Why American Muslim Couples Opt For Divorce?

A Marital Counselor’s Experience

A stark reality is nibbling away at Muslim communities living in America. A veracity that shakes the foundation of not only a family but the society as a whole, which is known as divorce.

According to Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus a sociologist based in New York, “the divorce rate of Muslims living in America in the late 90s was 31.14% and since then divorce has been on the rise.” He says. Speaking to different people who deal with this issue or are going through a divorce themselves broadens the horizon for many.

A dialogue with divorced couples led to many queries answered. When asked how long the marriage lasted at average, the answer was one to two years.  When asked about the cause of their separation, approximately 80 % of the couples stated the following; marital discord, miscommunication. One man said, “Everyone works but spending quality time together is very important.”

A woman added, “I just think it has to do with people not understanding or following through on their rights and obligations as a husband or as a wife.

To comprehend this matter a bit further, I spoke with a few marriage counselors. Together we tried to delve deeper and analyze the motives of such a decision. One of them, Sr. Nadira, who is a knowledgeable member of ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) sister’s wing, based in Houston, TX; related to me some of the numerous cases they have been dealing with.

Umm Muadh: “Sister, how long have you been working with ICNA for?”

Sr. Nadira: “For over 20 years.”

Umm Muadh: “That’s a great deal of experience. During these years do you feel that there has been an increase of couples filing for divorce or would you say it is stagnant?”

Sr. Nadira: “Oh, it has definitely increased.”

Umm Muadh: “Marriage is not what it used to be. What would you say are the extreme problems facing married couples?”

Sr. Nadira: “This is true. Marriage does not hold the same value as it did back in the day. Some individuals view it as insignificant and don’t give it its due place.

There are a few key factors missing in the relationship. Out of the numerous, some of them I would say are loyalty, pride, patience, intimacy, miscommunication, and above all lack of religious and moral ethics.”

Umm Muadh: “Would you explain yourself a little further, when you say loyalty what do you mean?”

Sr. Nadira: “I mean the husband, and in most cases it is the husband, has an affair behind his wife’s back. We had a case where the couple had been married for eight years and they had a child, but the husband found a Hindu woman on Facebook and left his family for that woman!

Another case was a woman who heard that her husband was at the club with another lady, she could not help but go to the club where she found it to be true…. so they separated.”

Umm Muadh: “Well, you mentioned pride how does that lead to separation?”

Sr. Nadira: “We have a few cases of this, for instance, one was that the husband was low income and he worked for his in laws. His wife would treat him very poor and as a servant, the husband got fed up and they divorced.”19-10-14_Why-American-Muslim-Couples-Go-For-Divorce_2

Umm Muadh: “You also said patience. Under what circumstance does this take place?”

Sr. Nadira: “Oh yes there are plenty, and sometimes even insignificant. A couple who had a love marriage, annulled it after mere seventeen days! Because the woman refused to cook, and the husband could not eat his every meal form outside! There could have been other solutions.”

Umm Muadh: “Wow that must have been a big soap opera!  Intimacy was another thing you stated as a dilemma am I right?”

Sr. Nadira: “Absolutely. There have been couples that face this problem. Each and every individual has needs and wants that should be met. That is one of the goals of marriage, to be chaste. When those needs are not fulfilled with one’s spouse then it leads to problems in one’s marital relationship. I would also like to add that there is a lack of communication between the spouses.

The spouse has an expectation, which is unuttered and then feels as if the other partner does not care to meet them. How is the other person supposed to know? The partner is not a psychic and cannot read minds!”

Umm Muadh: “I myself have witnessed that many times. Lastly you mentioned lack of religious and moral ethics, could you further supplement?”

Sr. Nadira: “Certainly if the couple would own either of those characteristics that would improve a marriage far more than anything else. We have covered different topics but I believe that this is the essence of it all.

There are cases where people are double standard where the man can and the woman can’t. Where people talk the talk, however they rarely follow what they state. There are cases where a husband would come home drunk and abuse his spouse.

Another one was where a man would not give his wife any money, although he was well off, and she would have to ask the community for financial support. Not to mention the people who deal with black magic and so forth. I can go on and on with the motives of separation.

So most of these episodes we could have by passed if there was a true understanding of the religion and or people would at least better their demeanor. There is also a hadeeth in this matter in which the Prophet (s) mentioned that Satan is most pleased with the breaking of a family.

Umm Muadh: “If there is one advice that you would give to American Muslim married couples what would it be?”

Sr. Nadira: “It’s what I tell most of the couples who come to us, remember that this is a position given to you by Allah (swt), be fair in your dealing with your spouse. Sometimes we take things for granted and realize it when it’s gone. Also I ask the couple to fulfill their duties towards Allah (swt) which will help them to put things in perspective.

Umm Muadh: “I agree well, thank you very much for displaying to us the different aspects married couples experience.“I agree well, thank you very much for displaying to us the different aspects married couples experience.

Divorce is a hardship that masses of the Muslims residing in America experience. The ailments of other cultures seep in through open gates and affect the Muslim population. Muslims should take heed of this vital reality. The society is built upon communities that is stemmed from families, which is nurtured by a couple. How promising is the future of the married couples living in America? What do the coming years have to offer?

First published: February 2014

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