Strike Two, You’re Out?

At this moment I have two very good Egyptian girlfriends who are having love problems. Basically both of them had been engaged once in the past and then had broken off the relationship when things didn’t work out, and both are now, or had recently been (respectively,) engaged a second time.

Lets give them underground names to preserve their anonymity (not that any of you know them anyways but whatevs): Ammena is currently engaged and Souad recently broke off her second engagement but has not told any of her extended family.

For those of us who were western-born (or raised) this is absolutely not an issue, painful and heartbreaking yes, but nothing that would induce us to raise any eyebrows. I mean heck, who doesn’t know someone who is triply or even quadruply divorced? Thats when things get a little hairy, you know what I mean.

But in Egypt its a completely different story: two strikes and you’re out. Especially when it comes to women, upon whom the blame is laid in even the most sexist of situations. Hell, if your husband goes out and gets a second wife its YOUR fault because you didn’t give him enough sex/dress up enough/watch his favorite TV shows/insert some other really inane and bullshit reason here.

I could rant, oh could I rant, on how women get the short end of the stick in pretty much every situation here but I will restrain myself to the topic at hand.

Once a girl has been engaged twice and neither relationship works out she is stygmatized as being faulty.

Something has to be wrong with her, two men decided to not marry her. What do you mean she broke off the engagement? Hmph, she must be too picky, she’ll never be satisfied. God knows I won’t marry my son to such an ungrateful woman.

Do you see how twisted the thinking is? Can any of us imagine this? I mean engagement is the closest thing practising Muslims get to dating. What if we were stygmatized after our second boyfriend/girlfriend? Men get off a little bit easier, but it is noted when a man is a serial engager, if only by the girl he wants to get engaged to next.

Either way both Ammena and Souad are up against a wall here. Both of Ammena’s relationships were scarred by personality clashes: she is a strong-willed and opinionated woman (which is a no-no here – God forbid a woman who thinks for herself) and she has had the misfortune to get into relationships with equally strong-willed and patriarchal chauvinists (which I consider to be the true personality failings.) For her she has the choice to conform or be shunned. Currently she is still in the relationship (which has the markings of an abusive one) but is unsure whether to continue or not. I do believe her fiance will probably become a domestic abuser and he plans on moving her to Saudi Arabia after the wedding which would further deprive her of all rights. I understand her hesitance, she doesn’t have very good prospects either way but I do believe that leaving the relationship would be the lesser of two evils.

Souad, on the other hand, left both of her relationships for religious reasons. Neither of her fiance’s were at her same level of iman (think equally-yolked mom) and her desire is to find a man who will help her to become a better Muslim. She has had noble reasons for leaving but it is the same for her socially. Once it gets out that she has had two failed engagements she will be marked for life. She made the decision to leave, but she second-guesses herself on whether she made the right choice. I think, overall, the situation for her will be a little bit better in terms of explaining to future prospects why she left her previous fiances. Assuming she does find a man with the proper level of iman, he would understand why religion came first for her over fulfilling societal expectations.

Both women are in painful situations placed upon them by the insubstantial and unfounded beliefs of a rigid and critical society.

Even in baseball you at least get three tries.

12 responses to “Strike Two, You’re Out?

  1. I was just having a convo with a sister yesterday about engagements in Islam, and quite honestly I think there isnt any such thing. So – what is it you mean by engagement? I know here in Egypt it is quite frequent that the couple is actually MARRIED and they call it an engagement but if they break off their “engagement” they actually have to have a divorce!

    Anyhow, quite honestly I have heard of many a problems for women here in Egypt. The first one is quite honestly, the men ARE very afraid of the overbearing woman, because in fact this is quite a problem here in Msr, that the woman “bull doze” men… and in fact, it is rare that I have seen otherwise between a regular Egyptian man and woman.

    And second, once she agrees to get married (or engaged) as u said, how does she know he is like this if they arent actually married/living together? Shouldnt they have decided that before the “engagement”.

