An interesting and thoughtful take on the Muslim marriage crisis affecting the Muslims of the west, especially those who pursue their career over other aspects of their life.
So recently I was surfing through the net and came across various articles on what many have termed as the “Muslim Marriage crisis”, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a growing phenomenon of marriageable age Muslims in the West who are increasingly finding it difficult to search for compatible marriage partners in what many perceive to be a lack thereof.
This phenomenon has specifically affected our Muslim sisters the most as there is an ever increasing number of highly educated and successful Muslim women in their late 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s who are intelligent, beautiful, and financially independent, holding down professional careers on their own; all qualities which should make them attractive prospects for Muslim men, yet they make up the great majority of the demographic affected by the Muslim Marriage crisis.
Why is that the case? Many have suggested that it’s due to a lack of equally qualified Muslim men, or that Muslim men are intimidated by outspoken and, what they view as “overly qualified” Muslim women who were raised to think independently in a society that espouses individualism, and thus avoid proposing to them all together and instead go abroad to their home countries where they marry “submissive” women who are still in their youthful prime. Many also believe that Muslim men marrying outside their faith (which Islamically is allowed as long as it’s with a chaste Christian or Jewish woman) is only exacerbating the crisis by depriving single Muslim women of potential spouses and decreasing the already small pool of available Muslim men.
As a Muslim guy, I do believe it’s unfair to pin the entire blame for this marriage crisis on to us men as we Muslims must avoid generalizing one another if we are going to get anywhere in terms of finding a solution.
However that does not mean I am absolving Muslim men of the consequences of their actions which have contributed to the marriage crisis and thus I will address that which applies and I will rebuke that which is generalisation at best.
It is true that in the West significant numbers of Muslim men are marrying outside their faith. And I say “significant” because even though it might not seem like it to some, however in comparison to the crisis at hand it is a game changer as the disparity between the number of available single Muslim women and single Muslim men is very large and increasing. For every one Muslim man marrying a non-Muslim woman, there is one more Muslimah who loses a chance of finding a Muslim husband.
Of course, many brothers will view this as an attack on their right to marry women of the Book and in response will say “oh, but Islam permits Muslim men to marry women of the book”. And I’m not suggesting that marrying chaste women of the book is haram because obviously what Allah (SWT) made permissable none can declare haram. However Muslim men must understand the repercussions of their individual choice to marry outside their religion and how this puts Muslim women at a disadvantage since Islam does not permit a Muslimah to marry outside her faith, thus leaving these sisters struggling to find a spouse.
Another point that ties into the above is that today’s “women of the book” are not the same as the women of the book from the time of RasulAllah (SAW) who dressed and conducted themselves no differently from Muslim women, like guarding their chastity and wearing hijab like loose garments. But since the sexual “revolution” and the three waves of Feminism in the West, where Christians are the majority, a chaste woman is now looked upon as being “sexually repressed” and pre-marital sex and sexual promiscuity is widely encouraged for both genders in every Western country. A single Muslim woman of any age group is still far more likely to be chaste and God fearing compared to today’s “women of the book” whom so many Muslim men marry (or get into illicit relationships with). And since we Muslim men make a big fuss about virginity to our Muslim sisters I think it’s very hypocritical that we then run to tie the knot with non-Muslim women who are more likely to have a promiscuous past.
Also, since the advent of Feminism in the West, men are no longer the sole heads of household with women now holding an equal or greater sway over family affairs such as the religion (or lack thereof) of their children. So in the present context where these factors now come into play, interfaith marriages between Muslim men and today’s “women of the book” are strongly discouraged even by some Muslim scholars due to the greater likelihood of the offspring not having a strong Islamic identity. Thus it is safe to conclude that from the perspective of the Muslim community’s long term interest it is better for Muslim men to marry women from within their own community.
Brothers need to understand that there is nothing wrong with marrying an older Muslimah as long as she is pious, practicing, and God fearing. It’s not fair to our 25 and older sisters that they should be condemned to a life of lonliness due to their age but these sisters must also be more open to marrying someone younger than them because there are brothers out there who are willing to marry older and much more mature Muslimahs but often get turned down because of their age as well. So it is a two way street which will require compromise from both sides.
Coming to the other point regarding Muslim men being “intimidated” by professional Muslim women and thus avoid proposing to them, I believe this is a nonsensical claim. This might be true for some men, but overall this notion is completely false and I’ll explain why in the following:
Saying that Muslim men are somehow “intimidated” is to imply that they are inherently weak or too cowardly to take up the challenge of marrying a “strong”, “independent”, and “outspoken” (in the Western sense) Muslim woman which again is completely untrue.
