me Life and Times of the Fireflies: August 2017

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Recognition of Muslim Marriages

When we get married, we only ever think of 'happily ever after' and don't expect for things to go wrong - but sometimes they do go wrong, and if you're living in South Africa and have only had a Muslim marriage ceremony (nikah), then you as a woman could most likely be at a disadvantage because of it since you won't be covered by South African law should something go wrong.

Today's post is by an anonymous guest writer who shares her story and struggles with the legal system after her divorce. Her story is one of many, and in sharing it we hope to make more people aware of the obstacles and struggles faced after a divorce...and also in the hopes that we can make valuable changes to the legal system that will protect us in the future.

"At the outset, I must say that my story is not unique. Many women find themselves in the same, if not worse position as me.

I was a student when I got married, and continued to study during the first year of my marriage, while assisting my then husband in the family business. I was encouraged to give up my studies when my eldest son was born to be a supportive wife and mother, while actively participating in the running of our businesses. Our aim as a couple was to work hard and save towards our retirement. We made many sacrifices to get to the financially stable position we were in at the time of our divorce.

I now find myself, after 19yrs of marriage, as a mother of 3 sons, cast out after all the hard work, without a cut & dried entitlement to a share of the assets accumulated together during our long-standing marriage.I am facing an uncertain future and no financial stability. My work prospects are limited as I have no work experience and my age is a factor too. I am 42yrs old.

I'm at the mercy of my ex-husband until the matter is resolved, a process that has taken over 2yrs already, without a trial date being allocated. I have to accept whatever he decides to pay in the way of maintenance.

Islam is a fair religion that promotes equality. In chapter 2 verse 231 as well as chapter 65 verse 2, the Quran explicitly states that in the event of divorce, the couple should either reconcile on equitable terms or separate on equitable terms. This means fair, just and equal. Why does the man end up with everything, while the woman is left dependent on the goodwill of male family members?

Many clerics argue that Muslim marriages are out of community of property, without accrual. However, our religion allows the couple to choose to share the assets equally.

This is not a religious argument. Instead, it is a constitutional, human rights and socio-economic issue. Islam teaches that we are in a covenant with the country in which we live. The law of the land reigns supreme and we are bound to these laws. Our constitution guarantees protection from discrimination based on, among other things, gender, race and religion. As Muslims, we are protected in the workplace by this clause. Non-recognition of Muslim marriages is unfair, discriminatory and prejudicial.

Muslim marriages should be regarded just as meaningful as any other marriage. By not recognizing our customary marriage, Muslim women are left disadvantaged and vulnerable.

The default position of the court for other marriages is to protect the vulnerable. Even the marital regime for African customary marriages has changed to align itself with the current law, in that in the absence of an Antenuptual contract (ANC) civil and African customary marriages are automatically in community of property. So why, more than 20yrs since the birth of a democratic South Africa, has the constitution still not recognized Muslim marriages?

Why are Muslim women being punished for not stopping at the nearest magistrate's court to get a civil marriage?

There has been some progress in the recognition of Muslim marriages in that our imams are now becoming registered marriage officers and as such can, at the time of nikaah, register the marriage as a civil one. This protects couples getting married now, but those of us married pre-2014 are still not protected and are still in a very vulnerable position. There have also been numerous cases where judgement was handed down in favour of the wife, however, the wheels of the judicial system have been turning very slowly. In fact, it appears to have stalled when it comes to Muslim marriages; not enough progress is being made.

I believe the government can assist Muslim women by including Muslim marriages under current legislation. Muslim marriages should be subject to the same laws and recourse as other civil marriages. It's as simple as getting an ANC drafted, should the couple decide not to have a joint estate. If that is a requirement for civil and customary marriages, then it should be a requirement for Muslim and other religious marriages too.

