Aging Singles: How Parents Cause Delay in Marriage

Young, attractive, well-educated, pleasant and talented…

Sporting a well-rounded personality, hailing from a respected and decent family, and showing bright future prospects…

A yuppie in their late twenties or early thirties, or, in a growing number of cases, having recently hit the big four-O (forty), he or she might even qualify as an alpha male or female in the eyes of the beholder.

Only, whenever someone meets this dynamic young personality, they are in for a surprise: this eligible person is still single.

But why hasn’t he/she got married yet?Who wouldn’t want to marry him/her? So good-looking, decent and eligible; such a gem!” comes the incredulous question from onlookers.

Usually directed towards the already worried parents of this “gem”, it causes their guard to go up. Awkwardly squirming in their seats, they avert their gaze, mumble something about the qadrof Allah, and change the subject.

According to them, they have done “all that they could” to find suitable matches for their darling daughter or son.

Trivial Hang-ups Becoming Obstacles

I really want to get married, but I have an older sister who is single, and my mother is not willing to even think about my marriage before she gets hitched. I do care about how my sister will feel if I get married first, but I study in a coeducational university, and I fear that I will fall into temptation if my marriage is delayed any longer.”  A 19-year-old Muslim girl said.

In many cultures, Parents always have a major role to play when it comes to delaying the marriage of their sons or daughters.

Mostly, in the case of a son, it is the establishment of his career and his acquisition of a certain level of income before he is allowed to marry. In the case of a daughter, pickiness based on over-concern for her future financial welfare, completion of her studies/college degree, or the pre-requisite marriage of an older sibling, are quoted as so-called “valid reasons” to delay her marriage.

I am not saying that a young person should be married off to the first person who seems suitable, especially against their will.

What I am saying is, that some of the parents’ self-obligated hang-ups and preconditions, such as the one quoted above, are the primary causes of unnecessary delays in the marriage of eligible young people nowadays.

Ethnic Racism

Granted, cross-cultural marriages require more compromise, sacrifice and hard work to achieve stability and success than intra-racial ones, but they are still a valid option for consideration.

This is especially true in cases where there is otherwise a genuine match between two urbanized singles on the basis of social standing, moral upbringing, education, location of residence, and religious commitment.

For example, if two youngsters have been brought up in the same city, state, or country, and their families live a similar lifestyle, their belonging to different ethnic groups, castes or races should not become the primary issue behind their parents’ outright refusal to even consider their betrothal.

Even in the country where I dwell, many families simply refuse to marry into a clan hailing from another state/province of the subcontinent. The reason firmly cited for this with finality?

We do not marry our children into outsiders.” Subhan Allah!

Parents’ Past Life Experiences

Even the most educated, enlightened, well-established and broadminded parents can have unflinching views about life, careers, social stigmas cultural ethos and ideals that can cause obstacles in the timely marriage, or marital success, of their children.

Aging Singles: How Parents Cause Delay in Marriage - About Islam

For example, take Aminah*. Hailing from a low-income family background, she was brought up with seven other siblings in extremely straitened economic conditions. Provided with a minimal basic education, she was married off in her early twenties to a foreign-educated engineer.

Living prosperously since then, she has spent all her married life at home, docilely serving her husband and children, keeping herself busy only in domestication. Not once has she stepped outside her home to work at a job. She is completely financially dependent on her husband, and cannot put together even a sentence in a language other than her mother-tongue.

Today, Aminah’s only daughter, however, is a successful senior-management-level professional in an international company.

Now past her twenties (in which Aminah rejected all marriage proposals for her with a flat, “Right now she has to focus on her career”), she possesses a foreign education as well as foreign citizenship.  Socially active in the local liberal entertainment circuit since her teens, she travels alone abroad often, for leisure or business, having achieved complete financial independence.

She has no intention of getting married. Even the topic of her marriage has become an “elephant in the room”.

When one sees cases like these, one wonders if the parents’ upbringing of their children and the dynamics of their own marriage had anything to do with their child’s aversion to getting married?

Does a daughter like Aminah’s dread marriage because she has grown up noticing her father treats her mother more like a valet than a romantic mate? Does she dislike the idea of marriage because she doesn’t want to depend on a man to provide for her, and hence, to “control” her?

Does it fill her with dread that a husband will possibly dictate her lifestyle choices, such as where she goes out and with whom, what she wears, and how she spends her leisure time?

In all such cases, when a perfectly normal and healthy young singleton refuses to even discuss the prospect of getting married well past their twenties or thirties, the cause is usually a deep-rooted, psychological one based on their observation of their own parents’ marriage, and the priorities about life (and money) that the latter has ingrained into their psyche since early childhood.

