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She’s Not Damaged Goods – We Have Damaged Standards

Male-bashing articles are notoriously en vogue, admittedly at times for valid reasons. From the outset, let me clarify this won’t be one of them. The difficulties faced in joining a man to a woman with previous (or more) relationship experience isn’t just a “Muslim male” problem, but a social phenomenon with dimensions that need to be picked apart carefully and understood so that practical solutions can be proposed on a case-by-case basis.

A more intellectually honest approach that doesn’t hop on the bandwagon of populist chest-thumping would force us to realize that firstly, this isn’t a male problem exclusively – it is often the case when Muslim men bring home the idea of marrying a woman with previous relationship experience, it’s mom and her gaggle of auntie ji’s who shut down the idea for cultural reasons. The same women who remained in dysfunctional marriages because society would call them out (as well as lack of support options post-divorce) are now among those causing the biggest ruckus, so very clearly this is beyond being just a male / female phenomenon, but a cultural phenomenon with dimensions coming from both scriptural interpretation as well as local customs which even the non-Muslims of those areas share.

Putting aside the cultural side of the discussion, there’s also the difficulty of Muslim male emotional insecurity. However, this isn’t just a “Muslim” male problem. It’s a male problem period for both Muslims AND non-Muslims. Do a Google search on emotional insecurity and you’ll find scores of sexually active non-Muslim men struggling with the idea that their partner has more relationship experience than they do. It’s not a “Muslim” problem, it’s a human psychology problem that requires a mentor-like approach which encourages personal growth, not yet another polarizing male-bashing article.

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I’ve read some noble attempts at getting brothers to marry our sisters with previous relationships with anecdotes like, “The man married the woman pretending he couldn’t see how disfigured she was due to his nobility of character,” which is great until you realize you’ve just explicitly said these women truly ARE damaged goods, and it’s our duty to marry them for the good of society. Which sister wants her marriage to be some well-intentioned brother’s community service pity project? I may be wrong, but I think ideally, our sisters want a husband who loves them for who they are, respects their humanity, and doesn’t consider them as some type of cultural, physical, or emotional liability which they take on “for the good of the team”.

My belief is we have to re-orient our cultural misgivings to the standard used by the Prophet (SAW) and the Companions and remove the cultural stigmas surrounding previously married sisters, but as with all types of ignorance, this is a type of daw’ah and daw’ah has to be done with wisdom, not anger, sarcasm, and pseudo-intellectual arrogance.  Likewise, we have to invite our brothers to overcome their emotional insecurities with mercy and practical mentoring strategies based on solutions provided in our scriptural literature as well as what is beneficial in secular sources. The intent of this article is to touch on the former (the cultural side) while spending more time on the latter (the emotional side).

Many years ago I considered marrying a divorced practicing Muslim sister and found within myself unexpected insecurities.  By the blessings of Allah, I was able to overcome them quickly and move on to seriously considering the sister for marriage.  What I offer is my own thought process in overcoming issues such as these, and I would recommend using  this as a complementary resource to whatever you find beneficial from Muslim or secular relationship counselors / experts.

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1. Follow The Standard of the Messenger (SAW)

When any issue comes before me, the overarching principle that defines the direction I want to move is the attempt to find what it is that will be pleasing to Allah (SWT), and furthermore, what standards did He (SWT) convey to us either in the Qur’an directly or in the life of the Messenger (SAW)?

Among the evidences cited towards marrying only previously unmarried women is the question of the Prophet (SAW) to one Companion about why he did not marry a virgin woman, and the oft-quoted hadeeth regarding those who are martyred receiving 72 hoor al-‘ayn as reward.

What I’ve seen missing in that discussion is the life choices of the Prophet (SAW), and an understanding of those ahadeeth in light of his life since he is the paragon of Islamic practice – as Aisha (ra) mentioned, he was the walking Qur’an.  His first wife, Khadijah bint Khuwalid, was a widow with children from a previous marriage, older than him (some narrations say 40, others say 28), a wealthy career woman, and the initiator of the marriage proposal.

This is extraordinary when you consider that The Prophet (SAW) at the time was 25, part of the most prestigious clan (Banu Hashim), a very handsome man, and well-respected by the community at large (he was known as al-Ameen, the truthful).  He could have married any woman, and had there been any disgrace in marrying Khadijah, his uncle would have advised against it.  To my knowledge it was never reported that people looked down on the Prophet (SAW) or made fun of him after Prophethood for this.  If we look at his life in Madinah, except for Aisha all his wives had been previously married and had exited their marriages either due to their spouse’s passing or divorce.  You may note that he also recommended marrying women who were fertile, yet he also married a woman who was likely not so (his second wife Sauda).

My takeaway from this is that while there may be some benefits in finding a partner without prior relationship experience, it’s most certainly not the only factor to look at, and the weight it’s sometimes given is disproportionate relative to more important variables (eg. Islamic practice, taqwa, character and manners, how attractive the person is, chemistry, chastity, life ambitions, child-rearing philosophy, worldliness, etc).  I think there’s a need for us to re-calibrate our standards and realize that if Allah (SWT) doesn’t evaluate people by these standards, perhaps we ought to re-align ourselves accordingly.

If there was nothing wrong for the Prophet (SAW) in taking previously married wives, I don’t see how it should be a problem for the rest of us.  He’s our example to follow, and we should proudly take from it.

2. Remove Your Doubts and Hers with Istikhara Prayer

Deciding on a partner for marriage is a daunting undertaking and  there are far too many variables to consider, most of them too far out in the distant future for any but Allah (SWT) to see, so the best plan is to pray istikhara and take guidance from Allah (SWT) on the matter.  The beautiful thing about istikhara is if the marriage works out, then any lingering insecurities can be shut down with, “And this is what Allah ordained for me, and this is what is best for me.”  If things don’t work out, that’s good too, disaster averted.  Share your decision with her, and let her know it was based on istikhara prayer.

Beyond this, when there are insecurities that come to mind, you can turn to Allah (SWT) to keep your heart firm on the guidance He’s given you and make du’aa for help in overcoming any mental roadblocks attempting to bar your way to happiness with this soulmate He (SWT) has chosen for you.

3. Take Control of the Inner Dialogue

Every single day, you will meet people who are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, wittier, and more skilled than you.  If you allow your mind to dwell on your weaknesses vs their strengths, then you will always see yourself as the lesser person.  What can be worse in this situation is dwelling on what is unknown, wondering if you are being compared unfavorably against someone else.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important you move forward only after feeling confident in your istikharah and making du’aa to Allah to help with your heart.  Additionally, you should seek refuge with Allah from Shaytaan and his whispering.  Beyond this you have to also tie your camel, and part of this is taking time alone to reflect on your fears and try to understand where they’re coming from.

Upon reflection, you may find that your mind is asking itself the wrong questions and answering with worst case scenarios, such as “What if I’m not as good as her previous husband?” and answering with “She will think me a lesser man.”

Part of solving this problem is taking control of that inner dialogue by asking yourself much better questions.  If you’ve prayed istikharah and feel confident you’ve made the right decision, you might instead ask yourself, “How much barakah and love will Allah (SWT) place between us because we are doing this to please Him?” and you may start to imagine a scenario in your mind where your wife is wildly in love with you and you with her.  The more often you do this, you’ll find your heart at ease, and the other question will become like a fly buzzing around your head, easily swatted away with du’aa to Allah (SWT) and the strong, positive emotions in your heart.

The ultimate confidence is knowing that Allah (SWT) supports you, and when you know that, you cannot help but imagine the best is yet to come, both in this life and the next, no matter the difficulties you encounter along the way.

Conclusion

In the end, the marriage with the divorced sister didn’t happen for me (she ended it) and we parted amicably for the sake of Allah (ok, so the first few days I was really disappointed, but it passed :)) and although I didn’t have to revisit the issue, I was thankful for the experience because I grew tremendously as a person and I gained an appreciation for the difficulty both women with previous relationship experience face in finding husbands and the difficulty some men may face in overcoming their own fears and insecurities.

If anyone were to ask me about a situation similar to mine, I’d tell them to not  turn away the sister just because of their insecurities or cultural stigmas.  If you find you have insecurities as I did, then take it as an opportunity for growth and work on overcoming them while seeking help from Allah (SWT).  It may be that her previous relationship and the lessons from it is the means Allah (SWT) has chosen for both uniting you with her as well as teaching her, based on experiences from her previous relationship, to appreciate the good that you possess.

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Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

122 Comments

122 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Gibran

    April 19, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    JazzakAllahu khair, what a wonderful article brother. It is very good that you are pointing out how we must look at the Prophet sallahualayhiwasalams example as superior and follow it.

    It is true that is is better to marry virgins as their is the hadith on it. But there are plenty of divorced, widowed, abandoned women, and all of them should be married as well.

    http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2428&Itemid=79

    These clear Ayat include a group of unambiguous rulings and firm commands.

    ﴿وَأَنْكِحُواْ الأَيَـمَى مِنْكُمْ﴾

    (And marry those among you who are single (Al-Ayama)….) This is a command to marry. The Prophet said:

    «يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ، مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمُ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ، فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ»

    (O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, let him marry, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and protecting the private parts. Whoever cannot do that, then let him fast, for it is a protection for him.) This was recorded in the Two Sahihs from the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud. In the Sunan, it was recorded from more than one person that the Messenger of Allah said:

    «تَزَوَّجُوا تَوَالَدُوا تَنَاسَلُوا فَإِنِّي مُبَاهٍ بِكُمُ الْأُمَمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ»

    (Marry and have children, for I will be proud of you before the nations on the Day of Resurrection.) The word Al-Ayama, the plural form of Ayyim, is used to describe a woman who has no husband and a man who has no wife, regardless of whether they have been married and then separated, or have never been married at all. Al-Jawhari reported this from the scholars of the (Arabic) language, and the word is applied to men and women alike.

    ﴿إِن يَكُونُواْ فُقَرَآءَ يُغْنِهِمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ﴾

    (If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas: “Allah encouraged them to get married, commanded both free men and servants to get married, and He promised to enrich them.”

    ﴿إِن يَكُونُواْ فُقَرَآءَ يُغْنِهِمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ﴾

    (If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.) It was recorded that Ibn Mas`ud said: “Seek the richness through marriage, for Allah says:

    ﴿إِن يَكُونُواْ فُقَرَآءَ يُغْنِهِمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ﴾

    (If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.)” This was recorded by Ibn Jarir. Al-Baghawi also recorded something similar from `Umar. It was reported from Al-Layth from Muhammad bin `Ajlan from Sa`id Al-Maqburi from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said:

    «ثَلَاثَةٌ حَقٌّ عَلَى اللهِ عَوْنُهُمْ: النَّاكِحُ يُرِيدُ الْعَفَافَ، وَالْمُكَاتَبُ يُرِيدُ الْأَدَاءَ، وَالْغَازِي فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ»

    (There are three whom it is a right upon Allah to help: one who gets married seeking chastity; a slave who makes a contract with his master with the aim of buying his freedom; and one who fights for the sake of Allah.) This was recorded by Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. The Prophet performed the marriage of a man who owned nothing but his waist wrap, and could not even buy a ring made of iron, but he still married him to that woman, making the Mahr his promise to teach her whatever he knew of the Qur’an. And it is known from the generosity and kindness of Allah that He provided him with whatever was sufficient for her and for him.

