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What Comes First: Marriage or Career?

17 June, 2022
Q As-Salamu Aleikom. I'm currently a university student who wishes to finish in two years while having the opportunity of living with my parents. I am almost 30 years old and not married yet. I am tired of being single as I truly feel the need for intimacy and security. I have been feeling more vulnerable lately. I also wish to live a more productive life as a Muslim adult. I truly want to be married now and eventually have children while I still want to fulfill my education and career goals. However, I am afraid to have children. I'd like to have them after earning my degree. As I am almost 30 years old, I wish I'd already accomplished what I wanted to achieve (career and marital fulfillment) for a long time. I deeply regret how I wasted my time in the past taking years off from college. At age 20, at my third semester of college, I dropped out due to extreme depression. 4 years later, I returned and finished the two-year-degree in 3 years. I was then transferred to a university just to waste three miserable semesters in a major that I wasn't doing well in. I then went to the university I am currently in (and am now content with it). My parents (especially my mother) are really counting on me to get my BA degree and have a decent career. She wants me to get married after I earn my degree and make a decent living. My dad does not mind if I get married now, but he tells me that it's better that I choose one or the other. He also tells me that I should take my age into consideration because many men want young women. I also have the fear of not being married by the time I'm in my late 30s or older while being less attractive. I am afraid of being married while not being easily able to have children or never married and be an 'old maid'. Of course, I cannot predict what Allah will decree for me and how much longer I will live. Of course, marriage is half of the deen. I really want my parents to feel proud of me as well by accomplishing my education and career goals, and marry as they are aging and their health is fading (especially my father's health). It is not easy in the United States to make a decent living without a university degree. I feel that I need to have a much better grasp of decision making upon how to pursue marriage. How should I prioritize? Should I make education fulfillment and marriage an equal priority? Should I choose one over the other? Please give a wise (Islamic) advice. Thank you in advance.


As-Salamu `Alaikum sister,

From your question, what really comes through to me is the fact that you want so many things but can’t make up your mind what to do first and how to prioritize.

Unfortunately, it’s not for us to tell you which one to do as that would be inappropriate.

All we can do is to help you come up with ways of prioritizing or at least provide some inputs into how you might want to go about making such decisions.

From your question, it sounds you have three main concerns in your life: 1) education and career; 2) marriage; and 3) your parents’ wishes.

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You are concerned about your age and afraid that if you chose to get married now, you might not finish your studies, which would hurt your career.

But if you chose to focus on education and career, you might miss the opportunity to get married and have a family. Did I get it right?

Although, there’s nothing wrong with having goals in life, as Muslims, it’s always important that we try our best to prioritize our lives around what is most pleasing to Allah based on the guidance provided to us through our religion.

As such, I think marriage is a very important part of not only an individual’s religious life, but it is an important institution for upholding the stability and continuity of the community as a whole.

There is nothing that can be compared to it in terms of its central importance, both individually and socially.

That is one obvious reason the Prophet (saw) mentioned that marriage is half of deen. Therefore, I think that it is important and something that should not be put off.

That being said, you can also make education and then maybe a future career a secondary priority, such that when you look for a spouse, you make it clear to him that you wish to continue your education, at least until you obtain your bachelor’s degree.

I think there are a lot of reasonable brothers out there who recognize the importance of a wife wanting to pursue her education, especially in the challenging economic times we have been facing today.

Either way, I encourage you to prioritize according to what is most pleasing to Allah.

Although you may not be able to see it right now, in the future you will be filled with regret for not taking advantage of an opportunity to marry and have a family.

You can always go back to school and work, especially if you are living in the West, but it may be a lot more difficult to marry and have children at a later stage in life.

Once that opportunity passes, you will never be able to get it back. In addition, if you can find an understanding spouse, then hopefully you can do both: get married and continue your education.

That is the best advice I can give based on the situation you have presented.

Please be advised that it is only my opinion and there are others who might feel differently, of course.

May Allah help you always.


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About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah
Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.