The Autopsy on my Marriage

One of the things that I have had to admit to myself in recent years, is that I had often mistakenly handed over the responsibility for my happiness to another human being, namely my other half.  BIG mistake.  

Today, I have that wonderful thing called ‘hindsight’ which allows me to answer some stark questions which I had asked myself back then.

For example:

  • Now that I was no longer a wife, what status did that leave me?  
  • Who would be responsible for me, my children, my happiness, my safety, my wellbeing?  
  • How was I going to face the world as a deemed failure?
  • Would society pity me or blame me?
  • How does someone move on?
  • Had the role of wife really subsumed everything else I had ever been?

That last question was perhaps, surprisingly, the one that resurfaced frequently in my mind.  Not so much because I didn’t know the answer.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I always knew I had an identity before marriage.  I existed in my own right before, during and after and it was that conviction that sustained me in my otherwise chaotic mind immediately following my divorce.

The fact that a Muslim woman should not take on her husband’s surname upon marriage speaks volumes about her right to exist alongside him and not become a part of him.  Perhaps it even hints at the impermanence of marriage itself.  Great female figures in Islamic history have not only been wives and mothers but they have simultaneously occupied so many other labels such as entrepreneur, warrior, educator and public orator.   These are not post C20th Muslim women but women around the prophet (peace be upon him) himself! 

The irony is that modern Muslims have forgotten the amazing legacy they inherited.  I now see that, like so many other women, I had fallen into an emotional dependence where my husband had become the source of my spiritual wellbeing.  Had I really pondered deeply over what those early Muslim women taught me, perhaps I would have had a healthier outlook on all the trials and tribulations of life.  However, the status quo of 18 years of marriage had inadvertently led me to give responsibility for all aspects of my wellbeing to someone else. It had blurred my vision of reality.  What was that reality?  That we encounter people along our own journey of life.  Some stay for the whole ride, some join us midway but many get off.   It is a fallacy to think that the route to bliss lies in the hands of another human being.  Maybe it is even a sort of arrogance on my part to expect them to want to commit their whole lives to me.  It is a lesson which many daughters would benefit from being taught by their mothers.  The book of life can end with “happily ever after” but the narrative that precedes that ending does not have to be the same each time.  

From my own experience, I have learnt that contentment in your lot is found only through knowing Allah.  In the vicissitudes of life, He is the only unwavering constant.    Human interdependencies are very much like spiders’ webs – complex but tenuous.  It doesn’t take much to dismantle them.  Our ties to any person, especially our spouses, are inherently tenuous not simply because of mortality itself but, because individuals themselves are always evolving in their own desires and aspirations.  Quite literally, it is a process that may lead to ‘uncoupling’.  I have learnt that post-divorce, I must not voluntarily throw myself onto the scrapheap of society.  There are a myriad of reasons to live even beyond a failed marriage.  Alhamdulillah (praise to Allah), I look forward to watching my children grow into young men and be part of their journeys and achievements.  Then there are my own personal goals, however big or small.  Where one door has closed, I have been able to walk through many others instead.

Islam teaches us that we belong to nobody except Allah, our Creator. That Quranic ayah (verse), like so many others, can only be understood in its entirety when life puts us through the grinder and delivers us on the other side of tribulations, wretched but strangely purified.  It is usually associated as a condolence to offer a grieving person after the death of a loved one.  Yet it is a truism that we should be mindful of at all times.  We were only ever destined to return to Allah.  We do not own anyone nor are we owned.   

So, whilst I no longer exist as a wife, I still exist nevertheless.  I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt and a friend.  I am still me.  With or without any of those labels, Allah has put me on this earth to live in a multi-dimensional way.  He created all of us as wonderfully complex and creative beings; it has always been our choice to exploit the best of us in any given situation.  So, as the pain of divorce ebbs and flows over time and the realisation that I actually have so many reasons to embrace this beautiful life, Alhamdulillah, (all praise be to Allah), I find myself silently carving out a new niche for myself.

In the post-mortem report of my marriage, records may point to natural causes for demise.  The truth is that sometimes we don’t have the answers we are looking for.  Nothing in life is guaranteed. 

Yet from the embers of that past life, I learnt the most valuable lesson of all – I needed validation from nobody but He who created me.   There are opportunities in every situation we are in, however seemingly difficult they may be.  However, recognising them must come from a place of gratitude first.   If we start from this base point, the only way is up.

The name, Mymotherhalf, is clearly a deliberate departure from ‘my other half’.  For me, motherhood forms a hugely significant part of my life; it is a label I cherish.   As it is, there is no longer ‘the other half’ in its commonly assumed sense.  I understand now that the other half always lay within me although I was searching for it in someone else.  I am my other half.  How I wish to express that part of my identity is for me alone to decide. 

