Photo courtesy of Dr. Aneesah Nadir

Meet Dr. Aneesah Nadir, Author of “Before the Nikah”

Recently, Dr. Aneesah Nadir released a book on marriage preparation that is indispensable for single Muslims or even friends of single Muslims. 

Dr. Aneesah is a pioneer in the field of Muslim mental health. She taught social work at the university level for decades, long before psychology became a hot topic among Muslims. 

Her work has set a precedent for marriage preparation, including founding the Healthy Marriage Movement, and teaching classes and seminars on the topic for over 20 years. She has received many awards for her work in mental health and continues to be recognized as one of the most major figures in Muslim mental health, as well as Islamic psychology, in the United States, and around the world. 

As a person, Dr. Aneesah is incredibly approachable, friendly, and kind, and has always been open to my emails and texts and facilitates a WhatsApp group for Muslim social workers — which allows professionals to connect and network. Her mentorship is an invaluable resource for Muslims in social work, counseling, and other mental health professions.  

She has provided amazing service to the Muslim community by publishing this new book on marriage preparation, so the ummah can benefit all over the world from her experience and insights. Mashallah la haula wa la quwatta illah billah al ali al azim.

In her typical approachable and generous fashion, Dr. Aneesah agreed to be interviewed about her new book, Before the Nikah, by Muslim Girl.

MG: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for our blog! We are excited to get the chance to hear more of your thoughts on your recently released book, Before the Nikah. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

AN: I am a social worker with over 40 years of experience. I am also a retired Arizona State University Social Professor. I focus on providing prevention and education programs. My consulting and education practice, Dr. Aneesah Nadir Associates’ Before the Nikah Institute, provides marriage preparation education. My new book, Before the Nikah, is named after the marriage preparation I developed and have been sharing over the past 20 years.

MG: What inspired you to write this book right now?

AN: So, I started this book 20 years ago because there is a definite need for it. The national divorce rate is 50 percent, and the Muslim divorce rate is at least 30 percent.

And anecdotally, it seems to be rising in our community. For the people who are staying married, we want to encourage them to have healthy relationships, not just survive in toxic ones. I wrote it now because it was long overdue. It is so important to provide education about healthy relationships that lead to healthy families.

Also, I am blessed to be a graduate of the Power Author Academy which provided me with the coaching and support I needed. The lockdown during the pandemic gave me time to focus since I was home much more during this time. My daughter and I used the time to write our books during this year.

My class, “Before the Nikah,” is gaining more interest globally and now has students throughout the U.S., in Canada, Scotland, and London. I wanted to expand the opportunity for singles to increase their knowledge on how to choose wisely and build strong marriages. So for those who can’t attend the class, they can use it as a self-study guide.

MG: What are some of the key takeaways you hope people have from your book?

AN: Some of the key takeaways include the importance of prevention as well as ways to develop a healthy marriage before you even begin the matrimonial process. 

So many spend so much time planning their wedding, but they don’t spend much time planning for their marriage. The book is built upon 13 principles.  When we start the whole process of looking for a prospective spouse, without knowing ourselves how can we know who would be compatible with us for marriage? 

Choosing wisely is something that not enough of us are doing. There is so much to learn and know to make an informed and wise decision about who we are going to spend the rest of our lives with. We don’t go into marriage with that in mind, and I really want to help people do that. 

That is the point of the subtitle, “Proven Principles to Help Single Muslims Choose Wisely and Build Strong Marriages.” My own parents did not have the information needed to choose wisely.

Another important takeaway for us as Muslims is a commitment before Allah and a commitment to help each other to get to heaven. A lot of us don’t have good role models. Half of the country is divorced. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the best role model. We get to see in his marriage how he and his wives treated each other, which provides the best role model for us. So those who didn’t have the best role model, rest assured the Prophet (PBUH) is our best role model. We also want singles to know about legal considerations, cross-cultural considerations, and more.     

MG: Marriage is, of course, one of the main resources and challenges of the Muslim community. Our emphasis on family and marriage remains a strength for us. What do you see as the role of marriage in our community?

AN: A healthy marriage built on love, compassion, and tranquility is such a benefit to our community. It provides the foundation of a healthy family, healthy community, and healthy society. 

I think it is essential. When we have a healthy marriage and a healthy family it provides the support we need. It is the security and source of support for our children. It is so essential to focus on our children. One of the things we are learning more and more is the role of adverse childhood experiences and trauma on children. 

When people who have experienced unresolved trauma marry, they increase the likelihood of raising children who also wind up experiencing trauma. 

On the contrary, when healthy adults have resolved childhood traumas, they have an increased likelihood of raising healthy children and a healthy family, which leads to a healthier community and society.

MG: What do you see as the main dangers people face in choosing a spouse, and how do people avoid the big pitfalls?

AN: If we don’t choose wisely, the dangers can be severe. There are stories many of us are certainly familiar with where a single community member chooses a spouse with a history of domestic abuse and ends up being abused.

