MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM
(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)
Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami
Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation
After the night prayer (Isha) when we finished our food, I was called to go inside to meet my bride. The ceremony where the bride and the groom meet each other is called rusumat. It is a Persian word, which means ‘tradition’. In our country many un-Islamic things usually happen in this ceremony where cousins, relatives and friends of both sides gather and have fun without any regard to the boundaries of the Sharia. Generally, the bride’s grandmothers lead these ceremonies. As I knew what happens in rusumat, I was a bit worried. However, when I went inside my worries disappeared as only the younger brothers and a sister of the bride along with some other cousins and relatives who were not yet adult at that time were present. There were no young men or women whose presence there would be deemed un-Islamic.
My wife’s maternal grandmother led the ceremony. She was not as old as her paternal grandmother as she was the bride’s step grandmother whom her grandfather married after his first wife passed away. She was in good health despite her age and led the ceremony very efficiently. I was asked to sit next to the bride in such a way that we couldn’t see each other, but could see other people around us. Meanwhile, the bride had a long scarf over her head and wasn’t able to see anything. My grandmother in law brought a mirror, held it in front of me and asked if I could see my bride. This was the first time I had the opportunity to see the face of my life partner. I asked, “Is it forbidden to see her without a mirror?” and the experienced lady said, “This is the way to be introduced.”
The following day we returned to Chandina. My newly wedded wife having to go through the same tedious journey. My maternal grandmother-in-law, who had led the rusumat, came with us. My mother said to her, “My mother in law had told me to marry this son of mine in a family where he would have both grandmothers alive. She thought it necessary that the sense of humour he shared with his grandmother ought to be shared with his wife’s grandmothers too. Allah has kindly granted her wish.”
Marriage is a Big Thing
Most people marry only once. Very few educated people in our society have two wives, though some people remarry if their wife passes way. Having more than one wife at the same time may be common in the Arab world, but is very rare in our country. Those who have more than one wife struggle to maintain peace in the family.
Marriage is truly a large part of one’s life. The bachelor life before marriage is without difficulty for most people, but if a person loses his wife or becomes divorced, life becomes extremely tough. People are used to life without a wife before getting married, but marriage brings a great change in one’s life as if a revolution has taken place. The lifestyle becomes completely different and a person’s daily routine is changed for ever once a woman becomes his life partner. He prefers to spend as much time as possible with his wife.
How I Reacted to My New Life
I mentioned before that I wanted to get married a bit later. I was not desperate at that time to have a wife and could have managed well without getting married for a few more years. However, as soon as I was married I began to feel that the life of a bachelor was no life at all. I was amazed to discover the way a new person could conquer me in such a big way. Someone I had never met before became such an integral part of my life; no one else could ever become that.
There was another feeling at that time that gave me overwhelming pleasure. It was the feeling that there was one person who was entirely mine that no one else could share. Her relationship with her parents, siblings, in-laws and others are completely different. She was only mine as my life partner; no one else was that close. With this feeling in mind, I actually ended up doing injustice to my wife. I wanted my wife to be with me all the time for which her academic life had to be discontinued. She had completed Alim and needed to be with her father to complete her Fazil degree. My father-in-law would teach his daughters at home and prepare them for exams. My wife had passed Alim in this way, but I discontinued her studies.
This was a great mistake in my life. I was of the erroneous opinion that as my wife didn’t need to work, it was therefore unnecessary for her to have higher degrees. I forgot that higher degrees make people more educated. I was satisfied with her level of intelligence, but it would have been wonderful if she had completed her graduation. When I realised this, it was too late. It was selfish of me to think that I would keep her with me all the time and not let her complete her studies. On the other hand, her own elder sister, Syeda Zakia Khatun, became the first woman in the country to complete Kamil by being home tutored by her father. She started her career as an Arabic teacher of a girls’ school and also obtained two MA degrees from Dhaka University in Arabic and Islamic Studies. She retired as the Vice Principal of Suhrawardy Degree College. I regret for not allowing her younger sister to follow a similar path.
