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Does marital conflict mean divorce? Strategies to help determine if divorce is the next step.

More than 50% of Muslims report at least one significant marital issue (Chapman & Cattaneo, 2013). The reality is divorce amongst Muslim Americans has greatly increased in the last 25 years (ISPU, 2012). So if you are struggling with some conflict in your marriage, how do you know if it’s healthy conflict or requires more attention and may point to divorce? What steps can you take if you’re not sure how to move forward in your relationship?

Recognize that divorce is a personal decision between two people.

You may get a lot of advice from loved ones around you about your relationship. Some of this will be helpful but some of this is noise–unnecessary feedback that may be driven by stigma, cultural pressure, and a desire to “save face”.

Try as much as possible to block out the unhelpful feedback–you and your spouse are the only two who can wholly grasp the full picture concerning your relationship. Be honest with yourself and your spouse.

Seek out marriage mentors. Ensure that the advice you are getting is healthy for your relationship by soliciting advice from married couples you actually want to emulate. Do they tear down their spouses? Have they gone through conflict? Do they share your values and beliefs about marriage and life in general?

Take an inventory of your marriage.

Evaluate the state of your marriage–marriage assessments are great tools that help you become aware of warning signs and really dig into your relationship. Even if your partner is not willing to take these steps, you can still try the tools yourself so you can get your own internal assessment of the state of your marriage.

Engage in muhasaba–or self-reflection to hold yourself accountable. As you evaluate your marriage, ask yourself “What is my role in this relationship? “What am I contributing to the conflict in this relationship?” “How is my past impacting my interactions and experiences in this marriage?”

Brainstorm next steps for your relationship.

Consider “Healing Separation” – This is structured time apart or a “trial separation” in which the married couple lives separately but both spouses are dedicated to working on themselves and the relationship. Trying this kind of separation can take some pressure off the relationship, give space for each partner to grow, transform the relationship, or end it on amicable terms.

Try out discernment counseling —a short-term counseling option that can help you come up with some different routes for your relationship: maintain the relationship as it is, separate/divorce, or commit to 6 months of couples therapy in order to really work on the relationship.

“And of His signs is that He created for you, from yourselves, spouses so that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you love and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for people who reflect.” [Qur’an 30:21]

As Allah (SWT) references in this ayah, make sure to show Rahmah throughout this process. Discuss your problems gently with each other. Instead of bringing up issues in a way that attacks your spouse, bring them up without blame, negativity, and judgment. Use statements with “I” instead of “you” so that you can focus on what you feel and need, without attacking your spouse.

Divorce is not a linear process— you don’t just move from a troubled marriage to getting a divorce. Some couples waffle back and forth before getting a divorce. Other couples may, through support and counseling, move into reconciliation and healing. Either way, if you are struggling in your marriage, trying the strategies we’ve described may help you come to a decision that is healthy for everyone. For much more information, please refer to The FYI’s Divorce Support Toolkit. May Allah (swt) grant strength and perseverance to all of our struggling couples and families.


For more resources from The FYI on this topic, check out our article, Divorce: From Stigma to Support, and The FYI’s Divorce Support Toolkit. Be sure to also check out The FYI’s Infographic, Marital Conflict and Road to Success.

Blog Author:

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Madiha Tahseen

Dr. Madiha Tahseen is the Research Director and a Community Educator at The Family and Youth Institute. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research expertise is in positive youth development amongst Muslim-American youth, particularly focusing on the role of cultural and religious contexts in character development among minority populations.

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The Prophet (SAS) said, “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days”
(Bukhari).

Guarantee your blessings!

Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).