By Aishah Adams, published House of Ganiyah LLC (18 Sept. 2016)
Available on Amazon.
Chai Rating: 4.5 out of 5 cups
Practical, insightful, and wise, The White Elephant is an essential read for anyone who is looking into settling into marriage or is going through a divorce. The author, a Public Health Consultant and Personal Development Coach, is herself a divorcee. She addresses and examines the mistakes that she made in her own personal marriage journey and uses them to teach others how to avoid them. Using the teachings from the Quran and the Hadith as foundation for her writing, Ms. Adams provides compelling arguments on how to navigate marital relationships complicated by extended families and culture in the 21st century.
The book is broken down into 3 distinct parts. The first part addresses what too look for in a spouse and the things to consider when you are ready for marriage. The second part talks about the realities of a marriage: the day to day issues such as sex and communication , dealing with in-laws, and defining your identity within a relationship. The third part, which is is a personal big one for me because it was so painful, is divorce. It discusses complex questions such as how to know when to call it quits, how to manage societal expectations and judgements, and how to manage yourself when your marriage ends.
Finally the book addresses domestic abuse within the Islamic context, an issue that I feel is not spoken about enough within Muslim communities. The author makes a strong case for identifying, and leaving, abusive marriages.
“When you stay on in an abusive relationship – whether verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive – it’s almost as though you are teaching those around you to embrace the oppression, especially when there are children present.”
This section also includes interviews from real-life women who share their post-divorce experiences so that readers may learn them.
Many relationship books that I have read in the past have in addressed relationships in broad, universal, all-encompassing terms and theories. This book, however, is written specifically for the Muslim woman (and man) in mind.
Islam places a huge emphasis on marriage and many young adults, in their zeal to want to be good Muslims, rush into marriage without examining a marriage prospect carefully and thoroughly for compatibility. It is not uncommon for some to agree to get married on the just the fact that both partners are practicing Muslims who pray and fast. The White Elephant argues for the contrary: that a study of personal characteristics and personal lifestyles and goals of potential spouses are actually in line with Islamic teachings:
“And of His signs is that He created you from dust; then, suddenly you were human beings dispersing [throughout the earth].”(Quran)
“It is from His signs and it is important that you cohabit in love and mercy with the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with as explained by this verse. At this point, you’d probably wonder why do we then have so much rancour going on in our marriages today? Why has there been an increase in rates of divorce in our communities today? While it could be a consequence of our straying away from purpose-filled unions, I believe it goes back to a lack of adequate preparation for the journey ahead, which then results in avoidable turbulence, which sometimes leads us to call it quits instead of retracing our steps to continue the journey on a stronger footing. ”
Why I didn’t give it 5 stars:
The book is so beneficial to anyone who is contemplating marriage or divorce but because it uses Arabic heavily when referencing to the the Quran and the Hadith, I feel like it may not feel as relevant (or useful) to non-Muslims. Perhaps a glossary of terms explaining Arabic words and phrases and Quranic principles would given it more appeal to a wider global readership.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely! I remember talking to a young Catholic couple years back when I was in university who were about to be married. I was absolutely fascinated when they told me that their priest wouldn’t marry them until they finished taking mandatory pre-marital counseling classes. This book is the pre-marital counseling class that I always wish my own local Muslim community had.
My favorite quote:
“Do not be fooled by a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. Dig deep so you can uncover what
is really in the parcel and not what the cover of the parcel tells you is in it. How many times have you bought a box of an item with the colour of the item in the box being
different from the colour of the item displayed on the cover of the box? ”
Have you read this book? What do you think of it? Have you read a similar book that you would like to share?