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      April 19, 2013 at 10:07 AM

      I wouldn’t say its better to marry virgins. Virgin women have certain virtues and in the case of the sahabi that this hadeeth was spoken to, he was a young man and the Prophet (S) thought he’d be better off with one. But when the sahabi explained he married an older, non virgin women to help take care of his sisters, he didn’t disapprove. Whether one marries a virgin or not virgin really depends on the person themselves. For an older man with children, say a widower, a non-virgin may be more “virtuous” as she offers more benefit gleaned from her pervious marital experience.

      • Avatar

        ZAI

        April 19, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        Excellent response.
        I have also understood the hadith in this manner.
        The text of the hadith seems to indicate that because the sahaabi in question was both young and a virgin himself, the prophet(s) thought he would have a good experience sharing things for the first time and developing a unique bond through growing in those experiences with a woman who was also younger and a virgin…He was concerned about compatibility and people being in different places in their lives due to age and experience.

        • Avatar

          Jamila

          January 12, 2014 at 11:52 PM

          How can the prophet be concern with compatarbility when his first wife was much older than him? I’m talking about our mother, Khadijah RA.

          • Avatar

            Salwa

            June 1, 2014 at 7:58 AM

            Agree, Masha Allah. The prophet SW was young and virgin himself and he married divorced woman, widowed woman 10-15 years older then him.

            It is best to marry the person you Love, and if Allah has ordained this women or man is 10-15 years older so what!

      • Avatar

        Sarah

        March 6, 2015 at 9:36 PM

        good response to the above comment about how marrying virgins are better. But, hello!!! Why is that Hadith manipulated to only mean marrying female virgins?! Wouldn’t it be fair to say it’s better to marry male virgins? I think so. I appreciate the article and discourse.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      I’m more inclined to viewing it as a positive characteristic in a range of positive characteristics, and that each person should evaluate their situation accordingly. For example, the Prophet (SAW) also recommended marrying fertile women. Now, as a hypothetical, what if you have a fertile woman who is previously married vs an infertile woman who is without previous relationship experience? Both are recommended, but which is better? We might make an educated guess based on our own reasoning, but that’s all it would be, an educated guess with no definitive answer.

      As has been mentioned by others, the Prophet (SAW) approved the reasoning given by the sahabi for the choice he made. I think we need to be intelligent to also take other factors into account as this sahabi did.

      • Avatar

        Shahgul

        April 19, 2013 at 10:57 PM

        The only fertility test available in those days was whether you have had a baby before or not (unless you had obvious signs like no menses, male characteristics). A fertile woman, therefore could have been someone who had been there, done that, successfully. Only Allah knows.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 19, 2013 at 11:13 PM

          Yet you live in the 21st century and the question is valid since we have the means to detect this – so what say you now ;)

          • Avatar

            Umm Malik

            January 10, 2014 at 11:09 PM

            yet Shangul seems to be right pointing out that at the time of our Prophet SAWS, the statement about marrying a fertile woman could’ve easily implied marrying a woman known to be fertile, ie again, a mother.
            Remember that this hadith must have also applied back then, so we have to try and think what was meant by it. Surely back then it did not mean “a woman who has passed a fertility test”: it must have been something else.
            Fast forward to today, most people do not really find out whether they are fertile or not until they try to get pregnant, ie for Muslims, after marriage.
            So even today, a woman who has had children in (a) previous marriage(s) and is still in an average fertile age complies with the conditions of this hadith. Wa Allahu alem.
            Lastly, I’d like to point out that we also have to look at the benefits and disadvantages of anything we do. If the context of the other hadith, where our dear Prophet SAWS recommends to marry a virgin, seems to be quite relevant to the issue: ie the man is himself young and a virgin, and there is one very specific reason why he would like to marry a non-virgin… I mean if this context is so relevant, then in my opinion this should not be considered as a general rule of thumb, but rather as a rule for this type of situation: a young man, virgin himself, should probably look for a woman in a similar situation. This seems more accurate and logical, and beneficial for both parties…
            Again, Allah knows best.
            In any case, I found your article wonderful masha Allah.
            May Allah SWT reward you for bringing up the topic.
            I think that in the West it is easier for divorced sisters to remarry because divorce is less stigmatised, but in Arab countries this seems to be a big problem, where divorced sisters are at the mercy of theif families and sometimes doomed to remain alone until they pass.
            Barakallah fik.

    • Avatar

      karim ali

      July 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      my wife has two children from a previous marriage. i am so happy with my wife and i lost my virginity to my wife. my friends and relatives are also happy.

  2. Avatar

    Shabd Singh

    April 19, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    Very cool article, Siraaj. I, who knows little of the hadeeths and prayers you mentioned, benefited from the article. Peace.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Thanks for stopping by and reading Shabd, I’m glad to see it was beneficial for you =)

  3. Avatar

    Anees Ahmed

    April 19, 2013 at 2:41 AM

    Nice article Br. Siraaj. I would hope that I wouldn’t hesitate if a good Sister came along who had been divorced – no problem with that. But I don’t if your advice applies to this as well, but what about a woman who has been in a previous relationship that wasn’t marriage? I’ve read in various articles that individuals are not obligated to tell their potential spouse about past relationships of that nature, but if one were to know that beforehand, any different or additional advice? Just in case it comes up :) Jazak’Allahu Khairan in advance.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      April 19, 2013 at 2:53 AM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Stay chaste and stick with the chaste.

      • Avatar

        Oliviia

        April 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        That’s very simplistic. Past experience out of wedlock does not necessarily equate to chastity or lack of it.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 19, 2013 at 12:47 PM

          question is about willful past experience outside of marriage.

      • Avatar

        Olivia

        April 19, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        Also, what of a woman who has past “experience” but through abuse or rape? Should she conceal it? It’s not an issue of chastity but still the woman has had previous experience.

        • Avatar

          Maya Badmash

          April 25, 2013 at 8:55 AM

          In the case of rape, she had an experience with violence, not with sex. Although sex becomes a tool for assault, rape and intercourse are in no way similar. Because marriage is such an close bond, not only physically but emotionally, this sort of information shouldn’t be hidden. Whether or not it should be shared beforehand imo, is up to her discretion. But at some point, that closeness should foster enough comfort to be able to share in each other’s suffering, so that the burden isn’t upon a single one to bear.

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      April 19, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      Brother Anees,
      If you know something, then you’d have the right to ask.
      What I would say in this context is this tho: we ALL make mistakes in life and have skeletons in our closet…most of us are just lucky they stay there and don’t become public knowledge. Should we judge and brand a person forever for a mistake they made in their past? What if the woman has turned her life around, asked forgiveness of Allah and is trying her best to live up to the deen NOW? Should we treat them in a way that alienates them and pushes them away? What if she feels so alienated and branded by Muslims that she leaves the deen and just marries a non-Muslim?

      There is also a gigantic double standard at play here brother. This judgement of past actions almost always brands women. If this standard were applied to men an enormous number of them would be ineligible for marriage,..but these hypocrites have their fun then have mama find a virgin for them.

      What I would say is one should judge her for marriage potential by the person she is NOW. Evaluate NOW…and one should NOT SPREAD the knowledge of her past.

      • Avatar

        Anees Ahmed

        May 6, 2013 at 11:43 PM

        Jazak”Allahu Khairan. Agreed.

      • Avatar

        Jamila

        January 12, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        You are so right!

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      Well, firstly it really depends on the person you’re dealing with. The person who was unchaste in the past but then regretted and repented from that behavior is not the same as the person who was unchaste and hasn’t really changed their lifestyle. A number of scholars I’ve read from state that the ayaat in the Qur’an which state, “The chaste for the chaste, the unchaste for the unchaste” refers to the latter group of men and women, and not the former group of men and women.

      So my advice, if a good woman with a past comes to you, don’t turn her away because of her past. I would assume that since Allah (SWT) is Most Merciful and Forgiving, that He loves so much when we repent to Him, that He will accept her repentance (and same for guys who were previously players), and that we should evaluate them as we would anyone else for marriage.

      Agreed with what ZAI said above as well.

      • Avatar

        Anees Ahmed

        May 6, 2013 at 11:44 PM

        Jazak’Allahu Khairan for the feedback. Agree with ZAI and what you’ve said as well.

  4. Avatar

    Amanda T

    April 19, 2013 at 4:07 AM

    Thank you for the well written and honest article, Siraaj. I have a friend who had just gone through a divorce from her abusive husband. Thankfully, she has a loving and supportive family who is helping her through this. However, there will come a day when negative social stigma creeps in her insecurites and I am sure this article will help remind her that it is not her fault for leaving him.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Yeah, absolutely not her fault, she shouldn’t feel as though there is something wrong with her because she is divorced. A lot of guys don’t even realize with their own insecurities that the girl they are insecure about has a whole host of her own insecurities about whether she will be “good enough” and 2nd guessing herself as to whether she deserved what she got in the first marriage.

      I always tell people as I say above, pray istikhara and then move forward, take action. If something is wrong for you, no matter how much action you take you’ll be blocked. If something is right for you, then everything becomes very easy. Pray for guidance, but then tie your camel by decisive action. Many a sister will fall into analysis paralysis in an abusive situation (aka battered wife syndrome) by trying to overthink everything (men do this too, just illustrating this is a bad situation for it to happen to a sister).

      If someone prays istikhara and moves, there’s no need to think twice and regret anything – something better is down the road.

      • Avatar

        violet

        December 26, 2013 at 11:37 PM

        Asalaamu alaykum
        Can a pious divorced woman desire a virgin male…maybe that her previous husband compared her with his other relationships …is sexual desires only what the men wants….its always what the brothers wants some of them neglect their wives and don’t give them any proper attention.

        These marriages are usually opposed by many as it is not considered as the norm of the society ….non sense !

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          January 2, 2014 at 4:17 AM

          About your questions:

          1. Yes, but why stop at a virgin male, try to find the person best suited for you.
          2. It’s a good deal of what men want, but not the only thing.

          Siraaj

  5. Avatar

    ZAI

    April 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Great article Siraaj,
    I definitely agree with the point you make that often times it’s ironically WOMEN who perpetuate these norms from generation to generation. I actually had a CHRISTIAN Middle Eastern friend who encountered that attitude from his mother when he wanted to marry a divorcee…yet more proof that these things don’t have anything to do with Islam, but certain cultural norms..and it’s sad that it’s many women who are perpetuating it.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      Jzk for the feedback. Unfortunately root-causing these politically charged problems requires a great deal of emotional and intellectual intelligence. It also requires that we get out of the game of finger-pointing and focusing on solutions.