I find that there's a lack of education when it comes to marriage. Both parties should be advised of their legal rights & responsibilities at the time of the marriage. This could be done either by the person officiating the marriage I.e. the Imam, or a marriage counsellor. As it stands, women especially are not aware of their rights, and most end up in a vulnerable position when the marriage ends in a divorce because they get married blindly, or in good faith or they quietly accept what the social norms dictate, rather than seeking legal advice. They also find that the system is stacked up against them as their Islamic marriage is not recognised.

The costs of going to court to resolve the matter is another factor which deters women from seeking recourse. As a result, many women don't exercise their legal rights and end up accepting whatever, if anything, is given to them as a divorce settlement. There have been so many cases where women and their children have been turned out of their homes because they don't know their rights.

The entire court process needs to be streamlined, and by recognizing our customary marriage and allowing us the same recourse as other civil marriages, we will not have to come to court to argue points that would have been covered under our current laws.

This discrimination is leading to a lot of unfairness & injustice, especially in the case of Muslim women as they are from a minority group & their voices are not being heard. It's the duty of the government to listen to each and every citizen of our country and ensure justice and equality for all.

South African Muslims, & South African Muslim women are stakeholders in this society. They have played a very important role in the struggles of our country's past & they remain integral to it's future. They cannot & must not be ignored."

Thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017


Wow,17 years old already! Where did the time go!
I've been thinking a lot about your birth day - the actual day you were born - and it got me thinking how privileged I am to have been able to watch you grow up and be part of your journey. There's a lot of memories housed in this heart of mine. 17 years of fun times and adventures and weekend outings and Summer holidays swimming in the backyard. 17 years of watching you grow into the charming guy you are today. Seventeen years! Seventeen...
Over the years, the time spent together has become a little less frequent. Everyday visits turned into almost every most some weekends (but hey, at least we still have school runs and holidays!). And as your life has become busier and your work load has intensified and your responsibilities increased, and all these new things have started to take up your time; I have been watching you from the side lines, my heart beaming with pride!  
But I think I have more than just watched you grow because, for the most part, you have grown up alongside my own children  and in every way possible, you fill the role of their big brother. You guys have a close and unique bond and you all crack me up on a daily basis with your competitive banter and incessant laughter. Those few minutes driving either to or from school provides me with so much entertainment and we might not do things exactly like we used to, but that doesn't mean that we can't still have fun - seriously, I couldn't ask for more...maybe only that you all hold onto that bond even when you are old.
You have accomplished a lot in this space of time...a result of lots of hard work and determination and I have no doubt that the future holds great things for you. Success, I feel, will come naturally to someone like you. Your diligence and perseverance paving the way. The only advice I can give you is to not be too focused on the road ahead that you forget to look back at the people watching and cheering you on as you make that climb.
It's been a fun ride so far, and I'm so grateful to your mom for sharing you with all of us. I know there will come a point where we will have to let go a little more, when you studies and career will have to take precedence...and then a little bit more after that. Watching someone you love flourish and grow is a beautiful thing, but letting go is always hard. Right now we are here to support you as you fulfil your dreams, but always ALWAYS remember that no matter where your road leads; it also leads back to us.  We love you, and we're extremely  proud of you and we will always be here for you no matter what <3
Love Always,


A Son I call my own

Count on Me

A Year of Change

Celebrating 16

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Travel Diary - An Afternoon in Old Phuket

The one thing I hate about family holidays is that I'm the only one doing the research! By the time we arrive at our destination, I have a mental record of all the do's and don'ts, places to eat, things to do and top places to visit. The only problem is trying to convince the other four members of my family that I actually know what I'm talking about. Nine out ten times I get them to reluctantly do as I say and then have them acknowledge afterwards that I was right. The other one time I just give up and we land up at a night market that's been on my to-do list from day one...only, we go there in the scorching late afternoon heat ( insert eye roll here).
There's a reason night markets in Thailand are so popular. Firstly, who wants to give up the perfect pool and beach day to browse for trinkets and souvenirs when you can do them at night instead; and secondly, it's the ideal way  to escape the relentless Thai heat! Evenings are much cooler and bearable than the daytime, which makes it the perfect time of day to peruse all the interesting items on sale and shop for little trinkets for family at home. Night markets usually open in the late afternoon and carry on till very late at night.

