BIZARRE but real! Divorce happens in Lanao and among other Muslim societies in the world.
When I was young, I thought of marriage as a vow that is made in heaven and that it will be forever. With my exposure to other religions, I saw people abhorring the act of divorce. Many cannot accept married couples’ reasons in resorting to divorce. In fact in other religious groups, divorce is forbidden.
I once heard a respectable Meranaw man saying that “marriage is a human contract, not made in heaven.” I was shocked but that made me think.
Why does a broken marriage happen if marriage is made in heaven? If it was made in heaven, without a doubt, it can be assumed that marriage has moral perfection.
But why do concepts like adultery, polygamy, infidelity, hatred, separation, misunderstanding and the like exist? Aren’t they the result of human imperfections living in this imperfect world?
Logically, we have imperfections in our lives and we have different levels of satisfaction and contentment. Whether we like it or not, WE are imperfect.
Because of this, I am thankful that Islamic rite is the matrimonial bond that Meranaws practice. Islam has a different take on the concept of divorce. It is permitted as a last resort if it is not possible to continue a marriage.
Though Islam allows divorce, it cannot be abused. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said, “Of all the lawful things, divorce is the most hated by Allah."
It means that even if Islam allows the act, couples have to resort to this when they have done all the means to protect their marriage. Islam treats marriage as a bond filled with respect, mercy, compassion and tranquility.
Hence, when both husband and wife can’t give a loving relationship, can’t respect each other, can’t be compassionate enough to forgive each other, then divorce is the best resort.
You might be asking ‘how can that be?’ Well, in the previous article, where the case of a man and his wife got married at a very young age through a parentally arranged marriage, their matrimony did not end well. They needed to divorce because of so many reasons like psychological and emotional differences and difficulties. Human imperfections shattered the marriage.
However, in the Meranaw community where I come from, cases of divorce have been acknowledged but with stigma attached to it.
It is not easy because most marriages in my community are politically motivated or clannish in nature.
Therefore, affected families may suffer "Rido" (family feud) or sometimes, couples will be outcasts of the society when divorce is completed.
In one politically motivated marriage I know, the couple suffered divorce without their consent. Their families, who became political rivals after few years, ended the couple’s marriage even without consulting them.
This may be a case of abuse of the act of divorce, but still this is reality to some of us.
This is the reason why divorce in Islam is very interesting as it is very complicated. One needs to understand even the steps and legal basis of the act before one can resort to it. Therefore, no one can easily abuse it or use it as a means to exploit others.
Nonetheless, I still believe that there is love in a broken marriage. Couples resort to divorce because they can only have tranquility, respect and compassion by setting each other free.
Peculiar as it is, divorce exists in this part of the country.
(Professor Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph is currently the chairperson of the Communication and Media Department, Mindanao State University, Marawi City.)