When two people marry each other, it is usually expected to last a life time and as a couple they work together in the good and the bad to prosper this relationship. However not every marriage lasts forever and many times couple part ways. Marriage and divorce are two realities of life. In Muslim communities across the globe, the issue of divorce is quite a stigma and cause of human rights abuses.
In particularly, Muslim women seeking divorce and Khulla (separation) from their spouses face a combination of both societal prejudice and legal issues. Islam teaches Muslims to not opt the way of divorce and work to rebuild the relation between husband and wife. But let me make it clear that Islam doesn’t expect Muslims to put up with any form of violence and abuse within marriages. For this, you should stay tuned for part two of this collab by my fantastic coauthor Papatia.
Subsequently, according to Islamic teachings, the rights for marriage and divorce are the same for both Muslim men and women alike. And in this feature, I will highlight how Islamic communities discriminate and abuse married Muslim women on matters of divorce.
Trend Number 1 is where the infamous and so-called triple talaq or instant divorce threat is quite a commonality among Muslim communities. This blatant misuse of power by which “I divorce thee” is the trump card Muslim men resort to break off marriages instantaneously. Where this trend takes place? It is commonly observed in the different countries of South and East Asia and practiced among British communities of South Asians origins. What happens during triple divorce? When wives do not comply Muslim husbands get rid of them instantly, such women have no claim to alimony though they can collect a small payment for three months after divorce. It is important to let you in on the fact that such sort of triple talaq is not sanctioned in the Quran and Hadith. But men will be men and continue to distort religion to their purpose.
The mere fact is that in almost every Muslim culture, women who are wives and mothers are “self-sacrificing figures, always ready to tolerate their husbands’ mistakes, which can amount to infidelity at times.” And in such societies, men and in-laws are quite okay with getting rid of wives by instant divorce through phone, registered letter and in recent years, via Facebook, skype, whatsapp and yahoo messenger. So easy to be born as a Muslim penis and act like a jerk about it, sighs!
Today, the menace of instant divorce has been banned in more than 20 Muslim countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh but widespread practice continues. Whereas in India and Sri Lanka, this practice is allowed as these State protect religious laws governing Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities’. South Asian feminists and gender advocates continue to fight for abolishing this discriminatory practice. And many women are fed up with what they say is an archaic and patriarchal rule that too often leaves them destitute.
Trend Number 2 is where married women are discriminated against seeking dissolution of their marriage from abusive husbands and in-laws. Most of the times, the girls’ parents out rightly reject helping the married daughters using patriarchal traditions and religion based pressures. Muslim women who have run away from abusive marriages get disowned and killed in many Islamic countries. Any given time, a woman request for arbitration on divorce, these societies see red.
In Pakistan, we cannot forget the killing of Saima Sarwar in broad day light for running away from a bad marriage and seeking divorce to remarry. Her case is cited here, and serves as a chilling reminder that Islamic countries continue to practice anti women traditions and discriminatory laws that hinder Muslim women from getting a divorce.
It is “extremely difficult” for a woman to ask for her right to divorce, not only because Pakistan is “a male-oriented and male-dominated society,” but also because the woman is “psychologically debarred from having access” to the laws governing her right to divorce. But in the case of divorce through khula, the main difficulty would be the attack on her moral character that would come under a cross-examining lawyer’s questions.
For instance, Ameera wanted a divorce because her husband had married again without seeking her consent.
He was also regularly watching porn and then raping her.
He had also given Ameera sexually transmitted infections.
When she contacted the Shariah Council for a divorce, they pressured Ameera into mediation, which she did not want. When she visited the Sharia Council, she was asked very personal questions about her sex life by clerics.
Despite her testimony of rape, Ameera was told that polygamy was allowed and the cleric said, ‘Be patient, you have lasted 22 years, why do you want a divorce now?’
This was the extent of her harrowing mediation.
Finally, Ameera went to another Shariah Council without any help from her family and obtained her divorce.
Trend Number 3 is where Muslim communities discriminate and alienate divorced women and their children, in particularly shaming and name calling brave women who opted out of a bad marriage. Such strong women are viewed with much disdain and mistreated in various ways; their children also pay the price of being told that their mother was in the wrong and assassinate her character.
