Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil is asked what to do if one finds out that one’s spouse was sinful before marriage.
I am a 26 year old male who did his nikah a few months back. I had approached this girl’s family as she was hijabi and seemed pious and simple. Before our nikah, she had confided in me that she was in contact with a boy who was a non-Muslim and had a soft spot for him. He had promised to convert to marry her but he did not, so she broke things off. At that time, the way she described it, it seemed like a verbal kind of innocuous relationship and I did not find it appropriate to probe further as we were not married.
I unknowingly came across some old messages of hers and she confessed to me that she had committed zina multiple times with that non-Muslim in different hotels throughout the period that she was in a relationship with him. He also possesses illicit images that she sent him during that time period.
For three months we have had the best of marriages AlhamduliLlah and we have been very compatible with each other, but this news has shattered me. I don’t want to end my marriage, but this has completely changed my perception of her and I am finding it hard to respect her even though she repented. She has also apologized for hiding things from me.
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
Coping with Betrayal
Dear questioner, I am so sorry for your deep heartbreak. I cannot imagine how shocked and betrayed you must feel. Make space for your feelings – weep, journal, turn to Allah in dua – and work on slowly letting them go.
Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying: “All the people of my Umma would get pardon for their sins except those who publicize them. And (it means) that a servant should do a deed during the night and tell the people in the morning that he has done so and so, whereas Allah has concealed it. And he does a deed during the day and when it is night he tells the people, whereas Allah has concealed it.” Zuhair has used the word hijar for publicizing. (Sahih Muslim)
Please use this terrible incident as a reminder about why Allah has forbidden us to speak of past sin. Your wife made a grave mistake by confessing the explicit details of her sinful pre-marital relationship to you. Now you are both heartbroken.
It would have been better for her to carry her secret to her grave, and to trust in Allah’s Mercy. Instead, she has uncovered something that she can never take back.
Abu Sirmah narrated from Abu Ayyub, that when death reached him, he said: “I have concealed something from you that I heard from the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, saying: ‘If you did not sin, Allah would create a creation that would sin, so He can forgive them.’” (Tirmidhi)
I do not need to remind you that repentance wipes away all sin. I encourage you to do everything within your power to forgive your wife, and to allow her back into your heart again.
Know that Allah has protected you from the sin of zina, and make shukr for that. None of us know what trials lie ahead of us. We are all in need of mercy from our Creator and His creation. Choose mercy, love and forgiveness.
Please make dua that Allah removes all evidence of those illicit photographs, then surrender the matter to Allah. Please do not torment yourself over her past.
I encourage you and your wife to attend culturally-sensitive counseling, as a way of finding your way back to each other. You have said so yourself, that you and your wife have had a happy marriage up until her confession.
Your wife will need to work through her own feelings of guilt over her past sin. If she had resolved them on her own, then she would not have confessed them to you. Perhaps she feels unworthy of your love, because she has not forgiven herself. Please see Learning to Love Again After an Affair.
Divorce as a Last Resort
If you absolutely cannot forgive your wife, then I encourage you to let her go. She would be happier with a husband who can respect her, even when she commits terrible sins. Please perform the Prayer of Guidance about how to proceed. If Allah softens your heart towards your wife, then stay in your marriage. If you still cannot look upon her with love, then it may be better for you to let her go. If this is what you decide on, then I pray that she has the wisdom to not confess her sins to the next man she marries.