Archive for the 'Thoughts on Marriage' Category


veiled voices… a film by Briget Maher

On Link TV- a publicly owned channel for unsensored, and unbiased television programs from around the world, broadcasted the short film ‘Veiled Voices’ by Bridget Maher. This film documents the life of three public, and influential, women of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt who are making strides in empowering women through their teachings of Islam in mainstream, contemporary Arab society.

Each of these women is different from the other in age, social status, and family composition, yet all share a common passion and goal to empower Muslim women through their teaching of Islam- Qur’an, Jurisprudence, etc.

From Egypt is Dr. Su’ad Saleh- widow, mother to a journalist, and grandmother. She is a high standing graduate of Al-Ahazar University, teaches, has her own talk show, and even put in her application to be considered for the category of female- the first, Mufti. Sadly her application only received one vote, but I find it a remarkable accomplishment because it was not rejected outright. She states that Islam means a balance to everything, to be in Islam you need to balance all aspects of inner and outer, public and private life. She says she is sadden to see the potential of Islam reduced to hijab, niqab, beards and men. She has about 20 books published, teaches regularly -saw her in action as they filmed one of her classes- she is no joke. She says Islam has been so reduced that women limit their studies to the superficial level of anything because they have been taught they won’t be able to realize their full potential. Her daughter, who is married with children and is also a full time journalist in economic affairs, says that having her mother also work full time during her childhood taught her self reliance. That a working woman can be an excellent or terrible mother based on her personality alone. Dr. Saleh states that even those women who dedicated their whole lives to their families must also be considered as important and should not be belittled or feel belittled- each has a responsibility; each fulfilling it to the best of their abilities. That no woman should be forced to be one or the other exclusively.

From Lebanon is Sheikha Ghina Mahmoud, mother of twin girls, divorced, and head of a female Islamic Center- she teaches and organizes charity work to benefit women. Her classes are always full. This woman as dowry ask her husband to not stand in the way of her calling to teach Islam. Sadly, at the peek of her career she divorced and her daughters were taken away. Her husband being the instigator of malicious rumors that cost her, her daughters, her students, and her following. Since then she has rebuilt her image and reputation, but she states the stigma of being divorced is so strong- as high in intensity as the divorce rate. She cries over the situation of not having her daughters and states there is nothing in Islam that allows for this separation of mother and child. One of her twin girls when asked, started crying because she misses her mother terribly. Sheikha states Islam doesn’t force women to marry who they don’t want to. That parents should talk, discuss the issues and giving advice but never forcing. But having experienced first hand what happens to women when they divorce, she now feels a woman should try at every cost to maintain the marriage. She also does private tutoring. One of her students, who does not wear hijab, stated she trusts the Sheikha because she is a teacher first and foremost. That even when she knows, in this woman’s case, that hijab is out of the question; she still teaches her all other aspects of her religion. The Sheikha states that her calling is to serve, to teach and not pass judgments on anyone- that it is not her prerogative.

The third is Huda Al-Labash from Syria. She is married with children, one of her daughters is studying International Affairs in a University in Georgia, USA- . Al-Labash teaches and encourages open dialogue from her students because it allows for deeper understanding of any concept in Islam. She does travel quite a bit and her husband says that he is supportive because he believes in her work. He says that many a times she can be gone for a month traveling to other Middle East countries and he does everything that is required in the household in her absence. Her daughter says that living abroad has taught her that we don’t educate people enough about Islam, because we do not study it with enough intensity to be able to have meaningful discussions; and that her professors know even less of the regions they supposedly teach about, meaning the cultural and religious aspects that complete the picture of Muslims [and therefore make them three dimensional] . The Mufti of Syria says that no where in Islam is it stated a woman cannot be a public figure. The only thing she cannot do is lead the Friday prayers in Jummat. He reiterated that while there is nothing in Islam that limits the role in society a woman can perform, she is given the commandment like men to maintain her modesty.

