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Unhappily Married to My Cousin: Stay or Leave?

06 August, 2018
Q As-salamu `alaykum.

I have been married for three years to my first cousin, who is the son of my mum’s sister. We both got married at a very young age; I was 19, and he was 17 or 18. He was not my first choice for marriage, but my mother picked him for me and I accepted her decision at the time. We do not get along at all. We fight all the time and I do not get along well with my in-laws. My mother seems to be in the driving seat for making all the decisions, and my husband fully supports her as she favors his family over me. My husband brings out the worst in me. He makes me feel very bitter and angry towards everything. I can honestly say I have never loved him. Many people have tried to help sort out our problems but nothing has worked. He blames me for everything that goes wrong and has never changed. He denies everything if you confront him. When I tell my mum, she doesn’t believe me.

I cannot speak a word against my in-laws. Our marriage seems like a cover for him to fulfill his mother’s dreams of coming to England. When I spoke to my family in Pakistan, they told me my mother in-law has made black magic on my mum. My mum has sudden mood swings when you mention his family and supports them in every possible way. She has told my husband that he can re-marry whilst being married to me because he needs to be with me for citizenship. I would like to divorce my husband. I have asked him to divorce me but he has refused. Is it okay to ask for a divorce? We do not have a sexual relationship. We do not live together anymore. He lives with my parents and I have moved away from them.

My mum and dad told me that I was disobeying their wishes and that I would go to hell, especially if I divorced him. I no longer wish to stay in this marriage; we have never treated each other like husband and wife. There is no love in this marriage, but I can honestly say I have tried to make it work. I am very depressed and confused. Please can you help?


In this counseling answer:

• Forced marriage is haram.

• You have to do what is best for the sake of your soul.

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As-Salaam ’Alaikum sister,

I would like to address my response to you in a few sections.

Blind Obedience

Muslim cultures emphasize obedience to parents as a religious duty. Contrary to what many Muslims believe and have been taught, the Qur’an does not have any verse that uses the exact word of obedience (ateea’) regarding parents. The word in Arabic for actual obedience is not found in any verse that mentions one’s parents. This is a cultural custom that people have used or have interpreted as such to justify cultural expectations.

All the verses in the Qur’an, according to my knowledge and research, that talk about parents says in Arabic “bil walidayn husna” and with your parents have husna which comes from hasana, meaning beauty, excellence, and goodness. The word for obedience is not found.

“And We have enjoined on humanity to be good and excellent to his parents; but if they strive to make you join with Me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not. Unto Me is your return and I shall tell you what you used to do.” (Quran 29:8)

Husna can be understood in many ways. Are obedience and being dutiful part of being good with our parents? Sure, sometimes they are, but it is not the whole picture.

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This makes a lot of sense considering if our parents were not Muslims or they were corrupt people who called us to wrong, it would not befit God (swt) to command us to obey our parents blindly no matter what they say or call us to do. However, the meaning of having ihsan and husna towards our parents, despite their belief and character, makes more sense. If your parents are bad or not Muslims, you should have goodness and respect towards them, but that is not the same as blind obedience. You can respectfully decline a request from your parents or show them kindness and care without obeying them.

The word “to obey”, ateea’, in the Qur’an always refer to Allah (swt) and/or His Messenger (saw).

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end.” (Quran 4:59)

Marriage without Consent

This goes without saying that forced marriage is haram. In your case, sister, you accepted your mother’s decision at the time, yet it seems you are clear on the current marriage as being a mistake. You were very young when you got married, and people grow and mature a lot from age 19 on! Your mother was likely acting out of care for your security around marriage when you were 19 and made the mistake of marrying you when you really felt it was not the right choice. They should not be surprised that you are unhappy today.

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Furthermore, AboutIslam’s scholar states that: “According to the teachings of Islam, marriage is ultimately left to your own personal choice. Parents can at best only offer you advice or suggestion based on their own personal experience or preferences. You are either free to accept them or reject them. Rejecting their advice in this matter does not amount to disobeying them. But still you should consider whether there is anything of value or significance in their suggestion or advice, for most of the time parents have only the best interests of their children in their minds.

… Once, a girl approached the Prophet (saw) complaining that her father had given her away in marriage without her consent. The Prophet (saw) asked the father if it had been the case. When he was told it was so, he ordered for the annulment of the marriage, but then the girl stepped forward and said, “I have accepted my father’s choice, but I wished to let the women know that they cannot be given away in marriage without their consent!”

“You will Go to Hell If You Divorce”

Based on the section above, you should personally not fear what your parents are threatening you with. This is a common move that individuals with immature religiosity (respectively) do in order to get their agenda fulfilled. No one has the right or certainty to say someone will go to hell or paradise. This is an exclusive decision that only Allah (swt) makes. What we do know is that when we commit sins that are clearly described in Islam, we run the risk of being punished. But that is not the same as absolutely being punished as only Allah (swt) makes the final call on such a matter. Secondly, obeying your parents to continue living in oppression as they neglect your well-being does not seem like a sin to me – but that is up to you to decide.

Can I Get a Divorce?

Yes! The question is: will you do it and can you do it?

From my knowledge, women can request a divorce and, with autonomy, move forward with a divorce, using the state legal system – especially if one is dealing with an individual that is completely in denial and unwilling to take responsibility or seek the professional help needed to improve the marriage. You can’t keep living in a marriage/situation that is oppressive and unhealthy, sister. You are also responsible for your well-being before anyone else’s.

You also mentioned that your marriage seems to be some kind of a “deal” between the families for citizenship and, hence, your request for divorce is also problematic for the families. If black magic is, indeed, involved, then you are in a toxic predicament. Sadly, I have encountered many cases of arranged marriages where there are deals and agreements behind the scene between the parents that include monetary blackmail or bribes, and the children are the puppets.

Make a Decision

Based on your circumstances, you should make a decision soon. When you meet your Lord (swt) and are shown your account in life, will you feel comfortable with the choice of getting a divorce considering there is no love, attraction and it is oppressive? Or do you want to stay married and risk it provided all the current concerns you have? There is nothing wrong with looking for personality compatibility and attraction in a marriage for these forces are necessary for a long-term successful partnership.

Yes, your husband and mother will be hurt if you decide to divorce, but what about you being hurt for the rest of your life as things do not seem to be improving after you have made efforts and have been in this marriage for some time now. Think long term in this life and the next. You have to do what is best for the sake of your soul. Sometimes, our parents are blinded by their own agenda and what is best that they lose sight of the bigger picture and the purpose of marriage which is a positive experience! If you decide to move forward with divorce get the support of a few close friends or Imams that will understand your journey. You can also contact social service center and learn more about your options.

May Allah (swt) give you patience and correct action and guide your family to the truth.



Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Wishing to Marry a Certain Boy: OK?


Feeling Trapped in a Miserable Marriage

About Karim Serageldin
Karim Serageldin, founder of Noor, completed his BA in psychology & religion, followed by an MA in east-west psychology with a specialization in spiritual counseling. He is a certified life coach with years of teaching and community outreach experience. His practical work and research includes developing a modern framework of Islamic psychology, relationship, family and youth coaching. He provides seminars and workshops in the United States. You can contact Br. Karim at: http://www.noorhumanconsulting.com or facebook.com/noorhumanconsulting