Marrying While A Black Muslimah - Challenges & Opportunities

Marrying While A Black Muslimah - Challenges & Opportunities

Studies conducted by both the Pew Research Center and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding report that more than half of the Muslim population in the United States is married.  

But, for many Muslim women, especially those of African descent, the reality of finding a spouse is a challenge and expressively worrisome because of the significance of marriage in Islam. The marriage prospects for African-American Muslim women have evolved over time. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, which saw the greatest movement towards Islam and Islamic-inspired organizations in the African-American Muslim community, women flocked to Muslim men who were seen as willing, honorable, and respectful. Now 50 years later, the granddaughters of those women find Muslim men elusive, unreliable, and sexist.

The factors lending this significant change are so numerous they are examined in academic journals. However, most African-American Muslim women recognize that their immigrant Muslimah counterparts may have difficulty finding spouses as wel, but are not faced with as many struggles. These challenges can be broken down into three parts:

Challenge 1:  Racism 

  • The December 2021 issue of Newsweek reported about the “uphill” battle Muslim women of African descent face when seeking a spouse. Al-Jazeera reported similar problems in an August 2020 article. Both candidly discussed how darker-skinned Muslimahs were overwhelmingly rejected, making marriage prospects elusive. In addition, non-Caucasian Muslimahs of African, Afro-Caribbean or Afro-Latino descent who were converts themselves or the children of converts experienced blatant racism from potential non-Black mates who either refused to consider them or blatantly admitted that their family simply would not accept them because of their ethnicity. These women were further burdened with American Muslim men preferring a woman from “a Muslim country”.

Challenge 2: Availability 

  • Muslims in America are a socio-religious minority. There are limited numbers of potential spouses for any American Muslimah. However, a Muslim woman whose family migrated from a country with a predominantly Muslim population may consider seeking a spouse from “back home” or have a network of potential spouses of similar nationality or ethnic group their Muslim family or friends can recommend. This may be true for Muslim women from Africa as well. However, indigenous African-American Muslim women have long since lost the ties of their ancestors, so after being summarily rejected by Muslim men who have migrated to the U.S. from Asia or the Middle East, the only available potential mates are African-American Muslim men. Unfortunately, the numbers of Muslim Black men are limited as well. In addition, African-American Muslim women who live in smaller communities may find no reliable or consistent mates of suitable age, education, or social status even present.  

Challenge 3:  Misunderstood

  • African-American Muslim women are often subjected to stereotypes. Some potential mates don’t differentiate between a convert who is enthusiastically embracing Islamic cultural practices from one who comes from established Muslim family traditions. Thus, there are perceptions of how married life will be or customs established in the home. Potential mates from other countries may assume these women are too “Americanized” and American Muslim men may feel they are too independent and not submissive enough. The sexual discrimination shadows the couple’s interaction.

In the Quran, in Surah al-Inshirah (chapter 94), Allah, The Most High, reassures the believer that,  “With every difficulty comes ease”.  This “ease” is repeated twice in this verse, reminding us that not only is the ease to be sought, but also that ease is multiplied in relation to the difficulty experienced.

The finding of a spouse is a struggle regardless of the ethnic background of the seekers. This fact affords the Muslim community opportunities to develop strategies and solutions.

Opportunity 1: Acknowledge 

  • The only way to solve a problem is to first acknowledge that there is an issue of concern. The social chaos stemming from the “I am better than s/he” mindset urges us to cut this sickness from our hearts. In the Quran, this attitude is expressed by Iblis,who is the furthest being from a Muslim, who is one who submits to Allah. There is no doubt from the Quran or the life example of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, that racism is forbidden. 

Opportunity 2: Expansion

  • In the quest for a spouse, many African-American Muslims have begun networking within their local Masjid by offering classes, programs, conferences, etc. that provide opportunities for those seeking a spouse. There are ever-expanding efforts and demands by parents and single Muslims themselves to obligate Masjid administrations to create single Muslim databases that list who is available or seeking a partner for marriage. Imams are being tasked to speak on the need to marry Muslimahs residing in the community.  Now, more than at any time in the past, Muslim families reach out to other Muslim families in different localities inquiring about potential mates and thereby creating alliances.  This is in keeping with the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. 

Opportunity 3: Support

  • Besides supporting single Muslim women and reassuring them that with patience and constancy, they will eventually find a spouse, we should also support businesses that develop to facilitate marriage. Although many African-American Muslim women will complain that Muslim marriage sites or national conference marriage workshops typically do not result in any potential matches because of the prevailing attitudes and behavior of the Muslim community, there are still alternatives to explore. For example, Black Marriage Day, organized and held by Muslim Assistant Dean for Religious Life at Howard University, Nisa Muhammad, not only celebrates marriage, but offers lessons on finding and keeping a spouse.  Thus, attendees are afforded opportunities to meet like minded people. Online efforts like Facebook’s African American Muslim Connections, or the blogtalk radio program on CWSC Community buzz “Its All About Courtship and Marriage”, not only offer networking, but also engage in real discussion and solution-oriented activities to bring couples together. The need for matrimonial services continues to expand, but will only survive with the economic and human capital of potential customers.

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