“Focus on your marriage. Not your wedding.”
This seems to be the motto this particular, endearing couple lives by. Through the editing process, their personalities shone through their words. While Shahid’s sections had something of a calmness to it, Atika gushed like a girl head over heels in love. Having thoroughly enjoyed taking this fast-tracked and amazing journey with this adorable couple, I sincerely hope you would too.
Allahumma Barik Lahum. May Allah Subhanwata’la keep them companions in this life and reunite them in a beautiful Akhirah…Ameen…
So…tell us a bit about yourselves?
Shahid: “My name is Mohammed Shahid Hussain. I am a tech guy who recently switched to the real estate business.”
Atika: “My name is Syeda Atika Yahya. I am a B. Pharma graduate and have recently started writing as a professional content writer. I write content for an online Islamic lifestyle magazine.”
What is your marriage story? How long have you been married?
Both: “Alhumdulilallah, we have been married for ten years now. Alhamdulillah we are parents of 4 amazing children. We had the typical arranged marriage. One of my friend’s younger brother was her brother’s friend, so the alliance reached her family. The elders met and decided the date. Within four months, we were married. We were strangers who got matched. We never talked nor met before our wedding. Apologies for the cultural shock but that’s how things happen most of the time in this part of the world.”
How has this time gone by? How would you define your relationship?
Shahid: “For me, time has flown by quite quickly. Our relationship is that of mutual respect towards each other and infinite love.”
Atika: “I wouldn’t say time flew by because I brought four new lives in this world, but yes, it’s been a journey of transformation from a college girl to a mother. I would define our relationship as a combination of friendship and love.”
Being a muslim couple, how does Islam affect your marriage?
Shahid: “Islam plays a huge role in our private lives. I genuinely believe every problem we confront, has a solution in Islam. You need to analyze it carefully. Yes, marriage has strengthened my religion, and the opposite is true that my faith supports my marriage.”
Atika: “Islam plays a pivotal role in our lives. Since every conflict doesn’t end with what I have to say or he has to say, we can always get a solution for this in Islam. So, that becomes a common ground for us.”
Did you have any preconceived notions before getting married?
Atika: “I had many. For one, I never thought of marriage as an institution that could make you a better person. For me, I felt it was all about responsibility and sacrifices for women. For me, even the concept of love was all hyped up and Bollywood-ish fantasy. If it wouldn’t have been for the hadith of Prophet Muhammed (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam -Peace be upon him), which states that marriage completes half of your Deen, I believed I was better off on my own. Even after marriage, I thought that all the love would fade away within 3 to 6 months. But Alhamdulillah, it’s been ten years, and I got to witness that I was wrong. Love is something that grows over time. It never fades off.”
Shahid: “I guess even for me it was unbelievable that you could fall in love with someone after marriage and continue loving them through the years. Not anymore.”
Do you have set roles in your relationship? How do you make it work?
Atika: “Our roles change with what each other can take on at that particular time. He is solely responsible for the family, financially. Like when I was pregnant, he was on board to do the extra stuff at home. Now, when he is making a career shift, I have taken up most of the child-rearing role and the rest. And it will change again once he gets firmer in his career. We figured this out with time. Responsibilities do change your relationship, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a wrong way. What we try to do is always figure out whether our obligations are affecting us. That’s when we get cautious.”
Shahid: “Responsibilities do change a relationship a lot. I believe being a father has made me a better person. My children are my world and everyday I try to be the best I can for them.”
Are boundaries important between spouses?
Both: “We both agree that boundaries are significant in any relationship, be it husband and wife or even as a parent and child. We need to have boundaries. Just because you are my spouse, does not mean you own me. My perspective, my way of dealing with things are different, and I want my spouse to respect that. I do not want to be told to be a certain way all the time, and the same stays valid for me too. Boundaries make you, YOU. For a couple to have sanity in their relationship, boundaries are essential.”
Which part of your marriage are you the proudest of?
Atika: “I am proud of the love and trust we have for each other in our marriage. The most remarkable part is that we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and best friends. There is no filter when we are around each other. He has seen me through my highs and lows. We love each other the way we are and consider each other perfect in their imperfections.
Shahid: “I am proud of the understanding we have for each other. We get along like a house on fire. No matter how many differences we have, we never stop communicating. Only when you confront a problem together can you develop a solution that both can agree on. And that is what I have learned over the years.”
How do you deal with differences? And how has your spouse affected you as an individual?
Atika: “We have a lot of differences, personality-wise. I am the emotional one who jumps on to conclusions. My reaction to any problem is instantaneous. It is not like that with him. He is the one who maintains his calm in adverse situations. Who analyzes a problem from every angle. And that’s what I have learned from him over the years. We discuss a lot. We try to explore the pros and cons of each other’s perspectives. The best part about my husband is that no matter how different my opinion is, he never negates it. Even if he is right, he still hears me out and then tries to help me see the problem in it. I am head over heels for his patient and calm nature. He is the anchor that steadies the boat in our relationship. His impact on my life is enormous. I can’t summarize it. He is an excellent father, and he has taught me how to love my children unconditionally.”
