BY KHADIJAH BAWAZEER
Last year, the ministry of justice revealed that there were 148,000 marriages and 31,000 divorces plus 3,449 cases of annulment of marriage in court. This makes about 406 marriages for 85 divorces daily or a 21 percent divorce rate. Alarmists read such statistics as indicative of a terrible increase in divorce that has negative implications.
I do not find the rate alarming. First, we do not have previous long-term statistics that we can compare to the current divorce rate. Second, divorce was prevalent in the past but divorcees, women and men, got married again in no time at all. People got married very young once or twice and these marriages usually ended in divorce. The third and/or fourth marriages were usually more stable. So divorce was high but it was not a stigma. Furthermore, it was common that a man who had ever married would marry an older woman who had children from a previous marriage and vice versa.
Moreover, nowhere does the Qur’an tell us that divorce is the offense we tend to think it is. The divorce rate was high then - maybe even higher than now - and it is high now. The difference was that it was not perceived as a sign of moral shortcoming. When there was a need for it, it was simply accepted. The need did not mean a horrible life; it just meant that a husband and a wife did not want to stay together any longer.
Why should we ask people who are not happy in a marriage to stay in it? Instead we need to learn to be fair to each other and to cause no harm to the children. Primarily, it is children who are harmed by divorce. They lose their sense of security when their homes are shattered and, sometimes, they are hurt when one party in the divorce uses them to hurt the other.
In the past, the extended family protected children against abuse and isolation. In an extended family where the young were taken care of by older family members, children had more than one source of unconditional love and security so when one home was shattered, they could still find safety in the other home.
The Qur’an tells us that one parent should not use a child to bring pressure on the other because children should have free and equal access to both parents all the time. It is also stated in the Qur’an that children should not become pawns in a feud between their parents nor should a parent be deprived of his/her child to disempower him/her. The child’s welfare was paramount and when it was not possible for either parent to take care of the children of a broken marriage, grandparents on either side usually stepped in.
I have no intention of saying that life was perfect in the past. What I am saying is that we can recover situations that worked in the past. I want to point out that divorce is not the problem; the problem lies in the way we perceive divorce and the way we deal with children as an afterthought in divorce. This needs to be reconsidered.
— The writer can be reached at email@example.com