There is no thriving Muslim community anywhere in the world or a future for Islam in America without strong marriages that bind our community together. It is the job first and foremost of the married Muslim couple (and Muslim marriage is exclusively heterosexual and every child is given only one mother and one father) to raise the next generation of Muslims who can carry on the dawah of al-Islam to the next generations.
Yet, despite the fact that we all agree marriage is important, and almost all will agree that there is a marriage crisis in the Muslim community, there has not been a serious discussion on how to fix these problems ( if they can be fixed while living in a non-Muslim society hostile to the values of Islam).
There is widespread disagreement in the Muslim community on ideals of when and how to get married and you will find a deep dived between various immigrant Muslim communities and indigenous American-Muslims, working-class and non working-class.
I was recently at the blog of Hijabman, and no disrespect to him because he is a nice guy, but I have to say I was thoroughly depressed after leaving. I will not go into detail about the things that depressed me because the opposition to the Sunnah and the promotion of secular ideologies such as feminism and gay rights are known on that site, so that is not what had me down. What had me down was reading an article on the marriage crisis by a Muslim sister. The article in and of itself was also not what got to me although there as plenty in it that was upsetting in its own right. No, what got me down was that in reading this there was a crystallization of the fact, that no matter how figures such as Rami Nashashibi and Azhar Usman try and bridge the gap, we as working-class indigenous Muslims simply live on a different planet than the vast-majority of second-generation immigrant Muslims.
The way that marriage is discussed with the second-generation is not the way it is discussed within the working-class Muslim community and the problems and desires discussed are alien to most of us. A lot of these Muslims, who are mostly Desi, come from very common experiences no matter where in America they may have grown up. The children of immigrant professionals, reared in middle to upper class suburbs surrounded by white non-Muslims, somewhat rebellious to their parents, educated in non-Muslim schools, Islamically educated in ISNA-style masjids, can all vibe with one another and write blogs to discuss their common issues and even publish magazines geared towards this experience. But, while they may be able to relate to the concerns discussed in these publications, these issues mean very little to your average working-class American-Muslim.
Quite simply we are not struggling with trying to find a Punjabi or Palestinian Muslim to marry to please our parents. We are also not being encouraged by anyone to marry our cousins. Our men, men like me, were reared in areas where men acted like men and we didn’t see men “getting in touch with their feminine side” so working-class Muslim men in America are not struggling to assert their masculinity and nor are they turning off some women by their softness (maybe by their hardness). The serious working-class American Muslims, male or female, are also not even contemplating marrying a non-Muslim. As Dawud Adeeb once said in a lecture I attended “I have never met a Muslim serious about their deen who has decided to marry a kafir”.
The working-class American-Muslim girl is not struggling with her attraction to her Jewish or atheist classmate; because she has not bought into some romance novel version of love. She knows that more than being about some cheesy notion of an intoxicating love marriage is about a partnership and group submission to Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (s.a.s.) and that will bring about a love that will not fade with time. Most working-class American-Muslim girls will recognize that the kafir sitting in the class with her may be bright, witty, and handsome; but if he is the agent that Shaytan will use to lead her into the hellfire all of those qualities are worthless.
The grounded and rooted American-Muslim girl has this mentality. Obviously there are some American-Muslim girls who do not think like this; but almost always these are girls with other problems in their lives. Their lives snowball out of control and it culminates in their laying up with a kafir. I know indigenous Muslim girls like this and they will admit what they have done and also admit that it is haram and most will feel shame. This contrasts them to many of the second-generation immigrant sisters. They will lay up with a kafir and then try and change Islam to suit their sins. Will write eloquently written articles trying to justify their acts and completely ignore what Allah and His Messenger (s.a.s.) have said.
The second-generation boys of course have their own set of problems. Like their sisters they have also been trained to marry “one of their own” and like their sisters they also may desire a kafir that they go to school with. I do not know how the parents can expect otherwise when they raise their boys in non-Muslim suburbia and send them to white schools for their education. They will grow up and think and act like those they have grown up with (only possibly with an inferiority complex or hatred of their culture).
If the boy is at a non-Muslim high school, where your average girl today is wearing clothes reserved for hookers 20 years ago, can anyone be surprised that his natural sexual desire will be aroused by those he sees? If he goes to college single with a minimal level of Islam while his parents expect him to remain celebate in this hyper-sexualized society they are dreaming. If he is not having sex it is because he cannot get any; not because the desire is not there. Just as the non-Muslim girl raised in this society has the desire to lay-up with kufar so does the Muslim young man and he is doing so at a higher-rate with less of a struggle with his parents; but I doubt Islamically the children will have any more deen than those of the Muslima marrying outside of the deen.
