Immigration:Families Left Behind

22 06 2007

familymosque.jpgMany Immigrants in America have left their wives and children in their home countries. .This is not only prevalent with Muslims but with Non Muslim immigrants as well. I have watched several documentaries depicting Latino and Asian immigrants and their families. In eight out of ten cases the men had left their wives and/or children back in their native country. This is so common in countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and latin America that they have songs about it.

This has far reaching consequences. Not only are the family dynamics torn apart and women are often left as basically single mothers, but it also opens the door to infidelity.  I have come into contact with several women living in this situation and witnessed their husbands here in America. Some of these women haven’t seen their husbands in up to five years!

The wives who are left behind are often equal to single mothers recieving child support. The man will, insh’Allah, send the family money and gifts from time to time. Other than that though, the woman is left to raise the children herself. She will be the one who attends the school functions, who helps with the homework, who teaches the children moral (Islamic) values. The children grow up asking “when is daddy coming home?”. The mother is only able to respond “Insh’Allah(If Allah wills), soon.” I know of one particular woman whose daughter was playing with one of her friends. She asked her friend if she had a father and her friend replied in the affirmative. Then, the little girl said, I don’t have a daddy. Every year this little girl asks her mom if her father will be back in time for Eid (Islamic holiday).  The mom is only able to respond, “insh’Allah(If Allah Wills) .”

No doubt these men miss their families back home. Though, to fill the void many of them take on second wives and start new families. Now, don’t think this is only the case with Muslims. No way! The non Muslim immigrants do this as well. In fact, the non Muslim immigrants may take several girlfriends or turn to prostitutes. Thus opening the door to veneral diseases that they will pass around.  No doubt in Islam taking a second wife is acceptable but how is the man going to be fair to both families when he is not even in the same country as one wife?  The Prophet (Saw) warned men of not being fair to co-wives in regard to spending time etc.:

“You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline too much to one of them (by giving her more of your time and provision) so as to leave the other hanging (i.e., neither divorced nor married). And if you do justice, and do all that is right and fear Allaah by keeping away from all that is wrong, then Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:129]

the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah: “Whoever has two wives and gives one of them preferential treatment, he will come on the Day of Resurrection with half of his body leaning.” (Narrated by Abu Dawud, 2/601; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6491).

Then, what about the wife back home? No doubt she is feeling lonely and over-burdened. No doubt she wants a partner to share with her. No doubt there are men in her country who try to lure her into relationships with them. No doubt she’s tempted.  This is why in Islam everyone has rights. One of the most well known rights of the wife is the right of the husband’s time and intimacy and vice versa.

The Prophet  (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The conditions which are most deserving of being fulfilled are those by which it becomes permissible for you to engage in intimacy” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2721; Muslim, 1418)

“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.” Taken from: The last sermon of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW)

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “The most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.”

Before, you get ill tempered with me and say I’m narrow-minded hear this: I’m not saying this is the case with ALL men.  I realize that in some countries the economy is so horrific that the only way to make money is to go abroad. I also realize that often it is impossible to get visas for the entire family. I know that these men probably have good intentions and their only objective is to make a better life for themselves and their family.  However, I have found that the men stay in the expat country far longer than necessary.  I have known brothers who own their own(established) business here in America as well as in their own country (which the wife runs). Still, this isn’t enough to return to their home country or try to bring their wives and children to join them? Why? Providing there are no immigration issues….their reluctance is due to either: A.) Greed.  Once they get here and see the dollar signs they become consumed with how much can I make? OR B.)They worry that if they bring their family here they won’t be able to support the whole family. Then, maybe they wonder, if I return home have I prepared enough? They worry that no matter how much assets they have it may not be enough to secure the family’s future. I’m sure this is the case with illegal  immigrants even more so than legal ones

I have also witnessed homecomings. They are often so joyous that one can not help but to shed tears upon seeing it.  I have noticed those men who left their children as babies and return when they are at least of pre-school age have a hard time bonding with their kids. Since the child doesn’t remember his/her father they are usually shy and awkward at first. However, usually within a matter of weeks the child is over joyed and showing off their daddy around town. Mash’Allah it is truly beautiful to see families reunite!

Family is so important in Islam that the punishment for breaking ties of kinship is severe: the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No one who severs the ties of kinship will enter Paradise.” Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh and the most loved thing by Shaytan is to split up a husband and wife. One of Iblees workers comes and tells him, “I did not leave [myvictim] until I brought about separation between him andhis wife.” Iblees draws him near, and says to him, “Yes! You (are the best!)” (Related by Muslim.)
This is a touchy topic for me.  I realize it is necessary and incumbant on the man to provide for his family and sometimes he must travel overseas to do so. Though, I can’t help but feel heartbreak for the women and children left behind.