بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
As a child raised in a home with a running television set, I innocently formed my opinions about things in adult life based on what I observed, both in real life and on the screen. Thankfully, local Pakistani television had restricted transmission hours during the eighties, and was heavily pre-censored.
Nevertheless, it was not long before I began to form, based merely on casual observation, an opinion about what an adult Pakistani woman was expected to be like, after her marriage.
How a society functions depends on its dwellers’ mindset. You can make all the rules and laws you want, but it’s the people and what they believe deep inside their hearts that produce the actual results. Media – books, newspapers, magazines, television, Internet – contribute greatly in either rejecting or reinforcing society’s long-held myths, ideas and stereotypes. It is a two-way road actually. What the media shows is often a reflection of society; and when it shows it, it might further reinforce those beliefs, unfortunately.
In a country where majority of the population is illiterate i.e., they cannot even read, mass media is required for ensuring that something is communicated to them effectively. Marketers and advertisers have just one major aim as far as using the media to reach this illiterate majority goes: ensuring that it buys their product and/or service that is on sale. They therefore use spectacular images, music and subliminal messaging in their television advertisements to garner the audience’s attention.
Be it a mobile phone or a one-rupee candy, the attention-grabbing tactics employed are the same.
Advertisements that I found off-putting as an adult
By the time I hit my thirties, it had been over two decades since I’d been viewing advertisements on television; they usually caught my eye for the colors, situational characteristics, quality and choreography employed in their production.
Years after I had been married, however, the underlying stereotyped ideas being promoted via these advertisements did more to engage my attention – or, should I say – my indignation. Even though we (my husband and I) have never kept a television in our home, screens had begun to pop up everywhere in public, from restaurants, to the waiting areas at doctors’ clinics, to airport lounges, and the cheesy advertisements they blared, like I said, often caught my attention.
Maybe it had got to do with the fact that I was no longer a happy-go-lucky, gum-chewing youngster. I guess, as the hair starts to grey and the hormones calm down a bit, the brain starts to work a bit more efficiently. Just 20 minutes of random television viewing in-passing anywhere, would fill me in with the head-whirling advertisement bombardment more than amply.
Now let’s get the stats right: more than 50% of any country’s population is female. In Pakistan, for most part of the day, television is viewed mostly by the female population – the stay-at-home wives, mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, and house-maids, particularly in the time-slot of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Consequently, most of the content broadcast in this time interval is targeted at this predominantly female audience. It’s no wonder then, that cooking shows and home-centered programs rule the roost.
In ads promoting cooking oil, tea, or even dish-washing detergent – the basic backdrop always remains the same. A young, exquisitely-dressed woman is shown in the kitchen, hovering over a pot on the stove, or even worse – in this age of automatic washing machines – loading her washer with a huge pile of laundry in the middle of her lawn. As she swirls around and gives the viewers a huge smile, singing the praises of the said product, we get a generous view of things that have nothing to do with the product.
I mean, which woman sings and dances, whilst all decked up, when doing the daily laundry?!
In ads promoting brands of tea, this pretty young lady serves her family cups of tea on a tray. And who is ‘her family’? A father-in-law, mother-in-law, a husband and children – the scenario is the same in every advertisement. If the ad is selling cooking oil, it shows this family seated around a huge dining table, as super-mom/wife/daughter-in-law lays the table with steaming dishes. In the end, she convinces the viewers how she gets extra love, acceptance, respect and praise by her ‘family’ because of her delicious culinary skills. One particular detergent ad showed a husband lauding his wife for successfully removing the stains of dirt off his shirt, while she winked at the viewers and admitted that the detergent did it. Another ad showed a prospective mother-in-law intentionally dropping in to visit her son’s fiancé very early in the morning, in order to see the latter’s “saleeqah” (home-organizing-and-cleaning expertise) of keeping house. The ad showed the frazzled daughter-in-law-to-be scurrying to clean up the kitchen before this scheming “aunty”, who was soon to become her mother-in-law, entered the house. When the latter saw the gleaming dishes next to the sink (yes, the ad was that of a dish-washing soap), she looked at her prospective ‘bahu’ (son’s wife) with approval. The ‘bahu’ sighed with relief.
Before I go on to discuss some even more degrading past advertisements, I must highlight how almost all of them used to reinforce some fixed stereotypes regarding women in Pakistani society. One of these stereotypes is that a wife or daughter-in-law’s primary duty after marriage is housekeeping, cooking, and serving her husband, children and in-laws – and not necessarily in that particular order.
Now how is every young, college-going girl to achieve this “Pakistani dream”? That is, how is she to bag an eligible bachelor in order to spend the rest of her life thus serving his family?
Well, we have more cheesy advertisements telling us how.
Top of the list: fairness and beauty creams. ‘Use this cream, catch the eye of that hottie in your college, or the one at your cousin’s wedding or at the family-friend’s dinner party, and voila! Out comes the engagement ring. You’re all set’.
