Single Childless Muslim Women

I am thirty-seven, single and childless. The latter two of these three descriptives are taboo within the Muslim community. Whether you live in America, Pakistan or Egypt, if you are not attached to a husband and with a brood of children in tow, you are an outsider. Extended family and friends assume you are too picky, too career-oriented, too liberal or too plain. Simply put, you are at fault. I belong to this hidden category, the one we do not mention.

In my experience, neither “difficult” Muslim women nor a shortage of available Muslim men are to blame. A variety of circumstances, many unexpected and beyond one’s control, are the reason why we—single, childless women–exist. Some of us are widows or divorcees, while others are converts not yet part of a Muslim community where they can meet a potential husband. Others still are the only breadwinners in their family and feel they cannot ride off into the sunset leaving behind those who depend on them.

And then there are those of us waiting for a match that both appeals to us and meets our family’s requirements, and often our elders bring a long list of demands to the table—some rational and others not so much. A light complexion, a medical degree and a certain ethnicity or cultural background are just some of the typical requirements.

Whatever the reason for a woman remaining unmarried and childless, here we are.

We exist, but only on the periphery because both religious leaders and the larger community do not know how to deal with us. When our needs and our roles go unrecognized, it is only natural for depression to follow. We have been led to believe that the ultimate purpose of a woman is to build a home and family. Many of us, for a host of reasons, are unable to fulfil this role and while we hold out hope that we will one day experience married life and motherhood, we also acknowledge that the older we grow, the greater the chance that we will remain single. We have grieved the loss of an identity tethered to becoming a wife and mother, rebuilt our sense of self-worth anew and moved forward. Many of us have undergone this painful metamorphosis alone, without the support ones.

It seems that although I have embraced the possibility that a marriage and children may not be in the cards for me, my family and friends remain convinced that either I should be married or desperately trying to get married. They delight in citing the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) words that “marriage is half the religion.” So how, they ask, can I be content with an incomplete life?

But I do not see my life as a fraction of that of a married mother. My fate is not some sort of divine punishment. After years of  anxiety and confusion, I have embraced that this is the path that God, in His wisdom, has chosen for me. By refusing to acknowledge and accept single women in our community, Muslims are not only dismissing this demographic’ s lives and experiences as valid, but are also squashing important discussions about this group. For example, is it reasonable to expect single Muslim women to spend their adult lives in their parents’ house? And how can the community support elderly single Muslim women who do not have family to watch out for them?

I believe the first step to bringing single childless Muslim women from the margins of community into its centre is to share stories of great early and contemporary Muslim women who lived full and beautiful lives. We need to tell our daughters that Aisha, the Prophet’s wife who led an army into battle, taught students who would go on to become among the most formidable Muslim scholars of their time and contributed more hadith than any other female, also happened to be childless. We need to celebrate Farah Pandith, a single Muslim woman who President Obama selected as the first Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the U.S. State Department. Highlighting these example is the start we need to change the Muslim community’s dismissive and pitying attitudes towards single and unmarried women into welcoming and accepting attitudes. 

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Fatima Adamou, is a French Muslim living in London . She is currently a student at the Muslim College London and a contributing writer for  a French Muslim News website, “Saphirnews.”

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Photo Credit: giuseppemilo


  • RR says:

    Great article gave insight from another perspective. I know several young, beautiful and strong women who are single for unconventional reasons and wish our communities would do more to bring potential partners together if they so wish, and if not, accept their choices to remain single and independent.

    • Amina says:

      Do you even know Farah Pandith is a muslim??? A friend of mine who works in the State Department tried to talk to her and Farah didn’t represent any form of Islamic Manners nor respect for Islamic princpals in personality. She to my knowledge, and Allah knows best is only text book study of counter terrorism and got her position that way and not from actually helping muslim communities but by studying counter terrorism and being hired to address muslims. Does anyone know if shes even done anything for the muslim community? I work close by her and I haven’t see it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for shedding light on an issue that has not been touched upon in the public discourse.

