Getting Married: How Hard Can It Be?

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Topics: Marriage, Women Views: 10751

My husband and I recently tried to match-make a couple of our friends. Omar began telling his friend about a really nice woman we knew at 33, successful, beautiful. His first response was, "So, what's wrong with her? Why is she 33 and not married?" Looking at the 30-year-old man before me, my first thought was, "I could ask you the same thing." However, the reality set in that there's a double standard when it comes to the issue of age and marriage. 

Many Muslim women are successful lawyers, doctors, professors and journalists. They are outspoken and active in their Muslim and non-Muslim communities. They are intelligent and beautiful, and they are unmarried. The same women who are ambitious and focused on their academic and professional success are finding it difficult to find a suitable spouse.

Twenty years ago, as young Muslim boys and girls were being raised in the U.S., they were encouraged to excel academically and professionally. Parents placed a huge emphasis on education and hard work for both boys and girls. And apparently, they were taken seriously. Girls excelled and never felt they could not attain an education or a profession. They worked hard and succeeded as their parents had encouraged all those years. Now, these same women are in their twenties and thirties and the same parents are now pressuring them to get married.

Are women to blame for being ambitious and educated? Apparently so. Women seem to be penalized for their ambition. Once a young woman passes the age of 25 and remains single, she is considered "old" and often finds it difficult to find a suitable spouse.

Suddenly, others tell her that she has become too picky and her expectations of a husband are unrealistic and that she should hurry up and get married already. "There are some of us who went to college and are successful in our careers and we are not on a search and destroy mission to get married," says Suhad Obeidi, a 39-year-old former banking manager with an M.B.A. The reality is that Muslim women have worked hard for their education and careers and they will not give it all up in order to get married.

In recent decades, men have also become highly educated and progressive, and have even fought for women's rights and the elevation of women in Islam. However, while these men are impressed with a successful and active woman, they do not consider her "marriage material." Despite the elevation of women, many men have maintained traditional ideas as to the type of wife they seek. After all, they do not see anything wrong with the way their mother was.

Consciously or subconsciously, many men seek a wife who will fulfill the traditional role of a wife and mother and one who will maintain a traditional home life. She should be educated, but she should also be willing to put her education and career on a shelf while raising a family. These women in their late twenties and early thirties appear too established in their career and lifestyle and therefore, more difficult to marry because they will not fall into this traditional role.

Many American Muslim women want to be wives and mothers while at the same time be respected for their profession. "One big problem is that, rather than embrace her ambition and success, men simply tolerate it and expect something in return," says Nagwa Ibrahim, a 25-year-old activist seeking a career as a human and civil rights lawyer.

Current expectations of marriage have changed for women and become more aligned with the examples of women during Prophet Muhammad's lifetime. The Prophet's first wife, Khadija, was an established career woman who was 15 years older than her husband. Khadija was a very confident and successful woman who actually proposed to the 24-year-old Muhammad. Yet, the Prophet was not intimidated by her nor found her "unmarriageable." 

They maintained a strong marriage as she continued to be a businesswoman, as well as wife and mother. Prophet Muhammad and Khadija were married for 28 years, the longest of all his marriages. The year that Khadija died was also referred to as the Year of Mourning by Prophet Muhammad.

Many Muslim women seek not to compete with men, but rather to establish a partnership with their spouse. Ultimately, these women want to be cherished and loved in the same way that the Prophet loved Khadija. This type of partnership in marriage can only exist when both people are accepting and respectful of one another's ambitions and priorities in life.

Nagwa Ibrahim feels that men have succumbed to negative cultural stereotypes that are contrary to Islam when selecting a spouse. "We (Muslim women) are the way we are because we are trying to be good Muslims," she says. 

Thus, a partnership in marriage can only be developed when men and women really follow the principles of Islam and learn to communicate their expectations of marriage as well as be understanding of one another. 

Communication is vital to any successful marriage, but now more than ever, women must feel comfortable in expressing their expectations of marriage to a potential spouse and in return feel that they are being understood, respected and encouraged. 