It is one thing for this message to be made via imagery in ads, it’s quite another to have some sickening dialogue going with it. I swear I have myself seen an ad in which a “dark” (dusky-complexioned) girl was shown in her college uniform, crying to herself and thinking “Who is going to marry me?” After using a certain turmeric-based cream to magically transform the color of her skin, she eventually got married, and was shown all dolled-up and giggling away as her husband followed her around the house, gazing at her lovestruck.
If that wasn’t enough, she then turned towards the camera and said, “I know that every girl wants her husband to praise her looks and fall in love with her like this, so you also use this cream!”
I could just gag with disgust!
The same message is given by shampoo advertisements; they are too innumerable to discuss here. In them, it is a flick of the long, lustrous hair that achieves the same husband-snag very effectively.
Cut to the reality show “Shadi Online”, which aired back in the early 2000’s, in which single people seeking marriage, or “candidates”, were aired on live television so that they could receive proposals via the media: in every episode of this show, an experienced married couple was also present, to offer advice regarding success in marital life.
Once, I remember vividly, a former Pakistani film-actress and her husband, who was also a film actor, were present on an episode of the show. When she was asked by the hosts what the main requirement for a successful marriage was, she promptly replied, “Every Pakistani/Muslim girl should think of her husband as her ‘majazi khuda’”.
In Urdu or Hindi, the term majazi khuda means “metaphorical god”.
I will elaborate more on that in a bit.
As for her husband, he had forbidden her from working in films after marriage, and she even had to visit her mother’s house only after asking him first, as he, according to her own admission, did not ‘like her going out of the house’. As for him, like I mentioned, he was still doing films, prancing around on hilltops in the arms of young lovelies.
Apparently, in Pakistani culture, a ‘majazi khuda’ can do whatever he wants, even if it involves disobeying the actual, one and only God, the all-great Allah; but his wife needs to be tightly-controlled by him, in order to be worthy of his love.
Now I know what you must be thinking. That I am the hijab-and-niqab wearing woman promoting an Islamic way of life, and in Islam, a woman’s husband is akin to her ‘majazi khuda’, right?
Wrong! A thousand times!
In Islam, there is NO God except Allah. The Urdu/Hindi word “khuda” (which means, a deity that is worshipped) can never be used for any being besides Allah, let alone even consider some other created object or temporary, worldly entity as a ‘khuda’, even in one’s heart.
This amounts to ‘shirk’ i.e., associating a partner with Allah, which is the gravest sin.
Prostrating to other than Allah
There is a hadith (Prophetic narration) that most people refer to when they mistakenly consider the “majazi khuda” concept to have originated in the religion of Islam. It is reproduced below:
The Prophet ﷺ said, “If I were to command anyone to prostrate to anyone other than Allah, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, no woman can fulfil her duty towards Allah until she fulfils her duty towards her husband. If he asks her (for intimacy) even if she is on her camel-saddle, she should not refuse.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
There are other authentic Prophetic narrations that endorse the greatness of the husband’s rights upon his wife in Islam, particularly his right for physical intimacy. First and foremost, he has the right to be obeyed in all matters that do not go against Allah’s commands. Secondly, he has the right to deny her permission for some matters – if the need so arises, rightfully – such as her visiting certain people or places he does not approve of, as I have already discussed.
Scholars have written many books and articles regarding a husband’s and wife’s mutual rights in Islam, and I don’t intend to add to them here. However, what I want to emphasize here, is that Muslim women should look at both sides of this picture, and not overlook the fact that they too, are not completely devoid of rights in this relationship. Some of their basic rights are: adequate food, shelter and clothing, and kind treatment.
Yes, it is obligatory for a husband to provide all of these for his wife, and to treat her kindly.
Now, about the advertisements promoting a wife’s complete and devoted servitude.
First of all, after most of my friends and I myself got married, a question that eventually arose – not surprisingly – for most of them, was whether or not they could dare to ask their husbands for separate accommodation. Even biological siblings and cousins get into tiffs when living in close proximity, so what can we expect from people who were hitherto complete strangers?
The attitude rampant here in Pakistan is that it is a grave disrespect and rude disobedience on the son’s part if he even thinks about living separately from his parents after his marriage. Consequently, it is a very commonly-witnessed, and quite sad, scenario in every other house having a joint family, that each married son is living in a single bedroom with his wife and up to two or three children. It is not even considered unusual to find families living like this for years on end.
As for the Islamic aspect of this issue, whether or not the daughter-in-law can live separately, you can find out by reading my other books that are on the topic of Muslim marriage.
