Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mum, I Wanna Marry A Shaykh!

Originally published in SISTERS Magazine.

UmmZainab Vanker reveals the reality of being married to a Shaykh and explains why it might not be for everyone.

Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s in a culturally conservative, semi-practising Muslim home, I never imagined or even hoped to marry a Shaykh, Aalim, Hafidh or Moulana. Back then, only those girls who were from strong, practising Muslim families, whose fathers or other relatives were involved in da’wah or were madrasah teachers, ever considered the people of knowledge as potential spouses.

Alhamdulillah, today we are witnessing a reawakening of Islam in our communities, especially amongst the sisters. With this, however, has arisen a phenomenon which I had not come across previously. Let’s call it – The Wannabe Shaykh’s Wife Syndrome (WSWS)!
Many sisters, both young and older, fantasise about marrying a shaykh and living the Islamic dream. What’s wrong with this, you ask? The answer is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it at all! It is a noble path to want to follow, as long as you are aware of the “job description,” and what the reality of such a life entails.

Unfortunately, today it has become a fad of sorts – a way of becoming “known” for whom you’re married to, or “gaining respect” because of who your husband is. There’s also the completely unrealistic idea that marrying a shaykh is tantamount to marrying the Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) or one of the Sahabah, thinking that such a man will follow their examples in making time to teach their wives and families first before teaching others. Too many sisters have the naïve dream that these brothers will start imparting their Islamic knowledge to them from day one of their marriage!

Dearest sisters, this is not the reality of life as a shaykh’s wife – especially the wife of one who does what he does seeking payment and reward from Allah swt alone. Such a man sees that he has a great responsibility for the knowledge that Allah swt has given him, and that it is his duty to spread Allah’s word, no matter how difficult that path may be.
 Speaking from Experience
I have been married to such a man for over 20 years. Allah swt chose to guide him in studying and working for the Deen, and although I never consciously dreamed or made du’a for this particular type of husband, this was what Allah swt chose for me. All I asked Allah swt for was a man who would help me become a better Muslimah and a better to servant to Him, subhanahu wa ta’aala. I hoped only for a man who knew and practised his Deen – all I really expected to get was a regular Muslim guy! It was Allah swt Who brought my husband to me, and it was by His guidance that I married this man. Allah swt placed it in this man’s heart to offer himself to me in marriage, someone who was already on the road to learning, knowing, and acting according to the Deen.

Dreams vs. Reality
After my husband graduated from the Islamic University in Madinah al-Munawwarah, we returned to the West with our young but growing family. Whenever I met sisters in the community who had been attending and listening to his lessons and talks, or were being counselled by him for whatever issues, there was one statement that both surprised me and made me laugh inwardly. “Masha Allah, you’re so lucky to have a shaykh for a husband! He must be teaching you so much! You have 24/7 access to someone who can answer your questions!”
I explained that that yes, I was blessed to have him as a husband, but that when he came home to me, he wanted to be seen as a husband, not as a teacher or imam. The reply I got was always the same: “Well, if I were married to someone as knowledge as him, I would NEVER let him leave the house until he taught me as much as he knows!”
Err, sister! Do you realise that it took him seven years to learn what he knows, and that he’s still learning daily? And that if I forced him to spend all his time teaching me, that the community would not even have an Imam, counsellor, or teacher to guide or help them?

Dear sisters, know that it is Allah swt who places you with each other and that being a shaykh’s wife is neither easy nor glamorous. You must be ready to make many sacrifices and have unlimited patience. You will have to manage your own jealousy, else suffer from a rocky marriage and family life.

With the young new “superstar” shuyookh and du’at that we see today, many sisters have a romanticised and idealistic view of what a shaykh’s life must be like at home. They associate him with being like RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), or Abu Bakr, Umar, and other Sahaabah (radiAllahu ‘anhum). However, it’s not quite like that! The shuyookh and du’at of today are human beings, men like any other men you know. They have their weaknesses, their strengths, and they also have their own share of marital and family issues to deal with. Being chosen by Allah swt to do His work does not make them better than anyone else; although if they misuse or abuse their families while knowing what the correct way is, that does make them worse than others.

Now, what are the requirements needed to be and to remain a shaykh’s wife, you ask? Here are just some of the things you will have to keep in mind if you truly wish to follow this path.

