Monday, July 04, 2005

Battered Wives and Women Under Stress

Dr. Khaled Batarfi,

My last article “Justice for Women: Some Urgent Steps” generated many positive and passionate responses. Huda, my niece, for instance, decried the way countless women are denied marriage to men of their choice. They are pressured to marry relatives or from rich and well-connected families.

Too many parents ignore Islam’s instructions to let their girls choose. This is a symptom of how they regard women as incapable of deciding for themselves. A girl, they fear, would go for a handsome, romantic suitor rather than a solid man of character, achievement and position.

When life becomes hell for wives, they have to endure it because no one — judge and society — would accept their grounds for divorce. Psychological satisfaction is not good enough of a reason for separation in lots of courts of law and public opinion.

Many divorced women are brutally punished. They take most of the blame for the marriage’s failure. While a man, especially with no kids, can remarry a woman of his choice, his divorced wife hardly can. The stigma of being a divorcee limits her choices and timeline. In lots of cases, she goes from one prison to another. This and the risk of losing her kid’s custody force many abused wives to stay the course. A hell you know, they figure, is better than the one you don’t.

Needless to say, this should not be tolerated in an Islamic society. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, told us that the best of us are the kindest to their women. He set a great example in the way he treated his women with respect, love and kindness. His first wife, Khadija, was also his boss. His young wife, Aisha was his consultant in matters of politics and governance. We are supposed to follow his example to be Muslims, so why we don’t?

Here is a sample of the best response:

“As I read this, I thought of a young Saudi lady who has struggled with similar issues. Although she was fortunate to have a family who finally recognized the depth of her despair/abuse and allowed her to return home with the child, she now faces the stigma of being a divorced woman and the associated restrictions attached by society.

In particular, her movements are continually watched and she is under pressure to remarry another of any number of older suitors. One can only imagine the stress and duress she finds herself in at the moment on a daily basis.

Of course, when one considers a younger male of closer proximity in age and hopefully, more compatible in interests, problems arise there as well due to the stigma of “divorce”. Sadly, the girl feels the only freedom available to her is another marriage, but to whom?

Naturally, her experience has given her a level of maturity beyond her age — a maturity others of her age cannot even begin to comprehend. In essence, this young lady feels trapped by life’s circumstances.

There is so much more that Saudi society can do and give to their precious females — the benefits of which would be felt by all of society.

However, it will take many strong courageous voices standing together to be heard, and with the reminder that these humane changes are within Islam and present no moral degradation of society.

I tell my young friend that she is strong and that I pray for her to maintain her strength and courage to face life as it is before her. I encourage her to ensure that her actions always include her own prayers to seek guidance and strength from God. Although not related by blood, she became my daughter through a deeper kinship while I resided in KSA. My heart aches for her.” — Mary

“Domestic violence is a prevalent crime being committed against women not just in Saudi Arabia but in numerous Muslim countries. From the well known Mukhtaran Mai case in Pakistan to last year’s headlining case of Saudi Rania Al-Baaz to Karachi’s Dr. Siddiqi’s brutal assault and so many more DV cases against so many helpless women. We should be ashamed as Muslims for not speaking up against this! Women, specially caring and devoted mothers, are national treasures and future makers, as it is mostly under their nurturing new generations are made.” — Your Sister in Islam

“We just cannot keep quiet and let such “criminal acts” continue. Justice cannot be denied and severe punishments must be dealt to stop those who claim to be Muslims and abuse their wives. Prevalent violence against women is becoming a phenomenon that might turn into a habit if we don’t take appropriate actions.” — Khalid Al-Mutairi

I hear you sisters and brothers and pray the whole nation hears you and does something about this disgraceful phenomenon.

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