In Trouble Before It Starts by
Saving Muslim Marriages From Divorce
uslims are great at denying themselves things. We even have a whole month dedicated to it. But one thing we can’t keep denying is the facts about Muslim marriages in North America. And the facts show that a lot of these marriages are failing.
Many people think if we just stuck to arranged marriages we could get the divorce rate down. That’s simply not true. Some of the reasons people stayed in bad marriages - cultural taboos, fear, financial inequality – have disappeared. Arranged or not, one-third of North American Muslim marriages are ending in divorce, which is the same rate as other cultures.
Muslims need to stop thinking we are somehow immune from marital failure. The five times you pray are not enough to keep the divorce away. Muslims need to start seeking advice on marriage from trained professionals.
We know that the best way to solve problems is by preventing them. But fewer than 10% of Muslim to-be-married couples seek out professional pre-marital education. With Imams more attuned to performing the Nikkah, pre-marriage counselling usually consists of a 10-minute chat before the ceremony. And that suits most couples who tend to be overly optimistic about marital challenges and keen to avoid a really awkward conversation about the birds and bees with their winking local imam.
But getting a religious perspective before the start of a marriage can set it on the right track for life. The Quran speaks of spouses as garments for one another (2:187). Counsellor Shahina Siddiqui explains that spouses should offer comfort, closeness, enhancement, durability and repair as needed. It’s not often we think of marriage in that way. As always, the Quran offers Muslims the best guidance.
Another aspect of marriage that could use a dose of spiritual guidance is sex. Sex is not a taboo topic in Islam. Fornication is a sin, but in Islam, sex within marriage is an act of worship (so like prayer, you get rewarded for it!)
Peaceful Families counselor Salma Elkadi Abugideiri notes that treating sex as an act of worship cannot involve selfishness or anger – it requires love and respect. Abuse in a marriage is completely unacceptable. True love and respect are not things which can be forced - they have to be worked for and earned between you and your spouse. And like prayer, it is not the physical act but the intention and the sincerity which counts. Of course, we’re too busy giving ourselves a massive complex about sex to realize how it’s a blessing meant to bring us closer our faith and our spouses.
Finding time for that level of intimacy can be a challenge especially when there are children involved. With most mothers running on near empty fuel tanks, it’s not hard to see how spouse time gets cut out. But it’s possible to deal with these issues if couples are open to talking about it. Hoping that things will solve themselves or relying solely on prayer are not winning solutions.
But being able to find solutions that will work requires a very specific set of marriage skills. ISSA USA founder Dr. Aneesah Nadir emphasized that to build a successfully marriage couples need to be able to communicate, compromise and resolve conflicts peacefully.
Family counselor Eman Elkadi suggests applying the principles of Islamic prayer – the way we communicate with God – as a model to communicate with our spouses. This means make an intention to be open and honest, setting aside regular quality time and approaching your spouse with humility and vulnerability.
Of course it’s easier to talk about communicating than it is to actually communicate. But couples rarely spend time developing the right mindset. It’s scary to think about how much more time goes into preparing for the wedding than the marriage. After the honeymoon, we end up with great event planning skills but fewer communications skills.
It’s never too late or too early to seek out the right advice. Muslim marriage counselors can help provide the bridge between the wisdom of Islam and the issues in modern marriages. They can help you cut through cultural pressures – like having children right away, for example – and find out what works for both you. Couples should not be embarrassed to seek help even before there are problems. After all, if the first followers of Islam were not ashamed to ask advice from the first (and best) Muslim counselor then neither should we.
Mental Health for Muslims: www.mentalhealth4muslims.com
Peaceful Families Project: Advocating against domestic abuse among Muslims, www.peacefulfamilies.org
Sound Vision’s Marriage Survival Guide: http://soundvision.com
More Articles by Sameera Qureshi
comments powered by Disqus