Old Phuket Town has a very strong Sino-Portuguese influence which is quite evident in the distinct style of the architecture. Although there's lots to see in this little district, it requires a bit of walking; and the late afternoon heat had everyone (except me) yelling "HELL NO!!" So we browsed the market instead. Here you can shop anything and everything from fabrics, clothing, jewellery, electronics and fake Ninjago Lego (which we obviously bought for Zee).We also got to experience some typical Thai culinary specialties and were especially excited to see quite a few halal vendors! A particular highlight among the kids was the Nutella pancakes.

 One could easily spend hours perusing the stalls, consuming street food, or just chilling in a coffee shops an enjoying the vibe - easily...if you went after sunset when the sun's rays aren't beating down on you and causing you to sweat bucket loads! So we were kind of forced to cut our trip short because the heat was just too much, but not before we did just a bit of shopping!

Overall, there's quite a lot of activity at night. I remember the  bright lights and vibrant music beckoning to us on our first evening there when we went over the road to the beach to watch the sunset. My only regret is that we didn't venture out enough in the evenings...but I suppose it gives us enough reason to go back in the future :-) 


ABOUT THIS VIDEO :   I really love how videos capture so many things that a picture can't! In this one I  kind of strung together all the bits and bobs of our stay in Thailand into one video. I also decided to not edit out my squeaky voice in some of the parts...and at the very end you will get to hear my hyena laugh! LOL. 

Thanks for reading!



Thursday, 10 August 2017

To the Indian Muslim Woman who said she's waiting before having children...

We live in a society that has a pretty set idea about gender stereotypical roles, and although society at large is trying very hard to overthrow this stone age mind set; gender stereotypical roles and the way it dictates how life should unfold is still very much prevalent and has never been more so than in that of the Indian Muslim community!

When I was growing up, I had a one track mind set on how I wanted my life to go. I pretty much wanted to find love, get married and have children. It was likely every Indian girl's fantasy; and every Indian parent's dream come true - to have their daughter "settled". I was young and impressionable and totally taken in with the idea that women should be homemakers and mothers. This was my goal and I wouldn't necessarily say that this was a cultural imposition from my was more cultivated from how I perceived things and how society functioned at that time. 

Since then, things have evolved. Educated and career driven girls are no longer a foreign phenomenon. They have become the norm. Strong and independent girls with dreams and visions and goals of their own!  And with this new breed, it seems like the destinies and roles of women - and Indian women in particular - is slowly starting to be reshaped.

But seriously, back then if you were twenty and had no proposal, people would worry! Thankfully my parents were more open minded, and my mother especially pushed the boundaries of the stereotypical role of an Indian woman, and constantly still does (my ultimate hero I tell you!). We are four sisters who have all gone on to follow the unconventional Indian route, but that doesn't mean that the conventional roles and identities didn't still infiltrate our minds through many other influences - like Indian movies for example! Or the fact that most girls were getting married in their early 20's. It wasn't something taught to us, it was more what we saw happening around us.

And now I find myself sitting on the complete other side of that equation. I found love. Got married. And had the children...I did these things young and not without some drama in between! I just think I had the wrong idea about the whole vision and what it all entailed. But the point of all this is that all these things...all these dreams and desires...all this responsibility and expectation that society puts on our shoulders - it comes at a cost. A cost I never ever paused to consider, and a responsibility far greater than I could ever have imagined. Because having kids is really not about completing me or us or making our little family whole. Having kids is a permanent responsibility that never gets easy. You need to shape and mould and guide and feed and nurture and teach and be an example...Having kids is a huge undertaking and having them should totally be up to you and not when and how society dictates it should happen.

So, to the Indian Muslim woman who has decided to wait a while before starting a family; I salute you!

To the girl who has decided to see a bit of the world before settling down to have kids...Do it!