What separates the second-generation Muslims and the working-class Muslim in marriage is the age of marriage and masculinity. There are other issues but these two issues are the most fundamental to the difference. Quite simply the working-class Muslim gets married younger (before college or while at college if the Muslim is in college at all) and the working-class American-Muslim men do not face the problems of a lack of masculinity that makes them unsuitable to be a leader and the head of their households. Many second-generation immigrant Muslims have this problem because they are not masculine enough to fulfill the role as the leader of a traditionally Muslim house after having been raised in upper-class suburbia where masculinity is taboo and coming from cultures that may struggle with issues of assertive maleness anyway. Young Muslim males reared in this way and with these cultural influences will more than likely find a better fit being hen-pecked by a secularized woman not the leader and protector of a Muslim home.
So, as I talk about marriage and the working-class American-Muslim I am not going to even begin from the standpoint of marriage after college within the ethnic group that most immigrant Muslim communities will. Nor am I going to even give haram concecpts the time of day. I am going to look at it how the vast-majority of working-class American Muslims do.
Before we can talk about the issue of marriage, or how to go about finding a spouse for your child, we must first address the madness that we have in our own house with regards to marriage as working-class Muslims and the male to female imbalance. In order to be on the same page as me, or even in the same book, you have to look at this issue from the viewpoint of Quran and Sunnah and not the norms of a modern secular society dedicated to rebellion against what has been brought by the Prophets (peace be upon them).
In the indigenous Muslim community in America, and this applies to all economic levels, there are problems that ail the males that make many of them, and in some communities most, undesirable as husbands ( these problems can include criminality, incarceration, chemical-dependency, irresponsibility, and brothers behaving in a predatory manner towards sisters) . At the same time the vast-majority of our sisters are fully functional and suitable to be married. If the ratio is two or three to one of sisters to good brothers in a city this means that a lot of sisters are going to stay single or exercise other options.
From what I am seeing the options that many are choosing are engaging in less than traditional marriages (especially on the East Coast), remaining bitter after being burned a time or two and not wanting to make any move (and possibly stepping out when the need arises), or are remaining single because they have either set their expectations too high or are overly idealistic and not living in the real world.
The non-traditional Muslim marriage is occurring almost exclusively with African-American Muslim sisters (but I believe it will become something practiced throughout the community in the future). These marriages normally occur with professional career women who feel they do not have time for a man, sisters with kids who do not want a man to interfere with their home life, or sisters who have little interest in men aside from their sexual desires.
The basic proposition is they marry a man for the sole purpose of having halal sex and the men are not expected to financially provide for them or live with them. I know of several brothers and sisters involved in these kinds of marriages and I myself have been approached a few times by sisters interested in this sort of marriage (and I had to take the offer seriously).
While this sort of marriage is certainly not haram, and it may even be advisable for a few sisters in very particular situations, I cannot help but to think these sisters are playing themselves short and missing out on the full blessings of marriage which extend beyond the bedroom. There is also the question of the children. If this sister has kids does she tell them she is married? If she does not what does this say about how she views her marriage? If she does tell the children how will they look at their mother? Will the teenage children see her as married or see her as someone with a halal “f#%* buddy”? What message do the young boys get from this kind of arrangement? That marriage is all sex and fun and no bills and hard work? How about the children born to such a union? If the children are not going to be living with the father in the home, or at least spending a good deal of time with him will the children not miss out on the benefits of having a man in the home to guide them? Who will show the boys how to be men?
Those sisters who are bitter and possibly stepping out by and large have been let down by the community. Almost all of them have been married before and they left those marriages so jaded that they don’t want to even think about getting married again. Many of these sisters have been married multiple times. One such example is a sister in Philadelphia. When I was single and looking for a wife I was talking to a sister in Philly and she told me she had a friend who was looking to get married. She told me her friend had been divorced three times and was not looking to get burned again and I said I fully understood. Then she told me how old this thrice divorced young sister was- 16! Does anyone think this sister will not be jaded and have some serious attitude problems in ten years? Do you think she will not be bitter towards Muslim men if she even still Muslim? There is another sister who my wife knows, who is a second-generation working-class American-Muslim as was her husband, who was hog-tied and beaten by her husband and had to be hospitalized. How eager do you think she for a traditional marriage?
