Single and Not Bothered: These Muslim Women are Enjoying their Autonomy
The Feature

Single and Not Bothered: These Muslim Women are Enjoying their Autonomy

I grew up witnessing the women tirelessly sacrificing their youth away for the family. Had I gotten married young, my life would have been different in the way my household would have taken precedence over my career and self-happiness.

– Nesa Jeenah

In many societies, marriage is the ultimate marker of a woman’s success. It’s hard to be single and not bothered. Women are made to feel like they have a biological time bomb that’s waiting to explode once they clock 30. This pressure, coupled with the fear of “failure” and societal stigma has caused many young women to rush into marriages. The downside of this is that many of these women haven’t gotten to know themselves on a deeper level, much less getting to know the person they are rushing to share their lives with. For all the sacrifice it requires, many are left feeling conflicted, restricted and violated. The result is an increased rate of divorce, abuse, unhappiness and deteriorating mental health for lots of women. According to Sumaiya Zama, “the conversation around marriage with women operates from a place of deficit. Not enough men. Not enough eggs. Not enough time. Not enough.

Recently, there have been campaigns for women to stop waiting to get married and start enjoying their lives. This message is centred around self-development and self-discovery as essential ingredients for finding the right partner. Knowing and loving oneself, in essence, are the first steps to finding genuine love. In the words of Nadirah Pierre,A woman who is enough for herself, who makes decisions not tiptoeing around the sensitivities and feelings of men, but rather from the centre of her own agency, is more than anyone can handle. There are no truer words than this.

Much has been written about women who are single and living their best lives, but there are not enough stories of Muslim women who don’t hinge their happiness upon the institution of marriage. TMWT decided to speak with women from diverse backgrounds who are single and not bothered about being unmarried. These women are enjoying their autonomy and living their best lives. Here’s what each of them had to say:

Nesa Jeenah, Singapore; 32 Years Old

TMWT: How exactly do you feel about being a single woman? 

Nesa: There seems to be an existing misconception that women have a ‘shelf life’. I did struggle to come to terms with my singlehood over the years. It wasn’t always smooth sailing or picture-perfect. In recent times, however, especially after having my wedding called off, It has changed my perspective immensely. Some trials knock us to the ground, and such was mine whereby I gained something so beautiful for which I am eternally grateful; my deen. Through pain, I connected to my deen and understood that marriage does not define me. Who else, but our Creator is the best of all planners? I have so much to be thankful for, Alhamdulillah, and I’m on this journey of self-love and acceptance of all my accomplishments over the years. 

TMWT: What’s the best part of being single and what’s the most challenging aspect of it?

Nesa: The best part would definitely be my freedom; freedom to binge-watch the latest Netflix series, freedom to travel solo, freedom to not have to cook, clean or wash my dishes on days when I just don’t feel like it and freedom to be myself. The challenging aspect for me would be the lack of companionship. 

TMWT: Do you think that getting married would have made your life different from what it is right now? And in what ways would it have been different?

Nesa: Yes, it would have perhaps stirred my life in a different direction. Like most Desi households, I grew up witnessing the women tirelessly sacrificing their youth away for the family. Had I gotten married young, my life would have been different in the way my household would have taken precedence over my career and self-happiness. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing but my self-growth and ability to maintain my personal liberty would have been limited as I would be focused on the happiness of my spouse and children instead. 

TMWT: Are you still open to getting married? What does your ideal marriage look like?

Nesa: Yes I am keen to complete half my deen if that is what is written for me, Insha’Allah. However, I no longer find the need to be confined by social norms to achieve this by a stipulated time nor to settle for men just in the fear of losing them. I now look for an equal in a partner and an ideal marriage to me is one that is built on respect, trust and commitment. 

TMWT: What’s your advice for young Muslim women who are single and worried about being unmarried?

Nesa: To never compromise your self-respect just to cave into society’s demands. There will be days, where you give up and you may feel heart-wrenched. However, have Tawakkul in ‘Al-Khaliq’. Keep yourself occupied, happy and surrounded by loved ones. This dunya is temporary. The akhirah is where our everlasting bounty is. May all the du’as of my sisters in the ummah get answered in the most beautiful ways!


Rahama Musa Bungudu, Zamfara, Nigeria; 28 Years Old

TMWT: How exactly do you feel about being a single woman? 

Rahama: I feel it’s Allah’s will. I’m grateful for the opportunities and blessings I have because I’m single. I trust Allah’s plan with regards to who I marry and when I marry. I only pray for Allah’s guidance and protection, and for Allah to bless my marriage when and if the time comes.  

TMWT: What’s the best part of being single and what’s the most challenging aspect of it?

Rahama: The best part has been my personal growth. Being single has given me the opportunity to make improvements in my deen, financial independence, self-understanding, knowing what I want for myself and pursuing my goals! Being married doesn’t stop anyone from doing all these things, but being single has made it possible for me to invest more time and energy in all of it. 

