The Best Husband
Malik was married when he was 13 to a woman in her 30’s. Since men aren’t allowed to choose their own wives, Malik’s mother found her through distant family members. You could say Malik and Ayesha were cousins, but that would be a stretch.
Malik was confused at the announcement that he would be married to someone he had only met once, especially since he had read that The Prophet had said people had the choice to turn down a potential spouse if they didn’t want to marry them. Malik asked his mother about this and she said “I know what is best for you sweet-cheeks, especially when it comes to marriage.” End of discussion.
On his wedding day, Malik was dressed in lovely white clothing, his hair was done, and his father applied kohl to his large brown eyes. The Imam was dressed in a flowing green, heavily embroidered, loose gown with a gold hijab and she conducted the marriage ceremony in the front of the mosque with all the women while Malik and his friends waited in the men’s area behind a screen in the basement of the mosque.
Malik and his friends had long since given up on talking to their mothers about being separated into a different area of the mosque from the women. Their mothers all agreed that all they ever did was gossip and watch the younger children, they didn’t even really need to go there to pray so why give up valuable space in the main room? The fact that men during the time of The Prophet had been allowed in the same room as the women worshippers and also had their concerns answered by The Prophet directly seemed not to matter. Times had changed since those legendary Camelot-like days. Besides, their mothers told them that real men preferred to sit in another area of the mosque away from the lustful eyes of the women.
Malik’s bride Ayesha wore a gorgeous, expensive navy blue traditional gown with white hijab. Her gold bangles and rings sparkled and shone. She looked every bit the powerful yet pious woman that she was. The Imam asked what mahr she was giving Malik. She giggled and said she had purchased a new bedroom suite and set of cookware for her husband. A man’s place is in the home and Malik would be expected to keep the house clean and perform his husbandly duties in the bedroom when requested by his wife. If Ayesha was ever unsatisfied with Malik for any reason whatsoever, she could divorce him instantly merely by uttering “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq!”, “I divorce you” three times.
Malik was not told that he could stipulate a request for divorce in his marriage contract, it was the law in the country in which they lived, but no matter – even though it was legal, not many Imams would grant a divorce to a man even if there was a serious problem. The men would be told to have patience (even with various degrees of domestic abuse) as this was a test from God and those with great patience would go to heaven.
Next, the Imam went down the 2 flights of stairs to the men’s basement area to have Malik sign the wedding contract. It was a simple form and specified that Malik could keep the mahr if Ayesha divorced him. He signed the paper in his curly middle-school writing, completing it with a heart dotting the “i” in his name, while his friends did their best to hold in their emotions at the thought of Malik’s upcoming wedding night. Malik however was not so ecstatic. From the time he was told he would be married, Malik searched all the Islamic doctrine he could find, especially the Qur’an, yet he could find nothing to validate these practices except keeping the mahr after divorce. Malik asked his mother about these inconsistencies and she said, “Men are not as fully understanding of the world stud-muffin, it is a wife’s job to guide her husband and I am sure Ayesha will do just that.” End of discussion.
On the way to the wedding banquet, the Imam congratulated the couple and reminded Malik that the best husband is the one who is quiet and guards his modesty.
Khadija Anderson—Muslim, Anarchist, and mother (not necessarily in that order)—returned to her hometown of Los Angeles after 18 years exile in Seattle. Khadija’s poetry has been published in Angel City Review, Mobius, Switched-on Guttenberg, About Place, and many other online and print journals and anthologies. Her poem “Islam for Americans” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her first book of poetry, History of Butoh was published in 2012.