Posts from December 2014

Debunking the theory of linear history

December 30, 2014

ape-to-man-evolution

Want to listen to this essay? Press play.

We all came from monkeys. Than slowly developed in to different species of humans than the smartest of them ran the others out and that’s who we’re all from. Many a scientist and lay people state this as a fact. Though they have no way of proving it just as Darwin’s theory is not a theory but a hypothesis. A supposing based on particular evidences that a particular position could be true. But if one had a different position one could make a hypothesis based off of the same evidence and could possibly be true. What if from all these “human- people- apes” skeletons I assumed not that people came from a more primitive people who came from monkeys but that monkey came from a more sophisticated kind of monkey that came from a “human like monkey species”. Ok that may or may not make sense but the point is someone made a link and therefore a hypothesis based on evidence, they were very influential, interesting, innovative and other people caught on. But someone else may see the very same skeletons and not make that link maybe they’ll just assume that there were once another species of animals who roamed the earth and now do not but their resemblance to human being doesn’t connect them.

We share a lot of genes with apes and monkeys. They also kind of sort of look like us. We also share 60% of our genes with bananas they look nothing like us. You know what else scientists believe to be quite like human beings? Rats. So they test products on rats to see if it’ll work on humans. So unless the layperson is willing to accept themselves as a cousin to rats and bananas I don’t see how we should accept the ape thing. Besides the obvious fact that they can’t prove it. In science in order to prove something you have to be able to falsify it. Meaning if I do a study that says 60% of women like to travel while 40% of men like to travel, that’s great. And if my research method is sound it adds value to the scientific body of knowledge. But it doesn’t hold much weight until other scientists do the same research and find the same results. If other scientists find that in fact the opposite is true, that more men like to travel than women my research will become of less and less value until it disappears as irrelevant. If researchers do the research over and over again and find similar results the outcome of my research will hold more and more weight until we begin to treat it as a fact: Women like to travel more than men. You can’t do that with evolutionary theories. Monkey turning to human is a hypothesis that can never be tested and never be proven, so why do so many take it as fact?

In class one day my teacher said to us “they’re trying to promote a linear history which simply isn’t true, the idea that we were all primitive before and now we’re advanced is nonsense -look at any time in history and you will see primitive people and technological advanced societies”. As a westerner this is often exactly how we think and the “we came from monkeys” theory only drives that farther. As tough as it is to be black (it isn’t tough at all only society makes it so) I would never want to be white. Sometimes when I hear white intellectuals talk I am overwhelmed by their blissful ignorance. They see history solely through their lens, Greeks- Romans- Dark Ages- Enlightenment. They ignore or don’t know about the 800 years Moroccans -Muslim, African and Arab, ruled over Spain, they don’t mentioned the extensively long rule of the Ottoman empire and neglect the richest man to ever live, King Mansa Musa of Mali -Muslim and African though I admit they give the Chinese credit at times. But it seems among the layperson and the intellectual a sincere and genuine belief that no other people on earth where ever successful but white people. That no other time was technically advanced but our current time. That no other people contained troves of knowledge like we do. It’s not only frightening and racist it’s bizarre.

So granted I don’t have white friends the only time I hear their thoughts is online and in speeches. Racism is embedded in this country’s (America) blood. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though somehow I am each time. One of the leading theories in how the Egyptians built the pyramids is that they had alien help. It’s impossible they did it themselves if we can’t figure it out, must be some bizarre unfounded explanation. What makes it impossible is the belief that we are the greatest people to ever live, the belief that technology only gets better with time, and a linear view of history that says no one before us did anything great. It’s also and ethnocentric view that says everyone who does anything different from us is primitive and lives in the “third world”. This kind of worldview is a disease in the heart. It never crosses our mind that people who live like Bedouins may actually want to be Bedouins. Does it never cross our mind that they like they way they’re living and don’t want to change? Here in Jordan there are two families, one close to me and one close to the mall that I see on occasion. They live outside. With their animals, their families and their little tent. All around them are apartment buildings. Must I assume they’re just too poor to get an apartment or is it possible that they see all around them and like living like Bedouins with their donkeys and their family close together?

