Friday, March 03, 2006

An Inspiring True Love Story

The following is a true story of a Bengali girl named Sharmeen. I have changed the name and settings, but everything else is fact.

Brought up in Saudi Arabia where her dad worked as an engineer, Sharmeen was sent to Bangladesh at the age of 18 to study at Dhaka University and stay with her uncle. Around a year later, her parents arranged her marriage to a young lecturer at the university. Five years her senior, coming from a good family, with a good job and reputation, the match seemed very compatible.

Sharmeen recalls entering her marriage with all the hopes of a new bride, however fate had a different future for her. Her husband was not the good man he appeared to be prior to her marriage. He beat her. He had a temper and would avail the smallest excuse to find faults with her. He would resent her going to college to attend classes, and began to restrict her movements.

Having been brought up in a sheltered life for 18 years, before moving on to her uncle's, and then marriage, Sharmeen felt lost. She turned to her friends for help, who upon hearing her marital troubles, deserted her. She did not tell her uncle nor her parents about her plight, fearing it would grieve them too much. She confided in a local Imam and asked for his help.

"It is the will of Allah for a woman to obey her husband." He told her, "He has the right to beat her if necessary. You should just comply with your fate and pray."

Sharmeen accepted this faulty logic. For two years she remained stuck in the marriage. Finally, after one night of violence, she made a decision. The next day, after her husband left for work, she packed a suitcase and left for her uncle's place. After she broke the story to her stunned relatives, she took her cousins with her and went to the police station to register a complaint against her husband.

With the marks of her beating still fresh, the police had no problem registering the FIR, and her husband was placed under arrest, and spent three nights in jail. Sharmeen was now on a mission to free herself. She then filed for a 'Khula' divorce.

Again, the Imam came to her and tried to persuade her to return to her marriage, calling on the weight of countless hadith and selected phrases of the Quran to implore her to do so. It was at that moment when Sharmeen got the full support of her family. Usually, in Bangladesh, the girl's parents try their utmost to make a bad marriage stick. Sharmeen's father, who had come to Dhaka, told the Imam that his daughter was not going back.

It was then the Imam unveiled the husband's demands. As a condition of the divorce, he wanted so many rickshaws, so much in cash, so much in electronics and so on. And again, the Imam said, "This is a Khula divorce. The woman is asking for the divorce. Under Islamic law, the husband has the right to set the price."

However, Sharmeen's father was no ignorant slouch. He replied, "At most, under Islamic law, Sharmeen has to pay back the dowry (Mahr), which was 50,000 taka. She does not have to pay a taka more, and you know it."

When it went to court, it was here that Sharmeen got more help. The judge, on finding that it was a case of domestic violence, gave Sharmeen the option of paying absolutely nothing to dissolve the marriage. However, she chose to pay back the dowry, claiming she did not want a single favour from 'that man'. Her marriage was dissolved, and her father took her back to Saudi Arabia.

She lived there for another three years. As is usual in the community, she was talked about in a derogatory manner. A divorcee! That too, the initiator! Why could she not tame her husband! Now who would choose her, and so on. In spite of all this, Sharmeen said she never lost her faith, and would always thank Allah for small favours, such as having no children from that marriage.

It was after these tests that Faisal met her. He was an architect who had just moved to that city, and saw Sharmeen at a Bengali Eid party. In a very filmy manner, four days later he showed up at her parent's house, with his own parents.

"I have seen your daughter at that Eid gathering." He told Sharmeen's flabbergasted father. "I have made some enquiries about your family, and all have spoken very highly of you. I want to marry her, and have come to seek your permission."

It was very sudden and straightforward, so Sharmeen's family asked for a few days to consider. Their biggest dilemma, whether to tell Faisal about her previous marriage. From their talk, it was clear neither he, nor his family, knew. When Sharmeen heard them discussing the matter, she went to the next room, picked up the phone, and called Faisal. Without wasting words, she disclosed the tale of her previous marriage and divorce to him. To which Faisal had replied, "Are you married NOW?"

Faisal and Sharmeen are now married for seven years with two kids. They moved to Canada around four years ago. When I had first heard of this story, through Faisal's brother who is a good friend of mine, I could not believe it. It was too filmy to be true. But it is true.

Guess miracles and true love happens even in the modern age.



Reza said...

Those that say Wife beating is allowed in Islam are igorant asses who just use their male pigheaded egos and male chauvinistic attitudes. Violence against women is abhorring and Islam says so. Imam my ass.

I am glad Sharmeen and Faisal are happily married and leading a peaceful life. Allah's justice and his ways. Sharmeen's faith was repaid.

Anonymous said...

Like a filmy critic, Where did Sharmeen get Faisal's number to call him and tell him the truth about her past life? It was her parents who were discussing in the other room about this alliance..I am sure they werent discussing Faisal's phone number out loud so that Sharmeen could jot it down and go to the next room and give Faisal a ring.
Sawaal ab uthta hai: Sharmeen ko Faisal ka phone number mila kaise?

