Author: Aaliyah Umm Ibrahim
Apparently the divorce rate in this country is over 50%. Other European and North American countries seem to give the same sort of numbers. People give all sorts of explanations as to why this is so; most would say they got married for the first time too quickly, without knowing their partner well enough, or that things changed when kids came along and there was not enough time to take care of the relationship, there are explanations involving money, work and infidelity. But it’s not like these things didn’t exist before – certainly people have always worked and had children, as well as had issues with trust or finances – the difference seems to be, that these have become reasons to leave a relationship, whereas before there were considered, more or less, a part of life.
Before even the couples who had major problems stuck together because divorce was a taboo – the stigma of which was, for most, a heavier burden to carry than that of a unhealthy, unhappy relationship. The post-modern society of re-enlightenment has done it’s best to un-taboo everything and in its wake, divorce has become widely socially acceptable, common and even encouraged.
We live in an age that seems to base itself largely on promoting happiness – we are being taught that every one of us can, indeed, be young, vibrant and healthy. We can all be famous, have our own reality TV shows (since we are fascinating and have so much to give to the world), be supremely intelligent and become extremely wealthy. We can do this, and we can do it blind-folded, with our right hand tied behind our back whilst standing on our heads in a bowl of custard and singing “Old McDonald had a farm”. And then, when we have achieved all this, we’ll be happy. Of course we will also find the love of our life, have a passionate, affectionate, soul-sympathizing relationship, beautiful children (who are of course, all healthy, vibrant, supremely intelligent X-factor stars who have earned their first 10,000 by the time they’re 2), and a harmonious home with just the right potpourri on the mantelpiece, as a finishing touch to our “perfect” life.
As muslims we seem to often consider ourselves as immune to all of this. After all, there are still many families that arrange their children’s marriages, and in many countries where muslims are a majority, divorce is still a taboo. Indeed, un-tabooing divorce, in the muslim community, is a two-way street. It is extremely sad that there are people who get treated horribly in their relationship and get a divorce, only to realize that it’s almost impossible for them to get married again. A divorced person is considered, in some circles, to be cursed, bad luck or simply, just a bad person. All of these stigmas are more commonly related to women than men – a woman who leaves her husband is seen a traitor to the family, an unworthy, undeserving and selfish individual, who cannot think of anything except her own whims and whishes.
This is unfortunate and sad but really has nothing at all to do with Islam. The culture that many of us seem to follow instead of Islam is another problem that can be discussed at another time. However we all know that every single one of the wives of our so dearly beloved Prophet Mohammed (SAW) was either divorced or widowed – with the exception of Lady Aisha (RA). In Islam divorce is not impermissible, it’s not a taboo, but it certainly is not encouraged either. It is described, as a matter of fact, as the most displeasing permissible thing to Allah. However the divorce rates in the Islamic societies in the West are probably higher than 50% and although the muslim countries are doing better statistically, the numbers are rapidly increasing even there. At the same time we are finding it extremely difficult to find a suitable spouse for ourselves and the average age of people getting married is now much closer to 30 than it is to 20.
One of the reasons for this is ever-lengthening expense list that people associate with getting married. Especially a lot of women (muslims as well as non-muslims) seem to think of the wedding more than they think of the marriage. Men on the other hand, spend more time in panicking about how on earth they are ever going to pay for everything related to the wedding, than they do in concentrating in becoming good, loving husbands and a heads of households. And how, one might argue, can you really blame them? Even those couples who would prefer having a small, simple wedding usually have relatives who expect things to be done in a certain way and we all know what comes of not meeting their expectations, especially in certain cultural contexts. It’s not a small worry, if you need to do it right, and there is a growing number of people who choose to take a loan (usually from a non-islamic interest-demanding source) to cater for the extravagance. There are people who spend as much money on their wedding as they could have spent for a house, or paying off their student loans. There are also a lot of muslims who decide to date or “be engaged” for a long time before actually getting married- after all, they reason, one has to know who they marry. Right? Right…
The assumption seems to be that the longer you date and the more experienced you are when getting married, the more chances you have in succeeding in your marriage. This would probably be true, had the person spent all that time preparing him/herself to becoming the best possible partner for another human being. However this time is often spent pursuing each individuals own interests, education, career etc. So eventually when two such people come together, they are very likely to have become very strong individuals, which is great, but this doesn’t make them good partners. Very often it just makes them more selfish.
We live in a culture that nurtures mass-marketed individualism as a birthright. Instead of seeing ourselves as people who need to develop ourselves to become the best human beings we can be, we are being fed this idea that because we are all that and a bag of skittles, we don’t need to please anyone else and we certainly don’t need to compromise. We also believe that, being so special, we don’t have to try our best since our mediocre is good enough.
So we have a generation of people who believe they are the most deserving of the unrealistically fabulous life, and we wonder why our marriages don’t work. Taking haram loans or spending time together in a way that is not exactly halal further deteriorates the chances of a marriage succeeding, since these are the things that suck out of the baraka (blessing) from a relationship.
Of course we are also of the generation that demands instant fixes which doesn’t make any marital problems any easier to solve. The only way to build a successful relationship, be it with a spouse or with anyone really, is to demand the best – of yourself. This means the best behavior, the best patience, the best ability to compromise, the best love and the best respect. In the end of the day, in the Islamic context, the success of any relationship only demands two things; husn ul khulq and taqwa – excellent moral character combined with piety (refraining from that which displeases the Creator).
That doesn’t sound that hard does it? Unfortunately this requires for us to know, what an excellent moral character is like, and what the things that displease our Creator are. It also requires implementing, reflection and putting yourself to the test in a way you have never been tested before. However, this is a recipe that will result in your success in this world as well as the next – can you really afford not to implement it?
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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