Before Marriage Community Reflections

A Marriage Mystery Meltem Baykaner

I have recently reached that age. Many sisters will know the age that I am speaking of. It is an age not necessarily marked by a number, but rather recognised by the way you are treated…

Having bounded through childhood, jumped the hurdles of adolescence and, alhamdulillah (praise be to God), somehow managed to trudge through the trials of university; the next obstacle seems to be approaching quickly – and it is a two-person race.

This race, or rather marathon, is marriage. It is often the first question on a sister’s lips when meeting me (‘so, are you married?!’) and the last thing on my mind before sleeping.

It seems at twenty-two, having graduated just under a year ago now, I have left the honeymoon period new graduates enjoy after university – a blissful time when you can happily do nothing for a while before ‘real life’ starts – and am now faced with an actual honeymoon period to be thinking about.

I first noticed this otherwise imperceptible shift that took me from care-free twenty-something to a care-full young woman when, at my local mosque, an auntie I recognized by face and not by name suddenly became very interested in me. Gripping me eagerly as I spoke, she excitedly enquired after my age, job and parents with a big grin and wide eyes. Naturally I was bemused; it was Friday prayer and, as my workplace was located so close to the mosque, for months I had been attending the jummah prayers and khutbah (sermon) at this very masjid – why was this Friday any different?

Only later that week when my mother told me that she had been approached by an auntie at the mosque who had, it seems, taken a liking to me, did I realize that this kind (but probing) woman had stored the nutshell of information I had given her in her cheek, like a squirrel with an acorn, to be taken home and opened before her single son.

I fear that I am giving off an impression of disinterest in marriage, that I had never thought about it before or that perhaps I don’t want to get married. This is NOT the case; I’m happy to start thinking about it, but the problem is, I don’t know what I think about it…

There is a scene at the Netherfield ball in the classic novel Pride & Prejudice in which Elizabeth Bennet says, ‘I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly,’ (Austen). Though the heroine of the novel is referring to her sworn enemy-cum-true love, Mr Darcy, she could just as well be talking about marriage.

Like Elizabeth Bennet’s confused opinion about the proud Mr Darcy, my opinion and knowledge of married life has been formed mostly from what others have told me on the subject. Much like a collage, the cuttings and clippings of information that I have collected and stuck on to my mental pin board are mismatched, pieced together haphazardly.

As single Muslims and Muslimahs, we are told that marriage is half of our deen (religion) (AlBayhaqi). Contrary to this, we are also told that once you marry, seeking knowledge and learning about our religion is put on pause and, mysteriously, we are not informed of when the ‘play’ button of our lives will be pressed once more.

So, what are we meant to feel? Are we, as currently unmarried people, supposed to want to get married, knowing that our deen is from that point onwards going to remain stagnant? Or should we put this warning from our minds, brush it off as unnecessary advice that does not apply to us, and run full-pelt into imagined marital bliss?

Just as I was beginning to worry that I was perhaps the only Muslimah to feel like this, I found my – and, it seemed, many other sisters’ problem too – worded eloquently in sister Maryam Amirebrahimi’s article Wifehood and Motherhood are Not the Only Ways to Paradise on the website, in which she asks ‘Why, as a general community, are we not putting the same pressure on women to encourage them to continue to seek Islamic knowledge? Higher education? To make objectives in their lives which will carry over and aid them in their future familial lives, if such is what is meant for them?’

I now understand that I am not the only one struggling between wanting to be a learned, independent woman and a learned woman in a happy unit; and the reason that my vision of marriage is so distorted is that these things are frequently presented to us as mutually exclusive.

Often the Islamic literature directed at women is on the topic of marriage; even if the book title or blurb does not directly link to the subject, somehow the text turns into a handbook on wifely duties.