      Many of the problems we face are really not unique to us. If I take any negative characteristic our community has, I can find a version of it elsewhere. When someone tries to say, this problem is unique to this group, I ask myself, is that really the case?

      For example, people will say, “You’re being so salafi” to someone who is acting strict about their opinions, but are salafis the only ones who do this? Haven’t shafi’ees historically fought with hanafis? Don’t ash’aris get hardcore about their own version of aqeedah? What about health fanatics, climatologists, politically involved partisans, and more?

      When you factor out “group” and focus on “human”, you find interesting things. Is porn addiction a Muslim problem? Is insecurity about women with more relationship experience only a Muslim problem? Is terrorism only a Muslim problem? And as you mention, is stigmatizing divorcees only a Muslim male problem? How about female Muslims? How about female nonMuslims (as you point out)?

      We have a lot of problems to think about, but we first have to break out of the “this group has this problem” line of thinking.

  6. Avatar

    Abez

    April 19, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    JazakAllahuKheiran for the article- I hadn’t thought much about the issue until a sister that was very dear to me was left by her mentally unstable husband (he went AWOL and divorced her by email) after less than a year of marriage, and remarrying was an epic battle because of the huge stigma against her. People had such an “ew” response to having been married before, and fell back on searching for flaws in her character in order to camouflage their squeamishness. (Why did her first husband leave her in the first place? What’s to say she won’t drive away another one?)

    Thank you for bringing this to our collective attention, and to the attention of the sisters as well. Sometimes men are sensible enough to not hold marital history against a sister only to have their own mothers/aunts at home complain. If one of their daughters had been divorced themselves, I bet they’d be all over the Sunnah of marrying divorcees rather than the virtues of virgins.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      It’d be a good bet, I’ve seen cases where divorced sisters remarried into families where they had experience with other family members and understood the turmoil in trying to find another match for their female relative.

      Unfortunately, we can’t simply solve the problem by spontaneously divorcing everyone and shifting marriage partners around =) My default advice is pray istikhara, take advice from those closest who know you, maybe a Muslim marital therapist or two (if the husband is willing to do it, often they’re too “manly” for that), and just move forward whichever way makes the most sense, knowing that even if remarriage takes time (or never happens at all), because istikhara was prayed and the decision was taken, it was the right choice regardless, no need to second-guess oneself after that.

      On the other hand, if it was wrong, then one would expect they’d be blocked if any attempts are made to step out of the marriage.

  7. Avatar

    Umm Hadi

    April 19, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Jazakallhu Khair

  8. Avatar

    Nina

    April 19, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Alhamdulillah being a convert I was shown mercy by Allah. I have a wonderful husband that even though I have a past and past relationships my husband and I flourish and he loves me for the Muslimah I am today.

    What helped him is when he felt insecure about a past love…. I told him that if this love was so great and so much better than I would be there. Instead I am with whom Allah has decreed and He decrees only the best for His slaves. ….and I love him so much and are so happy with him. .. This little reminder helped. We have been married for three years now and no insecurities come up anymore.

    So if the brothers out there could remember that if the “other” husband was so great this woman would be with him…then it may help them with the insecurities.

    Great article and I pray that at some point all the previously married sisters find brothers that look beyond the “damaged goods” stigma to the beautiful soul that is inside.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      Jzk for sharing your story with us Nina, very inspirational, a real life example of working it out, alhamdulillah =)

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    Abu Asiyah

    April 19, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    JazakumAllahu khayran brother, it’s a very important issue to bring up.

    I think in addition to the example of the Prophet (saws), one can also bring up the example of the sahaba and the salaf. If you look at their lives, it’s incredible how little they cared about who was a virgin and who was divorced. When Abu Salamah died, Abu Bakr proposed to Umm Salamah before the Prophet (saws) – and she rejected him. The point is, he didn’t hesitate to ask a widow for marriage.

    There are women who lived at the time of the Prophet (saws) who remarried for the 3, 4th time. One sahabiyyah (whose name escapes me) gave birth to children from three different sahabis as she was widowed twice. This comes up over and over again, with many of the prominent sahaba.

    The “hadith of Jabir” on marrying a virgin is one occasion in the life the Prophet (saws). It doesn’t seem appropriate to extrapolate that to all men at all times and it doesn’t seem like the sahaba did that either. Jabir was probably 15-16 when the Prophet (saws) asked him if he married a virgin – it’s pretty obvious that at that age, it would be better for a young man to marry a young, virgin woman. In his circumstances, it was better to marry a widow, so that’s what he did, and the Prophet (saws) commended him for it.

    This is a very unfortunate situation where divorced/widowed women become stigmatized. That was not the case at the time of the Prophet (saws) and his companions and is more of a cultural addition to our understanding of marriage and what is valuable in a woman.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      Wa iyyak, agreed, we have to re-orient those cultural sensibilities towards quick re-marriage rather than leaving our sisters aside.

      • Avatar

        violet

        July 2, 2014 at 12:43 AM

        I am a divorced practicing muslimah and it is sad to say how others may look on women who are divorced as being an outcast ,

        in some cases , younger men desire to have the company of a more mature woman while some women also developed the interest and desire of being with a younger man maybe because of bad experience being in a relationship with an older man …some younger men are far more mature, intelligent and focused on their goals in life including being more serious about their deen,than an older man AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
        Is it so wrong for a woman to be attracted to a younger man?

        Science have proven that women sexual desires peak at the age of 40 to 57 , and being married to an older man will not be able to satisfy her desires …. why is that most of the discussions lectures and hadith addresses on the needs and desires of the men.?

        Men should not live in denial that women desire younger men too, I am soooo happy I am able to have a forum to express myself as it may seems immodest for me to express my opinion in public

        A lot of sisters are suffering in marriages where their husband neglect them by not having relationship with them ….

        A divorced woman that may not be able to have children are not damaged goods !!!!!!
        She deserves the right to be married so as to protect her chastity !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        I have sent many request to public figures and lecturer for them to do a lecture on this topic but none has come forth as yet ,I guess its because they are not practicing that sunnah .!!!!!!!!

    • Avatar

      Salma

      April 26, 2013 at 2:15 AM

      Don’t you think that this had more to do with Arab cultural sensibilities at the time? It wasn’t a big deal for even Mushrik women in Arabia to have had several husbands in one’s lifetime. Khadijah was twice widowed and married the virgin Prophet prior to the revelation of Islam. And another Sahaba also comes to mind. Someone mentioned him here earlier. He was Abu Talhah. He married a Sahabbiya by the name of .Umm Sulaim, whose husband had earlier been martyred in battle. Abu Talhah was a wealthy and young Mushrik at the time when he proposed to Umm Sulaim and Umm Sulaim told him to convert to Islam if he wanted to marry her. And he did end up converting and marrying her despite his being a virgin man.

      So it was more of a cultural thing with Arabs. Their culture accepted men and women having gone through multiple spouses in one’s lifetime.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        April 26, 2013 at 8:17 AM

        Agreed, however, with the coming of Islam, wrongful cultural practices were abolished, such as the attitude towards female children – this was considered a disgrace and they were killed, and Allah (SWT) forbade this and great rewards were spelled out for raising daughters.

        So our faith kept what was good from culture and abolished what wasn’t – I would say this part of that Arab culture (it’s no longer there) was good, and our attitude towards women with previous relationships hearkens back to that mindset which put women down for just being women and not worthy of having as children to begin with.

        Siraaj

  10. Avatar

    Shahin

    April 19, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Assalamu alaikum brother. First, I would like to thank you for writing such an honest article about such an important issue. I would like to add to what you said about men’s insecurities about whether or not they’d be “good enough” for the divorced/widowed woman they are about to marry; I think women would also have the same problem. Through some thought on the issue (though without experience), I have come to understand that one of the best ways to have a happy marriage with a formerly married spouse is to understand that they are unique and so are you (i.e. you can never really compare two different people) and that everyone has their own strengths, weaknesses, flaws, life goals, etc. so you shouldn’t be worried about “outdoing” the previous spouse of the person you’re considering to marry or are married to. And of course, like you mentioned, du’a does miracles.
    On a personal note, I do always find it very surprising how easily and readily the Sahabah would marry widows and divorcees, without really delving into the whole “previously married or not” issue, and vice versa, how the Sahabiyyat would easily and readily allow another woman to “share” (marry) their husbands if they knew that the sister was in need. So I think this discussion goes both ways. Men need to learn how to accept women for who they are and what relationship they have with Allah, and women need to start learning how to accept and be tolerant of a second wife (if their husband decides to have one). I am not advocating that all men go out and marry a 2nd, 3rd or 4th, but I think it’s important for Muslim women to be able to be (at least a little) comfortable with the issue and not take it personally. The last bit was my opinion-anyone may disagree, and I apologize if I have offended anyone. WaAllahu A’lam.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      You’re welcome, and the polygyny question you bring is an interesting variable (I intentionally left it out because I didn’t want the sister-verse to come out and kill me as they did last time I mentioned it in passing in an article). I think you’ll find many divorced sisters who are not open to the idea either.

      Siraaj

    • Avatar

      Siraaj's First Wife

      April 19, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      Shahin, I agree with you about polygyny, and I think in all honesty that the way we, as a community, approach and practice poly needs serious revision. Poly as practiced by Muslims often damages marriages and causes unending stress and hardship. Men often take a second wife with the impression that women just can’t accept it because they are jealous by nature and that co-wives should be kept as separate as possible. Fatwas and talks Ive heard reinforce this, that if a bro wants another wife he might want to tell the first, but maybe not.

      Honestly, I personally find a lot of inspiration for poly within the independent Mormon community (think Sister Wives and Love Times Three). I think approaching poly as a family choice and exploring the relationships afforded to wives as well as husbands, the friendship and deep bond that COULD exist between co-wives, is something we as Muslims generally shove under the rug because its not in a woman’s “nature” to be able to want such a thing. I don’t think we can even bend our minds around it, considering we also grew up in a monogamous society in addition to all the bad examples of poly.

      I disagree emphatically that women cannot love poly. I think we are all missing out, and there are immense opportunities for women who are consensual and part of the process of choosing a co-wife, and I prefer to see the unit as a whole amongst three or more people, with the husband taking time out to take care of each marriage. I do not think it best to view them as two distinct entirely separate marriages that he constantly moves between. While I appreciate that Islam allows us the rights to not be forced to live together or best friends, have we thought of this possibility?

      I know some people think I’m crazy, but I have read so much on the accounts of sister-wives, women who go into poly anticipating these benefits (and I could list them but won’t bore anyone), some who don’t even want to go into a marriage without a sister wife, that I am really left believing that gender-stereotypes have deprived both men and women of the richness polygyny can offer everyone involved. Just my two cents.

      • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        April 20, 2013 at 4:56 AM

        LOL at using “Siraaj’s First Wife” instead of your name.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj's First Wife

          April 20, 2013 at 9:20 PM

          #masterofequivocation

      • Avatar

        Siraaj's First Wife

        April 20, 2013 at 9:21 PM

        Someone disliked my comment? By all means, speak up :)

        • Avatar

          Gibran

          April 20, 2013 at 11:42 PM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          Yes, it annoys me too wife of Siraaj. I don’t know why my comment below got two thumbs down…..

          May Allah bless your marriage and grant you righteous progeny. May he grant you the coolness of your eyes from each other and your progeny.

      • Avatar

        Shahin

        April 21, 2013 at 11:19 PM

        lol sister, i really like how you took my thoughts and expanded them (even mentioned things that i felt but didn’t know how to put into words). the whole bit about poly being a “family choice” vs. like a “tug-of-war” or something with 2 families being opposed to eachother. and yes, I think SisterWives was such a cute show :)

    • Avatar

      MIraj Din

      April 24, 2013 at 7:08 PM

      And lol I think we should actually start helping our sisters in need rather than sit here and talk. I am all for financial support because many women don’t want to lose their kids after remarrying. Its why many women in such situations don’t want to remarry at all.

      33,000 conflict widows in Kashmir, 8.66% remarried – Kashmir Dispatch

      “They don’t want remarry because they wanted to devote themselves for the development of all children of the dead husband,”
      While 89-percent had not married till date and had no intention to marry again because children emerged as the crucial problem,
      “They (widows) devote themselves for the development of their children and are not interested to get re-married.

      Polygamy [Polygyny in Islam] is a completely different issue to helping the sisters in need. Polygamy in Islam is not meant to help widows, rather the Quran says ”marry women of your choice”. So its a completely different subject.

      The Quranic stance on polygamy is that you can marry anyone you like, not just women in need (hence Allah says “marry women of your choice”). Therefore these things about polygamy is there to help the needy and unmarried sisters sounds like a sham used to give a guilt trip to the sisters who have no desire to live in polygamy. This “women in need” thing is just an excuse.

      On a practical level, the way I have seen polygamy practiced in 98% of the cases in the west is shameless and reckless.That speaks volumes about its viability as a solution. Of course its not haram, but why bring it up when safer halal alternatives are available?

      @Shahin

      Do you have any proof in regards to your claim about the Sahabiyyat? Know that they came from a culture which had prior to Islam been particularly brutal with women. They had no choice but to accept sharing their husbands as their lot. It wasn’t about religion but it was deep-rooted patriarchy in their culture. In fact it was only after the revelation of Islam when Arabia’s patriarchal setup loosened you’ll find numerous changes introduced in the lives of women.

      You have to remember that besides Aisha [RA], most of the Hadith narrators were male Sahaba [many of them monogamous themselves like Abu Hurairah and Ibn Abbas] who would not have had access to the thoughts and emotions of the Sahabbiyat living in polygamous marriages. And the few that we do have don’t present such a rosy view of polygyny with the Sahabbiyat. Aisha [RA] is well-known for struggling with her jealousy and there is even a tradition where a Sahabbiyat comes to the Prophet[SAW] to ask whether she could deceive her co-wife by saying that her husband had given her a gift which he hadn’t.

      And some women even went further by rejecting the idea of living in polygyny altogether. There were women during the time of the Salaf who would stipulate into their marriage contracts that their husbands will not take second wives or concubines. All they had to do was attach an oath of divorce for the condition to be valid and then it would be required upon the husband to fulfill.

      Malik said, “The custom among us is that when a
      man marries a woman, and he makes a condition in the marriage
      contract that he will not marry after her or take a concubine,
      it means nothing unless there is an oath of divorce or
      setting−free attached to it. Then it is obliged and required
      of him.” [Book 28, Number 28.6.16].

      And let us not even get started on the famous incident of Fatima [RA], whose parable was beautifully listed by Imam Bukhari under the title of ‘Father defending his daughter concerning her jealousy and seeking for her husband to be just to her’. Imam Bukhari’s Hadith titles are known for their on-the-point messages. In fact several of the greatest Muhaditheen [eg; Ibn Hajr in Fath-Al-Bari [7/86]] interpret the Prophet’s words, in a similar Hadith on the same incident, about his other son-in-law, Abu Al Aas, to mean that the husbands of the Prophet’s daughters had promised not to take another wife as long as the Prophet’s daughters lived. And we all know that Fatima was from the best four women in the world.

      There are also Hadiths which suggest that some Sahabiyyats begging for divorce from their husbands who had taken second wives. Here is the Hadith below:

      Book 28, Number 28.22.57:
      Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that Rafi ibn Khadij married the daughter of Muhammad ibn Maslama al-Ansari. She was with him until she grew older, and then he married a young girl and preferred the young girl to her. She begged him to divorce her, so he divorced her and then he gave her time until she had almost finished her idda period and then he returned and still preferred the young girl. She therefore asked him to divorce her. He divorced her once, and then returned to her, and still preferred the young girl, and she asked him to divorce her. He said, “What do you want? There is only one divorce left. If you like, continue and put up with what you see of preference, and if you like, I will separate from you.” She said, “I will continue in spite of the preference.” He kept her in spite of that. Rafi did not see that he had done any wrong action when she remained with him in spite of preference.

      Note that the wife of this Sahaba, Rafi ibn Khadij, had begged for divorce on two occasions, only agreeing to living with her polygamous husband when there was only one talaq left.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        April 24, 2013 at 8:17 PM

        Good post, agreed on financial helping of widows and orphans as well, I always recommend automated payments via Islamic Relief, you can set it and never think about it after that. Each year, you can add one more person to your automated help fund and grow the number of people you’re helping.

        I agree with your point on polygyny, it’s really not meant only for helping “women in need”, so to speak, but in my experience that excuse is used more for delegitimizing what you pointed out, that there’s no limit on choice, and it’s done to guilt men who have other reasons beyond this. If we were to view Muslim history post-revelation, polygyny didn’t go anywhere, it was simply limited to four consenting women, and many women continued to consent.

        Having said that, as I mentioned below (somewhere), a person can conceivably decide a polygynous marriage is better for them than single life and go for it (and it does happen). It’s not THE solution, but it can certainly be one to help mitigate the problem.

        Generally speaking, I prefer not to pigeonhole people into one-dimensional stereotypes, there are all sorts out there. The wife of the Prophet (SAW) Umm Salamah was interested in having him marry her sister (this was forbidden), but it is conceivable that there are women who want to take advantage of the benefits of having a co-wife (provided they live in the same home). The mormon community is an example, there are many women who willingly wish to be a part of this. Recently an article was going around that a Saudi woman forced her suitor to also marry her two best friends (he tried to refuse but eventually capitulated, irony of ironies).

        I’ve also read of the abuses that take place in the practice. there are numerous cases of men marrying, consummating, impregnating, and then divorcing wives quickly, mostly with a type of mu’tah mindset. However, I’ve also seen many good cases as well.

        This NPR story is interesting, it talks about the statistics of Muslim polygyny in the US, and is balanced, covering both the bad and also the story of a divorced woman who took advantage of it and is happy she did:

        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90857818

        Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Shahin

        May 2, 2013 at 11:29 PM

        @Br. MIraj- Well, you justifiably pointed out that I spoke very generally and without references and you have also pointed out some things that I wasn’t aware of/didn’t necessarily think about. Maybe I took the willingness of the Sahabiyyat to submit to Allah’s Commands and applied it here to the polygamy issue. And yes, they had cultural shackles and personal prejudices to break free from (as we all do) so we need to take that into count when talking about them. Jazakallahu Khairan for correcting and educating me.

      • Avatar

        Samra

        May 13, 2013 at 1:18 AM

        Where are those Hadiths from?

        And what did Ibn Hajr say about Fatima’s incident with polygamy?

        • Avatar

          MIraj Din

          May 13, 2013 at 1:27 AM

          Commentators base their conclusion on the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) statement about his other son-in-law keeping his promise to not marry a second wife: “He spoke to me and he was truthful and promised me and fulfilled his promise.”

          Ibn Hajr observes in Fath al-Bârî (7/86):
          ”The words “He spoke to me and he was truthful” means he made a promise on himself not to marry another woman beside Zaynab. And the same was done by `Alî. Otherwise, it could be that `Alî had forgotten that condition and that is why he proceeded with that engagement to the second woman. Or, it could be that he assumed the condition did not apply to him since he did not pronounce it himself. However, he should nevertheless have respected this condition as something understood, and that is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) blamed him.”

          Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Zâd al-Ma`âd (5/117-118):
          ”If a man agrees to the condition that he will not marry a second wife, he is obliged by that condition. If the man breaks his promise, the woman will be entitled to terminate the marriage contract. It is mentioned in the hadîth that what took place is hurting Fâtimah and therefore hurting him. It is known for sure that the Prophet (peace be upon him) let `Alî marry his daughter Fâtimah on the condition that he does not hurt her or her father, even if that is not mentioned in the marriage contract. The Prophet (peace be upon him) brought up mention of his other son-in-law to incite `Ali to do the same.” The Prophet’s reproach of `Ali was on account of `Alî’s heedlessness of this condition.”

          And the Hadiths I quoted about women from the Salaf inserting no-polygamy and no-concubine clauses into their marriage contracts and the wife of Rafi ibn Khadij asking for divorce come straight from the Malik Muwatta.

  11. Avatar

    Abeer E.

    April 19, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    As salamu alaykum. I am really happy to see this article written by brother Siraaj. It is unfortunate that we still have people judging others without knowing anything about them as human beings first. Just because a sister (or a brother) has been previously married, does not mean they are not good marriage material now. A lot of the divorced sisters I know have escaped abusive relationships, or relationships where their husbands were not following Islam properly and it was a great burden. Essentially, they had to get out and they were trying to do the right thing. They deserve someone who will love them and take care of them the way they should have from the beginning. Think of how beautiful and wonderful and loving the relationship of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Khadejah (RA) was, mA. So, will all of the real good Mu’min men please stand up?

  12. Avatar

    Sahar

    April 19, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Br Siraj, I know the sister you mentioned very well. She also felt that subhanallah that experience was one which was perhaps meant to be a means to introduce you to certain concepts or organizations, not trying to imply she was better than you or anything. She also had no idea(unless I’m mistaken) of your hang up over her previous marriage. Perhaps that was one wisdom behind why Allah turned her heart away. It seemed like a compatible match on paper but her istikhara pointed her away. Because Allah knew both people would be much more compatible and well suited to other people.

    I know we talk alot about stigma surrounding this issue. But ultimately Allah is the One Who Is in charge. Subhanallah, This particular sister’s case was quite rare it seems. Even after her divorce, she recieved alot of proposals from practicing Muslim (not previously married) men mainly from the indo pak background all of whom knew she was divorced.

