Marriage in Islam: the ideal vs. the reality (Part 1)
There are several verses of the Holy Qur’an which address the importance of chastity and marriage. Surah Al Azhab 33:35 states:
For Muslim men and women― for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves) for men and women who guard their chastity and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise― for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.
And again in Surah Al Rum 30:21
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.
Also in Surah Al Baqarah 2:187
They [your wives] are your garments. And ye are their garments.
In spite of its importance, however, many Muslim sisters have given voice to difficulty in finding a spouse for marriage. Why is this? Is it because Muslim women are being too picky? Is it because there is a lack of “good” men out there? Is it simply because there are more men than there are women walking the earth today so the odds of finding a mate are decreased? Only Allah (SWT) knows the true reason why this may be, but some sisters have shared their stories and experiences for shedding some light upon this important issue.
Sister Hafsah Zamir from the UK has shared that although she is relieved to be able to say that her search is over, there are women within her community who compile databases for helping Muslimahs to find suitable spouses. She has also said that Imams from local masjids are not involved at all when it comes to assisting in securing a spouse. Sister Umm Yusuf Aisha Lbhalla, Chair of The Muslim Women’s Council in Tennessee, on the other hand has said that there is nothing specifically established to help the unmarried in her local community although an attempt has been made to keep a directory and to maintain an application process for those seeking marriage; and it was the local Imams of her area that approached her for initiating the database.
Sister Gemi Hartojo, CEO of aMuslima.com, states that sisters are scared to meet guys and that if the men that they meet are not accomplished then they may be reluctant to marry. She goes on to state, “On the other hand, some men are scared because the Mahr can be high when seeking a wife.”
She herself can clearly remember the pressure and commotion of not being married.
For those who may not be familiar with the mahr, it is the amount of money or property that is given to the wife by the husband as a non-returnable dowry in the marriage contract. She may use it as she wishes as this is a right that is enjoined by Islamic sharee’ah according to Surah An-Nisaa 4:4 which states:
“And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart.”
Although Islamic sharee’ah does not stipulate a certain limit for the mahr that should not be overstepped, it does encourage reducing the mahr and keeping it simple. As narrated by Ibn Hibbaan in Saheeh al-Jaami’ number 3300:
The Prophet (SAW) said: “The best of marriage is that which is made easiest.”
Sister Umm Yusuf has observed when compiling the database for singles in her area, after having been asked to do so by the local Imams, that generally there are available brothers and sisters for marriage, but that there are often strict racial and social-economic preferences involved. Sister Umm Yusuf is of the opinion that the difficulty in finding a spouse depends upon the individual.
She states, “For many, but not all reverts, I think there may be difficulty just because there are not those deep roots and connections established [in the Muslim community] as yet. For the non-revert, I feel their options are plentiful because there are long established lines with families and friends looking out for them. Generally among many non-reverts the difficulty in finding a mate for them seems to be about finding someone that meets their racial, cultural, and socio-economic requirements.”
Today Islam is second to Christianity as the largest religion in the world with 1.6 billion Muslims spread out across different continents, countries and ethnicities. The American concept of a melting pot and the inter-mingling of cultures and races can be at odds with the nationalist tendencies of some Muslims and this can sometimes cause barriers within the Islamic community, especially where marriage is concerned. Some Muslim communities practice arranged marriage when selecting spouses for their children and prefer that the children marry within their culture.
Sister Umm Yusuf goes on to state that although Islamic standards of the Holy Quran and Sunnah are upheld when looking for a mate that the quickest way to meet someone these days seems to be through online matrimony websites and although these sites provide an openness for communication, discretion may not always be upheld.
Sister Martha Ghanem of Texas, USA has shared her concerns when it comes to considering marriage for her four daughters. Sister Martha’s own marriage story is a blessed one and she recounts how when she became Muslim she received 21 propositions of marriage from suitors who were very rich and to others who were very poor, but she was of the mind that she had not become Muslim to get married and so she said no to each one of them. Two years later, however, a friend of hers called her to ask her to meet someone and although she had insisted telling her friend no because she was not interested in getting married, her friend finally convinced her. She agreed to meet him at his family’s home and it went so well that they married the next day and they have been married 23 years.
Sister Martha has said about her daughters, however, “Now I must tell you that I think that it is a little bit more difficult for the new generation. I have four daughters and my oldest one is 22 and she refuses to meet anyone at this moment as she would like to finish her education, plus she prefers to marry someone that has been born in the United States. I see also that many of the girls that have married in my community in the traditional way have ended their marriages within one or two years. They do not seem to commit to the marriage and prefer to take the easy way of divorce.”
Sister Martha continues by saying, “I also have noticed that the parents in my community are so concerned with marrying their daughters that when I say that my daughters are not ready they question me as if something is wrong. Also, my daughters do not like to go to the masjid because it sometimes turns into a fashion show or a place of gossiping instead worshiping Allah (SWT) where some of our friends question how they are going to marry if they do not go to the masjid where they can be seen by Muslims guys? I have answered that when is their time it will happen and have raised my daughters the best way I’ve thought. When I ask my husband what kind of man he would like my daughters to marry he told me, ‘A man that is afraid of Allah because if he is afraid of Allah he will treat my daughter right!’”
The views and experiences on and about marriage are as varied and diverse as the Muslim community itself, but as Sister Martha’s husband so candidly expressed, fear of Allah (SWT) should be a key element considered when looking for a spouse.