There's a wonderful post on Imam Suhaib Webb's website on the need for the Muslim community to recognize that, as important and noble as traditional family roles are, there is an infinity of ways that Muslim women may achieve their spiritual potential and serve their Lord.
Here's an excerpt from Maryam Amir-Ebrahim's Wifehood and Motherhood are Not the Only Ways to Paradise:
Allah (swt) did not create women for the sake of wifehood or motherhood. This is not our first goal, nor our end goal. Our creation was to fulfill our first and most important role—to be His SLAVE. As He tells us in Surah Dhaariyat (Chapter of the Winnowing Winds), “And I did not create the jinn and humankind except to worship Me.”
Worship comes in such a variety of forms. Being a housewife (a.k.a. domestic engineer!) can be a form of worship. Being a stay-at-home-mom can be a form of worship. Being a working wife and mother can be a form of worship. Being an unmarried female student can be a form of worship. Being a divorced female doctor, a female journalist, Islamic scholar, film director, pastry chef, teacher, veterinarian, engineer, personal trainer, lawyer, artist, nurse, Qur’an teacher, psychologist, pharmacist or salon artist can each be a form of worship. Just being an awesome daughter or house-fixer upper can be forms of worship. We can worship Allah (swt) in a variety of ways, as long as we have a sincere intention, and what we do is done within the guidelines He has set for us.
Unfortunately, however, that is not the message our community is sending to single sisters – both those who have never been married, and those who are now divorced. When I speak to many women and ask them about the ways they want to contribute to society and the ways they want to use their time and abilities, a number of them will tell me that they have no idea and that they’re only going through the motions of school or work while they’re waiting for Prince Muslim to come along and with whom they can establish parenthood.
However, Prince Muslim is not coming along quickly or easily for many awesome, eligible Muslim women. And for some, he has come along, and he or the institution of their relationship turned out to be more villainous than harmonious. Single and never married or divorced — very capable and intelligent Muslim women constantly have to deal with the pressure of being asked, “So…when are you getting married? You aren’t getting any younger. It’s harder to have kids when you’re older.” [MORE]
I'd love to see what this author has to say about the insecurity too many Muslim men (and their matchmaking mothers, for that matter) in the USA manifest when considering highly educated and professionally accomplished women for marriage.
I think a bona fide crisis is brewing within the Muslim community in North America in this arena, as far too many wonderful, dynamic and by any sensible standard highly eligible American-born Muslim women are struggling to find partners who are comfortable with their achievements and quite reasonable and halal expectation that they remain engaged in professional life after marriage. These are women who should be getting eagerly snatched up like top NBA draft picks, but instead they're often being left out in the cold over petty, stupid Old World hang-ups. It's madness.
I see striking parallels with the situation in which educated African-American women–whose difficulties in finding suitable partners have gotten a lot of MSM coverage of late–find themselves. Some observers have even argued that for reasons of chemistry and long-term viability these women are better off giving up on Black men and focusing their efforts on landing a white husband with a kindred socioeconomic background.
That's a line of thinking I've heard discouraged young Muslim women apply to their own situation as they ponder the Nuclear Option, marrying a non-Muslim.* The trend is already well underway, I believe, as I've heard the laments for over a decade and can count half a dozen cases just off the top of my head in my own social circle of Muslimahs throwing in the towel and going Ahl Kitab.
For those that don't know, though the Quran does not directly address the matter either way, most Muslim scholars consider it forbidden for Muslim women to marry a non-Muslim. Thus, such marriages are controversial within the Muslim community (a fact that sometimes leads to pro forma conversions by lovestruck but theologically unconvinced suitors).
Not that I am or aspire to be anybody's faqih, but I am not convinced it is indeed haram under all circumstances. It's a terrible idea in my book in most cases for a host of reasons, but I think there are situations where it makes sense and should therefore be an option for those who need it.
And, whatever one thinks about it, it must ultimately be the woman's decision, anyway. She's the one who's going to spend the rest of her life with the guy. And it's not like the community is likely to gallantly swoop down to her aid when an ill-conceived union with a man with whom she had nothing in common other than religion that was foisted on her inevitably comes crashing down.