    Subhanallah she ended up marrying someone outside the culture who turned out to be very compatible for her alhamdulillah. Her husband also had a previous marriage which didnt work out due to religious differences so it actually turned out to be a point of compatibility. Additionally, because of her husband’s family and background(raised by a very open minded mother) it was also a non issue.

    My guess on seeing this case and some others is that this taboo is much more entrenched in the muslims from the indo/pak region than some other Muslim cultures.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 7:15 PM

      Salaam alaykum Sahar,

      You may recall she and I spoke for about 5 months, my “difficulties”, if you will (hangups seems like such a pejorative) didn’t last beyond the first month, if even that long. As I mentioned in the article, I overcame quickly them because I knew where my values were, I simply had to sync my values properly on an emotional level. Being an ABCD has it’s advantages ;) There was also some interesting hijinks related to istikhara in the beginning, and some account spoofing *ahem* but we won’t get into that =D

      but anyway, she had her reasons for ending it, and qadrAllah, we separated for the sake of Allah (SWT) and no doubt we both found what was best for each of us. But please note what I said in the end – I was disappointed that it ended, and that’s putting it mildly for the sake of my own dignity ;)

      The cultural difficulty I referred to was ambiguous, but I’ll be a bit clearer here and say it came from my family’s side and leave it at that, rather than speaking about the sister and implying she wasn’t receiving proposals (I don’t recall speaking to her about it, but that was 10 years past now).

      But you’re right, I benefited from that experience tremendously in terms of religious development because there were huge gaps between my knowledge and practice of what I knew, and it was after things ended, it came to my own mind the reason Allah (SWT) had blocked this was because I was asking to marry a good practicing muslimah, but in fact I wasn’t worthy of what I was asking for, and alhamdulillah, I changed literally overnight (and as you can see, ending it did hurt at that time).

      This led to some interesting times with family and friends, but alhamdulillah, no regrets =D I’m thankful everyday for that experience because from one perspective, it was a marriage proposal, but from another perspective, it was a student-teacher relationship and one of the critical milestones in my own life. And you’re right, it was through her (after things ended) I eventually learned of AlMaghrib Institute and came to work with Sh Muhammad Alshareef and teachers in the institute and continue to do so now through MuslimMatters. Allah knows best, when I think of what I’ve been able to do, I hope it’s accepted, and I hope, and I’m confident, whatever I’ve done is likely being written for her =D

      Regarding the issues brought up in the article, in my experience (and you can see some of the posts in the comments section), this issue is a huge problem. A good number of sisters are going through this stigma, unfortunately, and not just the indo-pak community (though they are major violators, let’s be clear about that).

      In any event, please give “n” my salaams ;)

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Wiara Amal

        April 22, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        *ahem* account spoofing?

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 22, 2013 at 5:35 PM

          Some secrets are best left that way =)

  13. Avatar

    Talha Khawaja

    April 19, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    Wonderful Article!!! Masha Allah.

    I got married to my wife to years ago. She was previously divorced and has two kids from the marriage, but I didn’t get the same experience that most second husbands get. I grew up seeing close female family members in miserable marriages and going through sad, traumatic divorces. So I then had this sort of innate understanding of women’s sufferings and I knew from the get-go what defines a woman’s character in relation to her sufferings and the development of tactics to cope with it.

    And about the ‘she has been used’ syndrome, I didn’t get that feeling at all. All I was thinking of when I got married was how to raise my new step-children and how to help my wife come out of the situation etc; My focus was on spreading the love and giving another chance at life to a woman and her kids. But for that you need extreme patience, complete commitment and also a large usage of time. Gradually you start making bonds with everyone. And there’s an old saying in my language that ”kids will go with whoever shows them the keys”. So you need to handle her kids with extreme love and patience.

    The experience is wonderful and I have to say it makes you feel more ‘manly’ because you realise your efforts to help others in life are going well and that you are doing good to others in life. And this goes down well with our masculine psyche of being the providers.

    And the Prophet’s loving and successful marriage to Khadijah was really inspirational for me. As well as the story of the wealthy and single Sahabi Abu Talhah [my half namesake] who married a widow with kids.

    My advice to other brothers on the subject is just think about what you will do to bring smiles on innocent and loving faces rather than what they have gone through in the past. Your wife’s ex-husband’s failure should be a staging point for you to work out and correct your own mistakes rather than a reminder of someone else having been in you shoes once. Once you centre your mind on being the provider and not the rememberer you can eventually overcome that ”other man” syndrome.

    I personally got a mixed reaction from family members. My dad and paternal family was completely against it and saw my actions as a violation of the natural order itself. Most men can’t understand how I can ever be the ‘second’ man to enter my wife’s life.

    My mother and her family on the other hand were both cautious and supportive and welcomed the marriage and kids with open arms Alhamdulillah.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 19, 2013 at 8:48 PM

      Awesome story bro, jzk khair for sharing it with us, and especially the advice, I think that more than anything else is needed for our community.

  14. Avatar

    Siraaj

    April 19, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    It’s a double hit, unfortunately – first the spousal abuse and then the community abuse.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      April 19, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatulllahi wa barakatuh

      If this dunya wasn’t made to look as bad as it is, we wouldn’t want the akhirah as much. Alhamdulilah.

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        April 22, 2013 at 1:11 AM

        That is a quote that one can take to the bank!!!

        • Avatar

          Gibran

          April 22, 2013 at 11:45 PM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          Someone didn’t like that…….I have an even better quote.

          Abu Musa Al-Ashari reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever loves his worldly life will suffer in his Hereafter, and whoever loves his Hereafter will suffer in his worldly life; so prefer that which endures over that which is fleeting.”

          Source: Musnad Ahmad 19198

          Grade: Hasan (fair) according to Ibn Hajar

          عَن أَبِي مُوسَى الْأَشْعَرِيِّ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ مَنْ أَحَبَّ دُنْيَاهُ أَضَرَّ بِآخِرَتِهِ وَمَنْ أَحَبَّ آخِرَتَهُ أَضَرَّ بِدُنْيَاهُ فَآثِرُوا مَا يَبْقَى عَلَى مَا يَفْنَى

          19198 مسند أحمد أَوَّلُ مُسْنَدِ الْكُوفِيِّينَ من أحب دنياه أضر بآخرته ومن أحب آخرته أضر بدنياه

          المحدث ابن حجر العسقلاني خلاصة حكم المحدث حسن

    • Avatar

      Abeer E.

      April 19, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      I agree. It’s sad and completely uncalled for. People have no idea what others have endured in most cases, none. Abuse of any kind is no joke, and the women that survive it are some of the strongest people. They deserve better, and may Allah bless them with that and more, insha’Allah.

    • Avatar

      Y

      April 25, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      Assalamu Alaykum Wa rahmatullahi Wa barakatu,

      When reading this article it gave me some hope that I might have a second chance. I am recently divorced and my ex husband and I had no intimate relations therefore making me ‘untouched’, which is so valued by my Muslim brothers sadly. My marriage ended due to no fault of my own – my ex husband was addicted to drugs and alcohol for which he did not want to go into rehab and we now realise he might have had an affair or was impotent during the time we were married.

      My marriage was an arranged one and didnt last for long. Yet I have had to shoulder the blame for everything that went wrong while being slandered by my in laws. I have to also deal with the stigma that comes with the divorcees.

      It is a sad reality that in spite of the Sahabas and our beloved Prophet (saw) himself marrying widows and divorcees, our Muslim brothers and their families run far away from them.

      To anyone reading this, I urge you if you have an unmarried brother or are a brother yourself or you are just a Muslim seeking to spread the Qur’an and Sunnah – please do not run away from divorcees or widows and please do whatever you can to wipe this stigma against us. We deserve a second chance – I would give anything to be a mother and to be the wife of a man who is always looking for opportunities to further his Deen. It is hurting us and our families. May Allah reward you and us for our efforts in spreading His word and the ways of our beloved Prophet (saw). Ameen.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        April 25, 2014 at 5:50 PM

        Salaam alaykum sister Y,

        I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’ve been facing in the community. More tragic is you didn’t even commit the “crime” (if it can even be called that under normal circumstances) and another family is dragging your name through the mud to cover their tracks and family honor. I’ve seen it previously, it’s an unfortunate part of our cultures.

        May Allah (swt) make this a means of filtering out the wrong kind of men and make it a means to bring you a good, pious man who will make the wrongdoing you’ve endured and the patience you’ve had to have in this difficulty worth it. ameen.

        Siraaj

  15. Avatar

    Rafiq

    April 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Siraj, you seem to make marrying divorcees and widows seems to look like following the Prophet’s example AKA Sunnah. Its permissible but it is not following the Prophet’s example.

    The scholars of Fiqh identify the proper Sunnah to be either from the obligatory or recommended categories. Al-Subki defined the Sunnah to be: “The Sunnah in Istlaah (religious context) means: what have been known as obligatory or preferable from the saying of the Prophet” [al-ibhaaj fi sharh al-minhaaj: 1/36]

    This definition is actually an explicit statement to explain the general broad definition of Sunnah that has been adopted by recent scholars; Meaning: Any act of the Prophet, requires a supportive saying from the Prophet to show the virtue of such act so it becomes a Sunnah. This outline that the Salaf and scholars only recognized ceratin acts and sayings of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to be Sunnah in the context of religion that they are preferable for others to act upon.

    al-Tufail reported: I asked Ibn Abbas (رضي الله عنهما): your people claim that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) walked proudly while moving the shoulders (Ramal) during his Tawaf and that such act is Sunnah. Ibn Abbas replied: They said the truth but they mistakened. I said: what does that mean? He replied: Indeed, he did that but that is not a Sunnah; Quraish said at the time of Hudaybiya treaty let Muhammad and his companions die from Naghaf [i.e. ants that live in camels noses]. Then they signed the truce and agreed that Muslims come next year and stay at Mecca for three days. So, Muslims came and the Prophet said to his companions: Do “raml” thrice while you are performing Tawaf. I [i.e. al-Tufail] said: Your people claim that the Prophet did the Tawaf between the Safaa and Marwa while riding his camel and that is (i.e. tawaf while riding) a Sunnah. He replied: They said the truth but they mistakned. So I said: what do you mean with that? He answered: “Indeed, the Prophet did Tawaf while riding his camel and they are mistakend because that is not a Sunnah; people used to stay around the Prophet so he was riding his camel so they can hear him and see his position while they do not push him”

    [ Sunan Abi Dawd: 1885] and [Musnad Ahmad:5/179].

    Based on such Hadiths the companions and scholars differentiated between the acts of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). They viewed acts that are performed on religious basis to get one closer to Allah as Sunnah while other acts that are done for other reasons as general acts. Not eberything that the Prophet [SAW] did is a Sunnah.

