“I’m More Important than Your Prayers”... The Lives of Religious Wives in Ramadan

Friday 30 April 202111:41 pm
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"أنا أهم من صلاتك"... يوميات زوجات متدينات في رمضان



Some men in Gaza willingly marry pious women known for being conservative, even if they themselves were not religious in the first place. When the month of Ramadan arrives, the conflicts between these couples rise. This leaves wives stuck living between their husbands’ oppressiveness against their piety, and being uncertain between adhering to all that the “house” demands, and performing religious rituals during Ramadan.

Maryam Awadallah tries to organize her daily schedule during the month of Ramadan, but she always fails. She distributes her time between acts of worship and her household duties, but the greatest responsibility lies in the kitchen — since the dining table in Ramadan is known for the diversity of its entrees aside from the main dishes — which makes her feel physically fatigued and exhausted.

Her suffering is not limited to this only, for she has grown weary of her success in completing her “duties”. Despite her domestic successes, she failed to satisfy her spiritual desire for worship and supplication to God.

I stopped praying the Sunna prayers in order to attend to my husband’s requirements.

Maryam, 38, is a mother of four, and works as an administrative officer within a government department in Gaza, “I stopped praying the elective prayers in order to please my husband.”

Maryam sees that her husband is not religious, does not commit to completing his prayers in full, and when he fasts, “He burdens everyone with the fact that he is fasting, unlike me.” She adds, “I grew up in a conservative family that loved to follow the teachings of Allah, reflect on the spiritual and emotional beauty of worship, and make offerings to the Creator. Unfortunately, for the past five years, I have found myself besieged, so much so that I’ve caught myself wishing that Ramadan doesn't arrive.”

Maryam confirms that her husband is difficult to handle in Ramadan. She says, “My husband is extremely provocative during the month of Ramadan, due to the number of requests he presses for at the same time that he finds me worshiping or praying. He does not only stop there, but also goes as far as to assign me tasks at home while I’m preparing to perform Taraweeh prayers after we break our fast (iftaar). This made me fall short of performing my elective prayers, as well as shorten my acts of worship so that I could keep the atmosphere of the house free of any problems and quarrels.”

I am More Important than Your Prayers

Sarah Abdelkhaleq, 32, is a mother of three and works as a secretary in a private sector institution in Gaza. Sarah turns to God during the month of Ramadan to flee from her reality and complain of her grief to God about her husband. However, recently, her husband would not even allow her this refuge.

She tells Raseef22, “The anguish and misery that my husband puts me through — and could rarely go without for a full week during the year — was not enough for him. As soon as Ramadan arrives I resort to prayer and worship even more, as it is the only refuge front the bitter life that I am living in the company of a greedy, gluttonous smoker with a sharp and volatile temperament.”

I grew up in a family that reflected on the beauty of worship and spirituality, but for the past five years I have found myself besieged when this month comes, so much so that I’ve caught myself wishing that Ramadan away

She adds, “I strive to finish all the household duties without default in order to escape the cycle of any unjustified and made-up problems, but I then find him following me into my time of worship and provoking me even more.”

Sarah recounts how her husband was one of those committed to worship and prayer, and he never skipped a prayer. However only months following his marriage, his personality changed, and she was unable to find a way to deal with him. She says, “It came to the point that he made me get away from him when performing acts of worship, and me taking advantage of his absence from the house for prayer.”

Whenever her husband sees her praying the night prayers (or Qiyam al Layl), her favorite Ramadan ritual, he tells her, “I am more important than your prayer”, which made her hate performing the prayer in his presence. She even gave up many elective prayers as well as reciting the Qur’an — all things she previously liked to do.

House of Hell

“I did not expect to fall short in my worship this way, and be this negligent in the front of God and myself after marrying someone that claimed to love me but eventually revealed his true self. This reveal came only after I was trapped with him between four walls — a place I call the house of hell,” Mira Abu Latifa, 42, tells her story with her husband and their five children.

Mira believes that her life amidst her family — her husband and her children — is more like psychological warfare. She must satisfy each and every one of them, and the result is a feeling of constant physical exhaustion, as she works long hours without any assistance.

Her husband and her children carry the same temperament, to the point where she now dislikes all sorts of feasts and occasions, especially the month of Ramadan. She loves prayer and the devout way of life, and everyone around her do not perform prayer, only fasting from food, while most of their conversations around the table do not even appeal to her.

Mira went to perform the evening prayer at the time her husband had asked her to prepare qatayef, so he told her, “Really, you just remembered your Lord.” Mira cried in her sujud (prostration during prayer) and after that made sure to pray when he was not at home.

A Prophet and a Demon

A housewife and mother of two sons, Hadeel Muslimi, 31, describes her husband during the month of Ramadan, saying, “Amongst his companions a prophet, and a devil at home.”

Hadeel, describing her life in Ramadan, tells Raseef22, “I was one of those who would wait for the month of Ramadan and its rituals, enjoying its mood and atmosphere with my family before my marriage. I used to hang up decorations and pray Taraweeh (post iftar prayers) with my siblings, who would prefer to pray at home so that we could share everything we wanted with them. But today, six years after I got married, I abandoned prayer due to the psychological pressures that I suffer from. The motive behind this is the fear that dominates my heart from my husband’s oppression and tyranny.”

Hadeel did not forget the day in the middle of last Ramadan when her husband forced her to cut her prayers in order to answer him, asking her to serve appetizers to his friends who used to sit together all night until the early hours of dawn. She says, “I service and cater to his endless requests all the time, which makes me bemoan my woes to his mother who rejected his actions, but there is still no response.”

Traditional Society

Khutam Abu Shawarib, a social worker, notes that the Palestinian society in Gaza is traditional. Parents and those before them have established misconceptions, the most common of which are that the woman bears the responsibility for all household duties. Another mistaken belief is that upon marriage, she would be fully responsible for her husband’s house, at a time when everyone has overlooked that the same lady needs personal space in order to carry out her activities and life requirements — including but not limited to personal, psychological, and physical care.

She adds to Raseef22, “All of this brings us to difficult turning points for women in Gaza — the most dangerous of which is them suffering from illness, insomnia, and fatigue at an early age, as a direct result of deprivation and persecution in all its forms within the family.”

Whenever her husband sees her praying the Night Prayers ( Qiyam al Layl), her favorite Ramadan ritual, he tells her: I am more important than your prayers.

Abu Shawarib believes that matters get more complicated during the month of Ramadan, “which is known for the multiplying hardships of fasting and additional work. The woman bears these troubles and responsibilities alone, which makes her overlook many personal demands, namely performing the month’s rituals and worship, and this leaves her stuck in a life cycle that doesn't end.”

Abu Shawarib stresses the need for marital life to be based on partnership and not on classness, and for men to understand that women were not created to serve them.

Souad Abu Dhalfa, a social and psychological support specialist, stresses that the concepts of life-sharing help achieve psychological support for women, “But, unfortunately, the preexisting concepts and perceptions within society among the majority of men are that a woman must undertake all tasks, from shopping, housework and child rearing. This leaves her exhausted and unable to meet her own needs, struggling under the weight of tension and psychological blockade that she feels, which makes her lose the ability to enjoy herself.”

In the end, after these women saw that getting close to God was a refuge for them from a society that only exhausts their bodies and minds, and lacks any appreciation for their being, all that was left on their minds and in their thoughts was “escaping to sleep,” according to Abu Dhalfa.

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