* this was a Facebook post that sisters request I post on my blog Insha Allah for easy reference. So here it is.
A woman came to ask the Prophet about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, “Do you have a husband?” She said, “Yes.” He asked her, “How are you with him?” She said, “I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me.” He said, “Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell.”  * reported by Al Nisai and Tirmidhi
How you “treat” him [your husband] in this hadith is so broad and encompassing, and at the same time able to accommodate varieties of ways and methods. Subhan Allah, it’s the gift that the Prophet peace be upon him had with words. So, what in our opinion is “paying attention to how you treat him [your husband]” ?
1) In my opinion , using his earnings IRRESPONSIBLY is ill treatment of him. It says that you don’t appreciate that he works hard every day. It trivializes and belittles his efforts. I do believe that most of the problems between couples is mis-managing money. This can be either side of course.
2) As wives, we thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for the roof over our heads, the food that we eat, the clothes on our back. Alhamdullilah and we should of course. But we should also thank the means that Allah subhanahu brought into our lives to make those things happen. So among the things is to thank your husband after a meal and say “Jazaak Allah Khayr for feeding me!” And once in a while [when you can remember insha Allah] thank him for working so hard for providing a roof over your head, and clothing you. If you can’t say it in person, your a shy person, or you feel you’re going to end up crying and getting all emotional write him a letter !
3) This is a tricky one to many I guess ! Accept that he is, by nature, the provider/ breadwinner. So, don’t compete with him over this. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other [so each excels in the role they have been granted], and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). . . ” [4:34]
So, even if you are a working woman/career woman/ rich woman/ from a wealthy family etc. don’t take over that role or instate yourself as being more fit for it, even if you are and make more than him. Live according to his means. This is probably the number one problem in marriages among Muslims today.
Women taking on the role as bread-winner or Provider is not one she happily settles into in the long run. She might feel empowered at first for a while, but eventually that wears off and can turn sour and eventually. Furthermore, when a man feels totally emasculated he won’t be happy either. It’s just a recipe for a failed or bumpy marriage.
4) Cooking for him is definitely good treatment, and that doesn’t mean only those dishes that you like but what he likes. Marrying him does not mean you have sentenced what he likes to life imprisonment and now he is a prisoner and gets to only eat what you like. Nothing says I love you like making a dish you totally hate, or handling the flesh of some meat you abhor just for your husband’s pleasure.
5) When you’re mad at him, or you’ve had an argument don’t slack on your duties because YOU’RE mad! Tit for tat or in other words reacting helps arguments snowball into an avalanche. It only makes things worse for him to go to work and come back home and find nothing to eat, a house that looks like a pig sty, you looking like Allah knows what etc. Instead, if he comes home and finds that LIKE he has gone to work and fulfilled his duty of providing for his home you too have maintained your duties at home–it’ll help you focus on the REAL issue that you were arguing about in the first place rather than a diversion.
6) Make the MAX out of your anniversary celebration– and I don’t mean that you should just empty his pocket out that one day LOL! Usually the routine is to go out of the “regular mode” on that one day for a special dinner and splurge on gifts and whatever , and then the following day all goes back to pre-anniversary celebration. Nothing has really changed. All the issues you had with him, and him with you are still there intact and untouched. I see anniversaries as a beginning for a better year ahead not just reminscing about your wedding that happened years ago, and you testing his memory of what you wore and blah blah blah. That’s great and dandy, but you have to think ahead. So I suggest:
Having a wonderful RENEWAL of your marriage on the day of your anniversary.You can of course, have it at a dinner outside in public [although I prefer one at home].
In this renewal, thank Allah subhanahu wa taala for the year passed, and make dua together for the year ahead. Review together the year past. Acknowledge mistakes–determine to do better. Accept hearing your shortcomings in the marriage/career/ with extended family and ask for dua and help to change–this goes both ways of course. Set your “collective goals” for the coming year. Like for instance:
1) This year we will go for Umrah or Hajj
2) This year we will save this amount of money and buy a home, car, pay debts etc.