So tell me then, when did the female scholars of Islam start to lose their importance, when the wives of the Prophet SAW taught some of the very scholars whom Muslims read and respect. Among the top three scholars of Islam is Aisha. Her ahadeeth are the strongest based on her intimate and immediate connection with the Prophet SAW. So what happened, when did things slide into oblivion? Why did they slide into oblivion? I remember seeing a video of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf where he cried as he denoted with decreasing numbers the female scholars, teachers, and scribes that disappeared off the annals of Islam in the last 1400 years, century by century. And he said he was ashamed of the level to which women have been relegated in Islam, saying truly Mohammed SAW knew who were and would be the best among his people.

We are not who we’re suppose to be, simply because we have taken away (and have allowed it to be taken) a precious component of the synergy in Islam- a woman’s place in it.

These women of mainstream Islam with their hijabs and jilbabs look no different than their contemporaries, but their minds are founts of wisdom and learning that I wish I were able to tap. I remember many years ago studying with a group of Jordanian women who were as strong in conviction and passion as the women depicted in this film. They were as inspiring because theirs was a gentleness of approach but a thoroughness in delivery, that you couldn’t help but to want to be in their presence.

Now these are truly Muslimat!


Marriage…redefined or clarified?

“According to one Islamic model, the soul has three stages. In the first seven years, it is known as the appetitive soul. The primary concerns of children in this stage are eating, and wanting attention. The second stage is the next seven years, the age of anger, when kids react strongly to stimuli and are annoyed easily. The third is the rational stage, [notice no time limit] when reasoning and discernment reach their full capacity…In the third stage parents should befriend them, form a relationship that is amicable and full of kindness and companionship. After this, their children, now adults are set free.” **

If my math is good I would then have to say that a person is not considered an adult until after they reach their full capacity of discernment and reasoning. Meaning, a 15 or 20 year old is not discerning and reasoning at full capacity.

If marriage, in many societies, is based on notions that the younger the better for “proper molding”- then the parents are relinquishing their responsibilities to someone else who has no emotional, paternal/maternal bond. Nice cop out huh? Especially when its directed at girls only!

The following link is to a video filmed in 2009 speaking of Domestic Violence. What I found very enlightening are the explanations that are given with regards to the whole foundation of marriage. What it signifies and its purpose.

I think this video gives a means to redefine- or should I say re-clarify what marriage in Islam is supposed to be about. You tell me…

**Purification of the Heart, Hamza Yusuf


taxes, child marriages, and other stuff…

So Tax Season is basically over. We spent a few days gathering “amunition” that as every year gets misplaced or what not. We owe… Not a lot. Would have preferred breaking even!

On the various blogs I read and participate in, a few discussions (heated at times) have revolved around child marriages, women driving in KSA, guardianship, and rearing children.

When it comes to child marriages I oppose it vehemently! People should marry when they are intellectually, morally, physically, and emotionally ready. Also I believe that financially at the very least the couple should have some basics down- while knowing that not everyone can marry with all the trimmings in the bag. It boils down to marriage by two consenting adults! Children are children, not miniature grown ups!

With regards to guardianship- I honestly believe a grown adult, unless mentally and emotionally impaired, does not need guardians. Obviously, as a Muslim, many would object and say that women should always be under someone else’s guardianship- I beg to differ- but then, I’m just a drop of ‘negate-able’ water; because the minute I’m in the Middle East especially in my case Yemen I become my husband’s total responsibility… Sigh

Rearing children world-wide is an interesting endeavor. Especially during the years between Tween and Teen. Each child comes with its own personality and emotional health. They don’t come with instructions! But we do have tendencies to treat each of our children with certain broad strokes, amending where ever we encounter a raw surface. Muslims no less than most. Well.. No.. There are a bunch that give their offspring too much rope; enough to hang a whole tribe! Some because they have not gotten savvy or have solid help with their concerns. Others because they were reared the same way all of which can be good or really bad.

I’ve learned to go with each of my children’s personalities. One or two of them sometimes having multiple personalities when they have reached puberty, at least from where I’m sitting!

The last of the topics is about women driving- and because KSA is the only one (to my knowledge) that stops a woman from driving within its borders, I’m a little perturbed by this ban. Some say the ban is on its way out. Others don’t give much hope in the foreseeable future. I guess this last because of KSA societal structure- giving women autonomy would have to be primordial. She would have to be excluded from Islamic guardianship laws, she would have to become a consenting, sentient being. She would need to be safe, by enforceable law, against child marriages. She would need property laws protecting her, and giving her the right to own and distribute her money as she saw fit. She would also have to be given the right to an education- at the very least to the end of her highschool years regardless if she finishes or not. And she would need to be protected against abuse and neglect based on her gender.

