Things I Wish I Realised About Counselling Before Doing It…

Things I Wish I Realised About Counselling Before Doing It…

By Nisreen F.

Nisreen by day is a Speech and Language therapist working with adults with neurological conditions, but by night she works for NaTakallam- a start up that helps displaced people and refugees earn income through teaching their native language online. If there are any hours left, Nisreen loves to play piano and go climbing (indoors!)

I Don’t Feel Any Attraction to My Wife


Dear brother/sister. I have been married for a year now and I don’t feel the love for my wife. She does not have any physical relationship with me. It was an arranged marriage and I did not like this girl from the very beginning. I do not find her attractive. I am depressed because of this and have a constant regret in my life as to why I married her. I wanted to get married to a girl who is slim but she is little fat. I wanted a girl who has good features but her features are not so good. I do not feel any attraction towards her. I am just depressed and it is ruining both of our lives. I am a bit hesitant to tell this to my wife to break this bond as she loves me a lot, but I should also care about my happiness. I always pray to Allah to put love between us but my prayers are never answered. I feel very disappointed to live a fake life like this. Please help me decide or advice me what I can do in this state. May Allah help us.

RESPONSE by Karim Serageldin


As-Salamu ‘Alaikum brother,

All the praises be to Allah. Attraction is a very important factor to make a relationship successfull , but is not the only one. If you did not like her from the beginning, what made you feel you should marry her anyways? I would guess the answer is because of family pressure, which leads me to another question: do you think you can handle the family pressure in case of divorce?

I will first assume you prefer not to end your marriage and that you do not want to displease the families involved. However, you are right about thinking of your own happiness, otherwise you will never make her happy, and both of you will be living a miserable life together.

Even though divorce is allowed, and it is one of your options, it must be a last resort. Whether you like it or not, you are now married and the decision should not have been made if you were not in agreement to this marriage in the first place.

The physical attraction issue seems to be two sides. One is a weight issue, the other is a about her physical features. The weight issue can easily be solved with a life style change, diet and exercise. You can approach your wife and suggest exercising together, for example. Be aware of your tone and don’t be judgmental. Instead, use the exercise as a couple’s activity where you and she can actually have fun while getting in shape. Mentioning to her that you don’t feel attracted to her won’t help. Be kind and simply take this opportunity to spend quality time with her. A healthy life style will also contribute to your mood and behavior. If there are other aspects of her physical appearance that cannot be changed through exercise, then there is nothing that can be done.

Independent of her appearance, you should focus on her character, personality, skills or anything that makes her a good person and wife. You also have to remember that you are not perfect (none of us are), and there are probably things in you that she dislikes as well. Start to validate the portion of your marriage life that you actually enjoy and appreciate. Love does not need to be the same feeling or amount for each person in marriage at any given time. It can go up and down between two individuals that share some compatibility, enjoy each other’s company and have fun together and so on. Our religion made it very clear the importance of marriage and what a man should look for in a wife:

“Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husbands) absence what Allah would have them guard.” [Qur’an 4:34]

The Prophet (saw) also said: “The best property a man can have is a remembering tongue (about Allah), a grateful heart and a believing wife who helps him in his faith.” And again: “The world, the whole of it, is a commodity and the best of the commodities of the world is a virtuous wife.”

Indeed, beauty is important brother, but it does not last forever. If your wife is a good woman, religious and loves you, I believe you should give a chance to this relationship and try to build intimacy and bond with her. One year is not a long time for a couple to get to know each other deeply. Turn all your attention to the things that pleases you. Laugh with her, talk, share dreams and expectations. You might find a wonderful woman if you use more of your heart and not your eyes.

May Allah bless you and make your path easier.

Is Islam Compatible With Psychology?

By Monique Hassan

Islamic Psychology

"The pen has been lifted from three; for the sleeping person until he awakens, for the boy until he becomes a young man and for the mentally insane until he regains sanity."[at-Tirmidhi]

If we look back at Islamic History, we see the first large-scale psychiatric hospital built by Muslims in the year 705 AD (86 AH) in Baghdad, Iraq. Shortly after this more were built such as in Cairo.

During the Golden Age of Islam, advancements were continuously being made in a variety of medical fields. Outstanding minds like Mohamed Al-Razi and Abu Zayd al-Balkhi were studying illnesses and making progress in the understanding and advancement of psychology alongside other medical fields. We were utilizing treatments that resembled early cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis years before these were known as western advancements.

