Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Ideal Divorce

 Most people do not take divorce seriously enough. Some spouses threaten divorce at the least trouble, and consequently break apart happy homes for the most trivial of reasons. Others refuse to give the option of divorce any serious consideration at all, even when their married lives are a living hell.

Hastiness in divorce is the most common problem. So many divorcees wring their hands in grief after their marriages are over, thinking about the happy times they had and all the pleasantness, warmth, and comfort that they enjoyed with their spouses only realized they missed after it is too late. They look back longingly to the embrace of their loved ones and being together with their children under the same roof, knowing that in anger and haste, they broke their homes forever.

Divorce is literally a breaking of what was once together, and unraveling of what had been tightly knit. This is why Islam has placed conditions upon divorce and recommended steps that should be taken before resorting to such an extreme step. For instance, Islamic Law provides measures like three separate pronouncements an a waiting period to give the estranged couple a chance to rethink their decision and come to a reconciliation.

However, hastiness is not the only problem that causes sorrow and suffering. The refusal to accept divorce under any circumstance brings its own collection of miseries, and it can be just as reprehensible as haste.

The fact that Islam provides for divorce and sets forth its shows that Islam is truly the religion of the All-Wise, All-Knowing Creator. Allah only prescribed divorce as an option because sometimes it is truly in the best interest of the people concerned.

Therefore, we have no reason to become so averse to the idea in principle that we shun it when it is really necessary – when the alternative to divorce is to make two people persist in living lives of distress and suffering. What is the point in a couple subjecting themselves to that? How long should a household remain in a state of perpetual strife and psychological pain?

Marriage is one of the greatest of blessings Allah has provided for us. It is a covenant between two hearts, a union of two souls, and also a coming together of two bodies. When discord comes between those hearts, the mercy, love, and affection that marriage brings are threatened. Every effort should be made to repair the damage and bring reconciliation between the two spouses.

However, if every attempt at reconciliation ends in failure, and it becomes clear that the temperament of one or both of the spouses is such that it is impossible for them to live together on a footing of mutual respect and affection, then it is more merciful to both of them that they go their separate ways, peacefully and amicably.

Unfortunately, divorce is not always peaceful and amicable. Often, one of the spouses is not content to just let the other person go on with their life unscathed. Instead, they find the need to publicize their spouse's "wrongdoings" and even make up faults that do not even exist – things that could imperil that person's chances of getting remarried. Even worse, they sometimes lack the common decency to spare their children from hearing those foul things, and may go so far as to actively turn their children against other parent!

This is blatantly unjust. It is enmity at its ugliest and pettiest. This is why Allah has commanded: "the parties should either hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness." [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 229]

The faults and deficiencies of both spouses must be kept private as much as possible, and never be used as a means to cause injury or public shame. They should keep in mind that Allah is most generous and His world is spacious, and that each spouse has more to look forward to in their future than the prospect of debasing the other!

People are of different temperaments and they have different needs. What might prove an irreconcilable fault in one marital relationship might prove to be the basis of success in another.

I would like to share with you the story of a divorce that happened to someone I know personally. Indeed, if I did not know this man and had not been part of his life at the time he got divorced, I would have dismissed the story as an incredible fiction.

This man that I knew had remained with his wife for a number of years, and the two of them were blessed with children. He was from one city in Saudi Arabia and his wife and her family were from another. They often had difficulties in their marriage due to their differing temperaments. He was a laid-back, cool-tempered person while she was disposed to being passionate and hot-tempered.

One day, he sat down with her and said: "My dear, we should not keep on like this, always bickering and always goading each other. Either we come to some sort of understanding or we should go our separate ways. We should either 'hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness'."

She said: "Let me think about it and pray to Allah for guidance. I implore that you do the same."

After a period of time, she said to him: "I think it is best for both of us that we part. Perhaps Allah will provide each of us from His grace with something better."

He said to her: "We should, then, think about divorce, and implore Allah's blessings."

Then the day came that he drove her to her parent's city and left her with her family. He then went to the courthouse and filed the divorce papers as an uncontested and finalized divorce. He then returned to her at her family home and informed her that it was done. He stayed at the house with her family for a few more hours and had lunch with them, then departed.

He then returned to his own home. At that point he broke down. He told me:
I just cried and cried until I couldn't cry any more, in grief, thinking back on all those years we had lived together. Then, when I finally collected my composure, I called her and her mother – her father was deceased. I said to her: "The children belong to both of us. If you want them to stay with me, that is good. If you want them with you, then I will bring them to you."

She consulted with her mother and said: "We would like them here with us."

So I said: "Then, you should tell me how much child support you think is needed and I will send it to you regularly."

We agreed on an amount, which I pay to them regularly. I keep close tabs on my children. They visit me at home quite often. I also visit them at times. I keep in touch with their mother on maters concerning the children.
After a time, he remarried and had children from his second marriage. His former wife also remarried. However, the two of tem remained in contact with each other concerning the children that they shared. Whenever he went to his former wife's city for any reason, he would make sure to visit his former mother-in-law (his children's grandmother) at her home and share lunch or dinner with her family.

To this day, he is happy in his new marriage and attentive to his children from his first marriage. He tells me: "For our children, we make sure that it is as close as possible to their living with both their parents."

I asked him: "Don't you and your former wife ever have arguments now regarding the children?"

He said: "No. I am very thankful for the way they are raising my children. It is enough distress for the children that we – their parent – got divorced. We do not need to add to their distress by fighting."

This is the story of one of my closest friends and I can attest to his situation up to this very day. He and his former wife give us a good example of how people should behave with each other when they disagree – and no disagreement can be more poignant or trying than divorce.

It is sad that when divorce happens, such stories of amicability are very rare. Usually there is a lot of vindictiveness, protracted fighting between the spouses, and much injury. The result is that they both suffer and their children suffer even more. If they would only follow their Lord's command and "hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness", then theغ would find so many blessings in their lives.


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