Men are from Mecca, women from Medina

Talaaq, children and polygamy — a new workshop plans to bridge the gap between the sexes in modern Muslim relationships

The title — Men are from Makkah, Women are from Medina — should give you a big hint about a new workshop that approaches the battle of the sexes, the Muslim way. “Makkah and Medina are two very different lands,” explains Dawood Vaid, former patent attorney and the founder of Nerul-based NGO Burooj Angels.

“In the Koran, Makkah is a barren land and known for its tough terrain. Medina, on the other hand, is greener, for it rains often [there],” he continues. With this metaphor for describing how men and women can at times end up seeming like different species, Vaid, for the first time, will host a workshop for couples.

'The Koran advises this hierarchy – God, spouse and children – and it is useful to maintain it', says Dawood Vaid, founder of Nerul-based NGO Burooj Angels
'The Koran advises this hierarchy – God, spouse and children – and it is useful to maintain it', says Dawood Vaid, founder of Nerul-based NGO Burooj Angels

The day-long session this Sunday at Country Club, Andheri West, draws from well-known self-help books on relationship psychology, such as John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and Allan and Barbara Pease’s Why Men Don’t Listen, and Women Can’t Read Maps. Vaid, hoping not to slot the genders in stereotyped definitions, will lend these ideas “a contemporary Muslim touch” by borrowing anecdotes from the Koran and classical Arabic text Ring of the Dove and Ibn-Jawzee’s Garden of the Lovers. For instance, a chapter in the Koran narrates how the Prophet Muhammed explains the virtues of husbands to his wife Aisha. Or, what happens when children become the sole focus of a partner? “Kids are a joy, but you cannot overlook the needs of a spouse. The Koran advises this hierarchy — God, spouse and children — and it is useful to maintain it,” says Vaid, adding that couples need to get out of their pajamas and dress better, while at home.

The workshop has already seen full registrations, with 70 participants in the 25-35 age bracket, and about 80 per cent of them women. Many of them, Vaid expects, are from conservative families. Burooj Angels conducts faith-based weekend classes for children across 42 cities in the country, and Vaid has also been holding parenting workshops. The need to hold a relationship workshop arose after he met children coming from turbulent households.

While modern relationship aspects (such as “an office-husband”) will be discussed, the workshop will essentially deal with some of the specifics that Muslim couples are bound to encounter, such as talaaq and polygamy. The aim is to bridge the gap between what is often seen as conservatism and the needs of modern relationships. “I advise husbands not to treat polygamy as sarcasm or as a joke. Polygamy is a cultural issue. In the Gulf, it is pretty common, but in India, that is not the case,” says Vaid, who had spent five years working in Dubai and Moscow.

And what about the talaaq? “I have seen how Muslim women live with a sword hanging over their heads. Divorces are common now; it is not divorce itself that is scary, but the idea of divorce. We can’t change these laws, but we can surely look for ways to deal with them. Husbands need to control their tongues and temper, and make sure they don’t say something that they will regret for the rest of their lives,” he continues.

And does he expect the young men and women to open up about intimacy? “Maybe not in person, but I am expecting a lot of phone calls after the workshop.”

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