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Divorce in Islam is disliked and discouraged to a great extent; “Never did Allah permit an act more hateful to Him than divorce” [Abu Dawud 13 : 3] . For this reason many measures have been put in place to reduce the number of marriages that end in divorce;

 “…live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and God brings about through it a great deal of good.” - Surah 4 Verse 19

“If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, God will cause their reconciliation: For God hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.” - Surah 4 Verse 35:

Historical trends of divorce

According to Dafoe. B. W (1997), the trend of divorce has been general increase in the rates during the World War I from 1 in every 1000 married women to 8.  This was a period of rapid industrialization and urbanization and movement from extended to nuclear families. In the 1920’s to the period before the end of world war II, there was no change in divorce rates due to hardships which sociologists attribute to the big depression in the 1930’s. After World War II period the rates rose to 18 per every 1000 married women due to break-up of war time marriages and the number increased with modernization which saw an increase in modern couple’s expectations in terms of personal growth and fulfilment. Happiness replaced stability as a reason for marital commitment. Change in marital roles where women movement in the 1960’s, led many women to question what they saw as second role in our culture. This made them go out to work thus gaining financial and emotional freedom hence finding it easy to end bad marriages. The Muslim woman was of course liberated long ago with the coming of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).The Quran says: “And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a true believer in the Oneness of Allah, such will enter paradise; and not the least injustice, even to the size of a speck on the back of a date stone, will be done to them.” (Quran 4:124).

According to the United Nations Statistics division the divorce trends in Kenya between 1969 to around 1989 covered between 1.04% to 3.09% of the population across ages 25 to 44 years. There was an increase in the rate between 1999 to 2003 for the same age groups with the rate standing at 2.5 to 4.8%. If this is anything to go by, then chances are that the rate may have gone up.

Dafoe’s study was based on the history of the U.S but if we are to use it as a case study it will help with the conceptualization of the general trends so as to lead us to a way forward. Of course, these happenings were almost similar in Africa as it was the time when most colonies were struggling for their independence coupled with industrialization and there after modernization. What the trends and situations at the different periods bring out is that the disruption in the way people lived by factors such as war, industrialization and modernization played very big roles in marriage breakdown. It is also noted that during the period of depression the rates of divorce decreased due to hardships. Does this mean then that people stay in marriages as a way of shielding themselves of the hardships that are out there and once the situation changes they are willing to let the marriage go as what happened with the onset of modernization? Whether this is true or not, it is subject to debate and further research. The question I am asking myself and probably most of you are is that is it time we re-evaluate our reasons for getting into marriage? Of course Islam has clearly told us that we were all created to worship Allah. This follows that every action we take, our intentions should be directed towards pleasing Allah and also guided by this principle. Once we get this right all the other things will eventually fall into place as we will strive to find out what it takes to live an Islamic marriage and by the enumerated guidelines.

After all is said and done, the reality is that there is an increase in divorce rates. Divorce has a great impact to individuals, children, families and society as a whole. The government and community at large has a stake in ensuring stability in marriages as stable married people keep the society more stable. The Kenyan marriage law under the marital disputes and matrimonial proceedings part is clear on its support for the marriage institution and has encouraged taking of steps through counselling or otherwise to save marriages. This is because of the effects of divorce to a society.

Some of the effects of divorce are:

The effects range from children being affected in various ways, emotional, financial and legal matters to social stigma.

I can’t help but wonder, in consideration of the historical trends in divorce rates, whether we are caught in a strange situation away from what used to govern our marriage set-ups and what is becoming of our marriages now.  This could be possible or not, but if it actually is true, what is our turning point? It is time as a society we took a closer look at the situation and find a way forward. As for the effects of divorce, is there a way we can reduce the mostly negative effects? I believe we can through watching out for the causes of divorce in the first place so as to stop divorce from crumbling down the very core of our society as well as look at ways of adjusting to divorce so as to make the best out of the not so ideal situation. This is why you should watch out for the next issue on counselling and divorce where these aspects will be covered. And may Allah guide us all.

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