AUTONOMY Q2:223

I was surfing the TV channels when a channel caught my eye so I paused to listen. It was a Christian station and I cannot remember what made me stop. Being one who is eager to learn from anyone and everyone, I paused with my finger on the remote control, ready to change it if he was spewing something irrelevant to me.

The preacher was walking through the congregation holding a microphone and shared this joke (which I am paraphrasing):

A lady came to her pastor and said, ‘Pastor, I need you to pray for my husband. He has a demon!’

The pastor probed further to assess what kind of demon it was and she replied exasperatedly, ‘He wants to have sex in the morning, noon and night! Every time of the day, he wants to have sex. He has a demon, please help him cast it out!’

Then the Pastor replied, ‘I am sorry I cannot help you, young woman, because I too have this demon!’

 

I first felt the need to write this post when I was toilet-training my first son. I woke him in the middle of the night when he was either 2 or 3 and took him to the bathroom to pee. As is the Islamic tradition, after he urinated, I fetched some water to clean him up with and felt an erection/boner/stiffness or whatever you want to call it. I was amazed! I thought I knew the human body but apparently, I knew very little about the male anatomy and physiology. The books never mentioned toddlers were capable of a hard-on. Was this normal?

And I am not the only one. At the programme I mentioned in the previous post, a haematologist also sounded surprised that a sickle cell disease patient was brought in with priapism (a non-sexual painful erection) and he was only 4 years old.

When I encountered that reaction in my son, who sleepily returned to bed blissfully unaware, I spent some time awake, thinking about men and felt some sympathy for them. I felt it was not really their fault they were wired that way. Putting it as delicately as I can, men have a piece of flesh that basically has a mind of its own. It is autonomous. I believe that as boys become men, they are able to control it better but I doubt if the effect lessens. I am betting it increases as male hormones (which drive libido) kick in at puberty.

Allah knows best.

Before I got married, I knew guys are crazy about sex. We had sisters-only events where married women advised us about courting and marriage and emphasized the importance of sex. During my friends’ nikkah khutbah (wedding sermon), the imams mentioned it. During my own preparation, friends reminded me. All the books on marriage swore by it. I guess like with every oft-repeated advice, it loses its potency after a while and becomes cliché.

We women are quick to blame men for thinking with their phalluses but if you were deprived of eating for days with a feast in front of you, you would tear into that juicy piece of chicken once the flag goes down signalling ‘Eat!’ Besides, for a lot of African, Arab and Asian men, their self image is tied to their sexuality.

I once had a newly-married couple visit the hospital. They were crazy in love. The man seemed shy, the woman more willing to talk (perhaps, because she had encountered a female doctor). She explained how quickly the man ejaculates when they meet and they were worried he had an anomaly. I had to explain that it was normal especially because the man had married as a virgin. (Virgins are not as rare as we think). Imagine denying such a man who had kept his virginity until marriage where he finally feels he can let go of the reins and bask in his sexuality.

To women married to good non-philandering men, consider this:

Our men decided to select us out of the multitude of women they encountered for reasons best known to them. They could have followed the Order of the Phallus to wife a professional vixen with a PhD in Bedmatics but instead, they made an effort to practise Islam and married us. Instead, we punish them for making the right decision to think with their heads and marry a good woman and prospective mother of good Muslim children. We withhold sex to get back at them; simply because we feel we cannot match their libido; or because we are scared of pregnancy/childbirth.

The basic religious reason for marriage is for procreation with permission, or as a lecturer of mine put it ‘Marriage is a license to have sex’. The major world religions discourage (even forbid) sex outside the confines of marriage. If you have a man who has a healthy fear of God and you starve him of sexual intimacy, it seems unfair, callous and even, wicked. Of course, we are tired, over-worked, unappreciated, not in the mood etc. but we should consider that this is one of the halal ways a man can let his hair down after a day of the world hammering on him, beating him down with disappointment upon disappointment, challenge after challenge, temptation following temptation.

Some men are out there getting their grooves on with strange women; others are drinking or gambling their lives away. If your man returns home to you every night, in spite of your attitude because he hasn’t fulfilled your demands, you should hug him and welcome him home. No matter how much he pretends to behave macho, I believe men just want to feel desired and loved; encouraged to go back into the ring tomorrow to fight valiantly for the family’s survival.

Of course, I am writing this because I am in a good place with my husband today. Perhaps I would be less charitable when he’s annoying the heck out of me! XD #remindertoself

Seriously though, it doesn’t change the truth. We should appreciate our men more (especially if they are good men). I know the comments would not roll in because this is a bit personal but I would be glad to know that you surprised your man today (or better still, early in the morning after Fajr) ;). It is a weekend so unbuckle your chastity belt and ‘go to town’ and remind him of how happy he was when you guys decided to tie the knot. Let him be reassured that YOU are the best decision of his life!

