A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#36 - On Marriage and Celibacy (Part I)

November 09, 2020 Waheed Jensen Season 3 Episode 10
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#36 - On Marriage and Celibacy (Part I)
Chapters
0:38
Episode Introduction
3:34
Introduction to Marriage and Legal Rulings
9:12
"Do I have to get married? Is it sinful not to get married?"
16:42
"You have to get married/have kids!", "Marriage heals your SSA!"
25:23
How to Deal with Pressure to Get Married
31:06
Modern vs. Traditional Notions of Marriage
38:51
“How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my spouse and that my marriage will work?"
49:11
“What general advice is there to establish compatibility with my future spouse?”
1:03:01
On Respect and Good Communication
1:17:21
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#36 - On Marriage and Celibacy (Part I)
Nov 09, 2020 Season 3 Episode 10
Waheed Jensen

This is part I of a 2-episode series on marriage and celibacy, answering frequently-asked questions on the topics, with a focus on SSA-related matters.

In this episode, we address general questions and misconceptions about marriage. What are the legal rulings on marriage, and when would it actually be discouraged or haram? What if I am pressured by my family and/or community to get married, how do I deal with that? Does marriage "heal" one's SSA? How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my spouse, if I’ve never had experience in that domain before? What is some general advice to establish compatibility with my future spouse? These and similar questions are explored in this episode.

Books on marriage and relationships from an Islamic perspective:
- The Muslim Marriage Guide
- Blissful Marriage: A Practical Islamic Guide
-
Before You Tie the Knot: A Guide for Couples
-
Before the Wedding: Questions for Muslims to Ask before Getting Married
-
Handbook of a Healthy Muslim Marriage: Unlocking the Secrets to Ultimate Bliss

Books on marriage and relationships (general):
- Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
-
Mating in Captivity
-
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate
-
How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk
-
ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer
-
The Art of Seduction
-
No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life
-
The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You
-
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Books on marital relations and intimacy:
- The Guide to Getting It On
-
Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How to Get It
-
Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations
-
Like a Garment: Intimacy in Islam
-
تحرير المرأة في عصر الرسالة - الجزء السادس

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This is part I of a 2-episode series on marriage and celibacy, answering frequently-asked questions on the topics, with a focus on SSA-related matters.

In this episode, we address general questions and misconceptions about marriage. What are the legal rulings on marriage, and when would it actually be discouraged or haram? What if I am pressured by my family and/or community to get married, how do I deal with that? Does marriage "heal" one's SSA? How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my spouse, if I’ve never had experience in that domain before? What is some general advice to establish compatibility with my future spouse? These and similar questions are explored in this episode.

Books on marriage and relationships from an Islamic perspective:
- The Muslim Marriage Guide
- Blissful Marriage: A Practical Islamic Guide
-
Before You Tie the Knot: A Guide for Couples
-
Before the Wedding: Questions for Muslims to Ask before Getting Married
-
Handbook of a Healthy Muslim Marriage: Unlocking the Secrets to Ultimate Bliss

Books on marriage and relationships (general):
- Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
-
Mating in Captivity
-
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate
-
How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk
-
ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer
-
The Art of Seduction
-
No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life
-
The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You
-
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Books on marital relations and intimacy:
- The Guide to Getting It On
-
Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How to Get It
-
Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations
-
Like a Garment: Intimacy in Islam
-
تحرير المرأة في عصر الرسالة - الجزء السادس

Waheed 00:38
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen. Thank you so much for joining me in a brand new episode. In this episode and the next episode, inshaAllah, we will be talking about marriage and celibacy and answering frequently-asked questions on these topics, with a special focus on our journey with same-sex attractions and how it relates to these topics. We commonly think about the prospects of marriage - is it mandatory? Should I get married? Is it sinful if I don’t? My family is pressuring me to get married, or my community puts a lot pressure on me, and I don’t know how to handle that. How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my potential spouse, even though I’ve never had experience with that? What if I want to get married but feel afraid or anxious? What general advice is there to establish compatibility? And of course, as it pertains to our experience with SSA: Is it honest for me to get married to my potential spouse without disclosing my same-sex attractions or my lack of opposite-sex attractions to him/her? Why or why not? What if I told my spouse and things backfired, how do I deal with that? In the case I had same-sex encounters before marriage, should I disclose this to my future wife/husband? How do I know if my marriage is going to work out? What other options are available for me? These are some of the questions we will explore together in these episodes. And of course, the topic of celibacy as a legitimate life choice will be examined as well, inshaAllah. There are many links to resources that are posted in this episode and the next episode in the episode descriptions, so make sure to check them out. As for topics related to marital intimacy and sex, these will be addressed in episodes 38 and 39 published next week, inshaAllah.

Before I begin this episode, I would like to sincerely thank the wonderful men and women who have helped me put these episodes together, from brainstorming ideas and drafting out the various topics, to expanding those ideas, critiquing, revising and finalizing all the material. This final product is the collective effort of 12 men and women, the majority of whom have same-sex attractions, some of whom are married with children, others who have been married and are now divorced, and some who have chosen life-long celibacy. Men and women from different professions and different countries around the globe, bringing their first-hand experiences to this. I am very grateful to all of your efforts. May Allah reward you immensely, and may these episodes bring about a lot of knowledge, wisdom and healing to all the listeners, inshaAllah. Ameen.

03:34
Of course, the topic of marriage is a huge topic in its own right, it goes without saying that two episodes wouldn’t constitute a comprehensive reference on the matter. There are many books and resources from across the centuries that have been written on this matter. In these episodes, we are tackling these matters from the point of view of individuals experiencing same-sex attractions, and we’re trying to answer commonly-asked questions to provide guidance and address misconceptions. Other forums and resources address the topics of marriage in more detail. So this is just an FYI before we begin.

A brief introduction to marriage: We are taught that marriage is part of the human fitrah (inherent disposition), it contributes to a sense of self-completion, it’s a channel for procreation and preserving one’s lineage and mankind as a whole, and it is our collective duty as humans on Earth. Allah says in Surat Al-Hujurat, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (49:13). And He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says in Surat Al-Nisa’, “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer” (4:1).

Marriage is encouraged in our Deen as it protects both husband and wife from falling into sin, through channeling their sexual and intimate desires to one another lawfully. Marriage is the Sunnah of our beloved Messenger (PBUH), who said “When a person gets married, he has completed half of his religion (Deen), so let him fear Allah with regard to the other half.” One understanding of this hadith is that half the temptations that a Muslim man or woman faces in life are sexual temptations. When a Muslim gets married, he/she has protected his/her faith (Deen) through marriage from half the temptations that he/she might encounter in life, meaning the sexual temptations. He/she still has to deal with the other half of temptations, like money, power, envy, and so on. That's why the Prophet PBUH said that a married person needs to fear Allah subhanhu wa ta’ala regarding the other half, meaning that that person needs to protect his/her faith from the other half of temptations in life. Now, this is very interesting, because it means that half of the temptations for an average person are sexual temptations. What about individuals experiencing same-sex attractions, for example? One can argue that, for a large number of us, such temptations would probably constitute more than half, right? The Prophet (PBUH) also said, “This world is but provisions, and there is no provision in this world better than a righteous wife.” And, of course, marriage comes with its own challenges: personal, emotional, financial, and then the responsibilities of taking care of one’s spouse and children, extended family and so on. 