    There are categories of Sunnah:

    Sunan Wajiba (obligatory): It is every command of the Prophet that cannot be found any other text prove that such command was said to mean preferable. Such like: “do not backbite each other”.

    Sunan Mustahabba: (preferable): It is every command of the Prophet that have another proof that shows the command came to mean preferable. Such like: ” Pray as you see me pray” then in another hadeeth only certain acts were mentioned so that one’s Salaat can be accepted”

    Sunan Mubahaa( Permissible): These are acts that no texts happen to exist and shows a virtue for or are not acted upon based on religious purposes eg; slavery, cousin marriages, monogamy/polygamy and marrying non virgins despite their being practised by the Prophet and his companions

    Any act that has no text from the Prophet to show it is recommended then it cannot be considered Sunnah in its religious context. Yet, it can be considered Sunnah in its lingual definition.

    Marrying a non-virgin has no supportive text. On the contrary marrying virgins was encouraged by the Prophet [SAW]. So the real example to follow would be marrying a virgin.

    And I’d also like to mention that under Shariah once a woman remarriies, she loses custody of her children. Hence so many women are put off remarrriage.

    That is not to say that marrying women in need is prohibited. It draws a reward of its own in fact. The Hadith where the Prophet is told by a Sahaba that he married a virgin because he disliked marrying a girl like his sisters points to the variety of good deeds that one can do and earn.

    Wassalam

    • Avatar

      Rafiq

      April 20, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      The Hadith where the Prophet is told by a Sahaba that he married a matron* because he disliked marrying a girl like his sisters points to the variety of good deeds that one can do and earn.

      ___________________________________________________________________-

      Wording error

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        April 20, 2013 at 2:27 AM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        I don’t know that Jabir RA disliked marrying a girl like his sisters. My understanding was he wanted to marry a women who could raise and discipline them.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      April 20, 2013 at 2:24 AM

      “Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh”

      “Marrying a non-virgin has no supportive text. On the contrary marrying virgins was encouraged by the Prophet [SAW]. So the real example to follow would be marrying a virgin.”

      Not exactly the case. Allah commands us to marry single women. Therefore it is good to marry matrons. Also, we see that Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam married widows. We can look at the good in his example and emulate it. There is fasting the white days of the month and then their is fasting the three days that Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam did.

      Of course there are things he did that we do not-and this is of course not part of the sunnah we follow.

      So marrying non-virgins is good although the texts clearly indicate that we really should marry virgins.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 20, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      Salaam alaykum Rafiq,

      Jzk for taking time to write the explanation. While I’m not in any position to disagree with the categorization scheme for the multiple definitions of the term “Sunnah”, I can contend with your use of the word “example” as well as what is said in my post, so bear with me :)

      You said:

      “Siraj, you seem to make marrying divorcees and widows seems to look like following the Prophet’s example AKA Sunnah. Its permissible but it is not following the Prophet’s example.”

      It was his example – only one of out of his 11 wives was only married to him. We are at a point culturally where it seems almost makruh and bordering on haraam to marry sisters who have had any relationship experience – the point in this post is that while the recommendation is there, it is not the only factor to consider – it is practical to consider much more than this, as Jabir did, and the Prophet (SAW) approved. And more generally, there is nothing wrong with a woman with previous relationship experience.

      Furthermore, saying something was from his example doesn’t imply saying it is sunnah under the definition of being an optional deed with a reward attached to it. However, I think this is splitting hairs because in the end, if one does something the Prophet (SAW) did with the intention of copying his example, this is rewarded. Marriage is a sunnah, and so on.

      My own thought on this is we make too big a deal on this issue using texts to mask other problems within ourselves (one of which this post attempts to address). Were it that big a deal, the Prophet (SAW) as head of the Madinan state could have easily had his pick of young virgin women, yet he chose otherwise.

      Many of us claim we interpret the Qur’an and the Sunnah based on the practice of the Prophet (SAW) and the Companions, so I’m simply reaffirming that – let’s look at their practice, and let’s understand the words of the Prophet (SAW) looking at his day-to-day life. Clearly, there are many factors to consider in marriage, not just the one ;)

  16. Avatar

    ms. H

    April 21, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    I am so happy to see attitudes are changing. This was my situation more than 20 years ago, I was able to get out of my abusive marriage and get remarried Alhamdulilah but, I was never able to speak about my experiences openly in the community nor even among family. This kind of secrecy encourages feelings of shame, Thank God this is slowly changing..

  17. Avatar

    Heman

    April 22, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    Take it from someone who has dealt with issues of marriage and divorce in multiple communities, made his own fair share of mistakes, and has read rather extensively on the topic…it is fine to express opinions, but to give recommendations and get into what is Sunnah or closer to piety can put people in lot of trouble. One must distinguish between personal experiences, anecdotal evidence, large scale studies of patterns in divorce and marriage, and making religious recommendations. What I am saying is that please be careful with what you say if you are not even close to an expert.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 22, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      Salaam alaykum Heman,

      I agree with you in that when one isn’t an expert, then they shouldn’t claim to be, and I haven’t. In fact, I say very clearly in the post:

      “What I offer is my own thought process in overcoming issues such as these, and I would recommend using this as a complementary resource to whatever you find beneficial from Muslim or secular relationship counselors / experts.”

      If there is any religious recommendation in these posts, it’s simply this – stop hating / stigmatizing these sisters, treat them with dignity, and give them the consideration they deserve. They’re not one-dimensional stereotypes.

      If there is anything stated which misrepresents either the practice of the Prophet (SAW) and the Companions or goes against what is recommended by relationship experts, then feel free to share.

      Siraaj

  18. Avatar

    Fezz

    April 22, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Salam, great article and nicely balanced.

    You talk about attitudinal shifts and there are obviously lots of cultural/emotional trends underlying this.

    You mentioned you skipped over this but the polygamy issue is really a hard one to miss. Sisters often quote how the Sahaba married divorcees/widows but without poly there would ALMOST NO WAY that whis would have happened. In a few cases where the wife died first I guess remarriage to a divorcee would recur but common sense/statistics/social science indicates this would not likely have been the normative. Having said that, poly was practiced in a more selfless way than maybe it would be now.

    Another unfortunate point is the way in which the unjust divorce laws seems to be set up in the west which serve more to break the family than anything else. (witness the Times Divorce Rich List; a sad indictment of the plethora of gold diggers out there).It is not improbable that many would see a divorcee as potentially “a risk” who would be only out to secure her (+/- childrens) financial future off the back of another.

    Again I emphasise these points may be side issues but it would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM

      My wife and I are both pro-polygyny, actually, and she’s turned in a number of articles are already which are coming out soon on MM with a different perspective on the practice altogether (see above the comment from “Siraaj’s first wife” for a summary [i don’t have a second wife…yet ;)]).

      I’ve believed for a while now this is one solution among many we should reach for – this article was written more to reach out to the community to de-stigmatize the women and assuming most men, even if they agreed with polygyny in theory as a solution, in practice would not do so (due to social stigma, financial restrictions, and finding partners open).

      I can see how some people might have a concern about divorcees looking to secure a future for their kids and themselves. Honestly, I think it’s noble to put the needs of others above your own, even if have a less than ideal partner, at least your kids are taken care of. But being the guy, that may or may not be for you, so that’s what istikhara is for at the end of the day.

      Which takes me to another point, istikhara is basically my trump card in all this =) If someone isn’t sure, pray and ask for guidance, you’ll get what’s best insha’Allah out of it (and as with istikhara, due diligence and research as well.

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        April 22, 2013 at 7:04 PM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        Siraj I have a question….I don’t intend to marry more than one woman at a time but I am curious-how exactly does polygyny work in America? Isn’t it against the law? How do you deal with that? Maybe we aren’t supposed to follow laws which are not in concodance with Sharia?…..I know Mormons do polygamy I just don’t know how it works.

        Also, if a man, Muslim or otherwise wanted more than one wife, wouldn’t both have to be unregistered? Otherwise the Muslim is favoring one wife over another by registering one and making on not registered….

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 22, 2013 at 8:37 PM

          Walaykum as salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu,

          So regarding the law, it is against the laws existing in the books right now. It is against the law in the sense that you can’t have two registered marriage licenses. In Utah, you cannot perform “spiritual” marriages where a marriage ceremony takes place, either in or out of the country, that recognizes multiple spouses. The former law is perfectly valid, but the latter is strongly disputed as unconstitutional and a violation of the free association rights between consenting adults. As an example, a man can have multiple mistresses and children with them, and that’s legally valid, but if he claims to be married to them, it’s criminal in Utah. The people in the Reality TV Show “Sister Wives” were taken to court and they forced the attorney general to drop the case.

          http://fox13now.com/2013/01/17/judge-contemplates-decriminalizing-polygamy-sister-wives/

          About marriage equality rights and responsibilities, what’s interesting to me when Muslims make the assertion that men must be equal in the rights they give their wives is that there is no discussion as to whether a woman (say a second wife) would perform a cost-benefit analysis for herself and perhaps children from a previous marriage and decide that she’ll be fine without the contract. Just as some are quick to say women can add additional clauses to marriage contracts (such as getting a divorce if their husband takes a second wife), they are not so quick to recognize a woman may wish to forgo certain rights because in her estimation, the balance of benefits coming her way is better than the situation she currently faces.

          It’s not a decision for society to make, or some man to make – it’s a decision for the woman to make of her own volition, and if she’s happy with it, so be it.

          Siraaj

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            April 22, 2013 at 8:43 PM

            Ok jazzakAllahu khair that was informative.

  19. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    April 22, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    someone in my family got married to a divorcee sometime ago… he knew other family members would have issues, so he called me to consult. I asked him all sorts of twisted question to make sure that he knew what he was doing, like if he would feel insecure, if he would ever bring up her past etc. After confirming that he was sure what he was doing, I advised him to go for it but without telling anyone else in the family that she was previously married because of the same cultural stigma you mentioned…He had an advantage of the girl being from somewhere else. So it worked out fine and he was able to keep it a secret…

    Alhamdullialh they’ve been married and this issue has never come up…

    Sometimes, I think of my son marrying someone who was previously married or even someone who’d made mistakes in the past but repented and changed…and i don’t see any issues with that inshaAllah…i talk to him about it sometimes…

    I think other than the male psychological issue u mentioned, we should also train our young boys to marry non-virgins, practicing muslimahs though, as a normal part of life…nothing strange or unusual….should start grilling the idea in their minds :)

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 22, 2013 at 8:20 PM

      I had a slightly different experience with someone I knew – he was ready to marry a sister who was, masha’Allah a convert, but he found out before her conversion, she had had a boyfriend in high school and, well, you can imagine the rest.

      He was devastated, and when I tried to convince him to change his mind, his response was, that’s not fair to me, I’ve kept my chastity, why should I have to sacrifice? Isn’t it the chaste for the chaste and the unchaste for the unchaste?

