Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Homemakers Head Back to College

Muslim women in India are returning to studies after marriage to pick up threads of unfinished education

By M. H. Lakdawala, reprinted from Islamic Voice, November 2000 Issue


MARRIAGES of Muslim girls often signal the end of studies. But latest trends in Mumbai, India, point to Muslim housewives returning to academic portals to complete their education ruptured by marriage. So increasingly, Muslim women are seen in dual role of student as well as housewife. But times are rapidly changing.

Partly, the trend stems from uneducated mothers finding it difficult to cope with the demand for academic guidance by the children. An educated mother can attend to the career requirements of her children. So studying after marriage is becoming imperative.

In urban areas like Mumbai more and more married Muslim women are re-enrolling themselves to complete their studies. Men too are encouraging and the whole construct of the family is being redefined. But how does one cope with both marriage and studies.

Having setup homes and raised families, going back to studies means inviting a stressful life. But cooperative husbands can make a difference.

Farida Memon, married for eight years is doing her MA in English. She says, “I find it very tough to manage family and studies. But my husband, a businessman, encourages and supports me. We have realised that at least one of us should concentrate on our two sons’ studies, so that they are able to achieve high grades and get admission in the professional courses,” “My husband suggested me to complete my post graduation as it would help me to guide our sons”, she said.

Zarina Shaikh was 21 years old and a commerce graduate when she got married. She has now enrolled for MBA after marriage. The marriage had put a stop to her studies. She recalls, “First marriage, then pregnancy and later upbringing of my son didn’t allow me to continue studies. When I suggested my husband about completing my MBA, he agreed but my mother-in-law refused. With great difficulty I convinced her about the importance of completing education. I used to leave my Andheri residence at 8.15 am and come home by 6 pm. After that, I would cook food, get stuff ready for the next day and collapse on the bed at mid night again to get up by 6 am and begin the rigmarole the next day,” she said. Excellent moral support from her husband, especially after the baby was born, made these years easier.

Unaiza Khan, married at 18, returned to studies in political science after 10 years. It was not easy, but she had planned it such a way that her children would not suffer. She is very happy that her commitments have made her children responsible. “Every day when I return, I find them with their books and I help them with their home work and studies, “ she said.

Khatija Rehman returned to studies (LLB) after six years and the only pressure she faced was to take out time for her studies. There have been times when she has to do studies on the day of the exam. Other stressful times were when her children were not well. Yet she feels that women should not rule out studies after marriage.

Male ego and mother-in-law’s ignorance about the ground realities are described as major hurdles women face while pursuing studies after marriage.

“My husband’s ego was hurt when I began talking about completing my BUMS (Bachelor in Unani Medicine and Surgury),” said Zahida Merchant. “It took me two years to convince my husband to allow me to complete my BUMS course. When I assured him that in the process children and home would not be neglected, he relented” she said.

Shamsiya Qumail’s mother-in-law was adamant. She refused to allow her to complete her Ph.D in organic chemistry. “It’s an excuse for your excursions, you should be ashamed of studying at this age. Don’t try to become modern,” her mother-in-law taunted her. Since her husband cooperated and understood her, she has submitted her thesis.

How does one counter stress in a situation like this? Dr. Manisha Sen, Professor and Head of the Department of Applied Psychology, University of Mumbai says, “Accept the fact that you cannot please everybody and that you might not be good at everything you do. A lot of stress also arises from how we interpret what others say. A positive attitude can do wonders. Also, the conventional definitions of the roles of parents can be very demanding.”

The trend no doubt is very healthy and encouraging, but in the tradition-steeped families where husbands are busy earning, women are supposed to take care of the children’s academic needs. For that if sacrifice is needed, it is taken for granted it is women who had to put in extra hours or get additional qualification. The least men can do is to provide moral support and encouragement to her.

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