Marriage and Divorce…based on an Article in Saudiwoman’s Blog


I won’t rewrite her thoughts, you can read them here; however I will give what I and my husband have lived through the years as a couple…though not the necessarily extended family version of my in-laws- Yemenites are complicated just like Saudis….

Let me first repeat what my comments were on the blog [edited for spelling only]:


“I had a conversation with my husband of 25 years regarding this-and he agrees with the facts as you have stated them-but he says, and I concur; is that the basic principle (or the ideas) of Marriage is what is the major fault:

 -why marry in the first place if:

•You are already looking for the second wife

•Your are pressured by society (family esp.) to marry someone you have nothing in common

•The basis of your marriage is pure procreation

•Your hopes and dreams do not coincide- and you are veritable strangers to each other

•Your “married” life consists of material things and the social support is your own blood family-not each other

•No one admits that what marriage really means is the union of two people (to put in another religion’s word-for better or worse, in sickness and in health)

•That marriage is seen as a business contract where one partner will never be equal

•…and like most businesses you are in it for the material gains

•Where the marriage is not the growth of a union-because no one allows for the two, who marry to learn to love, respect and consider their spouse

This does not mean there are not couples in KSA and the rest of the ME who live a true marriage. However, when one partner thinks of the other as disposable liability and the other lives in fear of being thought as furniture to be sold, bought, or relegated to an attic- then Marriage and Divorce take on a meaning of the lesser kind. Then separation for one [person] is easier said than done and for the other [person] a situation that must be maintained for the mere sake of survival. And society via families condones this condition as a way of life- and how dare one break away.

That is not Marriage: that is Halal Sex with a worded contract and exchange of goods.


Traditional reasons for marriage and the traditional ways a marriage is maintained currently cannot be maintain verbatim- your people have changed more men and women obtain higher educations, which exposes them to ideas and thought processes alien to our ancestors. So the whole concept of marriage needs to be reviewed- keep the good parts; change the parts that no longer work in your society as it changes…societies as much as some would like it are NOT static-there is no permanence.

The courts maintain the same view -what was 100 years ago must be applied now- that just doesn’t make sense because a woman now with an education is treated in the same fashion as the one 100 years ago who had no concept of the world.

What one thinks going into a marriage is what ultimately influences what goes into a divorce.

 To fix the courts; one must do a root cause analysis of marriage as an institution; then do the same for the courts. Not the other way around.”


If I were to look back at our marriage, I would have to say that the first few years, like in any marriage were bumpy ones. Getting to know our like and dislikes; drawing the sand on certain topics that could jeopardize what we stood for as a couple and learning to just ignore certain aspects of our personalities. Because- hey- we were not born Siamese twins (and even they have their own personalities), and of course coming to terms that our marriage would not last if we continued in Yemen…there were too many things there that could ruin what we wanted for our lives.

So we left, with hopes and dreams of being who we wanted to be…I entered the Health care Administration program; he entered engineering…after completing it he entered Medical School and fulfilled two of his “wildest dreams”! I by then had given birth to my son and then seven years later to one daughter followed by two years later with my last daughter. 

Was it easy? Hell no! We had to make hard choices…what we bought; what we didn’t…where to go on vacation- we learned that if we went camping around the US we spent less than heading for Europe and other places…so we saw Americans at different stages of their own personal developments and we broke many barriers.

The biggest barrier was gender roles…my husband learned that if one of the babies was going to do an all nighters- he might as well stay up and study with child on lap or shoulder rocking while he read the mountains of information he had to absorb. While I slept and rested for the day ahead that included getting everyone ready before we hit the road to class…baby seat…check; baby bag…check; lecture notes…double check yours are in the front seat; mine in the backpack; etc… then it was drop of my son at the newly created Lab School- now called Preschool nurseries at the University I was studying ( so I could check on him anytime I needed to)…

Then came the hard years of Medical School and two small girlies to add to the mix. This time it was my turn to do the all nighters because I had a dissertation to complete and  was staying at home more. But when hubby came home smelling like formaldehyde, or bone tired of 42 hour shifts (before the Bell Commission put to a stop to that); he was always willing and more than happy to spend some time with the kids. They loved that daddy was more than reasonable to sleep with them on a large sheep skin rug all cuddle up snoring like an off tune Beethoven symphony. Nevertheless, they were difficult years that only other Residents and Interns can commiserate with.

