(Note: many points in this article can apply to men as well.)
If you are reading this, chances are that you are searching for some answers to some deeply seated issues you have or have had. Or, you are looking for a resource to share with your fellow single brothers and sisters. Whatever your personal reasons may be, I pray that you benefit from the following.
- Realize That You are Where You’re Meant to Be
It may be hard to do so, especially when it seems that so many individuals around us are in a relationship/seeing someone. However, one of the most sobering ways to change your perspective is recognizing that Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), has written your entire destiny – way before you even came into existence. What has happened in your life was decreed, and what has been decreed and yet to happen will surely come to pass. If you are single right now, it is because you are living out what has already been decreed for you. That’s it. Your destiny lies in the hands of Allah (swt) – your job is not to dwell on it or worry about it, but to carry on with life as you should. If it happens that a husband – or no husband, or multiple ones due to divorce/death – is written as part of your destiny, then have faith that it will surely come to materialize. Feeling anxious over a future you’ve had yet to live will serve you in no way other than to keep you down and even feeling depressed. Wherever you are in your life right now, whether in hardship or ease, know that it is exactly where Allah (swt) intends you to be – and Allah (swt) intends everything for a reason. You have no clue: maybe He knows you are not ready for a relationship, or that a relationship at this particular point in your life may be disastrous for you. Have trust in Allah (swt) and believe with all of your heart that He, the Most Kind, is always looking out for you in your favour!
- Let Go of Entitlement
You are not owed a relationship. Just like the air you breathe or a great cup of coffee, a decent and compatible spouse is a blessing from Allah (swt). Think of all of the millions of individuals who perished before ever experiencing a relationship, or those who have been in many relationships but have never experienced true love. Allah (swt) bestows upon people what He wishes – he is Al Wahhab after-all. And so, letting go of the idea that you deserve to be in a relationship or that Allah (swt) has been unfair to you in any way (and we seek refuge in Allah from such thoughts), will free your mind and allow you to be grateful for the multitude of other blessings that He has placed in your life out of His Mercy. Remember – a husband may be the cherry on the cake, but he is not the cake. For me, at least, the cake is my relationship with Allah (swt). Every other piece of decoration on the cake – such as friends, family, a spouse, a career – make up the beautiful blessings that Allah (swt) has surrounded me with.
- Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Muslimahs
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” – Iyanla Vanzant
Often times, we self-sabotage by comparing where we are in our lives to other people. Indeed, if you ever find yourself doing this, refer back to point #1. Once you realize that they are in a different chapter of their life stories than you are, comparison becomes futile. Truly, it turns into comparing apples and oranges.
One of the worst arenas for comparison is social media; when one’s newsfeeds are decorated with happy engagement, wedding, or baby announcements, it can be a quick way for insecurities to develop and take hold. Indeed, if you are already insecure with your “singlehood,” then such images and status updates may be salt added to your emotional wounds. Rather than wallowing in misery or blaming those who choose to share their happiness publicly, it is very important for you to ask yourself why you have reacted in such a way. What triggered your flood of emotions – whether it be sadness, jealousy, or bitterness? Ceasing to compare yourself to others and instead, addressing any emotional voids you may be feeling is a healthy approach for any individual who is feeling insecure with being single. Oh yeah—and get off the computer.
- Be Secure with Being Single
What can be worse than being single? Being single and insecure. Since you’ve already established that you are simply living out the destiny Allah (swt) has decreed for you, learn to not only own but LOVE your single status! Admittedly, for a very long time, I held marriage and relationships to a very ideal standard. It wasn’t until I actually hung-out/spoke with married couples, and dealt with children that I realized how blessed I was to be single! I know it sounds odd, but after hearing about the things that couples go through, or the actual difficulties of child-rearing and witnessing first-hand what that entailed, I became very grateful for my current lifestyle. I completely love having free time and scheduling my days the ways that I want. I also love my personal space and not being held accountable to any person (…well except my parents to a certain degree). Once I was able to stop feeling insecure about being single, the quality of my life improved tenfold! Most importantly, I began to think realistically: am I at a place where I even want to be in a relationship now – am I ready? Do I want children before pursuing my own personal life-goals? Am I mature enough to face a relationship? Am I ready to choose someone to spend the rest of my entire life with? Honestly asking yourself such questions, and removing the facade of a perfect husband and children from your mind will help to make you feel more secure with your personal decisions and where you are in your life.
- Be Critical of Expectations
One important thing to ask yourself is: Do I want to get married for myself, or because it’s expected of me? As women, we need to acknowledge and challenge the life-scripts that have been doctored for us by society, culture, friends, family, and heck, even ourselves, and realize that we are living within a patriarchal sociopolitical framework which often limits women’s roles. If you want to be in a relationship due to external pressures and not internal decisions, then pause and ask yourself if that’s fair to you – or your future spouse. Unfortunately, young marriages – as great as they can be – have been idealized to such an unhealthy degree in our Muslim communities that it has isolated and ostracized entire cohorts of people including those who are single and in their mid-late twenties/thirties, or those who are divorced with or without children, and/or widowed.
