‘Pa, if anything happens to you - God forbid - do you want me to marry someone else?’ I asked my husband. My mind has been wandering again, this time after reading a novel by Jo Beverley entitled My Lady Notorious. One of the characters in the book just lost her elderly husband and she rushed straight into the arms of her first love, and towards the end of the story, they got married. By no means this was at all central to the story and there were some other reasonings for her actions, but it just got me into thinking and so I asked. And my husband's answer was; ‘Of course you must remarry. Who would take care of you and the kids? But you must marry somebody better – no one as ‘poor’ as me. Don’t waste your time on somebody young and green and just starting in life– go for a rich guy who can provide you with something better than what you already have, or else, you might as well not get married again.’
Now, what kind of an answer is that? I was taken aback a bit and I have to admit, a little disappointed. I was hoping for him to say something like; ‘No, my love. I want you to love me, and me alone for all time,’ being in the romantic mood I was in after reading that book (You have my permission to wince or vomit). But of course, Malay men can never be THAT romantic. However, I realise his answer was, although short of romance, a statement of love, in its own way.
I remember an officemate a few years back telling me that her husband promised her that if she remarries after his passing, beware, as he will come back to haunt her and her new husband. Now what kind of a husband would say that? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer to it would be a man who loves his wife so very much that he wants her to be shackled to him even from the grave. Or, a man who does not love his wife enough that he does not care for her well being when he is gone. Which is it?
A very good friend told me that when she was asked that question by a new boyfriend who was a lot older than she, her answer was, ‘Of course! (She will remarry)’ and that made him sulk for a bit. Well, maybe he was right for sulking, the way she jumped to answer that particular question! However, he composed himself suitably later to tell her that men normally would like to think that their woman will be faithful to them forever, even when they’re gone. But wait a minute, what about the women? Do they expect that kind of loyalty from their widowers if the situation was reversed? The answer is, I think, NO. Why the difference in expectations, then? Let me see. At the top of my head I can think of three different explanations;
· A man will need somebody to take care of him when he is old, his ‘makan-minum’ and all that. And a woman doesn’t?
· It will be hard for a man to take care of his kids, if they are still young and wants constant attention. And it will be easier for a woman? Taking care of growing children is not easy when you’re a complete parental entity and it certainly does not get easier when you are half an entity.
· A man has certain…ah…‘needs’ to be satisfied. And not a woman? (I assure you I AM blushing as I type this.)
Obviously, there are other reasons to be considered on whether a woman should remarry, for example; her dead husband’s money especially if they have children. She may not want to share it with her new man. Heck, with lots of money a woman definitely does not need any man, in my opinion. Alas, not many husbands leave their wives with lots of money when they die. In fact, many leave the world with debts and financial woes for the living to settle.
But I also feel a little offended. What? Must I have a man to take care of me? What? You think I’ll break down straightaway the moment I shoulder all the husbandly duties? What?!? That, of course, is my pride talking. I know that I should be thankful for my husband’s views. His opinion is, in my opinion, the best and most loving I’ve heard on the matter - whether I do or do not take it up. But I will not sing praises about him. He is just a man after all and he is not perfect. Far from it.
And so, I will end this entry with a short tale of our Prophet’s sahabah, Abu Salamah r.a.and his wife, Ummu Salamah r.a.: which I hope will enlighten us all, this day.
Abu Salamah and his wife were a very loving couple. One day Ummu Salamah said to Abu Salamah, ‘I heard from the Prophet that if a husband and his wife are both given permission to enter heaven, then the husband will be together again with his wife if the wife did not marry anybody else after her husband’s passing. And it goes the same way with the wife. She will be together again with her husband if he did not marry again after her passing. Promise me, then, between us, we will not remarry if one of us dies.’ Abu Salamah replied, ‘Will you obey me, wife?’ To which she answered, ‘That is the reason why I am having this discussion with you, in order to obey your decision.’Abu Salamah then said, ‘I want you to remarry if I die before you.’ And then, Abu Salamah prayed; ‘Ya Allah, after my death, bless Ummu Salamah with a husband who is better than me, who will not cause her sorrow nor hardship.’ And when Abu Salamah died later due to an old wound from the Battle of Uhud, Ummu Salamah was offered by none other than Rasulullah himself to which she accepted.
p/s: I do recommend the book, My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley, the first of the Malloren series.