When the kids got older, we found ways to incorporate our study time and their playtime. We made it clear that we all had chores to do and we had to be quiet; creative and nice -hence the thousands of finger paints, construction sets and pop-up books that literally littered the den which was and still is just off our communal office in the apartment. As they got older, especially my son, they learned to be part of the study play time ( in their minds) and turned into our librarians…learned to file; learned to read much earlier and learned the discipline of study.

 My studies into Social anthropology (my real passion beyond Medicine) gave us an opportunity to travel to the Middle East and spend some extended times in Yemen.

Boy was that a culture shock on every angle! For one, my husband understood his children in ways unheard of in Yemen; and his treatment of me was way, way out of the norm for so-called Traditional Marriages…to say sparks flew…and when we realized that, the sparks were not of our own making- we packed up and said our good byes.

We return to our apartment and the relief was just glorious…we were now ourselves again…The years past and through one of my YaYa friends, we decided to send my son to Japan. He was so gun-ho about it; he packed before we had the tickets in hand! It was his last year at Spellman high school (catholic), and we added Japanese classes to his already busy schedule of football, hockey, and part-time job. I come from a Puritanical Work Ethic Mentality, so my kids got a good dose of it early on…everyone always had chores do…everyone took turns cooking, washing laundry; ironing (my son is called the Iron Man in the Navy because of it; taking out the trash; and cleaning up the whole house.

So off goes the first duckling out of the nest- but first stop was Spain_ those were roots he wanted and needed to maintain contact with- spent three months going all over the place- sometimes with family -but most by himself- he was self sufficient. Then it was off to the trip to Japan, his home until very recently, when he had to do two tours in Iraq. In Japan was where he discovered that as a Muslim he could also be a Buddhist- because Buddhism can be a religion or a philosophy on how to live a clean, solid life. May Yaya friend became his second mother and introduced him to a world he would never have even imagined. His friends were Japanese, he lived as a Japanese- even after joining the Navy he did not live on Base; and preferred to live in an apartment he shared with four other “mates” who each had so different schedules they barely saw each other. However, one was Punjabi and introduced him to India…and with it came the questions and answers of young men who honestly love each other for the sake of their friendship…so my son traveled throughout the Far East and South East Asia absorbing along the way…

Meantime at home, my girls were growing up fast and certain decisions had to be made about how as Muslimat they were to conduct their lives. Everything but wearing hijab was accepted: my husband did not roll over and die at this particular decision. It meant little to him because he knew where his daughters were coming from- he was and continues to be their best friend. The Book Called The “saddlebag” was one of those times where my husband and my daughters had a real-down-the-soul-searching discussion, as they read each chapter aloud to one another.

However, Hijab for me was a somewhat of a conversation of “should you,” “would you except -during 911”: the hijab stayed on. The only time it was of bit of contention was in Yemen because of the niqab and what at the time he thought the niqab = piety…his last trip there gave him a rude awakening and we have never discussed it again.

As a doctor the one thing my husband has learned is that Muslims “protesteth too much” a body is a body that at the moment is sick and needs his help to cure; or in his student days- was a body that had to be dissected for learning purposes. As an engineer, he learned that form and function must be maintained- therefore his marriage was a building in construction that always needed maintenance if it was to remain in good working order. The biggest thing he learned as an engineer was to think out of the box- plan for all contingencies and be ready for the “oops session” if you didn’t.

