Saudi Arabia: What is an Honorable Man?

What exactly is an honorable man?  I consider an honorable man someone who is kind, has both dignity and grace, makes an honest living, is compassionate, trustworthy and keeps his promises.  I think those are enough characteristics to start with!

Now I wish to switch to the topic of women in Saudi Arabia, especially the women who are widowed with or without children or divorced.  In some cases these Saudi women do have opportunities to remarry and have happiness.  In some cases these Saudi women have remarried and are not a second, third or fourth wife.  Yet in most cases the widowed or divorced Saudi woman does not remarry.  It may not be because she’d rather not marry but a lot of men may view her as unmarriageable or “used goods.”   A widow with another man’s children is seen as less attractive than a divorcee.  Why?  A number of Saudi men are unwilling to take on the responsibility of accepting or raising children that are “not of their blood.”

I am not an advocate of polygamy yet I feel that I should point out that polygamy is encouraged for men to marry women who are widows or orphans.  Yet it seems that the Saudi men who do practice polygamy today are not purposely marrying widows or orphans.  Instead they are marrying foreign women, younger women, prosperous women or making a love match since their first marriage was arranged by the family.

By no means should a widow or a divorced woman believe she must choose polygamy in order to remarry.  She can certainly remain single by choice.  Additionally a man who has never been married before should not fall in to the trap that widows or divorcees are unacceptable.

What would an honorable man do?


27 Responses

  1. I think this issue Is prevalent not only in KSA, but all countries where culture is a more superior part of the society than a religion. From India to Bosnia, widowed, or divorced woman with kids are automatically out of question UNLESS she has a vauble asset (powerful family, wealth, etc) men will approach them for marriage, but these men will MoST likely will NOT be honorable men. It’s a sad situation, but it’s true.

    There are definately stigmas attached to divorced men with kids from previous relationship, but generally speaking societies are more forgiving to men than women.

    While polygamy was made lawful to Muslims for the purpose of marrying widows, orphans, those who are experiencing undue hardship for whatever reason, and of course divorcees, Muslim men who are practicing polygamy 90 to 95% of them do it for their lust/greed/etc. Honorable men are rare in this world, any country, any religion, any culture…

  2. I agree that he shouldn’t fall within that trap. He should, in my mind, marry for love.

  3. This is a problem greater than a man being honorable or not. The man is operating within the parameters of his society that assigns value to women only on the basis of their virginity which is correlated with youth. Of course, if she is no longer a virgin then her market value declines steeply and she is merely “used goods”, like second hand furniture. In these very patriarichal societies, the concept of “used goods” underlies the view of women as objects/goods, mere properties of men and not as self-realized human beings with their own intrinsic value.

    Within a cultural context that practices and enforces extreme patriarchy, why would any man go for a “used good” when he can get a “shiny new toy”?.

    And why one earth would he take on the responsibility of the “used goods” children to boot?. The concepts of compassion, love, connection are very undervalued in this type of patriarichal society.

    Of course, men in the West also go through phases of ditching their first wife to go for a younger nubile woman. It’s called a midlife crisis and the man is looked down upon it.

    However, the difference is that the first wife is free to remarry and often does, even if she has children.

    In addition, there have been instances of husbands going for similarily aged women who have children, instead of the usual young woman (e.g. Mark Sanford the governor of South Carolina, President Sarkozy, Prince Charles, etc).

    The concept of “used goods” (as it relates to women’s value) has been retired thanks to the feminist revolution. Women are valued for more than their hymen and are seen as actual multi-faceted people, similar to men. Women are seen as bringing as much to the table as men and have proven to take care of their children (on their own) thanks to female empowerment.

    I remember my mother being shocked at three widowed women in our neighbourhood, in their mid to late 60s, all getting remarried to similarly aged men. It was not part of her cultural experience for women to remarry after their husbands death mainly cause of the “used goods” concept, although of course men often remarried after their wives’ death, sometimes shockingly fast.

    After living in Canada for several years and re-examining the views she used to hold, she has come around, which I hold admiration for her.

  4. I agree that it is sad that Saudi divorcees, especially with kids, have it hard to remarry. And I guess in the context of seeing what kind of wives the Prophet picked, it would be honourable for a man to marry those ladies less fortunate. But I disagree on two points.