Shahid: “The word ‘impact’ might be a small word for how she has affected my life. I need a higher superlative. The qualities I admire in her are her simplicity, honesty, and intelligence.”
What is the best part about being married to your spouse?
Atika: “The best part of being married to my spouse is the level of maturity he brings into the relationship. Even before our wedding, he was a very responsible person, wise beyond his years. That has trickled into our relationship and made it more robust. We both consider ourselves the wheels of a bicycle who need to be in unison for us to move forward. Our biggest strength lies in believing our relationship is way more important than our egos. It’s not her or his. It’s Us, Our, and We.”
Shahid: “The best part of being married to my spouse is the belief that she understands me and the feeling that we can resolve any conflict between us if we talk through it. There have been a lot of challenges that we faced as a couple, but I have always tried to resolve them by looking through the Sunnah and the Quran. I firmly believe we have every solution to our problems in the life of the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam-Peace be upon him), and most importantly, I believe in the power of patience.”
What practical aspects should a couple, intending to get married, be prepared for?
Shahid: “The most practical aspect for anyone getting married is that you will eventually have differences no matter how understanding you feel both of you are. You have fights. But how you approach it peacefully is what will define your relationship.”
Atika: “I think one needs to think beyond their ego and themselves to make it work. When you are married, and I say it for both the husband and wife, the effort should be mutual. The culture in the Indian subcontinent often has a woman giving it her all while a man doesn’t change a bit. It would be best if both worked in sync. Conflicts happen in every relationship. Ours too. I tend to react to it, whereas he goes in a silent mode. Over the years, I have learned to respond less, and he has learned to communicate it rather than keep it to himself.”
Shahid: “Communication is the key to solving conflicts. The more you try to discuss it, the better you will be able to agree on common ground.”
How has your evolution in marriage been like?
Atika: “Individually I have evolved a lot. I have learned to be more patient and understand other people’s views. Earlier, I saw the world in black and white. He helped me see the grey parts and be receptive to that. Together we have come a long way. We are still evolving as a couple. As you grow old together, you become more mature and wiser every year. The challenges are new, but yes, Alhumdulilallah, we now know for sure that as long as we are together, we will sail through it.”
Shahid: “Individually I am trying to come out of my shell. I have been an introvert all my life, so that’s how I am evolving.”
What do you have to say about the negative stereotyping of marriage?
Atika: “I was affected by the negative stereotyping around marriage before I got married. We need to differentiate this. We need to understand that the way people are approaching marriages is wrong, not the institution itself. Allah blessed marriage as an institution for the betterment of society.”
Shahid: “We have placed a lot of emphasis on the Wedding rather than the Marriage. It has turned into a fairy tale affair. An event to which everyone looks forward to in life, and once a person gets over with the fairytale wedding and romance, they are not ready to accept the reality. We have turned into people of instant gratification. We need everything at the click of a button. Marriage requires work, patience, and, most importantly, your time. And I say it for both men and women.”
What is the best piece of advice you have received? Is there an advice you’d like to share?
Shahid: “I think the best advice I received and would like to give to others is that for any relationship, provide the best in you but expect less from the other. I apply this to all my relations. I do not expect much from others, and that attitude helps me to stay realistic.”
Atika: “The best advice that has stayed with me for years is the advice given during our wedding khutbah. The verse mentioned that a husband and wife are like garments of each other. I think that analogy is profound. It showcases the responsibility that you have towards your spouse. It’s just not the necessities but it goes deeper in protecting each other’s dignity and covering each other with beauty and grace.”
Do you think family/friends/community play an important role in the life of a couple?
Atika: “Families play an essential role. I believe they can either make or break a relationship. Unfortunately, families in our communities try to take sides. It is more vital for them to support their son or daughter rather than looking at who is at fault. We need families with an open mind who approach the couple with the intention of Khair rather than pointing fingers at each other.”
Shahid: “I wish we had more open discussions regarding marriage counseling in the community before marriage and, more importantly, after marriage. I hope we make it approachable. Our personal experiences with families have been good Alhumdulillah. Issues do arise, but they never impact our relationship.”
What does it mean to be an ideal spouse?
Atika: “For me, an ideal husband is the one who sees his wife through the good, bad and ugly and still loves her. He is her four o’ clock friend, her support system, the shoulder she can cry on after a tiring day. The one who would laugh at her most lame jokes. He is the one who loved her when she was all decked up as a bride, and that love hasn’t deterred an inch even when she is all sweaty and smells of milk after she has pushed out his child.”
Shahid: “For me, an ideal wife is the one who tries to align with her husband’s priority, plays the role of his consultant while being humble and respectful. The most important thing is trying to maintain an Islamic environment at home for the children.”
What do you hope for the rest of your lives together?
Atika: “I hope we share the same amount of trust, love, and understanding even when we grow old.”
Shahid: “I am hoping to stay united in love and peace for the rest of our lives.”
Lastly, what is the recipe for a successful marriage?
Both: “We don’t think there could be any specific recipe for a successful marriage. Every individual is different. Every marriage has different challenges. Trust and respect should remain intact no matter which stage of married life you are in. Your spouse needs to be respected for who they are as a person; otherwise, it is just a one-way road.”