Religion plays an important part in family and society in most of the Muslim societies. Muslims and Christians are spread throughout the world and the puritanical Christian and Muslim wife based in the concepts of scriptures of both religions may be a part of the books only [Rashid, 2007]. Cultural influences, economic conditions and varying influence of religion in the society means that a Muslim wife of one society is not subject to the same kind cultural practices throughout the world.
An Afghan or a Saudi Arabian woman is more likely to follow the local religious practices of modesty and veils, while most Muslim women in India only have to observe a modest dress code. The very traditional families or families of religious scholars may still observe the hijab, a dress similar to that worn by Catholic nuns [Women, Islam & Hijab, 2007]. For the information given here, I contacted a few of Indian women in my locality and they happened to be of Muslim religion and agreed to share their knowledge and experiences with me [Indian Muslim Wife, 2007].
The first thing one hears in these conversations is that ‘there is no such thing as a typical Indian Muslim or Hindu Wife’. The society in many of the developing countries has vast difference between the rich and the poor, and there is also a fast developing middle class. The very rich have become largely anglicized and the English medium public education under the Cambridge/Oxford based schooling system has given them the perception of family life very similar to that of a European or American family.
A few characteristics common to all Indian Muslim families are importance of family life, providing protective environment for the children, fidelity in marriage and finding spouse of Muslim faith. The Muslim wife of a rich Indian family is well provided for. She is normally well educated and even if she is not involved in her own career or business, she has to accompany her husband to social parties; she does not drink even if the Muslim husband has given up practicing the prohibition imposed by religion.
A Muslim Indian wife is expected to be faithful to her husband. The pressure of the society is such that even if men were to astray, the wife risks the risk of being ostracized if she indulges in any such activities. Indian Muslim families normally have to live in an extended family. Looking after the parents is responsibility of the male children of the family. It is almost given that she any Muslim woman will have her in-laws living in the same house.
Depending on their nature, it may be blessing to share a house with in-laws as a number of women can go out more freely to pursue their career or to attend the social functions while the elder members of the family can look after the children. Most rich Indian Muslim women can hire servants and only have to supervise the household responsibilities. The middle class Muslim Indian wife has many more problems. The man is the breadwinner and the woman looks after the house, brings up the children, looks after the in-laws if they are old and infirm and makes ends meet in relatively moderate income.
The Indian middle class society is rather conservative and the religious restriction placed on Muslim middle class women due to conservatism restricts the freedom of movement, ability to work, choice of professions for women in the middle class Muslim families is also limited. The traditional families prefer to keep the women at home or if they have to work professions such as teaching, medicine and assisting family members in their business are preferred. The poor Indian Muslim wife probably suffers the most.
They are married off at an early age by marriages arranged by their parents. Low income of the family means that Indian Muslim wife from a poor family has to work hard often in poor paid jobs as domestic servant or on farms. The full day work, however does not reduce her responsibilities at home as she has to do all the household work, cooking cleaning, looking after the husband and children and in laws too. The poverty-stricken family has to stay in huts or semi constructed houses in shantytowns and suffers all the problems of poverty.
The Muslim Indian women are brought up in traditional ways and given Islamic as well as normal education. Divorce rates among Muslims are very low. This may also be a result of the problems in the society. Divorce carries some stigma, the women are allowed to re-marry and the young divorcees normally do. The pressures on families are economic, social and emotional. Break-up of family deprives the woman of financial support, women if they do not re-marry are not free to socialize or date as openly as in Europe/America.