As mother of a son myself, I am strictly against the idea of expecting personal servitude from someone else’s daughter, i.e., wanting her to prepare breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner for me, while I lounge around issuing orders. For example, a ‘well-wishing’ close relative – an ‘aunty’ who is a grandmother, with most of her children married off, launched into a tut-tut-laced diatribe when she heard of a family who had built for their adult son, an upstairs private house-portion before his marriage: “They have separated (their only son) already?! They should not have done that. Instead of giving him an upstairs house-portion of his own, they should have kept him and his wife with them downstairs at first, so that they could see how both of them are getting along. They should make sure that she eats with them, lives with them, and goes upstairs only to sleep at night. That way, she will care for them later on. By giving her, her own portion/kitchen beforehand, they are telling her that it is okay for her to live separately. Is that why parents raise sons? So that they leave them and live separately?”
I was speechless. Back then, I’d wanted to say, “Trust me, aunty, I am NOT raising my son so that he and his wife become bonded labor in my old age”. However, anything that I tried to say to her in response, was interrupted and brushed off, so I just left the argument. As for me, it had really hit me then why most Pakistani families desire sons. The aunty said so in her own words, “is that why parents raise sons?”
Well, maybe she has raised her four sons for this reason, but not me. That is not my intention.
As for the act of prostration to the husband, were it allowed…. well, once upon a time, there was a righteous young lad who dreamt that the sun, the moon and eleven stars were prostrating to him. When he reached middle age and acquired a position of authority in his region, both his parents and all of his eleven brothers did, in fact, prostrate to him i.e., his dream came true.
Who was he, you might wonder?
He was Prophet Joseph/Yusuf [peace be upon him].
It says so in the Qur’an, in Surah Yusuf:
“Behold! Yusuf said to his father: “O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!”” [12:4]
“And he (Yusuf) raised his parents high on the throne (of dignity), and they fell down in prostration, (all) before him.” [12:100]
Just because his father, Prophet Yaqoob (Jacob) and his mother prostrated themselves to their son, didn’t mean they thought of him as their ‘majazi khuda’. No: it was an act denoting respect and acknowledgement of authority, because when this happened, Prophet Yusuf occupied a high post of the government. In the Divinely-revealed religions before Islam (i.e., the undistorted monotheistic religions preached by all Prophets of Allah, from Noah, to Abraham, to Moses and Jesus [peace be upon them all]), “prostration” or the act of sajdah (which Muslims do in their daily prayers) to rulers, kings, and other position-holders of authority, was allowed, to show obedience and respect.
Even “bowing” – as we do in rukoo in daily prayers – was allowed.
Here is a hadith (Prophetic narration) that proves this:
When Mu`adh Ibn Jabal, the Prophet’s companion, came back from the Sham Area (Syria) to Madinah, he prostrated before the Prophet (peace be upon him) who asked him, “What is this, O, Muadh? ” Muadh said, “I visited the Sham Area and witnessed them prostrate before their priests and patriarchs. I wished to myself that we did the same for you.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ” Do not do it. However, if I were to order anyone to prostrate before anyone else besides Allah, I would have ordered the wife to prostrate before her husband.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Commentary: Imam Ibn Taimiyyah said, “How can it be concluded that prostrating to something indicates worship of it, when the Prophet said…and he mentioned the hadith above, saying afterwards, “It is known that the Prophet did not say, ‘If I were to order anyone to worship anyone else…’”
The hadith above, and its commentary, clearly state that the act of prostration exemplified for a wife to her husband is not that of worship, and hence, he is not to even remotely be considered a ‘khuda’ or ‘god’, as that would go against Islamic monotheism.
Rather, this act of prostration is that of “ta’zeem”, or a physical expression of showing respect, giving honor, and acknowledging someone’s higher authority as compared to one’s lesser status (such as the historical European bow and curtsy done in front of royalty).
Islam came and abolished this norm of prostrating to people in authority. From then on, bowing and prostrating was permitted only before Allah.
Now it is quite noteworthy that a majority of the women in Pakistan willingly attribute to their husbands the higher authority in their marriage, acknowledging his higher position, and molding themselves into what he wants them to be.
That is good, isn’t it? Yes; but that is also where the problem starts…
The problem, in this case, being an increasing, over-the-top sense of entitlement that is blown out of proportion.
“I don’t know why he can’t make his own dinner when he knows that I have 104-degree fever!”, cries a lady relative over the phone, “he keeps asking me to serve him his food.”
At another point in time, she had proudly claimed to me, “Not once, in our entire marriage, has [my husband] had to leave to embark on a trip, be it night or day, that I wasn’t in the kitchen at the time, preparing his meal for him before his departure. Not once has he left the house with me sleeping in bed.”
Congratulations then, aunty. Now go make him ‘his’ food, even in your high fever. Giddyap!
Another piece of advice dished out by another aunty: “Ensure that your husband becomes so used to you, that he cannot get by for even a single day, without you!” I guess that would mean: iron his shirts, lay out his clothes for him before he goes to work, buy his clothes for him, run all his errands…. perhaps even put his shoes on for him with your bare hands, right?