      This kid was ABCD, and you can see how these ideas are still pervading our community, unfortunately. Marrying someone with previous relationship experience was now a “sacrifice”, and the ayaat were being misapplied. I explained to him as well as I could, but I think he was emotionally already out-of-pocket, as they say.

      I like your suggestion – teaching our kids to view people with previous relationship experience as no different than those without. honestly, there’s that whole question of, “Ok, technically that person is a virgin, but were they chaste?” Some of the most religious guys and girls were not so growing up, not so in college, though they may have changed later. If people had the temerity to ask that question, I think we’d start losing even more potential candidates for marriage =)

      My attitude, if you guys match, istikhara and go. Look forward, never back, and besides, everyone has baggage, it’s just a matter of what =P

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        April 22, 2013 at 8:37 PM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        Yes it I found out on Islam QA that if the person has repented it is ok to marry them. But it isn’t an abcd thing. It’s just natural subhanAllah, if I have preserved my chastity shouldn’t I want someone else who also preserved their chastity as well? These feelings aren’t just limited to desis….

        “My attitude, if you guys match, istikhara and go. Look forward, never back, and besides, everyone has baggage, it’s just a matter of what =P”
        Agreed.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 22, 2013 at 9:14 PM

          As I allude to in the article, and a discussion I also have occasionally with feminist-leaning Muslims, if we turn people into one-dimensional caricatures, we do them and ourselves a huge disservice. Take a hypothetical – would you rather a beautiful 21 girl who had a few dalliances in the past and repented, or a 45 year old virgin? I’m not saying you can’t find the best of both, I’m simply providing the example to illustrate a point – by just changing one variable (age), the whole discussion changes as well.

          People are much more complicated than one or two attributes and variables, as are you. I don’t think we should make it the deciding factor, even as we still affirm the recommendation of the Prophet (SAW).

          I’ll give you another example – would you rather buy a new car or a previously owned used car (let’s say 10 years old). You’d probably say new car. But then, I tell you the car is a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry, but the used car is a Nissan 350z and it’s got really low miles for a car of its age (58k miles).

          Myself, I’ll take the Z any day of the week ;) others might choose the new accord or camry based on their own situation and needs, but for me, the Z is sporty, hot, and fast, so while everyone else might opt for new and safe, I’d rather opt for sporty and hot ;)

          Siraaj

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            April 22, 2013 at 11:43 PM

            Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

            Good point…..didn’t think of it that way.

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            April 28, 2013 at 10:16 PM

            I hope you didn’t compare women to cars!!!

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            April 28, 2013 at 11:17 PM

            21 year old rosy cheeked girl with a past or a 45 year old virgin…you know Sirag bhai, that is quite a moral conundrum. I mean seriously what is the ruling on that ? A strict constructionist maybe apt for the latter but I think the majority may opt for the first, but why? Is virginity related to age ?

            “They” say women peek at 25 physically and men intelligently. Is it easier to be chaste at an older age than a young age ?

            My grandfather’s eldest brother never married, so he remained chaste all his life. If he had marry at very late age, I don’t think he would have cared too much if the women was a virgin or not.
            The issue of virginity is old one, but I think your article did bring some attention to it…but left me with more questions. LOL!

  20. Avatar

    Siraaj's First Wife

    April 22, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    like as said, as long as you continue to take care of the mazda, (which is serious need of an oil change and a in-state, non-expired license plate), then you can have the Z, even if you spent all our life-savings on it im a generous wife, eh? and of course you let me drive it, though i won’t ever have the relationship with it that you do, lol. however, don’t forget how much you loved the mazda when you first got it, now its falling into a state of neglect, overshadowed, dismissed, used only for the kids (crunched up goldfish crackers and lollipop sticks stuck to the interior)….
    take. care. of. my. car.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      April 22, 2013 at 11:34 PM

      Assalamualaiikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Married people conversations…what the?……….

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        April 22, 2013 at 11:42 PM

        Am I gonna talk like this when I’m married……lol……

        • Avatar

          Siraaj's First Wife

          April 24, 2013 at 8:53 PM

          only if you have a sense of humor.

  21. Avatar

    Dee-jected (@dureen_anwer)

    May 9, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    masha Allah so good to see Muslim brothers talk maturely about such a sensitive issue.

  22. Avatar

    RMuslimah

    June 6, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Interesting article. Whats unfortunate is that so many assumptions can be made about someone simply because they were married. I was married for only a few weeks. I was verbally abused by in laws – while my “husband” watched. Eventually he joined in on the insults. We were both educated (both of us are physicians), and both grew up in the US. As if that wasn’t enough – I’m honestly not quite sure why he got married. I was nothing more than a house guest to him from day 1. Think twice before you assume a divorced woman is not a virgin. It’s not always the case….now all of a sudden I’m divorced – but it wasn’t even a marriage. I can’t put into words how painful it is to know that just because I lived in another family’s home..so much will be assumed about me :(. It doesn’t feel fair…then again not much feels very “fair” at the moment. I lived such a conservative life, had an arranged marriage – hoping that the way I carried myself in college and med school would be a source of barakah in my marriage…and then it all fell apart in front of my face. Absolutely no idea what the future holds, but its really unfortunate to know society will consider me “used”

    To all my sisters out there…be careful..its crazy and cruel out there :(.

    • Avatar

      Aashiq Hussain

      July 28, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      Since when did Allah Or Prophet forbid us to marry a “used” women?
      I personally would love to marry a virgin but if a divorced and “used” girl can give me what I need( to be closer to Allah, raise my children with good character). I am willing to marry her.

      Problem is we have no idea about marriage in Islam and duties towards our spouses.
      Unfortunately, Non-muslims respect prostitutes more than “Muslims” “men” respect their wives.

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  25. Avatar

    Zee

    July 16, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    So glad I came across this article, well done, this has totally confirmed my thoughts on how to deal with such an important and relevant issue.

  26. Avatar

    Saum

    July 28, 2013 at 5:45 AM

    It is very reassuring to read this from a muslim brother. Thank you for a great article exploring important issues so justly! :)

  27. Avatar

    Shi Shi

    July 31, 2013 at 4:22 AM

    Quite frankly I think with this judgmental attitude I am better off without another “disaster husband who does not know how to respect a wife”. He was “third hand damaged goods”. There is a big difference between being chaste and being a virgin. I am chaste but want a good muslim husband or no husband. I won’t settle for a nuisance relationship again where I was a trophy wife.

    Men, come down from your pedestal. We do not worship you. Only Allah SWT. Its a dangerous game for you in the end – making out all divorced women are damaged goods. Well our husbands must have damaged us in the first place if that is the case.

    Remember, down the line you may have a physical problem when you are older – erectile dysfunction! Then you will be very damaged and unable to perform for your PERFECT?????? wife.

    I think that Prophet Muhammad was the best husband of all time, and I have yet to meet a man that could come anywhere near that. Sadly, if this attitude prevails in the world I will not as CHASTE ATTRACTIVE MUSLIM WOMAN EVER REMARRY. OH WE MUST NOT FORGET THE WORD DAMAGEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD………………… Respectful replies only please otherwise keep your mouth shut!

  28. Avatar

    erum

    July 31, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    This is a great article. Its shame though that the parents of muslim men still to this day follow cultural values rather than islamic values. Sadly muslim men (in the uk) are completely spineless and dont stand up to their parents and are also brought up to believe the same cultural rubbish.. Hence the reason why they wont marry divorcees; divorcees with kids or older women. Cos mummy and daddy wont approve/accept her. Non-muslims are way more broad-minded. The state of ummah is disgusting.

  29. Avatar

    Rashad Mohammed

    September 25, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    If she’s a Woman of jannah, then I’m A-OK =”D

  30. Avatar

    Leila

    October 24, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    Salaam,

    Thanks for this article. I am actually a female divorcee.. I got married at a young age against the will of my parents, and I ended up divorcing the person because I realized he was not a good person. I was 16, and it lasted for a couple years.After the break up, I found my relationship with Allah to be increasing. Things between my family became better, I moved back, started to pray 5 times a day, fast, wear hijab, etc. Anyways its been a long time since I have been in that relationship and whenever it is mentioned that I was married people just cannot believe it, they would never imagine that I was based on my manners. When becoming close friends with people, I feel like i have to tell them about my past because I do not want to give them a false image of me as being perfect, because i feel as if thats how they treat me. Anyways, I have had potential people come and ask for my hand, one guy was just obsessed wiht my past and kept bringing it up and then accused me of lying, but the good thing is that I didn’t see him in person and another man who did not care at all, but after I did salat el istkhara I was in discomfort each time I spoke with him. Now, I have been getting to know someone for the past 2 weeks through refferal of a family member online, and I like him so far (for the right reasons- religious, and has qualities I look for in a person).. but now I am feeling bad because I feel like I want to tell him about my past but I do not want to be defined by my past , being divorced has a stigma associated with it unfortunately.. I keep telling myself, that he is not your nasseb if he cares, etc. but it bothers me to think about it. I haven’t seen him yet… but I was planning on telling him when I see him in person (chaperoned by a family member).. I was hoping for some advice … like when should i tell him? How should I bring it up? should i wait until he asks? would i be considered as deceptive if i did not bring it up until (if he didn’t ask) the marriage contract(if that happens)? should i tell him my parents were against the marriage?

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      January 2, 2014 at 4:27 AM

      My approach on marriage is to get the negatives out of the way first. For example, when meeting my wife for marriage 10 years ago, one of the first things I told her was look, I have a college degree but I have school debt and I’m still looking for a job.

      You’d rather have someone who can accept you for who you are vs someone you have to walk on eggshells with and wonder when your past will catch up with you and slam your spouse upside the head. If that person is for you, your istikhara will have you covered, insha’Allah.

    • Avatar

      Jumana

      May 3, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      As salaamu ‘alaikum.

      Don’t know if you’ll read this comment sis (hopefully a notification) but may be of benefit to someone in shaa’ Allah.

      Yes, It is best to get the negatives or weighing factors out of the way. I have a few further things to add. I also think these things should be discussed in the first meeting (not in the first few minutes of course!). That way there are no attachments and potential for hurt. Normally, there should be a third person anyway. But, people still do end up forming attachments or think that person might be the ‘one’ only to find out he may not feel the same way due to xyz reasons attached to her. Many times brothers or sisters fall for someone when deep down they knew their parents wouldn’t accept such and such. Yes, islam gives us the option to choose but we still need to use our judgement and not head straight in. So, ask him if his family will be ok with it, too (in some cultures parents play a big role in marriage). Allah’s (SWT) blessings are such that there will always be someone else. It is not the end of the world if you obey your parents as long as you aren’t disobeying Allah (SWT).

      However, you will have to be mindful here. If you base everything on his acceptance of your past, then chances are even if you aren’t completely happy with him, you’ll be subconsciously pushed to think that he is the right one (“Atleast he is ok with my past”). You do not have to comprise so easily. So, keep that in mind please.

