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Divorce in the Shia Community

ImageDivorce is a traumatic event not just for the couple but more seriously for the children, extended families, and the community at large. The Qur'an talks about preventing separation between a husband and a wife by appointing Hakams from both sides. This is an example of mediation that is mutually acceptable.

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Maulana Shamshad Haidar

How prevalent is divorce in the North American Shia community today?

Accurate statistics are not available to me. Some people claim that divorce rate among Muslims is around 31 percent, which would mean that one in every three marriages breaks up into divorce. This is probably the same as the general population in the US (33 percent). Shia Muslim marriages may be following the same trend, because people in general are affected by the same internal and external factors in couple relationships. Internal factors may be emotional, psychological, childhood history of violence, abuse and trauma, while external factors may be socio-economic issues, inter-racial relationships, as well as cultural factors. 

Is there a difference in divorce rates for Shias of Arab, South Asian, Khoja, Iranian, and American backgrounds?

I can’t say.

Is there a difference in divorce rate for religious vs. non-religious families?

According to research, participation in joint religious activities, perceptions regarding the sanctification of marriage, including perceived sacred qualities of marriage and beliefs about the manifestation of God in marriage were found to be consistently associated with greater global marital adjustment, more perceived benefits from marriage, decreased marital conflict, more verbal collaboration, and less use of verbal aggression and stalemate to discuss disagreements for both wives and husbands. (Mahoney, et al. 1999; Marriage and the spiritual realm. Journal of Family Psychology, 13).

Why are divorce rates increasing among Shia families? Is this something limited to North American Shias, or is this something we are seeing in other parts of the West as well?

I do not have any statistics to back up this claim. It may be that the size of the community is growing and therefore the divorces are also increasing respectively. But I can see another rationale in the apparent increase in number of divorces: many Shia Muslims do not seek enough guidance on religious teachings about marriage, many or most of us do not learn the practical aspects of marriage in terms of its numerous challenges, absolute scarcity of counselors, psychologists and social workers in the Shia community, lack of awareness regarding mental health issues, cultural problems between parents and children, etc. These factors most surely affect relationships without exception.

What kind of effects does divorce have on a healthy society and community? What do the Qur'an and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) say in this regard?

Divorce is a traumatic event not just for the couple but more seriously for the children, extended families, and the community at large. The Qur'an talks about preventing separation between a husband and a wife by appointing Hakams from both sides. This is an example of mediation that is mutually acceptable. Like many other Qur'anic instructions, this one also requires study and specialization for its proper application. Hakam must be someone who knows how to listen, understand, show empathy, carefully define the problem areas, help decrease negative interactions, collaboratively set short and long term goals, enable the couple to have more positive interactions. But are we doing what the Quran is telling us? Where is the mediation? How many people even care to seek mediation?

Certainly in many cases, divorce results from wrong decisions made about marriage. What points do you think people should keep in mind before getting married in order to prevent divorce in the future?

It seems clear that selection of a spouse is the most critical phase of this journey. Before marriage, a high level of religious devotion and regular practice of Salat is extremely important. Ibadat with concentration brings peace to the heart. Deep devotion to Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) and learning about their Sunnah makes a person more responsible, loving and compassionate. In addition to these, keeping pious company, meeting and talking to scholars, reading the Holy Qur’an and Hadith books a little everyday (or whenever possible) is really helpful because they make a person more mindful of Allah and repenting in times of difficulties. All these attributes are needed during married life as well.

Sample situation: "I am a 22-year-old girl, and I have lived my entire life in the United States. My parents arranged me to be married with a boy from Pakistan. Although he is well-educated, there are too many cultural differences that are very difficult to get past. We are considering a divorce." What advice would you give this couple?

Islam is transcultural (extending through all human cultures)! If they open their hearts to Islam, they can overcome these cultural differences. Islam unites, and everything else divides. In addition to that, I would help them understand each other's feelings and point of view better in order to become more empathic.

Any other thoughts, concerns or comments you might have in regard to this subject?

I would advice my young friends to go into religion and psychology to fill the gap in our communities.