To the one completing her education - studying for her masters or PHD...Don't quit!

To the one who has decided she's not yet ready for that kind of responsibility, and the one who is enjoying one more extra year of just the two of you as a couple...I fully support you!

To the woman desperately wanting to have kids but struggling to conceive, I salute you too! I may not know your pain, but I know it's not made easier by society's prying questions or when they make you feel inferior because you haven't fulfilled their criteria of  Love- Marriage- Kids.

And to Indian, Muslim  girl who has decided that motherhood can't wait, or who, like me, didn't have a chance to plan at all; I salute your choice to do life your way too! I know first hand that having them first is not the end of the world. I also know that kids sometimes help us grow more than we can imagine and I also know that having them doesn't mean you have to stop living or that you have to give up on following your dreams.

So to ALL you women....I salute and support you in following your dreams. Because YOU are important. Your dreams are important. Your feelings are important...and you don't need to be married and have children at a certain time in your life for it to complete you. There's no one set formula that leads to happiness, and whichever way your life unfolds, you best believe that there's plenty of us supporting your plight!!

Thanks for Reading!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Travel Diary - Cave Canoeing and Snorkeling in Phang Nga Bay, Phuket Thailand

Sometimes you look at travel brochures, and your destination lands up being pretty...but nothing like those brochure pictures depicted it to be. I must admit that that was my very first impression of Thailand - seen through the exhausted eyes of a traveller who had just gotten off a long flight and surviving on very little sleep. But Thailand landed up being every bit as beautiful as the brochures - if not a little more so!

One of the best way to experience Thailand's natural splendour is through one of the various island hopping excursions on offer. There are many ways to got out and explore these islands and whether you decide to take one of the infamous Thai long tail boats, or do the tour via speedboat; one thing is undeniable - and that is that Thailand is unmistakeably beautiful! I cannot emphasise enough that if you are headed to Phuket, at least one Island hopping excursions is a MUST (There's two popular excursions on offer - this one, and Phi Phi Islands. We did both).

Perhaps the worst part of  this day trip was having to get up early; especially since everyone was still pretty much jetlagged and struggling to adjust to the new time zone!  Our shuttle was due to fetch us at 8am (and for some reason I thought it was 8:30), so I set my alarm for about 6am to give us enough time to get done and grab breakfast - which, I must also add, was about 1am South African the struggle to open our eyes and get the day started was very real!!!

We made our way to the reception desk by 8:15, thinking we were early; but quite typical of us, we were late! To add to the mornings drama, I had forgotten to change the backdoor of my GoPro to the waterproof one, so husband and son headed back to the hotel room to fetch it. All in all, a very eventful start to the morning, but I must commend the Thai people for their patience. They were very understanding and accommodating through it all.

We then got dropped off at the pier, which was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel, where we were put into different groups depending on the tour we were taking, given a quick synopsis of what to expect from the tour, and offered some complimentary drinks and snacks as we waited for departure time. And then we were off in of these cool speed boats with about 12 other people!

 Once you make your way out of the pier and deeper into the Andaman sea; it's impossible not be mesmerised by the natural beauty of Thailand! And if you're inclined towards photography like I am, then it's also impossible to not have the desire to photograph everything in sight. With the green tinged ocean all around us, and lime stone boulders of all shapes and sizes jutting out of the ocean, and lush, green mangrove forests peeking out everywhere - everything is a photo opportunity and there's no arguing that Phang Nga Bay had made it's mark on our hearts.

For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the first island we stopped at. All I can recall is that all of a sudden the water changed from green to blue, and being completely captivated by the crystal clear shores!  It certainly made waking up at the crack of dawn worthwhile. Here we were given time to swim and snorkel, and there were also little shops selling kaftans and trinkets which we didn't really spend any time perusing at all. There were also jet ski's available at an extra cost.  Life jackets and snorkels were provided free of charge as part of the tour.

I was on a high...the kids were on a high...the water was perfectly warm and the destination was beyond beautiful! Swimming side by side with exotic fish was equally exhilarating...Only sad part was when we were told it was time to move on to the next stop.