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM Q4.34

Sequel to my previous post, this is also a post on marriage.

I mentioned here that I avoid giving marital advice because I feel unqualified. Most times, I ignore the thought but sometimes, like now, I cannot get it off my mind so here goes…

Due to this endemic problem of role reversal for men and women (husbands at home while the wives become breadwinners) as highlighted in my previous post, marital conflict has rapidly increased and divorce rates are skyrocketing.

While we are struggling to come to terms with this, I have a suggestion; but first, permit me to share a story.

My brother and I have a 15-month gap between us and growing up was a bit rocky. We bickered a lot and I did not respect him much but he (being easy-going) did not seem to mind. My dad was always berating him for not ‘knowing book’ like I did. I hated this but at that age, I could not fathom why he was not as studious as I was. We had a year gap in school too but I wrote my common entrance exams in Class 5 while he wrote his in Class 6 (final year of Primary/Elementary School).

We began JSS1 together and I dreaded it because I knew Daddy was going to compare our performances (even though we were in different schools) and my brother would fall short. In our third year of Secondary School, it happened! He failed while I was to proceed to senior secondary school. Even as a teenager, I was quite stoic but I cried that day (to my mum’s surprise). I was heartbroken for him. He was such a good guy, he was making so much effort to be better. It was so unfair! And I knew my dad would blast him with ‘tough love.’

I remember making a resolution that day never to call him ‘stupid’ when we quarrelled. Of course, like any dutiful teenager, I still thought he was stupid sometimes (like all boys), but I told myself I was no longer allowed to call him that or any other epithet referring to his cognitive skills. It did not matter how angry I was, it was the elephant in the room I was to ignore. Our relationship improved after that.

My marital advice is actually not new; it is what our mothers and grandmothers have been doing. One of the top reasons for marital conflict is finances. When the balance tilts in favour of the woman being the breadwinner, no matter how angry or irritated she feels, she should ignore the elephant in the room. For men who take their gender roles seriously (typically African, Arab and Asian men), they like their egos massaged (I am a learner in this aspect, and many other aspects actually). They want their efforts appreciated (no matter how little), their matters kept private and their advice and opinions sought – who doesn’t? I believed we were in modern times and waved off such silly advice when I got married. Ain’t nobody got time for all that crap, I thought. My grandmum actually advised me to kneel when serving my husband his meals. Warraheck?

Now, I realise the point she was trying to make was that a woman needs to stoop to conquer. As the saying goes ‘The husband is the head while the woman is the neck’. The neck turns the head in the direction it wants but it is subtle; you don’t see them in conflict.

Men have classified their wives arrogant (and all its synonyms) because she mentioned that she was tired of doing everything and needs him to pull his weight; or because she asked him of who would foot the bills now that he was insisting she quit work; or she told him the money he provided for housekeep was insignificant. It is supposed to be the elephant in the room that she is now the breadwinner. No matter what happens, SHE SHOULD NOT MENTION IT! 😀

The key to bringing up the elephant though, is humour. However, bear it in mind that the lack of finances is already fraying on your man’s nerves making him unreasonably sensitive so tread carefully.

On the other hand, you are free to dance a salsa with the elephant if your husband does not take his role as provider and ‘Lord Master’ seriously; or if you are past caring about your marriage; or you are a feminist insisting on equality in marriage. It won’t secure your union, I assure you; but then, maybe marriage is over-rated? 😉

PS: I have to include this: It is counter-productive to fend for your husband completely and provide all his needs because he cannot provide at the moment (and you want to show you love him). You should use your resources to provide for the family but still leave some room for him to contribute. Appreciate his contributions, no matter how small and encourage him kindly. Don’t flaunt your money in his face but don’t be stingy about it. Balance is key. Keep figuring it out; I am too. 🙂

CUT SOME SLACK Q35:45

I do not think I will ever feel qualified enough to give marital advice but sometimes, like today, the advice wants to give itself!

Alhamdulillah for those of us who are married; single and searching and even happily single (ain’t anything wrong with that). May Allah restore happiness to the widow(er)ed and the divorced as well.

Human interaction is not always easy. One thing I have always observed in marriages that last is the ability to pick one’s battles.

I had known my husband for quite some time before we eventually tied the knot so I thought I knew him pretty well. Then we got married and we both started to unpack our emotional luggage and sparks began to fly! No, not the good type of sparks.

With a couple of years under our belt, I make bold to say like Kenny Rogers said in the Gambler,

‘You’ve got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run…’

The Prophet (S.A.W.) said:
‘Whoever gives for the sake of Allah, withholds for the sake of Allah, loves for the sake of Allah, hates for the sake of Allah, and marries for the sake of Allah, he has indeed perfected his faith.’- Jami` at-Tirmidhi Book 11, Hadith 252

Everyone has a deal-breaker or two or ten… There are some things I may endure that someone else would absolutely not tolerate. I personally cannot tolerate domestic violence but some women feel it spices up their marriage. Many older generation wives seem to turn a blind eye to their husband’s extramarital affairs while younger wives have little tolerance for such. Accept your spouse for who (s)he is and decide whether of not you can live with them. Know your deal breakers and take a stand.

