Islam discourages divorce because of the endless related problems. Initially the family will have to survive anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, low self-esteem, disappointment, frustration and loneliness etc. These feelings are part of the process of divorce. The family are not the only people affected; others close to them will be affected too. Also some mothers will have to go work to maintain the children as the ex-husband starts another family.
The social stigma that is attached to divorce is awful. Friends and relatives often ask awkward questions and the estranged couple will lose each other’s relatives and friends. The sense of loss will be great if the partners were reliant on each other. Outside help may have to be sought to deal with the ensuing trauma. While it is true that in many cases a person comes to this decision because of the behaviour of a partner, it is also true that a divorce may not always be the best solution.
About 15 years ago I was sitting in my office in the Social Welfare Department at the Muslim Judicial Council when a woman walked in and demanded an immediate divorce. With her was a man I presumed was her husband. Upon inquiry I heard that her husband was a drug addict who did not support his family. Since those were reasons for divorce I turned to the man expecting a defence. The man looked surprised and stated that he was not her husband but her boyfriend. They were living together and he escorted her to ensure a speedy divorce. That the women brought her boyfriend suggested to me that she had lost the notion of modesty. Had Islamic law been applicable half the problem would have been solved. Since stoning is impractical society is left with this growing problem.
At that juncture after a decade in the Social Welfare Department, I realized I needed a career change. I found their disregard for the institute of marriage and for the work of that department extremely offensive. In that department I heard countless toe curling stories, that specific narrative was not the worst. However, their indifference towards our efforts dazed my senses. Since we are all innately weak and errant, I considered, what happened to the opinion of at least trying to hide ones mischief?
As a university educated psychology graduate I was trained to manage generalized social vulgarity. What I did not appreciate was the contempt often shown to the Ulama that I worked with. Imam Abdul Mou’tie Saban and Moulana Yusuf Karaan were my immediate mentors and the late Sheikh Nazeem Mohamed was always available when extra guidance was required. I struggled to understand how, after all those decades; they could listen to the narratives without flinching at the flagrant crudity.
Sometime after I left, I grasped that their training in the Islamic sciences and decades of practice was vastly superior to my university qualifications. What I also learnt in that department was that those who lack commitment and discipline will fail at everything. This implies that if your first marriage failed and you did not understand and fix your faults, your second marriage will fail. The departmental statistics also reflected the link between divorce and those who did not perform Salaah regularly.
Although you can marry some-one for their outward appearance, it does not last. When the face wrinkles and body loses its lustre, character and religion must be present, or else chaos prevails.
In my opinion, since many marriages are based on emotional decision making, divorce is primarily an emotional response. People often use Islamic law when it is convenient and as it suits their desired outcome. For practical reasons some couples need to remain together. As divorcees they pose a threat to the general well-being of society. If they did not learn to manage their mistakes they will continue to spread misery for generations to come. In the end Allah knows best.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress