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Defining a Good Husband

by Hassen Laidi

The question we try to raise in this feature touches us in many ways. Whether we are contemplating marriage ourselves, are concerned about a daughter or sister, or thinking about the general welfare of our community, we often find ourselves asking: what makes an ideal husband? And I hope that you will find the answer provided in this feature to be interesting and useful. There are, however, two points which I would like to bring to your attention.

The first has to do with the misconceptions or stereotypes of the ideal husband. In the Western society, for example, the ideal husband is often portrayed as a handsome superman who drives a bright sports car and always ready to do great feats. Or as a kind gentleman who constantly gives flowers to his lady and is ready to carry out all of her wishes. For Muslims, one finds announcements in the matrimonial sections of Islamic magazines to be somewhat different, but not entirely. There, one reads about Muslim men looking for wives presenting themselves as doctors, engineers, and financially secure; and discovers that national origin is being held at high preference. Character, religious trait and attitudes are not typically listed as priorities.

The hadeeth of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, which said, "If a man whose Deen is acceptable to you comes for marriage, then marry him (your daughter or sister)," seems to have little relevance as to how we decide about what makes an ideal Muslim husband. These misconceptions create false expectations that are partly responsible for the discrepancy between our sincere aspirations and reality, and the continuing rise in the divorce rate among Muslims. The second point is about the meaning of 'ideal.' Because Islam concerns itself with the practical and the sensible more than with the ideal and the perfect, 'ideal' should be used to reflect 'good' more than 'perfect'. Islam does not provide detailed descriptions of good husbands; instead it gives general outlines of what it expects of him. It treats marital relationship as a partnership and pays a great deal of attention to the problems that will arise between married couples. A good husband then is one who tries his best to live by Allah's orders in all matters of marital and family life. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, said, "The best among you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family." So, whenever he makes a choice, the good husband chooses the one that has more 'good' in it. Does that make him perfect? No. He makes mistakes, but whatever happens, he corrects mistakes by going back to Allah's rules and being truthful to them. It is that simple.

I know of many people who were looking for a husband with an "ideal combination of qualities," but in a few years, things boiled down to one thing: if the husband did not have taqwa, there was no limit to how bad things could get. This is a subject that deeply touches our Muslim community and one that should be brought under light. Do you know of other stories, successful marriage stories? Please write to us about them, and any feedback or comments you may have.

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