So, here is what I propose to all single people: let us push away this confusing array of text, talk and tips being thrown at us, which, even whilst writing this article, have clouded my mind further. Let us return to perhaps the only words that have our real best interests at heart, which tell us the true meaning of marriage; to make us come closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (glorified is He) by becoming so close with another: ‘And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.’ (Qur’an 30:21)

Finally, let us strive to feel that thinking about and wanting to get married are both healthy practices, but doing this with a mind foggy with what others have told us or a heart heavy with external pressures is not a healthy approach to an institution that has been designed for us by our Creator on the foundations of love, mercy and tranquillity and not, as some might have us believe, on anxiety, idleness or doubt.

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  • Dear Meltem, an honest and heartfelt message. Thank you for sharing it – and entwining my all time favourite P&P in the process! Just one point to make: marriage doesn’t mean the end to seeking knowledge!For countless people it is indeed the beginning. It all depends on what the two people make of it. In answer to your question ‘what are we meant to feel…knowing that from that point on our deen is going to remain stagnant? What you are meant to feel is a genuine optimism, borne from the reality that with the right person, married life is a journey of learning more, becoming more, taking risks, opportunities;giving and receiving support through it all. In short, don’t be put off by negative messages – this is coming from someone married for over two decades – incase you’re wondering! Agree with you that this shouldn’t be the only focus of life, but be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • Jazakhallahu khair sister for writing this article, this is a point of view that needs to be more prominent in the Muslim community. Marriage certainly is not the solution to all your problems, whether you be male or female and we all need to divert our focus on marriage to a relationship that matters far more, the one with our creator, and then everything else will come with ease, insha allah

  • The last part was comforting to read. I almost feel out of place already desiring to get married being 17. This isn’t typically something that even crosses the mind of one who will only be graduating high school in the near future, inshaa’Allah. Along with that, there’s all the negative aspects people seem to focus on, as you said — making things seem mutually exclusive.

  • Good topic. Me as unmarried brother had a period in my life where marriage was everything I was thinking about. Subahan Allah the events of life at that showed me that it was impossible for me to do so which made me desperate. There are many things that were going on in my life at that time and since then I have been learning more and more about Allah. Now, my family wants to get married and the I can do so if I want. However; I know it will not be the best option for me to do. I have realized my family still thinks they have power over me and if enter marriage with this kind of family and without taking into account how I should handle the situation , I believe my marriage will be disastrous.

    I struggle to make myself believe that I should do what I think to be right even though it is going to delay some pleasures in my life. Anyway, I have seen enough from people around me that marriage is not a tool that brings happiness. it is like anything else, it is like money, and a knife. It depends on the way the person uses it , and that is what is going to bring happiness.

  • What an amazing Article Mashallah!
    I see what you are going through and I’ve seen it happening so many times before to ladies who are very ambitious and talented.
    It all goes back to choosing the right person who ‘s understanding, a person that will hold your hands, support you every step of the way to achieve your dreams and walk with you in the journey of becoming a better Muslimah and a better person.
    Unfortunately, not so many girls have the dream of completing their studies or increasing their deen and Iman. They just day dream of the big day and the white dress. And as you witnessed, there are a lot of “traditional” regular guys out there looking for these traditional, regular girls.
    Don’t give up your dreams, inshallah your Naseeb will get to you no matter where you are.

  • barak Allahu fiki for your intimate reflection. I would just like to add that it’s important to balance all the negative things we hear about getting married with the reality that it’s possible to become more versed and driven through marriage, with the support of one’s spouse. This is an article I wrote which focuses on how to help make sure you find the right person, whether male or female, who will, inshaAllah, help the best part of your life be the married part of it 🙂

    May Allah bless you and all those seeking to get married with the most amazing spouses and marital relationships at the best times! ameen!

    • Salaam. I don’t know whether “despair” is quite the right word, but the older one gets, woman or man, the more discouraging it can be, as the pool of eligible potential mates shrinks. (Having witnessed my own parents’ marriage and some others, I personally do not think it wise if there be too many years between spouses.)