“[My husband] cooks better than me, that’s why I don’t let him cook.”
This one hit really the bull’s eye! Insecurities-R-US, that’s the bottom-line, isn’t it? Insecurity.
Married women think, weak that our faiths are, that if something happens to our breadwinner, our provision will be lessened or stopped. If we lose control over him, he will run after some ‘twinkie’ in his office, and we’ll be kicked out of this wonderful house over which we currently rule. So, what’s the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen? Take care of the jackpot… I mean, the husband, and slog at the kitchen, laundromat or ironing board, while he devours eye-candy on his multiple screens, secretly rolls his eyes at our constant nagging, and stifles his yawns during shopping trips. My wife……eh, who is that? This lady is more like a cross between my nanny, mother and a perfectionist control-freak!
“Get me my fork,” says a husband, without taking his eyes off the television, as he begins eating dinner at the table. Just as depicted in the colorful cooking-oil advertisements, the entire table is laid out for him by his wife, before he is summoned for dinner. He doesn’t even look up long enough to see that his tired wife had just taken her seat at the table, after dutifully preparing for everyone in the family their fresh roti or paratha with her own hands. Sighing, but not saying a word, she goes back into the kitchen to fetch him ‘his’ fork. This scenario has been repeated every single day over the years, so by now the ‘majazi khuda’ has lost the habit of having his wife eat at the table while he eats. His wife has made it clear by her persistent servitude that her position, while he eats, is in the kitchen, preparing his food, while he dines. The children don’t help in laying the table or cleaning up after dinner, either. Serving the entire family ‘their’ food at the table is always the woman’s job.
“From now on for the rest of your life, you have to do the khidmat (servitude) of your husband and children”, resonates an aunty’s advice in my ears.
Is that a dong of doom I hear in the background? It sure sounds like it. 🙂
“What are you doing here?” asked a wide-eyed neighborhood aunty when she saw me living at my mother’s house beyond the forty-day period after my son’s birth, “Why aren’t you at your own home?” Before I could even start stuttering a response, one about a water problem and how it was difficult for me to climb the many floors with two children, she prods on, “What is your husband eating then? Oh, you must have cooked all his food for him and frozen it, right?”
*Sigh* Why do people answer their own questions? And why do they ask such intrusive questions in the first place? The accusing look that she gave me even before listening to my reply, was evidence enough of her opinion of me as a wife. As if to say, ‘you-should-be-serving-your-husband-his-food-not-still-be-living-here’. Everyone knows my husband lived alone for years abroad before he got married. He didn’t starve then, did he? So why would he be starving now, just because his wife is recovering postpartum?
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” insist mothers and aunts. Yes, we create our own monsters: misogynists and chauvinists. Each man who roams the streets, offices and roads today, disrespecting women or treating them as inferior, was once a keen, observant child watching his mother mutely allow his father to mistreat her, deride her, or not give her due respect/importance in the household. By silently taking unfair treatment in stride in the name of ‘patience’ (sabr), mothers teach their male children that it is perfectly alright to consider women inferior beings.
By ladling out her adult son’s food for him on his plate, or fetching him a fork when he demands one, a mother teaches her son that this is a woman’s status before a man, that of a personal valet, available at his beck and call. Forget about commanding respect, or demanding it….do women today even deserve the respect of their male family members?
Or do they act in a manner that invites everyone to walk all over them?
Our pious male predecessors cooked and served food
☞ “And surely Our messenger-angels came to Abraham with good news of a son. They greeted him with, “Peace!” And he replied, “Peace be upon you!” Then it was not long before he brought them a fat, roasted calf.” [11:69]
☞ Abu Ayyub al-Ansari slaughtered a young goat, cooked half and grilled the other half. He also asked his wife to bake, because she baked better, he said. When the food was ready, it was placed before the Prophet Muhammad and his two companions (Abu Bakr and Umar). The Prophet took a piece of meat and placed it in a loaf and said, “Abu Ayyub, take this to Fatimah. She has not tasted the like of this for days.”
When they had eaten and were satisfied, the Prophet said reflectively: “Bread and meat and busr and rutb!” Tears began to flow from his eyes as he continued: “This is a bountiful blessing about which you will be asked on the Day of Judgment. If such comes your way, put your hands to it and say, ‘Bismillah’ (In the name of Allah) and when you have finished say, ‘Alhamdulillah alladhee huwa ashba’na wa an’ama alayna (Praise be to Allah, Who has given us enough and Who has bestowed his bounty on us). This is best.” [This incident has been narrated, with different wordings, in Sahih Muslim, Muwatta Malik, Mishkat al-Masabeeh and Riyad al-Saliheen]
☞ One day `Umar Bin Al-Khattab (during his rule as the caliph of Madinah) noticed a tent pitched in an open space outside Madinah. A person was sitting outside the tent, and someone inside the tent was groaning. `Umar went to the man, greeted him, and wanted to know who he was. The man said that he was a man of the desert, and had come to Madinah to wait on the Commander of the Faithful and seek his assistance. `Umar next asked who was groaning inside the tent. The man said that inside the tent his wife was groaning with labor pains. He said that he was a stranger in Madinah and did not know what to do. `Umar enquired whether he had any woman to look after the confinement of his wife. He said that there was none. Umar said, “Do not worry. I will make the necessary arrangements.”
