Saturday, March 02, 2013

Questions & Concerns About Youthful Marriage

Part of 5 of the Youthful Marriage series, originally written for SISTERS Magazine.

Umm Zainab and Umm Khadijah (AnonyMouse) answer questions and concerns about youthful marriage, bringing their series on youthful marriage to a conclusion.

1)    How do parents support newlywed youth, both financially and in terms of living arrangements?

Financial support is crucial for those who married while still in high school or just graduated.
A few solutions would be to help the husband find suitable employment, while providing a monthly stipend in the meantime, or at least until they are able to financially support themselves completely.

With regards to living arrangements, both sets of parents can contribute towards renting an apartment, or the couple can work out an arrangement to live with one set of parents at the family home.

Very young couples, such as those who are still in high school, can agree to live apart at their own parents’ homes until they can stand on their own two feet.

2)    Should young couples start having children immediately or wait for a while?

Marriage requires a great deal of maturity, and parenthood even more so! Young couples still studying should agree to wait for a stipulated amount of time before starting a family, which is Islamically allowed as long as both parties agree. They first need to adjust to marriage itself before taking on the incredible responsibility of parenthood.

While Islam encourages married couples to have children, and evidence proves that it’s healthier to have children while young, parenthood is a huge responsibility that many young adults don’t take seriously. Just as youth need to educate themselves about marriage before jumping into it headfirst, they also need to educate themselves about parenthood and what to expect. It is imperative that they fully understand the severity and repercussions of parenthood.

Unfortunately, too many zealous young couples jump into parenthood immediately after marriage, and cannot cope with the huge learning curve required of them. Especially in cases where the couple themselves are having difficulty in their relationship, bringing children into a difficult situation only makes things worse, not better.

3)    Should young couples expect to be in love immediately before or after marriage? How do they know what love is?

Two situations are most common when youthful marriage comes up. In the first scenario, the couple have already met and interacted (often at school, university, etc.) and feel that they’re already in love; they wish to marry so that they can prevent themselves from committing any sins. In the second, the youth have not ‘met’ anyone yet but want to get married to preserve their chastity.

In the first situation, there is a hadith which is applicable: Narrated by Ibn Maajah (1847), “There is nothing better for two who love one another than marriage.” (This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan Ibn Maajah).

In the second situation, both sides need to be aware that as long as they have chosen correctly (with sincerity, understanding, and maturity), both the lust and love will come as they get to know each other on a daily basis.

In both situations, the youth need to be made aware of what ‘love’ truly means. The feeling/ experience of being “IN love” is very different from the type of love that will evolve in a long-term relationship (i.e. marriage). They cannot expect their marriage to be healthy or long-term if they expect that the giddy feeling of being in love will last; in fact, what they can count on is that it will fade away very quickly, which is where the true test of maturity, responsibility, and dedication to their marriage lies.
True love is one that takes longer to show itself, but once planted, is harder to cut. Youth have to understand that the ‘love’ they think they feel initially is more lust then deep love.

4)    How do parents know if their young adults are emotionally mature enough for marriage?  What if a parent wants to support their youth (esp. sons) in getting married early, but know that their child is not mature enough to handle it?

Let’s be realistic: most parents today are a bit clueless as to their kids’ maturity, especially their sons. Many mothers mollycoddle their sons into thinking the world revolves around them, instead of raising them to be responsible young men and adults who know how to take care of another human being!
If a youth who is not emotionally mature seeks to marry and the parents realize that, then they should explain to them in clear terms that marriage is not something to be played with. It has responsibilities and obligations not just to themselves but to another person as well. Once the commitment has been made, you can’t just decide tomorrow that you suddenly prefer the single life and no responsibilities.

If the young man or woman insists on getting married but still displays a lot of immaturity, “test” them as a means of pointing out how much they have to learn. Give them serious responsibilities that are a small taste of what they will have to expect in a marriage; for example, finding and maintaining a job, taking care of elderly grandparents, learning how to manage a household (this applies equally to boys as well as girls), being made to deal with the emotional consequences of their actions, etc. 

