• Raya Shokatfard

US MUSLIMS AND DIVORCE: A CLOSER LOOK (PART 1)

Updated: Dec 24, 2020



By: Raya Shokatfard


Part 2


{And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts.

Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.} (Ar-Rum 30: 21)


Perhaps this whole article can be summed up to three words from the above Divine revelation: {from among yourselves.}


Were these ignored?


A Closer Look


In Islam, marriage is a social and legal relationship intended to complete one’s religion and strengthen the relationship with the Creator as well as a mean to create new families while satisfying one’s natural desires in a lawful manner, keeping in mind: {from among yourselves}


It is through this sameness that the second part follows: {that you may dwell in tranquility with them.}


Naturally in such state God promises: {He has put love and mercy between your hearts.} So, the Divine condition is to first choose “one from among yourselves”, followed by the second and third reward.


For those who believe Islam is a divine religion and all its tenets and ordinances are from the Creator, they look to the religious aspects of marriage, its rules, do’s and don’ts before making a serious decision to marry.


Thus the first thing one would look for when marrying is how committed the person is to Islam. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:


“A woman is normally sought as a wife for her wealth, beauty, nobility, or religiousness (adherence to Islam), but choose a religious woman and you will prosper.” (Muslim)


And he said:


“A woman is married for four things, i.e. her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. You should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a loser.” (Al-Bukhari)

And he said:


“The whole world is a provision, and the best object of benefit of the world is the pious woman.” (Muslim)


Four and a half years later and with two kids, we each went our own ways and with a lot of grief and heart ache!


Such stands true for women considering qualities a man should have. Being God-conscious is a treasure that is not replaceable with any other virtue one may have.


So, if these considerations should be among the first a Muslim have to prioritize, then we may ask why are there so many Muslim divorces globally, especially in the USA and the West?


Are we missing the “from among yourselves” concept?


My Personal Experience


Perhaps I should start with my own experience, choice and failed marriage.


When I married my American husband in 1980, some close friends told me if your marriage can last five years, chances are that it would last long term.


First thing I thought was “they were crazy”. I loved this man and this marriage will not only last five years, but till we die!


Four and a half years later and with two kids, we each went our own ways and with a lot of grief and heart ache!


It was not till years later and after I returned to Islam, did I find the real cause. I was totally ignorant of divine and prophetic advises. I didn’t even consider “from among yourselves” concept.


I only depended on my own feeling and God had no part in my decision making. Neither did I consider the future of my kids and their lives without religion or conflicts that would surface later.


Yes, there was love between us at the beginning but there were no spiritual harmony. Many counselors told us that when a couple have common spiritual bond, they can handle differences much easier. This, we did not have. This would further emphasize the importance of choosing “from among yourselves.”


When I was imbedded in the secular world, the issue of “from among yourselves” to me meant having some communality from people among those we consider for marriage. Yet, God intended differently!


Most Muslim women know they cannot marry a non-Muslim man. So, in many cases he would convert only to marry her, but the religion is not really part of their lives. Sadly, this was my case. So sameness here was not what God intended.


I had already started a journey searching for a more meaningful life through experimenting and joining various religions. It was during this marriage that God finally opened my eyes to Islam and gave me the honor to once again embrace my religion.


By then, my husband and I were mentally miles away from each other—and sadly, we ended up in divorce with two kids at tender ages.


Of course, had I been practicing my religion at the time of choosing a life partner, I would have surely chosen a practicing Muslim. I would have heeded to God’s word, {from among yourselves}. But we can only learn from our mistakes and must move forward.


Categories of Marital Problems


Certainly, being on the same side of the fence when it comes to religion makes differences much easier to overcome. Of course “from among yourselves” only refers to sameness in religious belief and not nationality, culture or race.


Although the couples were both Muslims, they would either be both or one side weak in the religion


I noticed through years of connecting with various Muslim communities in the US that the Muslims suffered many marital problems.


A closer look revealed some very sad and heartbreaking realizations.


The following were among some observable categories:


Many times decisions to marry were based on feelings, logic, and sameness in many things, but the religion was not an issue of interest or consideration. The “from among yourselves” issue was considered only from a secular view.


Although the couples were both Muslims, they would either be both or one side weak in the religion and the differences of practice widened the gap, ending in divorce.


Neither side was religious, and living a secular life would expose them to similar marital problems as others living in the West. There were less give and take and more self-centered mentality which would end up in “either my way or highway” mentality.


The husband was too religions and strict and married a western or westernized wife and wanting her to change overnight—putting too many restrictions on her that she could not bear.


Younger second generation American Muslims married with good harmony with each other, but the first generation Middle Eastern parents with too much interference caused unrealistic expectations which promoted disharmony and divorce.


The couple practiced marginally, attend mosque meetings and lessons. They put the kids in Islamic schools, but at the same time they left the door open for unrestricted access to unsavory television programs, including haram entertainment—even for themselves. As the stimulation of these programs increased, the excitement of marriage relationship would decrease to the point of boredom and desire to try something new.


Arranged marriages without giving adequate time for decision making by the youth. Parents ended up deciding and the kids had to abide.


Age, communication, culture or educational gap.


Working wife/mother who was over-exhausted to care for the family. Also, a working wife/mother who earned more than the husband and ended up dictating and overpowering the husband. Power imbalance.


I did though meet many married couples who had met and married through arranged situation by their friends, community or parents that were very happy and content.


To be continued…

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Published on: Thursday, 10 January 2013

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    About Me

    Raya Shokatfard is an international speaker, film maker, and writer with a focus on women’s issues, Islam, and cultural issues. She holds BA and MBS degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication as well as a BA in Islamic Studies and an MD in TV Journalism.

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