Women are often blamed for the marriage breakdown and are made to feel guilty for wanting a divorce. Such attitudes have been documented by Moroccan filmmaker, Karima Zoubir whose film “Camera/Women” showcases many harsh stories of separated and divorced women battling the societal stigma. One woman notes, that to be a divorced woman is analogous to prostitute in Moroccan culture while other remarks on the irony that for many women in Islamic Moroccan culture, the wedding is the climax, but they both cynically recognize that the wedding was the beginning of their troubles.
“Very often, Muslims behave in ways very far and contrary to Islamic teachings, during divorce matters. My father never came back to see our face after my parents got divorced, it’s because am a girl. He kept my brother because had no use of a daughter. I live each day with this humiliation and observe how people take shots at my mother,” says Najla*. No amount of pressure and cajoling worked on Najla’s mother because she refused to be mistreated and abused by her husband. In her case, her mother recognized her rights better and being a laureate in commerce with a stable job have ensured that today mother and daughter to lead their lives away from domination and abuse.
Najla muses, on the days when she suffered peer pressure and taunts at school and among friends. Because after all a woman divorces she and her children become public property on which any one can take cheap shots. She refuses to hide in a corner with her head down just because her mother is a divorcee and is the first person to retaliate on people commenting against her hard-working mother.
It’s time that as an Ummah we correct these wrong doings and practices that have nothing to do with Islam and work on improving as Islamic societies where both men and women can enjoy equal rights as sanctioned by Allah The Most Merciful.
Stay tuned for part ii coming soon by my very cooperative and gifted coauthor whom I cannot thank enough for working with me for writing on these crucial issues, JazakAllah Khair!
If we pay close attention to the media of many Muslim dominated countries, we will notice a very disturbing trend. In fact we will see women battered in films; fiction or not. We will also see the femme spectrum being degraded to sex trafficking, used like cheap property and worse, called very degrading names. This is a huge blow to women’s self-esteem. Many start to internalize this constant sentiment toward them as normal. And it’s disappointing. What’s more outraging is the fact that Muslim parents in those dominated Muslim countries will not pause and think, “Wait a minute, we need to censor or monitor this type of behavior in films because it might negatively pave the way our young children, especially young boys look at women.”
The irony is that these same people and parents would click the TV off the minute they catch a hint of romance being displayed in the media. It’s in these moments unfortunately that their haram radar goes up and their parenting mode kicks in. Why not act the same way when the media depicts women in a bad light? Why not do the same thing when the media portrays a woman as trashy because of her choice of clothing and love?
In a film that portrays the rough life and neighborhood of immigrants in London, one scripted dialogue stayed with me. I was very ambivalent about the words uttered which are, ‘A woman that leaves her husband is a bad woman. When she leaves her child behind, she is a bad mother.’
Seriously? Forget about her happiness, she should suck it up in other words. Forget that she is overwhelmed by raising a sick challenging or healthy child alone while being in a marriage. Alhamdullilah for my blessings. I ask God to help me raise a stellar man insha’Allah amiin. But let’s say that I was in a bad marriage and that I was surrounded by narrow-minded people who will not change and are poisoning my son against me no matter what I teach him. Sorry, I would leave your butt behind too. Only Allah really guides people in the end. If he’s meant to find his way and become a better person after I did my part in trying to raise him, insha’Allah he will stay on siratal mustaqim and put women on a pedestal. If he doesn’t become a man who has true taqwa and respect women, then that’s his fate.
Truly, a Muslim woman should be able to divorce when it’s in her rights to do so and when Islamic teaching favors her choice after a rough ride. She should also be taken seriously when her husband no longer wants her. Divorcing wives on a pure whim via social media or even by simply uttering ‘Talaq 3 x’ shows lack of manners and tact. It’s just tacky people. You’re better than that.
