By Farana Lambat
Along with the frequent and horrific divorce and child custody stories I hear, I have come to the realization that Muslims need to learn how (and why) to get divorced as much as they need to learn how to get and stay married.
I’m not being facetious when I say this. The Quran and Sunnah are fairly clear on divorce issues. But Muslims are pretty unclear on them. Marriage Takes Hard Work, Take it from someone who’s in her second marriage. (All said and done, I’ve been married a total of 10 years thus far.) Marriage is the hardest job you’ll ever have. Harder than raising babies. Harder than getting into Varsity. Harder than losing those last five pounds. Marriage sucks a lot of the time, and it’s great a lot of the time. No person you ever meet will never annoy you. Every single person in the world, (yes even your own children, parents, best friend, cousins, will irritate the heck out of you if you spend enough time with them. (Allah protect us all)
In other words, irritation should not be grounds for divorce. Not in my book at least.
Do your in-laws demand to go on every vacation with you? Does your wife refuse to cook. Are sexy times few and far between? Is he a stingy miser who won’t even let you spend your own money? Has she let herself go so badly you’re not attracted to her anymore? Does his hygiene make you want to leap off the balcony?
These are all “crappy but fixable” situations. None of these are really a death knell for marriage, but any of these can snowball into disaster. It all depends on how well you two communicate, how cognizant you are of the fact that these are not such big issues and can be fixed, how open you both are to working on the problem and how badly you want to be with your spouse.
Having said that, Islamically you are actually on safe grounds if you’re simply not happy.
Take the case of the wife of Thabit ibn Qas, who came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and said “O Messenger of Allah, I do not reproach Thabit ibn Qays in respect of character and religion, but I do not want to be guilty of showing anger to him.” In other words, although she had no complaints against her husband’s conduct towards her, she simply couldn’t get along with him. The Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him) responded that she had a right to end the marriage but should return her dowry since it was essentially a “no-fault” situation. In another narration the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed a girl to end her marriage because, though she had no complaints against her husband, she had been forced into it by her father.
Clearly, you don’t have to have severe grounds to justify divorce in Islam; even fearing that you aren’t able to be nice to the other person for whatever reason is sufficient, And certainly not having your rights fulfilled (sexual, financial, etc) is sufficient. However, Islam highly discourages divorce and urges couples to try every avenue to save their marriage, including involving family and community members, seeking counseling, getting professional help and trying temporary periods of separation.
Which leads me to another point — In many cases there is a great failure of families of the husband and wife to help sort things out. Culturally many Muslim marriages are marriages of families, not just of two human beings. But the responsibilities that come with this are often abandoned when things go downhill.
To the families of those who are having marital issues: If you think you have rights to their time and being involved in their lives when things are good, then you better step up your game with things are bad. Otherwise, you’re just leeches. And I say that with absolutely no respect. I’ve seen situations where either the wife or husband needs their family to help, to contact their in-laws to talk to their spouse, and the family refuses or adopt a “not involved” attitude. It’s not just a shame; it’s probably a sin and at a minimum it’s the right of your son, daughter, sister, brother to expect and receive your help in their marriage.
When do our duties to our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters stop. Why do we back down on our responsibilities to our married brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Why at a time of need are we, brothers and sisters in Islam not there to assist and guide each other through marital problems. Be it 7,17,27,37,47,57,67,77 you are still someone’s child, a child whom Allah has given as trust to the parent. This trust is a trust a parent is responsible for on the Day of Judgment. Why is it that as parents we choose not to be involved, pretend that there isn’t a problem and eventually we have a situation of divorced couple with the children spending every alternate weekend with the one parent.
In a time of weakness in our Imaan, we are allowing our families to break down, we fail to instill fear for the wrath of Allah and I pray that Allah guides us all and soften the hearts of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in Islam.