The plight of the single woman
“Are you married?”
I am a twenty-six year old Muslim-Australian of Lebanese heritage. I am a psychologist who works in public mental health. I have graduated with a bachelor’s degree, a diploma and a master’s degree. I have also received multiple scholarships. But, all this means nothing. I am a failure. That’s right, I’m single!
In Australia, the statistics indicate that on average one in three marriages end in divorce and people are getting married at an older age. It also suggests that there are more women then there are men. So finding a suitable partner is a challenge. But that’s not the real problem at hand.
Two years ago I bumped into an old classmate. They were asking me how I was and what I had been up to. After I explained that I had finished my tertiary studies and landed a job they asked me the typical question: “Are you married?” I answered no and was flabbergasted by what happened next.
She held my hand and with misguided sympathy said, “It’s okay, you’ll find someone soon Insha’Allah [God willing].”
It was at that moment that I realised that none of my achievements meant anything because I’m a single Muslim female. Since this event it’s dawned on me that many others in the Muslim community share my classmate’s viewpoint; that being a single female is indeed a pitiful scenario.
I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a household that values education and good character. Unlike many of my friends, I have never had any pressure to get married from my family. For my parents my success is measured by my level of independence, my work ethic, helping out others, achieving my personal goals and having the confidence to stand up for what I believe in. This is why I’m talking about a topic that I believe is imperative for the Muslim community to discuss.
I am surrounded by incredible women who are the most hard-working, inspiring and generous individuals. The women I know have struggled to excel in their respective professions and in their personal lives. The women I know are strong, intelligent and warm. But, many of them are single. Time and time again I have heard women telling me that they don’t feel like they are going in the right direction in their lives because they are single. Despite their achievements, they are put down by their families and by people around them and in turn, they internalise these views.
Enough is enough.
Yes, Islam highlights the importance of completing half your deen [religion]but it is essential to be mindful of Allah’s divine decree: “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us; He is our Protector. And upon Allah let the believers rely.” [Quran 9:51]
Furthermore, crucial to Islam is the acquisition of knowledge: “Allah will exalt in rank those of you who believe and those of you have knowledge.” [Quran 58:11]
As well as being of good character: “Nothing is heavier upon the scale of the believer on the Day of Resurrection than his good character.” [Tirmidhi]
So before you ask a woman “Are you married?”, think about the meaning behind that question. A Muslim woman’s success is NOT measured by her relationship status. It’s time that this outrageous idea is put to bed.