In more and more places, it is becoming the norm to hit your thirties while still single. Many Muslim women are struggling to find someone to marry and time is fast running out. But what is the cause of this epidemic that is sweeping the West and slowing infiltrating the East?
Some of the issues that are discussed in this post may not be taken well by many women. However, it is important to take a step back from reacting to what you are reading and sensibly think about how much of it is actually true.
In Islam, Allah (swt) has laid down certain rules and there was a reason for these rules. When dynamics change, this leads to problems that ripple through every aspect of life.
Gender Equality and Mr. Right
Unlike years that have gone by when women would sit and twiddle their thumbs, today they are highly independent and want to have a future for themselves. With the rising costs of houses and all things nice, this seems to be a good course of action. But at what cost?
There are a huge number of well-educated women in their thirties looking for a spouse but unable to find a suitable match. We might live in a society that is equal for both sexes but many men still want a wife who is less educated than themselves. So a woman who succeeds in creating a secure future for herself is often achieving this at the expense of finding a decent husband, it seems. This is because men often still see themselves filling the role of a breadwinner. They often feel that it is harder to live a happy life with a highly qualified woman as their partner.
In comparison, women today have a greater deal of control over their lives compared to their ancestors and this can have a negative impact on the marriage when both struggle to be the dominant party in the relationship. Many women are left single as they cannot find a suitable partner who will meet their intellectual and emotional needs. Education, rather than becoming just a stepping stone for the highly educated woman has also become a barrier in ways not predicted before. Syma Mohammad in The Guardian made the following statement:
“it is common that Muslim women perform significantly better than men academically. The ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’s How Fair is Britain?’ report revealed that Bangladeshi and Pakistani women have more chance of being employed as professionals than males. This means that professional Muslim women have even less intellectual and economic equivalents to choose from. The situation has worsened because Asian men are more likely select partners who have a lower intellectual and financial status. Asian men are used to being raised in families where the father is the breadwinner, and the mother stays at home to look after the family, and they usually prefer to replicate this model.”
There’s also another, more insidious problem.
In the quest for equality, the natural differences between men and women get chipped away and most often, it is women who are left paying the price. They take on traditionally masculine traits which are seen as less than desirable by potential spouses while also being necessary to survive in the corporate world they work in resulting in an internal struggle and even misplaced resentment.
Despite this equality that we seem to have achieved, women still want their husband to take care of them. They’ve survived perfectly fine on their own up until marriage and have formed certain expectations and needs for themselves which means that the men they marry are often entirely incapable of taking care of them any better than they have taken care of themselves, shattering the expectations they have been conditioned to form by Hollywood and the media that their “Mr. Right” will sweep them off their feet and give them everything they want and need.
As a result of these naturally growing expectations on the part of women, men often feel overwhelmed and choose instead to seek easier to please wives back home where they assume women have been raised to expect less and still subscribe to traditional values of how a relationship should work, namely one where the man has control the majority of the time.
Go Find Someone Back Home!
In the UK, it’s much harder for a woman to find a partner than it is for a man. The selection afforded to Muslim women in the UK is limited as compared to men. Let’s examine the choices available to Muslim men in the UK. Men are given permission to marry Christians and Jews, not just Muslim women. This gives them a lot of freedom. They tend to work with women and will socialise with British Christians. Often, these men will go on to marry these non-Muslim women. When men are marrying outside of the Muslim pool, it immediately reduces the number of men available for single Muslim women.
Women, on the other hand, can only marry Muslims which restricts their selection for marriage drastically. Even within that selection pool, there are additional restrictions which hinder the process of finding a suitable spouse. Some examples of these restrictions include her wanting someone educated, her parents wanting someone that is from the same caste … and the list goes on.
This brings us to the option of going back home to get married. Let’s be honest, this is a controversial topic. Men often find it easy to fly off back home to Pakistan, India or anywhere else as they know they can get what they want there. it’s a bit like browsing a chocolate aisle where so many varieties are on show and you can pick whichever one takes your fancy.
In some cases, men will have “fun” here and then find the girl they’ve been leading on “unsuitable” for their purposes. They will then go back home to get married to a “virgin” who is pure and clean and will “take care of the home”. This can be a sore point for many women who might have invested in a haram relationship in the hopes of settling down when they are then cast aside as inappropriate and dumped. In these situations, their chances of getting married in the UK to a decent man become next to zero. Not only that, their reputation has already been smeared. This is also one of the reasons why relationships outside of marriage have been forbidden for both men and women. Unfortunately, the consequences of haram relationships are more severe for women than men, in our societies anyway!