    Oh and finally – the stigma here on divorced women is extremely stupid – but so is much of the culture that they try to intermingle with religion, if you want my two piastres 🙂

    But anyway, quite frankly, my hubs has Egyptian man friends who cant get married EITHER cuz they are divorced or not perfect on paper, and many “religious” friends I know turn them down because of such things.

    So again – it all comes back down to religion. A good religious man would overlook such “faults” in a woman (ie divorce) and so would a religious woman in a man. Cuz in the end, some days the only things that will save ur marriage anyway is your love/fear of Allah no matter how great he seemed before marriage!

  2. There are no engagements in Islam. However Egyptians love to have lavish engagement parties with rings and post-party permission to go out alone together.

    Religon? Not so much. Culture? Absolutely.

    Thats what I’m referring to. And in both of these cases they are not the kab kitab but just engagements.

    I think that yes, once they’ve been married for awhile the women do bulldoze the men a bit, but its kind of along the lines of my big fat greek wedding, “he may be the head but I am the neck and I can turn the head any way that I want.”

    For the most part women are on the receiving end of bad situations from what I have seen.

  3. That’s really too bad. My husband has a Turkish friend who is “Muslim” (not practicing except not eating pork, bu that’s more cultural than anything, I think) and he is married… He cheated on her with some girl (they were boyfriend-girlfriend so it was a side relationship, really) and she ended up forgiving him but recently they decided to get divorced. Well, she did.
    My husband was saying she should have toughed it out, etc. That his friend did a big thing marrying her even if she had been divorced! I was like *WHAT?* How is that the same?!

  4. The Egyptian (and Arab in general) perspective of marriage and women are some of the reasons why my husband, I think, has become a self-hating Egyptian.
    First of all, he hates the idea of “engagement.” He currently has a friend who is 34, in the United States and “engaged” to a girl who is 19 and in Egypt. They talked a few times, and he went home to have said “engagement” where they read Al-Fatiha and did the whole she-bang, but that was just so they could talk to each other and get to know each other better and it could be “halal.” Now he’s realizing this could be a bad idea (YA THINK) to marry her after all and wants to call it off. They consider anything before the big, giant wedding shin-dig to be engagement, though, technically once you do the kab kitab, you’re married. It’s retarded in my and my husband’s and many, many other people’s opinions. So what about this little 19-year-old girl? She’ll be half, used goods before she’s 20.
    Secondly, if a man is truly religious, then he’ll be happy a woman didn’t enter a marriage because of the wrong reasons. But again, it seems that cultural ideas are much more important than religion.

  5. May Allah guide our society. There are so many confusing cultural things going on that just get in the way of people really practicing their religion. I think that has been the hardest part about being a revert, is seeing so many cultural things get mixed up in religion and trying to point that out to folks is basically a mute point. They can’t hear it. I pray those sisters will find a decent religious man who will see beyond the stygmas that society has imposed.

  6. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Egyptian -and Muslim- Girls between a Rock and a Hard Place

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  9. MM! Been a while, I hope you’re very well! Good luck with the application process and all!! 🙂

    Re: the issue at hand: I have two cousins who both had their katb-el-ketab ceremony – were de facto religiously married but not ‘socially’ if you wish – and both got divorced.

    And I’ve had to sit through more than one family discussion about how difficult it’d be to ‘find them a bride’ (a conversation I never thought I’d hear within my family, really) because they were divorced.

    So the stigma is on the dudes, too – perhaps a little less, but there nevertheless.

    • Possibly its different once the contract is in place, because then its “divorced” not “broken engagement.” I don’t know. But I agree that the men get a bit of a reputation as well, but nothing along the same lines as with women.

      And thanks geddan for the wishes, we have a friend of a friend who works in the appointment center so we were squeezed in sooner than your average bear. Alhumdulillah for wasta – sometimes. InshAllah it will all go fine.

  10. Pingback: Egyptian -and Muslim- Girls between a Rock and a Hard Place - Marwa Rakha

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