Happily Ever After: Four Secrets of Great Relationships
The audience will understand the value of strong marriages and begin using tools to strengthen their own relationships as well as those in their community.
If you absolutely must list a few items in the presentation, then never offer more than 5 points, and always present a countdown (5, 4, 3, 2…). Doing so lets people know that its not an infinite list, and it makes the number 1 item really important.
I have been married for more than a decade now. In that time, my wife and I have been to 13 or 14 weddings. As of this moment, 4 of those couples have divorced, and the children split up. 3 other marriages are in bad shape. The divorce rate among active Muslims is greater than 30%.
Divorce is brutal. It permanently damages people – not just the man and woman, but especially the children, the parents, brothers and sisters, friends, extended family, the community. So now I have a set of Marriage Rules.
There are some verses in the Qur’an which you understand better the longer you stay married. Surah al-Baqarah, verse 187 is one of those – Allah says:
“Hunna libāsun lakum wa ‘antum libāsun lahunna” [2:187]. They are your garments and you are their garments.
A marriage is not held together by brick walls. A marriage is not held together by chains. A marriage is bound by threads. Allah binds two people together by threads – hundreds and then thousands of tiny threads which sew people together throughout the years.
This Friday, Inshallah, I’ll be giving the khutbah here about threads. If you are concerned about the >30% divorce rate in our Muslim community, and if you believe that we can make a difference, then please be here on time this Friday.
Book Clubs can be powerful change-agents in any community. This khutbah can help build a case for ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Dr. Gary Chapman. Create a forum for people to go through the book together and turn to the web for weekly discussion guides.
Khutbah tul Haajah
Praise be to Allah. We seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls and from our bad deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides will never be led astray and whomsoever Allah leaves astray, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the One, having no partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad (S) is His slave and Messenger.
Innaal-hamdu Lillaahi nahmaduhu wa nasta’eenahu wa nastaghfiruhu
wa na’oodhu billaahi min shuroori anfusinaa wa min sayi’aati a’maalinaa
Man yahdih Illaahu falaa mudilla lahu wa man yudlil falaa haadiya lahu
Wa ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allah wahdahu la sharika lahu
wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluhu
O, you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and always speak the truth. He shall rectify your conduct for you and He shall forgive you your sins. Whoever obeys Allah and His Apostle has certainly achieved a great success. Surah al-Ahzaab [33:70-71]
Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo ittaqoo Allaha waqooloo qawlan sadeedan
Yuslih Lakum A’malukum wa yaghfir lakum dhunubakum wa mayin yuti illaha wa rasulahu faqad faza fauzan adheema.
Thereafter… Indeed the best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (S). And the worst of matters are those innovated by the people, and every innovated matter is a bid’ah and every bid’ah is astray, and every going astray is in the fire.
Fainna khairal hadeethi kitabullah, wa khairal hadi, hadi Muhammad (saw), wa sharrul umur muhdathatuha, wa kullu bida’atin dalaala, wa kullu dalalatin finnar
I have been married for more than a decade now. In that time, my wife and I have been to 13 or 14 weddings. As of this moment, four of those couples have divorced and the children split up. Three other marriages are in bad shape. It has been so hard to watch my friends and family go from the heights of love and happiness to the depths of frustration and bitterness. Marriages are crumbling all around us. The divorce rate among active Muslims in Houston is 37 percent . And children of divorced parents are five times more likely to get divorced themselves.
According to the an-Nisaa Hope Center, Woodlands, TX. The divorce rate in California is slightly higher and the overall trend in Muslim communities around the world points to increasing divorce rates.
Relax! This is not a message on divorce. But getting divorced because love has died is like selling your car because it has run out of gas. Marriage has taken a back seat on our community’s list of priorities. Today’s message is about marriage.
A marriage is not held together by brick walls. A marriage is not held together by chains. A marriage is bound by threads. Allah binds two people together by threads—hundreds, and then thousands, of tiny threads which sew people together throughout the years. I call them Golden Threads.
This khutbah is about sewing couples together.
