Why are many professional women over 30 not married?
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Why are many professional women over age 30 not married? Are marriages failing because women nowadays are less obedient than in the past? If a man can marry someone from “back home,” shouldn’t women here be more compromising, since they have less choice?
There are many reasons why Muslim women living in the West in general, and North America in particular, prefer to stay unmarried. Based on our marital counselling experience with hundreds of cases, we find that these reasons have no connection with women being less obedient than in the past, as stated in the question. Here are some of the real reasons why Muslim women are hesitant to marry and why some of them prefer to stay unmarried even after age 30. As listed here, these reasons are not necessarily in order of importance:
- Compared to a generation or two ago, the number of educated Muslim women has increased tremendously, and many of them are now working in good jobs and fulfilling careers that provide them with great financial independence. For a career women who is enjoying great freedom and financial independence, the circumstances have to be perfect in order for her to sacrifice her freedom and career for the sake of a marriage proposal.
- The surrounding environment and experiences of others is another important factor making many Muslim women hesitate to get married. The divorce rate in North America is at an alarming level, among Non-Muslims as well as Muslims. These divorce statistics are a huge deterrent. Many Muslim women feel they are taking a great risk and potentially sacrificing a stable life for a marriage agreement that could easily collapse at any moment.
- Muslim men tend to misunderstand various issues related to Islamic marriage. Just to name a few, these issues include the following:
- The concept of family leadership (qawamah). This concept is highly misunderstood among many men. It makes some of them behave like dictators and tyrants in their home. Rather than fulfilling the leadership responsibilities and obligations entrusted to them by Allah (swt), such men abuse their status and take it as an excuse to mistreat their wife, insult her, and in some cases become physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. More about the subject of qawamah, its definition and meaning, the obligations surrounding it, and the appropriate and inappropriate use of it can be found in our book on this subject.
- The status of women in Islam. This is another area where many Muslim men are putting Muslim women down and considering them to be of lower status than men. This is completely incorrect and goes against the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (saaw). We touched upon this topic in our answer to Question 8. In Islam, neither gender is superior or inferior to the other. Both genders complement each other. The best and most honourable people in the sight of Allah (swt) are those who observe and fulfill their duties towards Him.
- The concept of the wife’s obedience to her husband. This is another concept that is misunderstood by many Muslim men. Many men think that this obedience is absolute, like the obedience of a slave to his master. However, this understanding is completely incorrect and has no basis whatsoever in the practical Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (saaw). The Mothers of the Faithful, the wives of Prophet Muhammad (saaw), questioned him, had discussions with him and even argued with him on many occasions.
- Spousal obligations. This is another area that is highly misunderstood by men. Because of this misunderstanding, Muslim wives are at a great disadvantage when it comes to spousal obligations. In the Qur’an, it is very clear, with the exception of the qawamah degree, that most spousal obligations are mutual. This means that if the husband wants his wife to treat him kindly, he also has to treat her kindly. If the husband wants the wife to treat his family members with respect and welcome them in the couple’s home, he also has to treat her family members with respect and welcome them in their home. If the husband wants his wife to beautify herself for him, he must also make himself presentable for her. As a matter of fact, Ibn Abbas (raa) used to be seen trimming his beard, combing his hair, and wearing perfume. When he was asked by some of the Companions (raa) why he was doing this, he said: “I’m beautifying myself for my wife, and this is an order from Allah (swt),” and he quoted verse 228 of Surat Al-Baqarah. Of course, there are certain obligations that are primarily for the husband and others that are primarily for the wife. For example, the husband is primarily responsible for financially supporting the family, while the wife is the main caregiver for the children.
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