That’s a lot of ‘would need to’. Is KSA prepared to give women all this in order for them to drive?

That remains to be seen.


the family that eats together…

One of the things I’ve always liked about my father and mother in law was their ‘no exceptions’ on eating together. Just past Dhurh for the noon day meal, any of their children and their spouses that were home at that time sat together to eat as a family. There never was this ‘women in one room after the men ate’. They all ate at the same time, or nobody ate.

I thought, mistakenly, that was the norm in Yemen. I would find out soon enough, that if anything, my in-laws were not the norm by any stretch. Not even within their tribe, nor among the extended family of their own in-laws. My mother in law would repeatedly state, ‘they’re too Saudi for my taste’. Sorry, she blames the Saudis for everything.

The realization dawned on the day after my 30th day of marriage – the official ‘honeymoon over’ time. As is custom for their tribe, we could go ‘visiting’. Bang! I got hit with a feather. Every where we went the women ate either in the kitchen, or the inner family room if they had the means to afford it. We would understand when there was no blood relation to the women, but even when all were first cousins it would still be separate. So much so that ‘they might as well be strangers’, as my father in law would lament.

Both my husband and I were not happy at being separated, and I certainly missed the fun, relaxed meals we had at home. All the joking around, usually at my father in law’s expense. He is still a major prankster! It was the time we discussed everything under the sun. Making our meals particularly long affairs we were all loath to leave. Leave for those diwans and the Qat chew.

You see my father in law never goes to the diwans to chew Qat. The few decades old social custom of the Yemeni. In reality the use of it is more recent than what most are led to believe. Qat has been around for a long time, but only until recently when it spurred on particular industries did its popularity skyrocket, much to the demise of the Yemeni water table. In my in-laws mountain-peak home, that privilege is reserved for the wife’s company. My father and mother in law are always together. To separate them is to cause one of them to get sick, my father in law can’t stand the idea! They brought their children up to be like them. The only one, ‘son of a Saudi’ as both father and mother would gravely announce, was the eldest son. Now there’s a man the Muttawa would be proud of. Some apples do fall far afield…

When he married, the eldest didn’t allow his wife to sit next to or in the same room as his brothers, father, or any woman for that matter. He kept her locked up in her room from the first day she arrived. Not allowed even to cook, wash or anything in the company of anyone. She was not allowed to bond with anyone. The situation got so bad that one day, my father in law hit the roof when his son asked for the hundredth time, in as many days, to have his wife’s food served on a platter that he would take to her when he finished eating.

What would rile my father in law was the amount his son stated had to be on the plate. ‘Since when do we price the rice by grain, or the meat by sinew?! Everyone here eats until the food is finished and had their fill. What you have in that plate won’t feed one of our chickens!’ He shouted at his son while grabbing plate and throwing it outside into the yard everything scattering, scaring even the dogs. ‘You think she’s an animal? Then she would have to eat off the floor! But before you even do that, leave this place where I can’t see or hear you, because you will surely hear the words not the meaning!’ Yemeni can be very ‘poetic’, especially when angry!

A few days later his eldest moved out with his wife. My mother in law stated as they left, ‘well at least the poor woman will have a house for a prison instead of a room’.

I married into the tribe a few months after, and this scene was recounted in all its disturbing details when we returned from the first visit outside the compound. ‘Their ways are not ours.’

In fact, because of my eldest brother-in-law the next two sons in line, right after their brother married and started this inhumane treatment of his wife, took jobs away from their mountain so they could not in any way see something they had no power to stop. For my father it signaled a horrible death for his family, it was disintegrating in front of him. Only when we were married, my husband and I (he’s the fourth son), did things return to normal and the air was again relaxed and joyous. The other two sons returned grateful they could enjoy their home. What had happened for a few months was an anomaly. When these two sons  married two years later, they kept to ‘Al-Bayt traditions’, to everyone’s relief.

