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Secrets of Long Lasting Marriages: Lessons from our parents

Khalida Haque talks to two older Muslim couples to hear their words of wisdom on the subject of making marriage work.

My parents were married for 55 years and my in-laws celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last year, masha Allah. Yet when I look around at my friends and our generation in general, we’re fortunate if we are still in our first marriage, assuming we’ve even managed to find a husband. What does this say about us and our marriages? Is there anything we can learn from them?


As a psychotherapist, I am aware that we learn a great deal from our parents, particularly with regards to how to relate to others. This of course extends to how we conduct ourselves within a marriage. It is an accepted fact that children of divorced parents often go on to experience their own divorces and usually find commitment difficult due to them having seen firsthand how easily marriages can crumble or how demanding a task they can be. This brings to mind the following hadith:

Abu Hurairah, narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Every child is born with a true faith (i.e. to worship none but Allah alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism or to Christianity or to Magianism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” (Bukhari)


This, to me, indicates that our natural disposition is towards good and the worship of Allah I and it is our nurture that can distort this, not only in terms of our religion but also in different areas of our lives such as relating to others. We need to find positive relationship influences if we are to learn to have thriving marriages.



     “Couples these days don’t seem to have patience with each other. They seem to want things straight away, without putting any effort in.”


Some wisdom from our elders
Two couples who have experienced successful marriages share with us their thoughts and feelings:


Names: Khalid & Samina
Ages: 63 & 52
Length of Marriage: 34 years


Tell us how you met.
S: Our marriage was completely arranged. My uncle’s neighbour suggested it and then the two sets of parents met and decided everything. We did not meet until after the wedding.


K: Yes, it was totally arranged. My work colleagues find it hard to believe that I first met her after we were married.


How would you describe your marriage?
K: On the whole I would say it has been successful. We have been very happy with each other. We’ve had our ups and downs but our arguments only ever lasted five minutes. One of us always backs down, either one of us, it is not always me or always her – we manage to take turns.


S: Surprisingly good. I had no idea what marriage or a relationship was until I got married and masha Allah, my husband is very good.


What’s your favourite thing about him/her?
S: He’s really nice and caring


K: I like lots of things about her. She has always fulfilled her duties as a wife. She has always seen through me, she knows me and makes a decision without my having to say anything. She has always made a real effort to understand me.


Does Islam influence your marriage and how?
S: When we married we were not so practising. When the children arrived, we realised that if we wanted them to practise we had to lead the way. They would question us if we asked them to do something and they weren’t seeing us doing it. This is what caused us to improve in that direction. Hajj was, masha Allah, a big changing point for us too.


Why do you think marriages these days don’t seem to last?
S: Couples these days don’t seem to have patience with each other. They seem to want things straight away, without putting any effort in. Also I think that parents may be interfering more … In our time there was interference but we had sabr and did not answer back.


K: It is all love marriages these days and so they don’t expect reality. During those initial stages, reality is forgotten. Then, when children and/or other worldly things arise like life, housing, jobs etc., that’s when real life sets in and the veils are removed.


What advice would you give on making a marriage work?
K: Think of each other. In a partnership you have to think of the other. Always consider your wife. I remember my family convinced me to go on holiday and I had fully intended to go on my own. One minute I was booking my own ticket, and the next I was thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ So I booked another ticket as I couldn’t go without her.


S: If you want to make your marriage work, compromise and make your husband happy … If you want Allah to be happy with you then make your husband happy. Prepare yourself for your husband’s return at the end of each day and you will see that the tiredness he comes home with disappears … and then you can ask him anything you want!

Names: Muhammad & Habibah
Ages: 79 & 70
Length of Marriage: 50 years


Tell us how you met.
H: He saw me when I was studying in the capital and took a liking to me. He found out who I was and asked his Great Uncle to speak to my father on his behalf. My parents were interested and my mother in particular wanted to meet him in person. So he travelled to my hometown where they questioned him. I remained in the capital and knew nothing of what was happening; everything was arranged without my knowledge. The first I knew of it was when my father and sister arrived at my hostel to collect me 2 weeks before the wedding. I started crying out of fear that I would not like him as I knew nothing about him but I accepted their decision especially when he said, ‘Your mother liked him so I know you will’.


How would you describe your marriage?
M: Successful on the whole. Yes, there have been difficulties but we managed to come through them.


H: We are very opposite in our characters, in our nature. There were tough times as I spent a lot of time alone, particularly when he came over to work in the UK and then when I followed him here. Overall, the marriage has not been bad.


What’s your favourite thing about him/her?
H: I have always found him handsome. But what I liked particularly about him were our special conversations that occurred in the early years of our marriage when he listened to me and seemed to be interested in what I had to say.


M: That she has been such a good mother to our children, three sons and a daughter. Also she has been a good wife to me.


Does Islam influence your marriage and how?
M: Yes. I have always been practising to some degree and one of the things that drew me to her family was their strength of faith, my father-in-law in particular.


H: Islam did help. Marriage is Sunnah. When I felt particularly sad or unhappy I would turn to my faith. It enabled me to tolerate a lot … had it not been there then I don’t think I would have been able to manage as well as I did, alhamdulillah. The influence and impact of Islam on our lives and marriage has increased with time and it is much more important now than it was then.


Why do you think marriages these days don’t seem to last?
H: There is no patience to try in the same way we did. Sometimes they don’t seem to care. We worried about the effects on our children and so we worked harder at making it work. Nowadays, it seems to be about their happiness and not about the wider impact. However, I need to make clear that I don’t think someone should stay in a violent relationship … that’s not right.


M: I don’t know really. It depends on attitude. There seem to be more expectations these days. We had less opportunity available to us and so I guess we had fewer expectations.


What advice would you give on making a marriage work?
M: Be sincere with each other and talk … discuss openly all family matters.


H: Try to understand one another. Have patience with each other. Everyone has good and bad in them. Also try to get along with your in-laws. In arguments, sometimes it helps to keep quiet and then talk about things when everyone has cooled down.




What these two couples have described during their interviews is in keeping with what we are taught within the Qur’an and Sunnah. It seems as though it is when we put our faith into practice that relationships blossom and bear fruit in the shape of lasting marriages and stable families, bi’idhnillah.




Khalida Haque is a qualified Integrative Counsellor/Psychotherapist with an independent practice, is founder of Khair and is a Counselling Services Manager. She has varied clinical experience that includes working with elders, and feels honoured and privileged to be doing the work she does.  Alhamdulillah.