The Eye of the Storm

As a mother, I wouldn’t be unusual if I said that most of my life is dedicated to my children.  I wake up each day thinking what lies ahead of them for that day.  Then I go to sleep reflecting on the day done and wondering whether they managed to meet their personal goals and where my role was in all that. 

That sense of responsibility is, I believe, an inherit trait in any mother.  However, for me, it became exponentially larger when I found myself left to manage my four boys on my own.  Back in 2016, life had thrown an unexpected curve ball which I was not able to dodge.  Like a bolt from the blue, everything I had ever known, was thrown into complete disarray.  My husband wanted out.  The best analogy I always use to describe my situation is that I was left steering the ship and its occupants whilst our captain jumped ship.  In that vacuum, I reluctantly took control and together with my boys, we rode the rough waves until we set down our anchor.   This is how I’ve always imagined my life since my divorce, had it been narrated through pictures.

I have always known about the prophetic hadith (saying) above through which we are taught the superior position of a mother vis-à-vis a father.   It made perfect sense to me as history shows us time and again the sacrifices a mother makes for her children in every regard.  It was my own reality as a child and for many others who I have ever known.  Yet when I revisited this hadith in my mind, post-divorce, it took on a completely new meaning.

I actually realised how intense and deep the role of a mother is.  She is the one person who shrinks her own desires and expands her life to accommodate her children’s aspirations first; she buries her own pain and consoles her children first; she walks patiently behind whilst her children run ahead chasing their dreams. 

Mother is the eye of the storm.

All of this became so starkly apparent when I was left to manage my brood without their father.  I would be lying if I said I did not feel bitter and angry about that daunting prospect.   Almost four years later, however, I see life differently.  I understand the hadith differently.  I now hear the words, “your mother, your mother, your mother,” and understand how the repetition is not just an emphasis on the honour of a mother.  The fact that the father features further on, shows how he pales into insignificance in terms of his input into his children.  My own reality bears witness to this truth.

Imagine that hadith ringing in my ears as a woman going it alone.  I feel vindicated.  Allah has honoured me with an even greater share of reward than those mothers who have the physical presence and help of their husbands.  However deep that hadith is, it just got deeper.  I take great comfort from it being where I am in life on my own.  Allah has put the reins of my young family in my hands but He is there with me.  He always was and always will be, as long as I care enough for that to happen.  The truth is, I am not alone.  I never was. 

Why ‘MyMotherHalf’ ?

For years I’ve had a desire to write about that huge chunk of my life called Motherhood and yet all that time I told myself that others would have heard it all before; I’d be writing a soliloquy and speaking on a stage without an audience. Yet I always believed that the experience of writing had the potential to be cathartic for me. And so, the idea of writing a blog, I confess, is primarily a selfish one. Though I have been a terrible proscratinator, I knew one day I would take the plunge and simply get started.

Creating a blog is a daunting prospect for me.  Not because I’m a Luddite or that my thoughts and ideas are muddled but because I have no idea where it’ll lead.

What I do know is that I have lots to say.

I want to reflect on my experiences of being a Muslim mother at the helm of a family of four young teenage boys; steering the ship alone without an adult male presence and sharing the highs and lows of that unpredictable journey.  I also want to help others understand that being a mother is only a part of my life – that there are so many dimensions of existence that come within a single being. Whilst being a mother is arguably the noblest of all roles a woman may be blessed with, it isn’t the only label she wears. Simultaneously, mothers juggle so many other roles even though they are often sidelined without choice.

What might surprise readers is that this blog isn’t invariably going to be a sombre place to empty out my jar jammed with frustrations. (I’m sure I will have those moments).  But, insha’Allah (God willing), in this blog I hope others will – more than occasionally – find quite the opposite happens.  Through writing, there will be expressions of laughter, tears and just good old-fashioned inner reflection.

I write from the perspective of a Muslim and a woman and a warrior – someone whose battles are sometimes with herself and sometimes with those who have their misaligned perceptions of being a lone parent.  I don’t speak from a male-hating podium.  I stand from a platform simply to let other women, in a similar boat to me, know that they are not alone.  We serve as mirrors to one another.  No two people have identical life experiences but I hope those who stumble across my future posts will find relatable anecdotes.  What do I hope to achieve here?  I hope my musings will help women, especially Muslim women, reconcile their faith in Islam with their own daily struggles. 

I am not on a proselytising mission. Let’s get that clear from the start.  My posts will be honest and open insights into parenting alone.  By taking my readers as passengers on my own journey, I hope to give them the quiet confidence and courage to map out their own inner travels in life.

Sabia A.

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