Gender justice in Islam

By Asghar Ali Engineer

If someone asks me which is the most gender-just religion in the world, I would unhesitatingly say ‘Islam’. However, Muslims are seen today as most unjust towards their women, particularly their wives and daughters.

Recently I was shocked to read in the press that in Balochistan parents buried their daughters alive after shooting them and Senator Israrullah Zehri from that province justified it. Nothing could be more unfortunate.

The Qur’an which all Muslims believe to be the divine word strongly condemns the pre-Islamic practice of burying the girl child alive. On the Day of Judgement the Qur’an says the perpetrator would be asked: “For what sin was she killed?” (81:9). And this is still going on in the 21st century in a country which calls itself an Islamic republic. What could be more shocking?

The Qur’an is the first divinely revealed Book which accords not only equal dignity but also equal rights to women in the most unambiguous way. It declares in the second chapter (Surah Baqarah), verse 228: “And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner.” All commentators agree that this is declaration of equality of rights for men and women. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his commentary on this verse in his Tarjauman al-Qur’an says that (this verse) is a clear declaration of equality of sexes more than 1,300 years ago.Apparently the reason for killing those girls in Balochistan was that they intended to marry men of their choice.

It is well known that in Islam marriage is a contract and no nikah can be valid without specific consent of the woman. The Qur’an itself describes marriage as mithaqan ghalizan i.e. strong covenant. A contract cannot be unilateral. Both parties have to agree to it. Thus in Islam for a nikah to be valid two adults have to bear witness that such and such woman has agreed to marry so and so.

Not only that, the woman has every right to stipulate conditions under which she wants to marry and if the man does not agree to these conditions, marriage cannot be valid. Also, according to the Hanafi school to which a large number of Muslims adhere, a woman can also insist on what is called tafwid-i-talaq i.e. delegation of the right to her to divorce her husband on his behalf. Has this any parallel in any religious law in the world?

Source: Daily DAWN

Also, since marriage is a contract, if a woman is married off in childhood by her wali she has the right to reject the marriage on achieving puberty. It is called in Shari’ah terms khyar al-bulugh i.e. option at puberty. Thus for a girl child if she is married off during her childhood she has the option to accept it or reject the match on achieving adulthood.

Thus in Islam the right of a woman to marry a man of her own choice is quite absolute, given by God, and not even her father can take it away from her. There is no way she can be married off without her specific consent in most unambiguous words. No school of Shari’ah law allows a man to marry a woman without her consent. This rule is firm like a rock.

Also, if man has hidden certain facts from his bride at the time of nikah (i.e. that he is impotent or HIV-positive, for instance), she is entitled to dissolution of her marriage as a matter of right. However, if a man discloses such facts before contracting nikah and she marries him knowing fully well, she will not be entitled to dissolution of marriage on those particular grounds.

Islam has also given the woman the right to liberate herself from a marital bond (khula’) and this right of hers is also absolute. I had read a few years ago that a woman from the Frontier province was murdered by her parents because she wanted divorce from her husband. Samia Sarwar was murdered in her lawyer’s office. There was little public uproar among Muslims, which was equally shocking.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) allowed a woman called Jamila to obtain khula’ from her husband though he loved her and gave her a maintenance allowance as per her wishes. But because she did not like him, she said to the Prophet (PBUH), ‘I am afraid if I remain with him I may not be able to observe Allah’s hudood’. What an empowerment of women by Islam!

In this day and age, our patriarchal society, fiercely dominated by men of tribal/feudal values and customs, has deprived woman of all her Islamic rights. Horror of horrors, the flawed value system should even allow men to kill women in the name of family honour. Killing is the most un-Islamic practice, requiring that the killer be stringently punished. We must follow Islam, not tribal practices.

The writer is the head of the Institute of Islamic Studies and the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.

Related Articles

One Comment

  1. Dear readers of PT,
    Islam as a religion is a complete code of conduct. For every problem there is a justified solution and every issue is addressed keeping in view the criticality of the issue and decisions are made based on facts and realities.
    The religion Islam is no doubt complete in itself but the practicers or believers still seem to be partial and thus represent Islam in a way which puts not a good image before the others and thus wrong perceptions about the religion develop and lead to many misconceptions and wrong interpretations.
    The recent updates about the disgraced situation that took place in Balochistan further open the door for the onlookers to consider Islam as a religion of terrorists, militants and conservatives. It takes me to the time when the Arabs had not entered the stream of Islam. They used to bury their daughters alive and didn’t let them survive for longer. The cruelty and inhuman behavior still seems to dominate many minds who proudly call themselves as the true believers of Islam.
    It is not only the gender discrimination rather every field related to life, you come across, will find unfair means, bribery, corruption and many more. My question from the so called Muslims is “Is this all what you call as Islam”?
    It is really a shameful situation for all the Muslims who were more logical and more intellectual in their reasoning some centuries back and were the leaders of their respective fields like Bu Ali Sina and Jabir Bin Hayan. They have become the followers of bad wagon and have started bowing down before others because of their carelessness and wrong practices.

    The little knowledge and the retardation in the spirits of true affiliation has endangered the identity of Islam and who ever talks about Islam just first thinks about some terror.
    A recent interview of the upcoming president of US, Obama on Fox TV clearly depicts that the Muslims especially the dwellers of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq will remain his targets especially with reference to the elimination of the terrorists and further adds that Pakistan will be pressurized to support US if doesn’t show any willingness.
    What all this shows? The Muslims are the targets and will remain the targets because of the non serious attitude and orthodox, conservative, and militant mindset.
    Everyone must think about this issue as a matter of earnest consideration and should get ready for the upcoming challenges.
    Aslam Ghalib

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: