I have been through divorce. Twice.
I am done trying to cover up the perceived shame that often comes with being divorced. I am done trying to give anyone the opportunity to validate my being an upright Muslimah.
It was a bright almost sunny day in May. The tell-tale signs of summer were lurking around the corner and I was sitting in a class alongside other Public health professionals discussing the concept of Stigmatisation when my idea for SIDDIQAH was born.
Before that class was done I was clear on what I was going to do, though I took a year to figure out how I was going to go about it. Empathy is one of my biggest strengths and giving back to the Ummah has been one of my biggest dreams- in my bid to combine both, Siddiqah started to grow. Though Siddiqah is far from where I hope it would be by now, I strongly belief that the sky is the lowest step on this journey of leaving behind a legacy that would continue to benefit Muslimahs till the end of time InshaAllaah!
What is SIDDIQAH?
SIDDIQAH is a non-governmental organisation that supports widows, divorcees and struggling families. It was set-up some 3+ years ago by me, Aishah Adams. At the time I set it up, I barely had funds to push forward but I believed in the beauty of the work and more importantly I put my trust in Allah and took solace in His words of being sufficient for the believers and with this in mind, I started operations.
SIDDIQAH has 3 arms: Support, Empowerment, and Health promotion and education. Through the support arm, we provide psychological, emotional, and sometimes financial support. Our financial support depends on money donated to the organisation which isn’t much as we tend to leverage on help from family, friends and well-wishers. We try to be there for our sisters going through these trials both through words and actions.
Abraham Lincoln once said “You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”
To exemplify this philosophy, we try to help our sisters get back on their feet after the trial that has just ripped their stability into shreds by working at helping them become financially independent. We provide financial aid to help set them up in business or we link them up with those who can assist with employment. This task is often very difficult, especially in cases where she barely had something going before all the living responsibilities fell on her shoulders. Our empowerment efforts are usually tailored to fit the person being empowered as ‘one peg doesn’t always fit all’.
Our health promotion arm focuses on some specific health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression, just to mention a few. Here we try to educate people on what to look out for, and we share tips on how to work through them. This arm has been underdeveloped so far but starting October 2016, InshaAllah, we hope to hold health education talks once a month, wallaahu musta’an.
Why did I start SIDDIQAH?
When I was going through my trials as a divorcee, I used to hear people say to me, “MashaAllah, you’re such a strong person” and “I don’t know what I would have done if I was in your shoes.” Then I used to think, ‘If I am strong- or perceived as strong- and I have it this tough (and I had it really tough) how would those who don’t have that much strength cope? How would they learn to ignore sly comments and criticisms and more importantly the perceived shame that follows divorce the moment word gets out?’ This motivated me to support sisters going through divorce and, more importantly, all those who have been through ‘iddah and were trying to remain a part of the society.
SIDDIQAH helped me heal as working to help others predisposed me to getting first hand accounts of their life stories too and this helped me realise that there was always something to be grateful for no matter how bad it seemed. It helped me increase in thankfulness and gratitude to Allah. It helped me decide to take action and more importantly put in hard work and be successful so that I could inspire others to be high achievers irrespective of whatever life throws at them by way of trials.
How has SIDDIQAH been of benefit to others?
Alhamdulilah we have been able to support about 60 families going through divorce, spousal death or very strenuous financial challenges. Over the past 3 years, we have helped raise money for housing, school fees, health care, and start-up costs for business in our bid to support our sisters. In these 3+ years, I have seen many sisters come to me being very down-cast and leave us with renewed hope. I have seen sisters going through divorce move from a state of helplessness to being purpose-driven and determined to get back on their feet.
Along the way three of our beneficiaries have gotten back on their feet, Alhamdulilah. Though three successful transitions in three years seems awfully small, we are hopeful that more sisters will become strengthened through the support we give. We are now trying to broaden our financial support base to accommodate more funding opportunities. Like many non-governmental organisations, funding has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced in supporting our sisters to make the transition from being dependent to being able to stand on their feet again.
In our bid to help change the stigma associated with divorce, we share messages on our social media pages as well as organise events in which some of our beneficiaries are invited to share their story. One such event was held in November of 2014, and it was quite insightful for those who attended.
Vision & Plans for the Future
In order to re-orient and educate more Muslims on the topic of divorce, and in an attempt to make people understand the pain those experiencing divorce go through- including both the psychological and health effects- SIDDIQAH has a short documentary in the works titled ‘The Elephant in the Room’. It is currently in the editing process. Stay glued to this website as well as our social media pages for more updates on this project.
