Thursday 9 October 2008 (10 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
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
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
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.