Why Get Married If This Will Kill My Dreams?

23 January, 2017
Q Salaam, when I was young, I was very romantic and looked forward to getting married, but now that I am older and wiser…I fear that marriage is a huge, terrifying responsibility that has the potential of squashing my ambitions and dreams in life. According to a 2006 study conducted by Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a sociology professor at State University of New York, the overall divorce rate among Muslims in North America is at an astounding 31%. Personally, I have seen several of my friends in unhappy marriages. Their wives restrict their freedom and seem to be berating them constantly. My friends are miserable and under strict control. They inform me that “an attitude can be hidden,” and that their wives transformed into “monsters” after marriage. They beg me not to get married. The longer I live, the more I hear about marriages that start with love and happiness but end in hatred and misery. It is exceedingly rare to find someone who rates their marriage as happy and functional, but then I suspect they are keeping up appearances. Even my own parents can’t stand each other. A happy union seems so far out of reach; in fact, based on the numbers alone, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that I will end up in a happy marriage. This terrifies me. Another concern I have is that there are several things I want to do in my life, such as travel the world and be successful in my career and hobbies, but getting married with a wife and kids to look after would “shackle” me. How can I spend months at a time in foreign countries with a family to look after? How can I enjoy my hobbies if my wife doesn't have those same interests and doesn't give me her full support? How can I be a dedicated physician if my wife complains about the long hours? Clearly, it would be selfish of me to neglect my family in order to fulfill my own happiness. The last thing I would want to do is let down my own family. I know that by getting married, I would be “completing half of the deen.” But in the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the divorce rate wasn’t so ridiculous. I have stayed true to my religion and have kept chaste all my life, and will continue to do so until marriage, insha’Allah. Life has taught me that I can rely on nobody but myself to make me happy. People in general have had a notorious history of letting me down. The one thing that has made me the happiest in life is striving hard to achieve my dreams and succeeding, thanks to Allah (SWT). If getting married means that I must sacrifice my dreams (my source of happiness) and instead become committed to a woman who may let me down, children who may not appreciate me, and a marriage that will, by most accounts and estimations, end up in misery…why should I be eager to get married and give it all up? Maybe I just need to grow up. Please, advice! I am in desperate need of it.

Answer

Answer:

Salam ‘Aleikom,

Thank you for your question, brother. I love your honesty. I think it’s a great question and I appreciate your frankness. It’s true; the world of marriage and family in this age we live in is pretty much a mess.

I would argue with your claim, however, that there’s no such thing as a happy marriage today. I am one that has been graced, I believe, with a happy marriage, alhamdulillah. Now, does being in a happy marriage mean that my wife and I are always in agreement, always “in love” (in the Hollywood-romance sense), never arguing, never sacrificing for one another and the family, etc.? Of course not.

Why do you think the Prophet (saw) said that marriage was half of the deen (religion)? That’s huge! Could it be because it is such a sacrifice and struggle? I believe so. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an that family and children are a test. (Quran 8:28) So, I think, it’s pretty straightforward that marriage is not always a bed of roses, nor is it supposed to be.

However, that does not mean that we cannot still be happy and love our spouses despite the difficulties that come with marriage and family. We can, and many of us are. At least those who realize and are mature enough to be able to put themselves to the side for 5 minutes and realize that a life in Islam is giving of the self to Allah (swt), for the sake of what Allah (swt) loves.

Marriage and family is just that. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s an incredibly rewarding and great sacrifice, as long as we are in tuned to Allah (swt) and realize what it is that we are actually doing. If we just go through life thinking, well I could be doing this, doing that, traveling the world, etc., then of course you’re going to be miserable. But that, my friend, is not Islam. Wishing and wanting everything other than what Allah (swt) has given us is not Islam.

Today, most adults are not really adults. We are more like glorified adolescents. Our societies and world is so dysfunctional that the moment we are not doing or getting what our egos/nafs want, we are miserable and complaining. The “what about me!” mentality has pervaded every culture and society on Earth. This global narcissistic culture has even pervaded the Muslims. We complain about everything – not getting our way. That’s narcissism, plain and simple. And it’s a sickness.

Also, Muslims in the West (and more so in the East as well) are bombarded every day with a steady stream of propaganda that preaches everything that is opposite to Islam, beginning with the encouragement to “follow one’s desires” at all costs. Marriage has become nothing more than glorified dating; as soon as things aren’t “going well” just divorce.

And we Muslims are still not very smart in choosing spouses. We still rely on techniques and ways that are not relevant in modern Western societies like arranged marriages where potential spouses are barely even allowed to get to know each other (or meet each other in some cases) before tying the knot. Not that I am against such traditional customs, but from my experience of counseling many young Muslim couples, there are too many factors that make such methods risky for young couples. But that’s a topic for another discussion.

I know you are young brother, but many of the things you have mentioned in your question echo this same mentality. God forbid, having a wife and children means you might have to sacrifice some of those things you might want to do in life. Well, I got news for you – you haven’t experienced seeing the birth of your child yet. Have you any idea how incredible that experience is?

Marriage and family provide a totally different range of experiences that are simply incredible, if we are awake enough and appreciative enough to cherish them. Quite simply, they are irreplaceable. Of course, they are not the kind of experiences you are talking about. They are definitely different and require a more mature realization of what life is all about and why Allah (saw) has put us here.

Rasulullah (saw) commanded us to marry if we are able to. It is the foundation and bedrock of civilization which is one big reason why our entire human civilization now faces such fundamental problems. The foundation is cracking, and it’s affecting everything around us. Yet, we go on with our selfish lives, buying into the lie that we are here to maximize our own personal pleasure at the expense of everything and everyone else.

Success comes from serving Allah (swt). Only when we live our lives as servants, willful and grateful, can we understand this and will we achieve true happiness that lasts. If not, it will be difficult. If we live our lives in self-worship, i.e. narcissism, then we will be miserable, and everything will be a chore, unless it is exactly what we want to do when we want to do it.

Just saying alhamdulillah doesn’t make one a Muslim. Most Muslims go through the motions. We have Arabic names, we dress a certain way, we grow our beards, we say certain things, and do what we are supposed to do without ever realizing what Islam really is. It is a state of being in constant remembrance of Allah (swt) and be a servant to Him, and being content with whatever Allah (swt) sends us, knowing with conviction that Allah (swt) always wants the best for us.

Brother, I think your concerns are very real and warranted given the general state of affairs today. However, don’t believe everything you hear. You can have a very happy and fulfilling life marrying and having family, if you are truly living in a state of Islam.

On a more practical level, try to find a wife and partner who shares many of the same interests you have. Then you can try and mold your life together. That’s what my wife and I do and it really works well.

Try to live for Allah (swt) rather than living for your own pleasure. That doesn’t mean you have to give up what you love doing, but try to realize that being a doctor, for example, is not so that you can have a successful career, but that being a good doctor for Allah’s (swt) sake will result in having a successful career. There’s a big difference there. I hope you can understand it. Try to tailor your life accordingly, and I think you’ll see that life can be an incredibly beautiful and fulfilling journey.

Lastly, don’t get married until you are ready. Your question wreaks of an adolescent-type need to find yourself and your identity. Maybe you need more time to travel and to exorcise some of these desires that you have related to your own interests and hobbies. Then, as you mature and get to a point where you feel you are ready to be more selfless and giving, you can plan to settle down.

Don’t feel that you have to get married now if you don’t feel you are ready. At the same time, continue to study your deen. Nothing can prepare you for marriage better than an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Islam.

Salam,

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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.