  • Sheeba says:

    Very accurate. The community needs to collectively address this issue. What would the prophet pbuh advise? When a woman was divorced or widowed the men would take responsibility and marry them. Strong women were an asset to the community as exemplified by Khadija and Aisha may Allah be pleased with them. These days a perfectly good Muslim woman is discriminated against because of her age, career, divorce etc. It’s really a crisis that has to be confronted. May Allah bless all good Muslim women with a healthy lawful marriage abs motherhood

  • Aaaliyah says:

    Agree, this was really from the soul of the writer. I’m 32 and unmarried. I am educated and want an educated Muslim husband which is sort of in short supply where I live. What I hate most is when some friend or relative that I haven’t seen in ages comes up to me and asks why I’m not married and then in the same breath answers her own question by saying “oh wait its because you’re so fussy right?” or “are you one of those career orientated women who don’t wish to be married” with raised eyebrows. They make is sound as though a Muslimah has to choose between a career or family and if she has a successful career it must surely mean that she’s too independent, controlling and too headstrong to want to be married. In fact a few days ago, an acquaintance chastised me for mentioning that I was interested in launching a second business. She looked at me and said “oh maybe you should concentrate all that energy into trying to find a husband rather than a business venture – now being married and having kids- that’s a real job!”. Ok, I don’t deny raising a family is hard work but trivializing my hard work and achievements and my desire to live my life fully without having to twiddle my fingers waiting for Mr Perfect Husband? Or suggesting I’m not complete until I marry someone or even just anyone and have a few kids? It’s just one of the ways single Muslim women are boxed in. Sadly our worst enemies are often from our own communities. Instead of assisting single Muslims like RR suggested, they sometimes make it unbearable and painful for Muslim women and men to be single.

  • JR says:

    I was childless and single until my early 40’s when I met my muslim husband and had my daughter at 43. Keep your faith. The trend that worries me are more and more muslima’s marrying outside their faith because the options are fewer as they get older.

  • Delta1 says:

    To any childless women out there. Please check out we are here to support all childless women regardless of faith or background. You are most welcome to join us.

  • amy says:

    My mother taught us how not to rely on anyone accept Ourselves. This was the most important lesson of my life.
    i remained single till i was 3p years old simply because my mum and dad are old and i am the sole provider.
    from the age of 16 i used to get told by people so on so is getting married when it be your turn and i used to giggle and say am too young.
    at 24 i got told your past the shelf date lol no one will want you but i was happy providing for my mum and dad and living at home.
    the want for a husband and a child never came.
    1 day at the age of 29 i was asked what is the reason your not married by a strange man. He said you have all the qualities to be a beautiful wife, daughter in law, 1 day a mother so why do u remain single. I said when i was born my mum looked aftered me and my dad took me to school daily, now they are the children and i am the mother how can i abandom them and fly the nest? This strange man became my husband, someone who looks after my mum these days and Allah also blessed me with a daughter.

    its sad and hurtful when our community fails to see the bigger picture and assumes things.

    May Allah help us all to acheive the plan that He has planned for us. ameen

  • Excellent article…straight from the heart. Everyone has a different destiny and Allah knows what is best for each one and at the right time…I dont think staying single forever or for long is the preferred choice of any muslimah…circumstances bring such situations…sometimes finding something very basic becomes very challenging…but I guess that is how destiny works for each individual differently

  • Umby says:

    We also need to tell our daughters that Khadija, the Prophet (PBUH)’s first wife, married the Prophet (PBUH) when she was 40 and she went on the have 6 children throughout the 25 years that she was married to the Prophet (PBUH). She’s a timeless example of a woman who married and had children in her 40’s but for some reason we seem to forget about her. Inshallah, I wish you the best, my sister.

  • Z says:

    Thank you for touching on this subject. All too often I am looked down upon because small minded people forget it is Allah who is control and only Allah determines whether you get married or not. A shaykh once advised that single women who aren’t married in this world, in the next world will be married to scholars or saints. Allah alam.

