Marriage is work. Marriage is a personal choice. Marriage, for many of us, is also a triggering subject.
I’ve burst into tears at the sight of yet another nikkah invite in my WhatsApp after I lost an engagement. I’ve held it together in banquet halls until I could make it back to my car to sob on the way home. And most recently, I declined attending a wedding altogether, because I knew that I needed a break.
What brings about these feelings? For many, marriage is currently defined by our capabilities. Sign up for this service and get married. Lose weight and you’ll get married. Stop being picky and you’ll get married.
In all of these frivolous equations, I wonder, why is Allah ﷻ subtracted and not added?
I propose another definition of marriage: not in our hands. We have the illusion of choice: picking, choosing, conversing. But istikhara also plays a role. As does istishara (consultation), with our friends and families.
It’s no secret that the Muslim community is not only in a divorce crisis, but a marriage one, as well. Pew Research reports that only 17% of Muslims aged 18-29 are married, and it jumps starkly to 58% in the 30-49 age group. Muslims are getting married later in life despite beginning the search early on.
Our relatives constantly ask us why we are not married, they might go so far as to introduce us to potential partners or even facilitate engagements. Our friends suggest certain websites and apps that they’ve used, while others swear by intimate singles events and convention matchmaking. No matter who we ask, from the internet to the imam, we just can’t seem to tie the knot.
But what if we’re putting too much pressure on our fingers? Marriage, ultimately, is in Allah ﷻ’s divine Hands. It is part of rizq, otherwise known as our provision, specifically crafted by The One who knows exactly what sort of nourishment we need.
We can seek it and work towards getting married for years, even decades, but it will only come when He ﷻ knows it is best.
Don’t assign the mundane to the Divine
For those of us who got married later in life, or who may have never been married, we may wonder: what is wrong with us?
In Sara Eckel’s It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons as to Why You’re Still Single, the author details reasons that others give as to why one may not be married. These reasons can be brought forth to our paradigm. You might be “too picky.” Or, “too intimidating.” And in some circles, maybe even “too pious.”
“I have friends who are still looking, friends who are married, and friends who are divorced. The difference, I’ve come to see, is largely due to chance, rather than character. Because after all those years of self-doubt, my late-marrying friends and I found men who love us even though we’re still cranky and neurotic, even though we still haven’t got our careers together, even though we sometimes talk too loud […]. We have gray hairs and unfashionable clothes and bad attitudes. They love us anyway. What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with any of us? If we’re honest, the answer probably is ‘plenty.’ But that’s not the point.”
As Muslims, we don’t believe in chance. We believe in qadr and rizq. We might feel frustrated, for example, that we have been doing everything that we can, and yet, when it comes to getting married—we just can’t. Each night’s tahajjud brings about a day of no Prince Charmings. Ramadan after Ramadan passes with no one to fast with. We close conversation after conversation on app after app.
Others’ whispers, not just Shaytan’s, come to us, struggling to find excuses and “logic” for this problem. I can drop a few pounds. I can give up this non-negotiable. I can take away parts of myself if someone will just take me!
Please, dear sister, don’t bemoan your appearance as the reason you can’t find a life partner. Look around at your inner circles— there are women of all sizes and skin colors who have found their mate. Similarly, there is no need to be ashamed of your education, career or personality. These are all unique parts of who you are, don’t hide them from someone; share them proudly.
“Did my friends and I make mistakes when we were single? Probably. Did we arrogantly dismiss men who could have turned out to be great husbands for us? Could be. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did not take the advice of the acquaintance who said, ‘You select a husband the way you do a house. You choose from what’s available at the time.’ Human beings are not houses—you don’t walk in and say, ‘Well, so long as we gut the kitchen and add a third bathroom, this could work,’ or, ‘It has no charm, but it’s close to work and it’s all I can afford.’ No. You love them as they are, or you let them find someone else who does.”
We were created in pairs, as the Qur’an told us (Surah al-Naba, 78:8).
