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Divorce—blessing or curse?

Huzaima Bukhari

“The most hateful of all lawful matters to Allah is divorce” ―Hadith from Sunan Abi Dawud 2172

Every human being has the right to live a happy and fulfilling life, in which he is able to realize his dreams so that he dies absolutely content. Having said this, reality is far more different than what one would desire. Life is certainly not a bed of roses. It comes with a package of duties and responsibilities that can be likened to the thorns in the bed of roses and whether one likes it or not, these burdens have to be borne. The only difference in people’s lives is the way they bear their share of obligations and this is exactly what brings about a variety in the affairs of the human beings, Performance of a single duty means a wide range of perceptions about it, both in the mind of the performer and the ones being served. Here is where matters become interesting providing the bases for scholarly studies and researches.

Among the innumerable interactions between human beings, one is divorce that follows a marriage gone sour. Fair enough! A man and a woman cannot live amicably with one another for whatever reasons and they choose to part ways. After all, this is a contractual agreement that can be terminated any time. The two are not related by birth so there seems no logic in continuing with a relationship that is created with their signatures on a legal document. Then why is there so much commotion over a divorce? Why is it a stigma in some societies? Why do many divorcees end up in a depressive state? Why does it incite enmity between families? Answers to these questions depend on multitudinous reasons and have been ably addressed by philosophers and academicians of all eras from the time the institution of marriage came into existence. For this write-up, these are not even remotely relevant.

In the human society marriage and family play a vital role in safe-guarding a number of things especially when they relate to procreation therefore all faiths and social schools of thought lay tremendous emphasis on the family unit. We know with certainty that some religions like Christianity and Hinduism had no room for divorce. Once married, the couple was tied up in a relationship that continued till death. Although it forcefully kept a family together but gave rise to complications that by themselves became sources of severe devastation for human beings—men, women, children and members of the extended family. Over time, divorce gradually crept in their legal systems and was no longer considered a taboo. However, in some countries of the West, a divorce brings in its wake a greater financial crunch compared to getting married and from there has sprung up the concept of live-in relationships that has started to infiltrate even in traditional societies of the East.

Again, there is apparently no harm in a man or woman choosing to live out of wedlock as long as there are no children to bear but if they opt to conceive or there is an accidental birth of a child, then the entire scenario takes a 360-degrees turn. It is not about two people any more but an entire line of human beings. The requirements of the new entrant to this world are not restricted to merely being fed but extend to a host of needs that can only be met in a familial setup. It takes more than just two persons to raise one human child in a manner that can help it obtain an acceptable identity, adapt to the existing social system, enable proper functioning as a useful human being and not become a liability. Exceptions aside, development of these traits are possible in the security of a family household amid next of kin, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and of course, parents. After all, a person’s moral framework can only develop where family support is at its best. Profiles of known criminals usually depict an insecure home, broken families, abusive parent(s), stay in more than one foster homes, identity crisis etc.

Where unmarried and even married mothers give birth and abandon their child leaving no trace behind, things become ever scarier. Who knows when the child grows into an adult, in the absence of identifiable parenthood there could be an incestuous involvement with someone who may turn out to be a brother or sister. Such occurrences are not unusual, especially in the West where adoption is a common practice and egg/sperm banks are available for the benefit of wannabe parents unable to have a baby naturally. Although these measures seem congenial in certain cases and a source of pleasure for eager parents, their outcomes can be psychologically damaging for the children themselves.

As a child we love to play with dolls and that is really fine because dolls are lifeless and stay as they are but children are not toys that give us momentary pleasure and help us pass our time. They are definitely not dolls. They grow up into adults who have a formidable impact on their own life as well as that of others around them. They cannot be taken lightly. They deserve everything that good parents and a secure home can give to them. Unless circumstances are beyond control, children should not be subjected to the torture of living through the unfortunate situation of divorced mother and father, especially where there is underlying hostility. One can easily reconcile with the idea of a dead parent but to be torn between two antagonistic parents is difficult to come to terms with.

It should be understood that divorce could be a blessing for an issueless couple being pivotal in resurrecting the lives of the man and woman. Debbie Ford rightly opines: “Divorce is a time of change. It really rocks a foundation of most people’s lives. When we have our heart broken or our dreams taken away from us, it is a time of growth and change.” However, Emily V. Gordon says: “Divorce is one of the most destructive, emotionally traumatic experiences a human being can go through, no matter if you’re the instigator or the recipient. It’s hard and it hurts, and it takes a long time to feel normal again.” The main protagonists of a divorce may return to normal albeit after some time but if anyone can never restore his/her normalcy, it is the child who may be forced to live with either of the parent on sharing basis, or tolerate the presence of a step father/mother, or be sent to live with a relative, or worse, is sent to a foster home. For the tormented child, divorce could actually prove to be a curse!

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The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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