Saturday 7 April 2012

The Muslim Spinster Crisis

Marriage is a very important part of Muslim culture. In fact, as soon as most Muslims enter their late teens, parents start dropping hints about marriage. Often you are expected to get married, or at least engaged, in you early-20s and if you get to the ripe old age of 30 without being married, your community starts to pity you and question your normality.

It is not an easy or comfortable environment to be raised in, especially if you have strong views about the kind of person you want to spend the rest of your life with. However, it has been further complicated in recent years by the fact that many Muslim women, in particular, simply can’t find suitable Muslim men.
This is a trend that I had detected anecdotally many years ago but in recent months it has been reported in a number of media outlets too. This is a welcome development in my view because having the discussion in public allows us all to explore the dynamics that are contributing towards this imbalance.

Syma Mohammed is one such woman who wrote about her experiences for the Guardian a few months back. She attended a Muslim marriage event in Glasgow only to find that there were five women to every man. In her words “Well turned out women sat around dejected, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to speak to the select few”. She went on to say that nearly all Muslim singles events in this country are female dominated with the average age of women typically being higher than the men.
So what is going on?
Firstly, Western Muslim women are more likely to be better educated and more discerning about their future choice of marriage partner than their male counterparts. They are, therefore, less likely to want to go back to the ‘motherland’ to find a companion who will most likely be of a radically different mindset and will struggle to be the main breadwinner. Secondly, they are also forbidden from marrying non-Muslim men, both by orthodox religious authorities and their communities and families in general.

So whilst Muslim men are free to choose from half the population and the millions of women in places like Pakistan who dream of moving to the West for a better life, their female counter-parts, or at least those who want a say in their marriage, are stuck with the few men who didn’t get married for whatever reason.
In some cases, this can result in women reluctantly marrying men at 31 who they wouldn’t have given a second look at 21. In other cases, it can result in women remaining single for the rest of their lives since relationships outside of marriage are culturally taboo.

The situation for the women is made more difficult by the fact that men, consciously or subconsciously, use their mothers as their role models. In many Muslim families, especially first generation immigrants, women play a subservient role and, therefore, their sons are less inclined to go for a partner who is better educated, strong minded and outspoken. As such, an overtly obedient village girl from abroad who stays at home and looks after their mother becomes an attractive option.
This current situation is unsustainable to say the least and the changes required to alter it in the short to medium term are too radical for a community that rarely welcomes change. Furthermore, such problems are also, at least partially, symptomatic of the lack of personal freedom and individuality in Muslim communities. Group-think preserves cultural practises that are dysfunctional when maintained in a different time or context.

In the long term, I do believe that things will change for the better as third and fourth generation Muslim men are less likely to want to marry women from completely different cultures. Muslim women are also more likely to start partnering with non-Muslim men as the grip of the tribe gets weaker and people interact more. In fact, an increasing number of Muslim women are already marrying non-Muslim men and an Imam in Oxford called Taj Hargey is encouraging the practise and providing support for such couples.

However, in the short-term the males in Muslim communities face a stark choice. They either have to stop discouraging Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men or start discouraging Muslim men from marrying women from abroad. To do neither is to allow the Muslim spinster crisis to continue and even get worse.



  1. ok i dont like/want anyone to suffer, but encouraging muslim women to marry non-muslim men is creating a crisis - in the future. what happens to the kids?

    i speak of this personally, my moms youngest sister married a non-muslim and it got complicated and chaotic pretty fast. it literally broke the family apart at times- and to this day. and my lil cousins are very confused. ofc im not mistreating them and like they want to pray salat with me, but no ones really taught them how seriously, or suras etc. i'm also abroad, but even if i was in country- how much impact could i really have?

    it's a personal choice, but when kids get involved, thats some significant responsibility for shaping another souls environment and destiny. this isn't to say they won't be awesome kids, with great character, but they might not be Muslim. and i dont want to assume too much, but from your posts, id think we both agree that would be a crisis and tragedy.