Golden Thread #4: Criticism to Compliments
One morning when Yusuf started the car, it made a loud electronic ding. He had never heard that noise before. Then he realized that the gas gauge was a little below the “empty” mark. The last driver had been his wife. The car was giving an electronic warning tone and a bright red indicator flashed on the dashboard. Has this ever happened to you? Yusuf said, “My wife can see a tiny blue thread sticking out of a blue suit at night, but she can’t see a blinking bright red gas indicator sign two feet from her face!” He called her up and let her have it: “Now I’ll be late to the meeting. You always do this! You are so heedless.”
What is it this month? Your spouse went over the monthly cell phone minutes again. She left the lights on upstairs. The coffee pot wasn’t rinsed out before it was placed in the cabinet. Someone didn’t take the trash out. There is no paper left in the printer. He forgot to return the Redbox DVD.
Out of frustration, we slip into those one-liners and name-calling: You are so careless, lazy, wasteful, thoughtless! How could you be so inconsiderate, negligent, senseless, foolish? Now I have to go all the way upstairs and turn the air-conditioner off. Great, now I have to go all the way back inside and get the diaper bag. I have shown you how to put paper in the printer a hundred times! You never pay attention. How am I supposed to eat this?
The most destructive act of marriage (after infidelity) is the quicksand of criticism. Psychologists say that it takes 20 positive remarks to start undoing the damage of one negative one.
Criticism is haunting. It comes back with a vengeance. I might win the battle today, but when I get older and can’t hear so well, that same woman, if she is still around, will give me the same treatment. My children who saw me behaving insensitively will treat me the same way. And, worse, my children will treat their spouses that same way, too.
“Hunna libāsun lakum wa ‘antum libāsun lahunna” [2:187]. They are your garments and you are their garments. Who would put on the stinky shirt of criticism? Who would want a filthy blouse of condemnation? The tongue has the power of life and death. There is little in life that can’t be said politely, even lovingly.
Since I travel a lot, I have been stuck at many airports. On several occasions, I have stood in line to get tickets for a sold-out flight. The people in front of me ask the same question: “Can you get us on this flight?” I have found that when I approach the counter with a smile and a warm compliment—”That is a lovely necklace,” or “Man, I like your watch!”—and then I ask the same question—“Hey, can you squeeze me onto this flight somewhere?”—Not always, but sometimes, this small kindness pays off. And even if I don’t get a seat, at least I’ve made someone’s day.
Compliments are one of the most powerful insider secrets to getting ahead in life. I don’t know your marriage story, but if you want to change the emotional climate of your home, just stop the criticism and turn on the compliments. If they are genuine, then you will see a difference.
One brother heard this khutbah. Inspired, he went home and told his wife he liked that she always smelled so sweet. Every day her perfume filled the home, and he told her that he loved that. But she started acting real weird after that. He said she looked at him strangely, like she was nervous or anxious. His wife had become so accustomed to criticism that she didn’t know how to handle his compliments.
A beautiful young sister named Narmeen said her husband never cooked anything. One day, he got really excited and bought a powerful grill. He marinated some chicken and tried to follow the grilling guide, but he ended up burning all the food and making a big mess. Nevertheless, he was so proud when he served it, she wanted to encourage him. So not only did Narmeen have to eat charred chicken, but she also had to compliment him on how tasty it was. (Coincidentally, my wife’s name is Narmeen).
Compliments give you wings. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” When you compliment your spouse in front of parents, friends, and children, those people support your relationship more.
Try this experiment: For the rest of the day, be really generous with your compliments. Then this evening, give your spouse a few of your best, sincerest, compliments. Just see what happens.
Golden Thread #3: Little Things are bigger than Big Things
Several years ago, I was with some friends in a meeting at the ISGH Main Center. We were waiting for one of the board members to show up and decided to call him to see where he was. My cell phone was dead, so we used someone’s else’s phone. He’s an older brother, a little shy but certainly the most knowledgeable amongst us. I wasn’t familiar with his phone, but I dialed the number and turned on the speaker phone; I obviously messed up, because it dialed the last number he had called, which was his wife. We were all sitting around the phone, ready to start our meeting, when she answered the phone by saying, “Heeey, Saaloalikuuuumm!” This brother turned bright red—he was so embarrassed! He jumped on top of his phone. We were shocked for a second, then we laughed and laughed, we rolled around on the ground, we laughed till our stomachs hurt. The truth is, I was totally impressed and even a little jealous. After having been married for 20 or 30 years, that was how they greeted each other! What could you do with a greeting like that? Wouldn’t your trouble just melt away if you heard that? Mashallah. (Even now, when we see this guy, we always say, “Heeey, Salamoalikuuumm!”)
