In this part of the Career Series, Sr. Sadaf talks about the reality of marriage, balancing a successful career with an equally successful Islamic marriage, tips for singles, dealing with idealism & perfectionism and striving to become a successful ‘all-rounder’ among other ‘marriage vs. career‘ issues.
Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer and home-schooling mother of 3 children, who blogs at www.SadafFarooqi.com. She has authored an advice book on Muslim marriage.
~ INTERVIEW ~
Amina Edota. What are the realities of marriage – The good, the bad and the so-so? Or is it all about ‘… living happily ever after’?
Sadaf Farooqi. First of all, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to feature on your blog, and I pray that this interview benefits all.
In answer to your first question, well, marriage is definitely not about ‘living happily ever after’!
The good parts are very good: love, romance, companionship, physical pleasure (of the carnal kind), fulfilment and pleasure derived from parenthood, domestic bliss (i.e. the joys afforded by running your own little home, your way), and physical/financial independence, to name just a few.
The bad – well, that is when the husband-wife love suddenly disappears; the children consistently give you a hard time; the in-laws oppress you with overwork, interfere in your matters, pass taunts or turn your husband/wife/child against you. When a husband loses his job or has to relocate without his wife, the marriage goes through a rough patch. An illness, accident or loss of a spouse’s parent also places strain on a marriage.
The so-so – well, sometimes, after marriage, when you reach a stalemate phase i.e. when the marriage is neither making you very happy nor sad, you find yourself wondering, “Marriage is so normal, even mundane at times. What’s all the hype about it when you’re single?”
A.E. How would you describe a successful marriage?
S.F. I probably wouldn’t, because a successful marriage is so different for different people!
However, success in marriage can be weighed on a wide spectrum of some key areas: spirituality, personality/self-confidence/self improvement, mental and emotional health, family relationships and wealth/career success.
If husband and wife both find themselves consistently improving in all of the above categories after, say, ten years of marriage, I’d regard their marriage as a successful one.
A.E. Any tips for building & nurturing a successful marriage?
• Remain patient and steadfast during the tough times, by forcing yourself to obey Allah’s commands (regarding your spouse) even when you do not want to. When you consistently get none of your rights in a marriage, and want out, you force yourself to give your spouse their rights for the sake of Allah — this is patience, and it embodies upright moral character, and it is what keeps a marriage from collapsing.
• Communicate with your spouse. Get it all out in private.
• Don’t compromise on your spouse’s happiness for the sake of others’ on a constant basis. This should be an exception, not the norm. Maintaining the balance is the key.
A.E. What is the importance of marriage in the life of a Muslim?
S.F. Marriage completes the Deen of a Muslim. Although there are exceptions of righteous men and women who never got married and still achieved success in Deen (e.g. Imam Bukhari, Maryam bint `Imran), a Muslim learns and grows a lot more through marriage than any other experience involving other people.
It is difficult to explain exactly how, but to put it in a nutshell: marriage is a great practical lesson in relationship management. A person who is married and has children, learns to manage more types of blood-line relationships than one who is not.
A.E. So which should come first – a Career or Marriage?
S.F. Marriage. Because I know for a fact that a physically healthy and righteous young boy or girl desires to have a romantic partner (i.e. get married) as early as age 19-22.
But for many Muslim singles, Allah will decree delays in their marriage for some years, perhaps even a decade or more.
So, if despite their full efforts, they aren’t getting married, they should not delay their career and allow themselves to stagnate/vegetate intellectually or professionally, twiddling their thumbs until Allah says, “Be!” regarding their marriage.
Rather, whether it is a single boy or girl, they should remain active in education, da’wah and also entrepreneurship, to start supporting themselves financially.
A.E. Are there opportunities for balancing a successful career with a successful Islamic marriage or is it just a Myth?
S.F. More and more, the opportunities of successfully balancing an Islamic marriage with a career, are increasing because of the Internet and digital media, which are facilitating diverse telecommuting and flexible work options.
Physical workplaces are gradually disappearing. Now an individual can do a lot of work without even leaving their homes. Examples are software development, teaching/tutoring via video-conferencing & content curation. So much can be done on a self-employed basis, or through contract employment.
Alhamdulillah for the wonders of technology!
A.E. How ambitious can we get as Muslims seeking the best station in Jannah; while striving to excel in our learning, personal development & career development?
S.F. The key is to always regard all our personal development, learning and career goals as our tickets to Jannah.
Checking our intentions regularly is the key to achieving the correct balance of priorities, and to prevent arrogance and Riya from spoiling our hearts.