      Some people, for any one or more of various reasons, simply do not marry in their teens or early twenties. Some of them do not come from a Muslim background. If they are thirty, forty, fifty, or even sixty and have come to Islam without having married before, the prospects can be bleak indeed.

      So far as I have been able to tell, many “born” Muslims come from non-Western ethnic backgrounds and wish to keep marriage within their groups, even though this attitude may not be within the admonitions of Prophet Muhammad (saws). (I think there is a relevant hadith, but I do not have it right at hand.) A few men will marry outside the group, but woe betide the daughter or (blood) sister who wants to do so.

      This leaves the convert (or even “born”) Muslim sister or brother of mature age with few prospects, we must admit. Yes, it can be very discouraging. The Muslim community needs to make efforts so that those of more mature years can find suitable spouses, although I admit that I myself (being in that very situation) do not know how this might best be accomplished.

      • A very interesting perspective brother.
        WHile many born muslims are accustomed to marrying in the same pool, prospectives look bleak there as well. Many young adults in their early twenties do not usually approve of options available in the pool.
        I think hinderances which may prevent born muslims to look outside their own pools might include the fact that many a times muslim converts do not convert as a family. The concept being the girl usually leaves her parents house and moves in with the boys family.
        In such a scenario if the family of the guy is not supportive off the conversion itself, it may leave certain question marks for parents of the girls. Perhaps we need to find a common place for both cultures to settle amicably
        WIth that being said, i personally know many family in the USA who have married their daughters in a diversified manner. With Son in laws from USA, Egypt, England etc.
        I think with this shift in mentality from conventional grooms to other options, the muslim community seems willing to move in a positive direction.
        Excellent thought!

        • Salaam. You are probably right that attitudes are at least slowly changing, that marriage outside one’s “group” (for oneself or one’s offspring) is becoming more acceptable. Regrettably, the attitudes may not be changing fast enough to assist some people.

          And as I mentioned before, the pool of prospective mates shrinks drastically as one gets older. Those who come to Islam in mature years who are not already married (and there can be various reasons why individuals do not marry young) have bleak prospects indeed. I looked at a couple of online sites, and unless I was misunderstanding (possible, of course), they seemed oriented toward younger Muslim adults, not those of us who are older. (Given my age and other factors, I myself have no expectation of ever marrying.)

  • Dear sister, I am married and my husband and I work a lot but deen is still a very high priority to us and me. Your comment about how women are “supposed to want to get married, knowing that our deen is from that point onwards going to remain stagnant” is completely un-true. From what source are we getting told that marriage will bring a woman’s spiritual growth to a standstill? If anything, like the sister below my comment said, it can be the exact opposite. If a person or persons does become stagnant in their deen is it really fair to blame marriage which is regarded so highly in our deen? I understand your frustrations as I have went through them because the marriage process can be hard and I pray that Allah swt make this easy for all sisters and brothers going though it.

  • Jazakallah khayr for your post !
    Let your singleness empower you to be awesome, its just a season, like spring, that will most surely be followed by summer 🙂
    An empowered, strong, active and happy single life leads to a strong , active and happy married life , or I so believe 😀 you have the amazing opportunity to invest in yourself, take chances, travel, and discover who you truly wish to become
    May Allah grant us purposeful and enriching single lives until He decides He wishes for us to be married 🙂

    • some of us have uber strict parents who say we cannot have a life until we’re married and our married friends are too jealous to help us find a man for marriage…sigh, our ummah needs help – i wish allah (swt) could grant us a good spouse soon! 🙁

  • Askm, I can understand. Since marriage is such a turning point and the rest of our lives depend on the people we are surrounded with, that such feelings are bound to come. Especially when there is so much stigma attached with marriage, which might be true owing to individuals who do not care about living life to please Allah.