On the other hand, there are men who genuinely do want to get married to a British girl but the independence of modern woman has become a strong barrier in relationships, leading to a breakdown even before a marriage takes place. Men will also often marry back home as they find it easier to build relationships with girls with a more traditional outlook. Women from back home are more likely to still see family as the centre of a relationship and are happy for the man to be the only breadwinner.
It is important to note, however, that even in the British society many women would prefer to have the man take the lead. But, the way they have grown up means that they have become used to being independent and being pampered by their parents.
So why don’t women just head off back home and get married like men seem wont to do? Well, it’s simply not as easy for them as it is for the men. Men here in the UK may not be meeting the standards of many women, but the majority of guys from back home will not suit them intellectually, socially or economically or be capable of meeting their needs.
Moreover, the mindset of men back home is drastically different from that of those from the west. They come from patriarchal backgrounds where they are meant to be the leaders in their relationships. When they come here, they feel like they’re treated like dirt and made to feel useless. It’s often not even a deliberate attempt to make them feel like that but rather that a woman has no choice but to take the lead in supporting the household. This can have a severe impact on a man, making him feel inadequate which can lead to complications in the relationship. Despite being highly educated, men can struggle to find suitable jobs and therefore work in low-level positions. This shift in power in the relationship can cause severe problems. Often, women will not be willing to compromise because they are the ones supporting the household and they will try to dominate the relationship which is not reacted to well by the man.
Therefore, women will not often go back home to get married, as they have seen people around them placed in difficult situations and they are wary of putting themselves in the same difficulties.
Family pressure can often make or break a potential marriage proposal. Sometimes, family expectations can overrule any other wishes of the parties wanting to get married.
One thing that has reared its ugly head for years is the caste system. In the UK, one would think this would not be an issue. However, a lot of Muslims, especially Pakistani Punjabis and Indians have a strong tradition of slotting people into relevant castes and then deciding thereupon who is appropriate for marriage to their daughter. Arabs are different in the sense that they don’t have outright castes but Arab families are also very rigid about their daughters and sometimes even sons marrying only within their nationality. Some British Arab parents will allow their daughters to get married to someone who is not from the same country but they will tell their daughters that their son-in-law must be an Arab!
Muslims Girls will get good proposals from good families that are compatible with them which are forcibly turned down because the guy is of a “lower caste” or not being an Arab and therefore not suitable according to the family’s standards. It does not seem to matter that the man might be well educated, respectable and religiously inclined. Instead, the fact that back home they were, for example, a “darzi” (clothes maker), “nai” (barber) or of similar other castes or not an Arab means that they were automatically rejected as being unsuitable.
Allah has clearly said:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted” (Quran 49:13)
If so many British Muslim families are so against letting their children marry out of their castes – which would still be a marriage in the same ethnicity Imagine how tough it would be for a Muslim woman to marry a man that was of a different race!?
Unfortunately in many British Muslim families, if a woman tries to marry a man of a different ethnicity, she suddenly becomes an outcast and her family will ostracise her. She’ll have “shamed” the family and broken tradition by marrying someone that was beneath them or outside their ethnicity. This ignorant attitude is making things exceedingly difficult for many single Muslims who would have found a suitable spouse had it not been for the meddling of their parents. Single women have watched brave women who have fought their way through the prejudice and have become outcasts. No family contact, no support system, just because they have gone against their family’s wishes. Any time they needed help, they were isolated and alone. Fear of this happening to them stops single Muslim women from marrying outside of their ethnicity.
This is not the only type of family pressure that women have to deal with. They are often instructed to lie to the groom’s side about the qualities they might or might not potentially possess. Their skills in certain areas are polished and exaggerated in the hope of getting them tied down to someone, which once a marriage begins, can have a detrimental effect.
On the other hand, the guy’s side will want a homemaker. Someone that can cook and take care of his family and his children. This does not always fit in well with what the woman might want from her relationship. Often, she is happy to take care of her husband and cook for him but the extra burden of taking care of his entire family will put her off by saying yes.
Parents play an important role in getting their children married. The idea usually is to do what is best and pleases Allah. However, parents will approach the situation from what they perceive to be in the best interests of their children. Many times, parents will not bother to consult their children about what they want for their future and instead assume that their daughter will automatically take on the role of a housemaid. She then no longer has a say in the relationship and is dictated to by both her husband and his family. In western society, this can be a very dangerous expectation, especially as women are brought up to be independent. A fine balance is required between what she can and will do. Women also often need to realise that some level of compromise is necessary for a relationship to work. If you’re wanting to have it all your way then it is unlikely that the marriage will work for very long.
Finally, the last thing that families do very often is pressure the daughter into marrying a certain specific guy. They don’t look at how suitable the couple will be together. Once the girl has reached her 25th birthday, the pressure is on. It no longer matters who she marries, it just matters that she does marry – and fast! Parents will push their daughters to marry whoever comes along as they see their daughter’s shelf life ticking away and they think its better for her to get married to someone unsuitable rather than get married to no one.
