Hi there. I am new to the sub technically but I've been following FDS for quite a while now. While FDS gives some great, general tips for women to achieve financial & legal security, 3rd World Women, especially those who may consider a religious marriage because a secular marriage is not an option in their countries are ruled out of the conversation.
I am an ex-Muslim myself and my primary plan is to have a secular marriage, not an Islamic one. But if this fails I may be forced to consider a marriage that is dictated by the Sharia so I can be with my man. 🤢
However and as expected, this is not an easy step. Our countries and Islam are deeply patriarchal and the laws are heavily biased towards the good of the man at the expense of the woman. Here are some examples:
- Marital rape and domestic abuse are not legally punishable in most Islamic countries and highly encouraged by society.
- Men can simply divorce women by saying to their faces " I divorce you", he even can divorce her without her knowledge. But a woman has to spend months, maybe years in family courts just to prove that her man has ruined the shit out of her life so he can be forced legally to tell her "I divorce you". In addition, she has to return the dowry he gave her at the beginning of the marriage, which in most cases had been spent and the woman has not been generating any income.
- Men can marry multiple wives and they do not have to tell the wives about each other.
- Children belong to men and their male family members. All legal actions for the children must be done by him or his family. You cannot get your kid a passport, and take them to a hospital or school without the father's consent.
- Men can use the power of law to forcibly bring an escaping woman back to their house and file a "disobedience" Complaint against her.
- After divorce, men pay little to no child support with the blessings of the law.
- Men are not obligated to cover a woman's medical expenses and can divorce her just because she is sick. He is not even obligated to pay for your funeral/shroud/burial. Because the core of marriage in Islam is sexual services in exchange for financial services. Once you stop offering your sexual services because you are sick or dead, he is not obligated to pay shit or stay with you a second more.
The risks of such marriage, most of the time, are not worth taking. While it is always better to find a way to marry secularly if you find yourself (As a woman from a Muslim background) having no other option than that, you must take these steps to protect yourself and your future children:
- Women MAY legally earn the right to "Al-Osma" Which is the ability to divorce oneself (although this is prohibited in Islam). Typically Al-Osma goes to the husband automatically but you can request to share it with him (Or maybe be the only one who can divorce because I am not sure of the law in each country). It is not an easy step as most sheiks refuse to put Al-Osma in women's hands, but it's not impossible, you can find an open-minded sheik or just pay him a little more so he can accept this step. And female sheiks who can make marriages official are on the rise and may take this step for you. Keep reading to see alternatives if this step fails.
- In every Islamic marriage a woman has the right to have a list of conditions to be applied when she's married and can be legally enforced or make divorce easier if the conditions (or one condition) have been violated. She can put any conditions she desires. One conditions list I saw years ago included these conditions:
1) The husband is not allowed to marry another woman or at least he has to tell the first wife about it.
2) The husband is not allowed to mistreat the wife in any way, shape, or form.
3) The husband has to bring a maid to do all of the housework.
ANY CONDITION IS POSSIBLE.
Other good conditions to put are:
1) He is not allowed to make you stop your education or career.
2) He is not allowed to intervene with your financial matters or do something with your money without your consent. And Islam stands for the idea of "A man's money is family's money, a woman's money is only hers and God considers it as a rewarded charity act for a woman to spend her money on her family"
3) He cannot isolate you from family and friends.
4) He cannot have access to your passwords.
5) He has no right to force you to live with his family or serve them. This one is crucial because most women end up being maids for the husband's family. Any help offered to them is an act of kindness. Not a duty.
6) You can even request to be paid for doing housework and breastfeeding your children! I know the breastfeeding take is kinda too much because a mom is doing a natural process out of pure love that should not be commodified. But some schools in Islam which you can follow say that women must not be forced to breastfeed their children and request a wet nurse, or be paid for breastfeeding (Same for housework).
- A mistake Muslim women do is to ask for unnecessarily extremely costly dowries just to flex in front of their jealous female friends as if she has been "sold" with a higher price and do not even utilize the dowry in the end, and when asking for a divorce in family courts she ends up having to pay this huge amount to him when she wasn't even working during the years of marriage. Be aware that dowry can be given in cash or as property and Islam does not consider marriage as legitimate if you have not been offered a dowry. I do not like the idea of dowry as it's very commodifying and paying for dates and gifts is much better and more dignified, but if there is no other option, let your dowry be something that generates income or becomes higher in value with time. For example a house other than the one you will live in, and when the house is in your name as dowry, rent it. It can also be a shop, or even cash enough to start a business with. This way if you failed to earn Al-Osma and want to go to family court to divorce him, you will only return the value of the dowry or the dowry itself if it's a property, and keep the earned money for yourself. This is crucial in case you will become a SAHM and have children. You do not want to risk poverty or stay with a bad man because you can't afford a divorce.
- The house you will both live in after marriage? Let him write it (or at least half of it) in your name. Typically Islam says that mothers have the right to stay in the pre-divorce house while the man leaves it and sends child support. The reasoning behind this is to make women able to raise their children until a certain age safely. Of course, a LVM won't leave the house for you and can kick you and your children out and win the house's case in court so he can go marry another woman in the same house. In letting him write the house (or a portion of it) in your name, even if he bought it with his own money, you avoid the possibility of being kicked out and staying homeless, especially if you do not have a house of your own yet. Typically in Arab countries, families do their best to buy their sons, but not their daughters, houses to utilize when married. So as an Arab woman who is severely disadvantaged economically and socially, this might be a life-saving step for you and your children.
- The moment you pop out a baby, go and let him set you as a legal guardian for the baby (and always keep up with it in case the guardianship needs to be renewed every certain period). Or write that in the conditions list, that you automatically become a guardian for your baby once he/she is born if that's possible. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
Until social, financial, and legal security is an automatic right for every Arab woman. These steps are a must for those who can't have a secular marriage. In addition, this is a great way to vet for misogynistic Arab men or men who do not want to give up their privileges or do not see you as worthy of protection. Let secular marriage be your plan A especially if you are an ex-Muslim, and consider everything in this post as plan B.