5)    Is it easier to get married at a younger age in the West or in Muslim countries?

Youthful marriage is difficult for Muslims in the West as well as in Muslim countries, from both a legal and societal point of view.

Western countries have a legal minimal age at which young adults can marry with or without parental permission. In most cases the legal age to marry with parental permission is 16 for both sexes.
Societally, young marriages are strongly discouraged by parents and peers, as it is seen to be a responsibility ‘too big’ for youth to take on; society does not deem them ready for such responsibility. Unless youth have a strong support system, it is extremely difficult for them to not only get married, but sustain the marriage through the inevitable challenges that they will face.

Muslim countries generally are more lax when it comes to the legal age of marriage, although many countries are trying to combat this by raising the legal age to 18. However, because it is traditional in many Muslim countries for people to marry at a younger age, it is much more common and easier in legal terms for youth to get married. In many areas, it is still easier for youth to marry in Muslim countries and receive support from their families and community at large.
Unfortunately, the media only reports cases where youth (especially young women) have been taken advantage of or had their rights abused.

The main challenges facing youth who wish to marry in Muslim countries are societal obstacles, such as the practice of demanding an extravagant amount of money for the mahr. Furthermore, many youth (especially young men) are not raised to be emotionally mature; thus, even those who do get married at an earlier age will go through many difficulties because they have not learned about conflict resolution, compromise, and how to be compassionate to their spouses.

Youthful marriage is a Sunnah that needs to be revived in order to combat the many social ills taking place today, both in the West and in Muslim countries. The prevalence of a hypersexualized global culture means that young Muslims are exposed to inappropriate concepts and images at a younger and younger age, thereby igniting physical desires. Unfortunately, emotional and mental maturity are not taught and fostered at a similar rate, leaving Muslim parents and youth in a predicament that needs to be combated.

Cultivating a holistic understanding of an Islamic marriage is necessary for all young Muslims who want to do the right thing by getting married early. They and their parents must be aware of the Islamic responsibilities that marriage entails, as well as the emotional maturity and intelligence to maintain a dedicated, long-term relationship. Muslim youth who make the choice to marry young will face many challenges and tests, including societal pressure, financial difficulty, and personal growing pains.
It must also be understood that young marriages are not for everyone, and it cannot be considered a blanket solution to all of society’s problems. As much as we strongly advise young Muslims to consider a young marriage, please proceed with caution.

Finally, it must be remembered that all success lies in Allah’s Hands. Always turn to Him in prayer, repentance, and supplication, trusting in Him to guide you to that which is best for you in this world and the Hereafter. Only by having complete tawakkul in Him alone can Muslim youth hope to have successful marriages that will, inshaAllah, lead to a successful Aakihrah. We ask Allah to help all young Muslims abstain from the haram and pursue the halal for His Sake, and find spouses that will be a source of love, serenity, and a partner in the journey to Jannah.

Readers’ Comments

We asked readers what they thought about youthful marriage and what concerns they had. This is what they had to say…

My concern is that teens (in particular boys) are not emotionally mature enough for marriage at that age. I would need to have confidence that the family raised their child with similar standards of maturity.
(Olivia K)

Should the parents be supportive and live-in is an option, why not. Everyone knows the struggles men and women face as "unmarrieds" trying desperately to avoid haram. My biggest concern as a mother of daughters is that education is not forfeited for marriage (last time I checked women can do more than one thing at a time). As mother of a son, I would worry that he has sufficient personal confidence, independence and insight to be a successful husband. (Terumi T.)

It’s prophetic advice and commendable if the youth did get married early, but so many teenagers just don’t appear to be mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with marriage.
I'm not suggesting all teenagers are immature, but they are in the minority. Far too many of the youth adopt the 'live life to the max as you only live once' motto. The more partners you can get through the better! So armed with such secular ideology, what positive message can we convey to them about the benefits of marriage? Rather, what hope can we give them that marriage is a solution and not just a commitment?
(Miriam M. Islam)

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.

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