Wouldn’t you like your other half to fit perfectly around your curves and edges, like the puzzle piece meant for your side? Would you rather twist and turn just to fit in one aspect of yourself in one aspect of him? It wouldn’t be fair to either of you.
Take risks and appreciate your rizq
I admit that it is demoralizing to do everything right with a potential spouse—never even progressing to holding hands, and even committing to a life together with a ring, and then, to have everything “go wrong.”
In Surah al-Kahf, the chapter we read every Friday, Musa (may peace be upon him) asks Khidr (may Allah be pleased with him) about three things which appeared to be injustices: the damaging of a ship, the murder of a child, the refusal of payment from a town. In each of these situations, there was a hidden wisdom as to why the circumstances played out the way that they did.
I have been broken up with on an operating table. I have found out that a potential spouse got into an arranged marriage after discussing a future with me. I’ve interpreted intense conversations as a show of interest, but the brother was using me to dump details about his life rather than build a foundation for a life with me. And in so many other cases, I’ve made the intention to move forward in the relationship while he has decided to backpedal.
While I still carry the scars of all these betrayals, I feel grateful to Allah ﷻ that I avoided deeper wounds. I am thankful that I didn’t marry someone who would have never cared for me in sickness nor in health, nor a person who went back on his word, and specially a grown man who would never grow into seeing me as anything other than his therapist. Who knows what other wisdom is being withheld from me?
If the veils were lifted from His [Allah’s] kindness and what He does for him [the servant] of what he knows and what he does not know, his heart would melt out of love for Him [Allah] and longing for Him, and he [the servant] would fall prostrating in gratitude to Him [Allah]. Ibn al-Qayyim [Tariq al-Hijratayn Wa Bab al-Sa‘adatayn] (may Allah have mercy on him)
Just this year, I attended a major Muslim convention for the purpose of its matchmaking event. A sister came with her in-law and sat next to me. The multiple brothers took to the stage, gave us two-minute biographies each, and left us to write their names if we were interested.
It was slim pickings.
Her in-law, may Allah bless her for trying to help, had written down six names (the maximum amount we were allotted on our sheets), despite the sister not really inclined to any of them.
“You’ve come all this way,” the in-law said. “You have to talk to someone.”
I told her, “It’s okay. You’re not looking for six. You’re looking for one. The one. If you can’t find the one here, don’t waste your time, and don’t hurt your heart.”
So please, dear sister, trust your gut. If a red flag shows up, don’t ignore it. If your parents are pressuring you to marry someone, remember that it is you who will share his home and carry his child. If a relative asks why the wait, say that you don’t know—or with some humor, “You aren’t praying enough for me!” Or as Eckel says,
“Here’s a thought: Maybe you’ve remained single well into adulthood because…you know what you’re doing. Because there is something right with you.”
In other words, you know what you want. Marriage is a means of attaining closeness to Allah. We do not seek closeness to Allah ﷻ to get married, and then turn away from Him ﷻ to become close to a human being. If you find that a potential spouse couldn’t complete your faith, then perhaps it is time to pursue others. Look for three key ingredients in conversations: tranquility, peace, and mercy, as Allah ﷻ decreed.
“And of His signs is that He created for you, from yourselves, spouses so that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you love and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for people who reflect.” (Surah Al-Rum 30:21)
As Nafisa Bakkar writes, “A marriage should exist upon mutuality and a belief in Allah ﷻ.”
Take the breaks when you need to. Go off the grid from the apps when you need to breathe. Review your rights, enjoy time with yourself, and strengthen relationships with other single sisters. And be sure to know yourself before you know another, as it has a deep impact on your relationships.
You are doing everything in your power, sister. Now rely on the All-Powerful. He will bring you the one you were created from.
To quote Kahlil Gibran in his beautiful poem, “Do Not Love Half Lovers,”
Your other half is not the one you love
It is you in another time yet in the same place
It is you when you are not.
May Allah help us to not halve our deen, rather, to find our other halves, and perfect our faith for Him.
This piece was written by a member of the Amaliah community. If you would like to contribute anonymously, drop us an email us on firstname.lastname@example.org