As Muslims, he and I went on an adventure. I remember one sunny afternoon where our office was strewn with all types of Islamic books translations of Qur’an’s- Sunni, Shia, and Sufi writings. We would argue our points; get our references; found quite a few Ahadith that made absolute nonsense- and could not possibly be from the time of the Prophet SAW. Then we started looking through my history books; ordering obscure books and calling up friends from different Muslim countries to send us books…we were on a mission.

Why, well a few of our in laws had passed through our household, and were not happy at the collection of swords, daggers, masks, and artifacts (Imitation) found displayed throughout our home. My son in his travels had turned our home into a museum of sorts- and I was closely behind him…because now we had more time (and money) to travel to places most Muslims will not travel to. The other thing was music…even though Yemeni hear music constantly; they felt our collection of Classical Music -especially piano was Haraam, Haraam (Hubby loves piano music) and I like Bach- in fact my kids were Bach babies. The kicker was two particular CD’s my son sent on Zen Meditation. By then we had started Yoga as a means of relaxation and meditation…The arguments were not pretty- my father in law- bless his soul (and to him I can do no wrong) was the one that basically put a stop to the interfering, meddling group—“you come as a guest and you behave as a guest, period!” .

Then came the news that my son would have to be shipped to Iraq due to his particular abilities: to be embedded in the Iraqi army. My heart stopped a few beats altogether- but like my son said over the phone…”mom remember our family motto “Dare to Live, because To Die is so much easier”…so I went to counseling with my husband, and the girls and we sorted our feelings out. In the meantime- my son true to character made friends and became the chameleon he can be.

As we are getting our lives back into some semblance of normality, we get the news that one of our blood relatives (mine) and a Hindu was about to get a divorce. Speculation was rampant; why now after so many years, yada-yada…We simply made a trip and sat with them both- he was a friend of my husband -as well- and they really needed some man time to talk…My cousin and I talked until we were as blue as Krishna…but we knew in the end it was over… During that time, we were invited to various pujas and we never bat an eyelash in saying “of course.” Learned a lot about that side of my family to be sure- but I also learned that Allah is everywhere- in the trees; in the smiles, those Wallas, in the simple intention of wanting a prayer heard…

They took us to hear some beautiful Ghazals…my favorite Jagjit Singh…and the Qawwali…my favorite is the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; but they took us to masjids where all Hindu and Muslim alike enjoyed the beautiful odes to Allah…a trip to remember even as it was tinged with sadness.

This story is to show that we as Muslims indeed must look forward; we must remember that Allah SWT gave us each a rode to follow- some converge; some run parallel and some only he knows how they run. That our roles as husband and wives are not set in stone; that to see a Hindu widow at the breaking of her chruiya and the wiping of zundur ceremony is as heart breaking as that of the divorced Muslim woman who leaves her home of many years with only the clothing on her back.

We must review, like stated at the beginning, what is a marriage and what is it that we take with us unresolved out of that marriage into divorce. What are our true expectations: do we do it because everyone else says so; everyone else is getting married; we are forced almost at the point of death; we are afraid of being alone or the type of alone that means our families will see us as burdens? What defines marriage; what are the parts that are inviolate; and what are the parts of the “stories” made up by “others” of marriage?

At the same time what is divorce to Muslims? What do we honestly believe we are doing to each other when we say or hear the word Talaq? Do we think of broken homes, broken families, distressed children, lost children really; or do we believe it is nothing more that canceling a contract- business concluded? Do our Muslim courts also take this rational? Is the why a woman can have so much difficulty in divorcing a man; even though in the Prophet’s time a woman’s simple explanation that she did not love him was enough for the Prophet. So what have “man-made” laws under the name of Shariah done to what the Prophet would never have done? What have “man-made” laws made of Qur’anic injunctions to separate in peace [and without] hardship?

