Challenges Facing the Family and Society
Divorce Yesterday and Today
It was usual in Islamic countries for marriages to take place in a context of common sense and compatibility. It was the family who would find the appropriate partner with regard to religion, moral behaviour, financial status and physical character. For this reason, marriages on the whole were successful.
The family's choosing for their offspring did not negate the choice and contentment of the prospective couple but rather confirmed it and steered it in the required direction, because of the families knowledge and links to other family circles was more than that of the young man or woman. Further more, the family by possessing a means of exerting pressure on those who wished to divorce could act to prevent splits taking place. Hence the families acted in truth as a kind of safety valve against the recklessness and haste of youth as in the Qur'anic verse :
'Then appoint two arbiters, one from his family, one from hers; if they seek to set things to rights then Allah will cause their reconciliation' 80.
This God granted success as with everything else that He causes in this world must be preceded by human action, for God has disdained to run affairs other than through their causes.
I have been told by one of the persons responsible for marriage and divorce in the city of Karbala forty years ago that he only presided over the divorce of one person a year. Today however, now that society has taken up with Western values or has plunged into Westernisation and the misplaced imitation of its laws and customs, it is the youngsters who choose their partners in isolation and without consulting their parents. It is evident now that the criteria for marriage is a mixture of emotion, sexual fervour, inexperience, and immaturity. This is fuelled by the pressure of such values and their false notions of freedom and its attack on authentic customs which it describes as being reactionary or backward and senile. Hence a large proportion of marriages now end in separation and divorce.
For those that fall into these traps the calamities are great.
For these reasons it is imperative that we return to the Islamic lifestyle of happiness which our forefathers lived in the lands of Islam until half a century ago.
Conciliation is Best
The prevalence of divorce in the latter half of this century 81 is attributable to a number of reasons including :
1. A short sighted and arbitrary way of choosing a partner for life because of emotions and the like.
2. A tendency towards over expectation by one partner of the other and an excess of idealising.
3. The pressure of man made laws limiting real freedoms, opportunities for work, travel and obtaining free goods and so on.
4. The spread of exhibitionism, social mingling, licence and dissipation, whereby a man can find someone apparently more beautiful than his wife and a woman can find a man more preferable than her husband.
5. The decline of the restraint promoted by religion and morals and a moving away from the Islamic way.
However, this notwithstanding, it is imperative that marital problems be solved without resort to divorce, for divorce is described as being the most detestable of all that God has made lawful.
The emissary of God has said: 'There is no permissible thing more beloved in the sight of God than marriage, nor is there any permissible thing more detestable in the sight of God than divorce' 82.
Imam Al-Sadiq has said: 'God loves the house in which there is matrimony and hates the house in which there is divorce for there is nothing more detestable in the sight of God than divorce' 83.
In another tradition from Imam Al-Sadiq he commands: 'Marry and do not divorce for the heavenly throne verily shakes as a consequence of divorce' 84.
Why then has God not outlawed divorce altogether?
The answer is that the home may have become an unbearable hell on earth. Alternatively, many things may add up to make reconciliation impossible.
In the case of the Christian church when it forbade divorce, millions of men and women remained partner less, after finding their natures incompatible. Hence corruption and licence and perversity flourished as each partner found, in the air of poisonous freedoms promulgated by the West, all manner of means to prostitution and adultery put in front of them while the media and advertising egg them on.
There is no doubt that if there were present in society institutions dedicated to conciliation and trained conciliators together with charitable bodies, these problems which cause damage to the family, harm the children and come between relatives and at times end up in murder and suicide would certainly reduce.
Certain divorce lawyers who do not heed God and do not experience any barrier from government or society can exploit the will of one of the partners to separate. He then fills his coffers at the expense of religion, conscience and morals. If he were to heed God however he would make haste to resolve matters between them, as in the Qur'anic verse: 'Conciliation is best' 86.
Polygamy - A Spurious Crisis
The law of the universe runs according to the perfect balance of pairs, as in the Qur'anic verse: 'We have created of everything in pairs so that perhaps you may take heed'. 87
However, this does not necessarily mean equality in terms of numbers but rather compatibility in terms of type, whereby each pair is ensured of fulfilling its natural role in life. For example in the world of ants and bees, the queen capable of procreation is one only, whereas the males which compete with each other for the prize of fertilising her are many. This is true of most of the animal kingdom.
Human beings by virtue of being alive like the remainder of living things in this existence are no exception to this rule. Granted, they have their own particularities but so does every other living thing, and just as the divine will has ensured for human beings perfect compatibility in terms of type, as with the rest of existents, it has also defined and shaped humanity in a way particular to itself whereby fulfilment, concord and continuance are ensured, each having its own proof and wisdom.