I know plenty of sisters who are absolutely desperate to get married because of social pressures. That is, if they don’t get married, their communities will view them and their families as pariahs. Even worse, assumptions may be made of the single female; e.g. she’s single because she’s infertile, has poor character, is too career driven, or that she may be gay (ignorant, I know). Unfortunately, it is very hard for many individuals to wrap their heads around the fact that a woman may be single because she CHOOSES to be. By not acknowledging a female’s agency to choose whether or not to be in a relationship, many Muslims expose their patriarchal and sometimes even sexist states of minds. Therefore, it is very important for us to recognize the often limited roles that are allotted to women (such as wife or stay-at-home mom), and how that may affect us and the decisions we make in our lives. We are more than our wombs, sexual organs, and ability/inability to carry children. Allah (swt) has honored us far above such things.
- Educate Yourself
One of the biggest regrets I’ve heard and read from other women who are married and/or have children is that they no longer have the time for educational pursuits. It is so, so important for us as single Muslimahs to realize that we have time on our side! Seize the opportunity NOW to get a degree, read/memorize/study the Qur’an, learn the deen (religion), or simply pursue new skills or languages. The reality is that if you hope to one day be married and have children, it will be very difficult to do these things therefore, empower yourself with education. It deeply saddens me when I see bright, young Muslimahs expressing such sorrow over not being in a relationship when they have so much more to offer themselves and their communities – their minds.
A great example is Imam An-Nawawi, radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him), the legendary hadith (narrations) scholar, who chose not to get married because he felt as though his studies would cause him to not fulfill his duties towards his wife. SubhanAllah (Glory be to God)! Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with wanting to get married – of course not! But it is incredible to see how Imam An-Nawawi, a young man when he died, could’ve been so honest with himself and so dedicated to his studies. On top of that, he was able to realize his duties as a Muslim and did what he thought was most pleasing to Allah (swt). What does that say about us barely learned lay-people who are passing up priceless educational opportunities for the sake of getting married? If you are single, my sister, I highly encourage you to learn something new; every piece of knowledge you acquire will, insha’Allah (God willing), be a cornerstone of education and guidance for primarily yourself, and insha’Allah, your future spouse and children. And hey, if you decide to never get married or it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t fit, then you will still be a vesicle of knowledge, spreading your light wherever you go and to whomever you meet. It’s a win-win situation.
- Realize that Having Sexual Desires DOES NOT Necessarily Mean that You are Ready for a Relationship
This is a tough one. It would be laughable to deny that one of the greatest motivators for marriage for Muslims is…sex. And yes, for Muslim women too. Indeed, I’ve met sisters who’ve disclosed to me that they were physically ready for a relationship – but failed to display any other type of readiness beyond that. Sexual frustration is very real for Muslims, especially since we are commanded by God to abstain from any premarital sexual relationships. Can you imagine the number of Muslim females and males who are struggling with both their sexual desires and finding a compatible spouse to relieve these desires? This is probably one of the greatest challenges, especially for our brothers, and I’d like to take a moment for anyone reading this to make genuine du`a’ (supplication) for all of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the Ummah who are struggling with such issues. May Allah (swt) grant them a path of sexual expression that He is most pleased with – Ameen.
With that said, the truth is that just because you are physically ready to be intimate with someone, doesn’t mean that you are emotionally or mentally ready. Bluntly stated, wanting to have sex does not in any way mean that you have what it takes to fulfill the duties of a wife in accordance to the Shariah. Point-blank. I have personally met individuals who in no way exhibited any maturity to get married and yet were so desperate to do so in order to fulfill sexual desires. If having sex was the pinnacle of relationships, why is it that non-Muslims or Muslim who don’t practice abstinence are often unable to maintain one sexual partner? Is it not the case that after the haze of passion and lust has faded, what is left are two individuals who actually have to deal with each other? Truly, a relationship built on sexual favors will never last. That’s not love, and that’s not what marriages are made of. Again, why would Muslims who’ve had sexual relations in their marriages ever divorce if that was the case? You see, there’s more to marriage than the physical aspect, and I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to realize that my spouse only wanted to be with me in order to fulfill a carnal, base desire. How dehumanizing is that? It’s also dehumanizing to the brothers when we do it to them, my beloved sisters.
Sexual desires aside, I think what’s more important for single Muslimahs is to educate themselves on their reproductive rights within Islam; we should truly empower ourselves with the knowledge of what things like birth control pills, contraceptives, consent, or marital rape mean to us as Muslim women. We should also educate ourselves on sex within the framework of Islam; e.g. what is haraam (impermissible)? What isn’t? How do we communicate our wants and needs to our spouses without being shamed for having *GASP* sexual desires?