Now, from a fiqhi perspective, marriage is not wajib (obligatory) – it is recommended (i.e. mandub or mustahabb), according to most books of fiqh. But in terms of individuals, the ruling takes the same five rulings (ahkam) as any other action: wajib (obligatory), mustahabb/mandub (recommended/praiseworthy), mubah (allowed), makruh (discouraged/reprehensible), haram (unlawful/prohibited). In general, and this is for the general community, marriage is wājib (obligatory) for those who are financially capable and who fear falling into sin (fornication); it is mustahabb (recommended/praiseworthy) for those who are financially capable and are not afraid of falling into sin; it is makruh (discouraged/reprehensible) for those who are not afraid of falling into sin, but are afraid of not being able to fulfill the rights of the potential spouse; and it is haram (unlawful/prohibited) for a man who cannot provide financially for his spouse, or for a man or woman who cannot fulfill the rights of their potential spouse, unless he/she informs the potential spouse of this and the spouse agrees. It is also haram if one of the spouses has a problem that should be disclosed before marriage but is not disclosed (and the Fuqaha’ go into details of this and give examples of medical conditions like leprosy, albinism and genital problems, including genital disfigurement or male impotence, for instance). The fifth ruling is mubah (permitted), and it applies to scenarios other than the ones just mentioned. So this is a quick survey of the matter from its legal/fiqhi rulings.

09:12 
So a question that follows is, do I have to get married? Is it sinful for me not to get married? If we’re to examine this from a fiqhi perspective, again, what are the reasons that make marriage makruh (discouraged) or haram (prohibited)? As we’ve just seen, it is haram for a man to get married if he is not able to provide financially for his spouse. It is makruh if a man or woman is afraid of not being able to fulfill the rights of the potential spouse, and it is outright haram if the man/woman cannot sexually satisfy his/her spouse (for instance, many books of fiqh have talked about chronic erectile dysfunction as a reason for a wife to ask for divorce) -- so if a man cannot interact with a woman that way, or if it’s very difficult for him to do so for a long time, then that would constitute a legitimate reason for divorce. The same goes for a woman who cannot satisfy her husband’s needs, according to many scholars. Now that’s the general ruling. What about men and women who experience same-sex attractions, like us? Having exclusive same-sex attractions and not being able to fulfill the rights of the spouse would be a condition or excuse not to get married. One can also argue, from everything that we’ve examined so far in this podcast, that having lots of traumas and emotional baggage and going into a marriage that entails many rights and responsibilities, and not being able to fulfill those rights and responsibilities is another big NO. Emotional and mental stability before making such a commitment is very important.

Allah says in Surat An-Nur, “But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty” (24:33). "Enriches them" here can be applied broadly. Not all of us are enriched. There are different reasons for that: This can be thought of as a form of need, or lacking something, such as the lack of a suitable partner, a lack of majority (bulugh/بلوغ), lack of sanity, lack of financial resources, lack of interest/desire, or others. We all know the famous hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), “O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding one's chastity. Whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for it will diminish his desire.” So, not everyone can afford marriage (whether financially or otherwise), and that’s a given, so the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned fasting as a helpful tool to curb one’s desires, for example. We have discussed other tools to help us deal with desires and curb them, back in Episode 24.

So, the notion of “I am sinful/doing something sinful if I don’t get married” is not true in a Shar’i sense. Some famous Muslim scholars never got married. Let me give you some examples. The famous early scholar Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari (d. 932 ce), a scholar of fiqh, hadith, tafseer and usul, who was also a historian, linguist, poet and litterateur, never got married, and he devoted his life to seeking knowledge and teaching. Who else? Imam al-Nawawi (d. 1277 ce), the famous jurist and hadith scholar, also lead a celibate life. Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328 ce), the famous scholar, muhaddith, theologian and mufassir, never got married either. Al-Zamakhshari (d. 1144 ce), who was known primarily for his tafsir and its immense linguistic and rhetorical erudition, also didn’t get married. The famous female scholar of hadith and fiqh “Umm al-Kiram” Karima Al-Marwaziyyah (d. 1070 ce) and the famous early Sufi ascetic/mystic Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya (d. 801 ce) led celibate lives and never got married. And finally, Abu Hurayrah (d. 681 ce), may Allah be pleased with him, the famous Companion of the Prophet (PBUH), didn’t get married until late in his life, after the Prophet PBUH had died, and the Prophet never reprimanded him for it. But as a general recommendation for all his companions, of course, the Prophet PBUH recommended for them to get married, though he didn’t pressure them at all or make them feel less than, inferior, unwanted, not worthy, etc. if they didn’t or chose not to. All of these and other countless men and women devoted their lives to seeking knowledge and contributing to the advancement of the Deen and of humanity and supporting their communities in diverse ways. Many of them left a legacy until this day and age.

Now, it’s important to address the notion of “لا رهبانية في الإسلام" / “There is no monasticism in Islam”. We hear this thrown around a lot, right? “You’re not getting married? So you’re turning into a monk? We don’t have that in Islam!” The idea behind not marrying here is not taken as a religious devotional practice, in other words, to achieve a higher spiritual state. Of course, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists have that, but in Islam, we don’t have celibacy as an act of devotion per se. “I’m not marrying just for the sake of getting close to Allah and this would make me a better Muslim.” Well, not quite. Look at it as a matter of intention. Just because I’m not married (i.e. I’m single/bachelor), doesn’t mean I’m a celibate priest. Again, priesthood celibacy for the sake of Allah is not an Islamic concept, it is against Islamic teachings. However, as we’ve established, there can be mawani’/موانع, or impediments, to marriage (be they psychological, physical, or financial, among others), and when one assesses one’s condition for him/herself, one may reach the conclusion that marriage is not for him/her - maybe for the time being at least, or for life. Again, it depends on the individual. And it’s not set in stone, things can change, obviously. And in that regard, once I decide that for myself, that I have impediments against marriage in my individual case, by refraining from marriage, I am abiding by Shari’ah, and I get close to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, since, in this particular case, marriage would be makruh (discouraged) or haram (prohibited) for me, as we’ve seen so far. So, in this case, celibacy and remaining chaste for His sake is not a “celibacy of priesthood”, but rather the permissible option that helps me avoid what is makruh/haram in this case, and I can instead focus my life on serving Allah and His creation in whatever way He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, has decreed for me. Make sense? 

