bukhari)
After this occasion, Khadijah (RA) did not leave the Prophet (SAW) to deal with his hardship alone. Instead, she took practical steps to aid him by taking him to Waraqah ibn Nawfal, the son of her paternal uncle. Waraqah, who had become a Christian in the time of ignorance, used to write from the Gospel in Arabic and was a knowledgeable man. After the Messenger (SAW) told him what had happened, Waraqah confirmed his message and told the Prophet (SAW): “If I should live to see that day, I will support you strongly.” (Bukhari)
It would have been easy for Khadijah (RA) to simply make du’a for the Prophet (SAW) and offer him her moral support. Yet she went further than this, exemplifying her trust in Allah (SWT) and taking practical steps towards helping her husband in his great endeavour.
In the same way, let us strive to go out of our way to aid our spouses, practically demonstrating our support towards them and displaying the best of etiquettes towards them. Even if we have a hundred other tasks to complete, let us take a few minutes each day to ask our spouses if they have any needs that we can help fulfil. Though there may be times when we fail to fully understand the needs, actions or aspirations of our spouses, let us support them in their endeavours and help them towards the good, so that we too may receive a share of goodness, as Allah (SWT) says:
“Is there any reward for good other than good?” (Ar-Rahman:60)
Another great example lies in the daughter of Abu Bakr (RA): Asmaa’ (RA). Asmaa’ (RA) was married to az-Zubayr Ibn al-‘Awwaam (RA), the cousin of the Prophet (SAW). At the time of their marriage, az-Zubayr was reported to have owned just a camel and a horse. So from living the plentiful life of a daughter of a rich merchant, to becoming the wife of a poor companion, Asmaa (RA) found herself facing extreme hardship. She used to have to tend to her husband’s animals, knead flour and carry heavy loads of date-stones upon her head for long distances.
On one particular occasion, Asmaa’ (RA) met the Prophet (SAW), along with a group of his Companions (RA), whilst carrying date-stones upon her head. The Messenger (SAW) called Asmaa’ (RA), telling the camel to sit down so that she could ride behind him. Yet look how Asmaa’ (RA) responded, narrated in her own words: “I felt shy to go with men and I remembered az-Zubayr and his gheerah (sense of praiseworthy protectiveness or jealousy) and he was a man having the most gheerah. The Messenger (SAW) understood my shyness and left.” She then returned to her husband, relating to him what had happened, and telling him: “…He told the camel to kneel so that I could mount it but I felt shy from him and I remembered your gheerah.” How did az-Zubayr (RA), one of the ten promised Paradise, respond? He said: “By Allah, the thought of you carrying date-stones is more severe a burden on me than you riding with him!” (Bukhari)
SubhanAllah. Let us take a moment to reflect upon this incident. Rather than accepting the offer of help from the Prophet (SAW), Asmaa’ (RA) instead sacrificed her own needs and continued to remain under hardship for fear of doing something that would displease her spouse. Due to the great respect Asmaa’ (RA) had for her husband’s wishes, she considered how her husband would react before making a decision. Can you imagine, then, the adab she would have had if her husband had actually prohibited her from doing an action?
Just as Asmaa’ (RA) beautifully demonstrated, it is from the adab of the believing women to abstain from actions that she fears may displease her husband, such as letting into her house those whom her husband may not like. By putting the needs of our spouses over our own needs, we will be closer to attaining exemplary adab with them. At the same time, let us not forget the reply of az-Zubayr (RA), which equally demonstrates the mutual concern, care and compassion that both husband and wife should display to each other.
It is a worthy point to note, however, that even if we are sure our husbands will not object to us performing an action, it is still from the best of etiquettes to ask them permission. A common example is performing voluntary fasts or leaving the house, both for which we are required to ask our husbands’ permission. Recently, my husband expressed his appreciation towards me about this matter and the fact that I still ask him before going out, even though he has already given me general permission to go out on such occasions.
It was also reported that at one time, a poor man came to Asmaa’ (RA) to seek permission to start a business under the shadow of her house. Rather than immediately agreeing, she replied: “If I grant you permission, az-Zubayr may not agree to that, so come and make a demand of it when az-Zubayr is also present.” (Muslim)
Even though this act was highly rewardable, Asmaa’ (RA) still waited for the approval of her husband before allowing the poor man to start his business. How many of us, when we see the chance to gain reward, first seek approval from our spouses? For example, if we were asked to collect donations from sisters in the mosque, how many of us would first say: “If my husband agrees, I will be able to offer my assistance,” ? For in doing so, we would be following in the footsteps of the pious women of the past, becoming ever closer to our aspirations of exemplary adab with our spouses.
So let us review the manner in which we address our own spouses and ask ourselves the following questions: before I perform an action, regardless of how reward-able the action is, do I first ponder over whether my husband will be pleased with it or not? When my husband comes home, do I take care of his needs first or do I immediately ask him to fulfil my own by asking him to look after the kids or help me with some other task? When my husband faces hardship, am I the main source of support for him or are his friends or other members of his family?
If we cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, it is upon us to contemplate our actions and etiquettes with our spouses, truly exerting all our efforts in rectifying ourselves so that we are able to attain excellent adab. I leave you to reflect upon the following hadith, in which the Prophet (SAW) was reported to have said: “Any woman who dies when her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise.” (at-Tirmidhi)
And what more could we wish for than Paradise as a reward?
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Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan is a freelance writer, based in the UK. She hopes to give inspiration and encouragement to fellow believers through writing about the heart-softeners.