I have decided to write this piece so that it is understood to which degree our service extends and because I believe that what I’m about to share is definitely worthy of note – especially since I believe that it may reach those who may have been of the belief that there only is one institution which deals with matrimonial matters (counselling and termination) of marriages. In fact, there are quite a few institutions (four) that I can recall.
For a while, Shoukey and I have worked with couples and expressed our holistic approach of supporting others. What we often deliberately withheld, was the fact that we are also affiliated to an Islamic judiciary (an institution like the MJC). I’m not entirely sure why we often left this piece of information pending – perhaps because we never wanted to appear as boastful or arrogant, not sure. Inevitably there were times when we absolutely needs to share this data, especially when a couple intends going their separate ways. Shoukey has been an affiliate of Majlishush Shura for many years but my association began a year ago when I was asked to work with a lady seeking a Fasah (divorce initiated by a woman) and to write a report based on my findings. I was then asked to act as representative in the Shariah court. Since that day, I was requested to be present at Shariah court proceedings where I could share my expertise as a relationship coach and counsellor.
I was taken aback as my memory of my personal experience at the very same Shariah court years back had now changed in a profound way. Just to share – I had my own experience at a Shariah court eight years ago. My then husband was about to divorce me and so I was summoned to appear at the Shariah court. My experience was dreadful to say the least. I remember my name being called similar to a government hospital. As I entered the room I saw a long table with five men waiting for my husband and I to take a seat. This totalled six men against one woman (or this is how it felt at the time). I felt small, lost …alone! It was straight forward really. They confirmed our …or rather his decision to want a divorce and I just sat there still trying to comprehend how we ended up at this point. I felt as though I had not choice in my fate. So he was asked to address me and express that he is issuing me with one Talaaq decree (a divorce). That was about it! A brief mention was made to live in harmony for the sake of the kids and then we were asked to go into the next room to pay R200.00 – this is where my life of ‘paying half’ began.
There was no concern shown for me, no one asked how I felt, how I got to court or whether I needed any further emotional support. It felt cold, like a conspiracy, as though my fate was decided whether I agreed to the outcome or not. It reaffirmed my opinion at the time that we are governed by a patriarchal religion and this generated great negativity within me about the religion I was born into. Years have past and I have researched, and committed to my own understanding of self. My search for God was reinforced by the statement that, ‘God is closer to you than your jugular vein’ and as our Christian brethren says, ‘God is closer to you than the air you breath in your lungs’. I found great wisdom and solace in these statements, especially since my search for Him had become even more unwavering at that time.
So seven years later, the setting and tone of a Shariah court I had experienced then have changed. I find myself in an environment where the equality of gender is acknowledged – not just in the way in which matters are addressed but it can also be seen and felt upon entering the room at the Shariah court. It no longer is ‘male dominated’ as I am a representative to not just support the process but to add value which in the past was lacking.
I share this in the hope that both my Muslim brothers and sisters comes forward before arriving at the door of a Shariah court. Yes, on a few occasions individuals would walk in and their jaws would drop, shocked that they see me at the other end of the table, hoping that they had known this before. Well, now you know!
We offer a service which offers to support couples to either move into one direction together or to part ways in peace and harmony. I now understand whether I wanted it back then or not, that we were not able to do the relationship justice even if I had a selfish hold over it. The Quran states, ‘Then, either keep [her] in an acceptable manner or release [her] with good treatment – Surah Al-Baqarah (2:229)
May you find us at the right time so we can support your journey.