But all critic reviews aside, I am happy for Faisal and Sharmeen. May Allah give them plenty of happiness for years and years to come.

- Behbood

mezba said...

@Reza: I think Imams like these are the reason why Islam does not like to have a clergy class like other religions, but places a duty on every Muslim to learn about their religion as much as they can.

What also struck me most about Sharmeen bhabi's story was that as soon as she decided she was not going to take it anymore and wanted to fight back, things started happening in her favour.

@Behbood: Next time I meet Sharmeen bhabi I will ask her. Maybe she got it from the infamous "bio-data"? Then again, apart from Jeddah, Bangladeshi communities in S.A. are not too big.

Aisha said...

This gave me a tear in my eye. So many women I know who are suffering have suffered like this. What a wonderful man to note care abotu her divorce status. She was brave and her family brave too for supporting her. I know girls whove shown up at their parents doorsteps and are thrown back out to return to her husband.... women have a sad status in our society. Beautiful uplifting story.

NAB said...

Infuriates me. It's like...measles or scurvy. It's a preventable disease. Yet, people tend to suffer needlessly because of their own ignorance, and in this case, social stigma. BAH!

Do women not have a spine??! Are they THAT worried about what others are going to think because (gasp) they aren't worthy of being a woman since they can't even keep their marriage together! Puh leaze!

Always been a staunch supporter for abused women, and even more so now, because my aunt just went through something like that (she had to sneak out of the country to get away from her husband) and my cousin's going through the same right now.

Funny isn't it how the worse things happen to the best of people?? These are the kind of women who you want to raise up on a padded pedestal solely due to the goodness of their hearts. Yet they're the ones who get shoved the hardest.

I know Islam tells us to let Allah deal with these filthy men and not punish them ourselves, but I swear, they make ME - a very docile person - want to go clobber them up!

-- Sorry, just HAD to vent --

NAB said...

ohh...are you from Saudi Arabia too mezba? Cuz I am. From Dammam actually =)

tea biscuit said...

""It is the will of Allah for a woman to obey her husband." He told her, "He has the right to beat her if necessary. You should just comply with your fate and pray." It troubles me! It angers me! AARrghhh
But look at that, tho!
Innallah maa assabireen!
Just wanted to bring a few verses to attention! ABout giving anytrhing back to the husband: Surah Bakara has this verse:
And it is not lawful for you to take back anything of what you have ever given to your wives unless both [partners] have cause to fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by God: hence, if you have cause to fear that the two may not be able to keep within the bounds set by God, there shall be no sin upon either of them for what the wife may give up [to her husband] in order to free herself.Baqara: 229
Another verse I find interesting when I think about how so many countries, women are forced stay in an oppressive marriage... it is:
And so, when you divorce women and they are about to reach the end of their waiting-term, then either retain them in a fair manner or let them go in a fair manner. But do not retain them against their will in order to hurt [them]: for he who does so sins indeed against himself. And do not take [these] messages of God in a frivolous spirit; and remember the blessings with which God has graced you, and all the revelation and the wisdom which He has bestowed on you from on high in order to admonish you thereby; and remain conscious of God, and know that God has full knowledge of everything.

Nice post, BTW!

Crimson Mouzi said...

the last verse was Surah Baqara, ayah 231! I forgot to mention! :)

mezba said...

@Aisha: I think the support of her family made it much easier on her. What are parents worried about? That she won't be able to remarry? That should not be a reason to remain in a bad marriage.

@Nowal: Sorry to hear about your aunt and cousin. Sometimes the reason for staying in a bad marriage may just be economic, the woman may have had no work experience, would not be able to get a job, who would support her and so on. Which is why I support increased government funding for abused women shelters and so on.

@Nowal: Nope, I am not from Saudi Arabia, though I have been there (had relatives there) a few times. But I did grow up in the middle east. You could probably guess :-) from my posts - the country starts with a U.

@Tea-biscuit: Wonderful verses. I like it where Allah says
"And do not take [these] messages of God in a frivolous spirit"
I think that's exactly the warning many should heed, He made laws of marriage for a reason.

Crimson Mouzi said...


Safspace DOWN!!!???

zainub said...

You know what Mezba?

The idiotic government in Pakistan has banned Pakistanis from accessing blogspot blogs, this was done supposedly because the Danish cartoons were being reproduced by some people via their blogs, and since they couldn't blog specific blogs had or were republishing the cartoons, the ******* ***** went ahead and blocked the whole of! AAAGGGHHH! This has offended me no end. It felt a bit like waking up in the morning and getting my copy of the newspaper along with every bit of pencil and paper in my house being snatched away from me, without any explanation given as to why. I feel as if I have been violated.