Extravagant Wedding Rituals

We cannot afford to finance your wedding right now. We will need to throw a banquet with at least 400 guests. We do not have the money for that. You will just have to wait a few more years, until you can chip in to meet the expenses.”

Many Muslim parents persistently cling to culture-based rituals associated with social status, ‘honor’ and prestige when it comes to convening their children’s weddings.

Unnecessary and complex rituals and ceremonies are compulsorily held out of a sense of social obligation, if not to silence the wagging tongues of extended family members.

7 Things Sisters Should Know Before Marriage

Islam has not burdened a bride’s parents with throwing even one party or banquet at hernikah, nor with providing her with a dowry to that is displayed to the critical socialite naysayers.

Sadly, most do these things anyway, out of a sense of social obligation and pressure. Examples of the unnecessary parties thrown by the bride’s family are: the pre-nikah hennaceremony (mehndi), and the formal dinner banquet to see off the bride as she goes to her husband’s home for the first time (rukhsati).

In addition, at each of these parties, the number of dishes in the menu, the label and price tag of the bridal dresses, the rent and location of the venue, and the swankiness of the decor – all are indulged in for the critical appraisal of the attendees.

The sad result is that the timeliness and barakah of the sacred union of marriage is compromised, if not totally sacrificed, in over-rating and blowing out of proportion a one-time wedding party: that coveted, “picture-perfect”, grandiose reception, which is mostly aimed only at dazzling the guests so much that they are rendered absolutely speechless in awe.

Incorrect Beliefs About Sons Being a Source of Provision

Ahmad* is in his early forties and still single. His parents live a modest life in South Asia (originally hailing from a rural village), but he lives very comfortably in the quiet American suburbs, regularly sending a coveted cheque every month back home to his aging parents.

All their efforts at finding him a girl from “back home” on his flying (and consistently more spaced-out and infrequent) visits have failed, for one lame excuse or another (“Too dark!”, “Not pretty enough!”, “She has to be a doctor”).

Despite the fact that he is single, his parents’ joy at his affluence and financial success far outweighs their worries about his single status, the preservation of his faith in Deen, or the fear that he might fall into the sin of adultery because of living alone in a sexually permissive environment.

From where I hail, this is one of the classically “wishful” future scenarios that middle-class people have in mind when they pray to Allah for a son, or why they covet sons rather than daughters.

The reason why I am explaining this here is because the same poverty-based psyche makes such parents procrastinate their sons’ marriage for as long as they can.

I have had quite a few 40+ single “Ahmads” in my own extended family, and while everyone expressed concern for the marriage of their female counterparts, no one seemed too greatly bothered about why these aging bachelors were not getting married.

In the “blind” eyes of every such “Ahmad’s” parents, a son is a ‘safety net’ for their post-retirement old age; whom they believe will replace the father as the primary family breadwinner, and continue to grease his parents’ palms with cash (hopefully in a foreign currency) even after he gets married and has children of his own.

They know but the outer (things) in the life of this world, but of the End of things they are heedless.” [The Holy Qur’an- 30:7]

Further, they believe that he and his wife will serve them, whereas his sisters might not be able to, as they will have obligations in their own husbands’ homes.

There are many clear examples that exist before our eyes, of sons who go on to become unprosperous, incompetent non-achievers; who continue to fleece their fathers long after the latter’s retirement; who do not earn enough to financially support their parents before the latter’s demise; who die young before their parents, or who outright abandon their parents later on in life.

Muslim parents should strengthen their basic aqeedah, including the unfaltering conviction that any kind of provision that Allah has written for them in their Qadr – food, shelter, money, love and care – at any stage in life (either youth or old age) will reach them, no matter what,- whether they have one son, 6 sons, or no children at all.

Aging Singles: How Parents Cause Delay in Marriage


I know that parents are not solely responsible for the delay in the marriage of their wards, as there are many other external factors that affect this delay as well.

However, most of the time, it is the parents’ own ideals in life, the upbringing they impart to their children, the values that govern their actions, and the pre-conditions that they hold fast to regarding how, where, when and to whom their adult son or daughter gets married, which directly or indirectly obstruct their children’s timely marriage.

Parents today need to realize that they have to let go of some of their culturally influenced beliefs, ideas and desires related to marriage, in order to fulfill the moral responsibility of their children’s marriages in a timely manner.

By not sweating the small stuff, and making nikah easy and doable, they will be doing a great favor to not just their own children, but to the success of the entire Muslim ummah in general.

*Names have been changed in order to protect the individuals’ privacy.

First published: January 2014