Marriage: To Wait or not to Wait, That is the Question
By Baiyinah Siddeeq
The above is a quote from a young Muslim woman pursuing what she calls her "education." Unfortunately, her strong dedication to finishing the Western undergraduate and graduate university "education" system reflects the ever-growing trend among young Muslims in this society: to wait until they posses a "degree" before entertaining the prospect of marriage. What is even more grim is the fact that these young Muslims' parents reflect the same diseased ideology.
Marriage has Become a Bad Word
Somehow, the Western system of "education" has replaced Islam as the central priority in Muslims' lives. This blind dedication to obtaining a degree is so ingrained in the Muslim family that if a daughter herself is interested in marriage, the parents will forbid the matrimony solely on the grounds that she must finish school. Thus, marriage has virtually become a bad word in several Muslim circles if that word "marriage" is at all connected with the marriage of a "daughter" who has not finished "school," i.e. "college." Of course, if she has not finished high school, marriage is beyond undesirable; it is unthinkable.
Such counterproductive thought processes are contributing to the breakdown of the Muslim ummah, and they are preventing the true establishment of Islam in our society and lives.
Every society has a foundation, and that foundation is the family. If we Muslims value obtaining Western college degrees more than we value establishing the foundation for an Islamic society, what does this say for the future of our ummah? Furthermore, what does it say about our claim that we are indeed Muslims?
It goes without saying that there is benefit to holding a college degree, but when weighed against the benefit of marriage, which is half of our religion, marriage heavily outweighs it. Thus, when we see that in the hearts and minds of Muslims the benefits or "urgency" of a college degree outweighs marriage, there is something seriously wrong in our ummah not to mention our thinking.
Although, on the surface, the issue of education versus marriage seems complex, the explanation for this phenomenon is actually quite simple: our basic values lie not in the akhira (Hereafter) but in the dunya (wordly life). Whenever we are presented with an order from Allah or His Messenger (i.e. marriage), we fulfill that order only in so much as it does not prevent us from attaining the glitter of the dunya. For many of us, if the order inconveniences our dunya too much, we ignore the order all together -- hence, the quote above. For most of us, if something must give -- dunya or akhira -- the choice is simple: akhira goes first. Hence, we have the prioritizing of school versus marriage.
Preoccupation with Age
Another phenomenon prevalent in our ummah that is weakening the foundation of our Islamic society (the family) and serves as a ground to delay marriage is Muslims' ever growing fascination with a chronological number attached to each person because that person happened to be born on a particular day in a particular year, commonly termed "age."
Somehow, we have internalized the Western definition of "childhood" and "adulthood" so much so that we frequently refer to our young adult children of marriageable age as "children" or "too young" to marry. Both the labeling of adults as "children" and the excuse that adults are "too young" to marry are phenomena that are not only new to Islam but are inventions of the modern age in general. [Editor's note: dare we forget the ages of many of the sahaabah? How Usama bin Zaid led an army in his teens, and how we had "teenage" mujaahideen?].
And just as we follow the people of the world into the "lizard hole" of "education," we follow our modern teachers (who have replaced the Prophet (saw) as our example) into the "lizard hole" of obsession with age. And just as holding a college degree has become the single most important accomplishment of the young Muslim and her family, so has age become the most significant determinant of whether or not a person is "ready" to marry.
The question is, what do we do about it? First, we must reclaim our Islamic identity and reevaluate our purpose on this earth. When we do this honestly, we will discover that our purpose here is very straightforward: to establish Islam in our lives and then in the world at large. Everything else, such as attending a local university and obtaining a college degree, falls under the category of "accessories," i.e. "not necessary." Thus, when a Muslim is faced with the prospect of marriage, which falls under the category of "establishing Islam," there should be no hesitation, and any desired "accessory" should be pursued only in so far as Islam is pursued. As a result, there is the possible scenario of, yes, a "young married college student," or dare I say, "young married high school student."
The benefits of marrying are enormous, and those benefits increase when marriage occurs sooner rather than later. Guarding the chastity of our youth and encouraging the birth of several children for the growth of this ummah [not to mention the fact the marriage creates an ideal scenario for man and woman to increase their chances of entering Paradise and fulfill half of their religion] are serious benefits that Muslim parents and youth need to reconsider.
Let us reclaim Islam for ourselves and share it with the world, and let us start in the home by encouraging young men and young women to marry. Let us redefine "education" and "adulthood" based upon Qur'an and Sunnah. And may Allah bless us to please Him while we are on this earth through establishing Islam in every aspect of our lives without hesitation, and may we attain Paradise, our goal. Ameen