Saturday, April 25, 2015

Only fertile women are marriageable, she said.

At a lecture I recently went to, the female speaker - a well-known and well-loved Arab woman with a charming accent and persona - bluntly said that men should not marry women who could not have children. She cited a hadith to back up her argument.

Hadith hurling aside, I couldn't believe that there wasn't a peep of protest when she said that. (I was shaking my head, not approving of this at all, and was ready to fall out of my chair.) Her statement sounded so fleeting and inconsequential, as if it was just another day that we could decide who deserved to be loved and who didn't.

We were taught that marriage is "half of your deen": unions between two compatible and loving people has such a big impact on how we are able to practise other aspects our religion. I've written previously about how meeting a married couple with cerebral palsy changed my idea of marriage. That while we are so caught up in our social norms of what marriage should look like (with this much money, between people of such status, that they MUST have children, that it should last forever), meanwhile there are couples who quietly defy these expectations.

Besides the tiny details of the existence of male infertility, or how a man would know his future wife is infertile, or questioning the diagnosis of fertility itself, I think it was extremely pompous of the speaker to suggest that "infertile" women are not marriageable.

Conception, pregnancy and childbirth are not exact sciences. There are many things that modern obstetrics and gynaecology don't know about or don't want to acknowledge, seeing that it's a relatively recent science dominated by white men (as almost every form of Western knowledge is). For me as a Muslim mother, and going by my first-time experiences, there are also many things that I leave to God.

Allah knows what every female carries and what the wombs lose [prematurely] or exceed. And everything with Him is by due measure. (13:8)

That's my favourite Qur'anic verse pertaining to pregnancy, that a doula friend introduced to me. She used this verse to explain that from an Islamic point of view, unnecessary medical induction (which is often done as a matter of convenience for the OB's schedule, and which often ends in a Caesarian surgery) indicated a lack of knowledge or faith in God.

But apparently it's easy to be so black-and-white when it comes to deciding which women are marriageable and which are not.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Breaking up with the good wife

I only went because I was craving a sense of Islamic community again.

It's been almost five years of a patchy but still lovely period of deep connections with other souls because we deeply shared something and not just a label: Muslim.

Things started out great and maybe because I was riding on a tidal wave of hope from the topic of your talk. I'm a first time mum; who wouldn't want to learn how to raise children who have love in their hearts for God too?

Why did you have to start on with terribly narrow minded ideas about the kinds of partners we can have? That it's totally okay to marry a woman for her wealth, family, beauty or deen. Pick the one with deen but no one would fault you, random man, if you just wanted to marry a pretty little thing. Or a rich little thing.

Why did you reduce us to our wombs, the only organ in the human body that shares a name with the Merciful? That a woman who cannot bear children must unequivocally unmarried because a man isn't allowed to marry her because the purpose of marriage is to produce children, full stop?

Why must women do it all: bear babies, nurse babies, wake up at night for their babies, wash their husband's clothes with the easy breezy washing machine and make sure she's perfumed and put together when he gets home? God forbid she ever complains about household chores because don't you know Fatima had to walk miles under the hot sun for water and scrub her husband's clothes by hand? Today's working mum can only have it all if she has a domestic worker who often has left her own children so she can earn a living taking care of yours. Is it only the superhuman women or the rich women that enter heaven?

You broke my heart. And so I won't be coming back anytime soon.

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