16:42
Let’s address some misconceptions that we have going around with regards to getting married. How many times have we heard this: “You have to get married, and you have to have kids.” That is not Islamic at all. It’s cultural. As we’ve established so far, from a purely fiqhi perspective that is, the only time one has to get married (i.e. it’s a wajib for him) is when one is capable (financially and physically) AND fears falling into temptation. Otherwise, it’s not mandatory. Now, again, yes, marriage is recommended, and so is having kids when one is able to. The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Marry women who are beloved (due to their good characteristics), prolific in bearing children, for I shall outnumber the Prophets by you on the Day of Resurrection." But it’s not a wajib, again. There’s no compulsion in that. And for sure, having kids, if one is able to have them and care for them, comes with many blessings in this life and the Next. A discussion of this is beyond the scope of these episodes, but I’ll just mention this hadith, for example: The Messenger (PBUH) said, "When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge that is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (i.e., the deceased parent)." And descendant here refers to one’s child or someone that the person helped raise and take care of. But then again, sadaqah jariyah is mentioned as well as beneficial knowledge – you leave your thumbprints in this world in ways that are helpful to others after you. So again, there’s no compulsion in getting married if you don’t want to or can’t, and there’s no compulsion in having kids. And you can influence the world and leave a legacy that is not just limited to having kids after you leave this world. Examples of sadaqa jariyah include funding a good cause for generations after the person passes away, like funding institutions of learning, hospitals, mosques, and others public services, for instance.

And let me go on a rant here: Why do Muslims consider this such a big deal, that they HAVE to get married, otherwise their life is “destroyed”? Again, nothing about this is Islamic. I’m obviously not against marriage, don’t get me wrong. But it’s necessary for us to realize that forcing someone to get married or have kids is cultural and familial, not religious. We also need to recognize celibacy as a legitimate choice in our communities for those who don’t want to get married or can’t, for whatever reason, and I’ll talk more about this in the next episode, inshaAllah. In addition, it is absolutely no one’s business whether we get married or we don’t get married. On the Day of Judgment, we’re not answering to Mom or Dad, aunties and uncles, neighbors or relatives, or whoever else. We answer to God Almighty on the Day of Judgment. So let’s get this clear and out in the open. Those major life choices are no one’s business. Sure, we can be courteous, and out of care, concern and appreciation for one another, we encourage and support one another to find suitable spouses, that’s absolutely wonderful. But what’s not acceptable is to make that a life mission, looking down on people who get to a certain age and are single, looking down on people who choose not to get married and remain chaste, force people to get married to someone or anyone just so they can have kids and preserve the family name, or whatever else goes around in our families and cultures. Rishta aunties and mosque uncles, I’m looking at you! This is not acceptable.

Now, in case you are forced to do something you don’t want to do, belittled because of your situation, made fun off, made to feel unworthy, treated harshly or negatively in any way, please realize that this has nothing to do with Islam, and you are more than capable of making your own decisions and choosing whatever makes you comfortable. No one gets to decide anything on your behalf.

Another common misconception is “Marriage heals your SSA.” This is the ultimate face palm, honestly. I’ve heard it from so many brothers throughout the years. Either they had this idea that marriage would cure their SSA, or they were led to believe that by a local imam or teacher of theirs whom they had told about their SSA. And you know what’s worse? When parents find out about their son’s or daughter’s SSA and immediately rush to get them married, as if that’s some scandal that needs to be covered. People, “marriage heals your SSA” is a totally bogus statement. Many times it exacerbates the emotional issues that someone experiencing SSA already has and goes into marriage unprepared and unaware of them, because marriage comes with its own challenges in many different aspects. A lot of times, a person walks into a marriage carrying many unmet emotional needs, has attachment issues and/or codependency, unhealed traumas from the past, mental health issues, etc., and thinks that marriage will magically make all this better - lo and behold, now they’re in charge of a spouse, household, in-laws, and children, on top of a job and other burdens, and this only adds fuel to the fire. If you’re a parent, an imam, or a friend of someone who experiences SSA, or even you yourself experience SSA and somehow believe that marriage is the answer to this, we hate to break it to you, but it’s not. Of course, marriage as we’ve mentioned before has its own values, blessings, and beauty, and it is indeed an anchor and support, don’t get me wrong. But going into a marriage thinking that this is the magical solution to all my problems—and specifically a magical solution to my SSA—is simply incorrect.

As we’ve covered throughout this podcast so far, one needs to seek help that works for that particular person, be that therapy, support groups, counseling, or other venues, and try and work through many of those issues before stepping into a huge responsibility like marriage and starting a family. And again, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we have to be perfect before marriage and we have to have “healed completely”, whatever that means, before going into marriage. We’re all works in progress. What I’m saying is, suppose one is dealing with addictions for years, like pornography, masturbation and/or sexually acting out with others, for example, or is dealing with mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, or other issues, or maybe has experienced abuse and trauma in his life, and all that is creating a lot of dysfunction in that person’s life, or that person has low self-esteem, a sense of inferiority around other members of the same sex, he can’t keep a job or a stable life, whatever there is going on – these matters evidently require appropriate help, right? I think we can all agree on that. We try as much as we can to overcome those issues, or at least get them to a manageable level, we try to build support networks, seek therapy or counseling, read books and educate ourselves, and utilize any appropriate means to help us reach a stable state mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, a state where one looks at himself/herself and says, “I believe I am capable of taking this step”, meaning to get married, after having done the necessary work to get to that place. What we’re advocating for is not perfection, as that’s impossible, but rather stability, security, having backup support in case pressure increases and one finds oneself about to slip, “Nope! I have a safety net. I’m stronger now, more mature, more capable. I have my people that I can refer to whenever I need. I have sought or am seeking professional help,” and so on. I hope the point is clear.

25:23
One common question/scenario is, “I am being pressured by parents/family/caregivers to get married, even though I’m not ready or I don’t want to. How can I manage this?” This is unfortunately very common in our communities, and as we’ve touched upon before, this is mainly cultural/familial and not Islamic. It’s important to realize that there’s a difference between being forced to do something vs. being pressured – being forced to get married is an extreme/rare case where there is actual force and no personal decision is involved, hopefully that’s not what we’re talking about here. Maybe it’s pressure to get married, or pressure from parents to have kids so they can have their own grandchildren, etc. Whatever it is. You have a decision to make. It’s your choice, not anyone else’s. Yes, there is pressure, but again, it’s no one’s business. Don’t think of yourself as a feather in the wind. You have the power to make this decision. If you want to get married and are able to, then great! If not, then don’t. It’s your call. If you make such a decision under pressure, just because you want to go with the flow, run away from pressure, please parents or whatever, again, you are the one who has made that decision, so you are the one who has to deal with the consequences. You’re going to have to take ownership of that. No one is pointing a gun at your head and forcing you to get married, right? You are fully capable, and you have full agency and responsibility here. 