This can be dangerous territory for a girl as saying yes to someone who may not be compatible can lead to serious consequences. This tug of war often means that a girl will not be allowed to decide what is best for her and may often be averse to getting married due to the intense amount of pressure.
No Community Support
Sania is 34 years old. She goes out to a local community event and there, she meets other Muslim sisters who are married and settled. Whilst talking to them, she tries to seek help in finding a marriage partner by approaching them and explaining the way she is struggling to find a spouse despite looking for a while now.
Two things take place. The first: she is criticised for not being married and told that surely there must be something wrong with her and therefore this is the sole reason why she has not been married to date (This comes from the older sisters in their 40’s). The second is “How shameless is this girl? She is openly asking if she can get married, how desperate is she!?” This comes from the upstanding mothers who believe girls should still be coy and well keep their mouths shut.
Asking to get married seems to be another way of saying that someone wants sex. But marriage is not just about sex. It includes companionship and emotional stability. This kind of attitude is reserved for females only. Sadly, the same females have a very different attitude when it comes to their sons’ needs or those of other men. Their sons need to get married, they cannot be expected to wait as they have needs and they need to have a family. This sort of double standard plays havoc with women who then become reluctant to ask for help.
Surely this is not what Islam teaches us? Everyone has a right to be married if they wish and to dream of a future. So, why is it that because you are married you feel that it is somehow acceptable to shun and criticise those that are not, potentially making those that are already depressed feel even worse. Communities really need to pull together to help each other. Once again Syma Mohammed in The Guardian makes a valid point:
“Any real solution would require a complete cultural shift in mindset by parents, community leaders, and imams. This will need geographically, socially and economically fractured communities to work together to achieve change – no easy feat. Until they do so, many women who want to marry men of the same faith will continue to struggle”.
Mizan Raja, the host of Muslim marriage events also suggests:
Where parents and extended family networks once played key roles in matrimonial matters, the loss or weakening of these networks, coupled with a growing professionalisation and individualisation among second and third generation British Muslims, and the rapid growth and commercialisation of online Muslim matrimonial sites and events, have led to changing concepts of what contemporary Muslim relationships represent, and a need to revise taken-for-granted tropes such as ‘arranged marriages’ often described in academic accounts of Muslim families. Many parents recognise the limitations of their own networks and assume that the education and professional status of their children mean that they are better equipped to find their own partners and will meet potential partners either at university or work”.
So this lets us conclude that as a community we need to really pull together and try and help sisters to find suitable matches. The onus seems to have fallen on the girls and they are struggling to find someone for themselves. Worse, if they do seek the help they are made to feel embarrassed and as if they have done something wrong.
Dating and ‘Tasters’
Is this really something we should even think about? After all, what is dating but a prelude to having sex and then going on to decide that the person is not right for you? You have to admit, it is a strange way of viewing things: date them to try them out but if you do not like them, move on.
But let’s face it, with so much choice out there in terms of dating, it helps to hold off getting married. The mindset seems to be that if you can have a relationship without all the added responsibilities, would you rather not just go for that option?
Women seem to be shying away from responsibility just as much as men. They find it easier to talk to a guy for a while and then move onto another once they’re bored because they have the flexibility to do so and they’re not tied down. Unfortunately, in a lot of these cases, zina is committed and iman gets weaker and lot of evils that a woman would not have accepted prior to these dates becomes normal for her.
By trying to date, you’re opening yourself up to a world of sin as well as to heartbreak. Not only that, your chance of marriage is still nil. Muslim men who have a strong reliance on and fear of Allah (SWT) tend to avoid these types of scenarios so chances for a Muslim woman to find someone who is religiously strong via these dates are very low in the first place anyway. More and more girls are resorting to dating in the hope that maybe dating will eventually get them married and settled. They seem to be missing the point that Islam teaches us to have sabr (patience) and that we will go through trials and tribulations, which is inevitable and must be borne with grace. Also, if Allah has created us another half (who will not be the imaginary Mr. Right), then marriage will take place no matter what obstacles we may face.
Islam teaches us that marriage is the finest, purest and only permissible relationship that should exist between a male and female; it should be the goal that they both have in mind. We cannot start dating and go against the guidelines that Allah has set for us. A scholar at an East London Mosque lecture that I intended a while back made a valid point:
“Dating prepares us – NOT for marriage, but for DIVORCE.”
After being “involved” with a person for a time, then breaking up and going through feelings of remorse or loneliness and unhappiness, the couple both move onto the next person in hopes of finally getting a partner. Marriage never takes place, but a series of sins sure do.
