I wrote this for OnIslam.net.
When making Ramadan plans, the focus is often on reciting more Qur’an, attending taraweeh, hosting/attending iftar, preparing the kitchen in advance, and even decorating the house for the season. “Improve marriage” rarely tops the list, or even finds a place at the bottom.
However, a successful marriage can be your key to Jannah even if the kebabs for iftar aren’t well-done. So I would say your marriage requires almost as much attention as anything else in Ramadan.
It is a common occurrence that Shaytan causes an unmarried man and woman to develop strong feelings for each other and continue in this way for a long time. Shaytan encourages the forbidden during this time by making the couple believe they have found true happiness.
However, when the same two people decide to make it a lawful relationship by getting married, Shaytan creates problems that were never conceived of before marriage. He knows too well that destroying marriages is the most effective way to cause widespread chaos in society.
Enter Ramadan and the devils are chained. With the Satanic presence taken out of your marriage, you witness the real state of your relationship – i.e. how much of it was the devil’s doing and how much of it was your own. This is the time to for husband and wife to examine the state of your souls individually first, and then to fix the loopholes in your marriage so that you are well fortified when the devils return.
﴾يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿١٨٣
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” [Surah Al-Baqarah; 2:183]
Let the birth of the new moon be a metaphor for the renewal of your marital ties and for better reflection of each other’s light. Let it be a time for fixing your own soul and helping to raise the status of your spouse, so that one day you can enter Jannah together by the mercy of Allah.
While Ramadan is bursting with potential to reset your life and get you springing on a lighter step (physically as well as spiritually!), it would be just any other month if we don’t make the effort. Spiritual elevation does not happen automatically. It requires awareness of the status quo, and then conscious effort to make improvements.
“Sister,” you say, “it is hard enough for me to manage the routine shift and extra commitments during Ramadan. Must we add marital issues to the list too? Where is the time for that?”
Well, I would say that when it comes to working on your marriage, all it takes is a shift of attitude – something that does not take hours out of your day.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions for what you can do together. There are many couples who do not live together for Ramadan due to work reasons or some other legitimate cause. They may be separated for a few days at a time or even for the entire month. The suggestions below are valid even for such couples, so don’t stop reading here!
You will (hopefully) be making dua anyway. So instead of working on your duas in isolation, compile a Ramadan dua list together. If you have children, then include them in this process. List out everything you want Allah to bestow on yourself, your family, your work, in your grave, and in the Hereafter. This list can stretch to over fifty or hundred items and that’s alright. (If you’re not making intense dua during Ramadan, then when?)
Then make dua for all those things throughout the month. Rather than asking Allah alone, you are now asking Him together although in different places and at different times of the day. That’s teamwork!
Another thing you can do is to make a good deed chart to race each other on good deeds. A key point here is to avoid overwhelming yourself with goals. This will cause early burnout make you give up.
Instead, take account of your capacities and set a few goals that are realistic for your situation yet are slightly outside your comfort zone so that it can actually be competitive. Compete with your current state so that you become one or two steps better than what you used to be; don’t try to compete with some theoretical ideal that leaves you thinking, “I’m not going to be that good, so why bother?” If you usually recite five pages a day, then make your Ramadan goal to recite 10 pages, for example. Then race each other to tick off the goals each day.
“…so race to [all that is] good…“
[Surah Al-Ma’idah; 5:48]
Again such good deeds are what you will hopefully be doing anyway, so why not let it benefit your marriage by making it a healthy competition? The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would physically race his wives, so why not a good deed race?
Now that the devil is locked up, you can take an honest look at your spouse and appreciate them for who they are. Let the theme of this month be mercy and forgiveness and apply it at every opportunity.
“The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character among them. And the best of you are those who are best to your women.” [Tirmidhi]
This applies to both husband as well as wife. Show mercy towards them by going easy on your expectations and by contributing more to the marriage from yourself. Also ask Allah to have mercy on your spouse and reward them for everything they do for you, and for the efforts they make even if those efforts aren’t always successful. Don’t forget to also thank Allah for the mercy between you.
Just as you have come into Ramadan to reform and reset, provide leeway for your spouse to also have a non-judgmental space within which to improve.
Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) is the Lord of the worlds. Yet there are many who disobey Him, speak ill of Him during difficult times, or are lazy in worshipping Him. Regardless, as long as they believe in Him, He is ready to forgive when they repent.
Who are we in comparison? What ego or status do we have that warrants us a place on such a high pedestal that we cannot forgive those who wrong us? What prevents us from forgiving our spouses and in-laws for their human flaws?
Forgiving each other and your families frees up emotional capacity that can be used to grow your love for each other instead. No matter what happened in the past, resolve to dump the baggage in these holy days and use that energy to create better things in your marriage.
Beyond forgiving the major rifts, also practice forgiveness in everything negative that happens during these days. You may notice how some things that always upset you about your spouse are actually easy to overlook and hopefully carry this realization for your life beyond Ramadan as well.
Yet another deed that you can engage in together is voluntary prayer at night.
“Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Sahih Bukhari]
By ‘praying together’ I don’t meant that you both be awake together. Given the situation in most families, it is not possible (although ideal) for everyone to stay up all night praying. So assist each other to get at least some portion of benefit by taking the responsibility to stay awake certain hours and then wake up the other person while you retire to bed. This way you both earn the reward and pleasure of Allah for your prayer as well as for waking up another person to pray.
One last suggestion – decide on a sadaqah budget and offer charity together. Even if your budget allows only for a few Dollars, give it together. Maybe that charity will bring you duas from the recipient and create more bliss in your life. Regardless, give the charity for Allah’s pleasure alone.
In all of the above and every other deed that you engage in, set your intention to benefit your marriage. So for example, you’re praying in congregation not just for its reward but also to improve unity in your marriage. A small shift in intention can go a long way!
May we be of those fortunate ones who make use of this blessing of Ramadan to develop our relationship with our spouse and consequently with our Lord. Ameen!