Marriage for the sake on inheritance [Archives:2002/42/Last Page]

October 14 2002

Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar
Translated by Janet Watson

M – The Yemeni philosopher said,
‘I was troubled today.
We raised her and brought her up, but someone else claims her.
When death overtakes me, he’ll come along to cut up my wealth.’1
Ma – Yes, exactly! ‘When death overtakes me, he’ll come along to cut up my wealth.’ But there’s more to it, Mus’id,
‘I am tired as a mother of a girl. Why do you call her, “My darling!”
She’ll only make you bow your head in shame and cause calamity!’2
M – I don’t know about that, but I do want to talk to you about that first saying which really concerns men getting married simply in order to get their hands on the woman’s inheritance.
Ma – That happens all the time. If we were to give people the tale of my brother-in-law as an example, they’d laugh themselves silly!
M – Go on!
Ma – When my mother died, God preserve her soul, all the family and in-laws came along to carry the bier. After everyone had paid their respects and the mourning was over, that brother-in-law of ours came up all of a fluster, wanting us to work out how much the deceased had left. He said he knew how much his wife’s share was worth and what she would get from her mother. I told him he could rejoice and not worry, because the legacy was huge. There was land, two villas let out to foreigners, two old houses in the Old City, and I thought she had around seven or eight million or so in the bank. I told him Mus’id was the executor, and that he should go to see you to find out exactly how much his wife’s share would be.
M – He came to see me, Mus’ida, and I told him that the legacy of the deceased was a coral necklace, ten gold pieces, a sheepskin wrap and an old waistcoat, and that that was all to be shared out between the two sisters and their brother. The brother let his sisters have everything, and they each took five gold pieces. That left the coral necklace, the sheepskin wrap and the waistcoat between two sisters.
Ma – Well, I then saw him when he’d taken the sheepskin wrap and the waistcoat, saying that they were his wife’s share, and that I should take the coral necklace.
M – Goodness me, Mus’ida, he must have been crazy!
Ma – Don’t worry yourself, I was even crazier than him! I snatched the sheepskin wrap from him and told him to take the waistcoat and the coral necklace. The sheepskin wrap was not going to leave the house and I was not going to let go of it! It was the only proper bit of inheritance we had left.
M – How right you were! That sheepskin wrap is an example of a local Yemeni handicraft which is no longer carried out. The problem is that shepherds in the villages are no longer concerned about sheep, and our sons today haven’t got it into their heads that sheep with their milk, skin and wool are a national source of income and an essential part of self-reliance. Worse than that is that your brother-in-law, that husband of your sister, was just waiting for the angel of death to throttle your poor mother so that he could inherit the sheepskin wrap for his wife and go and deprive us of the last example of traditional local industry that we have. But God was merciful when you kept the wrap for yourself, Mus’ida, and that’ll serve as an example for anyone who decides to go back to this type of traditional Yemeni handicraft. The Yemeni proverb goes, ‘If you lose your wrap, you’ll have to put up with the cold!’ And the Yemeni song goes, ‘My friend, if your family quarrel with you, take your wrap and come to me’.

1 Aqwal, ps. 61, 69.
2 Aqwal, p. 61.