Conversations with my fellow peers about the concerning rising divorce rate in the Muslim community have become all too common. It’s a source of real concern for the entire Muslim community and everyone agrees something needs to be done. The global Muslim divorce rate is 1 in 5 and in places such as North America it’s as high as 1 in 3.
Fellow scholars agree that pre-marriage preparation is key if we are serious about changing our current family breakdown situation.
Around 15 years ago I was studying in an Islamic college. We had students from all nationalities. Nearly all of us were unmarried, so when we learned some fellow students were about to wed, we were all excited. However, since they were from Malaysia they could not get married until after having completed a course. Not being in Malaysia wasn’t an excuse, and so they had to go to their embassy and complete the course. I learned that this was mandatory for everyone, even if they were a scholar! The amazing thing was since implementing this policy the divorce rate in Malaysia has fallen dramatically. It was then I initially had the idea of an essential pre-marital course for all Muslims, irrespective of their background or level of faith.
That idea stayed with me all those years. When I got back to the UK after years of studying the Islamic sciences and started to deal with real marital cases, I began to see the reality of marriage breakups, the heartache, the pain and the effects on children and society as a whole. I observed common mistakes made before marriage, issues which single Muslims underestimated the impact of, and other issues which they placed more importance on than was required. I looked around at the guidance which was being offered at the time for single Muslims. Often courses were too general and would try to address both married and unmarried people at the same time, and so the learning ended up being general and lacked a practical element.
After witnessing a number of marriages breaking down within just weeks, months or a couple of years following the nikah, I knew we needed to focus on the relevant issues with depth, dissecting them, getting down to the root causes and uncovering core principles to successful marriages. I set to work on designing a course which covered every possible stage in the run-up to a marriage. I benefitted immensely from the real cases I had been dealing with, along with works on marriage counselling and relationship experts, and my Islamic knowledge.
The strategy was simple: if we could prepare people properly, make them think deeply about all the issues relating to marriage when seeking a potential spouse, stimulate deeper discussions about future married life, and guide them in what really affects marriages and what things are minor or superficial, then inshallah we would have done our part in helping people marry the right person and have given them a better chance at succeeding in their marital life, and thereby reduce the likelihood of divorce.
It’s great having matchmaking events and providing platforms such as websites for people to meet in order for them to marry, however, the crux of successful marriages requires people being equipped with all the tools necessary to ensure they know how to choose the most suitable person for them at these events and on these platforms. Without a deeply thought out framework and strategy, how else would a young person hope to attend an event with a hundred people of the opposite gender to choose from and find the right person for them?
Having now taught my essential pre-marital course over twenty times, it has become more apparent than ever just how much our community needs this guidance before making such a life-changing decision. From the plethora of positive comments I have received from the attendees, perhaps the most powerful and validating of them all is the following:
“If I had attended this course 5 years ago, I am pretty sure that I would still be happily married right now.”
Hearing this only further affirms the need for more pre-marital education.
My dream is that one day no one will be able to get married without doing a premarital course. While this ambitious concept might be some time away, I have decided in the meantime to make my essential pre-marital course – delivered and developed over almost a decade – available online for every single Muslim to access.
What are your thoughts?
What do you think? Is more preparation needed BEFORE young people decide to marry? Comment below with your thoughts.
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