Balancing Marriage & Islamic Studies

“Have you seen Abdullah? He hasn’t been attending the classes anymore.”

“No he got married, remember?”

The above conversation has been unfortunately heard by many of us before and we still hear it. Just replace Abdullah with another name every time. After writing an article on continuing studying Islamic knowledge after starting full-time work, I felt it was really important to do the same for the other main reason which causes people to stop their quest for Islamic knowledge. It is of course, marriage.

Marriage is a very noble action that has been mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah numerous times, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows these verses and ahadith already! It is enough of a virtuous action that the prophet (sallaAllah ‘alayhi wasallam) said it is equivalent to half of the religion [Reported by Al-Haakim]. However, many of us fall behind after marriage in a way that is destructive to our religion, forgetting that the continuation of the hadith above is “so he should fear Allah in the other half of his religion”.

When we get married we begin a life that revolves around our spouse and we are always with each other. We say we love each other and cannot bear to be apart so we don’t have time to go to classes, because the time one or both of us spends at work is enough of a pain of being separated so we want to spend any time other than that together. Some of us try to remember Allah and say we will not let our Iman suffer so plan to hold circles together at home and put a plan for it, but in reality, we rarely end up doing it enough. In some cases, one of the spouses is keen on studying so decides to get back to his/her previous circle(s), but the other spouse tries to make him/her feel guilty by saying that he/she has a right over him/her. These examples are sadly very common and we must ensure we do not fall into them, for marriage is indeed a really big test.

The main reason why some people’s Islamic studies suffer after marriage is that they end up prioritising their spouse’s rights over Allah’s rights, not realising the reality of this life or the hereafter. They think that if I be good to my spouse then I am pleasing Allah, ignoring the fact that Allah has many rights that need to be fulfilled so you won’t be pleasing Him by neglecting these rights. Marriage should be something that brings us closer to Allah, but for many of us, it ends up doing the opposite, and this is due to us not getting our priorities right.

When it comes to people’s attitudes after marriage there are two extremes which we must avoid. The first extreme, which is the most common one is that we let marriage affect our relationship with Allah, as we have reduced in our ibadah and have stopped attending the circles of knowledge. The second extreme is when we think that after marriage we can be the same person we were before, so we try to do everything that we used to do before and end up neglecting our spouse’s right, thus falling into sin as we have committed a form of oppression against our spouse. This is of course if we were very active before marriage, but if we didn’t do much before marriage then not doing much after it wouldn’t affect the spouse’s right, but it would mean we were heedless before and are heedless now!

Maintaining and continuing Islamic studies after marriage is a must, but for it to be in our favour, we need to do it moderately. This would mean not cutting out all of the circles of knowledge we used to attend, whilst also making time for our spouse. How can we neglect the gatherings where the Angels surround us, mercy envelopes us and Allah mentions us to those who are with Him? And how can we neglect sitting with the one whom Allah said that He has placed much good in them (our wives) [Surah Al-Nisaa’, 4:19]? The correct thing would be to attend a few circles a week and also allocating some private time for your spouse to enjoy each other’s presence. We must also remember that marriage should not affect the frequency of our prayers in the Masjid, or the frequency of our reading of the Qur’an. It may mean that we end up going to fewer circles than before but attendance in the Masjid and reading of the Qur’an should definitely remain the same if it does not increase.

Finding a balance between spending some time with your spouse and studying knowledge is not easy, and to use personal experience it proved far more difficult than when starting full-time work. It is not something that you can solve straight away (and you may find it taking you a few months before seeing any progress), but with perseverance and commitment, Allah will find a way out for you. To help you in finding the right balance, keep the two verses below constantly in your mind:

{O you who believe, do not let your wealth or children divert you away from the remembrance of Allah, And whoever does that are indeed the losers} Surah Al-Munafiqoon, 63:9]

{O you who believe, verily from your spouses and your children are an enemy for you so beware of them} [Al-Taghabun, 64:14]

To help in overcoming some of the problems we face after marriage, a brother has kindly compiled some action points:


1. Leadership – Bukhari is reported to have said, ‘Learn knowledge before you become leaders’. It goes largely unchallenged that knowledge is one of the most crucial qualities necessary in a leader. A Muslim marriage is one that recognises the structure of leadership. If knowledge is needed before leadership according to Bukhari, we can only conclude that it is even more urgent that it exists post-leadership – and for our purposes post-marriage. It is a poor house that is unable to lead the wife and children upon certain knowledge to a goodly life in the dunya and to even more magnificent aspirations in the akhirah. Realising the importance of knowledge as a leader is one of the most fundamental steps you can take in grappling between your Islamic studies and family life.

2. Respect – Humanity has been instilled with a natural affinity to those who teach them. The exchange of knowledge evokes a sense of indebtedness between two parties that travels far deeper and more lasting than an exchange of wealth – both of these happening within a marriage and it is about being aware of their place in the wider picture. Going to classes and the culture associated with that will earn you your wife’s respect, sympathy and obedience. It will elevate you from being a nominal husband to a teacher and her spiritual trainer. It will help keep you in check too as you develop more shyness and reluctance to fall below the high benchmark you’ve set for yourself in her eyes.

3. Clarity – Boundaries of where you are prepared to compromise and where you are not prepared to should be delineated – women need this clarity and certainty – it makes them feel a lot more secure and great reassurance is drawn from just ‘knowing’ where she stands. These boundaries should be noble and convincingly in both parties interests. e.g. ‘I won’t compromise when it comes to my Tuesday and Friday circles and things that I am convinced are in OUR Islamic interests – other than that I see it as my duty to make you the happiest girl of all those who aspire for happiness’.
The wife of a student of knowledge should be sympathised with since her husband probably won’t be spending as much time with her as her friends’ husbands do with them – this has to be compensated in some way – pleasant speech is part of Islam and is really an integral part of married life.

