Thursday 9 October 2008 (09 Shawwal 1429) Is she a disgrace? Yassir Harib | Al-Watan This is a familiar scene that is witnessed every time you enter a commercial center. A Gulf man is walking along and a Gulf woman, dragging a number of children, is following him at a distance of a few meters. You might assume that the people have no connection with each other until they exit the mart and approach their car. Then and only then will you twig that this is a married couple with their children. The woman might be the mother or sister of the man. When I see such a scene, I ponder it for a long time in a desperate attempt to understand: Why does the man wants to escape from his wife? Or why does he apparently want people not to know that she is his wife? The man will usually walk quickly when he sees a group of men sitting at a café in order not to tie him to the woman walking behind him at a distance. He will not care if the men stare at the woman. His main concern is that these men do not think that she is his wife or relative. In contrast, you see a non-Gulf person taking his child by one hand and holding his wife by the other. Regardless if the woman is veiled or not, he will proudly walk side by side with her or at least he will not escape from the eyes of other people or feel ashamed if they link the two together. I am pretty certain that such ideas never come into his mind. Whenever I try to answer such riddles, I get stuck with something that I cannot explain: The belief of the Gulf man that a woman is a disgrace. If worst comes to worst, he can cover up the disgrace but he must not run away from the scandal. I searched in many books of jurisprudence to find an explanation for this behavior but all in vain - except for some unauthenticated sayings written by people who were overwhelmed by their own harsh environment, rather than the tolerant nature of Islam. There are, however, some utterances attributed to the Arab man, especially in superficial soap operas, that it was Eve who drove Adam out of Paradise. This is why we hear the man always blaming the woman for a sin that she has not committed. I looked at many Qur'anic explanations to find evidence for this claim. I only found this in one book which was written by Al-Tabari. He said Eve had tempted Adam to eat the apple. But if you read the Qur'an carefully you will not find anything that holds Eve responsible for the exit from Paradise. The Qur'an says: "Adam hath disobeyed his God" and made no mention at all of Eve. I do not claim that I am an Islamic scholar but I am certain that the books of tafsir (explanation) refute this claim as baseless. It was only the tough nature of the Arab man that made him harm the woman and made him write history according to his own whims. At many times the Arab man explains the Qur'anic text in a manner that would best meet his needs and satisfy his beliefs. Many Arab Gulf countries have changed their attitudes toward woman and made her participate effectively in the development of society. In Kuwait, for instance, we find women becoming university lecturers and training instructors. In the UAE, woman has become a journalist, judge and ambassador while in Bahrain she has become a politician and an investor. These positive developments have not however changed the attitude of man toward woman. He is not yet ready to uplift her to total equality except in duties. He will not accept the idea that woman can excel him in many ways. Young Gulf men usually look for wives who are less educated than they are. If he finds that she is better than him in some ways, this will stab his dignity and harm his manhood. I read recently that some Muslim scholars have approved some marriages, such as "wanasa, daytime, in-camera and others." These kinds of marriages are designed for men to physically enjoy women as if they are commodities that can be bought and sold in the name of religion. If such bonds are made permissible by Islam, how can a scholar approve of an old man marrying a young girl only to serve him and answer to his needs without any sex life between them? How can we expect society to be free of vices when we allow this in the name of religion? When this poor young woman looks for sex outside the conjugal life with a man who is as old as her grandfather, will she be stoned to death? I do not understand why the Gulf man feels ashamed of his wife, her work or study. I do not understand why the Gulf man doesn't talk proudly about his wife. I do not understand why he uses such euphemisms as "my people" or "my home" when talking about his wife as if she were something obscure or disgraceful that he does not want other people to know about. The Gulf man should realize that when he becomes old and sick, he will have no one to take care of him except his wife or daughter who are both women. He should also know that as much as he is ashamed of his wife, she is proud of him and feels honored to be near him.