Love however, even from the Shari`ah perspective, is a complex attachment. And because we do not know how to really show love we end up entering relationships with a limp. We deny love to others, we drown in it, or we miss it altogether.
I was intrigued at the ideas in a library book, 5 Love languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman. He listed caring acts that one partner should do for the other. Giving gifts, sweet gestures, taking the time out to talk and listen. Pffft, said I. Real marriages aren't about sweet words, and I've seen few marriages where the husband and wife "speak" the same lingo.
But I paid a little attention and learnt they actually make a marriage work better. Islam adds an element of jihad (personal effort) to love and provides masses of information on the types of love. In the Arabic language alone there are more than 70 words for love and its effects.
The languages of love in human communication are so basic, I question why we haven't implemented them to a greater degree. It is because they are so basic that we've sidelined them. We are just too sophisticated for small acts of kindnesses and kind words. Don't we want to learn about what makes our partners-in-crime tick? Are we afraid of what we'll learn? Are we afraid of rejection? Do I sound like that Hocus Pocus chick from S*x and the City?
"What normally happens in relationships is one person shows their commitment, but the other partner doesn't easily pick up on it. The husband's saying 'I want you' in Swahili and the wife replies in Chinese, 'where's the milk?' It's a case of lost in translation when it comes to men and women. So, we have to figure out the ways men and women are saying I love you. Insha-Allah, God willing." - Shaykh Yasir Qadhi (paraphrased)
*Disclaimer: much of the following is from various Islamic studies and a result of research but it's verifiable by God. These 5 Love Languages really are a standard for men and women with slight differences. Some content is adult material so don't freak out.
There are 5 primary "languages of love". But first, what love are we talking about? Not lust, not love at first sight, not carnal desire. Clean sheen, halal and legalised love in Muslim marriage. Got it? Good.
Words of Affirmation
When you open your mouth to speak, you're spilling the things that are in your heart. In Islam this is a strong concept; "every container will only pour out what is in it". A verbal expression of love is when you say statements that clearly indicate your compassion. You go out of your way to say something kind, not a constructive criticism, and a bit more than just a salamings*, how are you?
We all like to hear an encouraging word but some people need that "I love you" on a daily basis. Science tells us we should be saying this regularly to stay healthy. This doesn't necessarily mean that your partner has low self-esteem, or that one gender is emotionally weaker. Words of affirmation are pleasing after a difficult task, they develop our self-image and worth. Remember, such words are the easiest in a relationship and easy to help love grow. You'll never forget the first time someone says they love you. It's very powerful.
Prophetic Words Of Love
KNOTS OF LOVE: A weak hadith which is ascribed to `Aisha (ra) relates that she asked her husband, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ peace be upon him, "How would you describe your love for me?" He replied, "It's a strong, binding, knot, it cannot be undone", meaning the more it's tugged, the stronger it gets. If `Aisha saw the Prophet was agitated he would reassure her, "the knot's in its original state".
ULTIMATE FAVOURITES: A more authentic hadith describes the depth of Prophet Muhammad's love for his wife, which Muslim men need to know. Amr ibn al-‘As (ra) asked the Prophet, peace be upon him, "Who do you love the most?" Thinking that he would be named, Prophet Muhammad replied in unusual honesty "`Aisha!" Any modern man who dared mention his feelings for his wife would feel like a pansy. We need to change our outlook because such love is chivalrous.
Amr (ra) rephrased his question, "Who do you love the most from amongst all the men?" This time the Prophet replied, "her father". Abu Bakr as-saddiq was `Aisha's father so Prophet Muhammad's still linked his love to his wife. He seemed to say, let the whole world know, I love my wife more than anything. And if this is his love in public, what of it in private?
MORE THAN ABU ZARA: Another authentic hadith from `Aisha (although reports say the story is fictional) narrates an eleventh wife, Ummi Zara (the mother of Zara) describing how her husband, Abu Zara, treated her like a princess, she was his number one. Despite this bond, Ummi Zara was divorced and remarried to a richer man. While this second husband was still kind, his treatment paled when compared to Abu Zara.The Prophet, peace be upon him, heard the tale from `Aisha (ra) and said to her, "I am to you, like Abu Zara is to Ummi Zara - except that I would never divorce you". `Aisha (ra) replied, "You are better to me (in treatment) than Abu Zara to Ummi Zara."