    First, not all women have been maliciously divorced. I know enough Arab ladies that I struggle to even spend one dinner party with. I see them eating and gaining weight like there is no tomorrow, spending all their time with their own mothers and aunts, and basically taking very little interest in their husbands’ lives or their emotional needs. If I’m a stay at home wife, the house and the family is my job, no? So it is my responsibility to create a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere where the husband always wants to return, no?

    Therefore, secondly, a divorcee has often proven that she is unable to keep a marriage together through tough times, so that makes her less desirable for another one. Yes I know, some ladies get really unlucky and are just being unfairly dumped, but at the same time Saudi men don’t run around and marry and then put divorce on the first thing of their agenda. So “honourable” wouldn’t necessarily be my first thought when I hear a man marrying a divorcee, I’d tell him to be careful.

    And just one last anecdote, I have one dear friend she was engaged to her cousin since they were teenagers and they wanted to wait to marry until they were more settled in their jobs; around 30. But then he broke it off to marry a divorcee with two kids. Now she’s struggling to find someone at that age, while he has the instant gratification of family life. Is that so honourable?

  5. Quote: While polygamy was made lawful to Muslims for the purpose of marrying widows, orphans, those who are experiencing undue hardship for whatever reason, and of course divorcees.

    Cookie, could you give a Quranic verse for that?

    As to “Honorable men are rare in this world, any country, any religion, any culture…”. Let me say that in my humble experience, based upon decades and decades of observation and experience, MEN ARE DOGS.

    We, men, collectively, from age 10 to 90, are moved by a pretty smile and nice curves. Even when we know better, we do stupid stuff. It is biology, not culture or religion. We are idiots, often.

    However, some of us, a few of us, with age, are able to overcome this to a certain extent and appreciate the qualities of women that are less blessed by nature. When I was young, I wouldn’t be seen dead with a fat woman. Now it is not really that important. I can appreciate womem for their intellect, humor, attitude, charity and dedication to others. It is a long trip. I wish I had seen this 40 years ago.

    Of course, you women had already figured this out.

  6. A Honorable man would marry because he loves her, cares for her and is ready to share her troubles. likewise a honorable woman would do the same.

    How many ever honorable men are there there are not so honorable family members brainwashing his mind 🙂 it’s hard for a man to hold out agaianst prevailing customs and pressure, takes a v strong man to do it.

    Well i have 2 SIL’s widowed with many kids who have the ir whole life ahead to be happy, wish some avenues open up for them, if not marriage then atleats jobs/educations something to make them realize they are a contributing valuable member of this planet.

  7. Zue, what the heck does this statement mean? “I see them eating and gaining weight like there is no tomorrow”

    I dont see how eating or weight is relevant in the slightest… just saying that is a strange side note that seems either irrelevent, speaks to your biases or assumes a whole tome on assumptions about body image, gender equality and bioy the list can go on….

    But anyway, my two cents and to be devil’s advocate here for a second. I am a career woman, in my 30s, financial independent and when I was looking for someone, i.e. a man, I instantly did not consider men who have children from previous marriages nor would I consider a man who does not match or exceed my education and I would not consider a man who makes under a certain amount of money.

    While on the outset this all seems horribly shallow I guess. But my standards as in what I want as a life partner doesnt make me a bad person or a dishonorable person. I just dont want to deal with baby momma drama or feel like I have to share myhusband with someone else’s kids. I also do not want to feel like I am supporting a man and I want my man to be able to keep up with me intellectually. These are just my desires. Oh and he must be a vegetarian like me….

    what a list, right?!?

    And I found that man. 🙂 I am happy to report 🙂

    But for me, I do not want children (being the oldest of 8 I feel like I already raised kids and am burned out for life). I just dont want to raise someone else’s either.

    If we look at statistics about child abuse, the majority of the abusers are step parents. If we look at animals in nature the step “father” is always trying to kill off the genetic offspring of another male. Its sad but true.

    I do not know the answers but I am just saying that I can see why a man does not want a divorced woman with kids… I dont. It doesnt always mean its about “used goods”. We assume a mysogenistic intent where there may be none as well.

