Image: Colin Christopher
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day in the US and, in recognition of that holiday, the next in our series of Inside Islam radio programs will feature Jean’s conversation with the co-editors of Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi. (See the end of this post for information on how to listen and participate in the show.)
One of the authors in this collection of real-life stories about love, relationships, and dating, Asiila Imani, deals with the often difficult topic of plural marriages. We have written here about polygamy in Islam previously, but this is the first time we have heard from a proponent or participant in polygyny directly. Imani converted to Islam over 30 years ago and has followed the Jafari madhab for the last twenty. She is a strong proponent of polygyny and views it as an extended family that is most beneficial for women. The following is excerpted from Love InshAllah.
Ali became my spiritual advisor. He sent me books on the Prophet and the Prophet’s family and encouraged and helped my Arabic and Qur’anic studies. I read everything he sent me, which solidified my beliefs once again. I began to wear the khimar and identified myself with the Shi’a school of thought. Ali’s letters and phone calls came whenever I felt myself slipping back into doubt, and my faith in him grew alongside my faith in God.
We conversed about my son and about my plans to become a midwife; he told me about the communal business he ran with the brothers of his jamah, and their desire to live self-sufficiently.
Within the year, talk turned to marriage, both a hopeful prospect and a dreadful thought. Was I ready to do this again? Ali believed that both of my previous marriages had failed because he was my match. God meant for us to be together, he said. Our paths certainly had crossed many times, and we seemed to fit together perfectly, but for one thing––Ali was already married.
Members in the Obedient Wives Club
This past week, Malaysia banned an Islamic sex manual put out by the controversial group Obedient Wives Club, whose statements have caused a stir. The Obedient Wives Club maintains that wives meet only 10% of their husbands’ needs and thus this manual instructs Muslim women to be subservient and obedient to their husbands sexually. Furthermore, they maintain that it is the wife’s job to prevent her husband from being adulterous by acting like a prostitute. Finally, they encourage polygamy. Although the manual does not contain any pictures, it is very descriptive. Moreover, the manual suggests that it is acceptable for polygamous men to have sex with all their wives at the same time. Continue reading
A recent radio program on Asian Network Reports Special focused on the increase of polygamy among British Muslim men. Although bigamy is banned in the United Kingdom, according to Islamic Sharia Council, there has been a noticeable increase in the rates of polygamous marriages in the last 15 years. Continue reading
Love and Mercy in Arabic
Among the many stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women and that it is a rigid and unchanging faith. Often the hijab and covering in general are mentioned as examples of this oppressiveness. Another example that is used to demonstrate the faith’s attitude towards women is verse 34 in chapter 4 of the Qur’an:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (34)
For many, this verse permits men to hit their wives. While it is true one cannot dismiss this verse and must address the issues that it raises, it is equally important to recognize that throughout the history of Islam, discussion, dialogue, and diversity of opinion and interpretation have all be been prominent features of the worldwide Muslim community. This verse, specifically, has sparked and continues to generate discussions in regards to how men should treat women. Continue reading
Last month, in Tajikistan, religious authorities banned the use of text messages by Muslim men to divorce their wives. To those not familiar with the practice, this may seem an odd thing to worry about. But divorce by text message has become a problem in Tajikistan because an increasing number of migrant workers there are not returning to their countries of origin and so need a remote method to divorce their wives from home. Text messaging specifically impacts Muslims seeking a divorce because they are being used to issue the “triple talaq,” the process by which a husband ends a marriage by stating his desire for divorce three times.
An often asked question about Muslim practices is “If you can’t date, how do you get married?” Well, there are many ways that Muslims end up meeting their life partner from arranged marriages to meeting someone in college. And now there is another way: speed dating. Actually, it is an “Islamized” version of speed dating where the main objective is marriage.
The question of marriage outside of one’s faith is not specific to any one religion. Each religion, I am sure, encourages adherents to marry within the faith. Yet while this is true across faiths, and even cultures, Islam is often singled out in a negative light. It seems that there are many who are willing to listen to critiques of Islam that show it to be backwards, oppressive, and intolerant without considering the viewpoints of the adherents and without considering its history and diversity. As a case in point, I want to focus on the issue of marriage in Islam, specifically on Asra Nomani’s article “My Big Fat Muslim Wedding” in Marie Claire, G. Willow Wilson’s response, and the recent Doha Debate on whether a Muslim woman should be allowed to marry anyone she chooses, in which Nomani appeared. Continue reading
Honeymoon in Tehran (via Random House)
Author of Honeymoon in Tehran and Time magazine reporter Azadeh Moaveni will tell her tale of love and anguish in the Islamic Republic Thursday, February 26, 2009, on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders. The show will air live at 3:00 pm CST and re-broadcast at 9:00 pm. To find out how to listen, or download the show after it airs, click here.
Is there a question or comment you would like to hear read live on the air. Leave it here, on this post, or send us an email! “Honeymoon in Tehran” will also be included as a related radio program in the Inside Islam radio series. Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and listen to past shows.
Photo by Tina Manley
Today Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders will air the next program in our Inside Islam Radio Series “Love and Dating in the Muslim World: True Stories of Falling in Love.” The show airs live at 3:00 pm CST today and is re-broadcast at 9:00 pm. To find out how to listen, click here to visit the radio show page for this program. Also on the page, you will find bios for our guests and full audio for the pre-recorded interviews with local Muslims on their stories of love, dating, and marriage.
The topics range from dating in Turkey, hiding relationships from parents, eight-year courtships, the engagement contract, an impromptu proposal in a roadside ditch, modernizing traditions and working wives who are separated from their husbands in school, and even the story of a Catholic convert marrying a Somali woman. All of these are available for you to listen here on Inside Islam: Dialogue and Debates. What is your marriage or dating story and will you share it with us? Please leave a comment below or send us an email with your response.
Next on the Inside Islam radio series: Love and Dating in the Muslim World: True Stories of Finding Love. Do Muslims date? If they don’t date, how do they decide whom to marry? To investigate the changing nature of Muslim courtship, Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders is collecting love stories from Muslims living in Madison, Wisconsin. You’ll be hearing them in the Valentine’s Day edition of Inside Islam on Thursday, February 18 (rescheduled from February 12) when we talk with the BBC’s Navid Akhtar, producer of the series “Modern Muslim Marriage.” Akhtar talked to young people in Britain, Malaysia, and Iran about their hopes, frustrations, and expectations about finding a mate, Muslim women who marry outside their faith, Muslim women who initiate divorce and Muslim divorcees looking for love again. But don’t call it dating. Dating is what non-Muslims do and it almost always leads to something sinful. Do you have a great story to tell? Give your opinion! Share your views! Tell your story! Make your comments below!
Update: February 10, 2009: The show has been moved to Wednesday, February 18, 2009. Also, you can listen to a radio promo posted on the radio show page for this show (link in the update below).
Update: February 6, 2009: The radio show page for “Love and Dating in the Muslim World” is now live. Find out how to listen to the show online, on the radio, or subscribe to our podcast. Also, check back for updated information on the show and additional resources on related topics leading up to the broadcast.