Way of the Widow

According to Chapter 5 of the Laws of Manu in the sacred Hindu text Dharmashastras, a Hindu widow may choose to follow her husband in death by throwing herself into his cremation fire. If she does not end her life in that manner for whatever reason—afraid of fire, he wasn’t worth it, or she just wants to live—the Laws of Manu require that she remain long-suffering, self-restrained, and chaste. This is required if she wants to go to heaven when she dies.


And since traditional Hindu culture does not generally offer equal opportunities for women in the workplace, a Hindu widow often finds that she must live out her life a burden to her family or an impoverished beggar.


There is one exception to the Hindu taboo of remarriage. A widow may marry her dead husband's younger brother, assuming, of course, there is a younger brother, and he wants her. If she marries anyone else, even if she was a child bride and not yet deflowered, she will have been unfaithful to her dead husband. According to the Laws of Manu, the consequence is that she will be re-conceived in the womb of a jackal by way of the faith-based, as distinct from the evidence-based, phenomenon of reincarnation.


The sacred texts of other religions, for example, the Christian Bible and the Muslim Qur’an, do not prohibit a widow from remarrying if she chooses to do and can find a man in the market for a used or previously owned woman. Unfortunately, men in cultures that are governed predominantly by adherence to sacred Christian or Muslim texts prefer unused or brand new brides.


Moreover, even if a widow can find a man who will marry her, she is required in cultures that are governed predominantly by religious texts to submit to and obey their new husband in the same manner she was required to submit to and obey her previous husband. The submit-and-obey requirement for Christian widows, like all other Christian women, is clearly stated in Chapter 5 of Ephesians and elsewhere in the Bible and similarly stated for Muslims widows, like all other Muslim women, in Chapter 4 of the Qur’an.


A widow in those cultures is treated essentially as used or previously owned service merchandise—little more than a social outcaste. Moreover, since those cultures do not generally provide equal opportunities for women in the workplace, a Christian or Muslim widow, similar to that of a Hindu widow, often finds she must live out her life a burden to her family or an impoverished beggar.


In cultures that remain governed predominantly by adherence to the sacred Muslim text, virginity is still a big thing with men in the market for wives. This means, of course, a widow remains in the position of having little or no chance to remarry. Of course, if finances permit, she may wish to remain single and not go through the submit-and-obey bullshit she had to contend with when her husband was alive.


In cultures that have achieved greater modernity and are governed predominantly by secular law rather than law according to Christian, Muslim, or other sacred texts, virginity is increasingly less important to men in the market for wives. Perhaps it is recognized that experience has its advantages or simply that marrying-age virgins in modern cultures are rare. But be that as it may, that less importance is placed on virginity in the market for wives means a widow has a much better chance to remarry. And since these cultures generally provide greater opportunities for women in the workplace, a widow can choose as alternatives to remain single and chaste or single and unchaste.


Cultural indoctrination is difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Education is key. Unfortunately, widows, along with other people in cultures who are enslaved by adherence to religious texts, are all too often their own worst enemies. They cling to the way they were raised, including the dictates of religious texts.


Freedom of, and from, adherence to religious texts permits widows, as well as all other people in a culture, to pick and choose which of the requirements of their chosen religion they want to adhere to, create their own religion without objectionable requirements, or reject all religion-based or faith-based beliefs. And when that freedom prevails in a culture, the taboos and restrictions of Hindu sacred texts along with the sacred texts of Christian, Muslim, and other religions will no longer torment the way of the widow.


Copyright © 2016 Frank Zahn

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