Most of the pictures featuring me was in the form of a selfie!

Our next stop was Khao Ping Kan also known as James Bond Island, made famous by the 1974 James Bond movie, " Man with the Golden Gun". This really seemed to be the pride and joy of the Thai people. James Bond Island is sold to us as the highlight of this particular tour, and everyone is encouraged to go and take photos at the rock made famous by Roger Moore. This is quite a smallish island plus it was high tide and also full of tourists. We pottered around the island, soaked in the incredible landscape and snapped a few pics; but wouldn't consider this stop to be the highlight of the day.

Also, by this time I was starting to feel more like the hired family photographer than an active member of the family - even though it was largely self inflicted! I was a bit frustrated because I had all these beautiful pictures of my husband with the kids but hardly any (actually none) with me and them. The only remembrance that I was even in Thailand was a couple of selfies and a few shots I half forced the kids to take of me. Then too, it looks like I took a trip to Thailand all by myself while their loving father, my dear husband, went on a family vacation with the kids! At this point I realised that my camera lens was coming between me and family having a good time together and I  needed to put it down and live in the moment with them instead of trying to capture every single moment.




See my face in this picture? I was so peeved after having to beg my kids to take a picture of me an their dad. Of the very few pics of the two of us on this holiday, my face landed up looking like this!! Happy memories 😂😂😂. Anyway...look, I was there on the family vacation!
Next up, was the floating village of  Koh Panyee where we stopped to have lunch. Koh Panyee is a Muslim fishing village in Phang Nga Bay, established over 200 years ago by three Indonesian families who left their homeland looking for a new place to live. The houses are built on stilts and the colourful rooftops provide a break in the limestone laden landscape.

The whole place is like a maze of alleyways and houses and we were warned not to venture out too far or we may get lost. While this is mainly a fishing community; the women set up shop outside their homes selling interesting jewels, trinkets and souvenirs...and lots of  and lots of pearls! This quaint little village wasn't lavish, but it was interesting to see and the people were extremely warm and welcoming.

Our next stop was the cave canoeing site, something all of us were really looking forward to! By this part of the day I started to ease up with the photo taking and really got into enjoying all these once in a lifetime experiences with my family, and we were all a lot happier for it. I snapped a few pics still, but I did not let it dictate the day.

I was on a canoe, somewhere in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, wrapped up in the arms of the person I love....My hair was a mess and I was sweaty and stinky; but high on adrenalin and excitement while exploring hidden caves and concealed lagoons and sharing all this splendour with my children!  It was both tranquil and exhilarating at the same time, and an undeniably magical experience that I will never ever forget!

The last island we visited was Rang Yai Island which, from a distance, looked exactly like the island in the movie Moana. This stop is not promised as part of the tour package and was more of a bonus stop, after making it through all the other stops in our tour before we needed to head back to the pier. Of all the stops, this was the most tranquil and least populated with tourists.
The beach was lined with coconut trees and mangrove forest with tree swings hanging from the branches and beach recliners seeking refuge in it's shade. I was very tempted to capture a few pictures on those swings, but opted instead to put down all technology and just enjoy the moment without having to capture it all. It was a liberating moment for me on this holiday and even though I don't have the pictures to show for it, I will forever carry the memories of these final moments on this beautiful island in my heart  <3

ABOUT   THIS  VIDEO :   This holiday was my first attempt at trying to put together an actual video. Admittedly, it's a time consuming process; but it's really such a beautiful memory to have of our trip. And the thing about compiling them so many months later means that we get to relive all the special moments. It's been rewarding see the kids light up when watching it after all this time...and I can only imagine what it would be like to scratch it out after many years! Hopefully they won't cringe...hopefully they will receive it much as they did now - with a smile on their face and a whole lot of good memories!


Thanks for reading (and watching the video)




Destination Thailand : Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa

Our visit to Chalong Temple

Tiger Kingdom, Phuket