`Umar came home, and asked his wife Umm Kulthum to accompany him on a mission of service. Umm Kulthum got ready and took with her such things as might be needed for the purposes of confinement. `Umar took with him some provisions for the purposes of cooking a meal. Umar returned to the camp with his wife.
Umm Kulthum went inside the tent to attend to the woman in pain, while `Umar sat outside the tent with the Bedouin and began cooking some meals for him. After an hour or so, when the meals had been cooked, Umm Kulthum from inside the tent addressed `Umar: “Amirul Mumineen! Congratulate your guest on the birth of a son.”
Hearing this the Bedouin felt quite embarrassed. Turning to `Umar he said, “Amirul Mumineen, why did you not reveal your identity? You have overwhelmed me with your benevolence.” `Umar put all his fears to rest saying: “That is alright. There is nothing to worry about. Thank God I have been of some service to you at the time of your need. You may come to me tomorrow and I will see what can be done further to help you”. It was late at night when Caliph `Umar and Umm Kulthum left. The Bedouin thanked Allah and said, “Allah be praised! I came to seek the Commander of the Faithful, and Allah sent the Commander of the Faithful to seek me.”
The above verses of the Qur’an and Prophetic narrations clearly show how Allah’s Prophets and their companions helped their women in preparing food and serving it to guests, especially during special circumstances. There is absolutely nothing wrong with men helping women out in the kitchen, or eating simple food.
Contrast, then, the actions of our noble predecessors to those of the men depicted in some of our local television advertisements, sitting at the dining table with pot bellies, waiting to be served like kings. One advertisement even showed a husband surveying the several dishes laid out before him by his wife, then looking up complainingly to ask, “…and my halva?” No surprise that she promptly produced the steaming pot containing ‘his’ halva (a traditional South Asian dessert), which was supposed to be a surprise for him.
So, what exactly am I advocating here? That women stop cooking meals in their homes? That men should instead do the honor? That everyone should employ a full-time cook?
Well, all I am saying is, as I have already said before, we should give cooking and eating the priority in life which it deserves. It really is not as big a deal as it is made out to be. Cooking good dishes should not be the grand purpose – per se – of anyone’s existence. And Allah has not made men generically superior to women in Islam, except when they occupy positions of leadership (such as a husband possessing a degree of authority over his wife).
Therefore, women should not feel guilty if they “fail” to serve the men in their homes (i.e., fathers, husbands, brothers or sons) three or more fresh meals, cooked by themselves, from scratch, each and every day. Eating out or getting take-out food is just fine, as long as it is halal, healthy and clean. Or the husband can try his hand at cooking, if he wants to. There is nothing wrong with this.
After all, aren’t most of the best professional chefs in the world, men?
“I cooked a month’s supply of food for my family before my trip abroad,” comments an aunty, “On my return, I discovered most of the food frozen as it was when I left. They had decided to eat out instead, in my absence…”
Take a hint, aunty.
Please live a little, and let others live too! 🙂
عَنْ عَمْرَةَ، قِيلَ لِعَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا: مَاذَا كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَعْمَلُ فِي بَيْتِهِ؟ قَالَتْ: كَانَ بَشَرًا مِنَ الْبَشَرِ، يَفْلِي ثَوْبَهُ، وَيَحْلِبُ شَاتَهُ
`Amrah reported that A’ishah was asked, “What did the Messenger of Allah ﷺ do in his house?” She replied, “He was a man like other men. He deloused his garment and milked his sheep.” [Al-Adab al-Mufrad]
Excellent article sadaf! write an article for men to advocate the same.. they think it to be their right to be served like kings.. again ..women(mother-in-laws) that feed these kind of thinking in their son\’s minds!!
Great stuff !
