Arab men want children with those wives, not only to continue the family line, but for the sheer joy of parenthood.
When reproductive problems arise, as they often do, men seek infertility testing, and also support their wives through expensive forms of treatment, even in the face of less understanding cultural and government roadblocks. This well-to-do Syrian farmer, who I interviewed in 2003, risked potential community ostracism by refusing to divorce his infertile wife, Huda, after 17 years of childless marriage.
By the time Eyad was able to return to Lebanon in the new millennium, he and Lubna were already in their 40s.
But when two people unite in marriage, they become more understanding of each other and love develops.” This is a quote from Fuad, one of more than 330 men from 14 Arab countries I have interviewed over the course of 15 years, creating one of the largest data sets of in-depth life histories of Arab men ever assembled.
Their personal stories paint a very different picture than the one we see on Most of the Arab men I spent time with seek love within marriage, viewing their wives as companions in sickness and in health.
Despite the recognition of women’s aptitudes during the Abbasid dynasty, all these were reversed in 1258 when Baghdad was attacked by the Mongols.
After that, the city of Baghdad was “given over to an orgy of massacre, plunder and devastation […]”. They enforced the segregation of the sexes, the education of girls was limited and any importance attached to women was generally attributable to the positions held by their husbands”.