While these sisters are bitter, and may hate men (Muslim men in particular), their sexual desires do not go away. The sisters I am speaking of, have either grown up in America as non-Muslims or are second or third generation Muslims descended from converts, most are black, and all grew up in a very sexually impure society. These are not some immigrant sisters from Muslim societies that American brothers married to often complain about as being sexually cold, or the old frumpy white catholic women who viewed sex as evil, or women who view sex as a chore they must endure once a month. By and large these are women who like sex and enjoy sex and when they are not in the situation in which hey can have halal sex they will not only be bitter but they make act on temptations to engage in haram sexual activity. It is our duty as a community to protect these sisters from having to exercise bad options.
The sisters opting not to get married are also a growing phenomena. I will exclude from this group the post 9-11 politically correct Muslimas who took shahadah to be a part of an oppressed minority and have never had an understanding of, or relationship to, the Sunnah. The sisters I am talking may have been born Muslim, or they may be recently converted, and they are serious about the deen.
These sisters disproportionately are volunteers in Muslim organizations, employees of masjids or Muslim organizations, writers for Muslim publications, bloggers, educated and have a voice. Their influence over the community, given their numbers, is larger than that of other groups with a bigger population and this is because unlike the married sisters these women have the time to volunteer and write.
There is diversity amongst these activist-oriented sisters but they tend to be idealistic and liberal-minded. Not liberal in the sense that they are radical-leftists; but in the sense that Islam is a feel good religion to them and people should not be judged. This, of course, is in contrast to much of the teachings of Islam, as Sheikh Ali al-Timimi once said “we have been given the Quran and Sunnah to judge other humans by”. That means that there are the righteous and there are the evil and no everyone just can’t get along. It means that there are Muslims and there are kufar and that there is no politically correct way to call someone a kafir. The activism of these sisters is good; but their political correctness intellectually impairs them, retards their growth as Muslims, and may even lead to religious deviation. This political correctness was something they got from their secular education and from this society and is not compatible with the world-view of Islam. In order to change the world you have to judge the world and then reform it based on the principals of Islam; but if you believe in cultural-relativism and do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings how can you achieve this task? Purchase the nine volumes of Sahih al-Bukhari, please tell me how politically correct the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s.) was in his condemnation of un-Islamic cultures and peoples?
How does the PC nature of these sisters lead to them being single? Well, I am not saying it is the only factor, but it is a factor. Quite simply, there are not enough brothers who share their world-view and the lifestyle that often goes along with it. A sister in this category recently remarked to a friend of mine that she was having a hard time finding African-American Muslim males into “green issues”. We both laughed because we knew you are just not going to find that many working-class or black Muslim males into these issues; but I told him to ask her “are you having a hard time finding gay white males into green issues?” The idealism of these sisters tells them that their should be Muslim males similar to them, and there are a few, but there just are not enough to go around.
Furthermore, these sisters hold a world-view not so different than similar women in secular political movements. They believe that by their work or activism they can do something for the community exceeding what married Muslim sisters can do. This type of belief can only exists with sisters who do not have a knowledge of or love for the Sunnah. These sisters are long on the book knowledge of the modern secular world; but short on having any kind of a real understanding of Islamic knowledge.
If they knew this deen they would no that there is no job they can do, organization they can support, book they can write, or activity they can engage in that will be rewarding in this life and the next and better for the Muslim community than getting married and having children. Yet, these sisters have such unreasonable expectations, and PC views towards men and their roles as a husband, that many will never get married and you are going to see a lot of these female activists in the Muslim community never get married or have children.
So, where does that leave the working-class Muslim family and our children? It leaves us with a situation where we have to be very cautions with our children. The question becomes when do we want our children to be married, how do you help them select someone to marry, and what do we do to put them in the best situation.
The ulalma have stated that waiting to get married until after college is unwise. However, most of us here who have been in the community for any length of time know that waiting till that late of an age is almost suicidal to the Islam of the young Muslim. The ISNA crowd has practiced this model with their children to disastrous results and few working-class American-Muslims I talk to want to emulate them in this area. The question for us is not whether your children should be married young; it is how young should they be and how do you help find them someone to marry?
For legal purposes in America we should not allow our children to get married until after the age of consent laws in each state. But, if we have made hijrah or are living in areas heavily populated by Muslims, we will know other Muslim families and from the youngest age have our eyes on those we may think would be good for our children to marry. We can help bring them together or, in such a community, young Muslims with hormones raging will find the ones that interest them and come to you with someone they have found.
Once a suitable partner is found the Muslim families should not “playa hate’ and make the marriage process hard; but should speed it up if both parties are suitable for marriage. In my opinion, the best time for this to occur is in the teenage years from the age of 16 to 19 depending on which state or country you live in (21 at the latest).
Allah has put a natural sexual desire within humans and this is a good thing. Our children are living in a world full of moral and secular perversion and are not immune to the world around them. It is best if we help and facilitate the halal fulfillment of their natural sexual desires as opposed to being a force that drives them to the haram.