There is the case of one of our sisters marrying someone they saw as a good Muslim man. During the marriage, after he gets his green card, she finds he really wanted a green card rather than a loving Muslim marriage. She now has years of heartbreak and responsibility for someone who did not care about the marriage.

Marrying someone who turns out to be an abusive parent, and you become a party to child abuse, is also a real danger. It could be you marrying someone who winds up stealing all your money. 

Not only are the children affected, but the in-laws and the friends are affected. It affects the whole community. It’s a mess. That is not what we want. We want to encourage singles to choose wisely so that they have a happy, healthy, lifelong marriage. 

And, if they are not going to stay together, we want them to have the skills and resources to part with Ihsan, that is part on good terms.

MG: What’s the most important thing to do before the nikah in your opinion?

AN: It’s essential to get to know yourself: who you are, and what you can hold with, and what are your dealbreakers. It is important to know who you are to determine who you would be compatible with.

Perhaps, I’m impatient, or I’m more social service-minded, or really money-minded. It is important to know how you feel about being a servant of Allah.  Where are you in your relationship with Allah? For example, you may know, “I like being in the masjid community, five times a day, that is who I am. I love reading the Quran, I love reading the seerah and getting to know the Prophet,” or “I don’t really care about all that, I’m a Muslim because of my parents.” 

It is important to know, so people can choose wisely and find out who is more compatible with them. If you want to be at the mosque and your prospective spouse doesn’t maybe you aren’t compatible — the same with your love of the outdoors when the person you meet for marriage isn’t interested in outdoor activities and doesn’t like hiking and bike riding. 

What if you’re talking to someone who has children, it is important to know if you are willing to help raise someone else’s children. It is also important to have a good marriage support team to help you in the vetting process, to help you make a good selection, and to determine the person is who they say they are and that you are a good fit for each other.

I’ll tell you a story about a sister who got married. She was a sister from the south, and when she first came to our area she had so much strength.  Somehow, she was introduced to this brother who had been abusive in his previous marriage, but she did not know. I was at the wedding, and I wondered if she knew about his abusive behavior. When she left the marriage, she had had her teeth knocked out, she was a broken woman. It is important to know the person. 

Most people are marrying strangers. They don’t know who they are marrying. This happens to educated women and men, to good people. People get so broken. It affects your mental health, your hopes, and dreams for the future.

More and more new converts/reverts marry someone who doesn’t have good intentions. It messes with their view of Islam and causes them to leave Islam. Something has to be done about it.  This is my small contribution to that effort.

MG: The Healthy Marriage Movement is exciting, and seems like a great opportunity for us as Muslims to create stronger families. Can you tell us more about it, and how people can get involved?

AN: In my work with the Islamic Social Services Association-USA (ISSA-USA) we developed the Sakinah Healthy Marriage Initiative. In a partnership with ISSA and the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), we began The Healthy Marriage Movement by encouraging imams and communities to sign the Healthy Marriage Covenant as an indication of their commitment to not officiate marriages without 3-6 sessions of marriage preparation. 

The Healthy Marriage Movement encourages marriage preparation, marriage education, marriage support, and zero tolerance for domestic abuse. Gaining knowledge about marriage, learning relationship-building skills before marriage, is essential. As a community, we need to make healthy marriage and marriage preparation a priority.

We need to support our single Muslims and couples. It takes a village to raise a child and grow a healthy marriage and family.

The Islamic Social Services Association-USA hosts the annual National Healthy Muslim Marriage Week Campaign the first week of Ramadan. I’d like to see that message going father and wider throughout the country. A khutbah at the beginning of Ramadan, special community events or dinners, demonstrating the value of singles finding a good spouse, and celebrating a healthy marriage is one aspect of the Healthy Marriage Movement.

I would certainly like to invite singles and newlyweds to join me for Spring 2022 Before the Nikah Course and, of course, to read my book.

MG: How do people connect to the course you teach on marriage preparation?

AN: You can go to www.draneesah.com or email me draneesah@gmail.com. We are currently getting ready for the Spring session of the course. Registration is coming soon.

On December 6th we’ll have scheduled the graduation for the Fall 2021 course. It is online and people can join us for that as well. To RSVP, go to B4TNGrad.eventbrite.com The course is called Before the Nikah, but you can email me. 

We have a guest speaker as well. It is a good program for the public and a good introduction to the course. It is also a celebration of those who completed the course.

I’m proud of those who were engaged in the program and completed it. They participated in the program for three months, which we hope more will.

MG: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?

AN: I just want to encourage people to do the work of getting knowledge about what a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship are about before you get married.

It is so important to get relationship-building skills, good communication skills, financial management skills, and conflict resolution skills. Whether you take my course, or another course, do take this aspect of your life seriously and choose wisely. I pray that we have long-lasting healthy marriages in our community, so we can all benefit.

MG: Thanks so much for agreeing to let us interview you about your new best-selling release. 

If people want to buy Before the Nikah it is on Amazon HERE.

Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.