By Monique Hassan
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!)
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.
By Monique Hassan
"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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).