This is my marriage contract, certifying that my husband and I went through a “marriage ceremony peformed under Islamic rites”, and that he had agreed to certain “special conditions” otherwise known as ta’aliq. We didn’t pay much attention to the conditions provided to us by the kadi (judge) from the syariah court, dismissing it as a formality. But this article prompted my husband to promptly tear up the contract.
Last week, an organisation dedicated to converts in Singapore was accused of teaching future couples to hit their wives if they refuse to have sex. Both the converts’ organisation and another women’s organisation mentioned in the article have since refuted these claims (here and here). It turns out that the claims were based on only the experience of the writer, and not of other course participants.
I knew this organisation and had gone there often for talks and seminars. My husband also did his formal conversion there, despite having to endure a lecturer who staunchly defended against claims of Muslim terrorism that my “Western” husband did not make, and taught us that among other things, that “Islam is the true religion because it’s not named after a person” (unlike Christianity or Buddhism). I could imagine such a situation as described by the writer actually happening, because of the lack of teaching regulations there.
What was more interesting however, were the responses from Singaporean Muslims of different ethnic backgrounds.
Essentially, the discussion centred around the difference of Muslim marriages from “Western”, “secular” or “civil” ones because the former contains elements of spirituality. Therefore, Muslim marriage courses are preferable to secular ones because they teach couples the “rights of husbands and wives in the eyes of Islam”. Following the logic that a Muslim husband is a pious head of the household, with the right to correct the mistakes of other members of his household, any beating is never meant to be violent, but a mere “expression of disapproval“. In my own my state-approved pre-marriage course, a hadith was provided as guidance to the Muslim husband to “neither hit her on her face nor use impolite language” as part of his obligation to treat his wife “with kindness and equity”. In a discussion on my Facebook wall, a young woman even pointed out that it’s not even supposed to be a “beating”, but merely a “light tap, like a handkerchief”, and therefore not degrading or a demonstration of power. No, not at all.
These were educated, middle-class Muslim women and men who chose their own marriage partners and spent many years getting to know them before marrying. [Read more...]