by S Farooq
I remember the chagrin and inner turmoil of being single and hopeful of marriage, back during my early twenties!
Even after almost a decade of marriage, I still vividly remember the constant roller-coaster of emotions that the heart experiences every time a marriage proposal is negotiated.
One thinks: Is this the one?
Will this family/person be my future spouse/in-laws?
Sometimes the marriage negotiation process painstakingly goes on for months, only to culminate in nothing. Up go one’s dreams, hopes and aspirations about the future into thin air! Once again, it is back to square one.
Whether a young, single Muslim is a man or woman, if they are ardently desirous of completing half their Deen, the anguish and frustration (including sexual angst) they feel whenever another year of their life passes by without any impending nuptials on the horizon is, contrary to gender-discriminating cultural myths, similarly disconcerting and unnerving.
Wherever in the world they might be, as the years pass and the number of fruitless marriage proposals grows, the singleton might begin to feel despondent and worn down by this trial of patience in their quest of completing half their Deen.
So what should one tell a young forlorn wannabe bride or groom when they justifiably ask: “Why am I still unmarried?”
First of All: There Is Nothing Wrong with You!
Although self-confidence is, admittedly, an effective catalyst in finding a spouse, believe me when I tell you that you are not ugly, weird, unattractive, or unworthy of marriage! Allah created the beautiful, unique you, and if He decrees it, someone out there will agree to marry you just the way you are.
So do not despair of Allah’s mercy, and remain positive that someone out there will like you and agree to marry you, insha’Allah. Even if you begin to believe that being short, overweight, shy or acne-skinned is a negative thing going against your favor in the marriage market, it is not, because a certain criteria of looks or education is not a pre-requisite for marriage, contrary to what older people might say.
Look around you at recently married or even older couples. Are all of them very good looking? Don’t both of the partners seem to have at least one physical defect or blemish? Does everyone you know in your social circle, who recently got married, look like they stepped off a fashion runway?
You will find a wide variety of “real couples” who break every stereotype in the book (and please, refrain from looking at celebrity couples and famous people!): husbands who are shorter than their wives; wives who are older than their husbands; cross-cultural marriages that are refreshingly functional; infertile couples who are very happily married; men who are in love with their plus-size or dark-skinned wives; wives who are more educated than their husbands; the list is endless.
Never let others make you feel that if you are thirty-something and still not married, it is because either there is something wrong with you, or because Allah has decreed for you to forever remain single.
Divine Wisdom behind Perceived “Delays” in Marriage
In a world that is increasingly pressurizing everyone, from babies and children to adults, to achieve their personal milestones in life as early as possible, a righteous and single Muslim who is in his or her late twenties, thirties or forties might find themselves the target of unwarranted social stigmatization and cruel speculation:
“Why doesn’t anyone take a liking to her? Do you think she intimidates suitors because she is over-educated?”
“Do you think there is magic involved? Should we visit a spiritual specialist to find out?”
“Maybe he is socially awkward? Or could it be that big bald spot on his head that chases proposals away?”
Unless a single person is outright opposed to the idea of marriage for personal reasons, most of us tend to forget the natural law/principle that applies universally: everyone is different, and they come into this world with a different, unique, preordained decree.
So, while most young people, Muslim or not, are able to find a spouse and get married in their teens or twenties, there is no unspoken or written rule that lays down a certain prerequisite age-range for the union, beyond which it supposedly becomes impossible for a person to marry, and be written off as “off the market”.
Marriage can take place at any age in life, even at 50 or 60, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and many of his companions practically demonstrated.
It is also a fact that marriage will not happen within the first 2 or 3 decades of life for every one of us. So we should give more leeway and refrain from making blanket, generalized statements about our older, single brothers and sisters.
Becoming Mature and Responsible Enough First
It is not that God is not answering your du’as. Maybe He has already accepted your du’as for marriage with a righteous person, but it will actually happen practically after a few more years, when it is best and easiest for you to enter this sacred union with that person.
One of the main reasons why God might be delaying your marriage is to reach certain level of physical, intellectual, financial and emotional maturity. He knows everything about you that even you do not know, which is called ‘the Unseen’, or “ghaib” in Arabic.
