Selling religion for money

Raja Petra Kamarudin

One of the religious leaders (mufti) of a certain state in Malaysia has condemned men who allow their wives to become the breadwinner of the family while they, the husbands, stay home as househusbands. According to him, the accepted order of nature is that the wives should stay home as housewives while the men should go out to earn the money to support their families.

If a man allows his wife to become the breadwinner of the family while he stays home to look after the children and do the housework then the marriage is not blessed, argued this religious leader, the head honcho of religion in that state. Considering this decree (fatwah) comes from the top religious man in the state who also doubles as the adviser to the Sultan, the head of religion of any state in Malaysia, this is certainly most serious indeed.

In short, that spouses’ marriage would not be blessed by God and expect that marriage to suffer. Anything that God does not bless would certainly be headed for doom and only no good would come out of it.

In a survey done a short while ago, which was featured in Malaysia Today, it was found that many professional women do not want to get married because of the problem of finding husbands at par with them. How accurate this survey may be is not known because the methodology was not explained and we do not know how representative the respondents were of the broad cross-section of Malaysian society, or whether the respondents were from a close-knit group.

If a woman is highly qualified and is earning a sizeable salary, then she would have to seek a husband even higher qualified and in an income bracket above her. But how many men in this category are available and eligible for marriage? Those of this station in life would most likely already be married with children as well. The only unattached men available for marriage would be those younger than the woman. But then they would be juniors and in the lower rung of their careers. It would be very difficult to find one of the bosses who is still unmarried unless of course he is divorced, which means then he would be ‘second-hand’. Most men would feel intimidated of marrying above their station anyway and very few would want a wife who is more qualified than him and is the main breadwinner of the family — while he brings in pittance that hardly supports him, let alone his entire family.

Career women would not want to marry too early in life, especially if their career comes first and they would like to focus on their career and not get bogged down by a family just yet. But once they are finished building up their career and are ready to settle down, they would have gained some years and most of those within their age group would already be married. They would then have to lower the age group to find available bachelors, but in terms of career they would all be her juniors and earning a fraction of what she is.

The option therefore would be to become somebody’s second wife, look for a divorcee or widower, marry a younger man who is beneath her station, or stay single and never get married. Not much of a choice is it?

We must remember that if the woman is a professional while her husband has no qualifications, it would be better for the woman to work while the man stays home rather than vice versa. What he earns is probably just double the cost of the maid they need to employ if both go out to work. Then there is the cost for him to go to work, which takes away the balance of his salary. In short, after paying the cost of the maid and his cost to go to work, there is no real take home pay to speak about. He spends what he earns just to earn it, with no spare. It is better he just stays home and let the wife earn the salary. At least one parent is looking after the kids and sending them to school instead of transferring this task to the maid and school bus. And one never really knows how well the maid is going to raise those kids anyway.

Saudi Arabia has an almost similar problem, but with a twist. In Saudi Arabia, the cost of a bride could run into millions so many Saudi men can’t afford to marry Saudi women. I found it most puzzling that most Saudi men have dark complexions while their wives are fair-skinned until it was explained to me that the women are not Saudis but Egyptians. Saudi men cannot afford the prohibitive cost of Saudi wives so they marry Egyptian women instead, who are much cheaper.

This of course creates a social problem as the Saudi women remain unmarried and by the time they reach 30 they are ‘over the hill’ and too old to find a husband. Which Saudi man would want to pay millions for a 30-year old woman when he can get an 18-year old fair-skinned Egyptian woman for next to nothing? So these 30-year old Saudi women have to settle for a spinster’s life. But then they have needs too, and the only way they are going to satisfy these needs is to have sex in the back seat of a stretched limousine with a man they pick up at one of the shopping centres.

The Saudi government tried arresting this problem by offering young Saudi men interest-free government loans to those who need a couple of million to finance their marriage. That was the only way Saudi men could afford a Saudi wife. If not then they would opt for Egyptian wives and the Saudi women would have to remain unmarried and seek sex in the back seat of a darkened-screen stretch-limousine.

Our Malaysian muftis should be a bit careful about coming out with decrees. If Malaysian men take them seriously and refuse to marry women (or divorce their wives) who are above their station in life, then professional and high-salaried Malaysian women would remain spinsters (or become divorcees) and have no chance of getting a husband. Men of their station or above them are hard to come by, as most would already be taken. And the available ones are all beneath their station.

Anyway, whether the men stay home and become househusbands while the wife takes over the role of breadwinner is not really that big an issue. If our religious leaders are really concerned about the state of affairs in this country there are bigger and more important issues they can address. I have yet to hear any mufti pass a decree that the Malaysian government is un-Islamic in many things that it does. For example, how many muftis have spoken out against the Internal Security Act (ISA)?

Islam is very clear about this. No one can be punished for a crime he or she has not committed yet. The ISA is a preventive law. It is used to detain people before they commit a crime. Not even God punishes you for intent until and unless the deed is actually carried out. In Islam, deed must go with intent. Deed without intent is not valid, as is intent without deed.

If you accidentally hit someone with your car and kill him or her, but there was no intent to do so, then it was purely a traffic accident. If you intentionally hit someone with your car and end up killing him or her, then it is murder. If you intended to hit someone with your car out of anger or whatever, but never actually did it in the end, then no crime has been committed. Under the rules of the ISA you can be detained just for fantasizing. Well, if you take all my fantasies as crimes, I would be under detention for the rest of my life — and, boy, what fantasies I do have (can’t share them with you though as I am sure some of Malaysia Today’s readers are below the age of 18).

If the muftis are really concerned about Islam then they should take the government to task on the many un-Islamic things that it is perpetuating. There are many, but the one example of the ISA mentioned above is enough. That alone can be an issue they take up. The ISA is un-Islamic and we are supposed to have as our head of government an ulamak (religious scholar), Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, while Malaysia is supposed to be an Islamic country. Well, I have news for you: Malaysia is as Islamic as I am a virgin.

The trouble with muftis is that they are salaried by the government. They preach religion for money. That is their real ‘guiding light’, money, not religion. Islam says that anyone who ‘sells’ their religion for money is not to be believed or followed. Until and unless the muftis resign and preach religion for the love of God instead of for the love of money we can just cast aside whatever they say.

Two years ago, the mufti of the Federal Territory called me jahil (ignorant). But he is the one working for the government, not me. He may be more learned than me, that I do not deny, but he has sold Islam for money. If he is really for Islam, then he would speak out against the transgressions and excesses of the government even at the risk of losing his job. But he will not. He wants to protect his job and the salary that comes with it. He is not fighting for Islam. He is fighting to protect his job and the salary and comforts that come with it. To these types of so-called religious people I have only one thing to say to them: bullshit!

I challenge any one of these muftis to resign from their posts and declare they are doing so because the government is un-Islamic. The day they do that will be the day I seek them out to learn from them. And, until that day comes, I look upon these muftis as charlatans and snake oil merchants. And I will answer to God and not men for saying this.