    Lastly, here is a wonderful blog put together by the US number one free dating site, OK Cupid, they did some analytics based on profile searches, result? men look for younger women and women look for well heeled men… it would seem nothing really HAS changed just in teh west we hide it under a tidy pretense of political correctness:

    specificall t his blog has a chart which shows how many men actually get responses by age and income:

    it also has responses by gender and age….

    this tells us a lot… and what it tells me is that we are damn shallow!

    Another one I thought was interesting was data on respondants by gender, race and religion:

    ok back to work 🙂

  8. Just a quick comment. You know that I have talked about my moroccan friend and her husband. When he was looking for a wife he was only looking for a widow or a divorcee!

  9. I know some people in South Asia who lost their first wives, and then decided only to marry a widow or a divorcee because no one else will marry them. I also know one man who fell in love with a divorcee and married her. These cases are rare though.

  10. An honorable man is one who loves a woman, treats her with respect and kindness, appreciates her and values her as his equal and doesn’t let momma interfere in his family life!

  11. @Jenna: Why is that statement strange to you? Say your man lost his job and made no effort whatsoever to get a new one and contribute financially? Would you stay with him and feed him through? Meanwhile, it is not strange for a man to stay with his wife even if she decided never to work again. Just saying that happiness doesn’t come on a silver plate. Of course that’s gender biased, but we are speaking from a point of gender inequality in a typical Saudi marriage, no? And from my point of view, not just in a Saudi marriage but in any marriage. Your statistics show that, in general, man and woman look for different things. So gender equality really just means that we should be able to do the same things, but not that it is necessarily wise to do so.

  12. “Zue, what the heck does this statement mean? “I see them eating and gaining weight like there is no tomorrow”

    I dont see how eating or weight is relevant in the slightest… just saying that is a strange side note that seems either irrelevent, speaks to your biases or assumes a whole tome on assumptions about body image, gender equality and bioy the list can go on….”

    We all owe it to ourselves and our partners to try and look our best and not fall apart after marriage. Doesn’t mean love goes out the window with fat but staying attractive to your mate is important and visa versa.

    In countries where men and women are segregated it is no wonder that divorcees with our without children are left behind. Men don’t have a chance to get to know them, to like or love them even. I guess that’s why it’s not an issue in ‘the west’.

  13. In my grandmothers generation (not that long ago) Women divorced and married many times. I have a great Aunt who married 8 times. It was not an issue amongst the bedouins at all! and marrying a second wife To take care of her children was the honorable thing to do. So it has not always been the case that divorced or widowed women were shunned. At least not among the bedouins.

    And Zue, seriously? So your saying not all Arab women are maliciously divorced but they all are the cause of their own divorce because they are fat and ” proven that she is unable to keep a marriage together through tough times”. People, common sense and less racism please if you want to try and be a good muslim. I swear, Arab women are going to heaven just because all the worlds problems are blamed on them. If a marriage fails then it’s her fault, if a man cheats then it’s her fault and the woman he has cheated with stole him. No where in the scenario is the man to blame you might notice. I thought we didn’t believe in the original sin? And that women were the rout of all evil?

  14. @zue… your statement sounded strange because what about all the men going out to eat countless kabobs and never lift a finger around the house and gets fat and nasty? It just sounded like a shallow and sexist comment to me. that gaining weight is for you a primary thing a woman really does to create misfortune in her husband…shallow and sad.

    @wendy gaining weight doesnt necessarily mean stopping looking attractive for your partner. I am tired of woomens bodies (and primarily the nonstop diets, the eating disorders, the sad way most women hate their bodies because it is never small enough never enough and in facts becomes a symbol for so much more..) being the constant battleground for anything wrong in society. It is the automatic assumptions and biases I have at issue here.

    @mamabee you are amazing I love how you think girl! 🙂 It is true in Beduoin and in fact many non-Arab hunter gather societies where children are raised by clans and villages rather than family units dovorce is common and pretty much unstigmatized. I particaularly love your about Arab women and you are right…from the size of my dress to the hijab on your head… our looks seems to be everyone else’s business but our own!

