40. Obedience Part 2: Setting the stage

Posted on November 1st, 2012

On October 17th 2012, Wise Wives Orange County was lucky to have Sister Noha Alshugairi, M.S. Marriage and Family Therapist, speak to us about the controversial and delicate matter of a wife's obedience to her husband.

To set the stage for our discussion, Noha started by explaining a very important concept that all Muslims should keep in mind when discussing any religious obligation.
 
Urf:
This concept is called urf.  It is the Arabic word for social/cultural norms. In Islam, she says, “urf is taken very seriously as long as it doesn’t go against our religion.”
 
For example, hijab (proper Islamic dress) is obligated on women. The urf of hijab are determined by where and when you live. From the time of the Prophet (pbuh), hijab has been worn differently from time to time and from place to place.
 
Urf describe the dynamic changes of things around us and the concept of marriage is also impacted by it. We live in the West in 2012. We must look at the social norms here and accommodate them, but based on the Quran and sunnah. “We can never make things up or go against what our religion tells us to do. The religion is supreme," she said.
 
She asked us what we thought our social norms say about the relationship between husband and wife. One woman responded by saying that there is a strong focus on equality of roles where usually both partners are working and both partners help out in the home.  Versus in the past where a relationship might have been based on "equity" where the wife looks after the home and kids and the husband works outside of the home as the sole breadwinner.
 
This is very true although you will find a wide range of living situations across the world. “There is no limitation on these roles. Islam does not say that the woman should not work outside the home, and Islam does not say that the husband should not help inside the home,” Noha said. On the contrary, the sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) tells us that he used to mend his own clothes and help with household chores. And he married a woman named Khadija who was one the biggest businesswomen during their time.
 
In the end, couples may choose to live in any way that they want when it comes to housework, career, etc. as long as they are happy and satisfied with their roles and as long as they are upholding their religious values.
 
"Ultimately what you decide you are going to do as a wife and what your husband is going to do is going to be up to your agreements, up to your discussion, up to your urf and your understanding of what your roles are,” she said. Later in this series, you will see how urf affects many aspects of the specific issue of obedience.

Ayah 30:21:
In the end marriage is meant to be a beneficial part of life, so much that its positive light is even mentioned in the Quran in ayah 30:21.
 
So let’s delve right into this first ayah on her list. Ayah 30:21 says, “And among His Signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may come to for Sakina. And He put amongst you mawada and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for people who reflect.”
 
Even though we have not talked about the specific topic of obedience yet, she said that we must discuss this ayah when we talk about anything to do with marriage.
 
She explained this ayah to us by defining the Arabic words sakina and mawada. The word sakina means inner peace, tranquility, serenity…it is the goal of any relationship. To generate sakina, each spouse must have mawada and mercy. Mawada is a word describing a certain level of love. “A higher form of love,” she said. “It means the type of love that motivates you to act on it.”
 
Allah's goal is to make every marriage have sakina, therefore He put down guidelines, a framework, that must be followed in order to maintain it, it does not just happen automatically.
 
This framework includes guidelines that should be followed before, during, (or even after marriage if a divorce were to occur) in order for sakina to exist and to have a good marriage in the sight of Allah.
 
For example, before marriage a person should: pray istikhara (a prayer for making decisions), get to know their future spouse in a halal way (not going against any religious values), choose a pious husband with a good character. This isn’t the full list but you get the idea.
 
She dwelled on the element of choosing someone with a good character for a while saying that you should never just focus on just his religiosity, you must take his character and personality into account. You must "click" with the person and like his personality. It’s not enough to just see someone's outward actions of religiosity like praying and fasting. You must get to know his character in order to distinguish between a suitable spouse and a non-suitable one.
 
During marriage each spouse must follow certain rules and guidelines as well. She asked us what we thought these include, some responded saying: having respect, caring for one another, being honest, being trusting…etc.
 
She agreed with all these and added that in order to delve more into the guidelines of marriage set by Allah we must study more ayahs and hadiths.

Stay tuned for the next entry that will go into detail about one of the most controversial ayahs in the Quran: 4:34.


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