Posted on Aug 21, 2019
Editor's Note: This article is part of a summer series we are producing on "Marriage and Families - A Multifaceted Landscape." We will be covering Prophetic examples of marriages, blended families, questions to ask before marriage, courtship traditions in modern times, the post-divorce landscape, single parenting and other topics from a Muslim-centric perspective. Check into the blog throughout the summer to read our series.
We also recognize that single Muslim dads also raise children, too, with their own stories and challenges. However, this piece is focused on single mothers.
By Nargis Rahman
Raising twins is a challenge in any family dynamic. But in a single-parent home, it becomes even more demanding. Farzana Noor knows this well. The family nurse practitioner/NICU RN is a single mom of twin girls. She became a single mom due to divorce when her children were one years old and says one of her biggest challenges in becoming a single parent was learning how to manage her twins alone - and ultimately realizing she had to get help.
Single moms are paving the path for single-parent households in the U.S., according to SingleMotherGuide.com, which curates statistics pertaining to mothers and provides a variety of financial resources for single moms. The site says approximately 80 percent of 11 million single-parent American households have single moms, with approximately 1 in 4 kids in single-mom households being under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data from 2018. Of these women, 29 percent have been divorced, and 21 percent were either separated or widowed.
Image source: Pinterest
In Muslim communities, divorcees and widows with children face the challenge of being single women and single parents and often are stigmatized by society. This also stems from a general lack of resources and support while raising their families. Many women also face scrutiny when trying to remarry.
Single Muslim mothers also are often looked down upon or may be discouraged from remarrying due to cultural hindrances. Women who are divorced are already emotionally repackaging and repurposing their lives, while for those who are widows, single motherhood comes with challenges that are similar to non-Muslim women often due to a lack of emotional, financial (and other) support from Muslim communities.
The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding conducted the “Understanding Trends in American Muslim Divorce and Marriage: A Discussion Guide for Families and Communities” study to examine trends in marriages and divorces in Muslim communities. ISPU found that many Muslim couples, and especially women, only considered divorce as a last resort option after exhausting mediation efforts and seeking assistance from religious authorities and family. Divorcees are often left to figure it out on their own in a post-divorce landscape. These women, some who go on to become single-parent households, later face social stigma and in some cases, isolation.
They also lack the proper resources for assistance and sometimes do not have relatives nearby to assist. Single motherhood stemming from divorce can also lead women to financial hardship due to lack of financial literacy or financial security said Rabab Alma, a family therapist in Philadelphia.
Farzana said she believes single moms share similar challenges across the board, like figuring out finances and how to care for the kids. “Children are a massive amount of responsibility and not having someone to share them with is draining at times, physically and emotionally.”
She said that it’s also difficult to answer her children’s questions, like, “Why they don’t have a mommy and a daddy living in one house etc.” Transitioning to a single-parent life is something many Muslims are not prepared for, whether due to divorce, becoming a widow or other circumstances. Here are six realities single Muslim mothers need to realize and face:
1. Single parenting doesn’t make you “not religious.” Although Muslim communities do not encourage single-family households, certain stories from Islamic history and the Quran speak positively of single moms. Maryam alayhis salam was chosen to be a single parent by Allah (S), as mentioned in the Quran. Maryam was chastised by her community, however, she was elevated in status by Allah due to her piety and full faith in Him that lead her to the best decisions for His pleasure.
Similarly, Muslim women may grow into a better spiritual state once they are single parents and are able to raise their children in a faith-based home (especially if that was a difficulty when they were a two-parent family). The ISPU study found that Muslim communities often put the religious and spiritual burden on the mother, which may work to a mom’s advantage when she is solely responsible for the care of her children.
2. Accept help. You can’t do it all alone. Learn to take help from family and friends. Farzana says, and don’t be ashamed to ask and take help from your proverbial village. (Farzana and her daughters pictured to the left.)
3. You will have to sacrifice social life. Farzana says that as a single parent, she doesn’t have a social life. However, you can find some time for yourself if friends and family can step in to offer support, like watching the children or helping grab the groceries and run errands. It is important to find ways to balance your time, but know that in the beginning, this may feel impossible.
4. It’s okay to remarry. While Muslim women have chosen not to remarry or face opposition to remarry in some Muslim communities, more and more are considering giving a it second chance. Farzana said, “I do wish to remarry someday. There are numerous reasons behind it, but ultimately it’s because I strive to be the best mom possible and part of that is being happy myself. I am very happy it’s my lot and grateful for what I have thus far, but I do believe everyone needs a companion.”
Natalia Tariq is a convert to Islam who became a single mom at 24 years of age. She shared her story with The Muslim Vibe: Natalia lived with her non-Muslim family after her divorce and barely had a Muslim community. She said she had a hard time finding potential spouses due to being a single parent. “Since I had already been married and had a child, my value in the marriage market plummeted. I was considered to be a ‘second-hand item,’ and nobody was tempted by the ‘buy one, get one free’ offer.”
Natalia told Muslim Vibe that having a child also helped her weed out candidates who weren’t serious. She also received a lot of second and third marriage proposals, which she denied. “On the other hand, having a child had its advantages too: It scared away light-minded candidates and saved the time that I would have otherwise spent communicating with them. … I couldn’t understand why I would settle for less just because I was a single mother. In my opinion, despite all the inconveniences and hardships of single parenting, it was a valuable experience that made me stronger as both a person and as a Muslim.”
Natalia began searching online and eventually found a compatible man from Saudi Arabia. She didn’t feel inclined to marry until five years later when she made istikhara, asking Allah to, “Please ignore my criteria and demands, just give me the one who is better for me in this life and hereafter.”
5. Prepare to struggle financially. Alma says in instances of divorce, people may not realize that financial situations change and people do not always have the luxury of maintaining the lifestyle they once lived as married couples. Therefore, she encourages women who may become single moms to take financial literacy classes and save money if possible.
6. It’s going to be okay. Farzana said her children are happy living in a single-parent household. Her children are a source of happiness for her. “Mothers are some of the strongest women on the planet, and when it comes to our children the instinct alone will pull you forward.”
Single parenthood is not a means of punishment or displeasure to Allah. Rather, it can be a means of nearness to Allah and the beginning of a new and wonderful (albeit demanding) time in a mother’s life. There is growth to be had in our Muslim communities in how we view and support single mothers, but also there are positive discussions already happening. And, insha’Allah our communities will continue to become better equipped and readily available to help support and uplift our single mothers to live fulfilling lives as was exemplified in the sunnah. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “If a person relieves a Muslim of his trouble, Allah will relieve him of his troubles on the Day of Resurrection.”