Why are Malaysian Muslims separating? The main reason in 2022 is the breakdown of communication, the SIS | report shows Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Spouses not communicating — or in other words, a breakdown in communication — is the number one reason why Muslims in Malaysia divorce, according to the Sisters in Islam (SIS) findings for the year 2022 show.

In its latest report, SIS recorded the top four reasons cited by Muslims who used its free legal aid service Telenisa in 2022 as why they divorced, with a breakdown in communication being the most common reason at 31 percent.



“This may happen because of the husband’s selfishness, lack of tolerance or lack of communication that further weakens their love and unity,” said SIS in its Telenisa Statistics and Findings 2022 report released yesterday.

At 31 percent, this is the highest percentage for communication breakdown as a reason for divorce in the past seven years, or since SIS began releasing its reports to Telenisa annually.

Syafiqah Fikri Abazah, a legal officer of Sisters in Islam (SIS), told the crowd at the launch of the 2022 findings yesterday that the organization observed three types of scenarios that contribute to the breakdown of communication among couples.

“One of the three things is the refusal of one of the partners to speak on a daily basis. When asked or for an opinion, the couple will just stay silent.

“Secondly, most of our clients, when there’s a little fight, the situation quickly escalates, so they both have difficulty communicating with each other. Because I think it’s been too long that one side is always silent and the other is always talking, so the frustration explodes,” he said when couples were asked to explain what caused the breakdown in communication.

Syafiqah also gave the example of couples who are far away from each other, and the husband wants to know how the wife is doing, but the wife does not answer phone calls and does not answer WhatsApp messages.

Based on previous annual reports of Telenisa’s findings, SIS explained in its 2018 edition the factor of communication problems as including lack of communication or inability to communicate, where married couples fail to agree on matters ranging from serious issues such as their children to trivial matters such as decisions on interior decorations.

In its 2020 edition of the Telenisa report, SIS observed that couples who struggle to talk about important things or have unhealthy disagreements or misunderstandings will lead to a lack of emotional intimacy between them.

Looking at 2022 alone, both domestic violence and spousal non-maintenance (financial support) shared the same spot as the second most common reason for divorces at 15 percent each, followed by infidelity at 13 percent.

In all seven years from 2016 to 2022, the top four reasons for Muslim divorce are the same: communication problems, domestic violence, non-maintenance and infidelity or affair.

This is except for the year 2020, when the breakdown of communication is not a top four reason, and it is replaced by the joint category of financial problems and polygamy.

In 2020, where Malaysia underwent months of the strictest Covid-19 lockdown measures including movement restrictions where many had to stay at home except for essential reasons, SIS said in its 2020 report that many households were affected economically that year, with some affected due to their lack of flexibility and ability to survive the then economic hardship.

As to why polygamy became the main reason for divorce in 2020, SIS previously said it was because wives discovered that they had been in a polygamous marriage for many years without their knowledge and consent, which husbands only found out through messages from the other party or from looking at the husband’s properties or documents indicating polygamy.

Looking back on the previous years of 2016 to 2019 when all the factors cited by Telenisa clients for divorces were made available, financial factors ranged between 2.2 to eight percent, while polygamy as a factor ranged between 5 to 11 percent.

Throughout the seven years from 2016 to 2022, domestic violence was usually the number one or number two reason for divorces, based on Telenisa’s findings.

Although it placed sexual violence as a separate category in earlier Telenisa reports, SIS in the following years grouped them all together under domestic violence.

In its 2021 report, Telenisa showed that it recorded 199 cases of domestic violence in 2019, followed by 99 cases in 2020, and 303 cases in 2021.

Cases of domestic violence are further divided into five different types of abuse: physical, psychological, social, financial and sexual abuse, and Telenisa says that many clients go through psychological abuse for several years before seeking help.

Domestic violence cases are divided into five different types of abuse: physical, psychological, social, financial and sexual abuse. — Screengrab from the Telenisa 2021 report

On June 16, the Department of Shariah Judiciary Malaysia (JKSM) said a total of 306,454 cases or 73 percent of cases in Shariah courts across Malaysia from 2015 to 2019 were for the dissolution of marriages, with 90 percent of such cases filed by the husband as the plaintiff.

In the same June 16 article, JKSM corporate communications chief Roziana Mat Amin also analyzed 669 marriage dissolution case files in Selangor before listing the top 10 factors for divorces among these Muslim families, namely financial reasons (such as non-payment of maintenance); abandoned by another spouse; interpersonal skills or character (such as lack of communication or ineffective communication); abuse, sexual causes, external causes (which include infidelity or an affair); polygamy; religious reasons; health (such as illness or disability); and minor marriage.

Since 2003, SIS has been providing free legal advice through Telenisa to Muslim women and men on their legal rights under Islamic family law and Shariah offenses laws. Such matters in Islamic family law include divorce, polygamy, maintenance of spouse and children, marital property, and child custody.

At the 20th anniversary celebration for Telenisa yesterday, SIS executive director Rozana Isa said the service has helped 15,000 individuals, assisted by the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centers through internship programs for chambering students.

Telenisa’s operations cost more than RM1.5 million to run for 20 years, with financial funding and donations received over the years from partners such as Yayasan Sime Darby, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Lee Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, and the Australia High Commission.

Telenisa can be reached at 012-812 3424 from Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm via phone calls, video calls and WhatsApp, with face-to-face consultations available by making appointments.

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