She is the third wife of a farmer in Bangladesh, living in the remote village in Kurigram district. Her poor parents could not afford formal education while she went to nearby Makhtab [Koran study center], which is the only education she ever had received. During her childhood she had dreams of marrying any affluent peasant and living a comfortable life. But fate has carried her to be the third wife of an old man, almost at the age of her father. More importantly, ninety percent of marriages that take place in rural Bangladesh or any of the Muslim nations are conducted under Shariah law, where registration is simply ignored. Any local clergy can recite verses of Koran in the presence of the bride and groom before declaring them to be a couple.
In the eyes of Islamist Sharia law, women are simply treated as the pleasure pawns of men. Even some highly education Islamic scholars, who obtained degrees from Dhaka University, have told me several times, “Wives are to meet our sexual desire. Apart from that, they have no other obligations”.
In Islamic Shariah law marriage is a legal bond and social contract between a man and a woman. There are two types of marriages mentioned in the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, the nikah in verse 4:4 and the nikah mut‘ah in verse 4:24.
Nikah is the first, and most common, form of marriage for Muslims. It is described in the Qur'an in 4:4.
It is aimed to be permanent, but can be terminated by the husband engaging in the divorce process or the wife seeking a divorce.
1. The couple inherits one another.
2. In some cases, mostly in the urban areas, a legal contract is signed when entering the marriage. Otherwise, in the rural areas, there is nothing written to stand as document or proof of marriage.
2. The husband must pay for the wife's expenses [dowry].
3. A divorce date, if there is any, can be determined in the Nikah contract.
4. In Sunni jurisprudence, the contract is voided [so there is mostly marriage without a contract, especially in Sunni originated nations].
In Shia jurisprudence, the contract is transformed into a nikah mut'ah. In countries like Iran, these Mut’ah marriage rules are mostly used by men while attending prostitutes. Such marriages can last for just one night to several months.
Nikah mut‘ah, often referred as "fixed-time marriage" as many of these marriages have a time limits, is the second form of marriage, although it is not stated in the Qur'an. There is controversy over the Islamic legality of this type of marriage, as Sunnis believe it was abrogated by Muhammad. The Qur'an itself does not mention any cancellation of the institution. Nikah mut‘ah sometimes has a preset time period; traditionally the couple do not inherit from one another; the man usually is not responsible for the economic welfare of the woman, and she generally may leave her home at her own discretion. Nikah mut‘ah also does not count towards a maximum of four wives, according to the Qur'an. The woman still is given her mahr [dowry], and the woman must still observe the iddah, a period of four months at the end of the marriage where she is not permitted to marry in the case she may have become pregnant before the divorce took place. This maintains the proper lineage of children.
The Shi'ia sect allows this type of marriage; however, the Sunni forum prohibits it.
Now let us look into the other aspects of the rights of a wife who married under Shariah law, but when such marriage is registered. Salma [not her real name] was married for 15 years to her longtime boyfriend. She has two children from her husband. Salma obtained a degree in higher education from a private university. In the years of her marriage, her husband went abroad in search of better luck. Since then, Salma maintains her children with the income she can earn from a small business. While the husband frequents brothels abroad, she is left alone, without anyone to care about her, and even cannot walk out of her marriage: as in the Muslim societies, when any marriage is in trouble, mostly wives are made liable for this.
While Salma was struggling in Bangladesh to maintain her life as well as the lives of her children, her husband continues to exploit the relationship and takes substantial amounts of money from her every month just to continue the marriage. Moreover, he borrows huge amounts of money from Salma’s parents, which he never returns. Salma is compelled to meet the financial demands of her husband just for the sake of continuing this extremely odd marriage, so that society will not put the blame on her for being a ‘bad woman’.
Salma leaves tears alone, while her parents are also not interested in listening to her agonies. To them, being in a marriage is most important for their daughter, regardless of whether her husband cares about her or not.
In each of the Muslim nations, where Shariah Law is practiced, women are the worst sufferers and the most repressed. By giving false interpretations of Koran, Muslim clergies try to treat women as mere playthings to serve men’s lust. Some women, of course, oppose such hellish lives, but unfortunately they not only get driven from their homes, they even end up in endless miseries in the grip of flesh traders or brothels.
We can never say what fate waits for women in our densely populated Muslim nation in South Asia, Bangladesh, where uttering a word against Shariah Law is considered blasphemous. How many millions of women will suffer in the years to come is an important question for our time.