On a trip to Petra, an old city in Jordan, with my sister a guide took us around he mentioned that he lived in an apartment but one of the caves belonged to his grandfather and on occasion he would sleep there. There were also some Bedouins who lived in that space. Singing for strangers, siting on top of caves, selling their knick-knacks and riding their animals, must I assume they’re all poor and miserable? Or is it possible that they’re ok and not interested in “modernity”. Either could be the case but it’s not right of me or anyone else to assume that everyone wants to live us. And we should caution our selves that the urge we feel for everyone to be “modern” may be a discomfort in our own modernity. We think “How can they be happy with so little when we have so much and are still miserable?”

This is also a reason I don’t like jumping onboard to support “education”. I know how strange that sounds but the truth is, what does “education” mean? What kind of education? When we say some is uneducated what do we mean? If by not having an education we mean a person has no skill set by which to communicate with the world around them and earn a living or be of some value to themselves and others then yes everyone needs an education. But if we mean by education “western education” I take serious pause at the idea that the world needs to be educated, i.e. read our books, learn our history, use our computers and learn our way of thinking so they can be “progressive”. American education does a lot of harm to non-white students. It teaches them “world history” i.e. their history in one class and “American History” i.e. white history in another along with “European History”. I never learned Moroccans ruled Spain for 800 years in school but I learned a lot about slavery. I remember one day my teacher, a white guy showed us a slide show of picture after picture of brutalized slaves. I don’t know why he did but I know how angry and how sad I felt. That’s all I knew of my history: African slavery then a fast forward civil rights Martin Luther King and we’re all free. Only in an African History class in college and my own research did I begin to learn that Africans weren’t just weak idiots who sold each other out and ended up enslaved.

But I was fortunate enough to go to college and have that interest people who aren’t only learn one side of African history. The self blame that happens every time a young black man is killed by police, which seems to be very often of late, is just a carry over to what we were taught in school. If Africans didn’t sell each other out we wouldn’t have been enslaved, if there weren’t so much black on black crime the police wouldn’t be there.

The idea of a linear history is damaging. If I weren’t blessed to have some interest in African history and to be Muslim I wouldn’t think to question it. The world is a vast place and Allah spread out his bounty all over the land. Sometimes some countries were primitive; others were advanced and others somewhere in between, all during the same time. There are no people on earth who don’t have a history to be proud of, to be ashamed of, to be rejoiced by.

Sometimes out of anger and frustration black people react by saying we came from kings and queens, which I think is beautiful and true. But it’s just as true as saying white people came from primitive ancestry. Both are true but the opposite is also true, black people came from primitive ancestry and white people came from kings and queens. It is of more value to acknowledge history than it’s to warp it. I wrote a poem a while back called ‘I came’ (take a read) out of the frustrations with a white people who believe blacks came from nothing and with black people who say we came from kings and queens. Neither and both are true. I don’t know what causes whites to continue to tell a history that excludes or minimizes the great achievements of everyone else. Maybe it’s a fear that if they acknowledge anyone else’s achievement it minimizes their own. Whatever it is as a Muslim woman of African ancestry it is extremely important for me to value the diverse history in my blood and the diverse human history, neither of which came from monkeys.

*I don’t believe all white people are actively racist I do believe most (just being nice I want to say ‘all’) white people are passively racist. Unless you actively attempt to not be racist and ethnocentric you will be racist because that’s what you were taught in school, white history matters others not so much. That’s not your fault but to continue in blissful ignorance after gaining any knowledge of this topic or to ignore the concerns of present-day and historically oppressed people is.*

Book: Love, Life & Faith coming this summer, 2015

Finding God and a spiritual path

December 28, 2014

I found myself watching a clip yesterday on the net. It was about spirituality and the question was posed to the panel, “What’s the difference between religion and spirituality?” Answers like “finding your own path… personal experience” for spirituality and “rules… someone else’s spiritual path… dogmatic” defined religion. I’m not sure where or when religion got such a bad wrap (actually on second thought, I am) or when spirituality became something people desired -but without religion. One of my teachers told me (us, it was in a class) a story about a man who came to the prophet, peace to him, when he was dividing the spoils of war. The prophet, in his wisdom, gave more to the newcomers of Islam. A man who’s eyes were weary and beard was long from his apparent religiosity -weary eyes from staying up and praying at night, came to the prophet, peace to him, during this time and said “be fair Muhammad” to which he responded “Who will be fair if I won’t?”