This prophetic case of verbally expressing love strengthens a marriage. It makes it "tight". Saying to your wife or husband, "you mean the world to me", actually means the world to them. The Prophet, peace be upon him, gave his wife a sweet nickname, a qunya: `Aish and frequently talked about her taqwah (devoutness to Allah) amongst his companions.
How To Speak Love
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. Even the smallest of phrases mean a lot, "jazak'Allah", "I appreciate you", "you look amazing", "I'm proud of you". By verbalising your feelings of gratitude or concern, you create the best motivation which means your spouse will in turn reciprocate extra special love. Just for you.
How To Muss* It Up...
Any negative statement you make towards your spouse will create distance, completely cutting off one from the other; it is you who will be cut off from their love. This idea of verbal appreciation is like an investment machine. What you put in, you will get out of it, double, triple and multi-times back. If you feed it love, you will feel the heat, and if you feed it nothing, you'll feel the cold.
HUSBAND TALK 101
As a husband (or husband-to-be), you're going to find yourself in pressurising situations. You've spent a week on night-shifts and you come home to your wife's not-that-great microwave meal. What do you say? What DO you say?
- "Why can't you ever cook a decent meal, didn't your mother teach you anything?"
- Although you're tired and you expected a delicious meal lovingly made, your choice of words show you're a rude, critical and unthoughtful man. You don't know how her day's been at work, home, with the children. Control what you're saying and flip your criticism to get what you want (below).
- "I miss the biryani you make, my love". -finger hug-
- Remind your wife of the good she does for you and watch how it ignites a greater response the next time you meet. Couple the compliment with a physical touch (read below). Generously punctuate requests with sweet words, be 'mushy'. Say how you feel. Guys, don't feel stupid for saying it.
My sisters, I'm afraid we women are a little more complicated and can expect our men to naturally know what we're thinking. Nonetheless, the rules are the same. Speak good, or stay silent! Don't complain, refrain and turn your criticism into an opportunity. For example, you're husband's rarely at home... You could say:
- "Why are you always with your friends! Don't you love me?"
- By using that annoying word 'always' you side-sweep months and years of your husband's dedication. Instead of getting his attention you push him further away. This feels like an attack, an insult. What is he supposed to say - "No, I don't love you, I'm gay"? And then you'll want proof.
- "I miss when you spend time with me. It's been a while, let's go out!"
- Open by saying you love him! Act like the martyr, say you can't do without him. Show the positive side of how you miss him and why you want him home - because HE brings something wonderful to YOU. Give him an opportunity to create a path of peace.
TAKE IT HOME
Allah has created peaceful love (sakina) between you, so live in it to the very end of your lives. If you feel it, say it. Give compliments like there's no tomorrow, especially in front one family and children. Words of love = bring love. Everybody wins.
Quality time is more than mere proximity. It's about focusing all your energy on your partner in crime. A husband watching sports while talking to his wife is NOT quality time. In the vernacular of quality time, nothing says, “I love you,” like really being there — with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and children on standby. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Quality conversation is also very important for healthy relationships. It involves sharing experiences, thoughts and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. A good partner will not only listen, but offer advice and respond to assure their partner that they are really listening. Husbands and wives don't expect their partners to solve their problems. Sometimes they just need a sympathetic listener.
Quality activities are a very important ingredient to quality time. Spending physical time together, sharing hobbies and events that you love to do together, bring a couple closer, and, in the years to come, fill up a memory bank, insha-Allah, God willing.
Note: An important aspect of quality conversation is "self-revelation". You need to be in tune with your inner emotions and feelings to be able to share quality conversation and quality time with your husband/wife.
What Would Prophet Muhammad Do?
VISIT THEM: Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, visited each wife every single day, spending quality time with them after the `asr prayer (afternoon). Today, tsk, we're too busy, and we only have the one wife, husband...
TALK TO THEM: A particular hadith briefly mentions the Prophet's habit of talking with `Aisha (ra) after the `isha prayer (at night). Their talking was in private, nobody else listened in (Allah kept it private). But that was also quality time.
RUN WITH THEM: In a famous incident, the Prophet told his companions to go ahead on a trip as he stayed behind to race `Aisha (she won!) In the narration of the race, details are hidden, but obviously we see his intention to spend time with her; picking a point to start from, running together, laughing and winning. Here is the Prophet with the world's greatest mission, taking time out to "play" with his wife in a race in the desert. When was the last time we did that?