Sometimes parents wonder what’s going on if you’re staunchly against marriage, so this might be a reason to actually tell yours parents about your same-sex attractions, if you feel that this would be appropriate to do. Ideally, one would be able to tell one’s parents about his/her SSA (again, this depends on one’s parents). If you find yourself entertaining this idea, a couple of recommendations for you: stress on the fact that you are a religious man or woman who lives his/her life in line with Islam and what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala wants from us. The mere desires or sexual orientation is not your fault, you didn’t choose that, you’re not doing anything wrong, and so on. You can even phrase it in this way: أنا لا أشتهي النساء - I don’t desire women/marriage (or, for a woman, “I don’t desire men/marriage”) or that kind of relationship. But, again, this depends on your family and your context. It might be a good idea, or it might make things worse. You be the judge of that. If you think it’s a good idea, pray ikstikharah, make sincere du’aas, get your facts right, and evaluate the risks and uncertainty involved – you can’t take it back, what if it backfires? What will you do then? Again, it’s your context, your choice. It’s your life, not anyone else’s.

You don’t have to “come out” to your parents if you feel you don’t have to, or if that’s going to backfire. You can have a decent and courteous conversation with your parents or family, where you address all factors and mention that you are not ready. Use deflection strategies, for example. Maybe you’re focusing on your studies or career, you’re not ready emotionally, you’re focusing on therapy for your mental health and well-being, added pressure is going to affect you negatively, and so on. Whatever suits you, ultimately. Once again, the notion of pressuring people to get married is completely un-Islamic. We need to get armed with Islamic knowledge to confront parents or family, appropriately, of course. You can present the fiqhi rulings we discussed earlier in the episode. So, from an Islamic perspective, you’re not doing anything wrong. Also, were the male and female scholars across the centuries who didn’t get married and who dedicated their lives to knowledge and bettering their communities any less than, just because they didn’t get married or have kids, or chose to get married later in their lives? You see, there are many arguments one can present to one’s parents or family, in the most respectful ways, depending on which perspective you feel would put them at ease. Ultimately, remember that they’re coming from a good place, they want what’s best for you in their perception of things. 

Now, what about if the pressure is unbearable, it’s too much and you can’t take it anymore? Well, consider moving out! In many cases, the relationship with the parents has actually become toxic. Sometimes we don’t realize this until we leave and become independent elsewhere. This gives you time, space, and a sense of independence. This is empowering for the person. Of course, it doesn’t mean we cut ties with our parents or family, absolutely not. We take care of our parents, and we visit them. This is a given. But this is a wonderful opportunity for growth, many of us have been there and vouch for it. But again, it’s your life, your context, see what helps you and then decide. At the end, there’s no one clear answer. We’re only giving recommendations. Take whatever helps you personally. 

31:06
Let’s talk a little bit about the modern conceptions and notions of marriage vs. the traditional/Islamic notions. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of the podcast, we have to think about how the modern/Western notions of “sexuality” play into our sense of identity and our sense of fulfillment as human beings. Another aspect is the notions that we have of marriage being based primarily on this romantic, head-over-heels erotic ‘ishq that has become the basis and necessary condition of any “authentic” marriage, as opposed to a marriage defined in terms of the Qur’anic notions of mawadda (loving kindness) and rahma (mercy), with the sexual part, while still important, being seen as something that is derivative of and contextualized under mawadda and rahma, which are more essential and meaningful, and much more stable and long-lasting. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala describes the normative spousal relationship as one of mawadda (kindness, love, amicability) and rahma (mercy, gentleness, forbearance, clemency towards one’s spouse). These qualities should be the foundation of our marriages, since this is the basis on which Allah has instituted this relationship for us in the Qur’an. He says in Surat al-Rum, “And from His signs is that He created from you mates that you may find rest (sakina) in them, and He placed between you loving kindness (mawadda) and mercy (rahma). Verily in that are signs for a people who reflect" (30:21).

A lot of times, in past generations, husbands and wives were considered successful if they could reasonably manage to get along, treat each other decently, meet each other’s basic physical and emotional needs, and the like. Maybe many of them never experienced the “Hollywood romance” version of relationships based on ‘ishq that we have come to stress so much about, right? In our modern times, we even see some individuals who are deemed by society as “unmarriageable”, meaning those individuals who don’t have a strong erotic attraction to the opposite sex and are therefore incapable of taking part in an “authentic” marital relationship. I’m referring to people like us here, men and women who experience same-sex attraction and little or no opposite-sex attraction. People keep shouting that “gays” who get married just to save face or conform to social or religious pressure, etc. are not being “true to themselves” and have engaged in “sham” or “fake” marriages – we hear this a lot, right? Now, this obviously depends a lot on what “being true to one’s self” means, and the place of one’s basic sexual inclinations in one’s perception of identity and one’s “true self”. It also depends on what marriage itself is supposed to be all about. A “fake” marriage can only be judged as fake when we measure it against some ideal notion of what marriage ought to be, right?

If marriage is not primarily about the erotic aspects, but about family, partnership, mutual support, etc., in a context defined in terms of mawadda and rahma, there is nothing in the traditional conception of marriage that would necessarily exclude men and women who experience same-sex attractions from this. Of course, we’re not saying that each and every person subscribes to this “traditional conception” of marriage, we can’t assume that this perspective is held universally—particularly nowadays. We can make a distinction between what might be more normative, like marriage having a wider definition traditionally than what is defined in modern times, and those wider definitions of mawadda and rahma, family, partnership and mutual support would make it more doable for individuals dealing with same-sex attractions, right? Of course, one has to still consider the expectations of one's potential partner, it’s not like everyone agrees on everything in traditional marriage or modern marriage. Modern conceptions of marriage may be more confining in some senses, but if that's the concept someone else has, we can't just assume our own conception of it and move forward. This is similar, in a sense, to the case of polygamy, for example: If one lives in a society where it is expected and accepted that one marry a second wife, then no problem. If one lives in a society where women have a different view of it, then it's technically one’s right to do it, Islamically-speaking, but of course, it will be perceived very differently by one’s first spouse than it may have been in another context, and one will have to live with those consequences. But that’s just a side note to make a point.

What we’re trying to ask here is, why do people insist that men and women with SSA could only have a “fake” marriage if they are capable of fulfilling all the other rights and duties of marriage and can perform at least adequately (and maybe even very well) in the sexual domain, where basic needs of the person him/herself and his/her spouse can be met? As we’ve established, again, at the beginning of this episode, there’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, that’s an actual achievement! And while the romantic and erotic aspects may be an ideal for many of us, a very relevant question here is: How many relationships, even between purely “heterosexual” individuals, are necessarily based on that? Or if they are like that at the beginning of the relationship, how many of them remain that way years down the line? What we’re trying to say is, infatuation typically fades, even for “heterosexual” couples. What lasts are actions driven by commitment. Also worth noting here is, this conceptualization is also on a spectrum: for a large number of men, mawadda and rahma come later on as passion retires and domestication settles in.