Contrary to some stigmas and attitudes prevalent in today’s society, the patients were not automatically viewed as being influenced by sin or possessed by jinn. Although diseased hearts being influenced by sin is a factor in one’s mental state and we cannot ignore the possibility of jinn, we cannot assume all cases of mental health concerns are related to those variables.

In most cases, therapy alongside faith is not only an effective treatment but it serves double duty as a catalyst to improving one’s own self- awareness and lifestyle choices related to their deen.

We must remember that our brothers and sisters struggling with mental illness are shown mercy and patience from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). We must strive to show mercy to the ummah if we expect such mercy to be shown to us.

Islamic Psychology Basics

Various theories and treatment models exist within psychology, however, you will notice an overlapping of concepts between what we know to be true within our deen and what we study in psychology.

One of the most famous names in Psychology is Sigmund Freud, who amongst other things, believed that humans were driven by subconscious sexual and biological urges. Freud also proposed that human beings are innately dark and full of desire. Others such as Alfred Adler disagreed with Freud and argued that humans are more driven by social urges rather than innate biological desires. This is a classic nature versus nurture argument.

Islam tells us the full truth, that both of these doctors are correct to some extent. We know that struggling against our inner temptations and thoughts is a form of jihad (struggle). We also know that men and women are biologically different to the point how we perceive and interpret the same situation will not be identical.

We are a product of our environment; we cannot deny the impact of socialization upon our personality. We must also acknowledge we are impacted by our DNA, we can look to stories of twins separated at birth yet when they met up again as adults they have similar jobs and life choices. We are a product of both nature and nurture; we are not exclusive to one.

Our Subconscious

Subconscious influences are described by some within psychology as a set of deep, inner instinctual desires which are then filtered through our moral compass and rationalizations. We can think of it like an iceberg. Below the water lies the dark and mysterious subconscious which has our desires and primal urges. As we move closer to the observable tip of the iceberg we encounter our thought patterns and moral compass. Once we break the surface we see the product of our moral compass critiquing our earthly desires.

From the Islamic perspective, we know that our nafs are part of our self, our subconscious. This is sometimes interchanged with ruh or spirit. Often nafs is designated for the soul inside of the body whereas ruh refers to the soul being outside of the body. In Quran, one’s inner self or nafs, are described in 3 stages.

  • Nafs that influence evil, Nafs al-ammara bissuu (primal, raw desire, pleasure seeking)

  • Nafs that blame, Nafs al-lawwama (self critique, morality, decision making, awareness)

  • Nafs at peace, Nafs al-mutma inna (righteous behaviors, contentment, tranquil, striving for hereafter)

We can think of Nafs al-ammarra bissuu as earthly, primal desire. Nafs al-lawwama as a transitional stage where we engage in jihad against our own temptations and self. Nafs al-mutma inna can be thought of as spiritual enlightenment and a reassured soul.

[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul, Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], And enter among My [righteous] servants, And enter My Paradise.يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ رْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي

[Quran 89: 27-30]


Our heart, or qalb, is mentioned many times throughout Quran and hadith. Some psychological disorders and behavioral issues stem from diseases of the heart. We can think of our heart as being one of three types.

  1. The dark, diseased and dead heart which is void of iman (faith). Shaytan (Satan) does not need to tempt this heart as he has taken up residence within it.

  2. The struggling heart that has iman and wants goodness, but is fighting against darkness. This heart is in a state of jihad and shaytan tries to take advantage.

  3. The illuminated heart full of iman .This is a protected and strong heart radiating noor (light).

The only way to have an illuminated heart is to make Allah (Swt) the center of our hearts. All too often we put things into this slot that were never meant to be there, such as career or spouses. That is not to say that we should not love our spouse, but no one can come above Al-Wadood (The Loving) An-Noor (The Light).

"And conceal your speech or publicize it; indeed, He is knowing of that within the heart"

وَأَسِرُّوا قَوْلَكُمْ أَوِ اجْهَرُوا بِهِ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

[Quran 67:13]

Therapists often look towards a person’s social network for ongoing support and increased accountability. They are trying to bring heart, love and service into the therapeutic equation. We know that when we submit to Allah (swt) and make duaa for Him to open our hearts, that is the best source of support and accountability.


