Ministry of Marital Affairs officially opens as
Demand for assistance in marital affairs grows
Following a lengthy period of consultation between public officials, religious scholars and community leaders the Ministry of Marital Affairs has officially opened, with several centres across the ummah opening their doors to the community for the first time. Aimed at promoting constructive, happy and enduring marriages throughout the community, the Ministry of Marital Affairs comes at a time of high expectations and even higher demands. Speaking to the media today, spokesman for the MOMA Rifat Al-Famsę discussed the history and circumstances that led to the development of this new and exciting public initiative:
Traditionally, getting married was a far easier process, one that was organised between families when the happy couple were often younger and with fewer responsibilities or expectations. Today though, many people find getting married increasingly more difficult, especially with the demands that come with education, employment and living in a fast paced and urban future that doesn’t necessarily promote the close family and community ties that are historically familiar to us. Instead of ignoring this issue though, we’ve decided to step in with a public initiative to make marriage easier, whether its through education campaigns, matchmaking services, access to family planning or relationship counselling. In this day and age, with the resources we have, there is no reason why someone shouldn’t be married if they want to be.
Today, the average age for newly married couples is now 27, a figure that is too high according to religious scholars, community leaders and young people that we spoke to. Many young people specifically have aired their frustration in wanting to get married but not being able to find help in doing so, blaming the increased costs of weddings, difficult parental expectations and unfamiliarity with courting prospective partners. This has led to the phrase “get married or die fasting”, common among young people who are determined to control their nafs but still eager to fulfil their deen. Not all marital news is bad though. Despite the difficulties in getting married the rate of divorce continues to decrease, down to 16% this year, with the average length of marriages now at 54 years. The number of families with multiple spouses has also grown, with marriages with 2 or more wives now comprising 4% of all marriages.
The most ambitious project currently available is the ‘Marriage Milestones’ project, a training program that provides 10 hours of classes a week over 6 months for participants. Over nearly 240 hours of study, students will be taught about religious obligations during marriage, common difficulties and challenges that arise and case studies of marriages between Sahaba. Students will also undergo personal development training and psychotherapy to help them understand their own individual identities and personalities while also learning new skills and approaches that can be incorporated into their marriages in the future. During this period the department will also assist students with matchmaking services with the aim of encouraging each student to find a prospective spouse before the end of the term with the assistance of their families or wali.
The MOMA will also provide opportunities for already married couples to learn new skills and strengthen their marriages throughout the year, with courses and workshops on dispute resolution, healthy emotions, child rearing strategies and communication development. A range of specialised courses will also be available for individuals that have experienced abuse, trauma, grief and other challenging experiences that have been historically ignored. Nour ibn Niqe is a former pharmacist turned grief counsellor who has been instrumental in developing the curriculum for victims of abuse and trauma spoke of these new opportunities:
In the past, men and women in unhappy or unhealthy marriages have often suffered in silence due to shame, societal pressure or limited access to services that may have helped. From today, we have created a range of invaluable opportunities for men and women who have experienced abuse or traumatic episodes, or who have experienced grief due to relationship challenges. These workshops and services will provide skills and training for people to overcome their difficulties and work towards a better future. Though we have faced a lot of challenges and misunderstandings along the way, we’re encouraged by the response and enthusiasm from the community and look forward to the positive impact we will have for people across the region.
In an unexpected development, and a sign of how serious the Khilafa is taking this challenge, the MOMA has also worked with a number of other government departments to offer newly married couples access to subsidised housing to reduce the financial barriers that often prevent young people from getting married. As an act of positive encouragement, couples who complete the Marriage Milestone project together will be able to access housing subsidised by the treasury with no limit on the duration of their ownership. This has been approved to ensure financial and socioeconomic difficulties are no barrier for young couples wishing to get married. Taha Kunkka, 21, is a university student and pro-gamer who thinks the MOMA couldn’t have come soon enough:
At 21 I’m still a few years off from finishing my university degree and finding a full time job. Though I make some money from the pro-gaming circuit, its definitely not enough to support a family or even a marriage. While I could wait, I would much prefer to get married now, especially when the only thing stopping me is my lack of finances. I’ve spoken to my friends who are in a similar position to me and we all agree that if we had access to cheap housing we would all get married today, even if it meant giving up some of the luxuries that we have in our day to day lives. We would even be willing to give back to the program later in our lives when we were more financially independent and capable, because of the value we see in such an initiative. I don’t think I can express how excited and hopefully I am about such a program.
With the MOMA now open, interested individuals are encouraged to visit their local office or see what services are provided that may be of assistance to them.
Do you think marriage is more difficult today? Do you think you would have made use of MOMA services if they were available when you were younger? Join us on our twitter and facebook page and have your say.