35-year-old Hala (not her real name) has given up on marriage.
“I went through a phase that started about 10 years ago when I was absolutely desperate to find a husband. I spoke to relatives who were willing to help; made myself known to aunties in the mosque; asked my married friends to see if their husbands had any eligible bachelor friends they could set me up with,” she told AboutIslam.net.
“When I hit 33, I actually posted my profile to a Muslim matrimonial website. That was the beginning of the end. I felt so much shame when I did it, not because my parents were unaware — they had actually encouraged me to ‘do whatever it takes before it’s too late’ — but because I wondered what was wrong with me.”
“How did I, someone with a good education, solid career, and decent physical appearance who came from a respectable and religious family, resort to such a desperate act? How had my parents encouraged me to ‘do anything and everything I could before it’s too late?’”
Hala’s words are those of someone who’s obviously struggled with an issue that touches on the core of her nature. Her predicament made her question her priorities in life.
“I became very depressed, really disillusioned with the idea of marriage. How had the institution of marriage become the measure of the worth of a woman? How had I made my personal contentment rely solely on the ability to make a marriage match? I had spent what seemed like a lifetime planning a wedding
to a suitable husband and imagining what kind of a wife and mother I would be. Instead, I watched the years go by waiting for something that was out of my control.”
Measuring Self Worth
Throughout the Muslim World, and in the case of Muslim women living in the West, the state of wedlock has become more and more of a rarity. Sadly, single women everywhere can relate to what she’s saying. For a number of reasons, nobody really likes to talk to that segment of society constituting single ladies, the ones who increasingly watch their chances of making a marriage slip them by.
There are a number of ways to look at ways that these women can nurture their situation and how they can learn to measure their worth in the sight of Allah, Exalted be He, without having to rely on a marriage that might not be in their foreseeable future.
These women have to learn to move on and let come what may. They have to learn to be fulfilled, even if marriage won’t play a part in that fulfillment. Here is a starting point plan for Hala and others who might find themselves in a similar situation:
1. Realize that you will and Allah wills and that Allah does what He wills.
As Muslims, one of our tenets of belief is in the Qada’ and Qadar, or divine predestination. We believe that our destiny is in the Hands of Allah and that no matter what happens, undeniably, it was meant to be. We do our best to have the best, we work hard and strive and continually pray to Allah for the best, because ultimately, we do not know what our destiny will be.
But isn’t it nice to give up obsession about this destiny — to place our fate in Allah’s Hands and then let go of the results? Isn’t it nice to relax, knowing we did our best and knowing that no matter what, Allah will provide in the way that He sees necessary? There’s no need for stress or desperate anxiety about it. Allah does what He wills — and who can argue with that?
2. Understand that you choose your will.
In his famous 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian neurologist and concentration camp inmate Victor Frankel says that “everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
It’s a beautiful statement, because indeed it’s the mind that makes the most or the worst of any situation. And there is mercy from Allah for those who choose the path of the patient and who choose to do the best with the circumstances they are dealing with. If Hala chooses to let her single status define who she is (for the worst), she’ll be giving up on a lifetime of opportunities that a change in attitude might let her see.
3. Write a plan for your life and your days where marriage doesn’t play center stage.
The act of journaling — of writing down your thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and plans — is one of the best acts to get into, no matter the circumstances. And for single ladies like Hala, the process can be even more profound.
Taking pen to paper and planning your days on a regular basis can be difficult after having been planning for having a husband and children for so long —– but that’s not to say that a “new normal” can’t be forged. It might be hard in the beginning, yes, but to ease the process, make the first entry sound something like this: 101 ways I’m going to live my best life as a single woman, and then get creative with the ideas.
4. Pamper yourself — treat yourself right.
It might be that in the 101 way list, single ladies come up with a thing or two about how they’re going to experience the halal experiences of life on earth in a way that makes them feel good. In the case of Hala, she actually had a paternal aunt who was over 60 and who had never married. Where once she was looked upon as a pariah, one whose situation should be avoided like a plague, Hala is now looking to her as inspiration of someone who had made the best of her life with what she was given.
Her aunt had traveled the world with nieces and nephews, made hajj with her parents, and even sponsored the education and upbringing of a couple of orphans. To see her elderly single aunt interacting with those in her life was to watch someone who loved and was loved, and to Hala, this was a very consoling thing. What more could anyone, single or married, want from life?
5. Learn something new.
The term bucket list is derived from the idea that before one dies, one would have a list of things that one does before that day, and as one does them, one is to cross the items off the list, so that when one dies, one’s done all one wanted to on this earth.
Al-Bukhari relates that Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
“If you reach the evening, then do not expect to reach the morning, and if you reach the morning, then do not expect to reach the evening. Take from your health before your sickness, and from your life before your death.”
To live like you’re dying is to make the most of everyday, and although married people can definitely benefit from this advice, the fact that single people need to keep busy, to keep themselves from languishing in a state of sadness, makes this more pertinent to them.
6. Know that being single isn’t a disease or a life sentence.
Allah’s Mercy is a grand thing. And single women should not look upon their statuses as a disability, but rather a chance to realize His infinite Mercy in all areas of their lives. They shouldn’t equate their contentment with their marriage status, but with their own pursuit of happiness.
They should never lose faith in the Mercy of Allah or in the hope that He will give them that which is best for them. In Hala’s case, she’s come to realize that life does have to go on. She is still making Du`a’ and has hope that a good husband is in her future — but for today, she is going to live her life to the fullest.
First published: June 2010