So being religious and being heartless is not a new phenomena. Here the man was praying at night until the signs of it showed on his body but he didn’t have love in his heart for the person most deserving of love. So at first I thought, as I begun this post, why is there such a divide between religion and spirituality? Well firstly there does’t have to be a divide, the question posed assumes that there is (“What is the difference between religion and spirituality?”). It’s true that a person can be religious and not spiritual.

And, to my own surprise, it’s also true that you can be spiritual without being religious. As my teacher explained to us, spiritual reality is reality so why should we be surprised that others know it without being on the straight path. The oneness of the world, the value of love, seeing your brother as your own self are universal truths. If doesn’t take being a believer to discover this. It only take insight God gives to whoever he chooses. So why not be “spiritual” and not “religious”? I use to laugh at such a thing “You can’t be spiritual whiteout being religious” but in fact you can for the above mentioned reasons. And it will give you a good, more insightful, more meaningful life.

So again, what’t the point of religion? Well it’s an odd question. It reminds me of people who say we don’t need religion because we have science. Or why do we need religion to tell us right and wrong when we have logic. There’s a fundamental link that’s missing in these kinds of questions which is, “What do you believe?” Whether or not you think humanity can come to universal truths or have good lives without religion doesn’t really matter. Plato doesn’t share the same religion with me but I think he was quite right about a lot of things. But do I for a second, may God preserve me, think I could forget about Islam and use Platonic principles to have a good life, no not for a second. Because that’s not the point. I believe in God, I believe his prophet’s were true and I believe he sent the final version of monotheism through his prophet, peace and blessing to him. This is what I believe and when you believe something, even if you often fall short, you act on it. You stay on the path and you keep going. What people don’t realize when they throw out religion for spirituality is they are turning away from the messengers and saints of the past. Did Mary spend her whole life in devotion and becoming an icon for humanity so we could turn away from her way and just accept the spirit of the message?

The message of love and peace and hope is extremely valuable but it wasn’t everything. Jesus set down the law and devoted himself to God. It wasn’t just about spiritual truths but about hard work and devotion that brings one close to God. Do we somehow think we’re smarter than the saints and messengers, that they were wasting their time in nightly pray and now we can throw away the law and only live the spirit. In an excellent lecture by Conor Neil he says, how does a child spell love? T-I-M-E. Adutls spell it much the same and what about God? So we give time for everything we love in own lives except God? And only devout ourselves to God in the way we want to? How is that just for the one who gives everything? Real love=time. Time doing what? That is the next question, what does God want from me. Five devotional prayers daily, modesty in dress, fasting one month a yearly, charity to the poor and pilgrimage to Mecca, if possible. A way of doing things that is befitting of his majesty. God says in the Koran, “I created you not except for worship”. This is our job here and this is why one who is considered the lowest by others but accepts God as her Lord is better than the most well loved woman who denies her Lord. Because our promise is to God alone. That’s our job. And we all do a pretty lousy job but if we don’t even put in the application, whatever we do thereafter won’t matter for very long.

When you really love something you give your life to it. You’re willing to do anything for it. So why is it that when God asks anything of us through what we call religion it makes us feels uneasy? Maybe it’s because religion has been used to abuse many. And this is where I see the value of having a personal relationship with God. One that goes beyond the religious authority. One that is direct. Because people will hurt you, take advantage of you and even use the name of religion to do so but that’s their problem. It has nothing to do with God, religion or one’s personal relationship with God.