HANG OUT WITH THEM: `Aisha (ra) was once at home while an artistic sword fighting/wrestling event happened outside homes. Men were surrounded showing prowess, there was noise, there was an exciting atmosphere. The Prophet peace be upon him came home and asked `Aisha, "would you like to see it?" Wearing her hijab and jilbaab (obligatory according to Qur'an), `Aisha said she stood a little behind the Prophet, watching close together as "my touch touched his cheek". Resisting to move, `Aisha also said,
"I stood there for as long as I could until I got tired, to show (see how much) the Prophet of God loved me".He, peace be upon him didn't move, she moved first. Quality time in action.
Shari`ah (Islamic law) requires the husband to spend time with his wife. Allah dictates that husbands, especially in polygamous marriages, spend equal amounts of money and TIME with their wives. And now you know.
How To Get It Wrong
Women complain more that their husbands don't spend time with them, feeling neglected. He seems to care about everything else. She is not hearing the language of love called TIME! A husband doesn't always understand his wife's accusation, saying, "But I'm living with you?!" Men will look at their watches to calculate his mere 3 hours with friends compared to 50 hours spent with the wife. Yet women are asking for quality, scheduled time with me. Together. Set aside time for a conversation, halal entertainment etc. Choose different times to get-together or make a daily routine after work. Pick a yearly date for a weekend holiday.
- Men: When your wife asks for time, she's asking for your focused presence. Show you're present by looking at her, listening. When your wife wants to speak to you (uh-oh) be honest if don't want to. Say, "I'm busy, come back in half an hour". Don't pretend to listen because that shows you don't care. Generally, women come with problems to talk for sympathy, not always wanting a solution. *I mean, I always want a solution but this isn't about me.
- Women: My sisters, make special time for your husbands too. Ask, "what would YOU like us to do together?" and do that! When you go to your husband with a problem, understand how to talk to him. He may not be in the mood, he may give you cold advice. Understand when he's emotionally available and don't pressure him into being your girlfriend.
A gift is not necessarily purchased. Some people respond well to visual symbols of love, and the love is shown in the physical act of giving. Just hand it over, a flower, a seashell from a walk on the beach, or an email. Be thoughtful, be intuitive, be spontaneous, and occasionally be OTT (over-the-top, it's an English thing).
These gifts don't need to be everyday, or even every week, although they could be. They don't need to cost a lot of money (unless it's for your husband). Gifts can be free, they need to be frequent and they can be given without a purpose — meaning that buying a kitchen appliance is not a gift of love (unless she/he really did ask for it), but finding a particular childhood book your partner loved, is. The giving itself should show you're thinking about your wife/husband.
Fortunately, this love language is one of the easiest to learn. Ask what your partner likes receiving and make a note of their preferences. You need to understand that you are not investing your "purchases" in gifts, but in deepening your relationship.
Ouch. That's My Bank Balance, Man!
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; your partner will thrive on the thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift. As they say, it is indeed the thought that counts. If you "speak" this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are caring, and you are prizing your spouse above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to them. A missed celebration, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous — so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Why The Prophet Gave Gifts
Giving gifts is a part of our religion, Islam. A noted hadith in imam Bukhari's book of Manners, number 594, is where the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him said,
"Ta haaddu, ta haabbu: give gifts to one another, you will love one another."
This hadith is typically about giving presents to your brother in faith, but it's not exempt from the context of marriage. Prophet Muhammad often gave foreign dignitaries gifts and shared food and such with his companions. If we are meant to give gifts to strengthen our community bond, our husbands, our wives, are much, much more deserving.
Most Muslims will know of `Aisha's (ra) incident where she lost her necklace in the desert, and stayed behind a travelling caravan, which lead to an unjust, scandalous accusation. What most of don't know is that the incident gave way to revelation for the flexible tayammum, wudhu without water. And the necklace itself was not expensive, it was made from stone, but `Aisha (ra) said, "it was given to me by the Prophet of God". She panicked that she lost it because of its sentimental value.
Prophet Muhammad gave gifts to his first wife Khadijah's whole family, her sister, even after she passed away. Whenever he had a meat available he would cut and distribute it to Khadijah's neighbours and friends. `Aisha (ra) was jealous of Khadijah (ra) though they never met, because the Prophet's love for Khadijah was manifested in so many ways.
What He or She Really, Really Wants
- Dear women: Realise that men like quality gifts over quantity. What does this mean? It means men generally prefer those gifts you saved up for; you bought something expensive, a fancy watch, new trainers, a video game (I have no idea). This takes time and is worth the wait to gift your husband on a special occasion making a big deal "this is just for you!" Don't take out loans though, use your own judgement for affordability and time.