Among the teachings of Imam Sadiq to Al-Mafdal Ibn 'Amr are his words: Humanity was not created masculine and feminine except in order to be able to reproduce ... Had an organism given birth to males only or females only then reproduction would cease and the species would become extinct. Therefore some of the offspring came as males and others as females so that reproduction would continue and not be cut off'. 88
Imam Al-Rida, speaking about the prohibition of adultery and of violating the law of nature which was created by God to harmonise with the human species and his needs, said: 'God has prohibited adultery because of the corruption it can cause, from murder to loss of lineage and neglect to the children's upbringing and corruption of inheritances and other forms of corruption'. 89
It is possible to posit no more than the following four different marital systems between the two sexes :
1. Complete sexual freedom.
There is no doubt that the first two are both invalid from an intellectual and religious point of view as the preceding report from Imam Rida points out. There only remains the latter two.
Statistics and surveys show that women outnumber men, particularly around the ages of puberty and sexual maturity despite the fact that some statistics in some countries show a relative parity between the sexes.
As to why women should outnumber men, that is one of the secrets of nature. However, its wisdom should not be lost on anyone who reflects upon it.
This phenomenon also gives rise to the fact that women are more long lived in comparison to men, perhaps as men are generally occupied with heavy work which can shorten their lives. Men are more often affected by wars and imprisonment or long absences; which necessitates the right of divorce by their wives in religious law, or by the men if they know that they will not be able to maintain the relationship because of imprisonment or the like.
Furthermore, those who are marrying a second, third or fourth wife are obviously not marrying a woman who is already married but one who is free of a husband.
What then is the intellectual problem with polygamy?
If we do not solve this problem through polygamy, then we will either see women without husbands or we will see them taking lovers both of which are in opposition to the balances of rationale and of nature.
Since the beginning of Islam, and for a long time there was no barrier to polygamy. It was in fact totally normal. Disputes amongst wives were as seldom as disputes amongst sisters or between mother and daughter. Then however, the matter became corrupted; by men through their oppression towards women in the context of polygamy, and by women because of their desire for favouritism and being singled out for benefits. Then the majority of women began to detest the concept of polygamy in many Islamic countries, even though polygamy was practised without mishap in countries like Chad and other African countries.
It is then necessary to adjust this situation so that so many women are no longer condemned to spinster hood which is one of the greatest forms of oppression against women.
If the man were to die, then society should take care to facilitate her marriage to someone else or, in the case of divorce, to try to bring about her return to her former husband where possible as is prevalent in countries practising polygamy.
The Prophet married the greater number of his wives after their divorces from former husbands or after the death of their first husbands as was practised from the beginning of Islam and for centuries onward and is still practised now in certain countries.
Is it not a kind of injustice that a young woman, or one who has lost her husband through divorce or by some accident, should remain single when she is a human being with emotions relating to sex, abode, children and so on. In the main though, the corrupted customs of some people deny her all of this. Customs though if transcended will fall. All that is needed is an agent - a powerful current in society, and an authentic culture - to transcend this situation.
The Crisis of Celibacy
Today in Islamic countries, women are suffering from social oppression since these countries have adopted corrupt foreign traditions in this vital area of life. Society oppresses them by delaying their marriage 90, by preventing their re-marriage after the death of their husbands, or when the numbers of unmarried women are great, or for many other reasons. All of this needs to be transcended and overcome with the return to the land of Islamic tradition which conforms to nature and the intellect. It is also imperative that society be educated in harmonising the characters of the married couple as a precaution against marital breakdown, separation and divorce.
This problem of the abundance of celibates or single women may be solved by charitable organisations and social institutions which specialise in the demands of this crisis and the numerous financial, medical and psychological problems associated with it. A woman who is celibate or unmarried is subject to being exposed to physical and mental illness as medical science has shown. In many cases she may not have any means of subsistence 91 and turns to prostitution or other activities like thieving.
Is it right that a large section of the community remain in this state?
Simplifying marriage together with the practise of polygamy and the application of public funds in solving financial problems and the aforementioned laws of precedence 92 and land 93 adds up to an Islamic solution to this problem. However because of the absence of vital Islamic law there is no alternative to charitable organisations and communal weddings as a way towards solving these problems as much as possible. From drops of water and grains of sand oceans and deserts are formed.
A group of friends of mine in Teheran saw to the marriage of 1000 young couples at the one time. The same thing happened with another group in the Eastern province of the Hijaz when they organised the marriage of 300 people.
It is clear that: 'The complexity of a task should not prevent the attempt of achievable tasks' 94 and 'What is not totally realisable as a whole should not be discarded as a whole.' 95 , these being among the best principles with regard to these matters.