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 
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 

      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.

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