Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
What should a husband do when his wife reveals that, before he married her, she had a ‘physical relationship’ (direct quote) outside a marriage, which she is ‘ashamed of’?
Answer: Assalam ‘alaykum. Jazakum Allah khayr for reaching out to us.
In any situations where the details become overwhelmingly complex, it is useful to strip down the scenario to its core issues and focus on the practical solutions available.
From what I can gather from your detailed explanation is that the real issues lie in whether the husband can now remain married without the issue of previous relationships haunting him and surfacing time to time, and whether the couple can resolve their marital intimacy concerns.
Previous physical relationships and ‘marriages’
Given what has been said, the wife’s insistence on honesty and her final response that there was no previous nikah, this suffices for the marriage to be valid if the husband believes her to be telling the truth.
If he does not believe her, then the usual process would be to establish the facts through a legal court, which involves the wife swearing an oath to such an affect, or questioning the guardian and witnesses etc. [‘Iyanat al Talibin]
It seems what has happened is that the wife obviously made a mistake in telling the husband about past relationships, albeit to explain the medical issue, then tried to make amends by putting the past relationship into a ‘lawful’ context to avoid being judged, and then finally wanted to clear the air and be honest in that a physical relationship had previously taken place outside of marriage. She has said she has made her repentance and regrets what happened, so on her side, it does not seem that there is anything left for her to do or say.
The real issue here is how the husband is going to move on. He has to be honest and ask himself whether he can truly move on from this and not let what he knows to eat away at the marriage, and not become a source of misery for them both. If he feels resentment and jealousy and that he may use this to remind his wife of her past and cause her hurt, then he must consider whether it is fair to continue in the marriage. If they both agree to not mention the past and are able to move on, then all they have to focus on is their own intimacy issues.
Despite any natural feelings he may have as a husband, he should do his best to be gentle and considerate to the wife, no matter the outcome to the marriage. Most of us will never know the torment, guilt, helplessness, and confusion that a victim of sexual abuse will experience, especially if it happens at such a tender age. Though certainly not always, it is not unusual for sexual abuse victims to be involved in physical relationships later on in life, or equally, avoid sexual situations all together. Trust and honesty in relationships, on many levels, is also a key issue for victims of abuse.
The fact that the wife turned to the religion for guidance, comfort and hope is a great blessing and a sign that Allah wanted good for her, so this should be treated carefully. If they choose to continue in the marriage, then the husband should take great care not to use what he knows as a reason to inflict subtle forms of abuse on her.
If they both decide to continue in the marriage, then I highly recommend that the wife seeks natural medical treatments for her condition, especially given that she was sexually abused, as holistic therapies take into account the emotional-psychological aetiology of symptoms as well as the physical manifestations. From a holistic medical perspective, it seems an obvious assumption that the vaginismus is directly related to the wife’s past experiences and trauma, but of course, this would need proper medical assessment.
I suggest the couple seek out a qualified and experienced homeopath or trauma therapist. This may be coupled with general marriage counselling.
I pray that Allah Most High brings ease and clarity to their situation, and peace to their hearts and lives.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.