A tragedy.Posted: April 18, 2012
Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with this picture?
I hope women and men alike can identify the issue here. Because if not, we are doomed. This, among other things, is why many 20- to 30-year marriages go down the drain.
This conversation took place on my facebook news feed. I was fuming when I read it. Of course I had to say something.
His reply below, I swear, was the most tak bersalah reply ever. In my head it triggered a trail of possible replies, mostly consisting profanities. I surprise myself how I managed to sound the least bit civil.
The bugger apparently just did not know when to drop it and said dunia dah terbalik. Yeah? Well, indeed. Because the last time I checked, our beloved Prophet didn’t banish any of his wives to a lifetime of housework.
And as if one male chauvinist pig wasn’t enough, along came another — and was even “Liked” twice. Total facepalm.
It is my personal opinion that many Muslims (in Asia, at least) are gravely mistaken about the roles of the husband and wife. Looking back, perhaps I was too quick to blow my top. Perhaps he too, like me — and many others — were brought up in the typical Asian home environment in which our fathers were the sole breadwinners and our mothers would stay at home to tend to the children. Inevitably, staying at home also meant that they had to cook and clean — and they did so out of their own free will.
Until our fathers got a little too comfortable with the arrangement, and henceforth deemed it an OBLIGATION. They developed an expectation to come home to food laid out on the table, in a house that’s in tip-top condition — or incur their displeasure, and therefore God’s displeasure.
And people think: So this is Islam.
But this is NOT Islam, as I’ve learned. I’m ashamed to say it took me 25 years to learn this but I’m grateful to know now that this is not religious. This is cultural.
Sure, incurring the husband’s displeasure is incurring God’s displeasure. But Islam does not make it difficult for the wife by setting household chores as a requisite for entrance to heaven. It is the husband who burdens the wife and makes it difficult for her. So husbands, if you claim you love your wife, enlighten her duties. Why make her journey to Jannah difficult over something as worldly as household chores? If she requests help and if you have the resources, hire a helper. If you don’t have the resources, what’s wrong with rolling up your own sleeves to help her? What, too lowly of a job? Indeed, in Islam it is the husband’s honourable responsibility to lead and provide for the family. But some husbands think that it’s the ONLY responsibility — they forget about the house, home and and children.
I must clarify that I’m not campaigning for wives to shirk housework. What I’m campaigning is for husbands to change their attitudes and mindsets.
Every other chore that the wife does around the house apart from caring for you, nurturing your children, and protecting the good name of the family, is not her obligation, but an extension of her goodwill to you. So thank her and show appreciation for her help. Of course, it indeed is a bonus for her as well if she chooses to help you because the pleasure of her husband is next to the pleasure of God. But again, in no way is it an obligation.
Husbands, please also realise that her job as a wife is no less important than the one you hold. Safeguarding your good name and nurturing the very children that will grow up and continue your bloodline are also huge and honourable tasks. So treat her with the respect and honour she deserves. If you need her help, ask nicely. Anyone would be a little more willing to help instead of cursing you under their breath.
To put it simply, your wife is not your maid. Wives, know your role and know that it is not to be a servant to your husband.
For most of my life, I thought that being a good wife in Islam meant, well, carrying out household tasks well and dutifully carrying out what your husband tells you. But to be honest, the idea never really settled within me. Apart from being brought up with this thinking, I think the type of Islamic education that we get here in Singapore also shares the blame. I’ve attended my fair share of religious programmes growing up, and I’ve always had the impression that the man had the upper hand. This was of course never explicitly mentioned because it is not an Islamic principle to begin with, but my impression could probably be attributed to the fact that there was a lack of focus on the rights of the wife. It was always about the duties of the wife towards the husband, and not so much the reverse, apart from provision for the family.
Watching Islamic programmes from elsewhere around the world online made me realise how different Islam is preached outside of Asia. In this post, I shared a video of Sheikh Khalid Yasin talking about the roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife. I have never EVER heard any of our religious figures in Singapore say (or tried to say) what he did with such straightforwardness and clarity.
But I think the situation in Singapore is much better now, with the younger next generation of religious educators being more open-minded and objective, and less conformant to cultural expectations.
I must also thank the recent Obedient Wives Club (with a name like this, you can replace ‘Wives’ with ‘Dogs’ and it will make little difference) furor for casting the role of the wife under the spotlight, opening doors to discussion, and inadvertently creating awareness on the true role of the wife in a marriage (read Ustaz Haniff Hassan’s commentary with regards to the OWC’s infamous book about “sex in Islam” here).
Discussing this issue always gets me all riled up because it’s one I feel very passionate about. I feel like I owe it to myself and other women and men who might not be in the know to dig deeper into this.
My key takeaways from the video and commentary I spoke about:
- A successful marriage does not depend solely on the wife carrying out her responsibilities.
- Men are not the commanders of women — they have a responsibility to them.
- Men and women are equals but because men have this added responsibility, they are granted respect one level up. And fairly so.
- But before commanding respect, a husband must be worthy of that respect.