Men, on the contrary, don’t view any such woman who gives priority to her professional life as a potential wife/mother because there is no way such a woman will be able to juggle between full time work as a professional and fulfilling her obligations as a wife and mother (if/when she has children). Either she will have to give up her professional life as a career woman to make time for having and raising children (which will require all of her time and effort) or she will have to forgoe marriage. No practicing Muslim man wants his children raised by nannies and daycares. In Islam, the purpose of getting married and building a family is to bond with one another and to help each other become better Muslims and raise a whole new generation of Muslim children instilled with Taqwa, NOT replace one another with complete strangers nor to be part time parents. Today many of our sisters have been duped into believing that they can live the single life of a career woman while also being a wife and mother. This is in fact out of touch with reality. The traditional role of a father and husband has always been that of the protector and maintainer of the family, which is even clearly stated in the Quran (4:34). And Muslim men are still expected to fulfill this role, but Muslim women no longer feel obligated to fulfill their role as devoted mothers and wives but would rather chase the life of a career woman in order to compete with men in the job market under the false notion of “gender equality”, even to the detriment of their own offspring should they have any. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a Muslimah holding down a professional career, but if it’s getting in the way of raising her children to be practicing Muslims of good character, then from the point of view of Islam’s long term interests as well as her individual well being both in this Dunya as well as the Akhira it is better for her to reduce her work days (if possible) or quit her job all together if necessary, because the children are the priority and as their mother only she is biologically well tuned to raising them and indoctrinating them with the Islamic way of life. No one else, not even the father can fulfill the role of the mother, which is why the father must do his part as the breadwinner of the family (Quran, 4:34).
Coming to the notion that there is a “lack” of “qualified” Muslim men, here too I strongly disagree. But before I explain my reason for disagreeing I believe it is very important to define what “qualified” means from the perspective of the sisters pushing this notion: their definition of “qualified” resembles something out of a Hollywood romantic comedy (or Bollywood if you’re Desi), except its the Muslim version; wherein their Prince charming is young and handsome yet he’s somehow managed to achieve so much success and wealth in his young life but also has all the free time on his hands to give her his undivided attention and make her laugh every second of her life, not to mention he’s religious, faithful, God fearing and extremely pious and has a beard yet he’s liberal enough to allow his wife the freedom to do as she pleases; the so called perfect balance between “Deen and Dunya” as they call it. And if any brother proposing falls short of any of these requirements then he’s considered “under-qualified” or “lacking”. If the brother is religious and God fearing then he’s “too strict” and not “liberal enough”. If he’s liberal then the complaint is that he doesn’t lower his gaze and is “too loose” around other women. If he’s young and still working on building his career then “he’s not making enough” and thus “not financially ready”(after all, someone’s gotta pay for the extravagant wedding so she can impress her friends and relatives, and that’s besides the exorbitant dowry). And if he’s old and accomplished then the complaint is that he’s “too old” and “too consumed” with work to give his wife the quality time she desires. All of this is excluding the separate demands of the parents of these sisters.
So, is there really a lack of “qualified Muslim men”?? Or rather, it’s more likely that these “strong”, “independent”, and “outspoken” single Muslimah’s turned down every decent proposal that came their way either because the brother wasn’t “good enough” or because these sisters wanted to continue to pursue their degrees in order to obtain a professional career, and thus postponed marriage. And after having achieved their professional goals these sisters then will not settle for what they consider “less”. Often times their professional qualifications bring about a superiority complex within them wherein they believe they now deserve Mr Perfect, but become dumbfounded when they realize no Muslim man is proposing to them.
This mountain of demands makes it difficult for the vast majority of young Muslim men who are of working class background to propose to these single sisters because more often than not their proposals are turned down due to failure to meet one or more of the impossible demands made by either the sisters themselves or their family. This leads to a pattern of Muslim men avoiding proposing to these sisters which then contributes to the notion that there is a “lack” of “qualified” Muslim men.
Having surfed through enough articles on this marriage crisis I have noticed a common trend in all of them where the brothers are shamed for marrying younger wives from back home and those doing the shaming will use the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s marriage with Khadija (RA) as a weapon against these brothers, yet how many people will shame these “strong”, “independent”, and “outspoken” Muslim women for refusing to marry younger brothers from a lower social class due to their weak financial status or lack of certain educational qualifications? After all, Khadija (RA) married the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who was illiterate and only earned enough to support himself. Or do the proponents of shaming the brothers conveniently neglect to mention this? if so then why the double standards?
Finally, I would like to address the role of the parents in contributing to this marriage crisis. Many parents raise their children to pursue superficial goals in life and often times postpone their marriages more than necessary until they obtain a certain degree or get a specific job and make a specific salary, wasting their child’s valuable years of vitality and fertility. And when it comes time for marriage, here too the parents will encourage their children to have a long list of superficial demands of what they should seek in potential suitors, leading to the turning down of many decent proposals that come their way.
Unfortunately many Muslims have swallowed the Western Liberal concept of “individualism” hook, line, and sinker wherein they give their individual desires priority over the well being of the Muslim community and its future and no longer feel obligated towards the strengthening and preservation of the Muslim community. And thus today the Muslim Ummah is faced with a barrage of growing problems including the marriage crisis, something that was completely unheard of in the history of Islam.