Marriage is a gift, a special bond between man and woman, husband and wife. Much has been written about how we should behave towards a spouse after marriage, but no texts are more appropriate than the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Within this article, we have attempted to bring together information on marriage etiquette from a variety of sources, which we hope will guide and inspire you in this most wonderful relationship.
A spouse has been described as “a partner, companion and best friend”. The closeness between spouses is unlike any other relationship. The following verse from the Qur’an sums it up perfectly:“They are your garments and you are their garments” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:187]. This illustrates how “spouses provide one another with the protection, the comfort, the cover, the support and the adornment that garments provide to humans”.
The first few years of marriage are often the most challenging as this is the period when husband and wife are getting to know each other better and adjusting to each other’s habits and personalities, as well as to their new roles in society. There are, however, a number of matters of etiquette for married couples to observe which will help to ensure harmony and understanding during this time of transition, as well as in the long term.
Everyone has different expectations of marriage but it important that these expectations are realistic. The “happy ever after” portrayed in many Hollywood and Bollywood films is achievable but we must remember that it takes time, patience and effort to build and maintain this strong marital bond.
First and foremost, do not expect your partner to be perfect. Only Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) is perfect. All of us have our good points and our bad points, and husbands and wives must learn to delight in the good points and accept the bad. We cannot expect to always agree with our spouses. They are not an extension of ourselves; they are their own person with their own personalities, views, likes and dislikes, which we should try to understand rather than change.
A happy marriage cannot be taken for granted. It requires constant giving from both sides. Be mindful that even small things can make a huge difference to the relationship. Be honest with your partner. Both partners in marriage should feel free to speak their mind but must be careful not to hurt the other’s feelings. Pay each other compliments and show appreciation for the things that your spouse does for you.
Problems between couples may arise from a lack of information before marriage. Therefore it is important to discuss your future expectations beforehand. Such issues could include whether the wife will work outside the home, when the couple plan to have children, where and with whom (if anyone) they should live, how they will work together to ensure a happy marriage, etc.
In marriage, the husband takes the lead. However, according to Islam, marriage is a partnership. Rather than being a dictator in the relationship, the husband is seen more as a shepherd who is responsible for and to his flock. In Islam, a leader is one who serves, manages, provides and nourishes and does so with humbleness and humility. The husband is expected to consult his wife (Shura), especially in relation to family matters, and to respect and value her opinion.
It is important to make time for each other and to enjoy spending time together. It is only through being together that we can learn to communicate effectively with our spouses, to share our hopes and fears and to feel responsible for each other. When this bond is strong, the couple becomes a “team”, working together for the same ends.
Establish your own rituals. Set aside time together. This is especially important if both partners are working. This time can be spent praying together, deciding upon finances or a weekly menu, pursuing a hobby together or simply taking time to enjoy each other’s company. Show interest in your spouse’s hobbies and encourage your spouse to take interest in yours.
Your marital bond will enable you to build a close relationship, both physically and emotionally. However, giving each other sufficient space in the relationship will bring balance. In addition, show forgiveness if your partner makes a mistake and do not hold grudges. Develop closeness and fondness by laughing and having fun together. Plan for your future together. This will bring peace of mind and cement your relationship.
Time and effort are required to establish a sexual relationship in marriage, which is in tune with the needs of each partner. It is essential that both are informed about Islamic sexual etiquette, especially what is permissible (halaal) and what is forbidden (haram).
Before intercourse, it is recommended that spouses indulge in foreplay in order to make penetration more comfortable.
The Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) said that, before intercourse, a husband should make Du’a to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) so that if He granted the couple a child, then it would not be affected by Shaitan. “Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim (in the name of Allah), O Allah! Protect us from Shaitan and protect the sustenance (child) you give us from Shaitan.”
He also told men not to leave before their wives are satisfied. If a husband wishes to have intercourse again then he should first do Wudhu(ablution) just as he would for prayer. Not only will it cleanse him, but also invigorate him. (An explanation of Wudhu can be found at the end of this article.) However, taking a bath is preferred and it is required before prayer, using the Qur’an or entering the masjid.
A couple is permitted to take a bath together and intercourse can be in any position that they choose. However, it is haram for a man to enter his wife anally and oral sex is also forbidden.
It is also forbidden to have intercourse while the wife has her menstrual period (Haidh or Mahidh). During this time, the couple may kiss or touch but the woman must cover her groin area so that it does not touch her mate. The Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Do everything except the intercourse.” [Muslim and Abu Dawood]
The above also applies for the first forty days after childbirth or until the bleeding stops, whichever comes sooner. Intercourse can then resume once she is clean, having performed wudhu or taken a bath.
Couples must refrain from intercourse from dawn till dusk during the month of Ramadan while they are fasting. They may kiss or hug but it should not be taken further or their fasting will be invalid. This is also relevant when they are fasting voluntarily. And, for those fortunate enough to go on Umrah to Mecca, it is important to abstain from intercourse and all intimate relations, including kissing, hugging and also talking about them. As Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) said: “But do not associate with your wives while you are in retreat in mosques.” [Qur’an: Al-Baqarah 2:187]
Intimacy between a husband and a wife should always be done privately. Revealing secrets is unIslamic. Therefore, partners should never discuss bedroom matters with others. If discussion becomes necessary, for example, due to medical matters or where there is a need for a marriage mentor, this should take place only with an authority figure that has both partners’ interests at heart.
Our Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) recommends that husbands and wives make themselves physically attractive to each other and to pay even more attention to this after marriage. Spouses should take care of themselves, to look good and stay clean in order not to cause offence to the other. Elegance and beautification are encouraged in Islam.
Islam demands that a special effort should be made to show kindness and respect to your spouse’s family. A bond with your in-laws does not develop overnight. It requires regular, healthy contact, openness and a willingness to accept your differences. Acceptance of your spouse’s family and showing them hospitality can only strengthen the bond between you and your partner and help to make marital relations easier.
In line with Islamic rules of social relations we should avoid sarcasm, backbiting and calling each other offensive nicknames. Instead, we should make a special effort to respect each other as family members. Everyone is different. Therefore, do not compare your partner to members of your family and do not compare in-laws to your parents. This can lead to friction and resentment.
Friends are important to married couples and it can be useful to schedule a “friends time” where husband and wife can meet privately with friends. The couple should also make an effort to make family friends, friendships with other married couples. However, of the highest importance is to develop a deep and lasting friendship with your spouse.
Taking an active role in the Islamic community is something that married couples can do together and that will heighten your commitment to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى). It is also a good way of making new friends together. Invite friends, and family, to dinner at your home and cement these relationships.
As Islam is a way of life, it is an integral part of the couple’s relationship. They are bound by their common faith and in their desire to please Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى). Each should be responsible for enhancing their partner’s spiritual development. Support each other in your obedience to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) and make time to pray together. This will strengthen your relationship with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) and, in turn, ensure that your marital bond remains strong.