Wednesday, 7 May 2014
Between 2007 and 2008 I had the privilege of managing an Islamic center in Sheffield. It was an experience I would always cherish because it brought me closer to the community. The Muslim community in Sheffield is one of the best I have ever interacted with.
That experience taught me what it means to work for a community, and understand that for a society to succeed, people have to come together, identify their problems and work towards finding a lasting solution to them. Sheffield is a friendly city, some people call it the village city, and the Muslim community comprises of different nationalities; Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis, Caribbean’s as well as the English.
One of the key problems we found at the time was the high rate of divorce among the community. Though the issue of divorce is common even among the host community, but certainly everyone should be concerned about the rate of divorce in any society because of its implication on the wider environment. Delinquency, prostitution, depression, poverty are some of the common results of family breakdown. A child requires the two parents to taste the delicacy of parenthood.
So what was the way out? of course the cases that come on daily basis require urgent solutions, from reconciliation to marriage counselling etc. but the Center decided that the best way to confront this social problem was by arresting it from the root-cause, by ensuring that young people have enough training on issues related to marriage before tying the knot.
So a date was set for the training during a bank holiday (the name of public holidays in the UK), when most kids were at home. Gladly the parents cooperated by bringing their children, and even those who are married registered for the training. The workshop included a talk by a Muslim scholar who discussed the concept of marriage in Islam, the roles and responsibilities of the husband and the wife, and how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) managed his household.
Other working sessions during the workshop include personality traits by asking the participants to identify the best traits for a potential wife or husband, how to communicate those traits to the potential spouse etc. Other issues include managing disputes, family upkeep especially for those with little resources, and strategies to ensure that couples remain happy especially after the honey moon period is over. In fact there was a session by a good friend who has been married for 20 years sharing his experience with the participants on how the journey lasted without a major marital crack.
Even in Nigeria, some communities are making efforts like this, though it may not solve the problem of divorce completely, but at least it will contribute in making the youth understand such important responsibility, and perhaps work hard to ensure that marriages survive.
I was motivated to write this piece after listening to a message that has gone viral on the social networking application, WhatsApp. Of course the content was meant to entertain as with many messages like that on WhatsApp, but it also reveals the psyche among our youths.
The message was from a school teacher who just finished her lesson, and asked the pupils to listen to her prayers and respond with Amin. The teacher wanted a good husband, religious, handsome, rich, whose mother is dead, who will sponsor her for Hajj and Umra regularly, support her to travel abroad, love her excessively, someone who is patient like a donkey, reserved, and one she will control with ease. Bachelors, I hope you are listening!
The teacher did not stop there, she is seeking refuge from marrying a poor person (talaka) who would make her travel by foot, or live in a mud-house, and whose relatives wouldn't bother her etc. the prayer was full of dreams that can only be found in a dream. Yes it was entertaining, but beyond the surface of the entertainment is a coded message on the mentality of our youth. Both boys and the girls are only thinking of the greener side of life as I explained in previous series on Kayan daki and Marital Stability in Hausaland.
No wonder marriages crash because neither of the parties can manage the expectation of the other party. It is time for Islamic organisations, especially in Northern Nigeria to take this issue seriously by preparing the youth for this important responsibility before it is too late. No matter how little, such pre-marital training could contribute in reducing the number of zaurawa (divorcees) in our society.