Strength: You definitely have to be strong, both mentally and emotionally. You must believe in what he is doing, and support and help in those areas you can to make it easier for him. When he makes mistakes or needs reminders, know when the correct times are to remind and advise him. Use the best of words and wisdom to do so. This is the only way that he, or any other man for that matter, will listen to their wives without feeling put down or lectured to.
Do not expect or depend on him to increase your knowledge of Islam – take it upon yourself to do so, for yourself. When you have questions or need explanations or clarifications, wait until he’s relaxed and his attention is on you. You will have to incorporate the characteristics of many of the Prophet’s wives to the best of your ability, such as tact, wisdom, and forebearance while keeping in mind that he is going to be nothing like RasulAllah(saw)!

Sacrifice: The amount of sacrifices that you will have to make will be many, and in many areas. For example, your husband will not always be there when you need him to help with the kids. He will shorten or cancel family time or outings in order to see to the community’s needs, whether someone is sick, dying, or just needs a person to talk to. Don’t expect to own your own home, go on fancy vacations, or even be able to buy your dream bedroom!
This job comes with financial restraints, so if you love the latest fashions or shopping, want the latest bling or gadgets, then know that the scholars of Islam are the inheritors of the Prophets. It is the Sunnah of Allah’s devoted students that they give up the material luxuries of this world, and face various hardships compared to others around them. Do not expect to live a life of luxury, but make du’a to Allah that you are pleased and content with what He provides for you.
Remember, too, that you will also be an example that the community will look to. Any wrong that you say or do will not be limited to you as an individual, but to your husband as an imam, and to your whole family by extension. You will be scrutinised by both those who love you, and those who are just waiting to find fault in your husband’s words and your actions.

Reward: If you cannot remember that for every sacrifice you make, your reward is with Allah swt, then all your efforts will be in vain. Your struggles, your sacrifices, and your efforts should all be for the Sake of Allah swt– this is your jihad, as well as your sadaqah.
Insha Allah, by seeing how you and your husband work together as a team, your children will learn the importance of teamwork in a marriage, as well as in da’wah work.

There will be many challenges, trials and tests that you will be put through. By being patient, making sacrifices, and assisting your husband in every way possible, you are taking part in the da’wah yourself, and insha Allah will receive a double reward.

After all this, do you still think you can manage a life like that? My advice is do not pray to marry a shaykh, but let Allah swt be the One to choose what is best for you, as He subhanahu wa Ta’ala knows us better than we know ourselves.
It’s easy to verbally state that you are ready to make such sacrifices; yet deep in our hearts, we may still want some luxuries in our lives. Think very seriously before making this statement, or else you run the risk of resenting your husband for not providing you with what he cannot afford.

So before you say, “Mum, I want to marry a shaykh!” – remember that it will not be an easy life at all and will come with a lot of personal sacrifice. Are you willing to do that?

UmmZainab Vanker has spent the last 22 years as a wife and partner in da’wah to an imam, in addition to raising and homeschooling four children and living in no less than four different continents!


ireminisces said...

Asalamu alaikum thanks for sharing. Mum says, "what you waiting for"

I know some people have difficulty sleeping due to Fear & Insomnia. So believe it or not ive written bloglet on Curing Fear & Insomnia

Take Care

Anonymous said...

thank you for this great post. Please can you write more on this topic? People really need to wake up to the reality of this.
I am the wife of a da'ee and i am finding it really hard, please make dua for me Sister.
Other things a woman should know: if she wants to work in daawah, it might be better not to marry a man who also wants to...because he will need your support more than he will allow you to go and do your own daawah like teaching etc. You will need to be there to open your home to students, serve them silently, and not mind when no heed is paid to you at all.
You must be ready to cook and clean so that when he comes home very tired, he comes to a neat house (don't expect him to help you with this - he is busy with daawah); you must get used to coming, in his attention and mind, after the needs of his students including not getting emotional attention from him. Often you will be lonely, while he is out doing things with others. You may need to work to support the family financially. many of his students will treat him like a king and ignore you or treat you like a servant. Other things: you can't talk to anyone at all about your needs or issues in the deen. Because you are so well-known, if you say anything, it reflects badly on your spouse. You will have to pretty much be a very unusual woman to be able to handle all this. i know of many women whose husbands are daees and the women fall into depression. Basically, nothing in their life is normal and their husband is not theirs, he is the community's. Please make dua for all of us. Also, the funny thing is that people think he is superman, perfect, and yet the wife knows he is a normal human being...everyone needs to know that the daee is not a superhero all the time. he is human. he gets mad at his wife, he says hurtful things to her, etc. just like don't think that it would be so great to be married to such a perfect man. He may be a great teacher, but it does not mean he is a great husband as you might imagine.