Anyway, the ban meant I had not had the chance to read your blog for a while, and was admittedly, quite desperate to do so (I get addicted to my routines of blog reading) so I found a way out (via (no one can still use blogger the direct way in Pakistan). And because I'd gone through all that trouble to get here, I'm that much more pleased to read this post.

Stories like these are a good indicator of both the good and the bad in Muslim societies around the world, I am sure Sharmeen is an inspiration for women in the rest of her family. I have never met these two people, Sharmeen and Faisal, these are not even their real names, but I can't tell you how happy I feel for them. Like Nowal I know people, within my extended family, who have spent years, and years as in 25+ years in marriages they have not been happy in since day 1, so I can relate to part of Sharmeen's story, and it is incredibly uplifting to know that someone somewhere lived through all of this and come out of it stronger.

Sharmeen's case was bad one, because not only was it an unhappy marriage, her husband was also a bit of mad psycho, and beat her up. What I have seen here in Pakistan is that sometimes women even though they might not be getting physically abused, are not being fulfilled any of their other rights in a marriage. I know of husbands who in 20+ years of marriage have never given their wives Re. 1 to spend on their on, I know of men who have been in so-called marriage with women, again for years and years, but not actually had any real relationship (as in physical ones) with them beyond the first few years. Such women are simply helpless against getting out of marriages; some of them will live their entire lives in rock bottom unhappiness, without their families ever even knowing about it so much is the social stigma attached with divorced women. Incredibly sad. Depressingly sad.

Other then the taboo factor, there they are financial issues as you pointed out and the possibility of the husband in revolt, like in Sharmeen's example, demanding outrageous amounts of money for the divorce to materialise. There are other things too besides this, including the low rate of marriage for divorced women, but the biggest reason of them all, I think, is children.

Very often such men, who just for sake of their enjoyment like treating their wives and women in general (to use a local phrase) as their paon ki joti, get them pregnant within the first couple of months of the marriage. This basically binds that poor old wife to get stuck with that man for forever. I know personally of a woman who has never been treated with any respect or affection by her husband, but who is in her marriage simply because of her two children, the second of whom she had to save her life (after she gave birth to a daughter as their first child, the husband threatened to kill, yes, kill her, if she didn't some how "produce a boy” next time).

These stupid men, they don't even know that the sex of child is determined not by the chromosomes from the mom's side by that from the father’s! Anyhow, thankfully Allah decided to save this woman's life and she did have a boy next time, but her life has been nothing short of hell even after that. This woman is now in her late 40s, and her elder daughter is in her late teens and the son in his early teens. The man treats her daughter just like her wife, rarely ever talks to her, never buys her any presents, never smiles at her, never does anything he should; only agreed to making her study after 12th grade after relentless persuasion from certain sections of his family (and note I say only certain section, not family as a whole).

This kind of behavior toward his daughter is contrary to his behavior towards his son whom he treats like a prince. It is my understanding that this woman will seek at least separation if not divorce immediately after her daughter finds a suitable match. Yet, despite all this, this man's behavior rarely gets much public scrutiny let alone criticism within the whole of his extended family (say aunts, uncles, cousins, 2nd cousins etc.), and only a selected few know of his behavior towards his wife and daughter, the rest probably think he is a saint/angel, I'd not be surprised if they actually blamed the wife is they ever found out the marriage was in any kind of trouble.

What I find most disturbing, both in the story you narrate and the one which I have told, plus in other examples I have seen, is that these men, the psychotic, women abusing maniacs, they generally tend to be come from a reasonably good family and social background, they are supposedly educated, so called sharif guys; the man in my example, for instance, is an engineer, who has studied from one of the best universities in the city, and works at a reasonably high post in a local public service company, whilst the man in your example, Sharmeen's ex i.e. was a lecturer at a local university, so I assume he must be reasonably highly educated as well.

To think that all this education hasn't had the slightest bit of affect on their thinking and mentality, to think that it never, ever, made them realise how wrong their actions were, it just sickens me. My younger sister has numerous pets (2 stray cats that she has petted, dozens of fish and various birds at various points), she treats these animals miles better then some of these men would treat their wives. Speaking as a person who is prone to get a guilty conscience at the slightest of things it bemuses me how in all the world any one could ever allow them selves to fall to such level as to treat another human being like a piece of dirt. Do these men not have hearts?

Masti-boy said...

Does Shermeen Bhabhi has any younger sister?

Shabina said...

well-written and recounted story, mA. def a rare happy ending to a sadly all-too-common tale, but uplifting nevertheless. hooray for shermeen bhabhi for 1) keeping her faith and 2) being strong enough to get out before her husband killed her.

luckyfatima said...


what a great story. I wish more people could be like all of the good people in this story.

Anonymous said...

i'm wondering if sharmeen and faisal are not arguing any prob now.. how about the 1st husband of sharmeen, what happen to him now?..does he got another wife?...

i'm touch with this story.. it's sad but... still sharmeen got the happy moment for her..

there are sayings that after a sad moments thre will be happy moments..

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