 

Maulana Shamshad Haider is the resident scholar for the Islamic Center of MOMIN in Irving, Texas. Many of his speeches and lectures can be found online on YouTube and ShiaTV.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The purpose of "Clergy Corner" is to provide a forum for scholars of Islam to express their ideas, thoughts, and concerns. By publishing these articles, we do not necessarily endorse their views or opinions. If you know of any scholars who would be interested in contributing to this section, please contact us at editor@islamicinsights.com.

About Shaykh Shamshad Haidar

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  • Hina

    AS respected sir. I am a 22 years old girl and i live in New York. I was married to my cousin in pakistan 2yrs ago who i never knew and spoke to. I agreed to the marriage because of my parents. After my nikaah, he became violent and used bad language about me and my family. when i came back to the US he would fight with me on the phone and he and his family would always use me and my family for money. Due to the situation i refused to have my rukhsati done and my family forcfully took me to Pakistan and did it there. I came back to the US this time with him and he used to hit and yell and fight with me and also disrespect my parents and my older brother as well. During all this situation no sexual relationships were established between me and him and he would not support me and both of us were living in my parents house. He is now back in Pakistan and i have found out that he is with another woman that he liked before my marriage to him. The problem is that he is refusing to give divorce and is spreading bad and evil things about me and my family. How can I end this marriage and move on with my life? What is my right as a muslim girl regarding divorce and a marriage that was never consumated?

    • david

      just walk away

    • Haliru

      My advice to you is to be patient, extra restraint and very conscious of the fact that no sane Parent will knowingly and willingly hurt his or har Daughter. It is in expectation of better future that Parents do go in arranging marriages for their Children, but a times the unexpected do happens. Prayer, supplications and compliance to the rules of the Perfect Messenger are powerful remedies in life. Life itself is a test ground, the subject matter being unknown, it could be that, such experience could the content through which Allah will examined your faith in Him. I strongly advice that you opened up with your Mother first, seek her advice and approach your Dad softly with, “Assalamu Alaikum my loving Dad, I always heed to your directives and advice, but now Iam having a traumatic experience with my marriage, I know you never like me to suffer what should I do please?”

    • Haliru

      My advice to you is to be patient, extra restraint and very conscious of the fact that no sane Parent will knowingly and willingly hurt his or har Daughter. It is in expectation of better future that Parents do go in arranging marriages for their Children, but a times the unexpected do happens. Prayer, supplications and compliance to the rules of the Perfect Messenger are powerful remedies in life. Life itself is a test ground, the subject matter being unknown, it could be that, such experience could the content through which Allah will examined your faith in Him. I strongly advice that you opened up with your Mother first, seek her advice and approach your Dad softly with, “Assalamu Alaikum my loving Dad, I always heed to your directives and advice, but now Iam having a traumatic experience with my marriage, I know you never like me to suffer what should I do please?”

  • Hina

    Sister, you need to contact an Islamic scholar; if the situation is as you present it you should be able to obtain Islamic divorce but it may take some time; you could also be told the marriage was invalid to begin with if you did not agree to it or were forced into it, but that depends on details. Again, you must find a scholar willing to take your case and work out the details with him.

  • Dany

    To the poor Pakistani girl. The following website might be of help to you: http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

  • crusade

    Salamz, dear sister worry not IA in the sadqa of Muhammad Wa Ale Muhammad, our duaas and prayers are for your success. May you live happily, and may Allah will whatever is best for you. If whatever you have mentioned is true, and indeed the case, then the guy deserves whatever he corks out in terms of mistreatment to you.

  • Nayyar

    This is just one case amongst thousands. Many western shia women are subjected to the same expereince. Some young women accept the marriage to the Pakistani (south asian) born cousin or stranger in the belief that the individual will have the compassion and knowledge of Islam to treat his wife with respect and honor. Unfortunately, when the young women does bring her spouse to her western country the partner instantly changes. The changes include many of the incidences mentioned above.
    In many cases the young girl is constantly accused and abused by her spouse as well as her own family.

    Out of complete desparation she resorts to making the difficult decision to divorce! Whereby there is very little support for her from her immidiate family as well as Shia Islamic organistaions/ community.