Mother inlaws don’t feed these things to men. Men want this. Unless of course they are not a real man
You should understand that you cannot separate the topic as simple Black & White, every society has its own circumstances. If a woman is concerned about having a separate apartment or cooking only for the husband then perhaps that should be cleared out before accepting the marriage proposal and you know everyone wants that but no one is going to say that before accepting the proposal, how dare they 🙂 The links that you gave in your article are talking about living close to parents in separate apartments or independent quarters. In Pakistan we do not have such housing setup. e.g. a family that lives in Defence, its next to impossible to think that a boy who just started his new career can get a separate house (even small) in Defence and near to his parents. And if the need to live independently is so dire then I think we very well know how many sisters would even consider living in a scanty house or whatever can be afforded in the salary because the criteria now is residency status, white skin and who cares about a person morality or piety. Yes we might be able to find a boy who can give all the worldly perks but then should not we be reminded of the Hadees which is something along this statement as the wife saying to his husband that I can bear hunger but I cannot bear the hell fire as a result of Haraam income. I don\’t remember the exact reference right now but I can look for it if required. Can we today find personalities of such strength and patience ? I was listening to the lecture "In halaat mein kya karna chahiye" by Farhat Hashmi where she was mentioning how our hearts have become "tung" and all we want is our own car, our own food and me, me and just me and how the sense of caring for each other has been lost. I think what is required today is opening of hearts to each other both from the younger generation as well as the aunties generation. Agreed it is not the duty of a woman to serve her in-laws and our society has taken it as a duty which should be negated and whatever the woman volunteers to do for her in-laws that should be regarded as her high character and not her obligation and if a man can support a better setup good enough but what to do when circumstances don\’t allow it. The man still has to marry and the wife will become involved in the dynamics e.g. in the west there is really no concept of a cook coming and cooking for you and there are no nokar chakur and caring for the elder is a huge problem. The psyche of everything self & independent is rooted in the secular system, they have old home to cater for their elderly, we do not believe in old homes. Our parents old home are their children. Your husband has an obligation towards his parents as is instructed in the Quran and that obligation can take different forms such as spiritual, psychological, financial and if a wife plays some part or helps her husband out in that fulfilling that obligation I think she\’ll not be punished but rewarded by Allah :)I myself have seen my grandmother cooking for the whole family yes for her daughter in law as well until a time she was in her late 80\’s and became so weak that she could not stand in kitchen and the daughter in law took over but my grand mother was one exception, she was one of the most wonderful woman I have seen in my life.I\’m sure when as you reach old age and you become so weak that you cannot even stand to cook and your daughters if any are married, you will need a helping hand and at that time it would perhaps be your daughter-in-law who might help you out 🙂 specially imagine a lifestyle where there are no cooks, no servant and your husband has gone passed the earning age or has died.And yes I agree with you that Pakistani men are a little too lazy when it comes to kitchen work, they can\’t even pick up their own fork 🙂 I agree with you on that sister and I am a paki and when I have a wife I assure you I\’ll not ask her to cook when she has 104 degree fever. There you go, your blog post has an impact 🙂
Assalam-o-alaikum.I was glad to see this topic raised by you because you\’re a person trying to implement Islamic principles in your life, espcially after marriage. I agree to some things in principle but I guess the different comes up when it comes to application of solutions. Stereotyping women as \’servants\’ upon whom it is made out to be a "Fard" to serve, serve and serve without anything in return is obviously not good. Some people do that, and it\’s not in accordance with our Deen. However, my viewpoint is that we need to look at the alternative picture. By condemning stereotyping, I\’m not saying that women MUST be free of all household chores and they should only go as far as the Deen makes it obligatory on them. I don\’t think that was your intention either.Rather than comment on your views directly, I\’ll indirectly comment by giving you an idea of what I think. Years ago, I used to believe that a woman should definitely demand the rights that she\’s given in Deen or else she\’ll always suffer in marriage. I used to think that since separate accomodation is her \’right\’, no one should mind if she asks for it. That\’s all fine in principle but in an intricately woven society where so many people depend on each other physically, emotionally… we need to rethink this. I totally support it that men and women both know their rights and duties in Islam, and then they implement it according to the situation.A girl who gets married and soon starts demanding a separate house would be correct in principle but it would be totally inappropriate. What love could she possibly receive from her inlaws and her husband for that attitude? Also, agreed it\’s difficult to imagine living with a fmaily in a single room… but why should girls stop looking at the bigger picture? It\’s not possible for men, in today\’s situation, to provide a proper apartment, let alone a house, for their wives. It was easier earlier when there was no rent, no electricity bills, etc. to pay… as in the time of the Prophet (saw). What\’s practical then – to demand a separate house, or to live with goodwill with the inlaws (if she\’s married into a joint family setup)?I love interacting with people and the idea of living with inlaws isn\’t at all daunting to me now. In fact, there\’s so much good that has come from this… it\’s such a wonderful opportunity to help and serve