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Over 40 & Still Single: I Feel Hurt & Left Out

13 April, 2017
Q I am trying to find a way to make myself feel better. I am in my mid-40, never-married, with very aging parents. I try not to think about the lonely years ahead but whenever I am having a bad day, or when my parents' needs are overwhelming, or I see other women with their families, it hurts somewhere inside. I keep myself busy, performing my prayers, and I sometimes meet Muslim friends when they are not busy with their families and can fit me in. But overall, I've spent my adult life alone, and I am trying really hard to accept that the future will be ok, but it hurts. I try to convince myself that with constant du’aa’, I will survive by myself as long as I work or engage in productive activities. I know that sounds horrible, but it is true, and I have spent 20 years trying my best to convince myself that that is all I need and it is God's blessings. I look at other women at my age and convince myself that I am not worthy of having a family, and I should find a way to be content with what I have. Sometimes, I even wonder if my parents committed a haraam act when they decided to move to the West and raise a daughter here, when they knew I would have no marriage prospects and I would be alone, living my life as an "outsider" of sorts in a non-Muslim world. In their view, girls are to take care of their parents, and not interact with men. The exception would be work (job) and education. Outside of that, I was expected to stay in the home. Even at age 35, my parents dictated my activities because it was their Islamic right. My mother felt that if someone from the community was interested they would say so. My parents have lots of friends. Most of my married Muslim friends met men on their own, with their parents' blessings. They have told me that they don't know any Muslims to set me up with. By the time, I was in my 30s, my parents were always getting sick and I was required to put more effort into making them my focus and taking care of them after work as my brothers were busy with their families. My marriage just wasn't a priority; keeping me away from men was the priority. To this day, I get the guilt trip if I don't do everything for my parents. My father also was very hard to deal with and if anyone defied him, he would become angry and accuse me and my mother of disobedience, resulting in very difficult circumstances at home. I disagree that most Muslim girls in the west receive proposals. I know of many girls from religious families who obeyed their parents and remained single. The girls who forged a life for themselves apart from their parents ended up meeting men while in their childbearing years. Also, Muslim communities in the west are very tied to their cultures of origin, and marriages haven’t traditionally occurred across ethnic lines (that may be changing with the current younger generation, but not my generation). My parents’ community was Pakistani; we are from a lower caste, and I am not beautiful, therefore my marriage in that community was not very likely as most of the community are from rich and educated families (I know that is not Islamic, but it is the reality of how Muslims think, and it influences the way Muslim parents direct their children's marriages. Again, this situation may change with the new generation.) So the point of my inquiry was how to get rid of the pain. I work, take care of my parents, and like I said, I sometimes see friends or exchange emails with friends, but still, I remain lonely and wish someone cared about me. I wish I had opportunities like other women, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Recently, a few of my close friends got married and had babies (in the past year) so I'm feeling it more, as I secretly hoped those girls would have stayed single and childless like me (knowing life changes dramatically when there are a husband and babies in the picture). The pain doesn't seem to go away. My workplace is also very family-oriented, so I am always left out. Basically, I am hurt in a deep place, and I try to ignore it, but it won't go away.

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

Thank you for writing in with your concerns. I am very sad to hear of your pain and loneliness as well as your parents’ are refusing to let go of you so you can marry. You mentioned many details of your life, your family and their expectations, your culture as well as your own desires and wishes in your additional email.

First, I would like to say that there are a lot of reverts as well as women born Muslim who are still single at your age and older. Many don’t find Islam until at a later age. Some chose to pursue a career which entails many years of university training and study, some, like you, take care of the family. My point is, dear sister, that you are not alone. There are many Muslimah in your situation.

I would like you to look at some of your statements and analyze how you feel about yourself. You stated “I am not beautiful”; “we are “from a lower caste”. Regarding your statement that you are not beautiful, I am wondering who you are comparing yourself to and why do you think you are not beautiful?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What one considers beautiful, someone else may not. I suggest sister engage in some positive self-talk and exercise to raise your self-esteem. I would like you to feel attractive and valued as a potential wife and to wake up each morning saying to yourself, “mashallah, I am beautiful today.” Words have a certain power; when we keep affirming something over and over, it becomes a part of us and our belief system. I am not sure if there are negative words about you or your appearance coming from your family (I hope not), but I would like you to focus on yourself, as a woman, a Muslimah and a potential wife.

“A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be unsuccessful.” (Bukhari)

Regarding this hadith, Aboutislam.net states “Are you likely to sustain and succeed in a marriage where there is no compatibility beyond sharing a similar theology and ritual practices? Furthermore, what someone else calls “religious” may not mean the same thing to you.”