Final Thoughts

Islamic psychology is essentially the integration of spirituality and modern psychology. Just as many Islamic principles like nafs line up with psychology, we can also look at elements of Islam from a psychological perspective. Such as looking at the psychological benefit of wearing the veil or how fasting impacts our behavioral health choices.

Therapy which is combined with faith will ultimately be more positive and impactful for those within the ummah that are struggling with mental health concerns. Not only is Islam compatible with psychology, we can see the field of psychology as a tool given to us from Allah (swt).

Shall I Wait for Him to Become Financially Stable?

By Karim Serageldin - Original Posted on

As-Salamu 'Alaikom. I am a 27-year-old woman who has recently been speaking to a man for marriage. We have known each other for a few years as my good friend married one of his friends a few years ago. However, we never really communicated until now.Around 6 months ago, we met again and kept up communication even though he went to work abroad. In that time, we got to know each other very well and started developing feelings for each other. We have spoken about marriage, our expectations of it and aspirations in life around marriage, family life and religion. He is a man of good character and has brought me closer to Islam. However, he is a few years younger than me and has yet to establish a career. His mother is worried that he is not ready to support a wife and family yet and should not settle down until he is ready to do so. Not to mention that I am not of the Arabic decent she would have preferred. I also think he will feel uncomfortable with a wife earning more than him.I have prayed istikharah on a number of occasions for guidance on this issue. So far I have had no definitive signs, and my feelings haven't changed. Are these obstacles, which have been put in the way of us, signs to not marry him? Should I wait for him to come back and have our families meet properly, and then should I wait for him to become financially stable even though I earn as well?


As-Salaam ’Alaikum sister,

It sounds you two are still unraveling the potential of being married and starting a life together. The main issues you pointed out are as follows:

  1. Age difference, he is a few years younger than you

  2. He is not established in career or earnings

  3. Ethnicity and cultural differences

  4. If you are married, you will be the main provider (for now)

Before addressing each point you have outlined, it is important to recognize an important matter. Yes, marriages should be made easy and often when we perceive obstacles we question if this marriage is right for us. Yet, sometimes Allah in His Wisdom puts obstacles before us as opportunities to better establish ourselves before moving forward.

Point 1: Age difference: This is completely a subjective preference. In your case, the age difference is not that large of a gap, hence it is unlikely to strongly impact the relationship dynamics. It comes down to each of you being okay with it. The Prophet, peace be upon him, and his first wife, Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) had a wide gap of the age difference and they are an excellent example for us.

Point 2: Your fiancé is younger so this does impact his level of career and finances. Conventionally speaking, a man should have the ability to protect and provide for his wife. A man should be mature in character and mind and be able to take care of a household. It sounds like your fiancé just needs to finish school and get a job. However, this again goes back to conventional understanding, what you two agree to is more important. If you two agree that you will be the sole provider for the first few years as he finishes school and finds works, then besides meeting conventions, there is nothing “Islamically” wrong with that decision. In the end, it is both of you who are in the marriage, both of you need to come to an agreement as to how each of your roles will take shape. Don’t assume he will feel inadequate after you two have discussed a plan.

Point 3: Ethnicity and cultural difference can be challenging. Marrying someone outside of your culture has pros and cons as does marrying someone within your culture. Ultimately, you two should do pre-marital counseling, conduct online personality assessments and really determine how similar your values, expectations, and needs are as people. The main reason our families want us to marry within the culture is that these values are already established and more likely to be shared. What is most important in a marriage to succeed is personality compatibility in regards to all the domains that are important in one’s life finances, religion, family commitment, how we deal with personal challenges and so on. I encourage you to invest more in pre-marital counseling resources to discover these dimensions more thoroughly.

In conclusion, take these “obstacles” as openings to advance each other’s chances of having a successful marriage. One of the things I see with couples on my couch is that they did not do the real work of ensuring the marriage will be successful by having pre-marital counseling and discovering deeper layers of themselves and the relationship.

One helpful resource to start with personality assessments is


When East Marries West

It is more common for Muslims to want to marry from the same culture and it makes logical sense. Similar values, behaviors, customs, nuances and etiquette alongside language. We can even consider the food since this brings families together across a table and recipes are passed down through. People may want to marry from the same culture as it is the most familiar and comfortable for them. There is nothing wrong with wanting to marry within one’s own culture as long as it is derived from a conscious decision and not by force. Intercultural marriages are a beautiful union of diversity that can flourish, but just like every other marriage, it has its unique set of hardships.

