The Phenomenon of Spinsterhood (العنوسة)
O Muslims! Strong social ties form the foundation of the happiness, stability and development of communities and are a main factor behind the might and power that nations enjoy. Conversely, social problems are a danger to the very existence of communities because they represent a crack which will finally lead to the break up of communities.
If one were to take a look at various communities around the world, they would see that there has been a major change in the social circumstances of people which has affected the lives of individuals and families and had a very negative impact on them. Matters which used to be easy and facilitated have now became very difficult and complicated, and this in turn has brought about new and dangerous phenomena and lifestyles which one fears will cause a major commotion in our nation and adversely affect the stability of our social lives. Being exposed to alien cultures only adds to this fear and danger and so this necessitates that we remind ourselves of the dire need to adhere to the principles and basic tenets of our great religion.
One of the most obvious negative phenomena in the social field is one which is related the family and endangers its unity. This has resulted in the diminishing role of the home and the increase in disobedience to parents; many children as well as their parents have abandoned their responsibilities and family ties have became weak, hatred and envy are spreading like wildfire and the task of cultivating the new generation has fallen into the hands of maids and drivers.
Selfishness is commonplace and spreading, the correct Islamic dress for women and their chastity have become deserted issues and many communities are currently suffering from the phenomenon of women leaving their homes adorned and improperly dressed.
This has resulted in a new and complicated social problem which has produced a new generation of Muslims whose values lie in between ours and those of the west and who therefore possess beliefs and principles which contradict ours.
O Muslims! Let us shed light on one of most important social issues of our time, which is related to marriage, and try to analyse a dangerous phenomenon which has had a serious impact on individuals, communities and the Muslim nation as a whole; it is the phenomenon of life-long bachelorhood and spinsterhood.
Surveys conducted on this astonishing trend show that this country alone there are one and a half million single women who are waiting for the man of their dreams, and this will increase in the next five years to reach four million if the trend continues as it is now. Indeed, this is a distressing matter which reflects a great danger if it is not quickly checked by finding out the reasons behind it and offering the proper practical solution.
O Muslim nation! This phenomenon is a very dangerous one and has many evil consequences for this nation in all areas - emotional, economic, social, moral and behavioural; especially during this era when the means for corruption have become far more easily accessible, and the ways of unlawfully fulfilling one’s desires have become readily available. Indeed the only way to protect the youth from indulging in immorality and evil practices is through early marriage.
It is unfortunate that many young men and women are reaching the age of thirty without getting married, and some of them have perhaps never even entertained the thought of doing so. This corruption only started only when obstacles were put in front of those who wanted to get married. Moreover, immorality, prostitution, travelling abroad to corrupt places and illegal sexual relations have become widespread due to the complications of marriage, as well as the widespread availability of that which destroys chastity through means which can be seen, heard or read, such as on the internet and on satellite television channels.
O Muslims! If we try to find out the reasons behind this phenomenon, we will discover most of them are due to traditions and customs that have been passed down to the new generation of Muslims from their ascendants, and this is in addition to the ideological attack which our nation has been subject to from the west, which has had a dangerous impact on the social condition of our nation.
The impact of this on our young men and women was to give them hopes and dreams which are in reality illusions from Satan. Some of our young give the excuse that they desire to complete their studies and that marriage would prevent them from doing so; but when was marriage ever an obstacle? Experience has proved that a successful marriage helps in freeing the mind and relaxing the soul.
We must be very clear when we ask what good is a university degree, especially for a woman, if it means that she is to remain unmarried until old age, and may even miss the train of marriage altogether? What good is it if she never enjoyed having a husband or children to decorate her life and remain as a source of benefit for after her death? Many women have delayed marriage and therefore missed out, their beauty faded away and they then wished that they could tear up their degree in exchange for hearing a child call them mother. But this usually happens after it is too late, as we sadly hear all too often from those who went through this terrible experience.
This problem and many others like it are due to unclear understanding, weak faith, lack of practice and misconceptions regarding the objectives of Islam.
Unjustified fears about the future, over-reliance on positions at work, being materialistic in life, and over-keenness to get degrees weakens ones reliance on Allaah and the acceptance of His decree.
Young men and women must get married as soon as possible, and they should not deprive themselves from their desired happiness and success due to the false excuse of building for their future first, because Allaah says that which translates as: “And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allaah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allaah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” (An-Noor: 32).
Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him, said: "If there was only ten days left in my life, and I knew that I would die after that, and I could get married then I would still do so, so that I would not expose my self to corruption." Imaam Ahmad, may Allaah have mercy upon him, said: "Remaining single is not from Islaam, and anyone who introduces the idea of remaining single is introducing something other than Islaam."
Brothers in faith! One of the main reasons for the spread of this phenomenon is that some parents oppressively prevent their daughters from marrying suitable young men, despite the fact that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam: said: “If a man whose religion and manners you approve of comes to you (proposing to your daughter), then give her in marriage to him, otherwise, there will be turmoil on the earth and great corruption.” (Tirmidhi & Ibn Maajah).
