The White Elephant is a phenomenon that occurs when the obvious topic in need of discussion is large and looming yet continually ignored. This is something that the author Aishah Adams recognises as being the case with regards to marriage and equipping our young people with the tools to ensure that they are walking open-eyed into the institution.
Adams describes herself (on her facebook page) as, amongst other things a marriage counsellor and a lifestyle guru. She utilises her coaching skills, Islamic learning and life experience to deliver a book concise in physical size yet overflowing with wisdom and lessons to learn. The layout of the book is lovely and easy to follow. It consists of three main sections that deal primarily with the before, during and after issues of marriage. Each section contains three chapters and each chapter ends with ‘points to ponder’ which I thought practical and useful. Adams brings up the consideration of ‘red flags’ pre marriage and the need not to ignore them. She also explores expectations but seems to focus on those that are placed upon us. I think it equally important to be aware of the expectations we have as these too can create difficulties in a relationship, especially if they remain unconscious and uncommunicated. Having said that, Adams does touch upon our expectations and managing them.
I also like that Adams deals directly with the subject of abusive marriages. She does so by encouraging us to think about the messages we convey to others, particularly our children, when we stay. And that by making a firm committed decision, either to stay or go, we are taking responsibility of our lives.
In the third section of the book, the after of marriage: divorce is explored. It is good to see Adams share the grief process and that this is something to be gone through and not to beat oneself up for doing so. She also addresses the cultural issues that arise as a consequence of divorce or seeking it before finally exploring how to cope in the aftermath of a marriage breakdown.
I found the interviews in the epilogue of considerable interest. They are, as described in the book as “real stories” about women who are at different stages in their post-marriage journey. There are four short interviews in total. They provide the wisdom of women who have been through it and their experiences. We like to hear how others did it and the interviews allow us just that. Most of us like to see others overcome their difficulties and strife.
Overall Adams writes well and intertwines her own personal experience with her knowledge – both western and Islamic, fluidly. Her words are motivational and bring straight to the fore the white elephant, the topic that is so obvious and stigmatised. Whilst doing so she also hands power back to the reader, enabling them should they choose, to be able to move forth with their lives. Problems so often arise and continue when ignored. Facing things despite the difficulty and pain allow us to overcome and insha’Allah learn.
I would recommend the book as a read to everyone, but particularly to singles who are considering the search for a spouse as well as their parents, to help them wade through and weed out some of their cultural and other biases which might hinder the process of marriage and – if necessary – divorce. We are, as Muslims, encouraged to fikr (reflection) and dhikr (remembrance) throughout the Qur’an. The White Elephant is a book that enables this in relation to marriage and our journey before, during and after.
The White Elephant is available through Amazon.
Khalida Haque is a qualified and experienced counselling psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and group facilitator. She is founding director of Khair Therapeutic Services (www.khair-therapeutic.com). She enjoys reading, writing and building up other people so that they can bi’idhnillah become who they are meant to be. She can be followed (and contacted) at https://www.facebook.com/#!/khalida.haque.9 and https://www.instagram.com/khalidahaque/