The advantages of youthful marriages are many, and often discussed, but there is another side to it as well. The truth is that youthful marriages face many obstacles, and can be even more difficult to sustain in the face of societal, family and personal pressures and expectations.
From the beginning, let us be clear: youthful marriages are not for everyone. It requires a great deal of patience and strength of character to maintain a long-term relationship, especially one which begins when both partners are at an emotionally volatile point of their lives. Some individuals are simply not mature enough to handle the challenges and difficulties which young marriages entail. Others have ‘baggage’ which just make marriage difficult for the other party involved, and may even end up damaging the other spouse as well.
One purpose of marriage is to protect individuals from zina – so in this sense, yes, it can be successful, even if these marriages end in divorce. Many may consider this to be a harsh way of looking at it, but the reality of life in the West for young Muslims is such that it is literally a choice between halaal and haram – marriage or zina.
No one marries with the intention of getting divorced, and nobody should think that a youthful marriage is an easy way to fulfill themselves physically without keeping in mind what marriage in Islam is really about. The ultimate purpose of marriage is to develop a strong family unit, whether it consists only of a husband and wife, or a larger unit that includes children.
Divorce is disliked, but it is still pleasing in the Sight of Allah for two young people to marry, have a halaal relationship, and if things do not work out, for them to divorce. Zina, on the other hand, is NOT an option for any Muslim.
During the time of the Sahabah, divorce was actually very common, as they understood that it was not always possible for a relationship to work out. This did not, however, stop them from marrying with the sincere intention to have a healthy and happy marriage. The story of Zaid ibn Harith and Zainab bint Jahsh is just one example which illustrates this; they were married at a young age, but were simply not compatible with each other, whereupon they finally divorced. This did not stop RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) from marrying Zainab later on, nor did it stop Zaid from marrying other women.
There are no statistics that we can point to in the West that show the success rates of young marriages. However, the major question that all parents should ask themselves is: would you rather have your son or daughter marry young, or follow the way of the West and engage in zina, which is a punishable crime according to the Shari’ah?
The harsh reality is that, unfortunately, Muslim parents who have forbidden their children from marrying young end up with sons and daughters who have committed zina many times over, sometimes resulting in illegitimate children. This situation is far more common than most Muslims would like to admit, but it’s one that we must confront.
An Ounce of Prevention
The only way to combat both physical temptations and the very real danger of broken marriages/ divorce is for Muslim parents and Muslim youth alike to educate themselves on what marriage means and what it requires.
A youthful marriage can only be successful with:
1) Complete tawakkul in Allah,
2) Intelligent, supportive parents, and
3) Strong personal commitment.
When young Muslims approach their parents seeking permission to marry early, parents should not deny their children this request, especially if it’s done with the intention to avoid fitnah. Parents need to stop worrying about what others may think or say behind their backs should the marriage not work out later for whatever reason.
The youth who want to get married should go through some form of pre-marital counseling that involves both an understanding of the Islamic view of marriage as well as the responsibilities and interpersonal skills that it requires.
Parents should also attend courses or do research that will help them understand how to help and support their children who wish to marry young. This includes emotional and financial support.
Nonetheless, it is very important to keep in mind that youthful marriage is a sunnah, and can be part of the solution to answering many societal problems today, but it is NOT a blanket solution, it is NOT easy and NOT for everyone. It should be considered with a great deal of seriousness, maturity, preparation and the knowledge/ understanding that marriage is a LONG TERM COMMITMENT.
At the same time, youthful marriage should not be judged based upon the negative experiences of a few, but rather should be viewed in the light of each individual and taking into consideration the benefits that young marriage has as opposed to negative stereotypes.
These are all factors that must be seriously contemplated, discussed, and applied by all Muslim youth seeking to take this major step. Amongst the most dedicated of Muslim couples, marriage is a struggle, a journey, and both sides have to make incredible sacrifices for the sake of maintaining a healthy relationship. It is not a one-man show, nor is it a battleground for power and control. Youthful marriages require seriousness, sincerity, and an open mind.
Part 5 will answer the final questions and concerns on the topic and bring this series to a conclusion.
Umm Zainab Vanker and Umm Khadijah (AnonyMouse) are both products and veterans of youthful marriage; Umm Zainab got married at the age of 17, and her daughter followed suit! A combination of personal experience and observation of Muslim youth today encouraged them to take a critical look at the necessity and challenges of youthful marriages.