Sunday, 7 June 2009

Women, marriage and double standards

Why are many educated, successful working muslim women not as successful when it comes to marriage?? Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine in her article 'How hard can it be' talks about how people expect a woman to be married by a particular age and how men want their wives to play a more 'traditional role'. Here are a few excerpts from her article and my views.

My husband and I recently tried to match-make a couple of our friends. Omar began telling his friend about a really nice woman we knew at 33, successful, beautiful. His first response was, "So, what's wrong with her? Why is she 33 and not married?" Looking at the 30-year-old man before me, my first thought was, "I could ask you the same thing." However, the reality set in that there's a double standard when it comes to the issue of age and marriage...Once a young woman passes the age of 25 and remains single, she is considered "old" and often finds it difficult to find a suitable spouse

I find these double standards appalling. Where I come from its not even 25 but 22/23 ! So you can see parents starting to scramble around looking for prospective grooms for their daughters no sooner they hit 20/21.I know parents who agree to let their daughters marry a man who’s much older because they think he would then be well-established in life and would be able to care of his family better. Whats even worse is the fact that that people around start asking your parents whether they've started looking and somehow manage to convince them that their daughter should be given in marriage as soon as possible.

In recent decades, men have also become highly educated and progressive, and have even fought for women's rights and the elevation of women in Islam. However, while these men are impressed with a successful and active woman, they do not consider her "marriage material." Despite the elevation of women, many men have maintained traditional ideas as to the type of wife they seek. After all, they do not see anything wrong with the way their mother was.

Why do these ‘progressive’ men even bother fighting for our Muslim women to be allowed to hold high posts ,to be allowed to wear the hijab at ,etc when they would never marry such a woman and wouldn’t let her work? Inferiority complex?

Many Muslim women seek not to compete with men, but rather to establish a partnership with their spouse. Ultimately, these women want to be cherished and loved in the same way that the Prophet loved Khadija.

I agree with her completely. We DO NOT want to compete with our husbands. We just want to be well educated in addition to being a good mum and wife. What is wrong with that?I am not doing a law degree so that I could file away my certificate once i get married .However, I do agree that a woman’s role is first in her home. Her duty is first towards her husband and children. I do not think a woman should be independent to the extent that she has a 9 to 5 job and ignores her home, being carried away by all that comes with being a working woman. Once she starts a family a woman could consider other avenues to keep what she has learnt live such as lecture part-time or even maybe work from home, but with regard to marriage, a woman should not be forced to marry by a particular age merely because no man would marry her once she passes the age of 25.

You can read the full article here


  1. Great topic. The double standards when it comes to marriage are pretty shocking. I've seen it in Cairo over and over: women are expected to be married and pregnant by age 20-24, whereas for men it doesn't really matter. Women are expected to be virgins; for men it doesn't really matter (in fact some prefer it if the man has "experience"). Women are expected to stay home and not have a career, despite having gone to university. It doesn't make sense. Like the article said, look at Muhammad and Khadija's marriage. We are so far away from that type of marriage in the Arab/Muslim world.

    By the way I love all the books on your shelf! I think we like the same kind of books :)

  2. The solution is that women marry early (before going to college), and continue their education after marriage. But today's semi-Muslim societies might make this a difficult choice.

    There should be no discrimination against women of older ages as the Prophet (saw) showed us with his marriages.

  3. Marrying before college is done is a bad idea. College got in the way of my marriage when I was doing my BS and the Turkish ex was doing his PHD.

    What should happen is that we send our daugthers on time to college and they finish at 21-22. That is not too old to marry.

    Women should be able to stay home and I completely applaud that. But, we need a degree for later on when the kids are up and out, and the husband (since me die earlier) has passed.

    What I see is young widows never allowed to marry again with 4 kids and no resources. A Libyan lady lives in my complex, and has 4 kids. Her dentist husband died young of a heart attack, and she has nothing left. No education, no money, nothing. She relies on the Islamic school to pay the kid's tuition and gets rent money from the Muslim community. Sad.