Why do People Marry Multiculturally?

  • The person that they felt the most compatible with happens to not be someone from the same culture. Perhaps they may also have a genuine interest in different cultures. They really enjoy exploring different foods, languages, art and styles of clothing. By their very nature they are interested in multicultural marriages and appreciate diversity.

  • Sometimes an individual experiences negativity from their own culture. This may be related to stigmas or a trauma surrounding their own culture. They want to find something very different and unique from their situation, something refreshing that is outside of their typical cultural structures. For example, if an Arab Muslim grew up and was frequently yelled at in their native language, the very sound of their language can act as a trigger, so they prefer to look for someone outside of that culture to minimize this effect. They are naturally drawn to potential spouses outside of the culture as a way to repel the traumatic memory.  

  • Some Muslims marry outside of their culture in an act of rebellion. Out of spite they don’t want to marry for example only an Iranian doctor because their whole life they were told they have to marry this particular ethnicity and particular career path. They were told a thousand times they have to do this, so it impacts their psychology and they revolt against their family. Not necessarily to hurt their family, but to cement their independence.

When Families Object to Multicultural Marriages

In cases where the child is told they cannot marry someone because of their culture and it is due to the parent’s personal preference instead of their own choosing, we will consequently find that these types of forced marriages run a heavy risk of divorce and pain. That pain will be focused on the married couple, not the culture and not the religion.

Many Muslims want to please their parents and make them happy. This is honorable, but on the other hand if you do whatever your parents tell you and you make a decision that you know in your heart doesn’t feel right; this begs the question will this actually benefit one’s family and religion or will it have the potential to cause resentment.

In some situations, the parents are actually right, especially if the person wants to marry someone with a different understanding of priorities or a different religion.  In these scenarios, the parents really do have the best interest for their daughter or their son and the child doesn’t recognize how very difficult it can be to begin a life with someone from a different culture. A multicultural marriage will face difficulties as they learn to navigate different family traditions, marriage expectations, bridging the language barrier with family members as well as simple things such as cooking recipes that remind them of their country. In situations where the marriage would truly not be in the best interest of the individual, the parents have to intercede and show they are doing it out of love and for the optimum well-being of their child. It is when it is only because they are not from the same culture or they don’t speak the same language, that we hit on the realm of ethnocentrism or racism.

“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” Quran 49:13

There is a big difference between a parent saying you need someone that aligns with you socioeconomically, education-wise and of course religiously versus a parent saying you cannot marry that person because they are Indian or because they are Caucasian.

Choosing a Spouse for Four Reasons

“A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be unsuccessful.” Sahih Bukhari Book 62 Hadith 27

This often-misunderstood hadith highlights the four reasons that we should choose a spouse and all of those reasons must be considered, not just one. It is important to look for someone that aligns with you religiously, but we must also take into account that some people act religious in a way to market themselves for marriage. Getting to know the individual and their family will help to show if they are truly as religious as they act. We also must ask ourselves if a potential spouse is religious, they pray their five salah on time, fast Ramadan and they pay their zakat. Is that enough, what if the other three reasons are not met?

We must be rational with marriages and acknowledge that if they are not compatible socioeconomically, educationally and you don’t feel an attraction to them, even if they are religious it may not last long. It is important to note that if all three of the other reasons are met, but they are not religious then again this is going to create a hardship for the marriage. 

It is better to marry someone who possesses all four of these characteristics mentioned in the hadith with an emphasis on spirituality and religiosity, as if the Holy Prophet is giving us practical and wise advice. This increases the likelihood of a successful and happy marriage. Religion is the crux of the matter, absolutely, but if you have religion without the other three components this would be a difficult marriage. If all of these four variables line up, but the family says no due to their culture or perhaps their language, it is not a decision based on religion or what is best for that person, rather it is a decision based on ethnocentrism. 


Closing Thoughts

Online locations are one of the most common sources we have in seeking spouses for American Muslims. They open the door to multiculturalism as these websites are a melting pot of all ethnicities. We can look at a site like Half Our Deen and find a large variety of Muslims from around the world. Islam shows us that diversity is to be celebrated. If we considered the idea of marrying people only from the same race or same country, we would be hindering the growth of a more diverse ummah. There is nothing wrong with marrying within one’s own culture just as there is nothing wrong with marrying outside of one’s own culture.