Three words: Light a match.
Bukhari. Found in the book The Prophet Muhammad (S), the Best of All Husbands by Dr. Ghazi al-Shammari, pp. 59-60.
A greeting is a little thing. Smiling, opening a door, a backrub, a kiss on cheek, a rose, a few sweet words, a little note, a hot cup of tea, knowing how he likes his coffee, a glass of cold water on the nightstand, learning how to wrap a gift, cleaning the toilet (or at least de-stinking the restroom when you finish , washing the dishes in the sink, breakfast in bed, making the bed, walking slowly through a museum… Little things cost nothing but have rewards that you can’t imagine.
There is a saying: “When a guy opens the car door for his wife, either he has a new car or a new wife.” It shouldn’t be like that. Did you know that the Prophet (S) would kneel beside his camel and let his wife Safiyya put her feet on his knee to climb up? 
Many guys try to master the Big Things. “Hey, remember that time I bought you diamond earrings? Remember that time we flew to Miami?” One lady said her best Ramadhan was one where she got a small present every day of the month. They were just cute toys from a dollar store, but each one had been wrapped. Another sister said she preferred small plants and flowers on random days throughout the year, instead of a big bouquet on Mother’s Day. If you can master the Little Things, you will have an easier life, a longer life, and a healthier life. Lives are created by careful weaving thousands of small threads together—not by tying a couple of big threads.
“Hunna libāsun lakum wa ‘antum libāsun lahunna” [2:187]. They are your garments and you are their garments. One of my favorite Golden Threads is welcoming each other home.
Do you know what marriage and family therapists call the most important 60 seconds of the day? It’s the greeting when the spouses see each other after having been apart. This moment sets the tone of the evening, and is also an indicator of the health of the marriage.
When we go to school, work, the masjid, the gym, or anywhere, we see smiling faces. People are laughing and appreciative. They have nice words for us. Then we go home and are greeted with “Where were you?” or “Why didn’t you return my text?” or “These kids are making me crazy—you deal with them!” The negativity from that encounter builds up inside, and we take our frustration out on the kids, our parents, or fire right back at our spouse: “Well, why is this kabab so salty and this one has no flavor at all?”
How you treat your wife has a direct impact on how your children treat their mother. The Prophet (S) said, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.” Look at this hadith in terms of its effect on the children, and it adds a new ocean of depth.
A cool ou koule hadha, astaghfirullahe wallkum, astaghfiruhu innahu wal-Ghafur rur-Raheem.
Alhamdolillah, summa alhamdolillah. Amma baadh.
The 5 Love Languages on Amazon
Direct quote from Barbara De Angelis, American researcher on relationships and personal growth.
The Catholic church requires a 2-day marriage preparation course called ‘Engaged Encounter’ in order to get married in the Church (whether or not the bride and/or groom are Catholic). One interesting thing they discuss is when they ask the bride and groom to each make a list of priorities: How important is it if we… [e.g. eat dinner together, have one child or more than one child; if we both work; if we only have one car... etc.]
Marriage is hard to do on our own. “I do,” or in our cases “I accept,” is one of the longest sentences in the English language. The #1 status symbol in America today is no longer a big house or fast car, but longevity in marriage. Some people here have been married for 30 years, 40 years, 50 years. SubhanAllah. They must be doing something right. I love asking them for marriage advice. I’m not shy to ask, either.
I always like to share the best resources. I have been studying this book called the Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. If you read five books this year, this should be one of them.
One brother said that he wished he had heard this message before he got divorced. We don’t have to learn the hard way.
Golden Thread #2: Make your marriage your #1 priority.
If you only remember one message from this khutbah, let it be this: Marriage is not a noun. It is a verb.  It’s not something you get. It is something you do every single day.