This evolution will happen once we see more modern examples of successful Muslim men and women getting married and further benefiting society by their union. Educated Muslim men and woman will only improve our Muslim communities by expecting the best from everyone, be they men or woman.

Beginning in the homes, parents need to nurture their children by encouraging them that they can have both worlds and that they can be successful in their career and marriage. Muslim women can have a huge impact on the future by modeling the multi-faceted woman of Islam to their children.

Therefore, when their daughters grow up, they will aspire to be women of excellence and ambition. Additionally, when their sons become men, their expectations and views of a suitable wife will include a partnership with an intelligent and successful Muslim woman. With further education and communication, men and women can understand and respect one another's roles in society and in the home, which will ultimately benefit future generations of Muslims.

Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine is the author of Before the Wedding: 150 Questions for Muslims to Ask Before Getting Married.


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  1. Staff

    This is a test comment by Mustafa. Delete it when you get it.

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  2. Danielle Bennett from USA

    Thank you for this article sister I really appreciate it. I myself is 28 years old with a young daughter and recently converted this year. I found that while going further in my education and also trying to find a husband that I have much against me. Many have told me that because Im not pure, been touched, not from the culture and older that it will be hard for me to marry. I have been told on several occassions that it would be best to stick with my own kind. This has hurt me very much and I became rather confussed about why people mix culture and the expectations under Islam. As a woman that has found peace within my heart for Islam, I have found the many problamatic ignorant behaviors amongst society esp. in the U.S. This makes me feel rather worthless and disposiable. Being told its ok to be Muslim but basicly stay away from our men has been really painful to endure. I ask for peace inshallah and all praises be to Allah that will provide me and my daughter with what he feels is fit.

  3. Princess from India

    Asalaam aliakum sister,

    I really liked reading your article. Iam 28 and face the same

    situation..I hope the society changes. My parents are wonderful as they never let me feel that I am older.May Allah bless them with all good things in life.I was allowed to concentrate on my career. guided me throughout not to fall prey to any guy at work or go for any unislamic party. Alhamdullilah ! Allah was guarding me as I used to work in the night shift and I hear lot of talks about girls working in the night. I had a lovely atmosphere in my office , lot of security for girls as well.

    the only point is that most guys feel I am over aged..Insha Allah as

    they say Allah is great. He is the knower and planner of all things..

    I really liked your article.. please dont publish my comments on the site . this is only for the writer...

    Allah Hafiz

  4. Muhammad Sabiu Hassan from Nigeria

    Assalamu Alaikum

    I new that I am speaking to the general umah i.e muslim brothers and sisters, by reminding us the hadith of the prophet (S.A.W) that who so ever get the means should get married. On these there are many logicality and reasons to consider on the prophet s.a.w sayings as well as .....

  5. Rashida N. Muhammad from Unitited States

    I agree with the article, however I would like to add my own personal experience with a few comments. I think first and foremost we must put Allah first in all endeavors. I have worked as an accountant for well over 25 years in corporate settings. As a wife and mother of three children most of thoes years working in corporate America were not pleasant. I found myself many times having to decide between the best interests of my family or the corporation. I think if a woman has a career she should be in control of her work environment. I finally decided to open my own business and that has been much better for me and my family.

  6. Hanan from US

    The key point is RESPECT. Respect other's views and interests. Is society will change? No!

  7. Maryam Abdi from Kenyan

    Assalamu aleikum sisters/brothers,

    All whats written in the article is true, being a Somali Muslim its hard to reach the age of over 25 yrs and not married but I believe everything happens when Allah SWT plans. I am a career Muslim woman who is very successful with the help of the loving husband who married me at the age of 31 years. I trust times are changing but one thing is for sure "marriage comes when Allah Subhana Watallah ordains it whether you plan to marry early or late. So dear sisters take heart, pray to Allah and respect yourself and inshallah biithmilaahu karrim your soul-mate will come.

    Waaliekum Salam.