      I don’t think you have to go into all the details about how you got married. Against your parents will or not, only thing he needs to know is that you were married. You do not have to be so open to this stranger who is non-mahram to you. It is of no benefit to reveal how you got married unless it adds anything to the marriage which frankly I can’t see. Sometimes being too honest about details of matters cause more damage by raising unnecessary suspicions despite the best intentions. We are humans after all and shaytan is after us.

      You have amended yourself by now. I don’t see why the 16 year old from back then should pose a problem unless you committed a major sin. I don’t know what you meant by against your father’s will. Did you have the wali’s permission (required for a valid marriage) even though he was reluctant? Even then, muslims must repent and not reveal what Allah (SWT) has concealed. You were 16. Perhaps, you weren’t even aware of fiqh side of marriage (most of us aren’t).

      Say enough for him to decide, but not too much that you leave yourself exposed and vulnerable. You aren’t trying to sell yourself.

      Always speak to someone older or knowledgable from family or friends. That way emotions do not get in the way. Women, in general, have the tendency to blurt everything out in the hope that someone may accept them or feel that they are being noble. Allah (SWT) has honoured us. Fear nothing, and fear no-one besides Him alone. Ask Allah (SWT) for guidance in your decisions and leave it to Him.

      All the best in shaa’ Allah.

      (I hope no-one takes this to mean that people should hide things that will actually affect the marriage, e.g.: illness etc)

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  32. Avatar

    charlotte

    December 30, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    what a wonderful enlightening article….what hope for those within relationships that have become broken…there is no right or wrong….there can be no discussion as when a couple meet each other, regardless of age, faith or culture…it is right……it can only be called destiny…..however……both will go through anguish….until they both realise that society cannot make a rule for anyone on this matter..it is strictly between the couple………the love they find will be given to them from a source that can never ever be written in human language…it will always remain as a magical experience……..that it is like being suspended on an elastic rope …..with an invisible power holding the two together…forever…whatever………the two just know………wonderful article…thanks…x

  33. Avatar

    Sabiha

    January 3, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    Br. Siraaj,
    This was beautifully written. Thank you. When I first started looking for a second marriage (I’m widowed with a kiddo), I was immensely disappointed by how many brothers (or their families) were turned off by the idea of me being previously married (and with a kid). But now, I realize that people have their preferences and they are entitled to them. Some people look to expand their comfort zone while others prefer staying within their comfort zone. And that is okay. Because it could be a blessing in disguise. Every turn down could be Allah (SWT)’s way of preventing a person from marrying someone who won’t be good for them. Is it still disappointing that people have this mindset? Yes. But can I hold them accountable for not being more like the Prophet (SAW)? No, because I’m not more like him. Marriage is a stepping stone and ultimately, Allah (SWT) matches “rib-mates”. Just my two-cents.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      January 5, 2014 at 12:20 AM

      Thanks for the feedback, when I think of preferences, I tend to think of things that tend to have variation from person to person. In this case, however, this seems to be a social phenomenon where everyone, parents and children, have turned against these women. I’ve known people who wanted to marry a woman who had been previously married, only to have their parents fight tooth and nail against the arrangement.

      My hope with this article was to fire into the discussion something based on our faith that stands for our sisters and shows there’s nothing wrong with them and challenge some common things we sometimes hear like the virtue of only marrying virgin women and so on as though it’s the only consideration.

      • Avatar

        Sabiha Afreen

        January 6, 2014 at 8:16 PM

        You are correct. Someone has got to take the stand for us. Thank you for gearing towards that direction.

    • Avatar

      Umm Malik

      January 10, 2014 at 11:21 PM

      masha Allah sister, I love your “rib-mates”concept hhhh
      May Allah SWT help you find a pious husband that you could love in dunya and akhira, amin! (if you have already found one, may Allah azzawajal bless your marriage, amin!).
      What you point out is exactly the case with me. I was divorced, and when I finally decided to get re-married men approached me but then, for cultural reasons or by just plain fear, it did not fall through. A brother masha Allah even suggested I abandon my child to follow him! Well it is shari’a that the child belongs to the father BUT which mother who is sane would even consider this??!?!
      Long story short, I am now re-married with a very pious, compassionate brother alhamdullilah who understands that I am a mother as well. Now it makes sense why Allah SWT did not let the marriages to these previous men take place!
      Always say alhamdullilah for all!
      As-salam alaykom!

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  35. Avatar

    Umm Malik

    January 10, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    as-salam alaykom brother,
    I stumbled upon your article because i was actually looking for information about children of divorced couples at the time of the sahaba.
    As we all know, many re-married several times, and they obviously had children of these marriages. Of course the child-rearing styles differ greatly between then and now (just think of how our beloved Prophet SAWS was raised by a foster family in his SAWS first years of life, and how that was a sign of status, whereas today no-one would think of doing something like this), but i would still like to find information on how things like where did the children live after divorce, custody; all these regulations were made. It is of personal interest to me… I am a mother and my son obviously has a father; and alhamdullilah, we are having some trouble trying to understand each other in regards to our child after I got remarried.
    This situation is difficult to bare with me, as well as possibly for my son’s father, as a lot is at stake for us. Masha Allah the man is a good muslim but sometimes our nafs take the best of us, especially when a lot of emotions are involved. i thought if I could find information about how the sahabi used to behave in these cases, this could bring about inspiration for us on how to handle the situation.
    Unfortunately, until now I have found no information on the matter.
    Would you not be interested in writing an article about this? I think it is of utmost relevance for the Ummah in this day and age and could be of great benefit.
    Barakallah fik for your attention and may Allah bless you and reward your efforts towards the Ummah, amin!

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  37. Avatar

    Syed

    February 9, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Asalamalaikum. I’m a 23 Year old Man looking forward to marry a Divorced Sister who is 2 yrs elder to me with 2 young daughters. Alhumdulilah i am well aware of her past and have absolutely no problems in her being in this state. We like each other and I’ve asked her hand for marriage for which she informed her mother about me and alhumdulilah her entire family is supportive and have no problems with me. We have never met each other because we stay in different countries and we love each other a lot. I certainly have no problems in her so called used up state, but being from India i have trouble telling my parents about it. I’ve shared this with my Eldest Sister and Brother who are married with kids and sadly they said its Impossible :( I’d like to know in what way should i approach my mother (who recently had a heart attack) regarding this ? i’m the last one in my family and i really wish to help this lady & the kids in this distress. I’m still studying and inshallah it’ll take me another 1.5 yrs to graduate, have discussed all the up comings with her family and they’re ok with it. I really want to tell my parents about it and inshallah convice them some how. Please brothers and sisters kindly help me out.

    Jzk

    • Avatar

      Jumana

      May 3, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      Wa ‘alaikum as salaam.

      I don’t know how you got to know her or for how long. First things first, please stop talking or communicating with this sister. If the situation is not moving forward, it is pointless to just talk and chat. It will do neither of you good. And, you shouldn’t carry on communicating as it is not right unless done in the presence of her wali ideally (or a third person). You got her wali’s permission, now focus on your side in shaa’ Allah. I hope this acts as a reminder for us all.

      Few questions you need to ask yourself first:

      1. Will your future wife be living with your family?

      In that case, it will be very difficult for her to settle in and with all due respect, your family may not make things easy for her. In the end, it’ll affect your marriage. Do not forget that the kid will be affected by this too. They both need acceptance. Sometimes family do agree, but they ask the mother to leave the kid with her parents.

      2. Will you relocate to her country of residence?

      That could solve the problem but could strain your relationship with your parents. There will be financial and visa etc to think about. You might become financially responsible for both of them (if the child’s father is not giving him the maintenance as he should).

      3. Why do you want to marry her?

      Obvious question but if you have to go through all this and hurt your family in the process as well as not being certain whether they will be accepted into your family, you need to re-evaluate the whole situation.

      Once you’ve made some peace with the above, you can approach her. You know your mother well.

      Do you have any similar examples around you? A family relative who was divorced and then re-married? Could you start off by talking about them?

      Since she is not well, you should always show concern for her. Do not choose a moment when she is upset or unwell. Help her around the house more which you should do anyway and not to ‘bribe’ her (she could then take it the wrong way).

      Could you bring up the subject of your marriage and ask her what her expectations of her future daughter-in-law is and perhaps, see if you can find any similarities between her ideal and the sister of interest. (If you find it awkward to do it directly, see if you can get your siblings to do it for you)

      Right now, please repent if you have been having a relationship over the internet. What I always noticed is that any relationship that starts off in a haraam way, has no blessing in it. Repent, so that Allah (SWT) may show mercy and put blessings in your endeavours.

      The above are some of my thoughts and ideas.

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  41. Avatar

    Fuad

    May 26, 2015 at 12:01 PM

    Salam, it seems this issue is global with culture taking over religion. I came across this divorcee who is 3yrs older than I am and she was just married briefly, we are really getting along as there is love and respect btw us and I have been pryaing for Allah’s guidance in our relationship. anytime time soon we are planning on getting married as our mothers are both in support. I have been able to convince the few ppl that know about it yet, alhamdulillah and I hope we will be an inspiration after marriage for others willing to go in the same steps so that we get rid of this societal disorder

  42. Avatar

    Silver

    July 30, 2015 at 8:19 PM

    I have never been married but the
    Longest relationship I have has Was 14 years. I also am a mother. He loves me
    And knows everything about me, I am the one that is worried for
    Him not for him not for
    My self
    Lost and alone

  43. Avatar

    3bdullah

    October 17, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    I find the article is just trying to debase “cultural views ” with modernistic approach guided as more humane and moral. Two points I wish were pointed out are;
    – The kids!!!, how can you not mention kids and yet keep on sympathizing with the sisters only. The custody changes. If the situation of kids is not even thought about FIRST, then it just seems like a selfish venture. The sister will obviously be effected by this and hence so will the remarriage, her psychological state but our only focus is marrying this sister?!!
    2. A divorced sister AND brother as well. Have a history that effects their outlook of how they may view marriage now. They maybe fragile , may have certain distresses that effect them due to previous abuses. May need more attention in certain areas so the issues are not repeated. marrying a divorced person requires more affection,care,maturity. just like marrying a convert may require you to help them grow in their islam
    Maybe the stigma behind a divorced person is because it’s not as easy as it sounds. This is coming from a divorced person. And divorced sisters don’t need “help” it’s not really looked down upon like 50 years ago.

  44. Avatar

    sehar nazir

    December 15, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    salam i want to say somthing i want to marry with divorecd person whom i lov him alot but my family n frinds are against please tell me what should i do

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#Life

7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health.  Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.

New Year's Resolutions
Who uses sticky notes on a cork board #stockimagefail

It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

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Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

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“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

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#Life

I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator

It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

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I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

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I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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#Life

How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age

I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.

While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.

Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!

  1. Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
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In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.

  1. Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
  2. Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.

A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.

Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!

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In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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