The most challenging aspect of it has been the pressure. It comes in various forms, especially from people whose opinions are irrelevant. There have been questions thrown at me regarding why I haven’t married and when I’ll marry. Some people even express irritation when I don’t settle for less than what I want. There’s this assumption that because I’m not married at my current age, I should just marry anyone despite their character, incompatibility or deficient practice of the deen, which I disagree with. 

TMWT: Do you think that getting married would have made your life different from what it is right now? 

Rahama: Yes! I would’ve married for the wrong reasons, with little understanding of what being married entails, and possibly not enough appreciation for marriage itself. For these reasons, I don’t think I would’ve been as happy as I could be in my marriage. And I wouldn’t have been as good a person to be married to as I am now. 

And in what ways would it have been different?

I’ve grown a lot as a single woman. Had I married earlier, I wouldn’t have been as patient or kind. At the same time, I had little understanding of my rights, so it would have been easier for me to be taken advantage of. I wouldn’t have been as intentional about my marriage or motherhood. I feel like there’s a possibility that I would have gotten lost in all of it. But now I feel more firmly planted in my Deen and in myself as an individual. So I feel I’m more prepared and suited for marriage. 

There have been questions thrown at me regarding why I haven’t married and when I’ll marry. Some people even express irritation when I don’t settle for less than what I want. There’s this assumption that because I’m not married at my age, I should just marry anyone.

– Rahama Musa Bungudu

TMWT: Are you still open to getting married? 

Rahama: If it’s Allah’s will, yes! I’d love to. But not at the expense of my deen, health, safety, happiness and sense of self. 

TMWT: What does your ideal marriage look like?

Rahama: It’s built on the values of the deen; communication, compassion and mutual respect. In my ideal marriage, we’re both intentional about our deen, marriage, families, children, careers and happiness. 

TMWT: What’s your advice for young Muslim women who are single and worried about being unmarried?

Rahama: Accept Allah’s will! Take time to develop yourself, spend time with family and friends, and have fun! Whatever or whoever is meant for you will never pass you. So just do what you can to be the best version of yourself now! 


Taiba Orfan, Germany, 32 Years Old

I have just figured out in the past two years what qualities I want in a partner, which I did not know in my mid-20s.

Taiba Orfan

TMWT: How exactly do you feel about being a single woman? 

Taiba: I feel happy and comfortable being a single woman. For me, it feels like the right place to be at this stage of my life. I am learning so much about myself and continuing to grow. I do feel pressure from my mother but I have become really good at ignoring pressure and focusing on what is right for me.

TMWT: What’s the best part of being single and what’s the most challenging aspect of it?

Taiba: I believe the best part about not being married right now is that I had the choice to stay unmarried. Unfortunately, not every girl has the same privilege. Also, I have given myself time to grow and self reflect. I can make personal or career choices and not restrict myself. I guess that I can still make choices independently. 

The challenging aspect is that I tend not to share everything with my parents. Growing up, I lived a double life, one to make my parents happy and one to make myself happy. Although I am a lot more comfortable sharing more experiences of my life with them now, I continue to leave out certain things. I know that if I was married I would be able to share more. Also, my mother would be a lot less worried about me.

TMWT: Do you think that getting married would have made your life different from what it is right now? And in what ways would it have been different?

Taiba: When I think about the question: “what if” I was married right now? The first thing I think about is that I would be married to the wrong person. I have just figured out in the past two years what qualities I want in a partner, which I did not know in my mid-20s. I now know that a relationship or a marriage requires more than just love. It requires so much growth and experience from both individuals. A marriage or a partnership requires having similar morals and values. It requires work and commitment every single day.

On the other hand, I know that I would be struggling with my career if I had married earlier because I just started liking the direction that my career is headed towards. If I was married and possibly with a child, I know that my main focus would be my family. I would possibly put my career on the back burner even though that’s not what I want now or in the future. To say the least and speak for myself, I know it would be tough.

TMWT: Are you still open to getting married? What does your ideal marriage look like?

Taiba: I am definitely open to being married soon actually, I think I want to be a mother hopefully someday. My ideal marriage looks like two hard-working individuals that support and take care of one another. There’s no gender bias and insane expectation but rather, two team players working to better themselves and the world around them. It also looks like a lot of fun, family gatherings, and travelling.

TMWT: What’s your advice for young Muslim women who are single and worried about being unmarried?

Taiba: There are so many amazing people out there. Take your time to love yourself first and explore what you want from this world, and only then will you be able to choose the right partner for you. Life can get very difficult and people can carry on problems that come out only with time. So don’t rush and make decisions just because your parents want you to do what they did. Make a decision for yourself and how you want your life to look like. Lastly, you can have the best partner if you wish to. Don’t worry about religion or cultural differences. Look for someone that will respect you as a woman and support you. Demand to be treated fairly and equally. Ignore the pressure and continue to love and work on yourself. When the time is right and the person is right, it will happen effortlessly.