  8. Brahim from USA

    I like this article but I see that muslim women are bias. They only like to marry their own kind, and they only want someone with Phd. That is why most muslims in the states are single and find hard time to meet their match. I have been looking for a spouse (any spouse) for many many years but found nothing. Why? Because I don't have a Phd. Thank you

  9. OtherSide from USA

    Too often, blame is put directly and indirectly on men in regards to educated women not finding a mate. It is true mainly and importantly in the regard that muslim men marry non-muslim women while women do not marry non-muslim men in the same numbers. In addition, unmarried educated women is not a muslim world phenomenon but a cross-cultural issue. Women need to consider that they must marry a less educated/wealthy man if they are to marry at all. There are other problems with this article but life is too short to go into them all.

  10. amir from USA

    It's very hard. Most people live and born in USA. My question? Every body knows this problem. How we solve the problem? For ex.: I'm now 33 old I never married. But I'm allways looking for muslim women. In USA most man and women to much buss.

  11. Dr. Aminu Muhammad Sani from ng

    What can we in Nigeria do to help our sisters over there in such condition.We are to be our sisters keeper and we are ready to take hands of such in marriage. How can we lead such an examples to prove to those with the negative ideas on such successful sisters of ours.

  12. Minhaj from USA

    Dear Author,

    I understand the sentiments of women in your article who want to be successful in career and family. However theres a saying that goes like "In order to gain something you will have to loose some thing". Here the question is what is more important to an individual. Obviously you can`t sit in two boats to reach shore. One need to set priorities,

    1) If career is weighed high then the focus on family is low, that is a downfall for proper child upbringing.

    2) Men often let their wife work depending on which sector she can be employed due to economic condition. If he is making good income what is a need for her to struggle in a place with non- mahrem.

    3) Generally career women often tend to be more selective, assertive and demanding so her choices are limited.

    Lastly "Men likes to marry young women" Either you like it or not. its truth, ask any men you get the same answer.

    Thanks

  13. Sumi from Greece

    Assalmu Alaikum,

    This article is good but it brings up a lot of issues. Quite frankly I'm tired of hearing fertility and pressure on women to have children. The bottom fact is let love came naturally. If two people love each other then let Allah handle the rest and let them live in harmony and work out differences. The husband should respect the woman if she wants to work or not. If she does and they have kids, they must work out a way to handle work or at least have her stay home for a while especially if she has a baby and time to relax a little bit! There will be some compromises made but communication is a must. While it is true it's easier to have kids at a younger age, people have kids at all different ages and every child is a gift from Allah. It's time for Muslims to respect each other for who they are and respect each other's intellect because it's all a gift from Allah. Marriage should be based on love and love for Islam. There has to be mutual respect for both to begin a marriage. Age is just a number because it's who you are in your heart that is most important in the end. Inshallah I wish the best for all sisters and brothers on the path for marriage!

  14. Siddeeque Zainuddeen from KSA

    I have read this beautiful article and the related comments. All the comments were beneficial in one or another way.

    I have six sisters whom are graduates. Only one of them have got a graduate husband. My father prefered religiousity over graduation. So all of my sisters got good husbands and are leading happy married life. Unlike many educated boys in India, who ask huge dowry for marriage, none of my brother-in-laws asked dowry.

  15. Riz from Usa

    As a young male considering marriage at this stage in my life,

    I find my self more attracted to an equally ambitious or more

    so successful woman as I am. We need to grow our intellect

    as a community to give ourselves strength and identy. One of

    the best ways to do that is by considering our ambitious

    Muslim woman for marriage. They have worked hard to

    create an identy for themselves we should respect it learn

    from it and grow. We face so many challenges these days we

    need to be strong to be able to get through them. The only

    way we can do it is by being united and accepting others.

  16. Tawakalitu from Nigeria

    Jazakalahu khairan. May Allah be praised. This is a very beautiful write-up. My sisters and I are good example of this difficulty that moslem women are going through. It is a real problem. Alhamdulilai we are all settled in our different matrimonial homes now but not with some compromises. I hope and pray that this piece of good work will get to as many a moslem as possible in order to effective a positive change in the orientation of our menfolk.

  17. Miss lali from FRANCE

    Marriage its 50% of the religion.