Some fathers breached the trust from Allaah which they have carried regarding their daughters by preventing them from marriage. It may be that a young man comes to them asking for their daughter and they delay or prohibit him for no reason, citing baseless excuses, it may be that their criteria for acceptance is trivial, such as how much his salary is, or what his career aspirations are, while at the same time totally disregarding his practice of the religion, manners and honesty. Indeed some fathers see their daughters as a piece of merchandise to be sold at an auction.
Such fathers do not realise that this is in fact oppression and betrayal; some fathers even delay their daughter's marriage in order to benefit from her salary. Are these fathers unaware of the painful real life stories that are widespread? These stories should act as a warning for all parents to stop their heedlessness and protect their honour and dignity before it is too late.
Where is their mercy? Do they not consider the consequences of their actions? How can someone who knows about the nature of a woman imprison her for life? If these people had used their minds then they would have looked for suitable husbands for their daughters, just as ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, offered his daughter for marriage toAbu Bakr and then ‘Uthmaan, may Allaah be pleased with them. Sa’eed Ibn Al-Musayyib, may Allaah have mercy upon him, give his daughter in marriage to one of his students, indeed this was the practice of our Salaf. Indeed making marriage difficult results in destroying homes, killing chastity, ruining morality and spreading evil.
O fathers! Fear Allaah regarding those whom are guardians of and rush into marrying them to those who propose for them. Rejecting suitable men and delaying women from marriage jeopardises and endangers men, woman and indeed the community as a whole. Suitable men are those whose practice of Islaam is sound, whose manners are good and who are kind, honest and from a good family. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Marry the one who has (i.e., practices) religion, and you will rejoice.”
Another reason for the spread of this evil phenomenon is the exorbitant dowries that some fathers request, so much so that marriage becomes impossible for some people; in some countries dowries reach ridiculous and unimaginable levels, which results in a mountain of debt for anyone who tries to pay it. The greed which some people suffer from is truly saddening; they ask for amounts which the one proposing could never afford, even if he were to save for half of his life. Such people's greed and lust for this life has resulted in making honourable women into pieces of merchandise, which they then sell. All this has resulted in a huge increase in the number of unmarried women.
The dowry in Islaam is a mean and not an objective and inflating it has terrible effects on individuals and communities which are known to everyone. It prevents marriages from taking place or results in marriages to unfit or unsuitable partners from non-practicing communities, which results in regret and sorrow.
This greed which some people suffer from is completely the opposite of how our Salaf used to be, as ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, said: "Do not inflate dowries, because if it was good for ones livelihood, or righteous to do, then the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam would have done this". In fact, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam gave a woman in marriage to a man and the dowry was what he had memorised from the Qur’aan, and he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said to another man regarding the amount of dowry to give: “Give her a ring made from iron” and ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn ‘Awf, may Allaah be pleased with him, gave a golden coin as his dowry.
After hearing all this, how can people ask for what they do? Do they not know that they will be questioned about that which they are entrusted with? Do they lack any mercy whatsoever? Moreover, the tradition of excessive expenditure on weddings which some people impose upon the groom only adds to the problem, and it is only done in order to show off and boast.
Slaves of Allaah! Fear Allaah, advise one another and be reasonable regarding these matters. Scholars, wealthy people and people who hold a respected position in their community must address this issue and set an example for the Muslim nation. The media should educate people, highlight the solutions and offer them to the people.
Brothers and sisters who are suffering from this problem! Persevere, remain steadfast and chaste and be content with the decree of Allaah because what He has for you is better.
Fathers and guardians! We have high hopes in you; we are very optimistic that you will open your hearts and positively respond to that which is better for you, your children and your community.
Beloved brothers! After knowing about the disease, comes information about the cure. The cure for spinsterhood lies in strengthening the foundation of faith in the Muslim nation and raising this coming generation upon the correct belief, while emphasising on morals and principles in our Muslim communities. We should also facilitate marriages, reduce dowries and marry our daughters to suitable young men based on the correct Islamic criteria for choosing a spouse. The media should educate people and direct them to goodness; we should guide people to suitable young men and the wealthy should support those who wish to get married.
Finally, to comprehensively address the solution to the problem of spinsterhood, the Muslim community must give great attention to the issue of polygamy according to Islamic guidelines, because there are far too many women who are single, divorced or widowed. Having said this, those men who partake in polygamy must be just, merciful and wise when dealing with their wives, especially the first one, because we are always hearing complaints from sisters about their husbands being unjust to them. We must remember that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “He who has two wives and favours one over another (i.e., by being unjust to one of them by not fulfilling his duties towards her) will be on the Day of Resurrection with one side of his face cut and hanging (as a form of punishment).” (Ahmad).