By Mariam Nihal
Arab News | Jeddah
15 March 2011
The climbing rate of divorce in the Kingdom means increased tug of wars between couples, usually involving children. Divorces are not just a cause of distress for parents, but also for children who are a product of broken marriages.
Women claim their children are used as weapons by society to delay divorces, and in various cases husbands refuse all requests by the mother to visit the children after a divorce.
“My mother does not want me to get a divorce, holding my children as mere obstacles,” Sameera Adel, mother of two, told Arab News.
She said she feels threatened by her in-laws and is continuously cursed by relatives who think it is a great shame for the family name if she walks out.
“There is a reason why divorce is halal. If your marriage does not work out, you can walk out. These people have no idea what Islam is all about. My mother-in-law repeatedly tells me I won’t be able to see my kids if I leave. But the point is, they are mine. It is none of their business.”
Lulwa Nasser, 24, told Arab News: “Men think ignoring their wives and having five kids signifies your happiness. Go to a psychiatrist. I think men and women who believe in this deranged ideology should ideally get help. My sister has been divorced for 10 years now and she hasn’t seen her daughters in that period. Her husband initially fabricated stories, but now he tells us her two daughters are studying in a boarding school abroad. Men resort to dirty measures which are unacceptable, unethical and insensitive.”
Adnan Mufti, a consultant psychiatrist at a Jeddah psychiatric hospital, pointed out that men in Arabic culture are always expected to be strong and domineering. He told Arab News: “The man has control of his family and accepting marital counseling could be taken as a sign of weakness which will cause him embarrassment among others. In addition, till now boys are usually bought up in the family as being the center of attention and girls have to adjust to the boys’ needs and demands. All these ideas are wrong and far away from what Islam teaches us.”
Some of the problems of disrupted marriages occur due to marriages between young people being supported in local culture. “We should not forget that most engaged couples are very young and do not get any education about marital life responsibilities and how to deal with marital life issues, which causes a lot of conflicts during the first years of marriage that in turn will end up in divorce if they didn’t get professional help,” he said.
Dealing with psychiatric help is considered to be a taboo for Saudi men. Mufti said: “It is much more evident in our Arabian culture in general and especially in the Gulf areas where it’s almost rejected as an idea. That is mostly due to cultural factors, as the idea of visiting a psychiatric clinic for any psychological problem is still new and not widely acceptable, especially outside the big cities. The general concept is that only mad people visit psychiatric clinics.” Single parents, especially men, have sought different methods other than counseling to deal with post-divorce stress.
Ahmed Sharif, a single parent, admitted he would rather marry a non-Saudi rather than live as a single father. He claimed: “Dealing with a divorce is a torturous experience in itself. I have a child to take care of and that is not easy. I moved in with my parents, so my mother takes care of the child. I think I will just marry a non-Saudi woman, who is less demanding. I am not giving up my child to his mother. She chose divorce so that means she has given up all her rights in my house.”
Sultan Al-Mansoor, 30, remembers growing up without his mother. “I was seven years old when I last saw my mother. She remarried and still lives in Jeddah. I tried to contact her a couple of times when I was younger, but never heard back. I gave up a long time ago, perhaps much later than when she gave up on me. My father never prevented her from coming. She just never made an effort.”
Many believe that Muslims should strengthen their values and ideas and keep them in check within the confines of Islam. Islam offers liberty to both genders. Shariah law states that family members are liable to each other and encourages couples to sustain a cordial relationship even after they separate. Mufti added: “They should reflect on how we bring up our children and what ideas we plant in their minds from early childhood, because that is what they will do when they grow up.”
Photo Credit: Mama To 5 Blessings