  2. @ Anonymous: It is OK to find faults with the write up, but do you also bring any suggestions to this epidemic? Maybe teach young men not to sleep around and marry non-muslim women who are NOT really followers of the book of the times that the Quran mentions as their texts have been corrupted and they barely even follow these corrupted texts. Also, as if these men really themselves are following Islam - have you seen what kind of kids they and their non muslim wives are raising?

  3. Islam encourages women to marry poor men if they cannot find their ideal and Allah will bless them with provision. Women are not willing to compromise on this until it's too late. I've been looking for a wife here in the UK for 3 years since I was 27 yrs old and I've decided to now to go to Pakistan. As I don't have a degree it seems that I'm on not on anyone's radar, invisible. And like the writer states, these same women may be willing to marry me when they get older and settle. But that is like a slap in the face, like I'm not worthy of marrying them when they are younger and more beautiful. Rather than rejecting men left right and centre in ones early and mid 20's, then struggling in their 30's why can't women marry someone when they're younger and build the life they want with that person by their 30's. I think rather than deflecting blame on to men, women need to take a look at how feminism has affected them. There have always been men who were not a dream husband but as a husband was essential they still got wives and lived a meaningful life. Now that women have become the men they want to marry they aren't willing to settle for anything less than prince charming as they can provide for themselves. Much like the writer I've tried to look into why some of my friends who are also very decent guys have struggled to find a wife and found some none muslim articles on how surveys have shown that women consider 80% of men to be below average in looks! I think if most of these spinsters are honest with themselves they'll find that there were many eligible men they rejected when they were younger. I don't think it is fair to ask these same men to bail out these women later on in life when they have attained the social status they(women) desire (i.e money). When there are halal options like marrying someone of lower social status and polygamy, the fact that the article is suggesting marrying a non-muslim just shows the entitled feminist infested mindset of western muslim women.

  4. Ok those girls that married kafir men are kafir for all practical purposes. You shall not refer to them as Muslim but as non Muslim women who have severed their sacrireligous ties with the community

  5. If people wanted their children to be Muslim why did they choose to live in non Muslim lands and put their children through hell? Surely, if they were committed to Islam they would have remained in the Muslim lands and made them better so that their children could live without prejudice. Some of us did everything the community told us to do. I had to say no to 30 people who asked me out when I was young because I was not Muslim. I broke my heart rather than break the rules. I came home from university in pieces over someone non Muslim who had liked me who I had been forced to ignore for 3 years for the sake of reputation and religion.
    I was introduced to 5 Muslim men by the family and chose one but his mother didn't want me because she didn't want a child of divorce even though divorce is allowed in Islam and it was my parents who were divorced, not me!
    After all my sacrifice and tears, I was called a prostitute by Asian gangs in East London because a sick relative I have never met had lied to them and pretended to know me and told filthy lies about me because he was jealous I had a degree!
    Everybody believed the lies and my youth and most of my child bearing years were wasted on LIES.
    So, now I am 47 and have been celibate ALL my life. I have no husband and no child.
    What has the community done for me for being a good girl and following the rules?
    The girls who broke the rules and had boyfriends and married non Muslims are now happy with husbands and children and respect in the community and I have NOTHING.
    The Muslim community is failing Muslim women.

  6. to the person above..I'm so sorry. I'm headed for a life of spinsterhood too...I'm nearly 27 and Bengali - I have no family to help me, my mother is completely useless ..was unwilling to ask around for me and put herself out there to find someone for me even tho I was asking for this since I was 18...and now the useless woman turns it round and blames me for not finding anyone even tho our stupid culture is not set up to facilitate that

    I've tried mosque, I've tried online ...nothing. On top of all my other obstacles I have PCOS (fertility issues) so that means even less people would be willing to marry me..and I've never been pretty or attracted male attention so unlikely to find anyone on my own

    I've been trying to find some purpose and positivity in spinsterhood so I can accept my fate but there's nothing online and the muslim spinsters I've met in real life are just tragic. Even sluts find loving, warm, affectionate relationships and here we are rotting away in loneliness..waiting for an end to this crap, all the while dying inside.