On Rivalry

// September 17th, 2009 // Blog

“Bear in mind that the present life is just a game, a diversion, an attraction, a cause of boasting among you, of rivalry in wealth and children.” Qur'an 57:20

I don't think I ever really appreciated the sense of rivalry that Allāh mentions in the above verse (and elsewhere in the Qur'an), until very, very recently. I'm talking, the last two months or so. It sort of crept up over me, maybe because nearly every singleton in my life has suddenly gotten married, with other newly weds having babies, that I feel somewhat left behind in the personal life department.

A few years ago, I was on a quest to get married – but it was more like an adventure; one that I shared with friends and cousins. Alhamdulillah, one by one, my travelling companions left for the next stage of their journey, and we waved them off happily, so secure in our knowledge that we, too, would be moving ahead very soon.

Returning to the present, it seems that I am one of the few passengers left behind in the waiting room, wondering why my train is running so late. Shouldn't it have been here by now? Did I miss it? Maybe I read the timetable wrong?

And worst of all, I've become one of them. You know… the 'older' unmarried women, that the younger unmarried women use to make themselves feel better: “Oh, at least I'm not as old as so-n-so”. They become so shocked when they hear my marital status combined with my age. That is, until they realize the expression of disapproval at their tactlessness on my face, and try to cover it up with: “Oh, it'll happen soon, inshā’Allāh”. Yes, thank you. I feel totally reassured now.

Anyway, believe it or not, I'm not complaining about my fate. And if I did, I wouldn't be complaining to you. Rather, I wanted to share how one's perspective on the Qur'an changes with new life experiences. Now I actually feel the sting of rivalry in my heart from time to time. But the verse above reminds me of the bigger picture: it's only a game, Mehzabeen. So be a good sport, and play it well.

5 Responses to “On Rivalry”

  1. UmmZ says:

    Assalaam alaikum,

    Very insightful.
    We realise certain things as we go through different stages,maybe that is why age seems a factor in us being wiser, not in a yearly basis, but ageing as in more experience,see more of the world and how people’s lives are.

    I went through this stage when all my friends/co-workers had relationships going and I did not. I did wonder if I would ever find that one person,as one by one the same friends got married and started their lives.
    I did wonder if “I” too had the wrong timetable :) (you notice, I loved that expression you used here)

    But then our lives have ways of taking twists and turns and finally end up realising that things happen when they should not when we think it should.
    Asthaqfirullah! I too need to curb my rivalry in other ways,thanks for the reminder.

    Insha Allah, may you be blessed with the best of people around you in your life.

    Wa alaikum salaam

  2. iMuslim says:

    Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah sis

    Ameen. I just realised that the ‘train running late’ analogy may not make so much sense to other cultures; the Japanese would be completely confused: “列車か。 遅の操業か。Eh?!” (the online translator couldn’t deal with “eh?!”). ;)

  3. Organica says:

    I love the verse you quoted. Surah Al Hadeed is one of my very favorite. I’ve pondered much on the meaning of the first few verses. They’ve proved to be helpful in some of my most trying times.

    You won’t change people nor culture. In our time and age, a Muslim woman is expected to marry or be married at a certain age.

    Only a few weeks ago, an Egyptian older uncle embarrassed me in front of a crowd about marriage. He seemed bitter since I rejected his son a few years ago.

    Constantly women from my mosque “pity” me and tell me not to worry. My dream husband was on his way.

    I don’t know why anyone *assumes* I am waiting around the corner for anyone. I am living my life to the fullest, alhumdulilah.

    But I am starting to feel the pinch now with my age as well. What’s that they ask? You aren’t even engaged yet.

    Nope. I have a pet rat, will that do?

    It’s cool to be alone sometimes although being alone gets so lonely it’s tempting to just accept just anything.

  4. Sadaf says:


    I can so relate to your perspective.

    When I was just past twenty, several of the girls in my friends’ circle started getting engaged or married. The engagement process showered them with praise, love, gifts and attention, which they basked in and excitedly shared with their other friends..

    These “other friends” definitely felt the “pinch” you mentioned in your post here. Especially for someone like myself, who was against having boyfriends or going on dates; I was confounded by how so many of these girls actually “got away” with bagging their boyfriend and succeeding in having his family accept them (them being not the guys’ parents’ personal choice for their son, but exclusively his own choice for his life partner). As a young girl with little life experience, I did not see the bigger picture, and sometimes felt that life was unfair; that the girls who sneaked out on dates and lied to their parents when talking to their boyfriends on the phone, ended up with the rich husbands, gifts, early marriage etc. while those who stuck to their morals, ended up losing out and getting left on the shelf?

    Anyway, years down the road (a decade, to be exact) – Allah has shown that life is not a fairy tale with the prince disappearing with his bride into the horizon with a “Happily Ever After” song playing in the background. Two of those girls are now divorced (one of them got physically beaten up by her husband, who is now married to another woman of his choice). Others have marital woes because their husbands, just the way they had secret relationships with them, are still showering their flirtatious attention on women besides them (while their wives cook, clean and rear their children). Others also have major problems related to their husbands’ drinking, smoking, partying and not praying etc…….not that I am saying that the girls got what they deserved or anything [astaghfirullah], but what I am saying is that what I did not see back then was that, the kind of guys they were marrying were not good husband material. I just saw the short-term happiness of their marriages (the honeymoon periods), which don’t last more than a year or so anyway. What makes happiness in a marriage last beyond that golden “lovers” period, is a person’s good character.

    So now that you are older and wiser, you probably see the bigger picture. :)

    Our mother Khadijah [may Allah be pleased with her] married the greatest guy of all and entered her happiest marriage at 40, and gave birth to SIX kids thereafter. So, age is nothing more than a number, let all those aunties say what they want. May Allah guide them and us to say and do what pleases Him.

  5. iMuslim says:

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah

    @Organica: “In our time and age, a Muslim woman is expected to marry or be married at a certain age.” Well, to be fair, it has been tradition since time immemorial that women are married off as soon after puberty, as possible. Even amongst my grandparents’ generation (may they rest peacefully in their graves, ameen) there were many examples of girls getting married at 14 and 15. My mum was married at 19. It’s really in our generation that the average age of marriage has risen to the 20s – most likely because women are now allowed access to higher education. 30 is pretty much the upper limit in terms of ‘freshness’ though, hehe.

    I have no idea why I’m laughing! Nervous laughter, perhaps. :s

    @Sadaf: “So now that you are older and wiser, you probably see the bigger picture.” Yes and no. I mean, I do see the bigger picture, but sometimes it’s nice to be naive and clueless. I am not sure if I make sense. I guess as one matures, you feel your youth slipping away… You also become more independent, guarded, and resigned to life as a single person. It sounds terribly depressing, but sometimes I look in the mirror, and wonder how I could be anyone’s wife? Not because I think it’s beneath me – in fact, for the complete opposite reason.

    Okay, maybe I should stop talking.

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