Tuesday, November 6, 2012

4 Tips to be an Extraordinary Husband.

Disclaimer: Tips 1 to 3 are sarcastic. But you can take Tip 4 at face value :)

Another cartoon that's been making rounds on Facebook. It's often reposted by women because it addresses men (when household advice usually addresses women) and especially how men can be Extraordinary Husbands! A translation in English below:

My Home, My Paradise 
The main factor that shapes the Muslim family or household is the husband and wife. Households must be built upon firm piety -- that is, making God as the aim and the main goal. That's the difference between an ordinary household and an extraordinary household.
1. Ordinarily a husband... Merely provides physical sustenance (food and drink). The main responsibility for providing knowledge and religious education is neglected.
An extraordinary husband...Takes care of the daily needs of his family members, and prioritises providing knowledge and religious education. 
2. Ordinarily a husband...Quickly lashes out when his wife or children make mistakes. Or they let them do whatever they want, without caring for right or wrong.  
An extraordinary husband...When wife or children make mistakes, he gives guidance in correcting the mistake. He knows they made mistakes because of their shallow knowledge, lack of guidance, neglect, or selfish desires/appetites. 
3. Ordinarily a husband...Completely surrenders all household tasks to his wife even though he knows that his wife is tired from also working. For him, housework is women's work.  
An extraordinary husband...Always gives support to his wife in household tasks, her career and the children in order to seek God's pleasure. Doing housework is one of the most important jobs for a mother, to produce future leaders that fear and love God.
4. Ordinarily a husband...Likes to look at other women in the workplace or outside the home. That's why there are many cases of cheating husbands. Causing chaos in the household.  
An extraordinary husband...Holds tightly to God's warning to not to look at other women. That is, not just looking, but also not giving attention or feelings to other women. His heart is then only for his wife. This is how a household becomes peaceful.

At a first glance, it sounds great right? Finally, it's not all about women and their modesty! But yeah, sometimes you fall out of the frying pan and into the fire. I read somewhere that "Islam honours women" and "Islam hates women" are just two sides of the same coin. So while this cartoon initially looks like it promotes 'extraordinary' fatherhood, husbandhood and general manhood, it mostly still reproduces the same normative ideas around gender (women, men) and age (parents, children).

1. Provide not only financial maintenance, but also immense religious knowledge and education. 

Yeah... sometimes men don't even manage to fulfill that first requirement, what with the amount of money that Malay society demands of men. (Yes guys, I'm being understanding towards you.) After paying the brideprice which can run above ten thousand of dollars (according to the wife's educational level), the wedding reception, and if you want to make it strictly "Islamic" then he should also pay for the house, the car, her clothes, her food, her shopping, and everything for the children.

This was perhaps true in my parents generation, but this might not be realistic for everyone in today's economic circumstances. The reality is often that the couple both work and contribute towards household expenses. And not all women want to always have everything paid for -- don't want to feel like we're on social security handouts here.

As for the religious knowledge, like everything else, that's also a two-way street in marriage. But it's often men who are made out to be the glorious providers of everything including education. Newsflash: men are human beings, with imperfect knowledge. This also clashes with the dominant idea that the wife should be super pious; because then she should be teaching everyone in the family instead. This norm also has a racial bent to it: only local men can lead local women. Foreign men? Only Arabs or bearded men can be taken seriously as teachers, white men can only hope to be guided by their (local) wife instead.

Alternative! Both wife and husband provide financial maintenance to the household and for the children, with the one earning more contributing proportionally more. Feel free to give each other gifts (tangible or intangible) on special occasions, or just for the heck of it because you love each other! Both should have religious knowledge or seeking it together, and teach each other and their children, who can see what good role models their parents are.

2. Be kind to those who are inferior to you.

Wow -- this one made my jaw drop. Firstly, there is no indication that husbands can (gasp) make mistakes. And the advice to him to not lose his temper is only because he should be thinking about how inferior his wife and children are to him. It's like telling the white man he should be kind to his black slave because the latter is too stupid to know better! This is a great example of how NOT to show respect to your family members.

Yes, husbands should not lose their tempers over small things. But they should also not maintain their cool because of feelings of superiority.

Alternative! Feel free to hit the roof when it's your fault that something serious happens e.g. you smashed the car. For all other reasons, talk it out and listen to the other person. Come to an agreement together and enforce it. Be humble and be ready to accept criticism of your own shortcomings. Respect your wife and children as other human beings and treat them like how you would like to be treated (yeah, women want respect too, not just love). Maybe then they can love you back!

3. Assist your wife in housework because this is her most important job.

I must admit I was disappointed with this one, because it started out so good ("support his wife in housework, career and children") but ended so typical ("because housework is the most important task for a mother"). Assistance implies that the husband is not taking ownership of the tasks. So if his wife is not around to say what should be done, perhaps he wouldn't (or couldn't) know what to do. 

And children are the product of both parents -- a husband should be the best father he can be. Often women are burdened with childcare in its entirety simply because they give birth and breastfeed. But there are also a million other tasks that have nothing to do with the female body -- it just requires any human body. One could also argue that if men are so macho and strong they could also offer to do the dirty and dangerous jobs in the house.

Alternative! Both wife and husband are responsible for certain tasks. Feel free to try out all possible household tasks so that in case one partner is sick or absent, the other can cover. Both should know how to cook, de-clog sinks, work the washing machine, and change diapers. Feel free to swap tasks or reassess them on the basis of time, physical ability or effectiveness. Do also feel free to do some tasks of the other person  because you love each other!

4. Keep your heart only for your wife.

Not all men talk to women with the sole purpose of ogling or flirting with them. Come on, give these guys some credit for being able to respect other people too. I don't think it's very productive to categorise this as 'ordinary' behaviour because it lowers the standards. 

However, I do 100% agree that his heart should only be for his wife! :) But merely not cheating on your wife is not enough -- there needs to be lots of work before a household and a marriage becomes successful, inshallah!

Alternative! None. This advice is pretty good by itself :) Just remember that it's not enough that we don't do bad things, we have to do some good things too!

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