I will confer with Aboutislam’s viewpoint in that marriage is a serious commitment which should be entered into with great thought as well as possibly disregarding traditional dogmas such as “caste systems”, “only marrying within one’s community or tribe”, or limiting a marriage partner to other confined societal expectations. There is great wisdom to be taken from this hadith and that is that we should marry someone for his/her deen, love for Allah (swt), and how they apply it to everyday life. We should not marry just for familial status, for wealth, or for looks. In sha’ Allahmarriage should be about common interests, mutual attraction, similar goals and values, and of course, a sincere love for Allah (swt) and our prescribed way of living.

In this prescribed way of life, nowhere does it says to only marry from a certain “caste” or community. In fact, the Qur’an states,

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)

You see, dear sister, marriage is important. The feelings of loneliness, depression, and despair you feel is very normal and is felt by many sisters worldwide, longing for a husband. However, as in your case, I see many sisters who have put restraints on themselves. They want someone who is wealthy, or who is a certain height, or of a certain ethnicity, and so on. Instead of trusting Allah (swt) to guide us to the best mate, we often think we know best. This often is the case with our parents who desire for us a certain type of husband, and if we go against what they want, they get upset. But whose laws are we following, for surely there is no distinction made in the Quran about marriage and ethnicity except what is in their hearts, may it be pure for Allah (swt).

In your case, it appears that your parents do not wish for you to marry so that you may assist them with the home, business, and care for them. This can be viewed as a financial gain for them to have help in the home as well as with the business. However, parents have the right to service and spending on their children, married or single, if they need. Kindness to parents is always required whether parents are in need or not. This means that children are required to spend on their mother and father only if they are in need. But if they are not in need, children are also required to be kind and courteous to their parents, both financially and socially. But a parent cannot legally (according to the Shari`ah) dispose of the property, including salaries, of their adult children without their permission. A parent, who lives with his or her child and receives money from him/her, may give to charity according to their circumstances.

In your case, sister, you have brothers who can share in the caring for your parents as well as the business. Regardless that they have families or not, all of the responsibility should not fall on you alone. I suggest you have a family meeting with your siblings and discuss with them that you would like to get married and seek their assistance with helping your parents. Additionally, I would approach your parents with the same ideology.

You are an adult sister who has dedicated her entire life to service to your parents, mashallahBut it is time my sister for you to seek your own happiness as well. You can find a suitable spouse who will make you happy to share your life with and serve Allah (swt) with; you just have to be confident enough, love yourself for all the wonderful qualities you have, and take the necessary steps. Make Istikharah and seek Allah’s (swt) guidance; make du’aa’ nightly; continue to be kind to your parents; help them as we should in Islam, but begin to look towards a new life, in sha’ Allah.

If there are single sister groups in your area, join them. Be proactive and ask your community. I know you said that due to the caste system and other factors your chances were limited, but we never know unless we try.

Also, many sisters find good husbands on Muslim Marriage sites such as Halfourdeen.com. In this day and time, there are many halal ways to meet a potential husband. While the ways may not be the traditional way our parents used to, they are halal and they open doors for many options.

If you can overcome some of the traditional values your family raised you with, in sha’ Allah you will find a whole new array of options for marriage. Yes, it will be hard as your family is traditional, alhamdulillah, but what worked for them in their time may not work for you or others. You are still young sister; maybe you are not 20, but you are still considered young by many standards. You are beautiful and have much to offer.

My suggestions would be to start increasing your self-esteem; begin to view yourself as beautiful, vibrant, and worthy of a good husband.  Talk with your parents and siblings, and inform them you are going to seek marriage, in sha’ Allah.

Also, inform your siblings that their help is also expected in Islam in regards to your parents. If needed, sister, remind them of the hadiths and verses from the Qur’an regarding the importance of marriage. As you have gone far and above in making your parents happy and trying to take care of them, no one could ever fault you for taking the steps to make a life of your own. Assure them that you will always love and respect them and help when you can, but you will be making some positive changes for your own life and happiness which is well within your Islamic rights as a Muslimah and as a woman.

Lastly, sister, do not give up your spirituality; there will be many rewards in sha’ Allah for all of your sacrifices. It is not Islam which has prevented you from getting married by now, but it is possibly your family, the traditions of your culture as well as your dedicated nature to your family. Allah (swt) loves us and wants us to be happy. Take the steps sister, remain strong, remain in prayer and in sha’ Allah, you will meet your husband soon. You are in our prayers.

Salam,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.