Written by: Leah D. Hanoosh

It seems that as soon as the ink on your divorce papers dries they come out of the woodwork: the divorce shamers.
Once your marriage ends, it seems like your life becomes public domain. Not only does everyone feel entitled to pass judgment, but they feel entitled to let their opinions be known.
Who are these people? And what can we do about them?
The most common of them come in the form of masjid aunties or gossiping busybodies who either confront you directly or whisper nasty things about you amongst one another.
“Ya ukhti, think of the children! How could you break up your family that way?”
“I heard she is looking for another husband already. How could she be so heartless?”
“You’ll be begging for him to come back soon enough. It’s unnatural for a woman to be without a husband.”
They come at you from all angles: guilt trips, false sympathy, passive-aggression. They try to get details, they give unwanted advice, they quote Quran and Hadith at you. Don’t you know that divorce shakes the throne of Allah? That it is the most hated halal act by Him? Think of the children, think of your mother, think of his mother, think of the scent of Jannah that you are most likely sacrificing!
Less well-known, but perhaps even more insidious, is the meme-poster.
Who among us hasn’t seen such things on social media? The banner arrogantly proclaiming, “I made a promise for better or for worse, and I mean it! Share if you agree!” Or, the story of the old couple, married 75+ years, who smartly inform the silly, wasteful millennial that their marriage has lasted because, “in our day, when something was broken, we didn’t throw it out – we fixed it!”
Such comments, memes, and stories are insulting, demeaning, and ignorant. They are difficult – perhaps impossible – to avoid without unplugging completely from social media (and even that won’t silence the masjid aunties). They are posted online by people who have never been anywhere close to your circumstances.
These people sharing these things don’t know the pain of divorce. They don’t know what it takes to get to that point. They assume that when a couple “these days” argues, they just divorce. They forget that there are human lives involved. They seem quite ignorant of the immense complexity of any interpersonal relationship – marriage above all.
Then, once you get past the masses of people who simply disapprove of divorce outright, there are unlimited numbers offering criticism on how you handled yours.
Custody? You did it wrong! Your attitude? Not the right one! Relations with your ex-husband? Handling it poorly! And if there’s a new husband in the picture, there is no possible way to go about letting him be a step-parent correctly, by their standards.
The problem with these latter individuals is that they are often divorced, as well. They tend to project their own situation onto others’ and look down their long noses. I have personally found these micro-judgments to be the most hurtful. They come from people you were hoping could empathize with you. You thought, perhaps, that they might understand what you’ve gone through and offer some support, but instead they leave you wanting to run back to the masjid aunties for another dose of judgment.
We know who they are, but more pertinently – what can we do about them? The sad answer is: not much. There is little to be done to force someone to stop gossiping about you. You might take comfort in knowing that you will receive some of their good deeds on the Day of Judgment, but that doesn’t really take the hurt away.
When dealing with those people who look down on you because you are divorced, my main piece of advice is: don’t bite back. However tempting it may be to put those aunties or those social media offenders in their place, it will serve you no good. You will only end up giving them more fodder and you will not change their minds.
You owe no one an explanation of your story, so don’t try to justify your divorce to people who are only interested in judgment.
As for those who sympathize with your divorce, but condemn you for how you handle it, I offer one phrase to give them: “You know your situation best and I know mine. What worked for you won’t necessarily work for me.”
After that, there is no more to be said. If they don’t accept your words, they do not deserve your story.
Above all, be cautious not to become one of those people. Being divorced, you may feel you are unlikely to ever look down upon anyone who has divorced, but you may be at risk to become an unwanted judge of others’ situations.
How wonderful for you if you are able to remain friendly with your ex-husband! But know that it does not work for everyone. Were you able to keep good relations with your ex-in-laws? Alhamdulillah for that! But it is simply not possible in many cases. Your divorce was amicable? That is truly fantastic. But not everyone has that luxury. Don’t buy into those mindsets. Everyone’s divorce is unique, as everyone’s life is.
For the aunties, the busybodies, the internet strangers, the judgmental friends, the unaccepting family members, and for you – remember what the Prophet Muhammad said: Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi)

Leah is an American expatriate living in Oman with her Iraqi husband and two children of mixed nationality. She is a stay-at-home mom with aspirations involving mastering several languages, translation, medicine, and writing.When she isn’t encouraging her kids to do silly things, she is spoiling her family with her excellent cooking, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and reflecting on her life experiences thus far.


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