Whether we are seeking knowledge, striving to improve ourselves as professionals and da’ee’s serving Allah’s Deen, or aiming for financial independence, we should always make our intentions for our efforts at excellence the ultimate acquisition of Allah’s pleasure and Jannah Al-Firdaws.
Everything in dunya should be used to achieve success in the Akhirah. When Jannah will be our ultimate goal, having any kind of high ambitions in the dunya will actually be the embodiment of our plans for our Akhirah.
A.E. Do you think it will it benefit the home and state of marriage to do work that one loves passionately rather than just working hard to get to the top of the career ladder?
S.F. Yes, of course!
When one loves what they do, they don’t work a single day of their professional lives. And when you do what you love/are passionate about (without letting it tip the balance in other areas of your life), your marriage definitely gets a boost, because your work makes you a more fulfilled, happier and productive person.
I would discourage any Muslim from having the latter as a goal, viz. “to get to the top of the corporate ladder”. This is because, since I am in my mid-thirties right now, I have seen more and more adults get ‘lost’ and disillusioned in their ‘race to the top’, losing their own happiness and that of their family along the way.
Getting to the top is not synonymous with success OR happiness. This goes especially for all those people who are involved in work/employed at jobs that they do not naturally enjoy doing.
Besides, when you’re at the top, there is only one way left to go, and that is down. When a person reaches the top of the corporate ladder, they might also resort to do things to stay at the top that could compromise on other areas of their life that bring happiness, such as spending time with family, pursuing hobbies, doing da’wah work, sustaining faith-boosting friendships with old righteous friends, or taking regular timeouts for worship (e.g. umrah).
A.E. What about the single brothers/sisters; what should they put into consideration when deciding on an ideal career & type of marriage they want to have?
S.F. They should figure out what they enjoy doing. What is it that they do that doesn’t make them feel like they are “working” at all? Do they like reading? Writing? Mentoring? Counselling? Managing other people? Organizing teams to get a project done? Helping the needy? What excites and motivates them?
The best way to figure this out would be to see how they enjoy spending their free time, especially if they have no human company and no television set nearby.
Secondly, singles should always keep their future intentions flexible, because fate/decree might take them places after marriage that they hadn’t even dreamed of!
After marriage, consulting your spouse is very important before deciding on your ideal occupation. And many a time, girls especially, are forced by fate to take a break after marriage due to motherhood. Ironically, these “forced” breaks bring in new opportunities for self-growth for a girl, because they allow her to tap into as-yet unused talents lying latent within her.
Yours truly is one such example. I had never thought about writing until after I had my first baby, and found myself mostly at home with her.
A.E. And can such singles make preparations for an ideal home even before meeting Mr/Mrs Right?
Well, yes, they can and should, but they should remember that all their plans might be set aside when the “master plan” designed by the Great Planner starts getting executed in their lives.
Idealism can be detrimental if a person holds on to their dreams stubbornly and refuses to be practical and flexible after marriage. What we consider to be the ‘ideal home’ for ourselves might not be so after all.
We should always remember that Allah knows better than us.
A.E. In what ways can the state of a marriage impact on the Ummah?
S.F. In ALL ways there can be. The state of the marriage is crucial to the holistic success of the ummah. Marriage gives birth to each generation, so its state directly impacts the righteousness and success of the next one to come.
That being said, divorce is a sad but true reality. The best generation of Muslims (the sahaba) had their fair share of divorce, so we should not think of divorce as something evil. Rather, it can be a welcome ‘life-saver’ for those trapped in toxic, abusive, and psychologically destructive marriages.
I don’t want anyone reading this to think that, if their or their parents’ marriage was not a happy one, or if it ended in divorce, they cannot become a righteous and successful Muslim.Our Prophet (S.a.w) was raised without parents during his early life. Prophet Essa (A.S) had no father. Anas bin Malik (R.A) was raised primarily by his Muslim mother, after his father died as a non-Muslim, during his very early years.
There are many examples of righteous and successful Muslims who went on to achieve greatness and to serve Allah and His Deen, even though many facets of their early life and upbringing didn’t ‘tick all the boxes’, so to speak.
A.E. Is it asking for too much or perhaps just a faraway dream, wanting to be an ideal parent, spouse, student of knowledge and a career person/ creative entrepreneur?
S.F. What a good question! I am so glad you asked this, because many among the youth can be a little too idealistic.
Yes, I’d say it is asking for too much, but nevertheless, Allah can grant it to you if you dream big and ask Him for excellence (fadl), then work hard for it sincerely, without making just the dunya your intention or goal.
