By Noorjehan Arif
Islam defines the role of men and women in very clear-cut terms, unlike what is construed by the media, other countries and sometimes even by us, Muslims. It is the ignorance of basic Islamic principles, which creates a rift between what is right in Islam and what the culture and society considers correct. And more often than not, individuals feel pressured to do what the society demands, rather than what their religion permits. One such principle is the act of re-marriage after the death of one’s spouse.
Ideally, a widow / widower has enough maturity to decide, whomever he/she wishes to re-marry. However, our society creates several problems and barriers, especially for the widows, towards their remarriage. Even divorced men and widowers sometimes face considerable issues in their remarriage.
The Sad Reality
Khurram’s wife died in a car accident. He’s about forty-five years old and decided that he should re-marry, so that his children would have a mother to take care of them. Today, he has a young wife; however, life is not easy for him. His children are against their stepmother, and Khurram’s parents believe that his wife does not like her in-laws or step children. Khurram is caught in the middle of the tussle between his wife, his children and his parents. Neither of them wants to live with the other and that is a source of considerable mental stress for Khurram.
Such are the deplorable conditions of the societal concept of re-marriage. Also, the following fears prevent the bereaved spouse from entering into another marriage.
Fear of Children
Although widowers with young children tend to get married earlier, mainly because they need someone to look after the kids, the ones with older children face many difficulties in doing the same. The older children raise a huge fuss and tend to boycott their parent for even thinking of such a thing.
Fear of Step Relations
Widows with young children can never be sure, if their second husband will really accept and provide for those, who are not his biological offspring. She also fears that the step-father may harm the children in her absence. In many cases, the widow is forced to leave her children with their grandparents, in order to get re-married. In such a scenario, the widow feels it is better to stay single for the sake of her children.
Fear of People
Gossiping relatives, skeptical colleagues and nosy, interfering neighbours can make life hell for any sane individual who gets re-married. Snide comments never stop pouring, and this fear of people and their comments is what prevents a widow or widower from even contemplating a second marriage.
The Islamic Perspective
To re-evaluate and establish the concept of remarriage in line with Islamic teachings, we have to consider the Islamic rulings regarding it.
First, there is the concept of Iddah, which is obligatory for every widow. After that, widows can re-marry, as per the following Quranic Ayah: “And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days, then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin on you if they (the wives) dispose of themselves in a just and honourable manner (i.e., they can marry). And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (Al-Baqarah 2:234)
In Islam, re-marriage of widows has been greatly emphasized. At the same time, it has also been often stated that people, who bring up orphans, are very dear to Allah (swt). This should give a very good idea, as to what is the reward for someone who gets married to a widow and supports her children from her deceased husband.
“A giver of maintenance to the widows and the poor is like a giver in the way of Allah (swt), an utterer of prayers all night and fasting during the day.” (Bukhari)
“I and the person, who brings up an orphan, will be like this in Heavens,” said Prophet Muhammad (sa), and he put his index and middle finger together. (Bukhari)
The Success Stories
Amid the gloomy circumstances, there is a small number of success stories, which show that not all is lost. Kamran, a father of three, lost his wife during the birth of his third daughter. While his sister adopted the new-born, Kamran decided to re-marry. In the beginning, his wife Sana faced a lot of difficulty, as everyone compared her with the first wife. But eventually, with her patience and sweet nature, she gained the respect of her in-laws. Today, she has three children of her own, and if you were to visit their home, you would not be able to tell that the elder two are her step-children.
Irfan’s wife passed away after a year long battle with cancer. It was Irfan’s family, which coaxed him into re-marriage, because the children were very small. He agreed, and, Alhumdulillah, the children are now well-adjusted with their new mother.
Mass Media Blues
It is quite interesting and intriguing to note that while re-marriage of widows is a taboo in society, it is shown as a norm in many soap operas and drama serials. It isn’t uncommon to find every other storyline focusing on a happy marriage, which ends with the death of one spouse. The plot then goes on to show, how the widow gets married to the person she always wanted to marry in the first place; or, how she married the person, who always wanted to marry her. And then the whole process of adjustment continues. If the playwrights want to stretch the drama even further, they bring back the first husband from the dead. In the mass media, re-marriage is portrayed as the easiest and the most desirable thing to do.
On the other hand, the media also portrays many distorted facts related to re-marriage. The period of Iddah is grossly misreported to be forty days long, which is a grave error. One drama serial even went on to show how a pregnant widow got married before the delivery of her baby, which again is a mistake, as the Iddah of a pregnant widow ends after the baby is born. This particular drama serial did provoke some strong sentiments from the audience, but it goes without saying that the producers neither owned up the mistake, nor corrected it.
The Final Word
Widows and widowers have their own rights defined in Islam. They have the right to choose their life partner, in accordance with their own wishes, and cannot be forced into re-marriage without their consent. On the other hand, they cannot be prevented from entering into a re-marriage either. Instead of creating a huge fuss, whenever hearing about anyone’s re-marriage, one should learn to accept it and try to make things easier for the couple.
To protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned in this article, their names have been changed.