To continue, divorcees are people too and the Prophet peace be upon him married several women who were either widowed or divorced. So why are his followers who claim being good Muslims stigmatize this minority of women? Why are these women considered damage goods? Why are they being so marginalized? Oh I have a theory. See, society in general is obsessed with women’s hymens where virgins are only taken seriously. Even a great majority of women themselves have internalized this belief and now think that if their daughters, sisters, mothers, etc. aren’t virgins, they are loose women who can’t be trusted. All this undeserving fuss for a membrane which doesn’t honestly define the character of any women. So what you were the first to be there? You will quickly loose interest and go marry another virgin to try to feel ‘something’. Why chase the ghost of houris in this life? Because that is all this unfair treatment of women stems from.
Many reasonable men will tell you that it’s actually less stress and drama to get with a woman who is not a virgin because of the discomfort and emotional breakdown virgins face they don’t want to deal with.
Now, what have we heard about divorce in Islam from the ummah? If you ask an average Muslim, they will quickly tell you that ‘It’s forbidden and the throne of Allah shakes when there is a divorce.’ As the controversial person that I’m *always* let me say that if you look for a reliable Islamic source that supports these statements, you won’t find it. Apparently, it’s fabricated. While marriage is half the deen, it’s not written anywhere in Islam that marriage is ‘til death do us part.’ This is not Islam. The stories of Barirah and Mughith are examples that our Rasool (sallahu aleihi wassalam) didn’t force anyone to force in marriages they didn’t want to be in. He even said that the best of men are those who are best to their wives. Why not follow these examples?
“And when you divorce women and they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. And do not take the verses of Allah in jest. And remember the favor of Allah upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Knowing of all things.” Quran (2:231)
Having said all that, by experience, and in my opinion, the only reason you would perhaps avoid a divorced person is because of the way they can do things. They tend to have more wisdom than non-married people. And this can become a source of quarrels if both parties don’t sit and talk things through from the get-go. For instance, ‘If I say certain things out of experience in our future marriage, know that it comes from a good place. If you feel like I crossed a line by warning you of something, let me know and I will apologize or back down’ kind of talk. In addition, a divorced person in a new marriage should refrain from saying, ‘I told you so’ when the other party didn’t anticipate the outcome of something. Even though as a divorced person, you’ve been there and done that, let the new married learn from his or her own mistakes because you learned from yours on your own in past marriage(s).
Now, let’s address the issue of domestic violence as mentioned in the Quran. Surah 38 verse 44 states a clear example of Prophet Ayyub who out of anger swore he will correct his wife because she had crossed him. So that he doesn’t lose face, this is what Allah ordered him, “[And finally We told him:] “Now take in thy hand a small bunch of grass, and strike therewith, and thou wilt not break thine oath!” for, verily, We found him full of patience in adversity: how excellent a servant [of Ours], who, behold, would always turn unto Us!”
This was meant to be just a light tap toward his wife and by the same token be taken seriously when he actually didn’t really mean his words of anger after his recovery. Islam is against violence and let us go by a tafsir of this following verse which had been interpreted other ways in the ummah.
“Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.” Quran (4:34)
According to Women In The Quran by Asma Lamrabet, adribuhunna ‘beat them’ or ‘strike them’ comes from a word ‘daraba’. This root daraba has a wide range of meaning in the Quran ranging from cover, give, walk, accompany, turn away from, leave, change, etc. And if we for instance, exchange ‘strike them’ or ‘beat them’ with ‘turn away from them’ or ‘leave them’, we get something revolutionary that supports the non-violent treatment we all know Islam has preached all along but which has been distorted by many. Rasool (sallahu aleihi wassalam) had even left his wives for a period of a month give and take a few days, after they had gravely angered him. He preferred to stay away from them instead of striking them like many interprets of this verse claim should be done to discipline women. Let us all ponder on the aforementioned verses from here.
To end, I’m immensely grateful to my co-author Saadia Haq for working with me on this important collaboration. Jazakh’Allah khair! May we all benefit from it in this life and the next, ameen.
Part I’s references:
Note: ‘The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff’ is a copyrighted collaborative feature series bringing forward attention towards serious issues within the global Muslim communities. It’s a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers, Papatia Feuxzar of Djarabi Kitabs Publishing and Saadia Haq of The Human Lens. As always we would love to hear your feedback, here at wordpress or through email which ever medium works for you. Copyrights @2015 – 2017