If you hate something about your spouse, analyse it and see that it is not for selfish reasons. If we’ve married our spouses for the right reasons (for their iman and piety), we should be able to continue loving them for the sake of Allah. Likewise, we should dislike a bad habit of theirs for His Sake and continue to pray that Allah rectifies this trait. Of course, we may also need to have a discussion with our spouse to communicate our feelings.

Every marriage is customised to suit the couple in it so what works for ‘A’ may not work for ‘B’ hence the need to know what is important to you. Don’t sweat the small stuff like he forgot your birthday unless it is ABSOLUTELY important to you. Focus on the things your spouse does right and appreciate him/her for those.I’ve seen mothers fighting while their children are neglected. I’ve heard of wives complain incessantly about their husbands until they succeed in pushing a good man away.

Conserve your energy for important matters and you will be able to create a more nurturing home for your husband and children with less tension from the reins you hold so tightly in your grasp.

This also extends to other areas of life and to our interaction with other people. Look at the big picture and decide if someone’s behaviour is something you can overlook or not. Allow people to make mistakes and be themselves. Be tolerant. None of us is perfect. It’s not every time you bark. No one takes a dog that’s always barking seriously.

EASIER SAID THAN DONE Q4.28

image credit: thedesigninspiration.com

image credit: thedesigninspiration.com

Just before I got married, my parents and some close family friends/members gave me a crash course on Marriage 101. It was an interactive session where they asked practical questions and I gave them the right answers. I had been doing my homework, researching on the institution of marriage so I was going in fully aware and oriented. Or so I thought.
Imagine my chagrin a couple of months later when my husband kindly pointed out that I just did the opposite of the solution I proffered at my parents’. Just a couple of months on, I was acting contrary to what I had said I would do! I was appalled.

It is not the only the acquisition of knowledge that is important; what we do with that information is arguably more significant. It will not do for us to follow this blog (or indeed any blog), read the verses of the Qur’an and it does not reflect in our behaviour.

We have huffadh who have memorised the words of the Qur’an in its entirety but do not act upon it. This is also common amongst us doctors; we give the best medical advice but seldom follow it.

The soul is inclined toward destruction as a moth is inclined toward flames. We know we will be harmed by it but we gravitate towards it anyway, against our better judgment. This is made worse by Shaytan’s persistent whisperings, seeking to encourage us to give in to our nafs. We have to keep struggling to keep ourselves on the Right Path by steering our baser selves back on track and acting as we know we should. With Allah’s Mercy, we will be amongst the successful, in sha Allah.

TYING AND UNTYING THE KNOT Q4.34-5, Q30.19-24

According to Psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe, life’s top 3 most stressful events include: death of a spouse, divorce and separation. Small wonder a number of research show that married couples are healthier and happier than the general population. While some of us are married, others are single or divorced. The fear of being single for life often pushes us into making errors we wouldn’t have made in the first instance.

divorce1

The failures within a marriage are often older than the marriage certificate. They are in the baggage we bring into it from our different lives like:
• immaturity and unrealistic expectations
• pride and arrogance
• Disrespect
• Lies
• Vices like adultery, pornography etc.

There is a popular saying that ‘courtship brings out the best, marriage brings out the rest.’ As we begin to settle into our marital lives, we begin to unpack our luggage. While some people do change in marriage, majority are simply unmasking themselves, not morphing into monsters. The price-tag of marriage carrying half of one’s faith would not have been so high if it wasn’t for the lessons one gleans everyday in the institution.

Irrespective of what you are experiencing in your marriage, you can both make it work if you are willing to add various ingredients to make it savoury. The spices include (but are not limited to): appreciation, tolerance, patience, respect, variety, trust, love, intimacy, compromise, sacrifice, communication and above all, prayer.

Allah must be included in the equation of marriage to make it balanced. In fact, He must be the first in the equation! No matter how desolate the union seems, we should never forget that if Allah can bring out the living from the dead, what will it take Him to revive a dying marriage? Both parties have to work hard at it. You wouldn’t buy a car and leave it to fuel itself, top up the water in the radiator or repair itself, would you? No matter how wonderful that brand of car is, it will be destroyed by lack of care. Isn’t our marriage more deserving of our attention?

Allah has permitted the option of divorce in Islam but before we sprint to that door, let us ensure we have exhausted all options before resorting to this most detestable of permissible acts. The grass may not look so green once we reach the other side and remove our rose-tinted glasses. If you have to take the bold step of leaving; look, look, and look again before you leap. True husbands and wives are hard to find in the multitude of humans out there.

And if you are unmarried, the time to improve yourself is now!