What we’re trying to say with all this is, the question is not, “Does X or Y experience same-sex attractions on some level (and if they do, it’s either sin or celibacy)?” but rather, “Is X or Y capable of entering a relationship of mawadda and rahma and fulfilling their basic physical and emotional needs, and their spouse’s basic physical and emotional needs, regardless of whether the person may or may not experience same-sex attractions?” Clearly, if a person is acting on these desires and continues to do so after marriage, that is a major problem. But we’re talking about someone who has his behavior under control and lives an Islamic lifestyle of taqwa, which prevents him from getting involved in such problems in the first place. Make sense?

38:51
One of the common questions when it comes to marriage, in general, is “How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my spouse, if I’ve never had experience in that domain before?” Of course, as Muslims, sex outside a marriage between a man and woman is unlawful, so this is a legitimate question. 

Before we answer this question, it’s important to realize that sex and intimacy are two components, sex and intimacy. For the sexual aspect, some individuals can perform and enjoy the process, others are able to perform physically even without liking the process, but they get it done, and these individuals can have intercourse regularly with their spouses and keep it up. Some, however, have minimal intercourse in their married life, while others have no sex at all. So the “sex” aspect pertains to the frequency in addition to performing intercourse adequately, to the best of one’s ability. Now what about intimacy, the second aspect? This refers to words as well as acts of intimacy. Words like “I love you”, “I care about you”, “you mean the world to me”, “I am grateful for having you in my life”, “I adore you”, and lots of other statements, while acts include touching, cuddling, holding hands, hugging, kissing and all sorts of intimate behavior, not necessarily related to intercourse, obviously. Now, it’s logical to assume that if a married life is devoid of sex as well as intimacy (and by the latter, again, we mean intimate words and acts that may or may not be related to intercourse), then it’s probably going to be a miserable marriage, right? If your spouse is miserable, you’re also going to be miserable. There’s going to be a lot of guilt and shame. It’ll add to the burden that’s already there.

Keeping this in mind, let’s go back to the question: “How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my spouse, if I’ve never had experience in that domain before?” or even a similar but more general question, “How can I tell if marriage is going to work for me for sure?” The blunt answer is: you can’t. At the end of the day, it's just not possible to know your experience with marriage or intimacy until you've experienced it. And as far as that is concerned, everyone’s in the same boat, whether they experience SSA or not. This has to be emphasized at this point, because, for some people, it might have implications on their personal position when it comes to the ethics of disclosing their SSA to their potential spouse, should they wish to do so – this will be discussed in detail in the next episode, inshaAllah. To help us navigate one’s readiness for marriage and having a sex life within the bounds of marriage, here are some suggestions to help us figure things out and make educated guesses in accordance with each person’s own situation.

Number 1: Read books on the matter, books on marital intimacy and cultivating a proper relationship. We can’t stress this enough: avoid learning from Hollywood movies and porn websites. Movies don’t portray such relationships accurately most of the time, and porn sets unrealistic expectations, not to mention the fact that porn is haram, it’s addictive and has countless harms. Instead, consult appropriate and trustworthy sources. I will mention some books here and add their links in the episode description so you can check them out, inshaAllah. With regards to resources on marriage and relationships, here are a few recommendations: The Muslim Marriage Guide by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood; Blissful Marriage: A Practical Islamic Guide by Dr. Ekram Beshir and Mohamed Rida Beshir; Before You Tie the Knot: A Guide for Couples by Salma Elkadi Abugideiri and Mohamed Hag Magid; Before the Wedding: Questions for Muslims to Ask before Getting Married by Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine; and Handbook of a Healthy Muslim Marriage: Unlocking the Secrets to Ultimate Bliss by Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf Mangera. As for resources on marital relations and intimacy, a couple of recommended resources include: The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides; Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How to Get It by Dr. Laurie Mintz; Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations by Muhammad Ibn Adam al-Kawthari; and Like a Garment: Intimacy in Islam by Sh. Yasir Qadhi. There’s a resource in Arabic as well called تحرير المرأة في عصر الرسالة (الجزء السادس) لعبد الحليم أبو شقة ("The Liberation of Women at the Time of the Message"), it is a 6-volume work, sometimes printed in two volumes, from a Kuwaiti author back in the early 90s about the rights of women in light of the Qur'an and Sunna. The sixth volume speaks explicitly (and at length) about sex in marriage. So that’s as far as books and resources are concerned. There are obviously much more, but that’s just a start.

Number 2: Seek help. Again, we’ve touched upon this before. The kind of help varies depending on your own situation. Recall in season 1 when we discussed the trauma model in detail. If you find yourself having emotional wounds related to your father or mother, sibling wounds, or peer wounds, consulting a therapist or counselor on these matters would help you navigate and overcome many of them. For example, many men find it disgusting or traumatizing just thinking about a man and a woman having sex. Seeking therapy for that would be a good idea. If you’ve been through sexual abuse or other kinds of abuse, seeking therapy and counseling for that is crucial as well. If you have overwhelming low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority, social anxiety, mental health issues like depression, mood disorders, and so on, please seek professional help so you can work past those matters. There are different kinds of therapy, and each kind addresses particular issues, like, for example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which helps with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD and others. There’s trauma-based therapy, there’s counseling, guided self-help, and interpersonal therapy, and they can help you as well in different ways. Also, some people have been to therapy for the sake of processing their feelings around the question of marriage itself (and “would I be able to get married?”), and to honestly and openly interrogate their capacity for marriage. That’s definitely an option. Now, of course, therapy is one important aspect, but it’s not the only aspect. There’s reading (aka bibliotherapy) which has helped many people learn more about themselves, their wounds and traumas, and begin to heal and grow. Support groups, as we’ve seen so far in this season, play an important role in overcoming addictions, establishing supportive networks, building self-esteem and good habits, and they serve as a safety net should things get difficult. You choose whatever works for you in your individual case. Just don’t rush into marriage without having sought such support venues first, if you need them. And, again, the point is not to heal 100%, that may not be attainable anyway, but at least to help you get to a point where you feel safe, secure, well-adjusted and ready to embark on a new chapter in your life, which is getting married and starting a family, inshaAllah.

