Friday, March 30, 2018

Divorce - a Spiritual and Emotional Journey

For a while now, quite a few people have asked me about divorce - especially the emotional process of deciding to get a divorce, and going through it. 

First of all, for women, there is this crazy ridiculous societal stigma against even *considering* divorce as an option. We are reminded so often about the hadith that a woman who asks for divorce for no reason will not smell the fragrance of Jannah, yet we overlook the fact that most women do *not* ask for divorce lightly - few women *want* to rip apart their entire lives, let alone those of their children, and the social consequences for being a divorcee do their part in further strongly discouraging women from seeking divorce.
What we seem to deliberately overlook, however, is that woman-initiated divorce existed at the time of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and was not condemned - the famous hadith of the wife of Thabit ibn Qays cemented the concept of khul' and the understanding that incompatibility in a marriage is a legitimate reason for divorce, as was also the case of Zaid ibn Harith and Zaynab bint Jahsh.
Many women have asked me "when do I know for sure if I should get a divorce"? That is a question that no one can answer except yourself. My own personal barometer was the wife of Thabit ibn Qays, who said "I fear for myself kufr if I remain with him." Explanations of this hadith discuss how this meant that she was afraid that she would not be able to uphold his rights as a husband or deal with him justly. I truly believe that the way she expressed it was beautiful and reflective of a believer's attitude, with equal concern for the other party as well as for one's own spiritual well being.
And, of course, one must absolutely do research - both legal and Islamic - and consult with those of knowledge and good advice (because unfortunately common sense and wisdom isn't something everyone is blessed with not, not even shuyookh)... and finally, Salatul Istikhaarah. Reading and understanding the meaning of the du'a of Istikhaarah will really teach you what it means to have complete trust in Allah and His Qadr.
If you have finally made the choice to divorce, then be aware that it is going to HURT. It is going to hurt like hell. It doesn't matter if you are the one initiating it or not, divorce is agonizingly painful even as it can also feel like a blissful escape. Being married - whether for a year, four years, or fourteen years - is a unique experience that makes you bond with another individual in a way that is difficult to replicate in any other way. You sleep with them, you live with them, you witness their highs and their lows... you get to know that person in a very special way. And once you've decided to seek divorce - and I'll be honest, even before you make that final decision - you will likely spend nights sobbing yourself to sleep and feeling as though your world is crumbling around you. You may very well experience strong depression as well as guilt. You will find yourself slipping up and saying or doing things which you will be ashamed of later. You will make mistakes and you will experience heartbreak.
That's just how it is. Divorce sucks even when you actually need it.
Which leads to me to the most important point: There will be no one who truly understands what you are going through. Not even other divorcees will really 'get' you. Family and friends can sympathize but will have their own perspectives. But you know who WILL understand you better than you understand yourself? Your Creator.
Divorce and its accompanying challenges can be a catalyst for you as an individual to grow closer to Allah. It is the perfect time to increase your du'a, your dhikr, your sadaqah, and your qiyaam al-layl. It is the perfect time to acknowledge your weakness, recognize your own flaws and faults, and seek comfort and forgiveness and mercy from Al-Wadud, ash-Shaafi. You will discover the true extent of your own limitations and how none of us are perfect... not your ex-spouse, and not yourself. The only being who is perfect is the One Who created us all.
Divorce can make you become a better person - but it can also bring you down and tempt you into behaving in a less than graceful or mature manner. What's necessary to keep in mind is the amazing hadith:
"How amazing is the affair of the believer! There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” (Muslim)

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