Lessons in Divorce

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Within the last few decades, there has been an alarming increase in the divorce rate. Unfortunately, the Muslim Ummah has not been immune to this trend. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear of Muslims engaged in their third or fourth divorce. While repeat divorces are the exception, not the rule, it is important to look at the factors which contribute to this issue. Furthermore, when marriages break-up it is often the woman who carries the stigma of the divorce not the man. This is especially sad since the ending of a marriage is never one person’s fault. The old adage is true- “it takes two to tangle.” However, for marriages to work, couples must know that each person brings his/her life experiences to the marriage. This includes both the bad and good. A relationship between husband and wife has to be built upon mutual honesty, respect, and the love and fear of Allah. Without these key ingredients, marital ties are often broken.

When a marriage ends, it is important to take time to reflect upon what went wrong in the marriage. The Iddah, or waiting period provides us with this opportunity. During Iddah, we should reflect upon our original intentions to marry. Did we marry for the sake of Allah and to obey His orders or for other purposes? As Muslims, our intention is a large part of our practice. It is our intentions that lay the foundation of an action. If our intention for marriage is other than for the sake of Allah, we can be sure to fail. Furthermore, if as Muslims we find ourselves in our third and fourth marriage, we need to look within ourselves and refer back to the commandments of Allah and the Sunnah. It is only by going through this process, that we will find the necessary answers to succeed in marriage. When we look inside ourselves, we discover that there is some part of us that is undeveloped or underdeveloped. Sometimes these challenges keep us from practicing important Islamic principles, like patience and honesty in our marriages. Without correcting these issues, we find ourselves repeating the same pattern of failure over and over again.

I write to you as someone who is going through many of the things I am sharing with you. I am learning that when we lack a sense of self-love; we are sometimes predisposed to certain patterns. That is, we enter into situations knowing intuitively that we should not; yet, we do so for fear of being alone. We also move heart first into marriage with people whom we were warned about. Becoming a Muslim does not mean that you have to settle for anyone because you think it is a part of humility. Far too often Sisters accept too little Islam from their perspective mates, too little mahr, and too little of a man because we think that is what is expected of a Muslim.

I know now that I moved forward into a marriage without asking enough questions and without patience in Allah. I have learned through my own search for clarity, that my need to be with someone sets the stage for my current “meantime” experience. I learned that in my “meantime”, my direct internal conflict was a direct result of my failure to tell the truth to others and myself.

The “meantime” does not need to be a negative experience. Also, it does not have to be a set period of time. Rather, it is the time to get clear about what you want and need. It is also a time to attain a deeper awareness of yourself and others. In my reading, the “meantime” is defined as, “a therapeutic review of your beliefs, ideas, and perceptions of what love is all about”. When the divine reason for the meantime union has been fulfilled or when you have learned what Allah wants you to learn- you have incorporated into your life the true understanding of what marriage is. It is at this point that you will move into exactly where you need to be and with whom you need to be. A dear older Muslim sister told me that, “once we can rid ourselves of foolish love, we can have real love with our spouses. Once we give up the notion that someone belongs to us, we can enjoy the time we have with them.”

Only through asking for clarity and truly looking at our experiences as lessons, can we move into the following phases known as the “Enlightenment Process”. This information is not a formula for life- that’s Islam. But, it can assist one in seeking better answers. The first phase is called Detachment. This is the development of the conscious ability to see you and others. The next stage is Discernment. More than an ability to see, discernment is being able to understand what you are looking at and how it relates to you. Once you can see and understand you reach the next phase-Enlightenment. The next step is Integration. This is the active part of the enlightenment process. You must now take the information you have and integrate it into your life. As you do, you reach the fifth and final stage, called Evolution. By practicing the trait or virtue you now know you must develop or embrace, you can proceed in your life making better choices and wiser decisions. Marriage is a relationship that has conditions that have to be there if it is to be successful. Use your common sense to see if all the criteria are present for a successful marriage. My dear sisters take the time to reflect over your relationships. With time, du’a, and Istikhara your self-reflection will become clear. Allah promises us in Surat-ul-Asr that only those of you who practice patience will not be lost with the passing of time.

K. Hamad