Maybe He knows that were you to marry right now, within three months as you wish to, you will not succeed at married life because you are still too mentally immature, emotionally insecure, or financially unstable.
Maybe God is actually being kind towards you by delaying your marriage until the time is best – and surely none can know what He knows, for He sees ahead in our hidden futures – so rest assured, it doesn’t matter in the long run if you get married at 25 or 35, as long as it is a happy, productive and loving marriage, to the right person, who becomes your pillar of support in Deen and accelerates your quest for success in the Hereafter.
Da’wah Experience and Acquisition of Knowledge
There are some blessings and experiences in life that are more time dependent than others to be availed optimally e.g. seeking Islamic knowledge, which is best done in the early years of one’s life, when the brain and memory work better, and a person is more mentally alert and active.
Seeking Islamic knowledge can become more difficult after one takes on the responsibilities of marriage on one’s shoulders. This is because your spouse and children have Shar’i rights upon you, because of which you cannot tear yourself away from them for too long in order to devote yourself to seeking and imparting knowledge full-time.
Perhaps God wants you to seek more knowledge and engage in more active da’wah work before you settle down in married life. These precious years of your youth will never return, and insha’Allah, decades down the road, a more mature and wise you will cherish, like a priceless gem, every year of experience that you acquired in the fields of Islamic knowledge and da’wah before getting married.
Perhaps, later on, you might even thank God for giving you the free time and opportunity to gain knowledge of Islam before tying the knot, after practically witnessing the numerous benefits of applying that fruitful knowledge to your married life later on.
Better than Early Divorce
Many young people get married very early, only to get quickly divorced for a variety of reasons, emerging from the whole experience bitter and emotionally hurt, with painful marks on their psyche that take a long time to heal.
Many who have a child from such a marriage have to endure acrimonious feuds with their exes over child custody and alimony, and thenceforth face the challenges of being a single parent. They are left with many regrets, many painful memories, and much disdain if not outright hatred towards the institution of marriage in general. It often takes young divorcés several years to heal from their first bad experience, and become mentally ready to get married again.
It could be that your being single, which is a painful trial of patience in your eyes, is a blessing in disguise that is acting as a barrier between you and worse calamities and adversities. Perhaps all your earnest du’as for getting married, about which you might be wondering why they are not being answered by God, are actually averting from you graver problems and pitfalls that you are not even aware of.
Perhaps your single status is a great blessing, but in a way that only God knows, and you know not.
So rejoice that you are still single and desirous of getting married; that you are not a bitter divorcé who is sexually frustrated yet adamant about never getting married again!
Increase in Humility
Do you remember an “alpha” boy or girl in your school or college, who was undeniably good-looking, inexplicably popular, and always in-demand with the opposite gender? Everyone in your class was probably convinced that he or she would be the first to get married, based on the number of proposals that came their way throughout high school and college.
I can think of at least two such girls I was acquainted with back in my student days, who were unanimously considered the most desirable for marriage among our lot, and the rest of us girls presumed, sighing with wishful, self-depreciating conviction, that they’d be the first to tie the knot.
Yet, that didn’t happen. As the years passed, the bitter disappointment that these ‘alpha’ young women felt about their continuing single status was exacerbated by the fact that many of their peers who were considered apparently less attractive and “worthy” than them got married first, and that too to decent, nice men who kept them happy.
The wisdom behind this decree? By the time these good-lookers actually did tie the knot, they were much more humble and less full of themselves. A welcome landing back down on earth! The lesson that we all can learn from this apparent disparity in cause-and-effect.
A delay in marriage increases one’s humility, and makes one more down-to-earth and approachable by others. It also ensures that one constantly keeps turning to Allah in earnest du’as – which is something that Allah loves about His slaves!
Conclusion: Blessings Received after Hardship Are Cherished More
The more one waits for, works hard for, and remains patient for acquiring a blessing, the more one cherishes it after one receives it.
The fatally ill person who gets miraculously cured will live cautiously once he becomes healthy. The pauper will spend his money wisely once he becomes wealthy. The child deprived of education will value knowledge more when he grows up. So, too, will the older single person cherish their marriage, spouse and children more, once they get married.
And by then these precious blessings will be so much more worth the wait!