  • Aat says:

    This article is a tragedy and any woman who thinks this way does not value herself as a human being but instead society is her master.
    Hazrat Khadija married at the age of 40, had 6 children and financed the spread of Islam.
    Young lady, your perspective is sadly skewed – at your age, life is just getting started.

  • Naureen says:

    I’m going through all that you talk about. Aging is a concern of mine. What will we do when we’re in our 60’s and 70’s and 80’s and we have ZERO people to support us? Many of our families aren’t even living in this country, and our extended relatives live abroad. They won’t take care of us in our old age. I’ve been thinking we single muslims need to band together, form a support group, and invest in a “muslim century village” type living facility for the elderly. Just some thoughts.

  • AJ says:

    “We need to tell our daughters that Aisha, the Prophet’s wife who led an army into battle”
    oh dear, that was quite a mistake!

    “We need to celebrate Farah Pandith, a single Muslim woman who President Obama selected…”
    Wasn’t she the govt stooge who had an affair with the the UK govt stooge majid nawaz – who used her contacts and dumped her?

  • TUG says:

    I’m not a Muslim but a Hindu. I stumbled upon your article by accident and it touched a nerve. because this is not the issue which only single Muslim women face but all women and specially so in our Asian and South Asian community. where our worth is often linked to marriage and kids. Kudos to you for living your life the way you want it- single or married. Being a productive member of the society and contributing to the goodness in this world is what every religion stresses on. rest all are just interpretations by vested interests

  • prefer_anonymous says:

    I came across this article as I was searching for resources on ideal cities for a single, female, childless, “older” women to settle. I am currently 42. One thing this article brings up, that I keep forgetting about is getting older and not having any family to support you when you aren’t able to physically or mentally do so.
    Maybe a place to settle where there might be potential for a good support system.
    I am open to communities that are not necessarily Muslim. The article reminded me that I had opened my mind to marrying a non muslim. but that didn’t even bring about any potential candidates for marriage, haha. This was big for me, because Islam is a part of my life in how I live and appear. I am also one of those that are in the middle path. Other things I could list that make my chances almost 0, such as my education level and not wanting to settle for someone who is dishonest, intimidated and not responsible.
    How about NYC? Any ideas out there?

  • mn nax says:

    thats absurd
    there is a reason whatever Allah swt does, WE SHOULD NEVER BE SHORT HEARTED AS I AM LIKE THIS, NOTHING GOOD FOR ME,
    there is no need to be single marry somebody who is already married, then you can have happiness, i would surely marry barren women Allah wills. i will never back down.
    as Allah swt has blessed me with ilm that is proper ilm not wondering ilm,
    wornder thoughts will let shayateen more make us astray.

  • Susette says:

    You are a pioneer! I came from a large, Italian, devoutly Catholic family that expected me to get married after I finished my college education. I wanted to chart my own course, not that of the patriarchy. I was constantly questioned for my career ambitions and when I would “settle down”. I lived on my own in NYC, San Francisco & Columbus. I had dated many men, but hadn’t found one that I wanted to marry. (I was fine with having sexual relationships outside of marriage – again, charting my own course, not that of the patriarchy!) Finally at 38, I found my perfect match…a single, professional man that had never married either (but had been sexually involved with previous girlfriends-OK with me). We married, had two children within a few years and have been living happily ever after! I feel blessed. I have enjoyed the happy freedoms of singlehood and the joys of marriage and raising children.

    I believe that Muslim women need more pioneers like you that cast aside the restrictive and oppressive demands laid at the feet of our gender by your religion. Eventually, as you grow in numbers, the patriarchy will have no choice by to wake up and recognize that we women have our own minds, ideas, autonomy and are completely capable of caring for ourselves. Nowadays, I have nieces that are in their late 20’s and early 30’s are remain unmarried. I am the role model that gives them the courage and confidence to chart thier own courses. BE THE CHANGE!

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