If there’s one thing that I am grateful for since my divorce, it is the return of total independence in my life. I mean independence from another human being. That is not to suggest that I suffered miserable subjugation at the hands of another. However, it is true that whilst I was married, I gave up a huge part of myself and let another person lead the way and dictate our direction in life. Perhaps that is not unusual in any marriage. It is called compromise, though, arguably, women do it more than men.
Since my former husband and I parted ways, I have learnt to restore control over my own life and major decisions. To the best of my abilities, those decisions are circumscribed by my faith and identity as a Muslim. The consciousness with which I need to be aware of my relationship with Allah has been heightened, Alhamdulillah. I can no longer rely on someone else to steer myself and my children into the realm of religiosity. As a by-product of the new situation I find myself in, I have had to protect my emotional state too. This is because without a sound mental existence I would be unable to make financial decisions, support my children through their spiritual and academic journeys and learn to run a household at all levels.
I no longer have the protection of and reliance on another person – the one person who I never expected to disappoint so many people so extraordinarily. Being left exposed, as such, I have had to raise my emotional defences even higher. The drawbridge has been lifted. The fortress of my mind is under guard.
Divorce has brought with it cynicism about many (but not all) Muslim men. I am aware that is an unfortunate stance but it is born out of too many negative experiences and encounters. No doubt, people will say I am simply bitter. On the contrary, my opinion is the result of personal empirical evidence garnered over years.
Perhaps the worst offenders are those men who purport to serve as bastions of Islam. They are all too ready to educate the rest of us about religion. However, these same people are not able to stand criticism of their own actions. Religion is something they dispense to others. At best, when they speak, it proves their oblivion to the innate female disposition. At worst, they have utter contempt. Sadly, they have hijacked religion to suit their own male agenda and needs.
When I was notified of divorce through an emotionless email, I realised I was never, not once, given the opportunity to at least express my version of events. My right to at least be heard by the two male witnesses, even if the outcome would not have changed, was never offered to me. This is the least courtesy that I could have been afforded before the gavel came down upon my marriage. It begs the question: “Is the singular perspective of a man, on his own marriage, all that is required for the portentous decision to allow it to be dissolved?”
As such, I felt like I had been taken to a slaughterhouse and thrown out as a carcass to rot. I may as well not have been a human. However, I do not decry my fate of divorce. Alhamdulillah, I accept Allah wants the best for me. I do, however, complain to the men about how it was delivered. Given the gravity of such a life-changing decision, it is important for others to recognise that sometimes the end does not justify the means.
This brings me to another thought… A lot of publicity is given for women to be trained in physical self-defence in the event of an attack. However, less is said about the emotional self-defence a woman must prepare herself for in life. I learnt this lesson late. Too many women are not taught their right to speak or to politely dissent. To compromise no end or be silent are the alleged hallmarks of a great woman. The corollary is that to go against these traits must be a sign of deviation from Islamic teachings. Right?
In the years since my divorce, I have taught myself emotional self-defence. I have begun to discern the difference between male bigotry vs. altruistic concerns. Women – you need to protect your mental state. A good place to start is to know the tenets of your Islamic faith. Weed out the cultural nonsense. Find your voice. Be masters of your own financial status. Know that your own dreams are worth pursuing. Your goals are just as important as anyone else’s. Sacrificing it all for the sake of others, even the children, can create resentment that manifests itself years later. It is so important that a woman’s personal goals remain alive and run parallel to everyone else’s. The myth that it’s OK if she stagnates as the ultimate act of altruism is absurd.
The beauty of living independently is that I now govern my own life – from the everyday tedious things to the larger, longer-term decisions. The only person I need to please is Allah – not the irrational whims of another human. Using my own experience, I would like to educate women to let them know that life is not a guaranteed straight road. Around every bend, there will be a surprise. Chances are you will run into a head-on collision with the very person you put your total trust in. Be prepared. Always.