The Arab Wife’s Salary

Well this is disturbing…

In an alarming trend, middle aged working women in the Kingdom are being stripped of their salaries and wages by unemployed husbands, reported Al-Nadwa newspaper.

With many Saudis struggling to finds jobs, unemployed men are resorting to unethical methods of marrying hardworking women with good salaries. It seems women are being left with only two choices: Either to live as single women with their salaries and dignity intact or marry men who exploit and abuse the very foundation of love and care on which marriages are based.

…Another woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, tragically spent over 15 years with an unemployed abusive husband with whom she had five children. She said: â??I tolerated him for over 15 years even though he was unemployed. I used to look after the house while he would take money from me. If I refused to give him anything he would beat me.â?

The woman used to give the man her entire salary and even bought some land, which she registered under his name under the impression that he wanted to build a new house for the family. The woman says her husband then built a house using her money.

â??One month after it was built, I received some divorce papers with a court letter evicting me from the house. This monster had married another woman and was bringing her to the very house that I had built. He has no heart and is kicking my children and I out onto the streets.â? [Arab News]

(the title for the article is rather funny and I’m pretty sure a man came up with it)

Note that this is in Saudi Arabia but it happens all over the Arab world and Jordan is not a stranger to it. There is in fact a growing trend for “men” to marry women who will support them, or even worse, they marry rich. Although I find one thing strange about this, isn’t this on some level just a new way of equating the sexes? The traditional roles of man being the breadwinner and the woman being the home maker are changing. There is an on going battle for equality, which defies all the traditional social norms.

As liberal as we get, we still have these pre-determined social roles. In the article an Islamic scholar points out that the earnings of a woman according to Islam are her own. In other words in Islam a man is supposed to be the primary breadwinner so even if his wife makes 60,000 JDs a year and decides she doesn’t want to contribute a single JD to the household, the man is still held accountable (by religious standards) for maintaining the house. This of course doesn’t happen; instead we have situations like what was illustrated in the article, where a lazy husband steals his wife’s money.

But putting religion aside, when the woman works and her husband doesn’t and she asks him to get a job and he refuses, is this the same as the other way around? Is it the same as a situation where the husband works and asks his wife to get a job and she refuses? In the current social norms this latter situation is almost unheard of, it’s just not done. Everyone expects the husband to be the sole provider and if the wife has a job, well then good for her, she can decide whether she wants to contribute to the household or not. And given the current economic climate in most (middle class) marriages this is what happens. But switch those roles around; do you get the same results? What about a man marrying rich?


  • For god’s sake! I’m so sick and tired of everyone blaming Men for what’s going with women.
    Some guy takes his wife’s salary and it makes the news. While EVERY WOMEN is expected to take or share her husband’s money and that’s normal
    You know, I say you can have one or the Other… here are the two alternatives
    1) Women live the traditional way, be subject to all that comes with that.
    2) Women live the modern way and be expected to share, be full partners and have EQUAL rights, and by that, I mean as much right as the man would get

    Conveniently taking parts of the traditions (Male providing for them, while they’re not expected to do anything in return) and parts of the modern (all the rights, keeping their salaries ..etc). And Then go on bitching about how men are mistreating them this combination is extremely unjust to men. In many ways and I find it unacceptable

    I strongly believe that the middle eastern countries are living a state of confusion, women looking to the west for liberation and rights, yet extremely holding to the traditional advantages. Because lets face it, they do have a lot of advantages in the east, mostly under-appreciated by the west, since most know nothing about them

    Anyway, calling husbands lazy might be a good description, but I doubt it’s accurate. Because if we apply western ideology to the whole middle east, we end up with a lot more lazy wives

  • Ù?Ù?Ù?در, Well this is in part what I was getting at. is there a double standard emerging?

    and let’s face it, a man staying at home and refusing to work while having his wife be both the breadwinner and home maker, the guy is just lazy…be it under the definition of a western or eastern, modern or traditional, paradigm.

  • I tend to agree with Nas. Both partners should be working. Every relationship should be equal to both parties, it would be unfair to both the wife and the husband if one of them didn’t have a job.

    The funny thing here, is that I consider having a job as a great thing. (I’M STRUGGLING HERE TO GET A DECENT JOB). I don’t know perhaps that’ll change as I grow older. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that we still have that mentality, oh I’d love to marry a rich person so that he/she will get to work and spend on me, while I’ll just sit at home. Isn’t that boring?! To just sit at home and do absolutely nothing?

  • Pheras, I assume it’s boring however men tend to take some pride in the fact that they work and are their home’s breadwinner…as we all tend to base our social roles, specifically with regards to family, according to our social role models: parents. If I went out to the streets of Amman and asked 10 guys what they thought about not working they would say (for the most part) no way, they would never allow a woman to work while they stayed at home. It would make them feel unmanly.

  • As long as both share the rights and obligations it’s fine by me. If one wants to stay home and raise the kids while the other goes out and do what it takes to earn their living, then by all means. If both want to work and contribute then also by all means

    But a guy sitting at home while a woman works AND takes care of the house, is too much. What is he a Lion or something? I have a very good description for that, a Pimp! Now she might not be prostituting, but he’s eating from the money she earned with the sweat on her brow (I love that Arabic proverb). Since this is the case then he’s pretty much a pimp. Good for nothing, sit at home, doing nothing.

    I’m not saying all men who don’t have jobs or between jobs are like that. and I’m kidding about the description. I’m just saying for a males, growing up in Saudi to be like that, is pretty unnatural

  • The difference between a man not working and a woman “not working” is that the woman who doesn’t work outside the house is still doing a full-time (more that that: a 24h)-job. Only that nobody pays her for it, whereas a man not working will in most cases just sit and watch TV or read. He wouldn’t help with the children or with the housework, I’ve even seen some who call their wifes to bring them a glass of water!

  • Yes Yasmin, that is true, But not all men are like that, allow me to disagree with you on that. Some men take care of the kids, cook, do the dishes, basically do everything. And for those I bow

    There’s a growing class in the society these days of men who work really hard. then they go home and they’re expected to work even more. Or the wife will be “bored” “zah2aneh” “Mish tay2ah” …

    I see it everyday with my colleagues, they work their A$$es off and then go home and their expected to be clowns for her amusement

    I don’t want to generalize, not all have a bad deal 🙂

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