In this counseling answer:
“You need to lead a happy life in spite of not being married, as I said in my last reply, and put the marriage issue into focus, not out of focus. But do not be too involved or too distant! “
As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum dear sister,
Thank you for writing in again. Ma sha’ Allah , the questions you raise are very important. Iin sha’ Allah, I will help you get to the root of the best solution for you and strengthen the reasoning behind it. May Allah (swt) reward you for your perseverance.
Acceptance of a situation depends on what that situation is. It is not a blanket way of managing emotions. In certain instances, if we ‘resign’ ourselves to acceptance, then effectively, we have ‘given up’. (Although I realize acceptance is not necessarily a passive process but the solution to many problems). But in this case, where getting married is a ‘fluid’ situation, we can not predict the future in this way.
Acceptance here is not like accepting death where the matter is final and there is no room for maneuver. Yes, temporary accepting your particular situation is important, but only in its transitory state. I would argue that you cannot accept your situation as permanent because only Allah (swt) knows the unseen.
n spite of what we think, many women (Muslim or otherwise) do get married in their forties. In fact, the age of women getting married is generally much older now than it was. This is not false hope; rather, it is living with iman (faith) and thinking good of Allah (swt) and what He has written for you – whatever that is.
Having said that, the balance of iman is in the fact that only Allah (swt) knows how it will end. So, this is where sabr (patience) comes in, and this is where one has to continue with one’s life and goals irrespective of what happens or what we want and expect. Remember, as a Muslim, this is a great sunnah and one clearly highly recommended, so to stop trying goes against this.
As a Muslim, your view of these things will be very different from a non-Muslim because, in spite of social circumstances, Allah is al-Qahhar (The Subduer). This is not something that non-Muslims consider. Why be despondent about a miracle when Allah (swt) exists and miracles happen all around us?
Have a healthy acceptance of reality, not a passive one. Actively building a life without a family in mind simply means you will feel more isolated. You are working against what is a natural human need. Perhaps, it’s better to think we do not get all we want, but this does not mean we give up trying.
You say hope needs to be grounded in something concrete. My view is that hope is rarely grounded in anything concrete since we need this emotion precisely when things are least clear. This is the function of hope – to keep us going through confusion and indecision. If things are concrete, then we can make an informed decision. Hope as a feeling does not take precedent – other feelings do. Having said that, the hope is to Allah (swt) and for a Muslim, what is more concrete is that His names is the Everlasting.
If you try and live without hope then your chances of a happy life will not be successful anyhow. Researchers suggest clearly that people who have hope are psychologically stronger than those who do not. For example, in my experience, sister, the same is true for patients who are told they are dying. The hope, irrespective of the outcome, changes their feelings, and whatever happens, at least they spent their time peacefully.
If you try to build a ‘life without a family’, then you are actually excluding the possibility and building your life ‘on a loss’. The danger here is that you then live with the knowledge that you only lead this life because you were not married. You need to lead a happy life in spite of not being married, as I said in my last reply, and put the marriage issue into focus, not out of focus. But do not be too involved or too distant! (Incidentally, if living with hope helps us to survive, then there is a school of thought that says “Go ahead!” It is ok to defend yourself in this way if it helps you cope.)
My personal opinion is that you should not surrender your life to statistics of ‘Muslim women getting married’ because then you create a self-fulfilling prophecy and make this belief real. Yes, they are a reflection of what is happening, but you are looking at it from a faith-based view. Allah (swt) overrides the odds! But again, as I said in my last response, keep it in a balance as we are told to do in Islam.
I again suggest that you simply carry on with your life and see rather than make a decision either way. We are told in hadith something to the effect of When we hear the Final Trump for the Day of Qiyamah (the Day of Judgment), if we have a small tree/seed in our hand, we should plant it. So, even at the last hour, we are advised by Prophet Mohammad (saw) to keep trying and not give up. It is the effort of trying that means we have a meaningful life no matter what. The reason I suggest what I do is that it is in line with hadith and so advice from the best model for us. It is also because when one has hope, it changes one’s behavior.
You say that you needed strength and that Allah (swt) gave happiness to the young man instead of you. It is worth remembering that his destiny lies with Him, and he will get the happiness Allah (swt) bestows on him. Also, you should not assume because the brother is happy that happiness is not written for you – perhaps your iman is being tested to a greater level, and your reward will be greater also.
Remember the more you are concerned about your faith – and I feel ma sha’ Allah you clearly are a sister by the thought you are giving to solve this problem and keep your faith – the tests will be harder. This will maintain and, indeed, raise your iman as Allah (swt) wishes.
Maybe immediate ‘happiness’ will bring you less iman and less reward, so do not feel you have lost out while the brother was rewarded. (Perhaps you both win, and Allah knows best). You do not know what you are being saved from in the life Allah (swt) has written for you. We are limited in our world view. You know ‘the better the student, the harder the exam’ to really bring out their strengths!
There are so many types of happiness and reward from al Razzaq (The Sustainer). Please, sister, remember this when you feel you are not getting what you want. This dunya will seem but a few hours as we are told in Quran. The joys here are temporary as compared to Akhira (the hereafter) where reward and happiness are eternal. Do you want, as it says in the Quran, to trade the inferior thing for the superior? (By this I mean the worldly life for the hereafter.)
This is clearly a test for your iman, but, in sha’ Allah, you will succeed. Allah knows best.
I can not comment on what other therapists have told you since they have a right to their own experience and clinical opinion. But as a psychologist practicing in a non-Muslim country, my thought is that it may be that the advice your psychologist gives you is not necessarily from an Islamically-based therapeutic approach or is not grounded in a ‘spiritual-therapy’ approach.
Most behavioral and cognitive-based approaches give no room for religious and spiritual perspectives. They are meant to look at life as something concrete. That’s great and unquestionably invaluable, but it does not apply to everyone as being relevant to their lives – particularly for Muslims such as yourself who are grounding their life in Islam. For example, some counseling approaches to therapy do not apply as they do not particularly see “tawakkul `ala Allah” (putting one’s trust in Allah) as a workable concept because it is all rather intangible.
So when we as Muslims give advice, we must necessarily do so by basing that advice on Quranic verses and ahadith. This may perhaps explain the conflict in the advice you are given. This conflict may also apply to therapists who are Muslims. It is more about their therapeutic model rather than the person.
Of course, I can simply differ in my thinking to them, and it’s ok to have differing advice. It all adds to the options you have. You should look to the advice you feel best helps you manage – not to do what one person tells you (me included!) as long as it does not conflict with your religion.
Look at the implications of all advice and choose what gives your life the most meaning and helps you continue to live a successful and healthy life with high iman.
The fact is also that these things, as all things, are about qadar (destiny), which is written. You do not know what will happen to the man you knew. If he is happy, then that is his destiny. Perhaps, the life you lead will be better for you.
But, you know, the scholars also tell us that the only way to change Qadar is through du`aa’. So, do this daily and ask for a rizq (Allah’s giving) which will satisfy your needs. And if not, then ask for iman to accept what is written because truly Allah (swt) knows best as we are told in the Quran:
“… and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (2: 216)
I hope, in sha’ Allah, that this clarifies your thinking and helps you consider all options in addressing this difficulty. Whatever advice you go with, may Allah (swt) bless you sister. May He, al Halim (The Forbearing), guide you to peace and happiness and success in the dunya and akhira in whatever is written for you.
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