Divorce Means Celebration for Mauritanian Women


Population: 4,081,000

Percent Christian: .3

Dominant religion: Islam

Persecution ranking: 20


Have you been through a divorce? Do you view divorce as a reason to grieve or to celebrate? Anywhere in the Muslim world, divorce is a fate worse than death for a woman. A divorced woman is stigmatized and burdened with supporting the children alone. Surprisingly, women in Mauritania use divorce as a reason to celebrate. The day the divorce is finalized, the divorcee celebrates with her friends by having a party with food and poetry reading. At appropriate times they screech out a zaghrouta, a joyful cry. During the party, she takes many pictures which she posts on Instagram. That makes it official that she is available once again. When she returns to her parents with her children, she and her female relatives celebrate with more zaghroutas.

Why the difference in this particular country? This attitude towards divorce does not affect some of Mauritania’s ethnic groups, but it’s very common with the Moors, the biggest ethnic group in that country. There are reasons why divorces happen in the first place. Typically, she is married off to a cousin at an early age, often without her consent. Sometimes she is not even at the wedding ceremony! Not surprisingly, first marriages often fail. Though few get married and divorced over three times, some go through the process 10-20 times. Each time her friends are there for her to provide support and sympathy. Divorce not only doesn’t carry a stigma for women, but it can be a status symbol. Potential new husbands perceive divorced women as attractive and competent.

One of the key things that support this attitude is the use of poetry. Moors and Arabs both have a strong poetic tradition, and poetry is the language of the heart. For hundreds of years, divorce celebrations included poems about the divorcee’s attractiveness and virtue, while tearing down her former husband. Today they have added Instagram photos that enhance her status.

Though divorce provides an emotional buzz for a woman, it carries serious drawbacks. She might have trouble bonding with her first husband, who is usually selected for her, but each divorce makes her more calloused to a new man. There is an adverse effect on children. Kids have to live with a mother who is bouncing from one man to another, a man who will not love or protect them like a true father. Their actual father rarely provides financial support, and he is never there for them after the divorce.

Mauritania is almost 100 percent Muslim, so they do not look to the Bible for guidance. Our Bible tells husbands to love their wives. Most of the people we read about in the New Testament probably had arranged marriages. Love is a choice, even in an arranged marriage. The Bible tells women to respect their husbands. Respect is eroded each time she divorces a man and badmouths him to her friends and family. It will take a spiritual revolution for the people of Mauritania to find their way to the abundant life offered by Jesus.

Let us pray fervently for:

  • Pray for the New Testament to become widely available and heeded in Mauritania (The Bible, Psalm 119:34).
  • Pray for the teachings of the Bible regarding marriage and family to result in loving and supportive marriages. May many take Jesus at His Word (The Bible, Ephesians 5:25-27).
  • Pray for the knowledge of the Lord to cover Mauritania like the waters cover the sea (The Bible, Habakkuk 2:14).