Number 3: Once you’re engaged, extend the period of engagement. This helps you cultivate intimacy with time, it also lets you learn more about the other person and understand what both of your goals are. It helps you to see if you are actually making the right decision or if you are just making the decision for social reasons, for example. There is rarely any reason to "rush" the marriage. If it's the right person, then you have the rest of your lives to be together. So, it's good to take the extra time to see if the other person is right for you and if you are right for him/her. During this engagement period, and as you’re getting to know each other, with time, you can start opening up topics related to intimacy and how you’re going to be spending time together once you’re married. You can discuss anything and everything, as long as you both agree on that. So take your time, and take it easy. Obviously, the point here is not to extend the engagement period for far too long, but just long enough so you can build foundations, get to know each other more, feel more comfortable together, as long as you’re both on board, for sure.

Number 4: And this also follows the previous point, which is to think about the future time that you and your spouse are going to spend together and what that may look like. Think about how you’ll help each other out with your individual and collective goals, how you’ll go out together, spend vacations together, and so on. The point is to spend time together and make this a priority for both of you. If spouses have common interests and hobbies, that would be a reason to spend time together. This makes it easier to get along. This is especially important for men and women experiencing same-sex attractions, since the sexual attraction may not be the driving factor for one party or both. The emotional connection and quality time would be more important. The two partners should be friends and get along. For some, the desire to get married and have kids is there from the get-go, so that would serve as a push for that person to give it his/her best, right?

49:11
Now, a follow-up question which has some overlaps with the previous question is, “What if I want to get married but feel afraid/anxious?” or rather, “What general advice can you give for establishing compatibility with my future spouse?” Before we address this, one general life skill hack to keep in mind is this: We have less control over our lives than we care to admit. We are surrounded with uncertainty, despite our earnest efforts to minimize error. This is especially important in budding relationships, as we try to avoid making mistakes and ending up in ugly breakups. It goes a long way to exercise three healthy habits: 1- enjoying relationships when they are well and enjoying what is well about them, 2- having self-compassion when things falter, and 3- celebrating the memories of the meaningful moments you had together. In other words, focusing on the “here and now”, enjoying the moments when things are going up, and having awareness and self-compassion when things go down.

Now on to some general marriage and relationship advice. Avoid marriages over the phone or over a picture, we live in a day and age where you can see and talk to the other person. What used to work a 100 years ago doesn’t work anymore. And, as I mentioned earlier, consider a longer engagement period, get to know each other, and see if you get along. Get to know the other person at a friendship level. Aiming for a platonic bond can set a good foundation to build on emotional connectivity from both sides. Also, talk to other people who are married, whether those people experience SSA or not. Get support and guidance from them, and see what has worked for them and what has not.

Again, read books on the matter. Other than the books I previously mentioned, some helpful books on relationships include the following: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray; Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel; The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman; How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk by John Van Epp; ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer by Hal Edward Runkel and Jenny Runkel; The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene; No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life by Robert Glover; The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron; and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver. I’ll add all these names and links in the episode description, we’ve got quite a lot of books today! Of course, there are fiqh books depending on what school you follow when it comes to marriage and intimacy as well, so taking courses in those or reading books on that would be necessary. Also, there are courses and books on how to raise children, obviously they’re beyond the scope of these episodes, but they’re worth looking into when the time comes, inshaAllah. We’ve mentioned therapy and counseling before, in their many different forms, and how they can help you. If there’s any stress, anxiety or pressure when starting or building a relationship, any issues before marriage and if you get cold feet, therapy or counseling helps you address that. Pre-marital counseling is also another option that has helped many people, so that’s another option to keep in mind.

As a side note, it would be reasonable to suspect that if a man was never into women, for example, the dynamics between the sexes can be very confusing. It is important for the man to learn to be assertive and confident and not be a push-over; otherwise, relational troubles will arise that may exacerbate one’s same-sex attractions, simply due to settling acrimonies between man and wife. This, by the way, is valid for men who don't experience SSA as well. Recall the steps of: "I feel pressured or stressed, I feel inferior, I feel less masculine, I try to compensate for that sense of deficiency through acting out (pornography, masturbation or having sex with others, for example)." Getting help to break this cycle and learning to be more confident, assertive and balanced is crucial for a healthy dynamic with one’s spouse. Another piece of advice that follows is, try and enhance your masculine identity (if you’re a man) or your feminine identity (if you’re a woman). What is it that makes you feel less masculine or feminine? Address that through taking part in group activities that help you become more empowered and confident in your own skin, activities with a group of men where you feel like a “man among men”, or a group of women where you feel like a “woman among women”.

Moreover, ask yourself what you want in a partner. What are the things you value in a partner? What kind of person do you want him/her to be? What are the things you are looking for? We remember the hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) when he said, "A woman is married for four things: for her wealth, for her lineage, for her beauty or for her piety. Select the pious, may you be blessed!" And of course, this goes both ways, whether it’s a man or a woman looking for a potential spouse. In another hadith, a man asked the Prophet (PBUH), “Whom should we marry?” He replied, “The suitable (matches).” The man asked, “Who are the suitable matches?”, to which the Prophet (PBUH) responded, “Some of the faithful ones are matches for others.” This is obviously important to take into account. Having a pious spouse with similar virtues and values, committed to the same path to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is a huge blessing and something that ought to be prioritized. Now, when it comes to physical attraction, the attraction to the person may vary, obviously, particularly given our situations, but we still have a certain concept of beauty, right? Things might not be sexual to begin with, but beauty is something that we all appreciate. According to a hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), he said, “Verily, Allah is beautiful, and He loves beauty.”

Another point is compatibility, as mentioned before. Learn more about each other and your mutual as well as diverse interests. As we have highlighted, consider a longer engagement period, get to know each other, see if you get along. Get to know the other person at a friendship level. As I’ve mentioned, aiming for a platonic bond can set a good foundation to build on emotional connectivity from both sides. Some men choose to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH and try to find someone who is either older in age, a divorcee or a widow. Other than being a Sunnah, many men have found such women to be more understanding and caring and have provided maturity in times of need, like Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, provided the Prophet PBUH after the first instance of revelation (wahy). I know that, culturally, in many Muslim countries, having a big age difference or marrying a divorcee or widow, especially if she has kids, is kind of frowned upon – then again, this has nothing to do with Islam, it’s rather the toxic grip of culture forcing itself onto people. Let’s try and let go of that (hopefully)!

Also, think about what your "deal breakers" are. Maybe you do not want someone who already has children. Maybe you do not want someone who is divorced. Maybe you do not want someone who has his/her family over all the time. Whatever it is. Ask yourself why these are "deal breakers" for you, and if they are legitimately deal breakers for you, then don't compromise on them. This will only make you resent the other person in the long run, and it won't be their fault, right? In addition to this, try to have as many similarities as you can on the big things: Similar values, goals, main ideas, etc. The more the similarities, the easier it will be to get along. If you have one person who doesn't like having in-laws and family around a lot, while you do, then marry someone who’s not against that, for example. Otherwise, it could get problematic. If one person just loves playing video games and hates going outside, for example, and another hates video games and loves being outside, then it could get problematic. Now of course it won't always be that. Opposites do attract, but these are things that can come up later. Just some food for thought. 

