By: Chereen El-Housiny

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.

Introduction

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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) stated, “Choose carefully for your seed.  Marry those who are equivalent (or “qualified”) and give to them in marriage” [Ibn Majah].

Survey conducted by Practimate

Results of survey conducted by Practimate indicating, the gender, reason for divorce, duration of marriage and age difference between spouses.

Pre-Marital Training

Survey conducted by Practimate

Results of survey conducted by Practimate indicating, parental status, if had pre-marital training and how it helped, involvement of parents/friends/family and how it helped.

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.

Communication Roadblocks

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 subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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 istikharah. 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 istikharah 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.”

Survey conducted by Practimate

Results of survey conducted by Practimate indicating, the selection of spouse, culture, was the marriage happy ever, how the issues are resolved that arouse during the marriage.

Remarriage

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.

Survey conducted by Practimate

Results of survey by Practimate indicating, if divorce was mutually agreeable, divorced for how long, if remarried since divorce.

Divorce During the Times of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

A calmer story of divorce comes from the times of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Mugheeth chased down Bareera in the streets of Madinah, as the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) watched.  Mugheeth loved Bareera with every inch of his heart; his desperation left him depressed. He begged for the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) intercession, in this matter of the heart. Unfortunately, not much could be done. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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.

11 Responses

  1. Amel

    This is a good initiative. I think it would also be interesting if you surveyed couples who have been married for long periods of time and have not gotten divorced after, say, 15 to 20 years of marriage. Looking at the figures above, I noticed that a lot of the divorces occur during the early years of marriage, which is when a lot of the power struggles take place, even when a marriage is stable or happy. It would be interesting to examine why some couples are able to get over this hump while others are not and if this hump, indeed, exists in the majority of marriages. If it does, then it means that people should be prepared for it with various strategies that can help them not fall into despair and seek divorce when things get tough.

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    • Fouzia

      Excellent advise Amel. Because there are more lessons to learn from marriages that survived 10 years and above.

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  2. Umm zakariyya

    Pre marrital counseling ( esp from the islamic perspective)is the need of our times .

    To me it came as a part years of preparation by my parents ( preteen and teen years) . Parents thus play a great role in preparing their children to be wise in their relationships .

    Secondly , sisters’ youth sessions on how to be a good wife was a mental prep for me in late teens(18-20). ( brothers had their own sessions:))

    Finally, yasir birjas’ “loves notes” a few months before the wedding ( it was my fiancé who gave them to me lol. Alhamdulillah

    Marriage is work .like all other relationships.

    Tip:

    remember to thank Allah when you express appreciation for your spouse .
    Such as often saying ” Allah has put a lot of love in my heart for you ” ,makes the spouses be reminded of their ‘ spiritual partnership ‘ to get into Jannah.

    Also it’s a constant reminder that Allah is the One who puts ‘ love’ and ‘ mercy’ between the hearts of spouses . This makes the spouses bring Allah into their relationship and always seek his help for betterment of their relationship.

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  3. Faith

    As salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Jazakallahu Khair for your efforts in strengthening Muslim marriages. I think it is a wonderful idea to examine how many Muslims get divorced, the reasons for those divorces and what can be done to prevent them. That being said, it’s hard to tell if this survey (at least from the information provided) is statistically valid. We’re not given much information on the sample besides a breakdown of gender, how the sample was collected, whether the sample was random (I assume not since it appears that anyone who visits the survey page can take it), and most importantly, if the sample is representative of divorced Muslims as a group. From the information provided, I can only take the results as being representative of people who completed your survey and not of divorced Muslims in general.

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    • Fouzia

      Wa alaikum Salaam

      We reached out to Eddie from the deen show, Sh. Yaser Birjas, Mufti Menk, Sh. Waleed Basyouni, Sr.Yasmin Mogahed and others to share the survey with their students. We were able to collect 2600+ responses from this Alhumdulillah and learn about the recurring patterns in what causes divorce among Muslims in the west.

      The information will in sha Allah help couples prevent divorce/ be aware of common reasons for it, and also help us address the issues that currently divorced brothers and sisters are facing.
      The results given here are the first level analysis only.

      We have more detail break down like causes of divorce for
      1. Muslim man and woman separately
      2. Arranged marriage versus “Own choice” marriage
      3. Age difference between spouses
      4. Length of the marriage
      5. Same culture / different culture
      6. Parents/Family interference

      If you are interested for more detail analysis, please download it from here

      https://procdmarketing.leadpages.net/divorceanalysis/

      Jazakum Allah Khair
      Fouzia

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      • ibnmomin

        Correct me if I’m wrong so that data came from students of prominent daees in the west which makes me think the crisis is among the brothers/sisters who are trying to be practicing, students of islamic knowledge etc. which is a minority within minority? Do similar statistics hold for all Muslims (cultural, secular, non-practicing etc.) in West?

        I believe the sad part is that marriages of the practicing minority should be a role model & witness for the rest of community and humanity.

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  4. Abu Abdillah

    Jazakallahu khaira,

    Very informative, one thing I am curious about is the breakdown of the reasons for divorce data based upon gender. I am guessing men and women would give at least somewhat different reasons. Is it possible to provide this information using your method of data collection?

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  5. Azzam

    I have been married forever Alhamdullilah.
    Simply put, focused live goals in pleasing Allah and not the desires is the key.
    Fulfill the right of the other by foregoing your own right.
    No further marriage related advice needed as the marriage is not the focus. Fulfilling the command of Allah shown by the ways of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) becomes the focus, in this you get success in both the worlds.

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  6. Yasmin

    The portion on remarriage is an absolute piece of garbage! Tell the truth! Divorced women, especially with children, are looked upon lower than people with AIDs. Who wants so marry someone who has kids? Our community treats them with pity, disrespect, and ostracizes them. Emotionally not ready is such an out and out lie! I’ve sat at the masjid and listened to women talk about the criteria for their sons getting married. I’ve listened to women with divorced sons who want unmarried or divorced women with no kids for their sons. Why would anyone in their right mind want to stay Muslim? Because when they die Jannat will be waiting for them while they suffer in loneliness for their time here on earth? No thank you.

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    • Sophia

      Finally!!…Thank You!! You said it EXACTLY like it is. I’m a divorced women with no kids and thats hard as it is to get remarried, so I cant imagine how it would be with kids (actually I kinda can, my sister has a girl and it took her 5 yrs to remarry). People expect a divorcee to crawl all over the first person to ask them for there hand like we should be soooo lucky they even gave us a chance..umm no I dont think so.

      It’s flat out WRONG to treat a divorced person like yesterdays garbage, when actually a smart person would know that we come with more experience and know how to handle different situations that may arise in a marriage because we been there and done that.

      Yet we still get pushed to the side like we have some sort of disease but hey lets act like we all dont see it because we’re too busy being true devoted “muslims”, right?…

      I shouldn’t worry though and its sad to say but the way committment looks nowadays we might just all be in the same boat sooner then later

      Good luck to all

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