A hadith to ponder on:
Abû Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah will ask on the Day of Judgment: ‘Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My glory? Today, – on a day when there is no shade but mine – I shall shade them with My shade.” [Sahîh Muslim (2566)]
Our road to Jannah lies in the path of being true to ourselves, Allah will give us the best of rewards due to our trials and tribulations. Not loving for the sake of Allah, but for the sake of quenching your sexual thirst will only mean that Allah’s shade is not protecting us.
Single Muslim Events & Apps
Muslim Marriage Events and speed dating are the new “in” things to assist people in finding their perfect match. Social Media and online Muslim matrimonial sites mean that matchmaking should have become far easier than before…or not.
All these events and online sites are brilliant in assisting with finding a spouse but they’ve also got lots and lots of choice. There is so much choice available that suddenly you no longer seem to know what you want. Men have a banquet of girls to choose from and now, some are not “sexy” enough, some are “too sexy” and some are just not their cup of tea! It becomes difficult to compete with an image that even the men themselves aren’t completely sure of!
What’s more, all these events that take place just have a load of people thrown together without any type of regulation or organization. You go around in circles and talk to people, then get bored and move on. After all, with all the choices available why not try and test them all to see which one fits you? There have been so many occasions where girls have rejected a guy over a small imperfection just because they’ve gotten bored. Having unrealistic expectations of what you will find at these events makes it really tough to be able to actually find someone that is compatible.
There needs to be a platform where sincere facilitators help to match people with an eye towards people’s best interests and compatibility. It is understandable that they have to make their money as well, but a genuine desire to help and actually getting two people married that are well suited to each other will bring so much Barakah! Unfortunately, in the quest to make money this is often forgotten.
Ticking Biological Clocks
Come on girls, let’s face it: our biological clocks are ticking away and our chances of having a child are greatly reduced after a certain age, so why would a guy be attracted to us? They have the rest of their lives to conceive.
There are men out there that are over thirty and not married because they just cannot find the right partner. BUT – and that is a big massive BUT – they have absolutely nothing to lose other than having a delayed start to their family. Men are far more likely to marry someone younger who has a higher chance of giving them a child than someone younger who may not be able to do this, which makes getting married for older women even harder. However, is that a reason to stop looking?
Women worry that as they age, the risk of their baby’s health being affected is greater and men do not have this problem But men are not immune to the biological clock either. Ann Swanson in the independent says:
“Research has shown that age affects a man’s ability to have a child in a similar way to a woman’s, though the timeline isn’t the same. It’s harder for older men to father children, and their offspring are more likely to have health problems, too. In fact, new research suggests that many problematic genetic conditions may be more closely linked to the age of the father than the mother”.
This missing knowledge can impact a lot of couples, as a woman often holds the burden of having a child. However, for future generations research into this could be beneficial, especially since a lot of men and women are deciding to marry once they are older and then conceive later as well. Although men can have children at the age of 60, unlike women, their testosterone declines as they age which can mean that they have a decreased libido and suffer erectile dysfunction.
I Deserve Better!
Spouse hunting can seem very much like a job interview. Days are spent sitting and prepping for your ‘successful spouse’, you prepare a question list and then you sit opposite your potential spouse and go through the painful and slightly awkward hour or two to determine if you are compatible. He does the same. You discuss deen, ambitions, culture, living arrangements, child-rearing philosophies, pet peeves, interests. You consider each others height, weight, looks and the way you talk and finally, you come to the conclusion of whether this will move to the next stage.
So what’s going wrong, Is it that men are fussy and they want a younger aged girl or a prettier girl? Or is it the fact that both genders want a checklist that has been ticked off like an inventory of a house?
From what can be seen, men are not completely to blame. Women also have many high demands. They want men to have a good education, they want them to have their own homes and they want them to be able to provide for their wife as well. Combined with men’s own desires to have a good-looking, skinny young girl, the chances of finding a good husband for most Western Muslim women seem to be slim.
Is Being Single Really That Bad?
Looking at the overall picture, being part of a relationship gives contentment, emotional support and a stable foundation to build a home. But this does not mean that if you are not married, life is all bad. Maybe Allah (swt) has not let you get married for a good reason. It is easy to get disheartened but sometimes it can be a hidden blessing that you are not realising. You should not look at things negatively but positively. How so?
Remember, Allah has willed a time and a place for everything and if it is meant to happen, it will surely happen. There is a reason why you are not married and it may be a very good reason. You may have been saved from a lifetime of pain and hurt. You do not know what you might have avoided by remaining single, and Allah only wants what is best for us.
In Saheeh Muslim (2653) it is narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allah be pleased with him) said I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say:
“Allah wrote down the decrees of creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.”