The eldest, sadly, is banned from living on the compound, because he has not mellowed one bit- on the contrary ‘he seems more foreign everyday!’

Once or twice they have tried to reconcile their differences, but my brother-in-law remains a stubborn mule. To the point that his children prefer to spend most of their lives at their grandparents, than at home. When my in-laws see on TV or are read to from newspapers and magazines (neither read nor write) they cry at the injustices of people neither allowed nor allowing each other the true comforts of family living. Which is one reason my mother in law blames the Saudis: ‘Ever since our men went there to work, they have come back with the worst manners and thoughts. How can your mother, sister or wife be treated as if she were haraam?!’

Life for them was never easy, true – but they tried their hardest to at least have peace and joy in their home to be shared by all. It has not always worked in their favor; ostracized by their own brothers. But for them, it is what Allah will ask of them with regards to their own children that matters. ‘Allah knows I had no hand in making my son so foreign!’

My father in law believes and lives the motto of the ‘family that eats (and pray) together, stays together.’

Indeed we do!


the negotiations…

One of our contract furniture suppliers is Yemeni Hasidic. Over the years we’ve established an interesting working relationship. When he comes to my office we both get an opportunity to talk about common, shared experiences.

This man with 10 children, so far his youngest is about a year old, looks and is most definitely a grandfather. His long beard is almost white and he has a big warm smile. His face lights up when he talks of his children, and their spouses and their children.

Our conversations started with his remark on the ‘Shalom’ I always give him and my hijab. He said, after the fourth or fifth meeting, he could sense my mood depending on colors and design, much like his wife’s head covers. I also warmed up to him because I had grown up around the Yeshiva in upper Manhattan and many of my childhood friends were Jews. We both had a thing about Yemen. He because of birth and me because of marriage.

He would get red-eyed when I’d share photos from home. He had not been there for even a visit since before 2001, and it was painful to know it was so far off his reach, probably forever . The closest he would ever get would be those digital pictures I would later email him to collect.

In the last few months our conversations have centered around his 19 year old son who is making preparations to be wed. We dubbed it ‘the negotiations’. His son has matured during all this, his father’s comments attest to it. Even though he’s now going to college- his ways were more of the teen than the college-bound young man when all this started- the tide had turned.

His father commented the other day that while he also married as young as his son- the dynamics of his family were harsher. There was little room or time for the ‘slow’ rate this negotiation was progressing. Too much is spent on conversation. ‘But’, he said, ‘my wife says its like calling with the dream of honey- better that way. He and his future bride would not want to marry if all they are assured were lemons’. She has a valid point.

Marriage negotiations on the muslim Yemeni side are not so sweet. More commonly than not the argumentative side rears its head and few have both bride and groom going into the union with bright smiles. Don’t understand what it is with this need to make everything taste a bit sour. Stuff will happen no matter what, why start off with the bag more than half full?

Our supplier said that was how his family did things as well when he was young. But after being in America so long they’d mellowed more because the life was less harsher than in Yemen and it ‘allowed’ for more dreaming. The customs are still there: The inquiries, the rules and rituals, and the parental discussions remain pivotal. Nowadays the added pieces are the schooling, jobs, or professions of the couple. The girls I’m told may or not have a variety of prospective grooms presented to them- that really depends on the family and the match-maker.

I shared with him the story of one of my younger brother in laws and his journey to the marriage sphere. On the Muslim Yemeni side it seems men do the talking as if only the groom counts- then all hell breaks loose when the bride is not a good match-well what’d you expect!? When one of my younger brother-in-laws suggested he wanted to get married, we had not known if he’d gotten all worked up about getting married because his friends were egging him on, the reasons being used were sounding more like ‘I’ll marry your sister so we can hang out more’.

My husband was dead set against him marrying at that time. His brother still had a low rank in the army, he had little money, he hadn’t built the suite of rooms on the family compound that were necessary for him and his bride if they were to live there, and honestly ‘you don’t even know why you want to marry nor WHO you want to marry!’