- Dear men: Understand that women prefer many gifts, even if the cost is small. You may be saving up years for a bleedin' gorgeous jewellery piece but you don't need to spend that much on one present. It's healthier for the marriage that you give your wife frequent love tokens, so budget wisely for a monthly gift.
Note: Genetics adds to the language of gift giving too as Muslim men misunderstand their wife's reaction. Brothers, when your wife says, "oh em gee, you shouldn't have! Why did you spend that much?!" don't take it literally. She's not one of your guys, your friends. A Muslim woman's heart speaks differently and is more often too shy to say her true emotions. She's really jumping for joy on the inside. It's awkward for women to truly express their full shukr, thanks with every gift. Sisters, your husband just gave you a sparkly present he saved up for and is expecting you to melt. So go nuts. Channel the appreciation to verbally show that you're proper chuffed.
MAXIMS MADE REAL: It really is the thought that counts (with women). It is the gift that counts (with men). Use 'free' as your inspiration to give simple gifts you know your partner will like. Poetry, a card, post-it-notes, a text message punctuated with an 'I love you', a polaroid photo of yourself. Charity begins at home.
Acts of Service
Sometimes simple chores around the house can be an undeniable expression of love. Things like laundry and taking out the trash require some form of planning, time, effort, and energy. However, it's very important to understand what acts of service your wife or husband will most appreciate.
Such physical chores require a balanced dynamic. Without any judgement whatsoever, it's a fairly accepted custom that women tend to take on more of the housework, while men's work is more external. These are expected duties, but not rules. So, semi-regularly, each partner needs to step out of the stereotypes.
Acts of service require both partners to humble themselves into doing some chores and services that aren't usually expected from their gender. However, it's not about right and wrong, it's about taking some burdens off your partner, because you love them.
The Prophet's Mehna *chores, contribution
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not expect to be waited on and nor should we. Nor was Prophet Muhammad ever violent or critical of his wives. He would mend his own clothes and fix his own shoes. It wasn't that `Aisha was ignoring these things, but once in a while, the Prophet would do it himself. He demonstrated another language of love. It was not demeaning or undignified, he just shifted the roles by taking something from `Aisha's domain.
Today, you'll find household tasks erupting in cultural collisions. Some will argue men were not raised to clean up or cook, and women never left the house for work. But WE are not like that and you can see around today these roles are changing. Different expectations exist and it's important to talk to about them so that we can find our balance.
For our elders, women and men's roles were rarely swapped. In your marriage, you need to discuss boundaries, use your skills to help the other and occasionally shift roles. Who washes the dish, who fixes the lights, who refuels the eco-friendly car? Get out of your comfort zone and get into the space of your spouse.
How To Service Your Marriage
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words your partner wants to hear are: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for your wife or husband says that their feelings don’t matter. (Men, you know who you are).
Things that help:
- Offering to wash the dishes
- Washing the car
- Fixing a broken light, getting a new lamp soon
- Volunteering to buy the groceries
- Paying the bills punctually
- Taking the children out
- Making dinner with brought groceries
- Offering help for organising events
- Back massages *Winner
For Muslims, it's important to do these acts out of love and not obligation. Connect the act to God, see it as a means to earn His grace, making tasbih meanwhile and showing your partner that you're doing it to help them.
A person who does chores and helps out around the house out of guilt or fear speaks a language of resentment. iPerform these acts out of the kindness of your heart. These little sacrifices will mean the world to your partner, and accumulate as good deeds to Allah.
- Muslim men don't realise that the best ways for improved intimacy at night (yep, es ee eks) is washing the dishes during the day! Men just don't make the connection that a woman will want to be intimate with her husband when she sees him get involved, she will love him for participating, even if breaks a few dishes. (Go forth into the kitchen).
This is what Prophet Muhammad warned us against, being ungrateful. Women will easily say to their husbands, "You never help out, I never see any help from you," even though he's been taking care of her for years. See that maintenance he's brings? That's the language of livelihood! You both have to find fleeting moments between life's chores to build love.
SUMMARY: Being physically active in taking care of your spouse, whether in chores or finances, shows that you love them. Swap roles, volunteer to help more often and listen to what your partner appreciates to do more of that.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, joy, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
Many people feel loved the most when they receive physical contact from their spouse. Physical touch can make or break the relationship. While sexual intercourse (in marriage) makes a person feel secure and loved, it's only a dialect of physical connection. There are two contexts for 'touch', the sexual and non-sexual. A sexual touch is fairly obvious and doesn't really need much description in terms of errogenous zones. You figure it out.