I watched a while ago with my niece a documentary about people who where “unmosqued” these are people who for whatever reason felt unwelcome to the mosque and either stopped going or formed their own third space. I sympathized with them and realized how much harm people do when they focus on the rules too heavily for someone who is not ready to hear it (especially new Muslims) but the fault is also of the people who walked away. The masjid (mosque) is God’s house. It doesn’t being to the board or the people who show up the most, it is devoted to Allah, don’t let anyone kick you out of God’s house. Of course there is the other part of me that worries women will show up in miniskirts and asked to be welcomed but then I remember when a man came in to the masjid where the prophet, peace to him and some of his companions were and peed (yes peed openly!) in the masjid. You can only imagine how angry his companions were, but what about the prophet? He wasn’t, he told them to wait until he was done and only thereafter did he (himself or allow the companions) speak to him. This was the prophet of God, this is our example yet we get heated when people come in the masjid wearing the wrong clothes.

Religion gets a bad wrap often because of the people who do the yelling. Spitting out the rules to anyone who crosses them. I don’t know that they’re a big group but their dogmatic ways spread an impression on those outside and inside the religion making many want stay away. I think this new spirituality movement is an attempt to connect with God without crossing the path of those people. And understandable so. But these rules aren’t arbitrary, they are God’s rules for us so we can live our best life. We have to strive and we will fail often. I always encouraged my new Muslim students to do their best. If you can’t wear a scarf now try to dress more modestly, if you can’t wake up for Fajr (often around 4am) pray when you wake up, not because it’s a-ok to do less than what’s asked of us but because we will always be striving to do better, that’s the point. Today we strive to stop wearing miniskirts tomorrow we strive to wear a scarf. But we don’t look down on people who are still struggling with the mini skirt you advise and tell them to keep striving. And most of all make it your intention. My sheikh tells us to intend to do good things so we will get the reward, this is because it is out of our control whether or not we actually do it (this is God’s realm) but we can intend to do it. We don’t close the door on religion because some people are bigoted, or because it’s hard and close our selves off to only being spiritual. Make a space for God and he will make it easy for you. But more than that if you believe in God know he didn’t put us her idly, we have a chance, just one chance, to make it count.

Book: Love, Life & Faith coming this summer, 2015

A few reminders

December 28, 2014

A few reminders from yesterdays’ class with Sheikh Nuh, may God preserve him:

-Don’t feel safe because you live in a righteous place, Adam was in heaven and committed the original sin of man

-Don’t feel safe because of how long you’ve been worshiping look how long Iblis was worshiping and he became what he became

-Don’t feel safe because you’re around righteous people, none was better than the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings to him, yet even some of his own family didn’t take the message

As Sheikh Nuh would say, those who can’t take a hint can’t take much else, may God preserve us and keep us in his mercy.

The genius behind creativity

December 27, 2014

Upcoming posts…

December 27, 2014

horses

I want to start writing posts about following the way of life of Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him. I want to talk about following his way and not just what he did, the how and the what. Sometimes it seems we forget about the how and just follow the what in the process we can hurt others and become disjointed in our approach to life because the how is just as important as the what. What comes to mind most readily is the prophet, peace to him being polygamous -this is what he did but do we ever ask how he did it? Three things come to mind: he never married another wife when he was with Khadija, he never married a women from the the community he migrated to and when he became polygamous he did so immediately (After khadija died he married both Aisha and Sauda very close together), when he became polygamous he was living in safer more financially secure portion of his life (most of the women he married after moving to Medina where he was no longer oppressed but the head of state). For me all of this matters just as much as the fact of him being polygamous. Unfortunately they don’t seem to matter for many others who jump in to the practice. I also want to explore the ‘why’ which I think is less important because the prophet was a living example of God’s will but still worth considering. The sunnah is so much more than what happened, how it happened and why are also valuable. I will not only focus only polygamy it’s just the one that to comes to mind in this instance. So I want to explore this maybe monthly. Should be interesting, stay tuned…

For our mother

December 23, 2014

I get teary eyed in just reading your name
It’s unbelievable that some look at you with disdain
When your beauty was the light of his eye
When you are the one who carried his words on your tongue
And his honor in your breath
Through you he never left
With you was his final rest

The Red One
The little black thing
The 3rd of many
The wife of a king
The brilliance of the blazing sun
Born in to the world knowing God is One
The daughter of the truthful
The daughter of the loyal

What is it about you that made him so in love?
What is it about you that made the angels come?
Being kept away from your physical space
Couldn’t shoot down what I feel with every hadith you relate

I hope and pray for your widened grave
Ya Ayesha, Oh Umm Muminin
I will not die until they all know your grace

*Download my hadith compilation: 40 Hadith of ‘Aisha

Travels

December 19, 2014

A few pics from Jordan and Qatar -I don’t take many pictures in Jordan but I got to snap a few when my sister came.