    The isolation and constant disgust of the community towards the divorced woman can cause her to suffer various psychological problems i.e. extreme cases of depressed, paranioa, stress,anxiousness, isolation, just to name a few. This becomes increasing difficult if she has dependent children to support!!

    In many cases, women feel isolated and have no means of spirtual support. Due to the theses problems the females psychological circumstances could resort to non islamic rituals. This eventaully resort to leading a sinful life because of the lack of support from scholars, communities and married friends etc. This leads to women feeling that shia Islam is hugely dominated by men. Women who do end up divorcing are considered to be outcasts amongst the shia communities who usally look down upon them.

    Men on the other hand, aren’t affected and Family and culture appears to embrace them. Therefore they are free to lead normal lives. The men aren’t bestowed with the same pressures and negativey as a female divorcee’s. Men are more likely to remarry again, without being questioned about their previous unlawful behaviour.

    This I believe is considered to be a tabu subject amongst shia scholars and communities. What makes this subject more frightening is there are children who are also subjected to this form of abuse and because we live in a western society muslim men don’t feel obligied to support their children finanically or emotionally.

    Given we live in a western society that’s gives us the oppertunity to educate ourselves to understand the universe more intensely. Shia muslims have the right to make a change for the better.
    We are blessed to be a part of a religion that has shown other religion’s that women have equal rights to the oppersite sex. However somehow this large problem seems to strip shia women of their true rights. Some one needs to make this stand for our sisters and i believe in the name of Hazrat Zaniab, we as sisters need to emerge and support such ugly crimes of our true religion Islam!!!

    • Haliru

      I think the problem is from both sides. Men needs to realize the essentiality of being good Family Leaders, and Women needs to be humble good advicers, loving companions and sympathetic followers. It takes two to make a good Family, besides the whole of this life is a test ground, and each shall give account of his or her sojourn on earth. If Men were to take the Perfect Messenger as their role model in the running of their families, many problems facing the whole of the Muslim Ummah could be solved

  • saman zahra

    my husband divoerced me 5 years back we r living in same house what should i do

  • re: saman zahra

    What kind of divorce was it? Revocable or not? You need to talk to an ‘alim most likely.

  • samin zahra

    no my husband did not come back to me in those years we dint have any relations .HE told me that our marriage is over now .IS this a divorce ?

  • samin zahra

    IS it allowed that after the time of revocable divorced ended he can still come back to me?

  • samin

    Here are rules of divorce, you would have to see what applies to your situation.
    http://www.al-islam.org/laws/divorce.html

  • samin zahra

    How can i take fatwa from shia ayet ullah on net according to confirm my divorce mean what are the ways to connect them?

  • AMR

    Assalam Alaikum Sister,

    It is perhaps not the best idea to discuss these personal issues on a public forum such as this. Please email us at editor [at] islamicinsights.com and let us know what area you live in, and we can refer you to your local religious scholars who can give you detailed answers to your question without you having to compromise your privacy on a public website. Jazak’Allah.

  • sara

    salam
    i married to my husband 8 years ago. we have a 4 years old kid. i want a divorce but i am so sure he won’t divrce me, my reason is he drinking too much alcohol, eating haram meats and food, he even ate ham in front of me,. he promised me many times that he won’t drink alcohol but in a short time there he drinks again. he is very verbally abusive and bitten me few times. makes me go to work and put our child in day care. i helped him a lot in our life, i did as he wanted me to do. once he took our boy out to play but then he came back drunk and taking his cloth off in front of our little boy.
    i can easily say that hate him, i want to be free and waking up one day without any stress. i also suffering depression and am on medication. is there any way that i can get a divorce from him. i am already took my kid and living seperately but want to get my divorce according to islam. i don’t want my child become like his dad because when i am not around he gives him haram food and don’t even care.

  • Magic_Hijabi

    ^ Salaam Aalikum Sister,

    There is a very good chance your problem can be solved in a better way through your local scholar or Sheikh. Is there a local Islamic center or Mosque that you can contact?

  • saminzahra

    salam ! i never got my answers i wanted to take fatwa on line from the alim please help me 🙁

    • II

      WS, where do you live sister? Is there an aalim in your local community?