    Don't forget yourself in the education because that will give you honor and money, but it will never give you happiness. You are telling people to be succesful in this life rather than telling them the sunnah of the prophet. Fitnah is in everywhere now these. Let me tell you that mens used to work for Kadija, please learn your religion first because you are being a fitnah for the young girls who wants to be married please my sister delete THIS ARTICLE I dont want my daugthers or their friends to read this.

  18. zainab from Nigeria

    I whole heartedly agree with the writer of the article and thank her for it. Women no matter their age, profession or social status want to marry and are willing to abide by the dictates of that union. It is unfortunate that the same men that appear to admire successfull women turn out to be too insecure to marry these women. We all know the criteria for choosing a spouse, so why not apply it and stop hiding behind artificial fears. If marriage was held in the same regard as it was during the Prophets's (PBUH) time and if we approached marriage in the same manner these problems wouldn't arise.

  19. Abdur Rashid from United States

    Prophet Muhmmad(saw) stated a women is married for four reasons her beauty, social status, wealth and Taqwa. So marry a woman of Taqwa. So it's very clear that the Prophet(saw) made it clear a woman of taqwa is the reason a man should marry a woman not the other three reason

  20. Hanan from Italy

    Fertility doesn't only decrease in women but also in men, why exclude someone because of age. I just turned 49 and have a dughter aged 3 years - so just because you're over 30 doesn't mean you can't have children. All the suys out there desperate for having "many" kids should perhaps start thinking about all the unwanted kids waiting to get a loving home 🙂

  21. Asif from US

    Plus if women have children at an older age there is a greater chance of child having problems - just a medical fact.

    For myself, I was very clear.... I wanted someone at least 5yrs younger than me. More would have been better. Plus I don't want a woman married to her job - shes got to be married to me. I see women who are at work and after a little time, you can see their mannerism (talk, behavior, walking style) mimics a man. I don't want to go home and snuggle to a man - give me a woman !!

    There are tradeoffs when a woman choses a career.

    And before someone reminds about bibi Khadija, let me also say that she didn't go do her work - she hired men (among them the prophet) to do her work.

  22. MS from USA

    I feel compelled to write again in answer to some commentators who happen to be male and who are putting the load on "children". I would like to question how many males decided not to divorce their wives because of children and how many females did that. There would surely be a disproportionate women who sacriced for their children. So please don't say child-bearing should be a top priority. If you produce one good child, give him a good education, then that is better than 10 ill mannered ones. In religious history prophet Ibrahim's wife Sarah got a child in her old age, as did Zakariah's. What does that teach us? And prophet Muhammed's (pbuh) first Sunnah- shouldn't it be not to reject an older woman? I'm not saying don't marry young- that's obviously the aim, but I'm saying don't promote a culture of degrading an older unmarried woman who definitely in her heart wants to be married but something in her life prevented that. Who knows Allah may hugely reward the man who does marry an older woman. Show some muslim spirit- set an example...

  23. Mizz Abdi from canada

    This article is beautiful, but its true that you should get married while your still in your early 20's it wouldn't cause you any harm but do you good

    and if your like just say 35 and your not married it would be hard to settle in and may allah only know how long your going to live any longer , get up and get married!!!!

  24. Babandi A, Gumel from U.K

    As reported in Hadith a person marries a woman because of four things either because of her wealth or because of her beauty or because of her genealogy (parentage from respectable family)or because of her religion.So you should marry her because of her Deen you may be blessed this is what the Prophet taught us.Question of age does not arise the Prophet (S.A.W) mmarried his first wife Khadija when she was 40 years old and the Prophet was only 25 and they were blessed with so many children.In addition Khadijah was the first believer in the whole Ummah i.e to accept Islam.Therefore the question of marrying a sister who is older is absurd as is not linked to the true teachings of the Prophet.The most immportant thing we should always consider is if the woman is Denious (religious) then a person will be blessed as the Prophet has prophesised.Paradise is under the feet of a mother so we must respect the sisters.What is the use if they come to Deen and nobody cares for them it is our collective responsibility to take care of our sisters similarly the wife should equally look after her husband to win the pleasure of her Creator.

