“You don’t need a man!”
Written by: Kaighla Um Dayo Among some of the harsher things I heard when I divorced […]
Written by: Kaighla Um Dayo
Among some of the harsher things I heard when I divorced my husband came from one of my best friends.
One day, out of the blue, she messaged me on Facebook– which is, by the way, the least appropriate place for a conversation like this– and told me she didn’t want my friendship anymore because I was “willing to give up my children for the chance to be married again”.
Not only was this untrue, but it was extremely hurtful and insensitive coming from someone I believed to be my best friend. She then blocked me on all social media and disappeared from my life forever.
Why did she assume that remarrying would inherently require that I give up my children? And why did she assume that if such a choice was placed before me, I’d choose a man over my children?
We’ve all heard this same reproach offered to us. Ironically, it’s the women with men in their lives who say these things. Sure, they may not be married yet or again, but they definitely have a father, or a brother, or an uncle, or the husband of a friend looking out for their well-being.
For a convert, that responsibility most often falls into the hands of a husband, as most of us do not have fathers or brothers who are both willing and able to do the work. For many of us, we lose the support of our family members the day we choose to embrace Islam, if not before.
“Focus on Yourself & Your Kids”
This is another of the many tropes we divorceés and widows are subjected to. There is this fallacy that a man, by default, will be in as much need of one’s attention and care as a child is and that somehow marrying a man will take your focus off of your children.
Sure, if you marry a man-baby who cannot pick up after himself or cook some eggs or care for you when you’re sick or watch the kids for you sometimes, your life will be harder. The solution here, though, is in choosing a responsible man to marry, not in refusing to marry anyone.
Along this same line of argument is the idea that somehow being married takes away from the well-being of a woman. These women argue that rather than seeking a husband, a woman should sit on her hands and wait for God to drop the right man into her lap, or even just take away her need for a husband altogether. They argue that a woman who needs a husband is somehow faulty.
The reality, however we like to paint things, is that Allah designed men and women to be interdependent: we need one another in very real ways. And the truth of the matter is that God gave women qawwam for a reason. Men, collectively, have the real responsibility to look out for the safety and well-being of the women in their care.
Islam is Realistic
Regardless the argument offered, the core problem remains: these people are not looking at life realistically.
Above all, Islam is realistic. It does not prevent eating; it suggests self-control in portion control and choices. Islam does not prohibit fun and leisure; it suggests balance in sleep and work, prayer and relaxation.
And Islam does not encourage abstinence from sexual pleasure or emotional comfort from the opposite sex. Islam recognizes that human beings have a very real need for emotional and physical intimacy with members of the opposite sex. One need only look at the appalling situation among the professed-abstinent among the religious leaders of many religions and see the ill-effects of this type of obsession with refusing to fulfill this need with consenting adults: sexual deviance of the worst sort.
Single mothers are women and they are human. Faulting them for desiring and seeking a halal means to fulfill their emotional and physical needs of intimacy is directly out of line with the teachings of Islam.
Why is it that no one is pushing divorced and widower brothers into a corner and telling them to avoid remarriage? Who told them that women somehow have less of a need for this type of intimacy than men do? Culture, that’s who.
Iddah is Built-In Healing Time
Telling a woman, especially a woman with children, that there is something noble or brave about refusing to remarry just on principle is unfair and unwise. Before telling a divorced or widowed woman to focus on herself, wait for God to bring the right man, focus on healing, etc, consider the following:
God built a healing time into Islam, and it’s called Iddah. We do not have the right, nor the wisdom, to force a woman to wait longer than the prescribed time that God allotted her before choosing to remarry. That means a widow has every right to consider suitors and marry one as long as 4 months and 10 days have passed. A divorceeé by talaaq has to wait three menstrual periods, and a divorceé by khul only has to wait one menstrual cycle..
Moreover, before telling a woman she should not need a man, consider how many men you rely on on a regular basis. Do you have a father? A brother? A neighbor who mows the lawn? Do you have a reliable taxi driver you call? Do you have a male friend you ask to walk you home at night if it’s dark? Any cousins who are male who help changing the tire when you have a flat?
Until and unless you have taken every male out of your life and stopped ever, ever, relying on them in any capacity, it is unfair and hypocritical to place that expectation on a woman who just needs the same support of a male in a halal fashion.
Be Careful How You Advise
It was this sort of thinking that prohibited my ex-husband’s mother from re-marrying when her husband died in her early twenties. She had four small children and no male family members to help look after her. Within a decade, most of the land her husband had left for her and her children was taken by his family members and the men in the village. Because she was deluded into thinking remarriage would somehow dishonor her dead husband, her son became the sole guardian of his sisters and mother, as well as his father’s inheritance, at the tender age of 13.
This sort of responsibility created in him a savior-complex and to this day, there are ten children, countless women and their families, and our new spouses who are suffering because of his narcissism– all because he was given the power and authority over his family too early in life. Had she married a good man of good standing– any one of the many suitors who courted her–, perhaps he could have developed normally as a young man and so much could have been saved.
Islam is perfectly balanced when applied according to the laws in the Qur’an and Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (saws). Rather than imposing unrealitic expectations on our sisters, why not help them? Why not support them in healing during their iddah period wherein they really should focus primarily on themselves and their children. And then suggest good men! So many sisters avoid remarriage purely because they are terrified of experiencing the same pain or worse than that they experienced in their first marriage. Let us offer them the support they need in whatever part of their life we happen to have the honor to be part of rather than imposing our man-made, idealistic rules onto them.
Kaighla Um Dayo is a writer, blogger, and podcaster. She is the Content Manager & Editor here at my-iddah.com/divorce. With her friend Theresa Corbin, she ruminates on life as a Muslim American at islamwich.com. She is a regular contributor on AboutIslam, writing about spirituality. Her favorite things are meditation, painting, drinking tea, and being outside in nature.