If you were going to start a business, wouldn’t you take a few classes, at least, about how to run a business? Maybe read a book about it? Instead, you stepped into a much bigger commitment; in fact, you made a covenant, it was signed in blood and witnessed by the Creator, when you got married. How did you prepare?
I challenge you to encourage anyone you know who is about to get married to take a pre-marriage training course . Research proves that if a couple takes an eight-hour pre-marriage course in the formative phase of their relationship, like right after engagement, their chances of divorce go down by 85 percent!
Let’s rebuild and strengthen our relationships. Let’s be a community that honors our spouses—both of us, husbands and wives. Let’s make marriage our #1 priority. And I don’t want you to just “try.” When Luke Skywalker was feeling weak, he said, “I’ll try.” Yoda got upset and said, “Do or do not. There is no ‘try’!” Don’t finish this khutbah and say, “Inshallah.” To most people, that just means “not today.” They say that “Inshallah” is the procrastinator’s favorite word. Instead say, “Oh, Allah, help me change today.” Then go make the change!
Golden Thread #1: Pray together.
In a University of Chicago survey of married couples, 75 percent of the Americans who pray with their spouses reported that their marriages are “very happy,” compared to 57 percent of those who don’t. Those who pray together are also more likely to say they respect each other more and discuss their marriage together. One couple said, “When we pray, it brings another level of honesty to our conversations.”
Go to programs together, take an Islamic course as a couple, go to the masjid together for the prayer…or at the very least, just a few minutes at the end of each day reading a hadith together. How many of us pray for our spouses—and not just when she’s pregnant, or he needs a better job or back surgery?
From the book The Etiquettes of Marriage in the Pure Tradition of the Prophet (S) by Sheikh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaani, p. 11.
According to the Statement from our Messenger (S), “When any of you marry, he should hold her forelock, mention Allah the Most High, and pray for blessings saying, ‘Oh Allah, I ask You for the good in her and the good with which You created her, and I seek refuge in You from the evil within her, and the evil with which was created within her.’”
If you think back to your wedding night, you’ll remember a point at which everyone finally, finally left you and your spouse alone for the first time. One of the first privileges you had as a married couple, one of the strongest Sunnan from our Messenger(S), is to pray 2 rakah together  and then put your hands on your wife’s head and make a dua over her.  It wasn’t supposed to be a one-time deal; it’s a model of living in love. Let’s continue that honorable tradition. Take your wife’s head in your hands and make duaa over her. Or put your wives hands in your own and make duaa together. It could be the strongest dua you ever make. This is not a Golden Thread—it is Golden Rope.
I started this khutbah with a discussion of my own friends who got divorced. In another case, however, the couple was on the brink of ripping apart; they got professional help and decided to stick together. Fast-forward several years, and would you believe that they have the strongest relationship I know? They do many things right, for instance, they now have a vision and goals for their marriage, but praying together is one of their highest priorities. This is the strength of the Golden Rope.
Shaytaan hates it when you pray together. This year, my goal is make Shaytaan furious.
“Hunna libāsun lakum wa ‘antum libāsun lahunna” [2:187]. They are your garments and you are their garments.
Innal-lahu wa Malaaikatuhu yassaloona aln-Nabi
Yaa aiyuhal latheena aamanoo, salloo alaihy, wa sallimou tasleema
Allahumma Salli ‘Ala Muhammad, wa ‘Ala alee Muhammad,
Kama sallaita ‘Ala Ibrahima wa ‘ala alee Ibrahim
Fil ‘alameena innaka hamidun Majeed.
Ya Ghafoor Ya Shakoor, help us to be grateful to you and to our parents.
Ya Malik Ya Salaam, make the trials of our parents easier in their old age.
Ya Dhul-Jalal wal-Ikraam, give us Jannah through our parents.
Ya Aqeemas salati yarhumukumullah.
Post-khutbah Announcement: Facts About Marriage
“Hunna libāsun lakum wa ‘antum libāsun lahunna” [2:187]. They are your garments and you are their garments.
- Fact: While the national divorce rate hovers at approximately 50 percent, the Muslim divorce rate is estimated to be 30 percent.
- Fact: Divorce is brutal. Divorce is a cycle. When people get divorced, they often find that their problems go with them to the next marriage. More often than not, they are no happier in their next marriage.