    I and my husband married each other ONLY for the sake of Allah and for no other thing. Believe me, if you marry for your deen ONLY, inshaAllah your marriage will be blessed and each of you will have expectation from the other only with respect to the deen, thus it becomes an all time motivation factor to increase in deen.

    Increasing in deen DOESN’T stop after marriage. If it was so, my sister, at this era of human society, then Allah, the All-Knowing would not have emphasised on the institution of marriage for a woman through the sayings of his Prophet s.a.w. Our Rasool said,”Any woman dies while her husband is pleased with her, she will enter Jannah”.[At-Tirmidhi] and other simple ways by which a woman can make it to jannah, while for a man there are 101 responsibilities being an Ameer of a house and responsible for Da’wah and establishment of the deen. Of course those are not the only ways, but my point is that if marriage would have brought a stop to the deen of a woman in our times then the Prophet would not have emphasised it so much without putting conditions to it. He was the one who used to cry thinking of his ummah, wasn’t he?
    Similarly a man can think of marriage negatively owing to the experiences of people around, but that can also be just a false illusion otherwise why would the Prophet have said,”O youthful people, if any of you have the means to, he should get married…”. Marriage might be a responsibility but so is living this life of difficulties, we dont stop living or think that we rather not live right? The thing is it is very difficult to put our trust in Allah, marriage seems to be difficult but do it for the sake of Allah and Allah will bring forth much blessings from it. This is what my experience after marriage says.
    PLEASE NOTE- i did my homework before marriage in what should be required to see from a husband. And sister pls find one who cares for his responsibilities as a husband, would love that you get into activities of the deen and would rather encourage them. This is an indication to his love for the deen of Allah. I dont understand if men dont want their wives to increase in deen, then either they dont understand their purpose of life or are least interested in their partner’s purpose and interest in life. Inshaallah there are good brothers out there. The key to get a good husband is sincere intention, istikhara and tears filled duas.
    As for your question-WHAT should i think about marriage? Think only to please Allah by whatever you do, and this attitude will do magic for you inshaAllah although the journey would be a lil difficult but the destination is jannah!
    I pray to Allah to grant you a lovely husband and make your life always growing in deen and levels in jannah.

  • Jazakallah khair sister for sharing your thoughts. I love how you have ended the article marriage should be a means of bringing us close to Allah.
    One thing for sure is marriage should not have a age boundary such as “too old” or “too young”. There should be a flexible attitude about it. Each person is different.
    As for the education i don’t agree that marriage puts a stop to that (from my personally experience as married sister).

    May Allah grant us blessed marriages in which we are able to please and obey Him.

  • Salam

    I think the author doesn’t mean that marriage puts an end to increase in deen, but that’s we are told and shown. I am tired of aunties telling me that once you are married, it’s all over, you can’t be sure what sort of people they’ll turn out to be after marriage, you won’t get time off, train yourself for the worst, or have all the fun you want to have right now, because you’ll lose your freedom to your in-laws once you are married. And then it all ends with “It’s meant to be this way” or “That’s the way things are”. That’s the image of married life we are given

    In all this commotion, ayats like “And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” they say, “Sufficient for us is that upon which we found our fathers.” Even though their fathers knew nothing, nor were they guided?”(5:104) and “…Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) are pushed to the back. Then we are asked to be patient, assuming things will change without us even trying to change them.

    See, all this leads to a weak community and eventually a weak Ummah. When a women finds herself in a position where she has to put in all her strength just keep standing on her feet, how do we except her to bring up her children to be strong? And if she can’t help her children how will she help her community? If she can’t do anything for her community, how will she show the world the beauty of Islam?

    See why we are falling down?

    And then after many years of marriage, when things are stable, and her children are at the age of marriage, she wonders, if this is what’s in store for her daughters. Sometimes we even see cases like “I had such a hard time, how come my daughter-in-law gets it easy?” or “Well, I had a hard time too, you don’t see me complaining, this is how things are meant to be”. Not everyone comes out polished and shining after going through hardships, some of them break down.