As mentioned earlier, get to know your potential spouse before marriage, during a long engagement period, for example. Talk about everything and anything. Build foundations. Take your time. After you know each other very well, and before getting married, set boundaries and discuss expectations, including sexual intimacy, collective goals, children, and so on. Figure out what your needs are, and figure out what your spouse's needs are. Go into a marriage knowing as much about yourself as you can, because it will save you. Also, try and know as much about your spouse as you can. Try to have an equal marriage in the sense of contribution. If you are the financial contributor and your spouse is not, ask yourself, what does your spouse need to contribute that will equal or almost equal what you are contributing? Sometimes, one spouse is the breadwinner of the relationship while the other maintains the household and raises kids. Some people believe that is equal, because both spouses are contributing in their own way. Resentment can begin if one spouse doesn't feel like the other is contributing equally. It doesn't have to be financially equal. Contribution can take place in many different ways.

Also, don't go into a marriage thinking that your spouse will change for you. Think about the person you want, and then choose a person that has those characteristics. A generic example is, “if you want someone who doesn't smoke, don't choose a smoker and think he/she will quit for you. Just choose a non-smoker!” People change for themselves, not for other people. In addition to this, get to know the family of your potential spouse if their family is important to them. You can learn a lot about the person from his/her family.

One brother shared this from his personal experience as a man with SSA who is married and has kids. He says, “Due to my knowledge of this possible 'missing element' [meaning the lack of OSA], I exert, endeavor and ensure that I make up for it in other ways. In a sense, I overcompensate for my lack of OSA. I strongly believe this approach can possibly work with the right spouse. Obviously, no marriage is smooth sailing all the time, but having SSA doesn't necessarily mean your marriage will be less than or more problematic than marriages where both partners have OSA, and an argument could actually be made that having an SSA spouse with the right mindset could be advantageous!”

And the last point to mention here is, if there are sensitive topics that you would like to discuss about yourself with your potential spouse, including your same-sex attractions or other matters – now this is assuming you’re still engaged, we will discuss disclosing SSA in the next episode, inshaAllah, but just a general piece of advice: when you’re going to be vulnerable with someone and open up to him/her about something that is deep or sensitive to you (whether SSA-related or not, obviously), keep in mind that you’re being vulnerable with someone who has earned the right and privilege to hear your story and your deepest matters. You’re not doing this with someone you’ve met a little while ago and you’re dumping all this on them, with the risk of them shutting down or running away or spilling things to others. If you want to be vulnerable with that person, you’re doing this after a long period of getting to know each other, when there’s been enough mutual sharing, from you and from the other person, to the point that you feel that that person is trustworthy, safe and reliable enough, and has earned the privilege of your complete vulnerability. Many times people feel comfortable after just a short time that they start opening up about their past or their deepest secrets, and the other person either shuts down, runs away or ends up spilling those secrets to other people. Imagine the horror. Don’t be too hasty. Take it slowly. Build foundations. Vulnerability and mutual sharing, building trust and healthy bonding, they all take time, effort and patience. And again, it’s a two-way street. It’s mutual. It’s balanced. 

1:03:01
Now, beyond the concepts of mawadda and rahma that I’ve mentioned earlier, two absolutely important and fundamental keys to a good relationship and marriage are respect and good communication. I think everyone agrees on this, right? Many people usually want to jump right to learning the sexual aspects of marriage before anything else, but it’s crucial to start with the importance of cultivating the relationship as a whole and making sure it gets started off on the right foot and remains healthy. As one sister said, “The sexual aspects of marriage go away after a while anyway (i.e., the thrill and excitement over the erotic or romantic aspects). They are not as important. What is most important is compatibility and practicality. Are two people compatible, and are they practical for each other? Do they work well together? Sex accounts for such a small percentage of the marriage in the grand scheme of it all. Sex doesn't get the bills paid. Sex doesn't do the dishes. Sex doesn't change the baby's diapers. Sex doesn't take the car to the mechanic.” Like anything, this takes work and constant effort on the part of both spouses, so there has to be real commitment there, i.e. real commitment to make this marriage a good marriage. A good relationship. This takes compromise, putting your spouse’s needs above your own, and, like the Prophet (PBUH) demonstrated in his own life and Sunnah, never to take “revenge” simply for your own nafs (self).

Understand that the other person is a human being just like you are. They also have their own problems, and their sole purpose isn't to just fix your problems. Respect is huge. It’s really easy to start taking someone for granted when you live with them day in and day out and settle into a routine and all that. We must establish good Sunnahs in our relationships from the very beginning. You have to have really high standards for the way you treat each other and the way you talk to each other. There have to be red lines that you would simply never cross; it would just be utterly beneath your character and manners as a Muslim man or woman to do so. You should never say something to your spouse just to spite or hurt him/her so you can please your own ego. You should never say anything that makes your spouse doubt your love or loyalty to him/her. Never underestimate the power of a few snarky and belittling comments here and there. You should never say anything that implies that the marriage is on the rocks, or that you are on your way out, or “If this doesn’t change, I don’t know if this thing can really go on.” Obviously, if it’s a really serious issue, that’s one thing, but we know that a lot of people use this kind of rhetoric in minor situations, just to vent their anger or to show that they’re unhappy with their spouse about something, and that’s just a really bad idea, which can have really destructive consequences over the long term.

You must treat your spouse and the relationship itself as a sacred trust (amana) and see it as your job that this relationship remain as strong, positive and healthy as possible. This is especially true if there are children involved. Bad marriages and divorces are tragic for everybody and can really take a serious toll on children. Many of us have experienced this as children ourselves, right? Don’t repeat the same cycle. Even though, in Islam, divorce is not haram, it is highly undesirable unless absolutely necessary, so you should go into marriage and treat it, for all intents and purposes, as something that you’re going to be part of until you leave this life. That should definitely be the intention of any Muslim entering into marriage, and you should do everything you can to make that work. And we don’t mean here, “Train yourself to just grin and bear the pain and stick it out for the sake of the kids,” but rather, really work with sincerity from the very beginning to cultivate a healthy and productive relationship, so that you actually like being married to your spouse. It makes a big difference.