  • roshani

    AS respected sir. I am a 28 years old lady and I got nikkah to my cousin in four years ago. I agreed to the marriage because of my parent’s insistence. After my nikaah, he became violent and used bad language about me and my family. Even after the four month of our nikkah he start to interfier in my religion point of view as well and forced me to leave the taqleed of Agha Sustani and at refusing from my side he verbally divorse me on the phone and said me you are non muslim. Due to the situation i refused to have my rukhsati done and even he never asked me. During all this situation no sexual relationships were established between me and him and he would not support me in my parents house. The problem is that he is refusing to give divorce and is spreading bad and evil things about me and my family. How can I end this marriage and move on with my life? What is my right as a muslim girl regarding divorce and a marriage that was never consumated?

  • saminzahra

    Thank you for repling me back i live in Lahore Pakistan

  • saminzahra

    Main thing is that over here the alim donot give right answers iam confuesed the way they answers me back

  • II

    Assalam Alaikum Sister Samin and Sister Roshani,

    With apologies for the delay, we advise both you sisters to please contact the representative of Ayatollah Sistani in Islamabad, as he can offer you the best guidance as well as arrange for a divorce if necessary. His contact information is as follows:

    Shaikh Mohsin Najafi
    0344 547 7759
    Jamia Ahlul Bait
    Islamabad

    Wassalam.

  • OJ

    Jazaak Allah khair II team for helping our sisters in distress. Lets all pray that Allah guides them towards better Islamic life as per the rulings of Ahlul Bayt.

  • saminzahra

    May ALLAH AImighty and MOLA ABBAS bless you for helping.

  • saminzahra

    One more thing can i have his e-mail adderss

    • II

      Unfortunately we don’t have an email address available. In such a case, speaking directly or by phone is probably the best idea.

  • saminzahra

    Thank you

  • aaliya rizvi

    well being to a shia muslim is it really hard to get divorce in case were you dont wanna to be with your husband any more & if there is no support from family to.
    basically i am a shia muslim married to a man with whom i am having two kids , but i dont feel like to be in to this relation for any more but none of the family memebers are in the favour not even my husband wants me to leave , so what should i do , i need your kind assistance..

  • saman zahra

    can bokhari female allowed to marry son of mola abbas please reply soon

  • saman zahra

    u have always helped me in my problems

  • Bibi

    It is true that it is important to have the right criteria before marriage to lessen the likelihood a divorce, but I think a lot of people, especially those who have never experienced the difficulties associated with finding a spouse, forget or do not understand exactly how hard it is to find anyone at all, let alone someone who meets all of one’s essential criteria. I have seen so many people in the West getting married to people who are clearly unsuitable, simply because that is the best they can get, and of course sometimes these marriages end up in divorce (which turns out not to be very surprising).

  • nadini

    Hello brothers and sisters,

    I have a question about a marriage my sister is in with her cousin. She agreed to the nikah without knowing exactly what it was. She thought she was just getting engaged the way Christians in North America get engaged, for example, man gives women the ring, and they are engaged without any long-term obligations. A little explanation about this is that she was born in North America and she is completely ignorant of what goes into an Islamic engagement ceremony where the nikah is tied. She did not understand a word of what went on during the nikah ceremony and she only agreed because her parents pressured her into a marriage.

    She now had decided after several months of contemplation that she cannot be married to her cousin. How does she get an annulment?

    • well

      If she did not understand what she was doing, a scholar might decide that the marriage is invalid – so what you would need to do is contact a scholar who is qualified to decide and act on such matters and find his opinion. Otherwise, she would have to either have the cousin agree to and carry-out divorce or try to get a scholar to fulfill divorce. I would recommend she also get counseling and education for future benefit.

  • Sanya

    I am also suffering with the above. My husband uses bad, dirty language against myself, my family and even brings our baby into it. He has left us and been gone more than two month. He refuses to support us and told me to live like this for the rest of my life. He physically abused me whilst i was pregmant. Ive explained to shia scholars but had no positive outcome. I was told to hand over the baby for a divorce. Can someone please help me and my baby.

    • Sophia Hull

      The baby belongs to the mother and the father has to accept. You though must never put the father down in front of the child as it is not their fault. The more friendly you divorce the better for the child.