Divorce is no-doubt a challenging and sometimes traumatic life change. However, in Islam, the wisdom of the iddah (waiting period) gives couples a chance to emotionally adjust to what will become their new normal after their marriage dissolution.
Henrietta Szovati, the author of HeartSmart, explains that people are often fearful of change. “They are scared of stepping out of something that is established (even though it does not work) and cannot be with a new situation so they stay instead.”
The iddah serves to give some breathing room to the marriage and helps couples ease into their new roles as exes, individuals, and possibly co-parents as well. It’s a time of great adaptation and rebirth.
After waiting for a long time, even years, for their Islamic divorces, some are happy to have the end in sight.
One woman recalls, “It was a period of relief, of having got out of that marriage.”
Others have supportive family to help them through it. One woman remembers, “Iddah was very easy for me; a relative let me live in part of their house so I wouldn’t have to worry about paying rent or buying groceries.”
Yet another sister recalls that the iddah period was not any different than her day to day life of abandonment. “The iddah was not a problem,” she recalls. “The man had left us and travelled to the other side of the country. It was like the previous six months, just me and my children.”
However, for others, the iddah can be a challenging time. One woman recalls that the iddah period was a struggle. “[It was] very overwhelming. I was going through the legal process, I had to work, and I had to take care of my kids while grieving the death of my marriage.”
Another sister remembers, “[The iddah] was strenuous and daunting. Every day was harder than the first.”
Munira Ahmed, a parenting and relationship coach working in Pakistan, understands that divorce can be a tiring time emotionally and spiritually. She recommends individuals keep their faith while divorcing by taking care of themselves and working on growing their self-esteem. It’s also important for them to learn powerful coping skills and surround themselves with positive people.
This helps divorcées emotionally prepare themselves for the years ahead and re-center themselves for considering new relationships.
Henrietta also explains, “When a woman gets divorced, there are widely held beliefs that ‘She is done, that is her life now.’ If she has children, she is not going to be welcomed for consideration. Being divorced is definitely a barrier to even stepping into the marriage scene again, more so for women than for men.”
One of the most crucial first steps for a divorcée is to take their time.
Henrietta counsels, “Don’t panic, rush, or want to change your life in a week! Take time to explore, heal and appreciate yourself. Do courses, explore your life, explore your possibilities, and build yourself. Travel, explore and discover who you are after your divorce as a way to heal.”
Keeping the faith
Henrietta shares that faith is the only thing that will help you through a divorce.
“[Have] faith in the fact that this is for the best,” she shares. “Seeing the gift in divorce is hard at first but having faith in knowing that it brings its gifts is more than comforting, it can be life-saving.”
Zahra Summayah, founder of Manifesting Muslimah, encourages everyone to get counseling to heal from grief, trauma, or abuse. She also encourages divorcees to surround themselves with good people who encourage them in worship and connection with God.
One divorced brother would agree that it is good advice.
After first leaving the marriage he was not himself. He’s a business person who loves to help others, but after his divorce his clients could read it on his face that something was bothering him. He wasn’t able to provide local workshops to help people with their business. He became demotivated and severely depressed.
However he was able to keep the faith by getting closer to Allah (SWT).
“Increasing ibadat (acts of worship) did help me ease my pain and brought me back to the right track,” he shared. “But by God it’s not easy.”
Many sisters shared the activities that helped ease overwhelm. Powerful activities include taking Islamic classes, praying tahajjud, regular salah, making dua, reading and reciting Qur’an, fasting, regular meet-ups with friends, joining support groups and even calling prayer hotlines. All these activities helped them get through the ups and downs of their divorces.
Reinvent yourself after divorce
Zahra believes that the resetting time after divorce should be focused on self-love, thriving, and manifesting a grand life for self and child(ren) without a partner.
As a life coach specializing in helping women heal from adversity, abuse, and trauma, Zahra shares that coaches such as herself can help women set goals, take actions, and manifest their marvelous selves in the manner and for the purpose Allah (SWT) created them.
One sister shares, “The first month after my divorce was Ramadan. I was so busy fasting, reading Quran, and making salaat. I really had no reason to be upset about being divorced. I never felt that getting divorced would do anything to weaken my faith. If anything, divorce has strengthened my faith since I really can’t help feeling relief that I’m finally free to be the kind of Muslim I want to be.”
Another sister shares that she was careful not to abandon her faith and dignity after divorce.
“I always felt that divorced women are constantly under the spotlight, particularly in our community,” she explains, “So I made sure I was always on my best behavior. I didn’t want to run wild, embracing my freedom, and literally let my hair down! I felt that as long as I kept Allah (SWT) happy, and didn’t do anything to disappoint or embarrass my parents then I’d be doing okay.”
Zahra also urges divorcees to prepare ahead of the challenges of being single again. “If you need to take care of yourself financially,” she explains, “get training, get work, and gain knowledge about wealth generation, investment, and banking.”
Use your divorce as an opportunity to reinvent yourself and become a better Muslim – the Muslim you always wanted to be.
Don’t dwell on the past
Zahra shares that it’s better to focus on yourself and your own healing rather than thinking about your ex. “Do not go searching him out or allow him to search you out –every time you get curious to scratch at the drying scab over the wound, ask yourself why you want to hurt yourself like that?”
Zahra encourages women to, instead, “Go do something wonderful for yourself – pamper yourself, go pray, go connect with someone who makes you feel loved and worthy.” She encourages women to make self-care choices instead of, “chasing after someone who did not treasure you enough to be your protector, provider and caretaker.”
Preparing for the future
Zahra explains, “Know that Allah (SWT) only ejects you from something that is hurting you and that being single is far better than being alone in a marriage to a man that is disinterested, uncaring, dishonest and/or unkind.”
Think to the future and accept that the marriage and divorce is all parts of Allah’s plan.
To heal from the past and prepare for the future, focus on becoming a better Muslim so that you can be present fully and wholly in a new relationship if and when you feel ready.
First published: March 2018