  25. Mujtaba Ali from USA

    as salamu alaikum,

    The age factor for a woman is a true reality. As

    a woman ages, her fertility reduces gradually.

    The number of eggs she has left in her ovaries

    decreases and they become of "lesser quality". A

    woman who gets pregnant after the age of 35 is

    medically labeled as being of "advanced maternal

    age" due to the relative high risk of pregnancy

    at this age and higher.

    It is natural for a man to have many children and

    he will consequently want to marry a younger

    woman due to the longer fertile window period

    that is available.

    Why is it natural for a man to desire many

    children? The Qur'an provides an answer to this

    question in Surah Al-Kahf (18:46) saying, "Wealth

    and children are an ornament of the life of the

    world." However, Allah swt also reminds us in the

    same ayah, "but the good deeds which endure are

    better in thy Lord's sight for reward, and better

    in respect of hope."

    The parents of a young woman should help her by

    finding a suitable husband who would be willing

    to support her education/career if she desires to

    pursue those goals after marriage. Similarly, an

    educated and professional young man should be

    more open minded about finding a wife who matches

    him in education and profession. Having common

    educational/professional backgrounds certainly

    aids in greater compatibility between the

    spouses.

    One should also keep in the mind that the main

    criteria in finding a spouse should be

    religiosity.

  26. MS from USA

    Mr notthecase, I sympathise with you that this article was not written by 2 authors, a male and a female. But I think that would be outside the focus that is being illuminated which is that: IT IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY HARD IN THIS DAY & AGE FOR WOMEN TO FIND SUITABLE HUSBANDS. Why? The question is not what critera to look out for, but why are a thirty something or above being rejected based on age. Most of this category women for whatever reason have focussed on education; perhaps their fathers' households back home were dysfunctional and they wanted to escape the unreasonability. Allah said don't just follow your fathers, use your own judgment. Leave, if you must, gracefully. READ/ IQRA. Means educate yourselves- both sexes. I am sure Allah loves an educated mind because it make them more aware of how Allah is the Sole Master of the entire creation. I agree with other commentators the advice: marry for Islam first but then what -reject the older one because of her age. I married someone younger and because our beloved prophet married an older lady, so I feel comfortable, not inferior. But our dear Muslim brothers nowadays have generally become complacent and weak-sighted to what is really beautiful in a spouse. This article highlights one aspect of our "seeking-marriage" problems. I encourage this kind of talk so that tomorrow it will help some sister (and brother) of ours and the world may be a happier, more stable place to live in. God bless our earth and mankind.

  27. Shuja Syed from Canada

    Double Standard? About what? What is the difference between man and woman? Why Allah (sbt) has created them differently? Why women have to bear the children? Not because of double standard! Women should marry at the early age because they are different than men since their longevity in terms of producing children and in other areas is restrictive than men. A man can have children at the age of 70 while normally women cannot have children after 40. In the same way, women get puberty at an early age while men has to wait little longer. This natural cycle is not because of discrimination or something, but it is designed by the Almighty Allah for the smooth functioning of the society. There is nothing to celebrate or cheer that some Muslim women are professional, beautiful and still unmarried. This is not a good trend. Of course, men should also marry at the right age.

    Sincerely.

  28. Khay from USA

    I agree with many of the statements made in this article. I have seen this happening in my community. I'm educated and had a career when I got married I gave it up. I used my skills without being outside of the home. It can be very fulfilling.

  29. Muhammad-Fawzi A. Amadu from Ghana

    An interesting article. We are Muslims and

    obeying ALLAH is our first and most important

    priority.

    A husband must live his life as per the

    priorities set by ALLAH and so must a wife. In

    Islam motherhood and being a spouse have their

    places in the list of priorities.

    Education is important and so are careers, but

    the question is if we have to juggle these at

    once where does Islam place the priority? The

    answers are there and provided by Islam and we

    must follow them.

    Much as I love my wife to pursue her medical

    career, I do not want to suffer emotionally

    because of her career. Also, I do not support the

    idea of her giving birth and handing the child

    over to someone else to take care off.

    Alhamdulil-lah there are ways around these

    situations and sometimes it has to do with

    foregoing the a preferred option to a lesser

    one (in the judgment of career experts, but not

    necessarily in the judgment of Islam).

    Rasulul-lah has taught us that when ALLAH closes

    one gate he opens others. And we us Muslims must

    look for those others rather than want to fit our

    lives within the status quo.

    May ALLAH guide us.

  30. Hajjah Alaisa Mukasa from Uganda

    Assalaam aleikum.

    Munira, your article surely addresses issues that most moslem women face today. I agree that women should have an education and also be able to benefit moslems and other people with the knowledge they have acquired. I also beleive that we marry for love and companionship and must therefore respect and value each other in our homes and in public. I also believe that we as good wives must respect our husbands and at a certain degree must submit to our husbands given that men are more egotistic that women and that is why Allah gave them a degree of superiority over women especially concerning marital affairs. Women are strong in some ways whereas men are strong in others. Marry someone you believe with all your heart will make you happy and fulfill all your desire more especially the emotional and physical desires as material desires to me are not as important. There is nothing as feeling lonely yet you are married. And like Munira said you must be able to communicate with your husband your most intimate thoughts about anything without any fear for marriage to be enjoyable and longlasting.

    I can go on and on about work, marriage and Islam. The point is Love, respect and be a companion for your partner, then you will not be threatened by your wife's success and you will not think that preparing a home cooked meal for your husband every now and then is too much for your educated mind.

  31. swdr from usa

    People need to choose a spouse for their adherence to islam, not their profession, or their looks or their bloodline. This is in the hadith. When people make their own criteria, they'll always be disappointed. Perhaps their intentions made Allah swt withold his mercy on the marriage. People can be educated yet islamically void. When two people don't follow islamic guidence we see disagreements and breakdown. Women should be professionals, but at the same time educated in islam (just like men).

    I am a physician practising muslima. My husband is a physican practising muslim. Alhamdulillah.

  32. notthecase from usa

    This article is written from a woman's point of view (obviously). As a male, I can say that many men have gone out of their way to accommodate the career-related and other needs, desires, and expectations of their wives (or potential wives in the case of those still seeking). Unfortunately, it is taken for granted. Unmarried (and married women) have many expectations which are unrealistic or impractical.

  33. MS from USA

    I did not read all article but I sure agree that professional women have it hard whether they "marry at par" or below them. They first are questioned as if it were a sin to be old and not married, not looked upon kindly for any years they spent in education etc. Men, I find are broadly selfish and look at the physical beauty as the top criteria. But marriage is so personal, how can one educate the community who to love? But I think we still can because love is not only inborn, it is cultivated and nurtured. And respect the other person and give each other our true rights. If we can remind ourselves and follow what our obligations are as set by Allah, I think our time on earth will be pleasant and worthwhile.

  34. AS from Nigeria

    What's up sis munira? Want have your cake and eat it? No way.

    The time of Khadija (RA) was a time when there was no 'Womens' libration movements' No struggle by the women to be 'equal' to men. They (the sahabas) knew that men and women are equal but different. So a man can be 18 and married to a 50 yr old, she will still be a wife to him, taking care of his household and obeying his instructions... But what do we have today? the 21st century AD all are turning away from the basic principles set out by Allah for marriage relatioinship and the dos and donts set out both for men and women in such relationship. So a thirty yr old boy is afraid of getting involve with a 33 yr old woman who had to have Bsc MSc and PHD before she thinks of marriage!

    What's wrong with the girl finishing all her degrees in the husband's house under the watcful eyes of both parents and the man's supervision? Nay. 'what a man can o a woman can do better' is the adage now , so the woman must go tthroug her education like any other man, do whatever men do outside the home (in the universities/societies)and stil hope to meet Mr. right for marriage after.

    My advise to my brothers is please marry your children to faithful partners immediately you reach the age of puberty. Let them finish their education in their husband's homes. Afterall many men are out there looking for such arrangements which is one the solutins to the moral decadence we are going through in this era.