One of the problems with being an ‘all-rounder’ or a perfectionist (and I definitely suffer from this habit of desiring perfection in everything), is that you end up feeling very frustrated, very often. You put yourself under a lot of stress because of your holistically high goals.
If you go through the biographies of successful people who achieved success in any field in the past (especially anyone regarded as a genius, particularly after their death), you’d notice a common trend in their lives: hardship, sacrifice, suffering, frustration, and stress.
Many so-called ‘geniuses’ who were not Muslim (scientists, inventors, artists, writers, thinkers, and philosophers) also failed miserably at human relationships (especially marriage) in the process of achieving massive accolades in their fields.
Being a successful all-rounder is not easy on the person who appears to ‘have it all’ to the bystander. It involves a lot of self-discipline, hard work and self-critique. But it can be done.
A.E. What is the way forward in trying to raise future leaders of the Ummah to become sound & balanced in mind, body, soul & intellect?
S.F. Our parents and teachers need to return to devout practice of Deen in their personal lives. Our children cannot be expected to lead the ummah towards future success unless they are practically raised to give their Deen priority over everything else.
Currently, Muslim parents give more priority (practically) to the success of the duniya for their children, instead of Deen. Till they will do that, a noticeable change cannot be expected in the next generations.
A.E. In what ways can the career choices of our youth affect their marriages, homes & the entire Ummah?
S.F. Career choices have a great impact on marriages and homes. I think it is very important for our youth to choose their careers wisely, giving priority to those that will allow them to take time out for da’wah, and also take an active part in their children’s upbringing and moral tarbiyah.
For example, some practicing doctors (not all of them) are unable to spend much time with their families because of the nature of their work. They even miss out on important milestones in their children’s lives because of the demands of their job.
Also, a job that involves frequent relocation, e.g. government/ambassador positions, impact the upbringing of the children, who might grow up with identity and assimilation issues because of always moving from one place to another. There are positives of such jobs, too, but as long as one is aware of the cons of their ‘dream job’, and they are prepared to handle these challenges wisely, it is fine.
In general, as long as the spouses, especially the husbands, are well-aware in advance about what impact their career choices will have on the spiritual/psychological health and emotional well-being of their future families, they will be able to make a better decision, insha’Allah.
Jobs that require the husband and wife to live separately for months, are especially challenging and cause an extra strain on marriage e.g. when the husband is away on ship (in Navy jobs) for months. The wives of preachers and Islamic scholars also have to often live apart from their husbands when the latter travel for their work. Some wives patiently put up with this for the sake of Allah, especially if they have their own work to keep them occupied, but it is definitely not easy.
Lastly, what I’d like to stress is, that every marriage is a challenge, no matter what career choices a husband, wife, or both, make.
The spouses need to care for and look out for each other, and cut down their work commitments if they see their marriage suffering in any way.
Career sacrifices are not just meant to be made by the women of our ummah once they become wives & mothers, but are also sometimes necessary for the men, who are the primary shepherds of their flocks too.
(i) Quality free time spent together,
(ii) Money/housing and luxuries
These two are the major factors that get directly affected by a person’s career choice, especially the husband’s (who is the primary breadwinner).
Depending on which one of these 2 factors a family collectively values more, they will make their career choices accordingly.
Sadly, in majority of the cases of Desi families, i.e. the Muslims dwelling in the region from which I hail (South Asia), money/housing and luxuries are considered the more important factors when deciding upon a career for a young boy. Sons and husbands are often treated like money-earning ‘machines’ without emotions, and time spent with wives and children is not considered important for their overall emotional and psychological health.
Unsurprisingly, after a decade or so of working, these men quickly become selfish and emotionally detached from their families, and their wives and children end up having ‘independent’ lives, which make them stray away from Deen.
In the end, I’d just like to express my personal opinion: those Muslim men who strongly desire to see their children become exceptionally righteous Muslims as adults, should choose only those careers that will allow them to spend ample leisure time with their families after marriage (including their parents and married siblings).
Many da’ee’s overlook this factor, especially those who go out for ‘tableegh’ for months on end. They should remember that our role model, Prophet Muhammad (S.a.w) never set out to travel without taking at least one wife with him, and that too in an era in which travelling was extremely difficult!
Let the traveling du’aat and all the future fathers/husbands of our ummah please take Prophet Muhammad as their role model and ideal!
A.E. I can’t thank you enough Sr. Sadaf. JazaakumAllah Khayran for sharing your insight.