The Non-Sexual Touch
Observe people around you. They shake hands, high-five, reach out, tickle, pinch. Why? Because for that moment, there's a warmth and a physical connection which reaches beyond words. Of course I'm talking about Muslim women shaking hands and Muslim brothers high-fiving, y'know, we don't want to culture some rampant mixed-gender chest-bouncing. Haram factor.
Many parts of the body are extremely sensitive to stimulation. Yet, some touches like groping, shoves, and pulling, are irritating and uncomfortable for your partner. Take the time to learn the touch your husband/wife likes. They can be big acts, such as back massages or a long embrace, or little acts such as touches on the cheek or a hand on the shoulder.
It is important to discover how your partner responds, not only physically but also psychologically to these touches. That is how you will make the most of this love language.
The Prophet's Hands
Whenever the Prophet Muhammad arrived at his house one of the first things he did before entering home was to brush his teeth with a miswak. This was standard behaviour, checking his appearance, maintaining hygiene, and then sitting close to `Aisha (ra) to kiss her. And not just a peck on the cheek either, reports narrate that the Prophet Muhammad would suck `Aisha's tongue: a passionate kiss.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says from the seerah, there was an exchange of fluid (known to be medically healthy) and in modern terms this would be a 'French kiss'. Why did the Prophet do this? He demonstrated the language of touch through a close proximity to show that no matter what his day was burdened with, his love was unyielding.
See, in the world of science, hormones boost the touch sensation given to one another. When a man 'makes a pass' at his wife, she will reciprocate. There is a flirtation involved that makes up some communication in marriage. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would lean on 'Aisha (ra). Nothing else was going to happen, but his head was in her lap. It's a form of romance, wanting to be caressed and touched.
Modern psychologists say that hugging is a tool of transformation.
"Hugging brings people closer to each other. If your relationship with somebody is not working, try hugging him 20 times a day and there will be a significant difference." - R. Chandran, therapist (Mumbai, India)
When it comes to sexuality, women do not appreciate being touched only for sex. Besides being 'ready', in an appropriate place and time, women crave the sensation of hands and hugs and other things. Every married person needs to master the "Art of Non-Sexual Touching". In the same way food nourishes the body, a woman who is not fed physically will feel neglected and not have the energy to give anything back.
Conversely, men want more 'come to me' gestures from their wives, more physical contact. Otherwise men feel deprived sexually and they question, "Doesn't she doesn't love me?" But a woman shows her love through so many other ways which aren't being seen and heard. Both men and women should be recognising their partners screaming with these signs of "I loves yous". So pay attention to them.
If Your Marriage Ain't Broke...
All marriages will experience crises. In these cases, physical touch is very important. A hug can communicate an immense amount of love for that person and helps to release tension without masses of discussion. A person whose primary love language is physical touch would much rather have you hold them and be silent than offer any advice.
Satan (Shaytaan) is the number one enemy of people. His job is to create discord and he will whisper, "she doesn't/he doesn't love you - ditch them".
Wives and husband, you need examine your marriage and ask what is HE/SHE doing to show they love me? Always assume there IS love there. Ask yourself what do I want to hear? And what am I showing that they can't see? Exchange ideas with one another and do not expect perfection. You won't have a perfect spouse, because you're not perfect!
A simple rule in marriage is not to give and take but give and give. After 20 years of giving, trying to be the ideal for another through the love languages will keep that spark ignited. Intimacy cannot be created without love so if you're marriage has its problems, but you both love one another, you're on the right path.
And sex? Good sex helps, but love makes it significantly better. Living in the most over hyper sexualised world, all we see is pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, post-marital sex. Lesbianism, homosexuality, transgender sexuality, bisexuality. This is a severe addiction, none of which exists within a stable Muslim marriage. Regardless of whatever infatuations and relationships people claim as "okay", you cannot buy married love.
"Great sex does not exist without love because you are not fulfilling healthy sexuality." - Sh. Yasir Qadhi
*Finger hug = indicated by extending a pinky finger, inviting another to hook their finger into a single clasp. Zaufishan language.
*Salamings = play on the mainstream word "salam" meaning peace, used for hello.
*Chuffed = very glad.
*Muss = to spoil, c*ck-up or undo
The SeriesPart 1 | Introduction
Part 2 | What Muslim Women Look For In A Husband
Part 3 | What Muslim Men Look For In A Wife
Part 4 | 5 Misunderstood Love Languages
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