The eldest brother, all mouth no brains, kept insisting that they would borrow the money for the dowry, they could take OUR rooms, and what was the big deal?! My husband was, ‘what, you’ve forgotten so quickly why you don’t live on the family compound? You expect everyone to do whatever comes into that thick head, sitting like a pasha not caring how that will affect anyone- not! He is not starting a married life based on debts and rooming in on other people’s property! Its bank account, rooms built and furnished, jeep, bought gold from his pocket, or the deal doesn’t even begin! And what of this girl? The women of our house have to make sure she’s a match. She’ll be part of the household- not apart from it. Just because his best friend has a sister doesn’t mean he will even like her when he marries her. Who ever heard of marrying your friend’s sister just so you can be better friends!?’

At the time, my husband was unaware that it was a growing trend there. Marrying for other reasons that had little to do with the union of two people wanting to be together and have a family had a new twist. The ‘work-round’ in their new definition of marriage was based more on ties between the men that had no ties to the women. The women would have to make or not the ties on their own. So it was becoming more common for two best friends to agree to one of them marrying the other’s sister. The son marrying his aunt’s daughter, since she was already part of the tribe, had always been the ‘best’ option. The father marrying off the daughter to pay a debt or plain get rid of her was the darkest and inhumane.

On further private conversations with the ‘intended groom’, my husband found out that the man didn’t really want to get married. His friend’s family didn’t want the daughter to sit in their home and were pushing to get her out before she made her eighteenth birthday (an old maid by their standards). It was as if he was agreeing to do his friend a favor. Some favor!

Later he would not even chance the arrangement, he would be transferred to the southern sea-side city of Muhkalla, another world for these mountain men. When he arrived it was to a different set of customs, and a less stringent society that afforded him a space to understand what family, marriage, rearing and living was in comparison to the vague, shadowy, and harsh world the mountains provided. About four years later he asked my husband to come home with me so we could help him decide if he was truly prepared for marriage. His condition was to not include his other older brothers. He wanted some semblance of peace during the process.

We did go to Muhkalla, and have to say it was better that time around. I was able to meet the girl’s family and find out how she was thought of and acted in her home. What her family expected of the groom. Their lives were not bound by the north’s customs, so the daughters had much more autonomy and they wanted to keep it that way. My brother-in-law, now much more freer from the Yemeni-group think of the north, liked the idea of having his own home with rules set by the wedded couple. He had always liked our own version of marriage better anyway. This was his chance for the same and he took it gladly.

They were married, yes with both families present in the festivities but without some of his family’s interference. They would later build a suite of rooms on our family compound to use for those occasional visits- but would never live there permanently. He was happy where he was. Like us, he enjoyed more the extended-stay ‘visitor status’ than the live in.

My father and mother in law would literally warm up to the idea of visiting them, like they had done for us: Coming to NY or going south every few years or so for a month or two stay. ‘I could get use to this’, I would hear my father in law say, ‘What better excuse for peace while better enjoying my sons and daughters this way’.

The eldest son, well he is still being a bully no one listens to. Times are changing, slowly yes, and that may mean that in the not so distant future all my younger in laws will follow suit. The rest of Yemeni society might not catch up in time, if ever. However, our family is seeing the benefits of changing, ‘mellowing’, and ‘allowing’ themselves to dream with more honey.


phone line switch

I have stated before how hair-raising calling Yemen can be. Nowadays it has gotten better. Yet scarcely five years ago you knew that calling during Ramadhan, any of the two ‘Eids and during bad weather were a hit and miss of universal proportions.

One such incident happened back in early 2004. Why do I remember the year? It almost ended my marriage.

My husband had to make an emergency trip just before the start of Ramadhan. His favorite sister (mine too) had been badly bitten by one of the male camels. It was a time when the camels were brought across from another mountain region. As is necessary you bring the females and calves first, then the males, keeping them as separate as possible. One of the young males was stabled at the house during the time the females were being transported. He was in a foul mood- he wanted out; he could smell females in the vicinity.

In comes my sister-in-law to feed him and her wrist becomes the appetizer. It was horrific!

My husband flew in about 24 hours later to find everyone crying, hair pulling, or arguing seemingly oblivious to the woman’s excruciating pain. He immediately put her into a jeep and headed for Sanaa a good 8 hours away. There were closer options, but the Missionary Doctor said, ‘don’t bother, go straight to Sanaa, they’ll have better equipment’.