3) This year we’ll cut down on our budget
4) This year we’ll try for a/another baby
5) This year we’ll pray at least one prayer together
6) This year we’ll have at least one family meal together per day–without a distration like tv etc.
7) This year we will wake each other up for Qiyyam and/or Fajr.
I am sure you can come up with your own. So, make your celebration well rounded is what I want to say. Meaningful , lasting, motivational insha Allah. This idea was inspired from Umar Ibn Al Khattab’s statement, “May God have mercy on him who sends me my faults as a present.” Who best to tell you your faults, but the person who has been living with you in the same house day in and day out.
7) It’s the little things that count. Loved this post by Sister Toni Slimi “I really have noticed that little things make such a huge difference. And men really are so much different than women. Alhamdulillah we were created differently by Allah to take on different roles. One example that I was just telling my Mom is that instead of getting a chair or stool to get something off the top shelf, if my husband is available I’ll ask him to get something from a higher shelf. And I really think it rubs his ego. Makes him feel useful as a man who is bigger and stronger than me. Writing it out, it sounds kind of silly – but really these little things work!”
Rubbing his ego once in a while is good–too much of it and you might end up inflating his ego and transforming him into an arrogant person, or even a dictator. So, just enough once in a while with balance is good. An example from my own life and a comment I added to the discussion was: “My husband gives me monthly pocket money although I am a working/career woman. This is an Islamic practice that Yemeni husbands still maintain whether religious or not. It’s become part of Yemeni culture I guess. I tell him that although I make my own money, the money that he gives me has the most blessing in it and is more dearer to my heart than any money I make.” So, be creative in those little things that you can say or do here and there that have a huge impact. They indeed do count.
8) In all your dealings with your husband have Allah’s pleasure in mind–bring back Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala back into the equation rather than leaving Him out . As Toni Slimi says, “Allah tells us that the husband is the head of the household and that we obey him. So many Western women see those words like “submission” and “obey” and think “Oh HECK no…I don’t OBEY anyone” because of all the feminist things out there and the “equality” that they tell us we need to have in our relationships. Even when I read some of the things in these books, I think “OH NO WAY!” But I have tried a few of the things in some of those books and they totally work! And I constantly try to remind myself that by obeying my husband (both explicitly and implicitly), I am obeying Allah. And that’s the main thing that I want to do in life – what we all should want to do in life.”
9) The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt. Verily, truth is tranquillity and falsehood is doubt.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi and Sunan al-Nasaai – Hadith Sahih]
Don’t assume that he understands or knows your expectations of him–if you haven’t told him then know he’s not a mind reader. Oftentimes we assume a lot about our husband–that they are useless/inconsiderate etc. and end up resenting them. These assumptions take over our thoughts and become a reality that we act upon . You have to word exactly what you expect of them and it helps if you ask them to repeat it after you–it’s like a contract sealed to them. When they fulfill them acknowledge, praise and thank them. If they forget remind them for Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala says, “And Remind for verily a reminder benefits the believer”(51:55).
Toni Slimi adds: “Men love it when you ask for their help! It makes them feel needed and wanted. And men don’t understand that you need help! I’ve learned that you really can’t assume anything. For example, my husband used to get really mad/uncomfortable if I started to cry (which happens more than I would like to admit lol). For a long time, I thought that he was just being mean and it would really make me mad. We would end up arguing about that! Finally, I decided to talk to him about it and he just was confused because he thought something was really WRONG if I was crying. But, it wasn’t. It was just a natural reaction I have. Now, he doesn’t even blink an eye if I cry. You have to tell them straight out, they don’t read cues like women do! “
I love the dual meaning implied in the hadith when the Prophet peace be upon him said, “. . . he is your Paradise and your Hell” Not only in terms of the hereafter as it is implied of course, but also in this life. Undoubtedly men can make a marriage Hell or Paradise! They really can. Absolutely. The flip side is also true.
Sources related to the topic:
Yasmin Mogahed “Love, Respect and Tranquility in Marriage“
Emmerson Eggeriches “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs“