Unsticking the Stigma

Looking at the blog title, it should not come as a surprise that my topic today is about Divorce.  Yes, I say Divorce with a capital ‘D’.  This is because the impact of it can’t be overemphasised. Why am I still dwelling on this topic given it’s been almost five years since that decisive turning point in my life? 

The truth is, a momentous event such as Divorce lives with you forever.  Yes, you can – and do – rebuild your life in many ways, but the ramifications of it linger much longer than the actual deed itself.  However, on this occasion, I don’t wish to talk about my own personal experience.  I have returned to this inescapable subject only because I recently have been reading online stories of Muslim women who are either on the brink of Divorce or have just gone through one.  Although nobody’s experience is identical, their personal stories resonate with me to a lesser or greater extent.  My heart secretly weeps for those who are still trying to figure out what went wrong or, worse still, are still making excuses for their husbands who deserve anything but that.  I ask myself, “Where did these women lose their grip on their own identities and become subsumed by another human being?” Will they understand that life will continue and that things may even be better without the bane of their frustrations?”

Somewhere in their marriages, over the years, it is clear their main purpose in life has diminished to being a subservient entity in the service and at the whims of their husbands.  I speak not with the emotions of a furious feminist or a misaligned misandrist.  I speak from a place of being able to recognise a little bit of my past self in these women.  If only I could convince them they will be fine if Divorce is indeed the fate written for them.

Sometimes Seeing is Not Believing

This is why I write here in my personal space within this blog.  I always hope that I can elevate someone’s spirits and let them know that my conversation, though not addressing them directly, is anything but impersonal.  I am talking to all my bereaved sisters who may feel that empathy and sympathy from others have run dry. 

I strongly believe that coming to terms with Divorce is not just about the emotional and financial readjustments one has to make with life.  Some of us women, for some bizarre reason, even skip that scenario and fast forward to questions about how we are going to face society.  Culture teaches us to fret about irrelevant matters first:  “How do we explain what went wrong?  Who will have sympathy with us? Where shall I say my ex-husband is now?”  In a cruel world, we women become the victim twice.  The first is when we and our children are abandoned by our husbands.  The second, arguably even more unjustifiable, is when we are abandoned by wider society.  In the immediate aftermath of Divorce, we carry the burden of guilt or shame for not being ‘good enough’ to hold onto our husbands because, of course, had we ‘done things right’, these men would never have left us in the first place.  Right?  Meanwhile, the reputation of most men who initiate Divorce on dubious grounds, remains intact.  They were simply exercising their right to leave.  It was nothing more, nothing less.  A “Get out of Jail Free” card. 

How does one even measure the ‘immediate aftermath’ of Divorce?  I know, for myself, I perhaps have only just exited it after four or so years.  Admittedly, how I arrived at this peculiar conclusion is because I now know I can confidently say, “I am Divorced,” and do not flinch any more or feel a strange contortion of my face when I utter those words.  I have been peeling the stigma away until it has finally washed off, Alhamdulillah

I am not going to live the remainder of my life as a pariah.  I already know the discrimination I face, subtle or direct, as a Muslim, a person of colour, and a woman.  I refuse to let Divorcee be another label to be brandished with, not least by those in my inner circle who should be protecting me from any derision.  Intrinsically, I have not changed since becoming a single person again.  If a society only deals with a woman favourably through the lens of marriage, then that society has not progressed at all.  Unfortunately, it is also the reason why many women remain trapped in loveless marriages all for the sake of being able to feel validated with the title of ‘wife’.

I take comfort from my own Islamic heritage and the knowledge of the Seerah (the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him).  I am reminded of the early Muslims and how Islam never denigrated the status of a divorced Muslim woman.  The first and most beloved of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wives, Khadijah (one of the Mother of the Believers), was herself divorced and yet he did not let this deter him from marrying her.   There are many other examples in Islamic history too numerous to mention here.

For now, I would like to say that, on behalf of all Muslim women out there, and others, I hold my head up high.  I will never allow myself or my children to be marginalised on account of being the inadvertent victims of another man’s whims.  Alhamdulillah, I understand it is up to me to define myself and not be defined.  I also know that I belong to Allah only and to Him is my return.

Surely We Belong to Allah and to Him we will return. Quran, 2:156

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