other people, especially if they are directly linked to the husband. Pleasing them means adding to the peace and security of the home. Which girl would want to lose out on that happiness by demanding a separate home? I know you aren\’t advocating that either. Still, I think the focus should be more on the girl first intending to do her best and settle in with the setup that\’s prevailing in her inlaws\’ house. If they want her to stay with them, she should unless the situation, in certain cases, develops into problems and there is no other way but to look for separate residence. Again, this is a very last resort and I really pray such an unpleasant situation does not arise in our society. It\’s there in some homes but maybe if the girls adopted the right approach (and also educated their sons rightly), it would become a rare happening in the future InshAllah.Mindsets can only change slowly and also, many times there is no need to "change" anything… if you\’ve got the right intention and the will to help and please people for Allah\’s sake, most people warm to you and love you in return, the way it\’s described in the Quran about winning over the one you\’re at odds with, by kindness. The same methodology goes for the husbands and work issue. True, the girl doesn\’t have to cook but by judging her situation and keeping her intention purely to do her work for the sake of Allah, she\’ll gain so much! In the present setup, some people consider it mandatory for her to do all the work and I condemn those misguided women who treat their daughter-in-laws like bonded labor but I know most people are not of that kind. Most people are nice and they like to see their daughters-in-law helping them out and in return, the benefits the daughter-in-laws receive are so precious… especially the peace at home.The situation varies from family to family but in general, the joint family system and the "bahu" working for the inlaws is good, MashAllah. As I said earlier, there\’s just so much potential for Ihsan (beauty) in this system that I have now come to advocate it, especially after observing my own maternal relatives. Problems arise because of mistrust, selfishness and the occassional trouble-makers who love to see problems in peoples\’ homes. The solution is not to change the situation overnight but to win hearts. In very subtle ways, the daughter in law might then seek her rights too and know where to draw the line. We all agree that anyone lying sick with a 104 degree fever shouldn\’t be made to get up if it\’s not a life-or-death situation, whether husband or wife. That is, if the husband\’s sick and the wife needs something from the supermarket and she can drive there herself, she shouldn\’t wake him up for it. There\’s a difference between becoming a "slave" and willfully and happily helping out – it\’s a difference of viewpoints… how you look at the situation.I\’m optimistic that things will improve InshAllah, if more people look to the Prophet\’s household as an examples. "Great Women of Islam" is a book that really provides beautiful examples of how women won honor through their love and sacrifice – their efforts bore fruit. Fullfilling duties within the limits of Shariah in a beautiful manner is what is needed from both genders and InshAllah, with more people turning to Deen, as well as learning from the good advice of elders, change will come about in a good manner, slowly, as it ought to. 🙂
* Additionally, it\’s unfair to be separating the inlaws from their son for petty gain. Anything that a married girl does has direct effects on many people and if she\’s really wise, she\’ll seek to improve her current situation in other ways rather than seeking the "separate and exit" option.
Jazakumullahu Khairan, brother and Sister Ameera, for your wise and positive feedback. You are so right; it will take ihsaan and compromise on the part of women to bring about the kind of homes embodied by the Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] and his companions, particularly in the way women bring up their sons today.
I have more to say about this, insha\’Allah, when I get more time. 🙂
I was speechless. I wanted to say, "Trust me, Aunty, I am NOT raising my son so that he and his wife become bonded labor in my "old age". They can do whatever they want, live where ever they want."……………………. islam in particular orders individuals to look after their parents in their old age…doesnt it?
Congratulations then. Go make him his food now, even in your high fever. Giddyap! Woman are "expected" to make fooooood for their man even in high fever…not because its their duty rather because it is "expected" that the woman "loves" her man to such extent that fever doesnt become a hindrance…..and obviously any woman such as this will be highly appreciated by her man…kept in high esteem and trust me the man would even stop her from doing the work(if she does it without whining)………so i was just saying…it is not obligatory…expected out of love…muslim women are "expected" to follow the footsteps of ummmahat ul momineen(mothers of all the muslims)…..i think u can easily find out how these pious woman served the prophet(P.B.U.H)
In Islam as well as any Civilized culture the role and rights of men and women are EQUAL not SAME….it can be a huge discussion…in a nutshell…if women are expected to respect their man………..men are expected "chivalry"
"It is Compulsory for a Woman To Serve Her HusbandShaikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said:“Scholars disagree: does a woman have to serve her husband to fix up the mattress, to serve food, drink, and break, to knead dough, to give food to his servants and livestock, and so on? Some scholars have said, ‘She does not have to serve him,’ but this view is weak, weak like the view in which it is held that a man does not have to have intimate relations (sexual intercourse) with his wife. If he doesn’t, then he isn’t treating her well…And it is said that-this is the correct view-she must serve him, for a husband is her chief in Allah’s Book … Among the scholars who hold this view are those who say, ‘She must serve him a little bit,’ while others among them say, ‘She must serve him according to Al-Maruf, and this latter view is correct. A woman must serve her husband according to Al-Maruf, which means that the standard of society based on their status applies to them. The help provided by a wife who lives in the deser is not like the help provided by a wife who is a city dweller, and the help of a strong woman is not like the help of a weak woman (so the matter depends upon Al-Maruf – upon the situation of the husband and wife, and upon the norms of the society they live in.)” (Fatawa, Ibn Taymiyyah (2/234,235))It is indeed sad that many men today have wives who are well acquainted with the names of restaurants, but are not able to cook a single egg! In this regard, women should take after the female chief of Paradise’s women, Fatimah bint Muhammad (saw) the daughter of the seal of the Messengers, The hand-mill caused many blisters on her hand as a result of always grinding barley and wheat, so that she could prepare bread for the members of her household. (Sahih Al-Bukhari (3113))"Taken from: Marital Discord, Causes & Cures by Majdi Muhammad Ash-Shahawi Page 25