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Some things I know to be true about weight loss

December 17, 2014

I’ve successfully lost weight once before in life. I’m now trying to do so again. I haven’t tried a ton of weight loss methods but from what I have tried there are a few things I know to be true about weight loss.

It takes time. You don’t gain or lose weight overnight. And you shouldn’t want to. Losing 50 pounds in a month might seem nice but it’s actually quite bizarre. Your body and mind don’t have time to wrap around this new body. You probably changed your diet in a dramatic and unsustainable way. Slow, though not too slow is a better way to introduce and maintain healthy habits that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Carbs and Sugar. I’m not sure how universal this is but for me eliminating carbs, sugar or both is a sure way to lose weight. Experimenting with what foods you can remove to help you lose weight is extremely useful.

Calorie intake. Though there is a lot of talk that losing weight isn’t as simple as calories in calories out but I know that my most successful weight loss happened when I lowered my calories. I think it does work but that it’s not as simple as we once thought. If your calories are made up of sugar vs protein you’ll probably lose less weight on the sugar but as long as you lower your calories you will lose weight

Exercise. You don’t have to do much but doing something consistently aids weight loss. Do whatever you like best. Whether its sports, walking, or jumping jacks. If you’re trying to lose weight don’t force yourself to do stuff you don’t like, it’s pointless. More than likely you just won’t keep it up. Do whatever you can do a little bit of on most days.

Water. If you only replaced your soda/ tea/ juice with water you will lose weight. How much depends on how much of the stuff you were drinking before. I can sometimes be a big soda drinker (here in the Middle East not really in the states) as well as a big coffee drinker eliminating those two things is an easy way to lose a few extra pounds, knowing it’s bad for my teeth also helps.

Skip a meal. This is dangerous but if you can do it helps. It’s dangerous because sometimes when you skip breakfast you end up craving a snack when you’re out and about in your day if you give in it could mean having a piece of cake when you would have been better off just eating the oatmeal in the morning. I prefer to skip lunch so that if I do get “hungry” I can just eat dinner earlier and if I’m still “hungry” later I can have something very light like dates, yogurt or water.

Cook for yourself. I credit this advice to Michael Pollan and it’s true. Cooking for ourselves allows us to better monitor what we eat. I know how much salt is in my soup and how much sugar is in my tea when I eat out I have no idea. This also gives me the power to lessen my food portions or food additives in order to lose weight, a not so easy task when eating out.

Put health first. I don’t believe i being skinny obsessed but weight is a direct link to health. If you have health problems and are overweight, lose some weight and see if it helps. Chances are you’ll feel a lot better. Losing weight is a means to reaching optimal health if we also reach our vanity goals, so be it.

The Great Divorce

December 16, 2014

A popular Islamic speaking duo (I have no idea how else to categorize) got divorced. I’m familiar with the woman of the duo and watch a few of her speeches online though not much. I recently got a sample of her popular book, though I haven’t yet gotten through the glowing reviews. I don’t know anything about the brother until now. With the case being that I wasn’t familiar with either of their works or speeches to any great length it may come as a surprise that I found myself weeping.

Reading through the wife’s post on their divorce and randomly landing on the husband’s Facebook post today the details of why they divorced made me weep. Was their abuse? Cheating? Apostasy? No nothing of the sort. They both quoted things like “not being compatible” and “growing apart”. My (anger? sadness? confusion?) grew.

The reasons they cited were very Western, very modest but was it very Islamic or upholding any ounce of morality that values the general good? Growing apart and incompatibility are valuable issues to note and get help for. They both cited that the decision didn’t come over night and came after many years of thinking about the matter. I don’t believe it. Thought, yes, years of effort to make the marriage work? Highly doubtable.

