Practimate created a unique survey, one that dives into matters of divorce amongst Muslims. This survey was unique, in that it is the first survey in the West that goes through the causes of divorce and the lessons learned by Muslim divorcees, around the globe. This article discusses the patterns that are emerging and what has been learned from the increasing statistic.
Fairy tales are always inspiring. As human beings, our inner desires cause us to instantly want the happily ever after. We want the Cinderella and the Prince Charming. That royal cake would be nice to have and to eat, as well. The wedding is planned from the start of the engagement. Everything starts off quite great, but then there comes a small bump in the road. If not taken care of, the bump gets larger. Prince Charming and Cinderella’s carriage ride soon becomes less smooth. The talk of the town has it; they neglected to attend Pre-Marital Counseling. So what happens when the road gets difficult? The roadblock called divorce begins to make its presence.
The town begins to shriek and yell, as Cinderella and Prince Charming begin to discuss divorce. Fingers are pointed; anger is in the air, as the fairy tale couple begins to dispute their claims. Nobody was prepared for this. The King and the Queen were expecting a fairy tale ending for the lovely couple. The birds no longer sing in the morning. Cinderella has become stressed and ashamed. Prince Charming has lost his charm. The talk of the town is that he has fallen into despair. The fairy tale couple had pushed the thought of divorce far, far, away; only to be introduced to it when things were no longer going well.
Let’s talk about Facts
In America alone, there is a 50% divorce rate. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages has proven to be higher. Aside from this fact, Muslim marriages have also had an increase of divorce rates in recent years. Practimate recently conducted a survey, in order to understand the reasons behind the failed marriages. As Practimate has discovered, culture, ego, infidelity, and lack of commitment and understanding have been common causes for divorce. Naivety and lack of awareness have heavily contributed to separations between couples. The Prophet Muhammad stated, “Choose carefully for your seed. Marry those who are equivalent (or “qualified”) and give to them in marriage” [Ibn Majah].
The majority of people partaking in this survey admitted to trying to resolve the issues that arose. This consisted of 95 percent of the respondents putting some sort of input, in order to attempt to mend the marriage. However, a high percentage of people taking the survey also stated that they did not undergo any sort of pre-marital training. The beauty of pre-marital training is that it offers an increase of awareness and knowledge on the topic of marriage. Pre-marital training offers the necessary tools to make a marriage work. It also helps one understand what to do when the topic of divorce arises. While it is fact that this form of training is very helpful, survey takers were almost split when asked, “Do you think it would have helped you in choosing the right spouse or in resolving the issues that arose after marriage?” 60 percent felt it would have helped, with 40 percent remaining firm on the fact that this form of training would not have helped them.
The majority allowed for family and friends to intervene when the issues arose. While many claimed that the involvement was helpful, 29 percent of people felt that it made things worse. While family and friends might mean well, their involvement comes with a form of bias that is difficult to be eliminated due to more love being given to one side. This bias could be avoided in pre-marital and post-marital training, by allowing for a therapist or life coach to help resolve the issues that arise. Aside from that, pre-marital training gives the essential tools to use to avoid allowing for some of the issues to take place in the first place.
While many couples believe they can communicate, they still manage to hit roadblocks along the way. This is because they do not fully understand one another. The key to this success is quite simple, really; it involves the power of communication. As one respondent wisely stated, “Pre-marital counseling is essential. Choose an older married couple to be a mentor for the new couple prior to marriage. This couple should be the one to go to people for advice and not resolve any fights the couple cannot resolve on their own. Listen to what the other spouse is asking for. Seek assistance early on. Respect your parents but do not only prioritize them at the expense of your spouse. And most of all, honesty is key. A house built on lies will crumble!”
It is possible that men and women do speak a different language; however, that does not mean they cannot learn to understand one another. Those taking the survey were asked with all honesty, “Thinking back now, what mistakes do you see on your part?” The majority of responses consisted of two words, “trust” and “communication”, or lack thereof. Not communicating enough caused for many of the respondents to be unable to express how they felt during the marriage. Inability to express oneself causes resentment, which decreases the amount of love the couple has for one another.
As one survey taker stated, “Being stubborn, resentful, too much negativity, lack of trust and constant doubt. Aggravating situations further by looking into the past or digging into present lifestyle, almost waiting for him to make the next mistake.” “Forgiving too much for the sake of Allah that I almost began to think being a victim of domestic violence was OK because this is my test from Allah and I have to bear with it patiently and deal with it. Not realizing that walking away is an option too rather than risking my life everyday feeling unhappy.” By holding back on expressing herself to her ex-husband, she allowed for him to dismiss his respect for her. Another respondent stated, “I should have trusted my instincts. I should have taken more time to understand myself and her, before deciding if she is the women whom I want to get married to. After marriage I realized we have complete different personalities.” This shows that there was a lack of communication prior to the marriage, exposed after the marriage when the couple was together. Another respondent said, “I was not able to able to say what I was feeling when there was a problem. I was afraid to open up and say I was not happy.” Fear of opening up caused for this marriage to fall apart; this was due to a lack of happiness that stemmed from the fragility of being able to be expressive. The majority of survey takers responded with the advice that honesty and trust was essential to having a successful marriage.
Dependence and Children
Naivety is mentioned often. Along with naivety, stubbornness and selfishness are also mentioned repeatedly. Dependency was also mentioned quite frequently. As a result of naivety, many survey takers depended upon their spouses for emotional support and happiness. While it is not wrong to have the desire to be offered happiness from a spouse, depending on them can be detrimental to one’s emotional well being. One survey taker mentioned, “I was depending on him for emotional support when I should learn to manage myself and depend on Allah. I should not have reacted and reflected my insecurities to the relationship. I was looking to him for affirmation.”
A combination of the above contributed to divorces that did not last longer than thirteen years. 66 percent of the respondents chose their spouses, with many coming from the same culture. In this case, culture was not the resulting factor for many of the respondents’ divorces. This is due to the fact that 75 percent of the survey takers were from the same culture.
The majority of respondents, 62 percent, had children from their marriage. As one of the pioneers of Developmental Psychology, E. Mavis Heatherington, puts it, “As marriage has become a more optional, less permanent institution in contemporary America, children and adolescents are encountering stresses and adaptive challenges associated with their parents’ marital transitions.” According to a recent study, studies have shown that daughters of divorced parents have a 60-percent higher divorce rate in marriages, with sons having a 35-percent higher divorce rate. This is in comparison to children of non-divorced parents. Children often suffer from short-term anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief, as a result of their parents’ divorce. Fortunately, many of the respondents did make mention of the fact that they were quite grateful to have been blessed with children, even though the marriage was unsuccessful. Having a decent and respectable relationship with the ex-spouse can potentially prevent the statistic from becoming a constant reality.
The dependence upon Allah is mentioned quite often, with a respondent stating, “Be patient, work hard and trust Allah in all your matters. Never give up even if you want to. Marriages require hard work, love, and respect.” A common piece of advice was to seek Allah’s guidance and pray istikhara. This survey came with plenty of wise advice, offered by respondents who wanted to guide others to success. As this survey had over 2400 responses, the wisdom was endless. The common desire to advice others to trust Allah offered an aura of beauty, through the topic that many would like to avoid discussing.
A piece of advice that a respondent gave, which could be used by men and women alike, was “Only trust Allah. Yes your mother, father, sister, or even best friend, want what’s best for you, but they want what’s best for you according to what THEY think is the best, not you. Also, don’t rush. Take your time and make sure this is the person you want to spend your life with. Ask questions, tons. Pray istikhara and then trust your gut. If there’s a nagging feeling in the back of your head, trust it regardless what ANYONE says. NOTHING is more important than the fact that this person can and will either lead you to Jannah or Nar. Stick with the person that will partner up with you to seek Allah’s pleasure, and in finding Allah’s pleasure, you’ll find your own, bi’thnillah.”
According to the survey, 69 percent of respondents have yet to be remarried. This means that the majority of survey takers have yet to go through the full process of marriage once again. The major factor in this is that many are not emotionally ready to take on another marriage. Many of the respondents feel that they need time to heal. Most stated that they have yet to find the right one. There was still a sense of heartbreak over the ending of some of the respondents’ previous marriages, with some feeling hopeful that they might return to their spouses. Optimism was consistent, with a smaller percentage feeling hopeless about the thought of getting married again. The results varied, showing that each person had their own level of comfort when it came to finding love once more.
Divorce During the Times of the Prophet
A calmer story of divorce comes from the times of the Prophet Muhammad . Mugheeth chased down Bareera in the streets of Madinah, as the Prophet Muhammad watched. Mugheeth loved Bareera with every inch of his heart; his desperation left him depressed. He begged for the Prophet’s intercession, in this matter of the heart. Unfortunately, not much could be done. The Prophet made it clear to Bareera that he was not commanding her to return to Mugheeth. But rather, he suggested that she reunite with her ex-husband. Bareera was satisfied with the divorce. She was no longer in love, and the thought of staying with Mugheeth was one that was no longer a possibility.
Lack of communication, trust, naivety, and awareness contributed to the divorces of the respondents. The majority of the survey takers tried to resolve the marriage to the best of their knowledge, but not being equipped with the right tools made it a difficult challenge. Going back to Cinderella and Prince Charming, many of the tips lead back to finding the right pre-marital training in order to have made their marriage last. As for Mugheeth and Bareera, Prophet Muhammad interceded as an unbiased, outside source. In doing so, he offered his perspective as an outsider, without forcing either side to succumb to an unwanted outcome. As a result, he paved the way for the correct form of resolution.
The Future of Cinderella and Prince Charming
Cinderella and Prince Charming could have used this tip, instead of letting the town get involved in their marriage. Their lack of awareness and naivety fueled the fire that burned down the frail curtain that was lined with love; it was preventing them from seeing the realistic side of the marriage. As one respondent cleverly stated, “Make sure both parties know what the other is expecting out of the marriage.” Stating these expectations eliminates naivety. This, in turn, promotes awareness. As a result, the awareness allows for the couple to become more knowledgeable about one another. They soon become more able to communicate with each other, allowing for trust to be built. The basis of love is trust. A marriage that is built upon trust and communication is a marriage that has the possibility of offering the couple the completion of half their Deen and constant room for helping one another grow.
What Practimate Wants to do to Help?
Alhamdulillah we have received a massive outpouring of support and participation when we asked for our survey to be filled, about 2600 people have taken the survey.
To thank everyone who filled out the survey, and also help those who have gone through divorce, but are looking for ways to cope and deal with unresolved issues/ how to get re-married – we are doing something special.
We will inshā’Allāh have a free series of webinars for divorcees only covering everything from how to deal with any cultural taboos and finally move on, to getting re-married. Please visit www.practimate.com for more information.