Anonymous said...

i have read your series and you are both amazing and wonderful women. is there a way we can have a Q and A section where we can ask personal questions and get your guidance? seriously we are in major need of this and many of the Christian ladies offer such blogs and sites. As for Muslim ladies like you, there are none i see who offer personal advice via the net, or personal coaching/tharbiyah on issues they are going through. You mentioned counselling. i don't mean counselling as in dealing with actual pscyhological issues, but just help with perfecting an aspect of one's practice or getting over a kind of issue or obstacle we are facing in the deen. to get your advice and then your support and follow-up; most importantly, to get your dua and care for us. you seem very positive and also successful women mashaAllah....sprinkle some of your fairy dust on us..(-: please make it possible to connect to you on a more personal level. i am giong through a dark time right now and juts to have someone to reach out to woudl mean so much to me.

AnonyMouse said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum,

Feel free to contact me at: bintyounus(at)

Anonymous said...

May Allah reward you bountly sister and guaranty the highest paradise for you , if ppl or ur husband is not being thankful to you that the Almighty king is

Unknown said...

Anonymous said...

This is really helpful, jazak Allahu khair.

I hope I got over my naive dreams by now. Thanks for the dua ( Just changed it :P)

SherifahM. said...

As salamu alaikum! I beyond love the advice in this article! The advice it gives is not just for sisters who wanna be married to men in the line of daawah but for all sisters in general. The part about sacrifice...couldn't agree more! May Allah make it easy on all of us men and women out there, single or already hitched. <3

Anonymous said...

Subhan Allah

Anonymous said...

If u marry a normal man or marry a shaykh u still have to face tests so why not marry a shaykh and have a better reward in the hereafter?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article. Very insightful. I have been married to a shaykh for 9 years, and by far I think the worst thing is when they don't practice what they preach. Any one can talk the talk, but only a few can walk the talk. That's when you begin to question. True they are human with flaws, but as someone who would 'wear' the clothes of the Prophet (saw). stand on the pulpit and also strive and encourage others to his sunnah and to the greater jihad of achieving the best Akhlaq, if you don't see the efforts, everything begins to crumble.
This is not a test for everyone, if you don't ground yourself, you could begin to detest the religion altogether or alternatively you could find something much more beautiful. Its a life changing experience that could go either way!

Anonymous said...

If you marry a non- salafi guy you will live a very happy life trust me, salafiyah is a sect which makes Islam hard and strict , a lots of DO's and Don'ts . Islam is a way of life it's suppose to be fun not a prison like you salafies make it

Unknown said...

Can u tell us what is salafi? And yes those on truth always Suffer. First time I'm hearing salafi is a sect plz expain and plz stop talking without ilm

Unknown said...

When the wahyi came dawn to the prophet s.a.w what he said!? لا راح بعد اليوم no resting after this so to all my salafi sisters who are married to those duaat plz make sabar and support the da'wah and don't listen to thos ppl who wanna enjoy this dunyah and tell u don't marry a salafi. And I advice u never marry those ppl of bid'a like tablighs\sufis U have any Q or against what I said here my email

Unknown said...

Can u tell us what is salafi? And yes those on truth always Suffer. First time I'm hearing salafi is a sect plz expain and plz stop talking without ilm

Anonymous said...

Knowledge of the deen does not guarantee a beautifull heart. But knowledge and heart as a combination is a beautiful thing.

There are shayks who are less intense as well. Who does come home, especially if he's in charge of a mosque, because then you are probably living next door to it. As someone said; shayks are people as well and people wastly vary.

I am confused about these dawah-intense men who don't mind their wives very much. It is like they try to seek Allahs pleasure while not taking the proper responsibility over the family. Not saying that's the case, but saying it seems irrational in my mind.