The Muslim Handmaid’s Tale


When I was nine years old, my mother gave me an abaya and a niqab and said they were my token of honor. She said every honorable woman wears them, to let the world know she is protected by Allah. I wore them with pride.

My brothers went to school. My parents kept my sister and me at home, using the permission to home school that many muslims use in my state. My parents told me it was a privilege to be able to stay home and learn only what’s important, my sister and I were hidden pearls, too valuable to be allowed to go to school. I thought it was wonderful to be so precious.

When my brothers came home from school, my sister and I always had to prepare food for them, serve at table, and afterwards we did the dishes and the laundry and brought our brothers tea and cookies. I asked my mother, since my sister and I were more precious than our brothers, how come we had to wait on them and not the other way around. My mother told me that it was another kind of precious. My sister and I were precious as gems for our future husbands and mothers of our future children and being obedient and modest was our value, while our brothers were precious because they were men, leaders and our protectors. My mother told me never to want anything other than what a woman should want, to be pleasing to my husband anda modest and good mother.

When I was 16, my father and mother told me I was to be married. I should be proud because my husband was a scholar, a respected man in the community. He gave me a heavy gold necklace. I felt proud. And I hoped that this would mean new experiences, a new world opening to me. We were married. The women celebrated up stairs, the men downstairs. In the evening, I was taken to my husband’s house. We spent two hours praying. Then, without speaking a word to me, he made me his wife.

My husband is a very religious man. We have no radio, no TV. I’m not allowed to listen to music. We only have religious books, and my husband keeps them in his den, and sometimes gives one to me and tells me what to read. I’m not allowed to leave the house without him or my mother in law. We have talked about it many times, I even asked my father to talk to my husband about letting me go for a short walk on my own, or maybe to the shops. But my husband says no, and my father says I should be grateful really since my husband is so eager to protect me. I had a son a year ago and my life is better now since I have a purpose and something to do with my time.

Half a year ago, my husband told me he was going to marry another wife. It shattered me. I do love my husband, and he and my son is all I’ve got. And since I only see my parents a couple of times a year, and my mother in law once a week when we go shopping, my husband is my only connection with the world. I begged him to allow me to go to the masjid alone, told him the Prophet allowed it, but he answered it is only allowed when the world is completely safe and it is not. So I cant go. So every other week I sit in our apartment alone with my son. I can see the neighbors through the window but I can’t talk to them. I have nobody to talk to, days go by without my using my voice. I don’t want to call my parents or my sister, I’d break down and cry and I don’t want that. I wait until they call, and then I just tell them everything is fine.

My husband only sleeps with me those nights when he believes I could become pregnant. The rest of the time, he tells me he is fasting and can’t be intimate. I guess he gets what he wants from the other wife.

So here I am, a prisoner in my own home, in the middle of America. I live in a country that is free, but my religion has made me a prisoner. A couple of nights ago my sister called me. She is married too, and her life is very similar to mine although her husband is only talking about polygamy, he hasn’t actually taken another wife yet. My sister had seen this series on TV, called a Handmaid’s Tale. She said it was about christianity, but she said she felt it was about us. It was a story about how women were taught they had to obey their male owners and dress in modest clothes like nuns and perform ceremonies to have children with men who had wives and concubines. Women weren’t allowed to go outside without being watched, and they weren’t allowed to read. And it was all made to seem like they were respected and protected.

This is us. We are the muslim handmaids.

My sister said the handmaid in the story had said that “They shouldn’t have made us wear a uniform if they hadn’t wanted us to form an army”.

I put on my abaya and my niqab and wait for my mother in law to come and fetch me to go grocery shopping. My husband won’t be home to use me for another three days, he is making babies with another woman in the name of our religion.

“They shouldn’t have made us wear a uniform if they hadn’t wanted us to form an army”.


57 thoughts on “The Muslim Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Yes, exactly I don’t want to do anything that will jeapordize my relationship with god. It’s strange but I too had to realize these things. I used to think I would homeschool my children (not just girls, but all of them) I used to think there’s no way I would give my kids the opportunity to even be influenced by the western worlds and non-muslims, not under my watch. I wanted to shelter my kids from music, tv, western media and all the things I was told are haram. I used to think I would but hijab on my daughters as soon as they turn 7, I wanted to give my kids the ultimate Islamic upbringing. Now that I’m no longer a naive young girl that can be molded into whatever my husband and parents want, I realize that all those things are not the way to go. I can guide my kids in a non-overbearing way and pray for their success but ultimately they need to have the freedom to choose for themselves otherwise it’s all useless.

  2. I guess for now the best option for me is to just focus on school and my baby. Who knows maybe one day He’ll change or things will unravel naturally, allah knows best.

  3. I have so much respect for you first wives that somehow find the strength to stay in your polygamous marriages, I can’t even wrap my mind around it, I really really really sympathize with you all.

    Hopefully we all either find happiness or find a way out, living life numb and unhappy is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. Allah says the true believers are ones that pray for good in this life and the hereafter. We should all seek happiness or at least contentedness

  4. Hello, Squaw,

    Until I figured out that I was happier when M wasn’t around, I felt this same way. When the door closed behind him and I realized that at last I was overcome not with sadness, jealousy, helplessness, anger, resentment, etc but with RELIEF, then I realized there was a benefit to this polygamy business. But I guess that’s when I also knew my marriage was all but over, too.

  5. you are in the USA, google a shelter near u and call them, they will help you, you do not have to live like this!!!! please if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your child! God helps those who help themselves!! you are really going to sit and wait for a miracle???????! unless there is a lock on your door, you can open it and go outside. stop being the victim and be the survivor!!! your child needs you!! you sit there, you are abusing your child!!!!! get out NOW!

  6. Wow, you wrote so well. I am such a hypocrite, I love having a Muslim community for my future kids and participating in traditions like ramadan, but at heart, I think it is just good as a culture. If anyone follows islam 100%, especially women, their life sucks. Yes there are many successful Muslim women, but most of them are successful because they do some things contrary to Islam like travel alone, thread eyebrows, work with nonmehrams as actresses, etc. I wish there was a way to give my kids Pakistani culture without Islamic rules but in America it’s really hard to meet other Pakistanis without the masjid. By heart I know Islam is false and made up but it means so much to my relatives and I would be cut off if I admitted this.

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