Before I continue I should say that their life is not my concern. Maybe divorce was right for them but I feel it necessary to critique as someone in the field of psychology who is very much concerned with the family and as someone who is a young unmarried Muslim woman and effected by the decisions of those around me especially as relates to Islam/ marriage/ family. Unrelated to this situation, a few days ago I was driving in a taxi home and reflecting on Fascinating Womanhood. This book is highly recommended by my sheikh and one I read even before being in the tariqa. In her book she is speaking to women. How we can take hold of our marriage and change it for the better. And she is extreme in her approach but her extremeness fits in perfectly with how a sufi views the world. A sufi see things going wrong and asks “What have I done? How can I repent? How can I make things better?”

So in that car ride home I thought to myself “What if I (or anyone) was in a really bad marriage and instead of leaving they decided for one entire year they were going to do their ultimate best to make the marriage work. They were going to be kind, thoughtful, loving, considerate, every single day. Every day you made time for the other person, you put there problems ahead of yours and you made them (after God) your first priority. If after a year the person was still a jerk, still verbally abusive still inconsiderate and we (the party trying to make it work) just couldn’t stand it anymore then I think we can honestly say to ourselves “I did the best I could and I can’t do anymore”. I still think there is value in staying married for the children but before getting to that, there is extreme value in actually trying to work things out with the person you made a life long promise too. This is also the reason it’s so valuable to look well at the person you’re marrying.

As a Muslim who tries my best to practice my religion I would never consider marrying someone who didn’t pray and didn’t think it was important -someone who missed Fajr at times? Probably because many of us have that shortcoming but not someone who just didn’t care. You have to marry someone who has the base of what is important to you. Once you do that there should be an investment in that marriage. Divorce is the worst of allowed actions in Islam so anyone who gets divorced should really take a look at themselves and ask , “Did I give this marriage my all?”

As someone in the field of psychology it is our job to focus on the person in the room. What Johnny did or said doesn’t have as much weight as what Mary did and said if Mary is in the room (psychologists’ office). Mary has to learn different ways of being, she has to take herself to task whether or not Johnny changes. But if she truly does take herself to task she can potentially save her marriage. Or she can see what she was doing wrong and not take her same flaws in to a new marriage. Either way she wins. But if she spends her marriage thinking “it’s all Johnny’s fault” or “We just didn’t get along” she doesn’t gain any insight and ends up not only ruining her own marriage but any potential future marriage. When two people are married they each need to take themselves to task for the marriage. Marriage is a relationship but it only takes one party’s action to make it better or worse.

“I just wasn’t happy” and pathetic excuses like it are one of the saddest reasons people divorce. Second marriages are much more likely to end in divorce than first marriages statistically speaking your chance at happiness in marriage number two is slim. Happiness seeking is a bizarre phenomena in our time. People spend there lives chasing it only to end up miserable. Happiness is not some kind of final destination. Besides Paradise in the afterlife, happiness is usually illusionary. We find it in this person or that job or even in a piece of cake but it’s momentary, it doesn’t last. It only lasts if someone keeps finding new ways to conjure it in to there lives. A marriage is unhappy if two people or one person, decide it’s going to be that way. In Eric Fromm’s The Art of Loving he says a strikingly profound statement Love is a decision. He goes on to explain, if love were just an emotion would we base a lifetime commitment on it? It’s illogical, emotions come and go but you can make a decision that will last a lifetime.

Happiness, like love is a decision. Sure there are times when circumstances overwhelmingly point us to one emotion over another. It’s harder to be happy if you’re starving than if your well feed but even than you have a decision. There are places in this world where people are happy but extremely impoverished (according to Western standards) and there are places like America where it seems every other Joe is on some kind of medication for depression. We’re not just a miserable people, there are reasons we’re sad, chasing after things we can’t afford being one of them, but still it’s a decision. Sometimes we make passive decision -a family member dies and we become a depressed recluse, we score an A on our thesis and we’re elated all week but it’s still a decision. We could be happy our family member gets that much closer to God, we could be sad because our thesis symbolizes that we must move from the world of academia to the world of work.

