23 November, 2006

Family Matters

In the last four months, family matters have taken a lot of my time; and most of my thoughts. Of which, four things have dominated much of my time during this time - bringing me, to almost breaking point: my brother's illness; my children from my first marriage; how to settle the property of a cousin brother of mine, who passed away a few years ago; and my wife finding herself in a very uncomfortable, disturbing situation, due to being harassed by a male family member.

In July, my younger brother became seriously sick and almost lost his life. He had been sick, on and of, for several months before that, but, due to the poor medical facilities available here - his condition wasn't properly diagnosed earlier, and it's this, that lead to him almost loosing his life. In July he collapsed, was hospitalised for several days and - it was then, that it was diagnosed that he was suffering from a kind of cancer. He is much better now and almost his old normal self, but not completely cured. My brother's condition has been one of the most trying for me, ever; I realised too, that I do love him much more than I thought I did. I have learnt too, that - Yemen's medical and health facilities and resources, have to be greatly improved - if people are to get proper medical care and treatment.

"Among all the permitted acts, divorce is the most hateful to God" - that's the advice we Muslims have - from The Wisest, on how we should consider divorce. But due to very unfortunate circumstances, my first marriage broke up in the early 1990s. And ever since, I have been separated from my three daughters from that marriage; they remained with their mother in East Africa. Not because I wanted it to be so, but, I just didn't want to go through a long painful struggle so as to get the custody of my children; and most of all, I didn't want to deny my first wife her children, as I knew she loved them dearly too and was much closer to them. As painful and unsettling as it is, I have endured the separation. But at times, certain things happen and the mental agony and havoc that this causes in my mind, becomes very unsettling indeed. And that is what happened about three months ago. All I can say is this: I do advice all married couples, to do all that they can and whatever it takes, to maintain and sustain their marriages; divorce, is crippling for both. And expensive for the man, in most cases.

About four years ago, a cousin brother of mine became very ill; I spent with him, his last days in hospital. He knew he would not live for long, and so - he decided to trust me, with his remaining wealth and how to fairly pass it to his other remaining, immediate relatives. As his own wife had passed away a few years back and he had no children, he asked me to see how best to settle whatever he would leave behind. I agreed, believing that, as my relation with all my family members - paternal and maternal - was very good, this would not be a problem at all. I couldn't have been more wrong! Human nature is very strange indeed; it seems, we are always driven by dark, destructive forces and greed. A few weeks ago, I managed to get together, the main parties who are to share in what my late cousin had left behind: a house, a piece of land and some money. It's then, I realised how very difficult that would be; I actually, utterly failed in getting the parties to agree. Other people, who have no business at all in getting involved - had also, become very deeply involved and active. By the beginning of this month, I had used all the diplomacy and wisdom I had; and well, a few days ago, very much against my wish - I decided to hand the whole matter to a maternal uncle. Now, it's up to him to see how best to deal with it. I am certain, some one or some people, will end up having much more than what they are supposed to have; I am certain too - that, some - who have no right what-so-ever in getting any thing, will get a sizable portion. Mankind: always selfish and greedy!

