“This is really a shame,” the woman said. “The divorce rate of Muslims is so high. Why are Muslims taking marriage so lightly?”
It’s a question we’ve likely all heard or uttered by our own tongues. But the more I live, the more I’m developing a different perspective…
Anisa was twenty-two when she got married, but she was sixteen when she met eighteen-year-old Samir. They met in Honor Society and were drawn to each other, the only practicing Muslims at school. Anisa wore hijab, and Samir spoke openly about Islam. Though they shared no classes, they saw each other during the club’s weekly meetings after school.
Neither Anisa nor Samir thought much of their frequent talking. But there was so much to discuss and so much that drew them together. They shared the same goals in life, and they both dreamed of teaching Islam on a large scale.
It was a year before Anisa and Samir got back in touch. Anisa was browsing a friend’s Facebook page when she saw Samir’s profile. Her heart pounded in excitement, and her hand trembled nervously as she sent him a friend request. Less than an hour later, he accepted, and it was clear that Samir was excited to hear from her.When Samir graduated, Anisa couldn’t escape the sense of sadness that overwhelmed her, but she tried to focus on school. She kept telling herself it was just loneliness. But, something deep inside said it was something more…
They talked online almost every day after that. But they still didn’t admit to themselves what was happening. But when Anisa gave Samir her phone number and told him the times to call (when her parents weren’t home), she started to feel a little guilty. But they talked mostly about Islam and what they envisioned for themselves in the future…and in marriage.
Anisa was eighteen and months away from graduation when Samir surprised her by visiting the school. It was time for Honor Society, but when she saw Samir, she couldn’t bring herself to go inside.
“I had to see you,” he said as they walked down the hall. They both kept their hands tucked deep into their pockets, but they couldn’t avoid the furtive glance. “I miss you, Anisa.”
The words sent Anisa’s heart fluttering, and she barely found her voice. “Me too.” When she realized that her response made no sense, they both laughed awkwardly.
They were sitting on the bleachers outside when Samir said, “I know it’s wrong to have these feelings…” Anisa averted her gaze, her face growing warm in embarrassment. “But I can’t take this anymore. I need to be with you…properly, you know?”
“No,” Anisa’s mother said later that night when Anisa confided in her about Samir. “You are too young. Besides, he’s not from our country. It can never work. I’ll mention none of this nonsense to your father. Stupid girl, don’t go and ruin your life for some boy.”
“I’m not giving up,” Samir said on the phone the next day, but his voice betrayed how heartbroken he was. “I’m talking to your father.”
“Stay away from my daughter!” A week later, Anisa shuddered as her father’s voice carried to the solitude of her room. She heard the front door slam, and she rushed to the window, her heart dropping as she saw Samir walking to his car, shoulders slouched.
“I’m not giving up,” Anisa told Samir on the phone the next day.
“I wish we could run away together,” Samir said, a hint of humor in his sad tone. They both laughed, but when Anisa hung up the phone, tears stung her eyes…
When Anisa was twenty-one years old and in her third year in university, her parents said they had found a “good boy” for her.
“You will not refuse Abdullah,” her mother said the night before Anisa was to meet him. “Your father worked very hard to find the right match for you. Abdullah finished medical school and comes from a good family. Do not disappoint us.”
Samir met Anisa on campus after she told him the news. Anisa cried unabashedly as Samir fought back tears, but he couldn’t keep himself from pulling Anisa close to him. Islamic limits blurred at that moment and neither cared. They just wanted this moment, which they would never have again…
Naturally, Anisa’s marriage to Abdullah was strained from the start. Her heart was attached to Samir, and no matter how hard she tried, she could not loosen the hold Samir had on her heart. But she convinced herself that her mother was right. A good Muslim girl did what her parents wanted, even if it wasn’t what she wanted for herself.
“We are good Muslims, Anisa,” her mother had said after Anisa and Abdullah met. “We are not forcing you. Allah forbids this. But if you do not marry Abdullah, know you are breaking your parents’ hearts, and I will never forgive you for that.”
Abdullah was a good man, Anisa could not deny. He provided for her and spent quality time, but he did not share Anisa’s love for Islam or her outlook on life. Even though they didn’t have children, Abdullah asked her to drop out of graduate school and focus on her “Islamic duties.” He said a good Muslim woman doesn’t mix with men—even though his job at the hospital required just that, as did his casual friendships with female coworkers.
When Abdullah suggested Anisa remove her hijab, she was aghast. She cried to her mother, and to Anisa’s shock, her mother told her to obey her husband. “We are living in difficult times,” her mother said. “There’s no point in putting hardship on yourself.”
Anisa felt uncomfortable when she walked outside uncovered for the first time, and she could never bring herself to accept this new life. She became so ashamed of herself that she stopped reading Qur’an and she barely prayed. Ultimately, Anisa fell into deep depression and fought thoughts of suicide.
On one particularly distressful day, Anisa took a walk. As the sun warmed her hair and bare arms, Anisa reflected on her life, and she found that she didn’t even know herself anymore.
Anisa’s private thoughts were disrupted, and she looked up to find Samir opposite her…and a beautiful woman in hijab with a baby stroller…
Shocked and ashamed, everything came back to her in that moment. She felt angry with herself, her parents, and even Abdullah. But she would get her life back, she told herself, even if it meant divorce…
The Reality of Divorce
Like the fictional character Anisa, most people who reach the point of divorce have a long history of practical and psychological struggles that led them to that point. These men and women do not fantasize about divorce, and they do not take marriage lightly. “The decision to divorce is never easy, and as anyone who has been through it will tell you, this wrenching, and painful experience can leave scars on adults as well as children for years.”
For Muslims, this decision is all the more difficult because they have to consider the repercussions in this world and in the Hereafter.
Is Divorce As Bad As We Think?
Though it is unquestionable that preserving a marriage is of great importance in Islam, the stigma attached to divorce and the vow “till death do us part” are not Islamic concepts.
“…No person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear.” —Al-Baqarah, 2:233
In the chapter Al-Talaaq (Divorce), Allah says,
“…And whoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way out for him [from every difficulty]. And He will provide him from [sources] he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him.”—65:2-3
Therefore, it is imperative that we not place impossible restrictions on ourselves. Whether a believer is married or divorced, Allah’s mercy, love, and provision are always near.
Another Point of View
When we look at divorce honestly, we often find that amongst Muslims, it is not always the one seeking divorce who is taking marriage lightly. It is sometimes the parents and families who compel the Anisas and Abdullahs of the world into marrying for the sake of tradition or image—or parents and families whose complete lack of involvement leave youth without guidance when embarking on this life-altering milestone.
Naturally, whether the marriage is “forced” or decided without proper guidance, it is likely only a matter of time before divorce is sought as a last resort to restore psychological or spiritual peace.
And when these men and women raise their hands to Allah and ask for relief, who are we to say they’re discounting the heavy responsibility of marriage?
Divorce at such times may be a tremendous blessing for them, and we should not take this lightly.
References “Divorce: The Most Difficult Decision You Will Ever Make.” Excerpted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Surviving Divorce. BookEnds, LLC. Cited October 23, 2012 on http://life.familyeducation.com/divorce/divorce-counseling/45515.html
First published: May 2013