BismillahI think this post needs a part 2 which should address the issue of the "why, what and how" of women\’s servitude to their husband and his family after marriage. Everyone who has commented has given valid points, which need to be addressed. I gave just one aspect of this issue in this post, about the way society expects women to be after marriage, with several real-life examples of how women themselves reinforce these stereotypes to the succeeding generation of younger women. The next aspect, how Muslim women really SHOULD be living after marriage, in the light of Islam, will be the content of my next post on this topic insha\’Allah. The book referred to by Brother tabman is an excellent read, and I strongly recommend it to everyone – married or single. Alhamdulillah I was happy to see it referred to here. I am also grateful to tabman and Ameera for their very thought-provoking input. Alhamdulillah, you all have motivated me to write a sequel post, in which I intend to cover real-life examples, most of which prompted me to write this post in the first place. We will all then brainstorm solutions for the problems that ensue within families when mutual rights and responsibilties are undermined, insha\’Allah,.The thing with being in the field of da\’wah is that people approach you with very personal problems, making you their shoulder to cry on. Alhamdulillah, so many sisters of different age-groups, have told me their side of the story about these in-law issues – even aunties. By the way, I have many "aunties" as confidantes. That\’s why my heart goes out to them when they are undervalued by their husbands, after decades of roti-pakana and bachay paalna (child rearing); to think NOW they\’d be asked to rest and enjoy the status of "Queen of the house", which Allah knows they have earned, and rightly deserve. Please pray that I am able to write the follow-up post on this soon, insha\’Allah.
From the way youre talking, I can sense that youre on your way to a divorce. This is such a long and pointless outcry of an article. You clearly have issues with your inlaws and a struggle to prove something in the womans rights movement. A house wife is a far more important role than any occupation a woman can invest in. And if a wife can do justice in both roles as being a bread winner as well as a housewife, then God bless her. You shouldnt have gotten married if you had that many issues with the word Majazi Khuda. You should have considered marrying a non-pakistani american and experience a divorce risk ratio of 60% which exists for obvious reasons that I hope you can conceptualize by the end of my humble advice. If you want to keep your husband loving you, happy and sane, dont argue about pointless things about moving out or complain about his family if he does not agree. You watch far too many dramas that pollute the mind. The reason i can say this is because you remember way too many commercials. Anyway, If you respect him, he will love you, else he will hate himself, and eventually you if you argue like this and disrespect you majazi khuda. Woman in westernized American culture have shot themselves in the foot and still experience recurring problems even after the second or 3rd marriage. They are misled about what a man needs and deserves from a marriage. Men are the same throughout the world. Testosterone is testosterone and estrogen is estrogen. Your “attitude” is flawed. Youre an example of why The term Majazi Khuda exists in islam to save the lives of women such as yourself from self destruction and a westernizing thought process that clearly fails proven by statistics. To me it seems like you have already caused so much pain to your husband. I wish you the best of luck in your marriage. Husbands need respect, wives need love. If thats missing your compromising fundamentals of islam and that will prove to be unhealthy for your family.
Sadaf, dont take this Imtiaz Bhaai’s comments seriously. He is just ignorant and narrow minded. You are just addressing different views and interpretations of people and their societies.And that is not easy and not enough to do in one blog , you need more time and more parts and actually it will be a never ending picture of different scenarios. But we have the Quran-e-kareem to tell us about the fundamentals and principles.If a lot of women are complaining about how they are treated in their in- law families that means they are not in peace,and living their lives like slaves. Just to survive. Same like in a jobscenario when a worker will not say anything if he is mistreated because of fair of losing income. But is he happy when he is treated like a slave.I think you are not saying dont work for that boss anymore, or dont respect him, but what you are saying is,Speak up for your respect if you dont get it and change the work atmosphere and become a happy respected worker rather the silently burning away in hell . Make that hell a paradise by knowing and addressing your and their rights.
I agree with Sr. Sadaf in many ways. If men are open to honest feedback, then I’m sure a vast majority of homemakers in India/Pakistan or even in the US will complain about how they are treated by their in laws and the husbands. We definitely need a change in mindset where men aren’t made to feel less manly or ashamed if they offer to lend their wives a helping hand. Or, if they lend support to their wives when the inlaws are around. This is specially applicable where women work professionally and yet are responsible for single handedly dealing with household chores as well as raising the children while men do not lift a finger to help.