I should have read my Islamic marriage contract.

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
Feb. 25 2010 9:46 AM

I Should Have Read My Islamic Marriage Contract

Why didn't I? Why don't a lot of Muslim women?

(Continued from Page 1)

The problem is that marriage contracts often take away rights women otherwise have under Islamic law. This includes the right to file for divorce: Almost all the men in my family and in my husband's family cancel this provision before handing the contract over to the woman's family. It's considered impolite, and a breach of the trust that Sehgal talks about, for a woman or the relative representing her to insist otherwise.

Women also forfeit the right to other protections. For example, in Islam, a woman is promised a certain amount of money (in keeping with her husband's income) usually given to her if she chooses to divorce. The money is meant to provide her with some degree of financial security, especially if she leaves her husband. Despite the excellent logic behind this right, most men frown upon it. They put into the contract measly amounts, such as $1 or $10, simply to fill in the blank.  And women don't ask questions. An elderly aunt of mine takes great pride in saying that she agreed to 1 cent when it was time to marry off her daughter. "I had faith in Allah, so 1 cent was all I asked them to put down," she said.

Advertisement

But Allah is the one who gives women this right, I protested. My aunt dismissed me.

Qaisera Sheikh, vice president of the Women's Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Pakistan, says that she has seen women suffer because of their passive attitude toward the marriage contract. "Later on in their married lives when things did not work out, these women realized they had unknowingly given up their right to divorce, for child support, etc.," she said.

In my case, as in the case of most women I know, my husband's family suggested an amount for the marriage payment. My father agreed to it. I signed at the mosque without knowing how much money I would have in the event of divorce. My husband did not cancel the provision allowing me to file for one. Still, if he had, I would have been able to do nothing about it.

And at moments when my husband and I have fiery arguments leading into spiteful fights, I find myself wishing I had added to the contract provisions like child support and financial assistance in the case of a separation or divorce.

Thankfully we have a beautiful marriage, so such regretful thinking is rare. My husband and I don't talk about the signed papers of our marriage contract lying at the bottom of a cupboard in his office. But it remains a reminder of the time when I failed, in my own eyes, to ask for my rights.

Become a fan of DoubleX on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

The Feds Have Declared War on New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Europe’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celebrity Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?