Many Muslim marriages consist of an Arab or Pakistani man and a Western-born woman. Even if both parties are Muslim, they still bring completely different backgrounds to the table, and that can create a culture clash. One thing Western Muslims learn quickly is that culture and religion are often very tightly entwined for born Muslims.
One area that frequently exposes this culture clash is household chores. Although the Prophet (PBUH) was very actively involved in cleaning, cooking, and other domestic pursuits, many of today’s Muslim husbands neglect this Sunnah (example of the Prophet).
My husband is helpful around the house, but he doesn’t understand when I become overwhelmed. Early in our marriage he made the mistake of mildly criticizing the state of the house. When I explained that I was trying to raise three small kids under the age of four, cook dinner, do laundry, clean house, and still be fresh when he came home at night, his answer was extremely insensitive and unwelcome. He said, “Well, my mom had six kids and she always kept a spotless house.” Oh, boy!
While on the surface, this just looks like an ordinary case of a disgruntled husband, it was actually a culture clash. In Egypt, where my husband was born and raised, most wives are only wives and mothers. While that is noble, it is not like a modern American “housewife.” Today’s domestic goddesses are also chauffeurs, teachers, event coordinators, and, quite often, entrepreneurs. Many Egyptian women do not drive and rarely leave the home without their husbands. And home businesses are all but unheard of. No, the Egyptian wife is free to concentrate solely on the state of her home.
[h]Role of the Extended Family[/h]
Additionally– and this is the kicker– my mother-in-law had tons of help. To this day, Egypt and other Muslim countries prize the extended family. It is not at all uncommon for several generations to live in the same apartment building. Many even live in the same home. Families and friends often live in the same place their entire life, sharing space until death. In that type of situation, women share many of their responsibilities. If one is sick, pregnant, or has just given birth, the others step in and take over some of the burden. Children flow easily from home to home, giving each mother a break in time. And, to top it off, many of these women have nannies to help them when the children are young. All of this allows the Muslim men to go to work each day and return home to a clean home, warm meal, and relatively relaxed wife. It all appears effortless, leaving the children to grow up believing this is the way it should be.
[h]Dealing with the Problem[/h]
Now, we American wives are left to deal with the fallout! I’ve found that it helps to politely point out the differences between life in the Muslim world and life in America. While life in America obviously has many material and social advantages, we are lacking in community involvement and help among women. Once my husband woke up to that fact, he became much more understanding about the constant clutter.
It also helps to share books about the life of the Prophet (PBUH). All books describe him as the ultimate husband. As Muslims, our husbands should strive for that.
Ideally, this conversation will be enough to convince the husband to embrace more realistic expectations and to appreciate all that his wife is… and all that she does.