During the first eleven days of Ramadhan, that is - late September, I was not at home. As always, whenever I am not at home, which at times - can last for weeks, my wife manages all the home responsibilities: expenses, shopping, taking care of all the little family matters and dealing with whatever problems that arise at home. Some of our windows needed repairs, and my wife mentioned this to one of her female relatives; the one she always shares her problems and secrets with. The female relative, mentioned this to her husband, that - my wife needed some assistance in arranging for some one to fix our windows. Her husband agreed to see what he could do to 'help'. Just a note: this male relative, had always been one of my in laws - that I had the very highest respects and regards for. A few days in to the fasting month of Ramadhan, about a week before my return home, this man phoned my wife and said he would arrange to have our windows fixed and that - it was no problem at all. Then, from that day on, he continued to phone my wife constantly and at all times, always in the pretext of wanting to assist - but within the space of only that one week, he was already forcefully and aggressively seducing my wife. By the time I arrived, my wife didn't know how to begin to explain to me, all what had happened; three days after, when she finally decided to - she, uncontrollably weeping, narrated all that had happened, what the man had said and proposed over the phone, and showed me all the crude messages the man had written. I was so shocked and shaken, that I found it hard to believe that - that particular man could do that, and of all times - during the holly month of Ramadhan; that, that man - could have such a primitive, filthy and crude mind! I, at first completely lost control and became very angry and lashed at my wife for having allowed that to happen for almost a week; my anger was more at my wife for not having taken the man's advances seriously immediately, and for having not told me immediately. She didn't, at first take the man seriously; after all, the man was one of the most highly regarded in the family and his wife and children, were very close to mine. And all that, happened in the space of a few days.

Just to make sure that the man was not simply joking and it was all just a mistake and a misunderstanding (I was very much hoping that, that's what it would turn out to be) - I decided to test the man; and in the next few days - with reluctant assistance from my wife, through the phone and some other means, I came to learn of - what the man intended; what I discovered, was worse than what I could ever imagine! I learnt what his intentions were: malicious, sinister and evil! No doubt, aimed at breaking up my family. I also realized that, as pious, a gentleman and religious as he seemed to have always been; as smart and intelligent as he always pretended to be - he was so lustful and so stupid that he easily fell in to my trap. I was extremely shocked and shaken at what I discovered; I just couldn't believe, that a married man of his stature and age; a man who I completely trusted - could stoop so low and lust so much for one of his own married, female relatives and behave so beastly like that. I just couldn't believe it. How could he do that to me? To me, of all people? What deep grudge or hatred, did he have against me? I, a person who had such high regards and respect for him and his family, and would have always, very much trusted him with my own family? My family which is so close to his, to the extent that I have always felt and believed that his home was very much like my own. How could he even think of doing some thing like that, let alone do it? On reporting this incident to two of my brother in laws, they said that it was not the first time that, that particular man has reportedly harassed female relatives; he had done it before, but before - there were no concrete proofs. As I didn't know about this; I became just too shocked! I am still shocked. Shocked at the strangeness of human nature.

I have been so shaken and shocked by this, that my regards for the human male gender, has been very much shaken, weakened and changed. I now believe, that no man should be trusted with one's female, family members; no matter what. All men, are in essence beasts. Give a man a slight opportunity with a woman, and that man could easily turn in to a beast. Very unfortunately and very sadly, it's the women who suffer and who have to pay a high price. Here in Hadhramout, women are almost, always and all the time separated from the men. But relatives, some times get to mix or communicate with each other. Should any girl or woman be harassed by a man, especially a relative and, in particular, a respected one - it is almost certain that the woman would never, ever, report the matter to male relatives. If a girl or woman is raped, that would never be reported; any girl who is known to have been raped, would most likely never, ever, get married; as for a married woman having been found to have been raped - she would certainly be divorced.

Many husbands, simply divorce their wives, should they come to discover that their wives were sexually harassed, and they kept quiet; and yet, the women have to keep quiet as reporting the matter would, too, mean - that, they would likely - be divorced! And any unmarried girl or woman who is known to have been sexually harassed, would too, certainly, very much spoil her chances of getting married. As such, almost all sexually harassed women and those who are raped - always keep silent and quiet; they prefer to endure the pain and scars in silence. Some, commit suicide. I understand this is the case in all Arab and Muslim countries. How unfortunate, sad, unfair and unjust.

As for I and my wife, what happened, has been a good test and lesson for both of us; especially her. Still, it has badly shaken her and has broken the closeness we shared, with the man's family, before all this. The positive side: I and her, have been drawn much closer to each other, than we have ever been in our twelve years old marriage. As close as we had been before, now, we feel more solid and sure of our togetherness and marriage, than we have ever been before.