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.
Tags: Bengali Desi