The Broken Woman


The Broken Woman
Fawziyyah al-Khulayw
Lying in a recovery room in a hospital in Riyadh is a woman paralyzed from the neck down. When asked what happened, she replies: “My husband came to me accompanied by a woman and announced to me that she was his wife.”

“I could not bear it. I ran to the window and hurled myself three stories to the ground.”

Those moments when a husband declares that he has married another woman, they are the most difficult moments in the first wife’s life.

It is a pain that cannot be described.

It is a searing flame that does not subside.

It is a sense of loss, of sinking into an abyss, the depths of which rival the years they had spent together sharing the bitter and the sweet.

For the wife whose husband is, in the whole world, her pillar of strength and only refuge –

He is her kindred heart, her gentle guardian,

The one with whom she shares her joy, her grief,

Who consoles her in her weariness,

Whom she tends to in his distress,

Whom she rushes to when problems get to much for her to bear

And when things get out of hand.

She feels joy in embracing his children

And bears the long hours waiting for him.

She prepares food for him with her hands,

And would sacrifice for him her most precious possessions

Because he is her intimate friend in her lonliness,

Her companion in a strange world.

We cannot measure in time the lives they share together – for it is not in days, nor in weeks, nor in months.

Rather, in moments, in breaths.

When a woman gets married, she weaves for herself a special world

Whose morning is her children, her husband, and her home

And whose evening is light and hope.

Her joy is the sight of smiling faces;

Her felicity is peace in her home.

Her sky is not the sky we know

Nor her Earth the one we tread.

It is an inner garden, a timeless joy.

When her husband turns away from her by marrying again, the lofty cloud of dignity that had always sailed high in her sky dissipates and she is left with two choices:

To ask for her freedom and insist upon it,

Or rip her own dignity to shreds, gather up the pieces, and tread hard upon her injuries.

It is the breaking of a woman.

She only breaks because of the disregard for the womanhood within her.

Therefore, do not be surprised by the stories you hear – or think that they are made up – for they are the stories of women struck by the arrows of misfortune and cut by the blade of separation.

One woman prays, turning away from the direction of prayer. One is given a great sum of money and burns it on the spot.

One of them has her husband tell her the news right before the Tarwh prayer in Ramadan – so she goes forth and prays in the ranks of the men.

From the severity of their grief, some women suffer strokes leaving them paralyzed or bereft of one of their five senses.

A woman’s jealousy might drive her to an unpraiseworthy outcome – like murder, for instance – as comes in the following news report:

When she heard the news of her husband’s marriage, there built up inside her a great welling of fury and a desire for revenge. So she began to argue with her husband about it – and she had concealed a knife under her gown – and so, when her husband scoffed at her, she brought out the knife and stabbed him. He dropped down, murdered. She then turned herself in, saying that her great love for her husband compelled her to kill him; she could not permit anyone else – it did not matter who it was – to take him away from her. (al-Yawm Newspaper 11314)

Perhaps from all of this we can see the relevance of the hadth of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he left from `’ishah’s company one evening.

She says: I felt jealous for him. He came and saw what I was about and said: “What is with you, O ’ishah, are you feeling jealous?”

I said: “And what is with me? Does one such as me not feel jealous for one such as you?”

He said: “Your devil has come to you.”

I said: “O Messenger of Allah, is there a devil with me?”

He said: “Yes.” I said: “And with you as well, O Messenger of Allah?”

He said: “Yes. But Allah has helped me prevail upon it, so it has submitted.”

[Sahh Muslim (2815)]