A story which highlights why it is incumbent on all of us (born Muslims or not) to truly learn and then *understand* our religion….
Widows of Oman call for end to prejudice
Saleh al Shaibany
Last Updated: November 22. 2009 8:19PM UAE / November 22. 2009 4:19PM GMT MUSCAT // Nasra al Mukhaini, 38, a widow for the past 18 months, has found that life without her husband of 16 years is even more difficult than she could have imagined.
He left her with three young children and, with no formal education, Ms al Mukhaini cannot find a job to support her family. They survive from the financial support of her two brothers.
“My brothers have their own families and they can’t spare much. They also are under a lot of pressure from their wives because my children and I are extra mouths to feed,” said Ms al Mukhaini , whose husband, who died at the age of 42, was a mechanic for an automobile dealership.Many Omani widows struggle to lead happy lives after losing their husbands in a society that treats them as a burden and bad luck. Most widows struggle to cope with their grief, and few are able to find second husbands and build new lives.
According to a local superstition, anyone they marry is destined to die a premature death.
Women’s rights activists say the superstition is contrary to Islamic teaching, but is kept alive by men who do not want to be saddled with orphaned children and by women reluctant to share their husbands with second wives. “It is a stupid tradition, started by men who see orphaned children as a burden. Islam encourages men to marry widows to shelter them and protect them from loose tongues,” Ms al Mukhaini said.
In the Qur’an, Muslim men are allowed to marry four wives, and one of the reasons given is to help provide a new life for widowed women.
Widows in Oman also become the victim of gossip by other women whenever they interact with men.
“They sometimes get labelled as men grabbers if they get friendly with the opposite sex, just because they are available. These women don’t understand that being available does not mean a widow is on the lookout to get married to any man she makes contact with,” Ms al Mukhaini said.Many young widows also find that their friends often abandon them after the deaths of their husbands. With no friends, their social lives become severely restricted.
“Jealous wives would never invite young and pretty widows to their houses. We are kept away from their husbands. They see us as a threat to their marriages. Of course, their fear is unfounded, but these girls suddenly find that they need to protect their marriages,” Sabiha Malik, 29, said.
Ms Malik’s husband died three years ago, leaving her with two children but no financial problems. She is a business graduate with a well-paying job and is able to support her young family.
“Perhaps a widow like me can be spared from financial problems, but there is no escaping the prejudice of the society. No one likes to admit it, but we are treated like social outcasts; it’s all smiles in front, but frowns behind your back,” Ms Malik said.
According to Ms al Mukhaini, widows are rarely invited to weddings, which are the main social gatherings of the year in Oman and a chance to get out of the house and spend time with family and friends.
“If you do [invite them], then bad luck would descend on the newlyweds. At worst, the bride will also become a widow, as if widowhood is a contamination that can be passed on. You can see the scale of the problem a widow has to face,” Ms al Mukhaini said.
Ms Malik called for social reforms and a change of attitude to eliminate misconceptions about widows.
“It is about time we change. I know it is difficult, but it can be done through symposiums backed by the media. But more widows must come forward to support the cause because most of them prefer to suffer silently. The bad luck associated with us is just part of a cruel tradition, started centuries ago. It is un-Islamic, too,” Ms Malik said.
According to the Qur’an, widows cannot marry again immediately but must wait four months and 10 days after the death of their husbands. The period is called iddah and its purpose is to establish whether the widow is pregnant or not to avoid confusion over who the father is if she gets married again. It is also to protect women from rushing to another marriage while they are emotionally vulnerable in the period of mourning.
Widows who have romantic relationships outside of marriage defend themselves and blame the communities they live in.
“We have biological needs and if we can’t get husbands, then who could blame us?” a widow who identified herself only as Salma said.
Some Omani widows marry foreign men after failing to find suitors from among their compatriots. “Younger widows marrying foreigners is a more popular option and a solution to their matrimonial problem,” Salma added.
But Salma said the call on tolerance from society to ease the suffering of widows hinges on educated women who have lost their husbands, like Sabiha Malik.
“Oman is not the place where women’s voices are heard easily. It will take time to be embraced by society. However, educated women can start the movement now by having roadshows, seminars and television talk shows to change that,” Salma said.http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091123/FOREIGN/711229914