After 25 year of marriage, I would say love, consideration, respect, understanding, and the ability to remain an individual while growing to be a couple is how I define marriage. My husband reminded me the other day that there is a Bucket List we have of things we would like to do that are meaningful in our lives and that he would love more than anything to share them with me…Alhamdulillah


UPDATE: I have linked to a few people because in some shape or form these topics have been discussed in their blogs and I would hope they will continue to discuss them and bring the conversation further along -along with my friends…I hope I don’t offend them; I only wish for a better world for our Ummah…

And because I tend to be OCD, and a tad uncoordinated lately I have made some supeficial grammatical changes for the sake of clarity, though I may have missed a few LOL


7 Responses to “Marriage and Divorce…based on an Article in Saudiwoman’s Blog”

  1. 1 Chiara
    April 10, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks for inviting me to read this important and articulate post. There is so much to absorb and comment on, I’ll just start with what pops to mind.

    The legal man-made realities of divorce make it even more emotionally and personally difficult than it need be when people come to that always sad (though often liberating)decision (either because of the loss of the good in the relationship, or because of the loss of any potential). Sadder still, is those who languish in a marriage that is essentially a divorce without the freedom. However, in certain cultures this may be the psychologically, socially and financially only reasonable option.

    You and your husband should write an article on how to collaborate so a marriage survives inlaws, cultures, medical training, grad school, and small children (maybe a series!). You demonstrate excellent core values, shared dreams, practical solutions, and using the help of others, including FIL, counselling,etc. I have to say the latter is very important, effective, and often rejected as an option by those who need it most, when the earlier they go the most good it can do.

    I was particularly struck with your identification (twice!)that outside attacks on your marriage put it at serious risk, and that you would have to make some dramatic changes to preserve the relationship. Unfortunately not everyone has the insight or courage to do so.

    Finally (for now :)), having shared experiences and shared future goals (Bucket list) is important “marriage glue”.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to read and comment here.

    I hope you have a speedy recovery from your neurosurgery “adventure” 😦 and an excellent neurological course. 🙂

  2. 2 INAL
    April 10, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Welcome Chaira- sientase como en su casa

    Thank you for words; it is rre that marriages that do work are allowed a voice.

    Goodness I think I have journals on baby days- tantuntrum days (I walked out on my son that day- literally left him alone -it only took him about two minutes to realize he didn’t have an audience- last tantrum- mom wasn’t kidding when she said she was leaving…LOL

    But you are correct counseling- the earlier the better- you really don’t get a chance to harbour a whole lot.

    I thank you again for the feed back- and if anything else pops up- by all means drop me a line!

    For now its the coordination that has gotten the better of me- thank goodness for spellcheck; but movements can suddenly be disasterous if I am not careful- so no cooking or cleaning where I have to dip my head and an obligatory neck brace for sleeping only… Those are the easy parts- its what they mean that are the harder to adjust to…but already we are making arrangements- like I told my son- on my own terms how evr long or not it takes-

    Now about that Bucket List- the movie was inspiration and is what keeps a few of our goals “alive”…

  3. April 11, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Thank you, INAL for inviting me to read this most beautiful post. I was smiling throughout and now have tears of happiness in my eyes. May Allah always bless your union and the fruits of this union, ameen.

    Marriage is very hard work. The difference between marriage and blood relations is that even if you don’t get along with blood relatives and don’t see them, they still remain part of you whereas after divorce two people who were the closest in every aspect of the term are no more part of each other.

    If we look at it from the Muslim perspective I have always believed that the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) was illiterate had a lot to do with how divorces were conducted. Because he couldn’t read or write his marriage contracts as well as divorce (in one case) was oral. That can work for the most upright people but not everyone. A written contract is far more serious, and has far more serious consequences. Perhaps that is why it was easier in his time for even women to ‘seek’ divorce over as simple an issue as she did not love the man. But can we do that now?

    Divorce is much hated by God and marriage has a lot of significance in Islam, but Muslims were always getting married and divorced in early Islam. It really confuses me.

