I was in my university years when I first heard our neighbor's husband cursing her and her father just to call out to her, while she was standing with my mother at the doorway of our house. I was surprised by her when she got up to answer her husband's insulting calls, which he had repeated more than once. My mother asked her, "Why is he so rude to you?" The neighbor laughed and told her, "It's a term of endearment, not an insult... I'll be rewarded for it."
This kept happening from time to time. Recently, I heard him call her a "cow". I advised her to ask her husband not to treat her like that, but she told me with conviction that she was used to this way of treatment and that her patience with him is her key to paradise.
I have noticed that this is not only happening with our neighbor but with many women, especially in our rural surroundings. There, women are convinced – or are made to believe by their families – that patience in the face of their husbands' abuse is a duty, even a divine requirement that is set by God as a condition for entering paradise. A husband beating, insulting and neglecting the wife is an affliction, and a test, and a woman must welcome it with an open heart and a smiling face, and she must forget her dignity in order to become one of the good and virtuous women who are content with their fate, no matter how bitter it is.
In our rural surroundings, women are convinced – or are made to believe by their families – that patience in the face of their husbands' abuse is a duty, and even a divine requirement set by God as a condition to enter heaven
Mixing up the cards
In our Arab society, women are humiliated in many ways, either by their husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and so on. But what's most disgusting is the attempt to give a legitimate and divine attribute to such behaviors and practices by men. For example, some try to convince a woman to remain silent about her husband's beating because he has the right to beat her, and that her patience in the face of his violence is what God demands of her to do. These same people claim that God will not be pleased with her, and rather will abhor her, if she tries to rebel, leave her home, or ask for a divorce, and that all she can do is wait and pray to God to lift her affliction. It's as if God only loves and approves of broken, helpless and defeated women who have no right to decide their own fate.
For years I have been wondering who is responsible for all these misconceptions regarding religion and women
I once heard a relative of ours sitting with my mother complaining about her husband beating her. The poor woman was lifting her clothes to allow my mother to see the marks of the abuse on her body. My mother was showing signs of hatred and distress, and I expected her at the time to ask her to go ask for a divorce and refuse to live with him again, but what happened really shocked me. My mother started calming the woman, telling her that many women are being beaten every day and that this is something husbands do all the time. She then began to talk about the reward of patience and the paradise that awaits a woman who is patient with her husband, saying that God will restore her right, even if it takes a while. She told her that she must endure it and will be greatly rewarded. I do not know how the woman was convinced by my mother's words, and she left our house praying to God to guide her husband as my mother asked her to.
"What will happen if God never guided her husband?" That's what I was thinking at the time. Does the poor woman stay with the abusive man and pray for him, afraid to voice her objection in any way for fear of divine punishment? Meanwhile her husband in the eyes of everyone continues to "do what most men do". Is he not more deserving of the divine curses that some women fear in vain?
Forbidden only for women
I have seen this happen in front of my eyes more than once. My father goes to a reconciliation meeting with some men to resolve a dispute between a husband and his wife. I know from my mother that the husband cursed and beat his wife, and once even stole her money from her. I expect that the outcome of the meeting will be a ruling that gives the woman the right to decide her fate and punish the man for what he has done, but the opposite happens. The man admits that he "might have gotten a little angry", but in any case he won't be hanged for a small mistake like beating his wife.
The woman goes back with the husband after he promises not to repeat his actions, but he does repeat it, and after her father, mother and perhaps the village sheikh sit with her to advise her, saying words such as: "Patience is a virtue... Your home is your kingdom, so preserve it with all your might. Don't listen to the devil, endure the injustice, the oppressed are lucky, because God will restore their rights. All men are the same..."
In our Arab society, many try to convince women that their husbands have the right to beat them, and that their patience in the face of violence is what God demands of them to do. It's as if God only loves and approves of broken, helpless and defeated women
I have never been convinced by these words, and I do not know who attributed them to You, God, when You love a strong and proud believer. Doesn't God love the oppressed person who takes his rights in this world with his own hands and seeks to restore his own dignity and doesn't accept humiliation? Does a woman have to wait for the afterlife to live the happiness she desires? Will God curse her if she leaves a husband who insults and humiliates her in the hope that she will meet a more suitable one who will bring her happiness?
Once I had a discussion with my sister about this issue after a relative of ours was reconciled with her husband, even though he used to insult her and deprive her and her children of food and she had to rely on her father's house. My sister said to me, "What do you want from people who only remember the hadith that says: ("If I were to instruct anyone to prostrate to anyone, I would have instructed women to prostrate to their husbands,") without remembering the rest, or anything else, and twist the meaning to their whims."
O God, what is this injustice? Don't women live on earth like men, and must only wait for paradise in the hereafter, the price of which is humiliation and pain?
For years I have been wondering who is responsible for all these misconceptions about religion and women. Whose interest is it for women to remain submissive, content with scraps from food that a man places in front of them according to his whims? Who benefits from the spread and dominance of these misconceptions about reward and punishment, paradise and hellfire, and from constantly binding and restricting women with them, while opening the door wide for men to pass without judgment?