Divorce – a dismal option

Although divorce has become much more common than before, it still remains a painful and often bitter choice. Couples toady may believe that they have a choice of breaking apart if things do not work out, but they should know that divorce entails a lot of heartache and has wide repercussions. Even when no children are involved, the emotional toll on the couple is great. Islam has allowed divorce because it is a very practical religion. It would not like to force two partners to stay together even when life is unbearable. But it has allowed divorce only as a last resort, when things are beyond repair. So long as it is possible to solve things, compromise and change, divorce should not be considered an option. It is wrong to allow the possibility of divorce to feature prominently as the couple struggles to adjust to married life. Couples who realize that marriage is a commitment for life, a scared covenant they have embarked upon, will be less prone to consider divorce as an option. Divorce has been greatly discouraged in Islam. The following Ahadith of the Prophet (s) reveal just how much divorce is disliked:
  1. There is nothing more hateful with Allah than the breaking up of a house in Islam through separation, that is divorce.
  2. Nothing from the matters allowed by Allah is more hateful to Him than divorce.
  3. Marry, and do not divorce, for divorce shakes the throne [ of Allah ].
This disparagement is because divorce shatters men, women, families, and even societies. Islam therefore encourages all that which makes a marriage stronger and more stable, and looks down on those things that weaken the structure of marriage.

Difficulties of Divorce

When a couple divorces many difficulties surface. Although the conflict between them may seem so great that divorce seems a happy alternative, no couple can escape the aftermath of divorce. It is best to consider the following possible effects before deciding on divorce. Emotional trouble – When a couple lives together in a close relationship as husband and wife, the bond between them is undeniable. Though they may fight and have conflicts, they depend on each other for emotional support. Even if the relationship lasts only a short time, there is emotional wounding at separation. It is the breaking apart of a very close connection, and the spouses suffer greatly. They miss the physical relationship, the companionship, and the sharing of life together. If they live alone after divorce, loneliness is a great factor and could bring on depression. Even if they live with other family members, there is a lot of adjustment that has to take place. Effect on relationships with family and friends – divorced people often find it difficult to maintain normal relationships with family and friends. They feel that many have not understood their problem, and have condemned them unjustly. Divorce although common, is still looked down upon in many families and societies. Relationships become strained and unpleasant. The social life of the spouses may also have to change. Effect on children – The effect of divorce on children is the most serious of all the consequences of divorce. If a marriage has children , the couple should be even more wary of embarking upon divorce. The separating of their parents is often devastating for children. It leaves them feeling insecure, unhappy and depressed. Most children think highly of both parents and it is emotionally painful for them to witness them separate. Their loyalties are divided and confusion is common. The children may have difficulty settling into school, making friends, and mingling with family and friends. Children have been known to carry the effects of divorce well into adulthood. Painful memories of the hurt of the divorce never really disappear. Often these children have difficulties establishing relationships of their own and settling into happy marriages. One study of divorce shows that most people considered divorce very painful, even “traumatic, a nightmare.” The author of the same study writes in his conclusion:
For the person who goes through a divorce, an entire life is often turned topsy-turvy. Intimate bonds with another person are broken; relationships with children are changed; friendship patterns are disrupted; different living arrangements must be established. (Albrecht, 1980, Marriage & families,pg.271)
It is because of these harmful effects on the spouses as well as those around them that Islam is so strong against divorce. The Almighty wants human beings to lead happy and fulfilling lives on earth, not drudge on in bitter loneliness and despair.

Myths that encourage Divorce

Sometimes a husband or wife may have certain illusions about divorce that make it seem attractive. Make sure you are not prey to the following falsities:
  1. Divorce will give me my freedom – when marriage seems to be turning sour, with too many restrictions being placed on the spouse, he or she may think that breaking apart will bring freedom. There will be no-one to answer to, no-one to ask and confer with for decisions, no-one to be held responsible for. That may be true after divorce, but that freedom comes with a great price. It brings along with it severe loneliness, a feeling of void and emptiness in life which little else can fill. No job, hobby, or social circle can be a substitute for the close relationship with a spouse. Most divorced people admit to feeling very low. Life stretches bleak before them, for there is not much to look forward to in terms of personal and family relationships. The fulfillment that is found in marriage and raising a happy family should never be underestimated. It is worth the sacrifice of personal freedom.
  2. Divorce is more common now, thus more acceptable – Although divorce may be rampant in the Western society, it is a society far removed from the Muslim society. The values and morals differ vastly. For Muslims, marriage is a very sacred agreement. The relationship of marriage is a serious one and cannot be broken or exchanged lightly. It may be less serious for Westerners to break and remarry, for their view of marriage is different. Unfortunately this phenomena is creeping into the Muslim communities. Divorce is becoming more common than it was before, but it still remains greatly unpleasant.
  3. I can marry again – It is not always easy to marry and establish another relationship after divorce. Divorce leaves people badly shaken, and they have to overcome their anguish before they begin again. Both the husband and wife may find it difficult to find a suitable partner, although the difficulty for the wife may be greater. Society can often be very unforgiving, even cruel. Re-marriages of divorced partners, especially women, are not very common in our communities. Even if the partners marry again, the emotional baggage of the first marriage will always be carried along.

Contemplating Divorce

It is quite common for couples to sometimes think about divorce – not seriously, but consider it briefly. When a couple feels they may be on the brink of seeking a divorce, the following steps are recommended: 1. Sit down with your partner and talk things out. Do both of you really want a divorce? Have you considered the effects of divorce? If divorce seems unpleasant but the only option, look for other possible alternatives. Those may be unpleasant too but not as serious as divorce. Confide in and seek help from a trusted source. Islam recommends that a couple seek help for solving their problems from a virtuous member of each of their families. The Holy Qur’an says:
And if you fear a breach between the two, then appoint a judge from his people and a judge from her people; if they both desire agreement, Allah will affect harmony between them, Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware. (4:35)
This would help both parties deal with the subject objectively. An outsider is sometimes able to see things differently from the spouses in conflict. For them the emotional pain and anger is a barrier to seeing things objectively. But if they are sensible and willing to accept help, some wise relatives could help greatly. If a relative who is appropriate is not available, it is good to seek anybody from the community who can be trusted and can help. A person with Islamic knowledge, experience, and understanding, may be a good choice. 2. Seek help from outside the community if necessary. Counseling is available although couples must be careful in following the advice of one who may not understand their values. Help can also be sought from good books and material available on the subject.