    And now Muslim countries have the highest rate of divorce (UAE’s is even higher than that of UK’s). One can argue that not so many people marry in the UK anymore (living without marriage) but then a high divorce rate is no better situation.

    Mashallah, your marriage is the perfect model and that is how it should be.

    • 4 INAL
      April 11, 2009 at 8:41 am

      Thank you Suroor, May Allah Guide us always to have the unions on this earth that make life worth living. And yes because marriage is such hard work, I wonder at how easily our Muslim brothers and Sisters give up on it; on the smallest of things…heard once a divorce was given because the tea was not hot enough!

      For years at the Masjid we used to attended regularly (which we don’t anymore) we kept insisting that it was our Marriage traditions that needed reviewing; even before we talked about our Divorce laws- but it was like who came first the chicken or the egg. Everyone kept insisting that there was only one way in a Traditional Marriage; and that was final. Yet every time the whole precept of it failed to bring two people into a union that could see them farther than the first year. And When people would ask how long had we been married- I was silenced – I was then told “you are happy now, wait until he decides he wants another wife- HE’s YEMENI!” Or “She’ll leave you, American born women always leave.” We create a world- a bubble that only serves to hurt us even before we start on the road. Or as my husband says, we set ourselves up to fail, becaue in the end we as Muslims seem now to see marriage as an institution we must fail at.

      I remember, as a teenage what my first cousin said when she converted to Judaism and married the most conservative of Hasdic Jews (an immigrant who took the only ship available to him at the time as he fled his home country and landed in Dominican Republic)…Look at this this way she told the whole cackle of girls surrounding her- you know God has set you upon a road; you know you will have to take some essentials with you to carry you throughout; and if anything that road will not be filled with gold and paved smoothly- so be prepared love will last as long as you are willing to work to make it last despite all the differences; the families (she knew what she was talking about)…its not the end of the road you must prepare for- its the journey” I haven’t forgotten because she has been now married a good 50 years- and are still as in love now as they were the first time that black hat bopped its way into my cousin’s village.

      What disappoints me with my fellow muslims is when I ask-“Why are you getting married, what do you want of this marriage; where do your dreams and his converge; do you have anything in common?” All I get are shrugs, or platitudes of well you know ours was arranged…as if mine wasn’t! But I feel no one is willing to move beyond the arrangement and see the person they are marrying and see themselves beyond what they are in the moment,,,Maybe she should take a page of the chapters of the Pre Cana book and have marriage seminars- not only for the couple but for the families that have their own agendas when they marry two people together. I think Sheikh Hamza Yusuf in California is an advocate of such a move.

      Also I think the media could play a better role at giving people good examples of marriages and how to work things out- its subliminal; but it works- especially if it can get you to buy something you had no intention of buying! Why not send out those messages that show harmony among couples…not among the whole family as an extended version- but that one couple who by making compromises ends up living their whole lives together in harmony.

      Remember there was once a commercial in the early 70’s from the Negro Foundation…”A Mind is a terrible thing to waste”…

  4. 5 Chrissy
    April 11, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    A book I read, “STOP Fighting Over the Kids,” is must read for parents thinking about seperation or divorce, or already in this situation. The author, Mike Mastracci, being honest about his own family transition, he provides a ‘how to’ about the many aspects which parents must deal with in addressing the needs of their children.

    • 6 INAL
      April 12, 2009 at 2:10 am

      Welcome Chrissy! Like a cup of tea?
      I lived through my mother’s divorce and the main thing we understood was that it wasn’t our fault as kids. However, because I was the daughter I was the one that was left without a name-my biological “father” swore I was not his daughter as the basis of the divorce was abandonment and adultery by my mother. I then legally requested to “divorce” myself from him- I was an adult at the time- and the Supreme Court granted me a name change- I have never used his name again.

      And before I got married to my now wonderful husband; my previous divorce was an ugly affair I promised myself not to commit the same mistakes…Alhamdulillah, I haven’t.

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