  15. @Jenna TELL ME ABOUT IT! I have been trying to write a post about why Arab women are the root of all evil but unfortunately it keeps spiraling out of control to where I sound a little crazy and then maybe it will work against me and have people thinking “Maybe Arab women should be kept in the shadows, she seems a little scary to me” lol.

  16. Jenna,
    Of course one can gain weight and still be attractive and I also don’t like the obsessive focus on weight. Having said that I have seen women and men who let themselves go after marriage instead of trying to be healthy and attractive. Life doesn’t end with marriage and marriage is constant work.

  17. @mamabee sounds like a great new blog post to me! I find among my students, I work as an international student advisor, that Saudi women continue to impress me with their sheer intelligence, their wit, their sparkly eyes and great senses of humor… with my Saudi student women I find there is a sense of aliveness and siezing every opportunity and strength that just makes me so proud of them. It is too bad the majority of Americans do not see this side of Saudi women and only hear the misinformation. My experience continues to be an inspiring surprise.

  18. Yep, it’s all the women’s fault if they get divorced, or fat.
    I always hear KSA is a great place for women to do outdoor sports, hike, and cycle.
    Of course a woman could always sport indoors by going to one of the many, many women’s gyms…

    Nothing is stopping a Saudi woman from taking her car and drive it to the nearest gym or hiking circuit and have a good, healthy workout. Or maybe she could even go on her bicycle, or run in a jogging outfit…

  19. *grins at Aafke* Hehehe, I love the sarcasm. Hypocrites. I’m willing to bet those same men who have have high standards for the women they marry (virginity etc) also have low standards when it comes to themselves or their fellow men.

  20. Remind me someday to tell you about the lovely prostitution business prevalent in Thailand where fat, ugly, couldn’t get a women he didn’t have to pay for MEN show up in Thailand and buy beautiful hard on their luck Thai women while also looking down on them. Oh and their own countries women. I.e. The women of XX have lost the art of being a women (no longer subservient to the man) and are fat slobs. Of course while being fat slobs who are poor examples of humanity themselves.

  21. Many mothers simply refuse to remarry just to raise their children and focus on their well being. They choose this however many propose to them.
    Honor i think is about being true to ones beliefs and ones word. It relates to the inner structure of the person and this ofcourse would reflect on all of his actions depending on which culture he is brought up in. An honorable man would not divorce the mother of his children just because they feel ‘fallen out of love’. Honor is also about commitment.

  22. one of my sisters looks better over weight…her husband loves [american] her that way…he even over feeds the dog…try not to take that the wrong way…lol. gia in jed

  23. Lots of men like overweight women. My point was an still is … marriage doesn’t mean you can forget about your appearance. If your spouse (and that means husband or wife) is happy with a weighty person then go for it. If not, then try and maintain. Marriage doesn’t mean that you forget about how you look/act or whatever and that applies to whatever country you happen to reside in.

  24. @wendy

    very true.

  25. So true Wendy. I’d say behavior and personality change is more prevalent than weight/looks (althout many are guilty of both)

  26. Author unknown Over the last years I ve spent an awful lot of time learning about thinking about talking about and writing about Saudi Arabia the condition of Saudi Arab women and about especially Islam as part of my commitment to this blog. The other day I by a well-known womens rights advocate in this part of the world. Afkami suggested that the women of Saudi Arabia lack a that the status quo although including segregation and gender apartheid and all the other oppressions of the uber-patriarchal Kingdom wasnt seen as all that bad for some women.

  27. Let this be known, that every man has his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband, and let them be faithful.
    A man shouldn’t marry a woman out of pity, or because of his lusts, but should it be that she has found favor in his eyes, and the love in his heart beats strong, and the woman happens to be a widow, with children, let him decide if his love for this woman will be great enough to marry this woman or not. Should it not be, then he should not touch her, and not ask her into marriage, because he will damage not only the woman, but also the children’s lives, by becoming their father, only to leave them later in life.
    No, let he think long, and talk about it to wise counsel, whether or not it is appropriate for them to get married, and for him to treat her children as his own.
    Should a man come to such a decision and take her as a wife, also taking her children as his own, he should not waver nor turn back.

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