The Divorce Crisis in Muslim Community
Staff Writer, August 1, 2007

Definition of Marriage

According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Marriage is an institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family; an intimate or close union.

Marriage is a sacred institution, and its protection is essential to the continued strength of any society. Research has shown that, on average, children raised in households headed by married parents fare better than children who grow up in other family structures.

The longevity of marriage as an institution is under threat. More and more, marriage is viewed as an essentially private intersubjective agreement or "pure relationship" only incidentally sanctioned by a marriage contract, if at all. Unfortunately this is a growing issue for Muslims also with divorce rates ranging somewhere between 30-40% depending upon the statistics that one relies on.

Understanding Men and Women traits

Here is an excerpt from the book, "You Just Don't Understand" by Deborah Tannen.

Men grow up in a world in which a conversation is often a contest, either to achieve the upper hand or to prevent other people from pushing them around. For women, however, talking is often a way to exchange confirmation and support.

Since women often think in terms of closeness and support, they struggle to preserve intimacy. Men, concerned with status, tend to focus more on independence. These traits can lead women and men to starkly different views of the same situation.

When Josh's old high-school friend called him at work to say he'd be in town, Josh invited him to stay for the weekend. That evening he told Linda they were having a house guest.

Linda was upset. How could Josh make these plans without discussing them with her beforehand? She would never do that to him. "Why don't you tell your friend you have to check with your wife?" she asked.

Josh replied, "I can't tell my friend, 'I have to ask my wife for permission'!"

To Josh, checking with his wife would mean he was not free to act on his own. It would make him feel like a child or an underling. But Linda actually enjoys telling someone, "I have to check with Josh." It makes her feel good to show that her life is intertwined with her husband's.

Role of Judicial System and Society

The society largely witnessed husbands abusing their wives in many ways that include demanding dowry and physical abuse; the judicial system developed to protect women over men from such domestic abuses. Ironically, in some of the countries where Islam prevails as a dominant religion, the judicial system still preserves and upholds male domination. The end result is that both the men and the women are taking advantage of the judicial system depending upon the country they reside.

Although, it is rather unfortunate that many women, due to cultural restrictions fail to ever seek help or even tell anyone about the abuse they may be suffering at the hands of their husbands, on the other hand, especially in those countries where the judicial system favors women, there is a recent shift in the tendency where the wife starts abusing her husband by making false allegations of harassment of domestic violence by her husband in the form of emotional blackmail like threatening her husband if he decides to visit his parents, attacking his personality and using intimidation tactics such as vicious character assassination of his parents, relatives and friends; particularly in those cases where the wife feels that she lacks her individual space, freedom and does not get extra privileges that she enjoyed at her parental home. Though, these could be minority of the cases, it simply cannot be ignored in this discussion for the sake of justice.

In that whole debate, the society does not know who is right until it becomes quite evident; this again depends upon the judicial system of that society. In a judicial system that favors women, it would take less time for the society to realize if the wife is right and would take more time if the husband is right and vice versa. But in either case, the fact of the matter is that the damage had already run its course.

Reasons for divorce and solution

The modern norm is that wife is not just to take care of the children; wife is equally educated when compared to her spouse and thereby can exercise "full equality," in the marriage, which is in fact true. However, when two or more people live together, each of them cannot behave as a commander-in-chief. One such example is that the wife takes care of the children when husband is out at work during the weekdays and the wife expects her husband to take care of the children over the weekend while she is gone for attending get-together with her friends. When both insist on their rights, acting as independent and sovereign countries, clashes are bound to develop.

Our parents made sacrifices to adjust with each other in order to save the marriage, but in our time when things do not seem to work out we are trying to resolve it by divorce, according to Munira Ezzeldine, author of "Before the Wedding: 150 Questions for Muslims to Ask Before Getting Married." The major reasons people divorce under the age of 30 include financial problems and job; for those who are over 30, they have additional issues like different expectations about household tasks, lack of communication between spouses, different expectations about raising their children and difficulties with in-laws, Munira added.

Though there are different ways the misunderstandings could be overcome such as talking to each other before the marriage, understanding each other's family & financial background and profound commitment to the family; what is more important is that we should remember Almighty Allah in that whole argument who is the creator and who has appointed us as His vicegerents to fulfill certain specific duties during this lifetime for which we all are accountable without any exception.

Zarqa Nawaz, the producer of the groundbreaking Canadian sitcom "Little Mosque on the Prairie," has beautifully conveyed this message in one of her episodes. Rayyan, a Muslim doctor finally decides dating Jeff, a local non-Muslim fireman who also happens to be her patient because after all the community had already branded her that she is on a date with him, which isn't the fact. But when Jeff visits her home, Rayyan comes to her senses and says she can't do that since Islam is too important for her. Here is the character of a woman; an educated doctor; an observant Muslim woman who wears hijab and of course a "modern" woman by all means, considers that Islam is too important for her than dating a non-Muslim. What else can one expect beyond this?

Hence the parents have a greater responsibility in raising their children with Islamic values in addition to imposing good education to make them better citizens otherwise one should be prepared for the bitter consequences - the ageing parents become mentally depressed and sometimes commit suicide after being abused by everyone including the police, the courts and the civil authorities; the children get addicted to drugs, alcohol and are even spiritually affected that leads them to become atheists and agnostics let alone the husband and wife who are racing to win over each other in that whole episode of exercising "equality" within the context of marriage and
fighting court battles for child custody after that.

When Islam gives the right to Muslim woman to keep all her own money, it also encourages Muslim woman to give zakat to her poor husband likewise Islam does not stop when it approves the practice of polygamy for Muslim man, it is equally important to know what Islam teaches afterward, that polygamy is only permissible if all wives are treated justly otherwise marry only one.

It is the responsibility of the parents and community leaders to teach children and young adults (both males and females) to be compassionate, to value the family, and to resolve problems in an Islamic, non-violent manner and preserve the sacred institution of marriage otherwise the Muslim families and therefore the Muslim community will be weakened, after all, "A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE ISN'T FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON - IT'S BEING THE RIGHT PERSON."