- Fact: The overwhelming majority of married and divorced people today, in any age group, have not had any formal marriage training of any kind. What is surprising is that the overwhelming majority still don’t think there is a need for formal marriage training, with the divorce rates we have!
- Fact: We cannot look at someone and determine whether that person is prone to trying to solve problems through violence. Domestic violence has been a problem in the Muslim community. If you grew up seeing that, know that it is dangerous baggage to take into a relationship, without counseling.
- Fact: Many parents believe that because they raised their children in loving homes, they have given their children all the tools they need to deal with marriage today. I never saw my parents get into a fight. When they were mad at each other, they went into their room and closed the door. We heard no sound, nothing. When they came out again, everything was perfectly fine. One the third day of our marriage, my wife and I got into it, so we went to our apartment bedroom and I closed the door. To my surprise, she was still royally upset with me. I didn’t have a model for dealing with conflict in a relationship. The fact is, we need advanced communication strategies in our relationships today.
- Fact: Overwhelming evidence proves that marriage education works! Research shows that couples who spend eight hours in a formal marriage training program before their wedding reduce their likelihood to divorce by 85 percent.
- Fact: Many young adults are at least ten times more likely to objectively and honestly discuss many things with a third party than they do with their parents or a relative. I am not a marriage counselor, but my Muslim students tell me things they would never in a million years tell their parents. Should I get a tattoo? Does kissing a girl break my wudu? Can I bring my boyfriend to the khutbah? Many parents hate it when I bring this topic up, but the fact is parents don’t know how to deal with pornography. Marriage counselors do.
- Fact: Most pre-marriage counselors charge money. But the most expensive pre-marriage counselor is cheaper than the cheapest divorce attorney.
I challenge this community, that from now on, do not let a single couple gets married until they have had at least 8 hours of pre-marriage training. Formal and proactive education makes a huge difference. Lets support and nourish healthy relationships.
How long have you been married? 10, 20, 30, 40 years? Please keep your hands up. Those people are our Marriage Mentors. These are untapped resources who could be great mentors. Take 2 or 3 young couples aside and meet with them on a monthly basis.
Resources: Professional Marriage Counselors
Here are a few highly recommended Marriage Counselors:
- Dr. Mohammed Sadiq is a Clinical Psychologist based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He has been practicing in North America for over 33 years, and has conducted workshops around the world. See his website for more details: www.shifa.ca.
- Haleh Banani is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in Marriage and Family Counseling, Conflict Resolution, and Depression. You can read her articles at MuslimMatters.com, see her on YouTube, and schedule appointments at www.HalehBanani.com. Look for her upcoming Marriage Webinar.
Ask people for their best marriage/relationship advice. Collect it and post it in the same masjid. Here are a few examples:
- Touch: Every survey shows that women value the power of touching. Start any conversation by touching her shoulder, arm, leg, hand and the tone of the whole conversation will be so much different. She will feel 100X more connected to you.
- Chores: Pick one or two chores which your wife really appreciates and take those to the next level. If she likes a neat bed, then you take responsibility for the bed and fold the sheets everyday as if you were in Boot Camp. Put all those silly little pillows everywhere exactly the way she wants. Do this everyday from now on.
- Go to bed at the same time. As a couple here, you tend to live parallel lives. You have different jobs, different hobbies, and talk to different friends. If your bedroom isn’t the place to reconnect, then I don’t know what is. No TV, no laptop, no smartphones. Sync your schedules so that both of you are in bed at the same time every night.
- Exercise together. Before you got married, you exercised and looked like an Olympian. Now it is as if you are in your third trimester with twins. If you start getting serious about getting fit again, your family will follow.
- Invest in your memories. The first time, my wife & I went out to Chinese food, I showed her how to use chopsticks. She never really got it and ended up making a huge mess. We laughed and laughed. Five-ish years later, I did something really stupid. I told her I was sorry many times, but she was hurt. After some time, I wrote her a card and I put those chopsticks in the envelope too. It melted her heart and I was out of the dog-house free & clear. I have kept many small things over the years and I am saving the best stuff for our 50th anniversary.
Jazakumullahu khairun. Wasalam.