You can say goodbye and flush all the love, intimacy, nights out and family gatherings down the drain as the darkness of divorce can block all those memories and even make it seem like a dark past. Very few people, in my experience, end marriage in the type of ethical divorce described in the Quran as “Ihsan” or excellence.

Most divorces end in bitter disputes leaving only two items for discussion on the table: child support and/or custody; and financial settlements.

If we take a step back, we can see that the seeds of divorce have been planted in marriages from the start since many marriages were initiated away from the guidance of the Prophet (SAAW). When parents marry their daughters to another family member regardless of suitability because of cultural traditions; when mothers raise their sons by dictating and interfering in every single aspect of their lives which continues after marriage; when girls are more obsessed with the fairytale of fancy parties and competing with other weddings in the community than the actual marriage itself; when parents fail to raise their kids to understand the responsibilities in marriage towards a spouse; when men are more concerned with seeking unrealistic physical perfection in a wife based on the fake Hollywood personas they look up to, all of these issues have  already planted the seeds of divorce before the marriage has even begun, and marriages are doomed for failure sooner or later.

The rate of divorce is growing very high in our community, and it can range between 30 to 40 percent. Although we understand that Islam was practical in meeting people’s needs, and realistic in permitting divorce when life becomes unbearable between spouses, I feel that the level of sacredness based on sacrifice to preserve the family is slowly vanishing. The Quran states that marriage is based on tranquility, love and mercy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a marriage begins with these elements. There are no freebies. Just like anything worth having, marriage takes work. That means that each spouse has to live up to his or her responsibilities in the marriage, be willing to compromise for the greater good, and learn to appreciate the good in their partner and cope with their imperfections. This work, along with constant self reflection towards improvement, and sincere forgiveness over misunderstandings, brings the fruit of a good and lasting marriage which is the tranquility Allah spoke of in the Quran. Marriage revolves around “Amanah” or trust, which is mentioned in the Quran and Ahadeeth, meaning that each one of us has a responsibility for the ones under our care or protection.  When people betray or fail such a trust in a relationship then divorce is just around the corner.

The major problem I see threatening marriages is self-centeredness, an unrealistic perception of “me, me, me.”  When one’s focus is primarily on themselves and what they want versus the focus of the family as a unit by stepping up to responsibilities towards one’s spouse, kids and extended family on both sides, divorce is the inevitable outcome.

When divorce does occur, the bottom line comes down to money and kids. I have seen both sides rush into a fight over who can take the kids rather than focusing on what is best for the kids after divorce! And how much money can I take or how much can I hide, rather than what is the honorable thing to do to protect the well-being of the kids after divorce.

When Allah spoke about marriage He (SW) used the term “Al-Maarouf” which is goodness and honor on a normal level, but when Allah referred to divorce, He (SW) used the term “ Ihsan” which is a higher level of goodness and honor than “Al-Maarouf.”

Ihsan is the level of honor that keeps our tongue zipped from spreading evil about spouses after divorce; Ihsan is the level of honor that keeps the kids sheltered from the grudges between parents; Ihsan is the level of honor that makes a woman take only what she deserves financially and not seek all the husband’s wealth that she has no right to; Ihsan makes a man fear Allah in giving his wife her rights in Mahr and keep up with child support and even exceed that with his Islamic generosity; Ihsan is the level of goodness that does not abuse a woman’s right to remarry, as some men in certain cultures consider it improper or shameful for a woman to marry another man after her first husband, forgetting that the prophet’s wives were all either divorced or widowed when he (SAAW) married them with the exception of Aisha (RAA).  There is no one better than the prophet (SAAW) as a person, or any culture better than Islam as a practice.  If divorce is your last resort, then do it in Ihsan according to your faith.

I have not yet even mentioned social diseases which can bring a marriage to doom such as domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, previous or ongoing intimate or adulterous relationships, or diseases of the heart such as envy or greed. These are problems which are much more difficult to mend, and I will try to address these issues in more detail in a later article.

We, at the Prayer Center, can help in certain areas to hopefully avoid resorting to divorce if possible through counseling, advice and guidance, but issues are better addressed and resolved while there is still a good chance to mend things, so do not wait until the marriage has reached a point of no return and you just come to process divorce papers!

May Allah protect our families and help us always strive towards the path of righteousness and self-improvement, Ameen.

By Sh Kifah Mustapha