There have been Muslim communities who have practiced this type of marriage for years and in America all of them have been indigenous and working-class (and black). Groups that have practiced include Salafis, the community of Jamil al-Amin, the Muslims of America, and many other Muslims across America with a love for the Sunnah and a disdain for the social norms of this society.
Sometimes such arrangements have worked; but many times they have failed miserably. The failures have often occurred when the marriage was allowed for sexual reasons but the young couple were not taught other things such as responsibility.
If a teenage couple gets married and both of them remain living with their parents and they visit each other on the weekends, yes they are having halal sex, but the boy may not be learning some important things about supporting a family. If he is able to have sex and not pay any bills and live at home and be a little boy with his parents and then act like a man in between the sheets when he is with his wife he may get the lesson that Muslim women are cheap and as a man all he has to do is penetrate.
The parents may accept this when he is a teenager and think once he is grown he will start behaving responsibly and want to move out and get a home for wife and children and be a righteous husband. But, I know of situations where the guy never leaves his parents home, the girl gets pregnant and stays with her mother, and all the marriage is becomes sex with no responsibility. This just becomes another nuance in the prevalence of lazy good for nothing men in the American-Muslim community who may claim to be “students of knowledge” or “working in the path”.
I am for early marriage; but it must be done right. If the boy wants to get married, he has to get a job, and his money has to go towards the bills. He saves his money and when the couple is of age they move and get their own place. This takes care of their sexual desires and teaches them responsibility.
We should raise our Muslim children thinking about marriage and them bringing us Muslim grandchildren from day-one and that is why it is important to raise children in an area geographically conducive to this goal.
Yet, even with the best effort, and the hard work of many, there will always be more good girls than boys. The warrior spirit within the boy can lead him to greatness or it can lead him to be a crack-dealer. The big ideas of the young man can lead him to be brilliant or a deadbeat playing video games on his mothers couch.
At this time and for the foreseeable future there will be many more good sisters out there than brothers. This means that without the Islamic institution of polygamy practiced in the American-Muslim community many sisters will remain single.
Because Muslims today are influenced by the social norms and secular thought of the society they have grown to look at polygamy with distaste and as something vulgar. It is not just progressive Muslims who attack polygamy; but even those who label themselves “traditional” and who are on the defensive are bashful.
Well, I am not bashful, far from being vulgar polygamy is a beautiful thing. The Muslim brother engaged in polygamy, if he does it responsibly and according to the Sunnah, is not engaged in something vulgar but is engaged in something noble. The sister who is a co-wife is not oppressed, backwards, or inferior to the sister who is not a co-wife; rather she is an ambassador of the Sunnah and her level of faith has been increased by being in such a union.
The concept of step-fathers and step-mothers is un-Islamic; so Muslim brothers marrying sisters with children do not become their fathers, but they can become role-models and their tutors to manhood. Because there are not enough good brothers around, if polygamy is not practiced, many Muslim boys and girls will grow up without father figures, if the mothers reject polygamy as an option and brothers abdicate their responsibility to the community.
Without polygamy being practiced on a widespread level I do not see a solution to the male-female imbalance in our community. Those who reject polygamy off hand need to ask themselves what is informing their opinion? Something Islamic or something secular? Do they fear Allah or do they fear rejection from this society?
Brothers should not look at polygamy as sexual adventurism, although it cannot be denied there are sexual benefits for the brother, but rather should see this as a responsibility that he has to shoulder because other brothers are not doing their job. The sister has needs and without those upright brothers taking care of her needs what is she left to do?
Sisters should not look at their good husbands and want to hoard them from the community. This is a form of oppression to your sisters. You know that there are more good sisters than brothers and that many Muslim children are in bad situations because their mothers need a man in their life to fulfill their needs; so instead of practicing jealousy and possessiveness why don’t you practice love for your sisters and their children and wanting for them what you want for yourself?
Polygamy is a test for the Muslim in America. If you reject polygamy outright it tells me something about your level of eeman and your relationship to the Sunnah and if you responsibly engage in it then a message is also given. There was a time when I said that maybe polygamy was not a good idea in America; but that was before the gay-marriage movement and gays marrying one another in unsanctioned ceremonies throughout America. If they are allowed to engage in what is evil and was reprehensible to the Prophets (s.a.s.) should we not have the courage to practice what was brought by them for the sake of our children and community?
Polygamy should be practiced in a responsible way only with responsible brothers. I am not promoting the brothers with no jobs and two wives on welfare or who are working to support his lazy butt while he is “studying”.