Life is a series of decisions whether we realize it our not. And people in bad marriages are making a decision for it to be so. Do yourself a favor and pick up Fascinating Womanhood and look at yourself first, how can you make things better? For men I think the same applies, though I don’t have a book suggestion the easiest summary of all her advice would be this: make an effort. One of my teachers once told us a story about a couple who came to see him for their marital problems. The wife said to him “You know we’ve lived by this little flower shop for years and he never once bought me any flowers”. Something that may seem so petty was extremely valuable to her. Every day for years he passed this flower shop and not once did he think, “oh my wife might like some flowers”. Marriage is one of the most dangerous relationships to “get comfortable” in. Two people make a promise for forever but the reality is that it can end at any moment. It’s not like a mother- child or sister-brother relationship, it’s not automatically permanent. If you don’t make an effort you will lose it.

So once you’ve made the effort let’s say in the way I described, for a year -are you off the hook and free to go? Well it depends. Do you have children? People have a very strange idea in our time that a bad marriage is worse for children then two happy divorced parents. Unfortunately for all of our egos this is just not true. Take a read of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, it’s plain and simple divorce is bad for children. Your children could care less if your happy. Your children want to be children. A very easy way to be a child is to have a strong base of your parents and not have any major disruption in the family. Your kids don’t care if you never speak to each other at the dinner table they care about playing with their friends, being served breakfast by mommy and put to bed by daddy. Divorce is a major disruption in the child’s life. Suddenly they have to be split between two homes. Suddenly they have two bedrooms in two in different households. Suddenly mommy’s getting remarried and daddy’s getting remarried, they have to meet new parental figures and learn how to get along with them, they have new siblings that they don’t live with and statistically speaking they will have to go through another divorce because second marriages have a weaker chance of lasting. Suddenly they have no base. When their parents are married whether their marriage is bad, good or in between they get to learn about relationships between men and women. They get to learn how to resolve conflicts. They get to learn from the parents mistakes, they’re shown how not to give up. Without a marriage to look at they don’t get to learn anything, they have to figure it out for themselves and worse they learn that when the going gets tough, give up.

In reality this is a false paradox: a bad marriage or happy divorce. Marriages aren’t inherently bad (nor is divorce inherently good), they’re made that way by the people in them and can be fixed for the better. What about abusive marriages, aren’t those bad for kids? Yes of course but are they worse than divorce? No. This isn’t from my own thinking, please read The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, this is based on research. Abusive marriages are horrible for kids but a strange assumption many have is that once a divorce takes place the abuse is over. It doesn’t work like that. Many ex- couples continue there abuse after marriage. Little Ahmed is taught to disrespect his mother by his dad, he’s told his father is worthless by his mom, the abuse continues from a distance and little Ahmed is still a part of it. Problems don’t get fixed by just leaving. When there’s a kid (or a few) involved the parents have to continue to co-parent and if their problems weren’t fixed in marriage what makes them think getting a divorce is the magic pill? It isn’t, getting help is. There was a popular football player who made news a few months back after a video surfaced of him punching his wife. The usually cries that she should leave him and that he was an abuser pierced through the internet. But how does this help him? It certainly isn’t her responsibility to help him but we can’t afford to see it as leave and save you life or stay and get abused. Whether she leaves or stays there is a man with a serious problem and if he doesn’t get help he’ll do it to someone else if she doesn’t get help she may end up in another abusive relationship. If she stays, which it seems she has, they need to get help for their marriage. Staying in a bad marriage shouldn’t be an option but leaving shouldn’t be seen as the only option either.

Marriage is a serious job, Umm Al Khayr, whose book you should also read Initiating Upholding and Islamic Marriage often says to us “A lot of people want to be married but not a lot of people want to be spouses”. Much of marriage is a selfless act. It is for God first that you choose to please your spouse and to make your marriage work. And that intention has to stay within the good and bad times. I think the secret to longevity in marriage is just sticking it out. People who have been married a long time will tell you about their ups and downs and even times they thought the end was near but the same story sticks throughout, they didn’t give up. Look well to who you’re marrying and when you’re blessed to be in that marriage be selfless, look for what you can do to make things work, think about the children if after all of this you still can’t bear to be in the marriage then sure God made divorce permissible for a reason.

Book: Love, Life & Faith coming this summer, 2015

Stroke of Insight

December 15, 2014

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