Then the calls back and forth between us started. He was frustrated and angry at a number of medical personnel, not getting what he knew was needed to repair all the damage to her mangled wrist. I was frustrated for him and for my sister-in-law’s sake because the men that insisted on accompanying my husband were of no help, refusing to let another female of the family travel to care for her.

At one point, some two days into Ramadhan, I made the mistake of calling shortly after Dhurh. ‘All circuits are busy, please try your call again later’. I would then get intermittent access, but my husband could not be reached. I switched cards and called again. That’s when all hell broke loose.

I dialed one number, a woman answers the phone. I call the second number thinking I dialed incorrectly. The same woman answers the phone. I’m so surprised I dial a third time back to the first number, again the same woman! Now I’m angry, ready to shred my husband! Dialed a fourth time, back to number-two phone, again the same woman!

Being at work, I couldn’t go off and do a war dance. I had depleted the two cards I had. So I asked my secretary to go buy a third and different card. Every conceivable thought was running through my mind! Two different numbers, same woman didn’t bode well for my husband’s continued existence!

In the meantime in Yemen, my sister-in-law had deteriorated as people argued over her. Now that I think on it, we were all a pack of selfish fools!

When the card finally arrives, my boss walks in. He knows I have a crises back home, and wants to sit in on the call so he can advise my husband on what to do should he need the advice. I take a deep breath and call again. The same thing. But by this time the woman on the other end is also highly agitated. My boss, God bless him, motions me to keep her on the line while he calls the same number on his mobile. If the connection was true- then the call he was making would sound busy, or the woman would pick up on the other line.

The women… We were almost hollering at each other, when the line my boss is calling to gets picked up by my husband. In the background as my boss puts him on speaker are the sounds of a pack of men hollering at each other. It was not the background noise for the woman I had on the line.

My boss quickly announces towards the phone, ‘you better speak up now son, or forever hold you peace- the phones in Yemen are about to divorce you!’

At precisely that moment the woman and I both realized we had been victims of party lines- crossed at a moment we really didn’t need and would rather forget. We apologized to each other, mine being more so, because my calls started this whole mess. I explained what was happening and she, graciously, understood. ‘You don’t know how close my own husband has been to getting hit with a pot!’ She said almost with a chuckle. ‘I have never gotten so many weird calls as I have today!’

I’ll say!

The call with my husband progressed just fine, my boss taking control of the situation, giving me time to collect myself. When I finally spoke to my husband all the doctors had ‘marching orders’ from my boss the Grand Puba! With frayed nerves I asked my husband, ‘Do me a favor, let’s agree not to expect me to make calls into Yemen while its Ramadhan, at least not during the day! This has been a ‘talaq’ moment!!’


frugal is the new chique, or …

Frugality. It is the word that in this economy, has taken on a completely new meaning. Cliché? Well no, its not. Everyone knows how your job, your home or apartment, your savings, and your investment nest eggs can just disappear in a moment. Few are immune; fewer still scoff at the term, regardless of ‘social’ or so called ‘economic’ standing. Take a look at the commercials or the news. Everything says save, everything says sales, every store competing to sell you your necessities at the lowest price. They will calculate the savings per month or year so the term is never far from thought or wallet. The big name pharmacies have expanded their services to become the 21st Century ‘One Stop’ shopping centers. Go to their clinics; get your prescriptions filled, while you shop for groceries, clothes, the latest money saving magazines. Oh, and do not forget to browse around the ‘Dollar Section’ with that trusty circular newspaper in hand. Yes, we double coupon. Every trick on getting the maximum bang for the buck presented, almost minute by minute, via all Medias. Websites like ‘Eversave’ and ‘Coupon Mom’ cropping up daily. By the way, it happens to be an interesting concept she exhorts. Never knew how many loop holes existed until this past year.

Clipping is no longer a laughable or ’embarrassing’ idea. Knock offs are the order of the day. Brown bag lunches are back in style. ‘Infomercials’ are looked at more keenly for their worth compared to store buying. Online buying is no longer a trend. With Tax Season in full swing, e-fling via Turbo-tax is the way to go if your portfolio is simple enough; if not the H & R Block’s of America has the deal for you. Even your slime, slinging ‘entertainment’ shows have the ‘wear it like a celebrity for less’ segment.

