*This article is adapted from a presentation Sr. Hosai Mojaddidi prepared for the Grand Mawlid event, held February 5th, 2012 in Santa Clara, California.
According to a Soundvision survey conducted in 2010: “If you attended six Muslim weddings this summer, chances are that two will end up in divorce sooner or later!” That might sound like a shocking statistic, but sadly, right now I can think of two recent marriages that are already on the verge of divorce.
So according to this study, as of the late 1990s, the North American Muslim divorce rate stands at 31.14 percent. Incompatibility was the most cited reason for divorce (16.38%), followed by abuse (13.12%), financial disputes (10.41%), family / in-laws interference (10.20%), sexual infidelity / adultery (8.79%), and others.
When they added the results of “religious incompatibility” to the general “incompatibility” factor, it came out to 25.71%. So, basically 1/3 of our marriages are ending in divorce and 1/4th of those are because of incompatibility, specifically, religious incompatibility.
So what does this mean? Clearly, there is a problem in our marriage selection process when a third of our marriages are falling apart.
In my experience over the past 15 years, talking with Muslim couples from all different backgrounds and ages, I believe there are other, underlying reasons, that further explain why our marriages are falling apart.
For example, there is a major generational disparity between the youth and the elders of our community regarding what defines an “ideal” partner and a happy marriage. The youth have their criteria and the elders have theirs and as the saying goes, “never the twain shall meet!”
Let’s start with the youth. Unfortunately, many of our youth have been affected by what is called “The Love Delusion,” which one article describes as:
“The root of any romance today is love, but it wasn’t always so. In past cultures, people came together because their parents arranged it or they wanted to join lands or kingdoms; love was secondary. Today, love is the only thing that matters. This over-emphasis on love is encouraged by media that tells stories, sings songs and writes books about how true love conquers all, is ultimately fulfilling, brings a never-ending wealth of happiness and is rarely marred by significant conflict. “
People caught up in this are deluded by the characters created by Hollywood & Bollywood, characters like: the “Knight in Shining Armor,” the “Filmi Hero,” the “Bad Boy,” the “Rebel Without a Cause,” the “Girl Next Door,” and the “Girl Who Plays Hard to Get”.
They’re also deluded by the Hollywood notion of what “true love” is and how you’re supposed to feel when you find “The One.” We’ve all seen the dramatic scenes that associate a chemical or visceral reaction with “true love,”…you know the sweaty palms, the heart palpitations, the shortness of breath, and fainting, etc. So basically, the idea that they continue to bombard us with through film, songs, media, etc., is that until or unless you feel these things, you haven’t really found “true love.”
The reality is that the youth of our community are plagued by these destructive and unrealistic thoughts. If you don’t believe me, just look at Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace and see what people are preoccupied with.
I’ve actually heard from sisters, who have said to me, “Sister Hosai, he’s an amazing guy, I know he’ll be a wonderful husband and father, and I have no complaints otherwise…it’s just…it’s just that I don’t feel butterflies when I’m around him!” or “We don’t have any ‘chemistry.’” or …”He’s TOO nice and that turns me off!”
These are girls who are practicing their faith, they’re pious sisters otherwise, but they actually have turned away prospects for “being too nice”! Why? Because “nice guys” finish last in Hollywood, don’t they? They’re often portrayed as the weak, nerdy, geeky types; in other words, the monogamous ones who actually want a relationship! Who wants that when the “Hero” of the film drives up in a leather jacket on a motorcycle and has all the girls swooning over him? Yeah that guy is real marriage material!
Sadly, in many cases, these are the same sisters who are so trapped in the “Love Delusion” they’re willing to wait in line for hours to watch the next film in the Series or the latest Khan flick at Cinema.
And of course, some of our brothers have also been trapped by the “Love Delusion.” They are the ones who are so focused on physicality that if a girl doesn’t have a certain “look” then she isn’t attractive enough; she’s not “his type”. And what is this type? You know, the airbrushed face, the tall and photo-shopped physique, the fake extensions and nails. Basically, the altered and unreal images splattered across magazine covers, billboards, music videos, etc.
In fact I’ve actually had brothers ask me to find them, and I quote, “A Muslim Kardashian”! What on earth does that even mean? She is the epitomy of everything a Muslim woman should NOT be! If you don’t know who she is, then consider yourself very lucky.
Now, in all seriousness, it’s important to mention that of course attraction and compatibility are important. However, when you have unrealistic expectations and wont even consider talking to someone who doesn’t look or act like a figment of your imagination, then clearly there is a problem.
So to summarize, the “Love Delusion” is the first problem. The second problem is with our elders, especially those from immigrant backgrounds, who have an entirely different, and in many cases a much more destructive issue; many of them have very fixed and rigid prejudices, often borrowed from their cultures and customs, that influence the way they select partners for their children.
Sadly, many of these elders are active community members, religiously devoted, and knowledgeable and yet, they may or may not be aware of it, but they hold some of the most distorted views and prejudices imaginable when it comes to marriage, views that have absolutely no basis in Islam.
Why is this so?
Because, if it wasn’t clear before, it should be now, that we have a very serious crisis in our community in our understanding of marriage and how to select the ideal partner. There’s been a major departure from the Islamic standard as people continue to prefer their own individual or cultural standards instead. We cannot allow things to continue as they have been. We need to completely reform our current understanding of what constitutes a good marriage and reassess the criteria with which we select spouses. Because clearly, as the title of this talk states, love alone is not enough, and neither is lust or any other superficial thing for that matter.
So what defines a successful marriage?
Successful marriages are built on solid foundations. In order to learn these things, we need to return to the Prophetic example and see what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did in his own life and what he taught others about marriage. He is the perfect example in every way and his standards should be our standards.
We must first begin by starting backwards and trying to undo the harm caused by our distorted views. So once we learn what he taught us about how to marry we can then extrapolate what he didn’t teach us.