  4. cairo, lusaka.., yeah the double standards are not only with regard to age.We are far away from the type of marriage that was common during the time of the Prophet

    Have you read any of these books? :)

    Ikram, thanks for dropping by. I don't think getting married before college is the solution. Men do not always let the woman study after marriage even if they had agreed to it at the beginning. what happens when they start a family? It's a mess

    Lisa, 21-22 is the perfect age to get married.You're right, we don't know when our education would come in handy later in life.

  5. I disagree with getting married before college. Because with marriage comes other responsibilities and going to college alone is a huge responsibility, no need to add house work to your list while studying for 10 classes every week.

    I'm truly grateful to my parents because they alway put education first. I dont think they'll bring up the subject of marriage with me unless i bring it up. Haha [that could be bad]

  6. I am grateful to my parents too. I know people who've tried to study after marriage. It never happens. They always have to stop once they have kids. Im sure you do find a few who have managed to continue college after marriage , but its best to finish first.

    Lol, maybe u'll have to force them to let u get married :)

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  8. Salamunalaikum!

    Love is an act of faith and whoever is of little faith is of little love.

    Success in marriage dosent come merely by choosing the right mate but be being the right mate.

    I wish to marry someone who has manners of wise and humility of poor.Inshallah.

  9. Over all a balanced post, I have a few reservations..more of an opinion than a reservation. I personally dont want to marry a girl who is very much younger than me, (I am referring to a girl more than 5+ years older than me, but then again thats not really a big gap..its just how I want it.

    What I am about to say may paradoxify my personal whims.

    Some olden traditions which we all tend to loath and criticise do have a lot of logic in their base.

    Traditionally men marry a woman several years their younger (at least in my culture), and I am assuming the reason behind this is that women are more resilient than men emotionally and have a longer life span. Therefore when a man is old and feeble his wife will still be young enough to look after him and run the family, as at that stage running family matters need more psychological prowess than physical.

    On the other hand, biologically a woman becomes unable to produce a child long before a man is sexually weak, therfore having the age gap helps in societies where larger families are still held in esteem.

    In todays context, lifestyle is contrary to the fitrah that allah has created us in, hence all the friction about a mans right vis a vis the woman and vice versa.

  10. Your blog is really beautiful sister.
    And this last post is really true.
    I hate it.
    My hubbie once had a friend from his native country calling to ask for a swedish convert wife.
    And added she must be a virgin.
    I was like... how can he explain for his friend from the desert where sex before marriage is death, that 99.9% of women here loose their virginity at age 12-16 : S

    I think it is awkward that men dont marry before 30, My husband said 40 was normal in his country.
    This is so far from Islam, and sunnah.
    And the reason being. MONEY.
    bcauze arabs dont just get married they have a list of things they need

    20 cars playing loud music.
    a group playing daff and if it is a loose canon family they need a belly dancer.
    3 tents if not more
    4 days worth of food.
    new clothes for every day
    a house / apartment
    full furnished home
    a family car
    Gifts for new wife, and her family
    new wife need to buy wedding presents for herself as a show of display on big party,
    and etc


  11. the family should both come equally for both the husband and the wife. men need to realize that they play an important role inside of the house and raising the children as well. they need to teach the young boys how to be good men..and to let the daughters know how special they are so they grow up with good self confidence.

    great post!

  12. salams. As a revert, i feel it is important for us to have a decent level of education and networking because if things don't work out with our husband, we dont have family to help us out. I see my uni degrees as a nice sponge mat for me to land on, and well...I guess I landed on that mat and never got up! "old" and unmarried! Lets make a club!

  13. Sad but true...a great post though!

  14. Nice post and great points. I've seen guys requesting for educated girls and then requiring them to become housewives. That doesn't make sense to me. Why would one want a highly educated wife and then not let her work? Her parents have also painstakingly spent money on her education and if this trend continues, fathers will either not let their daughters get married to such men leaving more single women or not let their daughters get an education because all they'll be doing is becoming housewives.

    I don't think it's demeaning to be a housewife but I also think women working should be more acceptable in Muslim households. Unless both spouses are happy, one cannot have a happy marital life.