Here’s Some Bad Advice

marriage reflections saving

A married woman, let's call her Zainab, needs some advice. She and her husband, let's call him Omar, aren't seeing eye-to-eye on money.

As a homemaker, Zainab is entirely reliant on her husband's income. After expenses, Omar has $200 to spare at the end of every month. Instead of saving it for his family, he sends it abroad to his parents. Not because Omar's parents are in desperate need of it (they stash the cash in their savings) but because he believes it's his obligation as their son.

Omar's just been promoted. He now has $400 to spare at the end of the month. Zainab has a suggestion for Omar.

"Let's save $300 of that extra money and send the remaining $100 to your parents."

Omar is incensed.

"You don't have the right to tell me what to do with the money I earn."

In eight years of marriage, not only has Omar chosen not to save any extra cash for his family, but he's also never given Zainab any spending money.

Zainab is distraught. She decides to ask a well-reputed Muslim question-and-answer service for some advice. She hopes to find a way to get on the same financial page with Omar.

This is a summary of the response she receives from the site:

  1. Sorry, Zainab, you don't have a right to tell Omar what to do with his money. Omar's doing a great job: he's covering the family's basic expenses and being generous with his parents.
  2. Don't worry about saving money. That's optional. If your family ever falls on hard times, Omar's parents might be generous enough to support you with the savings they've built.
  3. Consider other ways to make money. Check out this site with helpful tips to make money, including "Dogsit with Rover," or "Be a street performer," or (and I'm serious) "Find money."
  4. If that doesn't work, here are some other ways you can make money:
    • Post YouTube videos (Omar would be cool with that, right?)
    • Return items you don't need to the store (you've kept the tags, right?)
    • Invest in halal stocks (with all of that money you don't have)
  5. Get creative, Zainab. Your husband probably won't give you more money, so it's better that you try not to control him. That will make him resent you.


This is not a parody.

It's a summary (my parenthetical commentary aside) of an actual question-and-answer exchange on a popular and well-reputed Islamic answers site.

Here's the problem: that advice is not just unhelpful and unpractical, it's also harmful.

Zainab's question is a plea for help. She's worried that her family has little room for financial error, but she also has no financial independence to change that on her own. She tries to talk to Omar about money, but he shuts her down.

Zainab is in a financially dysfunctional relationship, and her query raises serious follow-up questions:

In eight years of marriage, she's never been given spending money. Is she actually being taken care of? Does Zainab want to work? How would Omar feel about that? Are there other areas of their marriage where they can't productively communicate their way out of disagreements, or is it just money?

A financial problem in a marriage will rarely stay a financial problem.

A couple will either do the hard work to communicate through their challenges, or the financial problem will spread to the rest of the relationship like wildfire. By some estimates, money issues are the second-leading cause of divorce.

I'm concerned for Zainab.

I pray she's given the wisdom and patience to navigate this tricky terrain. As I've indicated elsewhere, I'm not a religious scholar, so I'm not qualified to independently opine on matters of Islamic law. But Zainab's question is more about the complex interplay of money and marriage than anything else.

So, though Zainab will likely never read this, here's my unsolicited response to her query:

  1. Saving money is good: It's reported that the Prophet ﷺ would save a year's worth of sustenance for his family. Saving for your family's well-being is virtuous.
  2. Filial piety is good: Omar's desire to share some of his income with his parents is also noble. Showing respect for your parents, especially as they get older, is a paramount virtue.
  3. Partnerships are better than dictatorships: It sounds like you'd like to partner with Omar in managing your home finances. It also sounds like you'd like a little more financial independence. There's nothing wrong with either of those two wishes.
  4. This problem is bigger than money: Your current financial configuration is both unhealthy and untenable. That's not because you won't necessarily have enough money to make ends meet but because your communication with Omar about this critical issue is counterproductive. That's a problem that could undermine your entire marriage.
  5. A third party can help: You'll need to sit together to develop a game plan moving forward, but it'll probably be hard to do this alone. Is there a local experienced Muslim counselor (especially a financial counselor) who might be able to help talk you two through this? If not, we may be able to help you find someone online. It's probably best to have someone in mind before moving on to the next point.
  6. This might take a while: Expect Omar to resist bringing in a third party, so you'll need to engage him patiently. Emphasize that working on your communication will ultimately make things easier for him and strengthen your relationship. Again, convincing him might take a long time.

I chanced upon Zainab's question and its answer earlier this week. It's unsettled me ever since. Financial dysfunction often points to deeper issues in a marriage. And suggestions for weird side hustles probably won't help.

The imperative for couples in the midst of such turmoil is to communicate their way out of the mess. For everyone else, the lesson is to prioritize open communication before conflicts arise.

The good news? None of that involves dog sitting or street performing.

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Written by Farooq Maseehuddin

Farooq Maseehuddin (Muslim Money Guy) is a financial educator and writer. He holds both a Bachelor of Education (BEd.) and a Master of Education (MEd.) from the University of Alberta. He's been a high school teacher and Muslim community organizer for nearly two decades.

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