(Disclaimer: the following explicitly discusses sex/sexuality)
In terms of curbing sexual desires, the truth is that avoiding acts such as pornography viewing and/or masturbation is hard for THOUSANDS of Muslims out there! The first thing I’d like to mention in regards to that is: I don’t judge you, and I accept you. The second is a list of things that may help curb our very real sexual appetites (in no particular order):
- Keep yourself busy. One of my favorite sayings is: “an idle mind is a playground for the devil.” Don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable to satanic whispering as you are when you’re alone and in private. Go out – hang with friends, chill at the masjid, go to the library, start a new project or hobby, go for a walk, go workout, go do anything!
- Limit media intake. There is no doubt that most of what’s on T.V., the internet, music videos, and billboards are soft-core pornographic images. Alhamdullilah (praise be to God), I quit watching T.V. a long time ago, and insha’Allah I will write an article on how I did that one day. I highly recommend limiting the number of stimulating images that you see in a day. It really has an effect on your psyche and such images certainly get stored in your unconscious memory, only to haunt you at your weakest moments.
- Search for a spouse. But do so with the awareness that your spouse is more than an outlet for your sexual desires and is an actual human being. Once the sex comes and goes, there’s an actual marriage that must be dealt with for (presumably) the rest of your life. Tread lightly and intentionally.
- Speak with a counselor/therapist. It’ll be amazing the resources you may be provided with. And because they are bound by confidentiality and are trained to be non-judgmental, you can speak as openly as you want and get a ton of shame and burden off of your chest.
- Try the Prophetic method. And fast. And fast some more – especially since it’s winter and the hours are so short! Also make tons of du`a’ for Allah (swt) to aid you. He is Al-Fattah, The Opener – have no doubt that he’ll find a way out for you!
- Never Lower Your Standards
Please, please, please, my sisters – set standards for yourself. Have a list of things that you will *never* compromise on when considering someone for a spouse. Now, don’t be unrealistic, but at the same time, exercise your dignity! I will share with you two of my complete deal-breakers: 1. Dishonesty (I cannot deal with liars or cheats) and 2. Smoker (this speaks for itself). These are just two of a number of deal-breakers that I’ve developed based on my personal standards and understanding of Islam. It’s important, however, to realize that you must also be fair. Don’t set your standards so high that you are setting yourself up for rejection and disappointment. At the same time, do not compromise or be afraid to set your foot down if need be. If a man is raising what you see as red flags – address that quickly! Trust yourself and your ability to decipher what you do and do not want for yourself.
Also, sisters, don’t be desperate. Don’t be willing to overhaul your entire life for the first man that comes knocking. Don’t throw those closest to you – your family, friends, etc -under the bus for an individual who knows how to say the right things. For the sake of Allah – be critical! Have standards! Assess the situation! I’m not saying be high-maintenance, sisters, I’m saying be like Khadijah (ra) who had her own set of standards that she measured the Prophet ﷺ up against (such as honesty and integrity) prior to proposing marriage to him! Desperation is obvious, cringe-worthy, and just plain sad. Trust Allah (swt) and never let go of your self-respect for anyone (this means not being afraid to say “NO”).
- Re-evaluate the Sources of Your Happiness
If you believe, dear sis, that your life will only be complete once you are married and have children then please take a moment to re-evaluate the sources of your happiness. The easiest way to do this is to see whether or not you have tied your happiness to internal or external things. If you have tied it to external things such as a man, children, a house, etc. then indeed, know that everything in this life is temporary and that once any of these things disappoint you or disappear, you’ll be left in a deep, deep sadness. Therefore, your happiness should be tied to the internal – specifically, your personal relationship with Allah (swt); your heart and its connection to the One who created it. Never will this internal source of happiness leave you lest you die. And so, being connected to Allah (swt), despite the transient nature of a husband or children, will always leave you feeling happy and content, insha’Allah.
- Take Care of Yourself…For You
The final point, dear sister, is recognizing the importance of self-care. Feeling and looking good are things that most people value, and there is nothing wrong with that! However, your focus should be on taking care of yourself for you (or even better, for the sake of Allah (swt)), and not some imaginary husband.
I recently had a dear friend of mine point to her body and indicate that she needed to lose weight prior to getting married. That really made me sad; I’m a firm believer that any type of self-care should be directly for YOU. It’s not being selfish – it’s actually an act of love towards yourself.
Go ahead and take the time to indulge yourself in the things that give you a sense of peace and wholeness: whether that be a cozy bubble bath, a nice cup of coffee, some type of physical activity, hanging out with friends/family, becoming lost in a great book, taking care of your hair or makeup – do whatever you need to wind-down and take care of YOU. Self-care is an important element of life that has wonderful effects on the psyche. For me, one of my greatest self-care activities is writing (surprise!). Spending an hour or so on an article or poem puts me into a complete state of mindfulness and relaxation. I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care my dear sisters – try it!
I genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this article was a source of betterment for you and that it has helped you, dear sisters, to realize the beautiful realities of your existences.
And Allah (swt) knows best.