Gaining, maintaining or losing resources : Muslim divorced women’s experiences of Iddah

Date: February 14, 2014
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This study, conducted in 2007-2011, endeavoured to understand how resources influenced nine Muslim divorced women’s experiences of a relatively under-researched divorce-related ritual called Iddah. Prior to Islam’s inception, marriage and divorce were areas where women experienced oppression. Islam sought to change this by awarding women resources such as status and maintenance. Iddah was a form of social legislation that required men to treat their wives with dignity while maintaining them financially. However, what is said in the primary sources of Islam is not always practised. The context has thus changed from the time Islam originated. As a result there are various factors that have evolved to influence the religion, sometimes to the detriment of women within marriage and divorce, resulting in some of them finding it difficult to access resources. Using Marxist Feminism as a theoretical yardstick, it was noticed that certain contextual factors related to patriarchy and capitalism have come to influence the religion. The various themes developed, using qualitative research methods, created a platform to enquire which factors played a role in shaping women’s experiences of Iddah. While married, some respondents were physically abused and they had to endure the pain of their husbands being involved in illicit relationships. Hence they got divorced and performed Iddah. During this time some women were denied maintenance from their husbands due to spite. Certain participants alluded to receiving economic and emotional support from different types of support networks such as family members, friends and religious organisations. Some indicated that they were not happy with the support they received, citing stigmatisation and the fact that relevant support networks adopted an individualistic attitude towards some of them. It was concluded that some Muslims in the Gauteng region (the research site) have become influenced by patriarchal and capitalist practices which shape the number of resources available to women during Iddah. While Iddah was the central point of research, other factors that contradict Islamic law came to light. Hence a point for future research. Worthy support networks that assisted these women within a challenging society, should be acknowledged by government.

Publisher: University of Johannesburg
Year of Publication: 2012

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