    I am not saying that happy marriage do not exist, but I have noticed most happily married couples have something in common. They all them to be financially stable, highly educated families, with either good looks or extremely high confidence level, and extremely high working capacity. And you wonder if it all comes down to the survival of the fittest.

    Unfortunately, women are not the only victim. Men also end up being money making machine for their families. They are expected to buy them a house, marry their sisters and what not. There is no time left for them to focus on their deen.

    I know I sound completely out of hope. But I sometime wonder if the generation before us knew about Istekhara, or if they wanted to change the condition of the Ummah.

    I wonder if my generation knows about Istekhara, or the power of du’a, or the fact that if Allah wants to protect us no one can harm us. I hope they do. If they don’t it’s our duty to make they know.

  • AsA sister I love this article Subhanallah it made me understand the importance of marriage.. May Allah (swt) make our life easy and may Allah (swt) find us good and righteousness partners Ameen Jzk

  • oh my goodness, this girl is 22 and she is talking about ‘that age..’ You’re still a baby, don’t worry inshallah!

  • Salaam Meltem,

    SubhanAllah sister, what you came to conclude with really brought a feeling of peace and comfort to my heart. You really just reminded me of the simplicity of Islam and not just that but also that Allah SWT blessed us with marriage as a gift to all of us, and not as something to bring us farther from Him but rather to bring us closer to Him. Jazak Allah Khair 🙂

  • This article is an eye-opener. Young people these days have no patience. They start thinking about marriage even before graduating high schools. I am not saying it is a bad thought, but personally, I feel that we should thrive to improve on our own weaknesses and serve our parents before we embark on this stage of life-which, from my observations, shift our focus. Many of us forget to give back to our parents who have raised us from day one of our lives. I always tell myself that what’s meant to be will find its way, and if it is meant to happen, InsyaAllah sooner or later it will happen.’ You don’t have to rush into it, as the saying goes, ‘Marry in haste and repent in leisure’. Take some time for self-improvement, and everything else will fall into place. I believe in Allah’s decree with all my heart and soul. May Allah bless us all with a righteous partner who will guide us to Jannah. Amin Ya Rabb.

  • You are young and that’s why you feel the way you feel. I have felt that way when I was young and I passed on marriage; while I was seeking my way in the world. I thought wait let me get more established first. What happened, time went by; I got older and got laid off and been up unable to get a job for almost 4 years now. Was on bed-rest for two of those from some medical complications. If I had been married i would have a partner; somebody to love and take care of me when I was all alone. Now I am older and I regret not marrying when I was younger. Now I considered uncle and not marry-able except to divorcee or something. And I’m not even 40 yet, get married in your twenties; I tell everyone. It much better. Voice of experience. But nobody listens; if they did there would be no more mistakes. Also; Muslim girls and their families have to start doing a better job getting their girls married. Don’t wait on the guys; propose their families and them. Have to be more proactive. Some muslim cultures are more proactive in marriage than others, such as Lebanese, some Punjabis, some Egyptians but its limited.

    • Sister, you are quoting Austen in this article! The first thing u need to do is make sure a suitor actually knows who Austen is and could actually understand her work! That is my advice to you–do not marry anyone that doesn’t have plenty in common with u and marry someone that complements you intellectually!

  • all these muslima bloggers have the perfect marriages with their handsome husband whom they met as “friends” first. sigh…i wish i could be as lucky as them. 🙁

  • Hopeless – you don’t know they met their husbands as ‘friends’, you don’t know if they’re handsome, and you don’t know that their marriages are perfect. Indeed, none of these things matter anyway. I have yet to see a perfect marriage… and it is piety, not looks we are supposed to marry for, as mentioned in hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him). And it certainly isn’t about luck for many. It is about heartfelt duas and trust in Allah. Your name ‘hopeless’ indicates where the problem lies. We put our trust in Allah. I.e. be hopeful, not hopeless!

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