4. Authority – Marriage is based upon love and respect, however these two emotions may be conflicting at times. For an effective structure of marriage, there has to be leadership and Allah has placed that burden on the man. Many tough decisions have haunted those before us in this position and it calls upon a man’s courage and religious maturity. Sometimes we may be tempted to shy away from the risk of ‘tough decisions’ out of softness for our spouse or children. Important to note is that every relationship in life will pose a fitnah (test) to you, and even more so the most intimate relationship you’ll ever have – your wife. Allah declares that {Verily from your spouses and your children are an enemy for you so beware of them} [Al-Taghabun, 64:14].
It may be that our misplaced softness compromises our better judgment, perhaps deluding us that our wife will love us more as a result of it. This is telling only of our own spiritual confusions. The hearts are in the hands of Allah and He is the one who ignites and extinguishes the warmth of love between two people. If you compromise the rights of Allah, your wife will feel – even if it be at the subconscious level – uncertain about your loyalty to her rights. If she sees you very particular about your rights with Allah – even if she feels it’s at her expense – internally it will leave her with reassuring certainty that you will give her the rights granted to her by the One whose rights you’re particular about. Engendering this vision of respect from the outset of marriage is fundamental.
5 Quality Time – It’s important for a student of knowledge to be very familiar with the art of spending time with people enriched with quality and not quantity – particularly the wife. ‘Quantity time’ is hardly appreciated by anybody and is merely a tolerated burden between friends, family or spouses. What’s important is to leave results behind each conversation and exercise. This way you will be able to half the amount of time you spend with people and it seems longer and more fruitful. One of the best ways to do this in the household is to help with the house chores – and we find this in the tradition of the prophet Muhammad (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), undeniably being part of his greater wisdom and chivalry. Nobody was busied with the challenges of constructing global ambitions to carry a divine message like he was and simultaneously to stand vigil at night in devotion. Doing the housework represents being a deeply integrated part in the giving and taking of family life – the impact of which is immeasurable in a woman’s eyes. It leaves clear observable results behind as mentioned above and furthermore even lightens the load on the wife. Every man knows there is a world of difference between being there and ‘being there’. Similar practices should be adopted

6. Unending journey – It is a shared complaint amongst the married that time has been usurped. Recreation has ruthlessly been replaced by mounting responsibility. This may be true, but the downfall of man is that it is ever easy for us to justify our misdeeds to ourselves. It is a fatally grave mistake to feel that leaving your Islamic studies to ‘focus’ on your new spousal duties is part of a maturing process. Islam and Iman is something very closely attached to knowledge with more fragility than we often appreciate. Your new found theory will only bring detriment to yourself and family until you realise that you should return to the same path you left. {Allah raises the believers from you, and the ones with knowledge in levels} [Al-Mujadala, 58:11] – It is also a deathly form of arrogance to think you have risen above your other class-going friends who don’t have that responsibility.

For the reasons mentioned above in reference to leadership – your reasons to go to the classes are now more urgent than your class-mates who are not married. Allah only gave you the gift of your wife to aid you in getting to Him – so don’t use his gift in other than the purpose he gave it to you – The highest form of gratitude is to use the blessing Allah gave us in the purpose He’s given it to us. Similar to the way the gratitude of wearing your garment is to intend to cover your awrah with what Allah has given you, it’s important we understand how to use our marriage in the way Allah has intended it for us. Let the gift of marriage be an aid and not a damning distraction to your greater purposes.
Observe the reaction of Sulayman (alayhi salam) in response to a blessing- {“This is by the Grace of my Lord!- to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! and if one is grateful, truly his gratitude is (a gain) for his own soul; but if one is ungrateful, truly my Lord is Free of all Needs, Supreme in Honour”} [Al-Naml, 27:40}

7. Taming Jealousy – Part of a woman’s jealousy can manifest itself in many other ways – she doesn’t like to see you having any sort of life ‘separate’ from her. This results in uncertainty. Uncertainty is a fatal plague in a human mind – and even more so in women. It is the way Allah has created them and we should be sensitive to that. The way to incorporate this is to make her feel a part of your classes. Either take her if there is a sisters section, or if not possible then give her a brief breakdown of what you learned once you get home. The second one (giving her a breakdown) doesn’t have to be organised in the setting of a 30 minute class between you and her before you sleep or something along similarly ambitious lines. In most cases when it’s so organised it does not happen. Let it be (at least to begin with) a lot more informal – as in over dinner, while she is cooking, or any other random activity. Table for casual discussion easy-to-grasp points of benefit that you picked up – this will make her feel a part of it and put her heart at rest that she is still the central part of your life that everything else revolves around. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant – it is how you make her feel.
If you see that there is realistic scope to arrange more consistent organised study with her – then that is your judgement.

8. Finally put your tawakkul in Allah (swt) and He won’t humiliate you. Tawakkul (exclusively placing reliance in the power and wisdom of Allah) is of two types – one being high than the other.

1. That you rely upon Allah in your worldly needs, your provisions and your safety because you are under his protection.
2. That you rely upon Allah that if you are to put in the work, He will guide you to Him like He did for the prophets and rightoeus before you.
{And those who strive in our path – surely We will guide them to our way(s) – verily Allah is with the good doers} [Al-Ankabut, 29:69]

No doubt the second being a far greater spiritual realisation than the first.

Keep working towards Allah, have faith and He won’t humiliate you. All the best with your studies.

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