By Misbah Akhtar
The issue of single Muslim mothers is fast becoming a prevalent one; with divorce on the rise it seems only logical that some of these statistics would also apply to Muslim households.
Why then are they not revered as they deserve to be and instead looked down upon and scorned by many communities? Is it really seen as so contagious that girls from ‘respectable’ families should stay away from these women in case they too, catch it?
Why are these women made to feel humiliated and isolated from their community as if they chose this path for themselves? Being left with no option but to walk is not the same as breaking up a perfectly happy marriage for selfish reasons; only Allah knows the whole truth and what is in someone’s heart so why then do people assume?
No-one asks to be a single mother, it’s a relentless job; work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; no pay; and no training is given. You cannot quit and are expected to play the role of both mother and father. The pressure that you face from society is massive. You feel that everyone is waiting for you to make a wrong move which, if you make, will lead to them pouncing on you saying that your child has turned out faulty because of a lack of mothering skills that you possess – which is why you are a single mum.
It is due to this reason that many single mothers feel isolated from their community; they are not encouraged to speak up about their struggles in an attempt to console other women, rather, they are warned to keep quiet and suffer alone so as to not bring shame on their families. There is no organisation in place for them where they can go to for help or just to meet other single Muslim mothers.
There are organisations for revert sisters, people wanting to know about Islam, da’wah giving charities for Muslims, even organisations for people suffering from drug abuse but ironically nothing for sisters born into a Muslim household who are single mothers. Society assumes that if you are a single Muslim mother that your family will automatically take the initiative to help out; that you have a baby-sitter for when you are forced into work and that you live at home with your parents and that your father takes over your financial burden.
This is not always the case. Some women are not allowed to return to their parent’s home. They are told to lie in the bed they made because they could have stayed with their husband even if it meant tolerating domestic violence and having their mental health suffer. These women are not just defined by their role as mothers; they are human beings too and people tend to forget this.
Being a single Muslim mother is so different to being a non-Muslim single mother, the latter will do anything to make sure their child fits in as they do not want their child to be singled out any further; a Muslim mother has to remain within her boundaries set by Allah at all times.
There is no united front from a husband and therefore no ‘good cop, bad cop’; there is only her. Children may rebel against this and then a mother has to be both firm like a father but soft and loving like a mother; it must get confusing for a child, they may wonder why their mother is all of a sudden behaving like ‘daddy’ too.
It is a father’s role to protect his family but now a mother has to adopt that role and try and provide physical safety and security; she cannot show fear in front of her children. It’s not safe for women to be out after dark, but this now, cannot be helped if children need picking up from mosque or other activities.
A Muslim woman is not allowed to be alone with a non-mahram (non-related) man as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “No woman should travel except with a mahram, and no man should enter upon her unless a mahram of hers is present.” (Bukhari) Now if her landlord is a man and wants to come round, or a builder or plumber she has to let him in; if she has no support she won’t have a brother to be there with her.
They may have no guardian to help them find a new husband and sadly not all masjid’s are dedicated to helping find spouses for women; besides which, single Muslim mothers are seen too often as ‘damaged goods’. A vulnerable woman attempting to find her own husband therefore may be preyed upon by evil men or and may not be above the whisperings of Shaytaan.
Whilst there are a lot of good brothers out there willing to accept the responsibility of a ready-made family, a lot of them honestly admit that their mothers would not be happy with this because as one brother put it “which mother would want her son to marry a divorcee when he could marry a virgin and have his own children with her?”
We have role models from Islamic history of single mothers (or mothers who raised their children alone) whose children went on to become great men and prophets; Hajar, the mother of Prophet Ismail (pbuh), Maryam, the mother of Prophet Isa (pbuh), and Amina, the mother of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who all raised their sons alone. Also, the mothers of Imam al-Shafi’, Imam Ahmed and Imam Bukhari raised their sons alone, all of whom later became renowned figures that left a major impact on the world.
Many single mothers are lonely and in need of support; it is the Ummah’s responsibility to help them, because they are still our sisters in Islam. But if everyone shirks away from this responsibility then who is left to help these women? They have been left alone to do the job of two people and deserve double the praise.
Organisations and charities need to be introduced where help can be administered or maybe a key worker can come round and sit with the mother and offer advice. Support groups are a good start; one such group can be found on Facebook: single Muslim mums – a group dedicated to providing support to mothers globally who feel depressed, isolated and alone.
We need your help in promoting awareness for the struggles that many single Muslim mothers face globally, let’s make a change and be the change we want to see.