A Wife is a Friend
Allah says in the Qur’an in chapter 30 verse 21: “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”
The peace and tranquillity that encompass a man and a woman and the love and friendship that are created between them through marriage is the greatest blessing of Allah. It is our Creator who brings this love and mercy between two people who never knew each other before marriage. No one else can create this relationship, as Allah stated in that verse that this is one of His signs that only those who think can realise. The love and affection a couple have for one another is truly astonishing. Couples who are not blessed with this love and affection have no idea what peace in life means.
The most important point in that verse is the friendship Allah creates between the two people. The definition of the couple here is beautiful; they are close friends who show mercy to each other. Only true friends show mercy to one another at difficult times. I find it surprising that this attitude of friendship toward wives is missing even among many religious families. For them, a wife is nothing but a servant whose prime responsibility is to look after her husband. The wife must look after everything in the house and the husband thinks that it is not his responsibility. The husband enjoys his weekends, but the wife has no holidays; rather her workload is increased when the husband is at home.
Allah has made the wife as a friend of the husband with whom he should discuss all family matters and whose advice he should seek and give importance to. She deserves love and respect. If he rebukes her in front of their children, then he is not treating her as his friend. Children will then consider their mother to be their father’s employee, which eventually affects their behaviour towards their mother. If they see their father treating their mother with respect, then it is a very important lesson for their future. If children misbehave with their mother, then the father has the responsibility to control them and ensure that they respect their mother.
My eldest son Mamoon was then in Class 8. The Jamaat office at that time was in Nakhalpara in Dhaka. One day, upon returning from the office at 10pm, I was concerned to find my wife very upset. I never saw her that upset no matter how late I would be, because she had confidence in me that I wouldn’t be late without any reason. I understood that something unusual had happened that day. I asked her with empathy the reason for her being upset. She didn’t reply, but I could see tears in her eyes. I became very worried and asked, “What happened? Why aren’t you telling me?” She replied in a slightly angered voice, “Your son behaved rudely with me.” I was surprised and asked, “Which son?” and she replied, “The eldest one.”
He was not only my son, hers too. Yet parents generally complain about their children to the other half as if the other person’s child has done the wrong thing.
I became angry hearing about Mamoon’s behaviour and wondered what to do. I am not the type of person to smack their child out of anger. Besides, he had never behaved like that before. When my anger calmed down a bit I called my son and said,
“Do you want to go to heaven?”
He nodded saying yes. He stood with his head down realising the gravity of the situation as I called him at an unusual time.
Then I asked, “Don’t you know that your heaven lies under the feet of your mother?”
He again nodded meaning that he knew it.
“Did you misbehave with your mother?”
He again nodded and seemed clearly repentant. The first stage of tawba is repentance. The next stage is seeking forgiveness.
Then I said, “Come with me to your mother.”
When I stood holding his hand I found tears in his eyes. As soon as he reached his mother he jumped to her feet and started crying aloud. He didn’t need to seek forgiveness through words and he wasn’t in a position to do so either. His mother took her son in her arms and started crying uncontrollably. Even my eyes became teary with happiness from witnessing such a lovely bond between the mother and the son.
The final stage of tawba is to resolve not to repeat the sin. This son of mine never repeated this type of behaviour with his mother that would make her unhappy. This proves that when one tries to control children with love, the success becomes permanent. I applied this type of successful strategy to keep my children in the right path throughout my life.
I learned another thing through my experience of bringing up children. If a child is rebuked or smacked in front of their younger siblings, then they feel insulted and behave rudely with their younger brothers and sisters. To succeed in bringing up children properly we should remember not to affect their self-respect. It is never a good idea to insult children in front of their younger siblings.
It is the responsibility of the husband to ensure the dignity of his wife and it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure the self-respect of their children. There is no alternative than to manage children with love. It is not possible for a child to grow up as a worthy citizen if they see their parents fighting and arguing all the time. Only humane behaviour can develop humane qualities, nothing else.