By: Brandi Danielle Douglass
Muslim American Women are Our Present and our Future….
Religion, for many cultures, contains the blueprint for which members are to live their lives. For most in that cultural group, specific traditions and customs are to be followed without question and done so without the urge to waiver. These traditions may differ vastly between men and women, each encompassing specific duties and honorable practices to be maintained. Although there is a sacred element and preservative nature that these traditions and customs seek to maintain, new and often challenging roles are arising.
One prime example of this can be witnessed by observing Muslim women of today, who are more frequently finding themselves unmarried and on their own.
Religious guidelines and the perception of single women
The Quran, the main religious text of the Islam community and one in which Muslim individuals refer to for guidance, lays the groundwork for societal expectations. In the traditional sense, a woman is to remain under the care and protection of her parents until a suitable marriage partner can be ascertained. After which, the husband is to become the protector. As with many cultures, the woman is to be the domestic partner, tending to the home and family, refraining from work outside of the home.
Although times are changing, and more Muslim women are encouraged to seek educational pursuits, work outside of the home and establish more independence, there remains a negative stigma towards those who opt to do so while being single. Research by Ibrahim and Saili (2015) goes on to explain that:
Prolonged singleness is seen as a social change that challenges long accepted forms of universal marriage…this is due to the fact that the roles of women are defined according to their lifecycle beginning from being a daughter and later a wife, mother and grandmother. (Ibrahim & Saili, 2015) (p. 371).
Although these challenge to the status quo have caused ripples that appear unfavorable to the more traditional Muslim community, changes are slowing occurring for women. Challenging cultural norms can be an extremely difficult feat, but younger generations of Muslim women are choosing to do so, confronting parents who have long since followed the traditions and customs instilled in them.
Education and the bridge to independence
High school aged Muslim girls pursuing a college education in the United States are not discouraged from applying. However, they face an additional task, acquiring permission from their parents as to whether they may even attend, once admitted.
A piece by Kolodner (2015) introduces several young university accepted Muslim girls, explaining how, “The girls want to stay connected to their religion and where they come from, while breaking free of things from their parents’ generation that they find constraining” (Kolodner, 2015). This mix of emerging into oneself and enjoying freedoms may appear to be completely combative with reference to these girl’s religion. However, it indicates an effort to preserve and maintain connection while fostering change.
A spark for conversation
Whereas the general existence of a single Muslim woman living outside of her parent’s home may elicit speculation and disdain from the Muslim community, it does spark a very beneficial flame: conversation around the subject. However taboo the topic of discussion, communities are talking and people are learning that being unmarried and living alone has a multitude of dynamics and should not be pigeonholed into the perhaps general held belief that rebellion is the driving factor.
According to Adamou (2015), a 30 something, single, childless, Muslim woman, “A variety of circumstances, many unexpected and beyond one’s control, are the reason why we- single, childless women- exist” (Adamou, 2015). Does this type of conversation guarantee an immediate change on the horizon? Probably not. However, it may foster the questions of, how many circumstances and what is beyond a Muslim woman’s control? Conversation indeed.
There is a gradual shift of focus occurring with regard to Muslim girls and single women in this day and age. Whereas their status may not be in line with upheld religious standards, they continue to push for recognition, no longer dismissing their experiences. Additionally, they are no longer dismissing their status as able-bodied and able-minded individuals in society. Well received or not, change is occurring.
Adamou, F. (2015). Single Childless Muslim Women. Retrieved from http://www.altmuslimah.com/2015/05/single-childless-muslim-women/
Ibrahim, R. & Saili, J. (2015). Never Married Malay Muslim women’s perceived advantages and
disadvantages of living single life. International Journal of English Language, Literature
and Humanities, volume III. Retrieved from
Kolodner, M. (2015). How one observant Muslim girl persuaded her parents to let her go
to Princeton. Retrieved from