By Dr. Altaf Kaisaruddin
It was a beautiful day, masha Allah. Most days were beautiful on Dominica, but today was a little more special. I walked through the gate toward the school. The security guard and I greeted each other.
"You goin’ home soon?"
"Yeah, after I finish my finals. But I’ll be back for the next semester."
"You got people waiting for you?"
"Yeah, my family and friends."
"You got a girlfriend waiting for you?" He smiled a sly smile.
"Come on, P," I smiled back, "you know Muslims don’t date."
Actually, he probably didn’t know that. The people on this tiny island know very little about Islam. From the news (cable TV from New York) they learn that Muslims are violent, and from their preachers they learn that all Muslim men have four wives.
"You don’t date?" He asked with the standard surprise. People are always surprised when I tell them that. Rather than get defensive, I act as if they should know. It makes them more curious. Then he asked the usual next question: "Well, how do you all get married?"
I went through how dating is a relatively new phenomenon, only 50-60 years old, how it’s only practiced in some parts of the world, and how it doesn’t work very well as evidenced by the sky-high divorce rate. People have been getting married all over the world for thousands of years without dating. In reality, not dating is the norm.
"So, are the marriages arranged?"
"That’s one way of doing it. See, Islam has guidelines for life. Allah says to cover ourselves, and you see Muslims with many types of dress. Allah says not to eat pork, not to drink alcohol and a couple of other things. Muslims have so many varieties of foods. Regarding marriage, Allah asks that we conduct ourselves with dignity, honor and respect. The parents should be involved in the process, everything’s up front and there are no games. The man and the woman have to agree, and they can say no for any reason. Any reason. Nobody’s trying to trick someone else, go back door, get something for nothing, play this one for that one, or any other social foolishness. Relationships between men and women are serious stuff. And with the parents involved early, it provides additional stability to the relationship." Without exception, at this point the people are nodding in agreement.
"So, tell me," he started hesitantly, "can you marry four wives?" He was trying not to offend me.
"Yes," I said with a very even tone, not betraying any emotion. That’s all I said. I wanted to draw him out, to be an active part of this instead of just a passive listener.
"You mean if I became Muslim, I could marry four wives?" He smiled with mock surprise. Now he wanted to play, trying to make me defensive.
"Yes." I wouldn’t give in. With just the one word I turned the tables.
"You mean if I became Muslim right now, I could marry four women right now?" He tried again.
"Yes." I held my ground. Now he was speechless. He ran out of things to say. His face betrayed a mind racing with curiosity, but still not knowing what to say or do.
I turned up the heat. "Are you ready?"
"What?" He was taken aback.
"Are you ready?" I was having fun.
"Listen, P," I let him off the hook, "you’re married right?"
"You know how hard it is being married to one woman. Can you imagine being married to two?"
"Oh." His face showed a look of sudden revelation.
"Yeah, now how about three?"
"Oh." His concern grew exponentially.
"See, Islam allows men to marry up to four women, but a Muslim man has to think and think hard about the responsibility he’s taking on. Again, it’s not a game. If a man decides to marry more than one woman, he has to treat them equally. How many men can do that? And he has to stand before Allah and answer for what he has done. If he did well, then he will be rewarded, and if not, then he’ll get something else."
"I get it. But why is it allowed in the first place?"
"Islam is for all people and all times. Look around here today. If every man in Dominica gets married what happens?"
"There’s more women."
"Ok, so what do the women do?"
"They play around with the men like they do now."
"Yeah, but now men aren’t married, and they’re playing the women. How many girlfriends is average? Then the women get pregnant thinking that way they’ll catch the man. But the man just leaves with his other girlfriends and maybe gets another. Now what? How many women are there in Dominica that are in their 20’s, aren’t married and have children by two, three, even four different men? I mean, can you find a woman in her twenties without at least two?"
He face took on a look of lamenting for his people. The social, educational, economic, judicial, political ramifications are staggering from just this.
"Now, in Islam, men have to take care of their responsibilities. One wife, two, three or four, the women and children are his responsibility. Imagine if men here took responsibility for their actions. Imagine if men and women respected one another."
"It would be a different place."
"Dominica is beautiful. Islam is beautiful. I can only imagine Dominica with Islam. Take care, P, I gotta go study for finals."