Now, I’m speaking specifically to my fellow brothers here - Allah says in Surat al-Nisa’, “Men are the protectors/ maintainers of / are responsible for (qawwamun ‘ala) women...” (4:34). The concept of “qiwama” here, i.e. protecting, maintaining and being responsible for women, is a station of responsibility and caretaking, not a station of privilege and pure authority. The Arabs have a common saying which is: سيد القوم خادمهم, meaning, “The master/chief/‘sayyid’ of a people is their servant.” So, “qiwama” means that you are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the household over which Allah has given you charge, which is achieved through service. A charge is something you carry on your shoulders, a trust and a duty that you have to discharge, etc., and you do so, once again, by serving the people in that household which has been placed in your charge, primarily your wife and children. You are there to protect, provide for, guide, and encourage those under your charge and help them all reach their full potential. You are not there to be served and waited on. Unfortunately, this is rampant in our Muslim communities and has nothing to do with proper Islamic manners. This was never the Sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH). It was reported that he (PBUH) كان في مهنة أهله , meaning, he was in the humble service of his family/household (the word “mihna” here specifically implies humility). We know from his Sunnah that he (PBUH) used to sweep the floor and mend his own socks, and that if his wives had prepared something to eat, he would eat it, and if not, he would fast (and not scream, “Where is my dinner, woman? Don’t you know that Allah has ordered you to obey me and do whatever I say and please me by waiting on me hand and foot?” and whatever other crap some men say nowadays). Men, we are better than this, right? Such behavior is beneath us as virtuous men, inshaAllah.

In addition, the Prophet (PBUH) never raised his voice, never took vengeance for any wrong that had been done to him, and he never hit anything with his hand (that’s any thing, mind you, not just any person) outside the context of jihad, and specifically, he (PBUH) “never hit a servant or a woman” (ما ضرب خادمآً ولا امرأة). The hitting mentioned in verse 34 of Surat al-Nisa’ is very circumscribed and is given as a last resort in very specific circumstances (dealing particularly with the wife compromising the sanctity of the marriage through nushuz, which can be understood to involve sexual misconduct with other men). I’m quoting here from Muhammad Asad's tafsir, "All the authorities stress that this should be more or less symbolic - 'with a toothbrush, or some such thing' (Tabari, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even 'with a folded handkerchief' (Razi)". Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of times Muslim women get hit by their husbands has nothing to do with what this verse is talking about, and it is haram to abuse a woman and completely contrary to the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), whom Allah sent as nothing but a mercy to humanity, as Allah says in Surat Al-Anbiya’, وما أرسلناك إلا رحمة للعالمين “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds” (21:107). I encourage both, men and women, to read more on communication skills in relationships, as well as proper adab and points of etiquette in marriage, particularly from an Islamic perspective. Whether you’re considering marriage, preparing for it or you’re already in one, it can always add value and knowledge. I’ve mentioned a few books earlier, there are plenty more out there.

Another piece of advice pointed out by a sister who was previously married, “Consider marriage counseling even when the marriage is good. Getting married is like two people getting into a car. The car is the marriage. Two people get into the car all excited to go on an amazing road trip together. It's all fun and games until the check engine light comes on. The two people just ignore the light and continue onwards. Then, all of a sudden, the car starts making noises. The couple ignore the noises. Then the tire goes flat. Then, all of a sudden, the car is on fire from overheating, and both of them just want to get out of the car immediately. All those little things that come up could have easily been fixed if they had not been ignored. That's what marriage counseling is. Marriage counseling is just the tune ups and the regular maintenance on your car, aka your marriage. Typically, people go to marriage counseling when the car is on fire and it's too late to save anything. That's not the most useful time to attend marriage counseling. Most people attend when they are ready to get divorced. It's a very different mindset to go to marriage counseling when things are going well in the marriage. When little things come up and both want to learn how to fix the small problems, before the car is on fire. Then the car can just run forever.”

One thing to always keep in mind is, sometimes marriages go through hardships and might not work out, not necessarily due to SSA - lots of times there are tons of reasons why they go through hardships or fail. We see this happen all the time with OSA couples, right? So, just because one spouse experiences SSA doesn’t mean we should assume, as a reflex, that that is the reason. I honestly know of married couples where one of the spouses has SSA and they’re far better spouses and parents compared to many spouses and parents out there who don’t experience SSA. If you’re fixated on SSA, you’ll think it’s the reason for everything. Let go of that idea.

Other than respect and proper communication, and marriage counseling as well, another piece of advice is to learn to appreciate your spouse for what he/she likes. Try to take interest in things that they like, even if you are not so interested in them. Make your spouse feel special by taking interest in things that he/she likes. Learn how to love your spouse how he/she wants to be loved. Take the 5 love languages quiz, for instance, which is based on The Five Love Languages book I mentioned earlier. Another piece of advice is, compromise, compromise, compromise. This doesn’t mean you’re being taken advantage of (if that’s the case, that’s an issue that needs to be solved). I’m referring to finding common ground and not pushing for everything your way, and finding common denominators in situations where you compromise to make things work. It has to be mutual, of course, not one-sided. And once again, don't put your spouse down or disrespect them. Don't smother them. Allow them to grow and be their own human being. The more you let your spouse be him/herself, the happier he/she will be, which means the happier you both will be in the marriage, inshaAllah. One last point, and this is particularly relevant for men and women who experience SSA. Remember, during the podcast, we’ve always touched upon the notion that “men with SSA need pure relations with men, and women with SSA need pure relations with women.” One helpful idea is to distribute emotional needs and affection needs among others (including same-sex friends), instead of an exclusive deep bond with one spouse, which men and women with SSA might find challenging or troublesome. Mind you, we’re not saying people will have multiple romantic partners, but rather that friends of the same sex can act as a source of support, healing and growth, even when the person is married. Emotional input comes from several sources and can relieve pressures and expectations and can provide a sense of balance and adequacy. Just one more thing to keep in mind.

And the last point I’d like to end this episode with is something a brother said at one point, “I was listening to an Islamic lecture the other day and the person said, ‘At least make an effort, and you would be surprised what Allah will do.’ That line really caught my attention and I wrote it down and stuck it to my wall. It really gives me hope whenever I look at it. We should have faith in and reliance on Allah.” And indeed, keep Him, subhanahu wa ta'ala, front and center. You’re doing all this for Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala, right? Do your part, have tawakkul on Him, and He will take care of everything, inshaAllah, as He always does.

1:17:21
And with this we have come to the end of this episode, I hope that you have enjoyed it and learned from it. In the next episode, inshaAllah, we will be tackling more SSA-related questions as they pertain to marriage. I’ll talk to you in a couple of days’ time, inshaAllah. Until then, stay safe and healthy, as usual. This has been Waheed Jensen in "A Way Beyond the Rainbow," assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wa barakatuh.

Episode Introduction
Introduction to Marriage and Legal Rulings
"Do I have to get married? Is it sinful not to get married?"
"You have to get married/have kids!", "Marriage heals your SSA!"
How to Deal with Pressure to Get Married
Modern vs. Traditional Notions of Marriage
“How do I know I’m ready to be sexual and intimate with my spouse and that my marriage will work?"
“What general advice is there to establish compatibility with my future spouse?”
On Respect and Good Communication
Ending Remarks