All this will continue for a very long time. You see, big banks and investment firms are still handing out our hard earned money as if it was candy to a privileged few. My question is why the masses have not revolted. Maybe they are too busy counting their pennies to be bothered. I know we are.

How many times do you resist any given department store in a month’s time? Does the list of absolute essentials travel with you constantly? Do you know the price ranges for the things your household consumes, and then shop in stores according to consumables- the bulk products at warehouses and the perishables at the corner fruit and vegetable Walla? How many supermarket and drugstore discount cards hang from your key chain? Do you plan every meal? Do you happen to own any ‘Tupperware’ you take from table to fridge to work? Do you skimp and save towards a goal? Do you have ‘economic’ goals? Some will say, absolutely. I tend to disagree.

Are Muslims frugal? Well I am not sure, really, how the term is applied. I have seen the commodities some women pluck in front of their feet during, and after Jumma’ah while sharing home cooked meals. They will sport the Coach and Fendi bags, the designer shoes neatly tucked in cute tote bags, and the ‘Joneses’ coats. So I may have to guess, wildly, that the economy at home is just dandy.

I know of one couple who consider themselves tightfisted wads who end up throwing out expired stuff by the boatload, and more often than not are found on ‘return item’ lines for a purchase they really did not have to make. Do not step into the garage; the Bow-Flex collecting dust may squash you along with the hundred other boxes containing what? ‘Who knows anymore’? They are so frugal they hoard.

My husband had a similar conversation with fellow compatriots on this subject. They said they were better off than he was. You see, these men live in communal apartments paid by the owners of the stores and Deli’s they work at about eight men thick to a pack situated less than a building away from work. So what if they get paid a couple of dollars less? They do not pay for rent, electric bills, satellite TV, train or bus fare, or landline phones. The food, they chip in to cook and the actual staples come from the Deli’s they work at. The same goes for the packs of cigarettes and the ton of coffee or tea they drink in a 12 or 14-hour shift. They have enough pants, shirts,  T-shirts, a coat, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of boots to rotate in a week and to last them a couple of years. They’ll pay for these along with their laundry bill (unless there’s a washing machine in the apartment-no dry cleaning in this group), and the mobile phones with a ton of economic phone cards they hunt the lists looking for the longest mileage per call .

In essence, they save most of their weekly pay. They do not go to the movies, or the park. You never see them in a bookstore or library. The newspaper circulates until everyone has left a thumbprint on it. Restaurants and other activities are a foreign concept. They rarely have days off and they try their damnedest not to go to a doctor. Therefore, they have no insurance premiums or co-pays. And because they have ‘low’ salaries established, courtesy of notarized letters from employer and their nominal income tax returns (if they file), they qualify for Medicaid or the emergency type if necessary. Their families are kept back home. Sending them money only for the sheer necessities. That way when they go home, a year or so later, they will have saved anywhere from 20 to 40 thousand dollars. This they then spend during a 6 to 8 month stay overseas, and then borrow the ticket money, if they didn’t buy a return ticket, to come back to start the cycle all over again.

My husband, in this scheme of things is branded the fool. Our apartment should be sub rented by the bed width. Our food should only be the basic stuff, none of the fancy ‘American’ stuff. Our vacations and days off should be curse words. The university and extra-curricular courses should end immediately- why waste money on those girls. Speaking of girls- they should have been sent back home to be married years ago. That wife should also be back home tending the cows. And what’s this about medical, life, and practice insurance?! What, you don’t have faith in Allah SWT? Sell all that stuff you have. Get rid of every one, stop going out to the movies, those journals and magazines have to go (you’re already a doctor, what are you studying for now, to be an astronaut?), cut those restaurant affairs (why do you need to spend two hours eating with God knows who- they’re probably not even Muslim), and move in with the men. “You’ll be stupid-rich in no time.”

Frugality, they seem to have it down to a science. Ahh..and living, or is it existing? “Well, Allah says…”

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