Aisha Obiagwu, Abuja, Nigeria; 29 Years Old

TMWT: How exactly do you feel about being a single woman?

I’ve had a number of feelings over the years, but currently, I regard my being single as a blessing. A lot of the time, people are quick to attribute many life occurrences such as death, the loss of sustenance, etc. to Qadar. But in the same breath, they chastise single people, especially women. This is why a lot of single people feel like there is something wrong with them when simply, it’s the decree of Allah and it’s just not your time yet. I know it’s not yet my time, and Allah is the best of planners. But this is His story for me and honestly, I’m grateful for it.

Building a life with someone requires all sorts of compromise, and this is not something I have to worry about currently.

– Aisha Obiagwu

TMWT: What’s the best part of being single and what’s the most challenging aspect of it?

Aisha: The best part of being single for me is the way I can get up and go without consulting with anyone. My life is fully mine, and I can move to another country without thinking about a partner or children. My time is 100% mine, and I get to share it among friends, family, work, and hobbies as I please. Although, one major downside to this is people always assuming they can call me up whenever they like because of how flexible they think my time is. I’m learning to set boundaries in this regard.

One challenging aspect of being single is the loneliness that sometimes creeps in. It doesn’t happen all the time, but there are moments where you wish you had someone to share your life with, someone that’s not a family member and is more than a friend. This occasional feeling differs from person to person. I find that properly articulating your feelings, mostly through journaling, can be very helpful.  

TMWT: Do you think that getting married would have made your life different from what it is right now? And in what ways would it have been different?

Aisha: I definitely know that my life would be very different if I were married, or if I had gotten married earlier. Building a life with someone requires all sorts of compromise, and this is not something I have to worry about currently. There would be benefits as there would be downsides. I would always have to make choices with another individual in mind, and things cannot be spontaneous because a lot of things would hang in the balance. I would also have companionship and intimacy; something I currently do not have.

TMWT: Are you still open to getting married? What does your ideal marriage look like?

Aisha: Even though I still have fears and reservations, I’m definitely open to meeting a wonderful man and getting married. I now realise that I had a very skewed idea of marriage when I was in my early 20s, one that was quite rooted in uber traditional ideals. Currently, my ideal marriage is one that balances both the traditional and modern, where we ensure that our intentions for marriage are aligned with what Allah wants for us. I’d like a proper partnership, where we get to simultaneously build our lives through great communication, kindness, and prayer.

TMWT: What’s your advice for young Muslim women who are single and worried about being unmarried?

Aisha: My advice for young Muslim women who are single is: stop waiting. A lot of the time as women, we wait. We have all of these wonderful dreams but put them on hold because we think a husband will be our crowning glory. But your life is yours, first and foremost. So, stop waiting. Do all the amazing things you have planned out, and hopefully, you’ll meet someone who shares the same ideals and hopes as you. It’s important to live your full life.


Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter, New York City, USA; 23 Years Old

The best part of being single is that I am my only priority

– Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter

TMWT: How exactly do you feel about being a single woman?  

Being single has allowed me to pour in as much self-love, self-care, and self-reflection within and fall in love with myself.

TMWT: What’s the best part of being single and what’s the most challenging aspect of it?

Kiyonah: The best part of being single is that I am my only priority and I can use my time to become my best self.  The most challenging part is being overwhelmed with desires of intimacy.

TMWT: Do you think getting married would have made your life different from what it is right now? And in what ways would it have been different?

Kiyonah: Of course, being married means I have other human emotions to take into consideration. It means that I have a responsibility to uphold. In being married, I take on another role as the wife, and I desire to be the best wife to my husband. 

TMWT: Are you still open to getting married? What does your ideal marriage look like?

Kiyonah: Yes, I am excited to get married one day. An ideal marriage to me is one in which two people love, honour and respect one another for the sake of Allah; one in which both parties try their best to uphold unity and peace within the home and both enjoy this world with the hereafter in mind. 

TMWT: What’s your advice for young Muslim women who are single and worried about being unmarried?

Kiyonah: Do not wait for someone to show you love. Wake up and show your Lord and yourself love. Remove the idea that your life starts once you get married. Instead, learn to cultivate the life you want for yourself.


TMWT

TMWT is an online media platform spotlighting the stories of Muslim women of the past and present. We aim to be one of the most authoritative and informative guides to what is happening in the world of Muslim women. We hope to cover key issues, spark debates, progressive ideas and provocative topics to get the Muslim world talking. We want to set agendas and explore ideas to improve the lives and wellbeing of Muslim Women.

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