Due to challenges with funding, we have been unable to spread our wings as far as we hoped. Some of our plans for the future include having tea parties in which sisters who are looking to get married get to hang out with those who are married or divorced and learn from them. We hope that this will be an opportunity for more young sisters looking to get married to learn and avoid the pitfalls that led others into making certain mistakes that inadvertently led to divorce or frustration in their marriages.
SIDDIQAH has a few dedicated volunteers and staff and are now looking to expand our work-force to better serve the growing number of beneficiaries. We are also trying to find sponsors who would be willing to support our work on a monthly basis; this would help us reach out to more Muslimahs suffering from the pangs of divorce or widowhood or facing huge financial setbacks.
Once I received a message from one of our beneficiaries and she wrote ‘Please help me fish and stop giving me the fish. Though I appreciate the help and support, I would prefer to stand on my own. Help me set-up my business idea.’ If we receive more funding, we plan to be able to financially support at least 5 sisters every month to set up their business; that way we can increase productivity amongst our sisters and cut down on the rate of dependency that seems to be on the increase.
We are also looking to rent an apartment that would serve as a stepping stone for those who were thrown out of their homes abruptly. Once I received a call from a sister who had just gotten divorced and had perhaps a week to move out. Alhamdulilah we were able to raise funds to get her another apartment, but this ease doesn’t happen all the time. At the moment, we are trying to raise funds for a sister who is divorced with four kids and is about to be thrown out of the apartment she has been staying in due to lack of funds to pay her rent. If SIDDIQAH had a stand-by apartment to house people, it would take the stress off of us when we have these kinds of emergencies with no clear idea of where the funds will come from.
We are also looking at running a radio show in partnership with enRadio, an online Muslim radio station which is a sub of eNarrate (www.enarrate.com). The radio show is intended to touch on issues surrounding marriage and divorce as well as the plight of those who are divorced. It’s intended to be used as a tool to re-educate people.
Breaking the Stigma
I remember speaking to a certain sister some years back and at the time I was trying to gather resources for the documentary (though I didn’t end up shooting it then). I asked her, “Did you know that Khadijah (radiyallaahu anha) was married three times?” and her jaw literally dropped and she asked, “Three times?!” One could hear the sound of incredulity in her voice and I calmly replied, “Yes, three times.”
My point to this sister wasn’t just that she was married three times. Rather, her success was linked with her third husband, the Nabi of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wassalam) and not with any of her previous ones who were disbelievers, as was the case with many before the revelation descended. In fact, if you were to look through the seerah and the books of hadith, you would come across many stories of divorce that happened in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wassalam) and even afterwards. Does this indicate in any way that the Sahabah (radiyallaahu anhum) who went through divorce were lesser in piety than those who didn’t? NO. Divorce is just one of the many trials in the life of this world and Allah tests whom He wills with what He wills, as Allah is indeed the Wise, the Best of Planners.
Staying married for many years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a successful marriage. There are numerous long-term marriages in which the occupants are in deep misery, the children included. Being divorced is one of the many trials that people go through in life and just as the one who loses a child or goes through a miscarriage doesn’t necessarily plan to put themselves through pain when they learn of their pregnancy, so also a divorcee doesn’t start out in a marriage looking forward to getting divorced.
If one wouldn’t mock or stigmatise such people, why then do people often single out divorcees with children- and even widows- and treat them like they aren’t a part of the community? There are people who invested themselves completely in their marriage and still got divorced, and there are people who gave little yet had successful marriages. True success is from Allaah alone.
DISCLAIMER: This support group is in NO WAY, directly or otherwise trying to encourage divorce. This is a humble effort on our path to support our sisters through this trial because we believe it to be a traumatic time in the life of the one going through this hardship and we believe that it is meritorious to lend a helping hand to those going through this painful process.
Aishah Adams is the Founder of SIDDIQAH. She is a wife and mother. She is a Health Consultant as well as a Marriage and Personal Development Coach for Muslimahs. She loves nature, creativity, reading, writing and travelling. Making a difference in the Ummah is her lifelong dream and she does this through the many initiaves she is involved in. You can follow up with her works through her Siddiqah Facebook page as well as her coaching page atwww.facebook.com/siddiqahinstitute
Written By Aishah Adams