There is a lot of confusion in a common man’s mind about Islam’s point of view on this topic. In fact the Muslim history during the middle ages is responsible for this confusion even more than the West. The society of that period was mistaken as the representative society of Islam. It is, therefore, necessary to highlight the Islamic point of view on this issue.
1: ACKNOWLEDGING WOMAN’S INDIVIDUALITY:
The basic fact in this regard is that Islam considers woman a separate entity and not subservient to man. She has a perfect right to develop her personality. She is equally free to acquire education, get a job, do business or exhibit her creative potential. Her faith is also not subservient to man, rather her entire person shows its existence in this field as well. She can do social work. Hence she is absolutely master of her own. The Quran says:
“The Muslim men and women, for believing men and women; for devout men and women; for men and women who are patient; for men women who humble themselves; for men and women who give charity; for men and women who fast; for men and women who guard their chastity; and for men and women who remember Allah much. For them all has God prepared forgiveness and a great reward”. (Al-Ahzab-33:35)
The Quran further says about woman’s rights to build her person, acquire education and get a job:
“For men are portions of what they earn and for women is a portion of what they earn”. (Al-Nisa-4:32)
This is the reason that women during the Prophet’s time looked after their agricultural farms and gardens. They supervised their trade as well. The authentic books of Hadith testify the above fact through many such events.
- THE MANNERS OF MAN-WOMAN CONTACT:
It is crystal clear that Islam attaches basic significance to the unite of a family for the preservation of the society. This was the logic when Islam banned adultery in order to prevent it from becoming a free sex society. Keeping in view this reason Islam has formulated a code of manners for the mutual meeting of men and women aiming at developing them as social values.
In the closest circle of a family there is no restriction on mutual contact and meetings. The surah al-Nur describes in detail the manners on meeting outside this circle. The first of these tells that it is obligatory for every man and woman to get him or herself introduced with the inhabitants of a house before entering it, confirm their willingness and pay regards to them. Obviously, this is a universal custom. The Quran says:
“Believers, do not enter the dwellings of other people until you have asked their owners’ permission and wished them peace. (Al-Nur-24:27)
Thus after having observed the initial manners of entering a house the visitor may sit down with the dweller. The Quran exempts public places from this restriction. It means that if a person has some business in a school, hospital or an office, he may enter those without observing these manners:
“It shall be no offence for you to seek shelter in uninhabited dwellings which are of use to you.” (Al-Mur-24:29)
It is natural that men and women will talk mutually when they will meet at such places. It is, therefore, obligatory for men to wear civilized dress, have modesty in looks and avoid throwing bold and lusty glances towards women:
“Say to the believing men to turn away some of their gazes and preserve chastity”. (Al-Nur-24:30)
Turning “some of the gazes away” means to have modesty in eyes. The preserving of chastity means that they should avoid vulgarity and should not wear such clothes that have sex appeal. Women on such occasions should observe three manners in particular. The first two are the same as determined for men. Since women beautify themselves and wear ornaments which might attract men, they are directed to hide the ornaments which are easy to hide except the obvious ones like those worn on ears. They should put their shawls on their breasts. If some ornament creates a sound they should take care in not making such sound intentionally. It can be summarized that they should remain in a civilized circle and avoid tempting anyone towards them sexually:
“Say to the believing women to turn away some of their gazes, to preserve their chastity and to cover their adornments except such as are normally displayed and to draw their shawls over their bosom. And let them not stamp their feet in walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets”. (Al-Nur-24:31)
Thus men and women can have mutual contacts on purpose at their residences and public places according to the teachings of Islam. They can talk and exchange views. The two families can have friendly relations in a civilized manner. There should not be sexual excitement and a bold interaction. But there is no restriction upon their civilized social interaction; they may even dine together:
“It shall be equally lawful whether you eat together or apart. When you enter other’s houses, salute one another with salutation from Allah, blessed and kind. (Al-Nur-24:61)”
Thus Islam does not discourage the liberty, interests and interaction of the social life. It, however, dislikes vulgarity.
Covering of face by women
The above discussion gives rise to certain queries. First, in the light of the instructions given in the Surah Al-Nur, the covering of face by women has nowhere been mentioned. Where else do we find instructions in this regard then? The answer is that it is good for women to cover their body and head with a shawl or overcoat where they feel the danger of being teased, receiving uncivilized remarks or while passing though an unsafe area. So far as the covering of face is concerned, it has nowhere been mentioned in the Holy Quran.
It has a historical reference. During the Prophetic period many Jews and hypocrites lived in Madina. The ill-natured among them used to tease and pass remarks on the Muslim women when they passed from their streets. Later, they used to take the plea that they had been getting frank with them taking them for the women of their community. The Surah al-Ahzab in the Quran has analyzed such conspiracies of the Jews and the hypocrites in detail. Therefore, in this context, the Muslim women were advised to cover their bodies with a shawl or overcoat when they passed through such areas. In this way the Jews and the hypocrites would not be able to find an opportunity of teasing them:
“Prophet, enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the true believers to draw their shawls around them. That is more proper, so that they may be recognized and not molested.” (Al-Ahzab-33:59)
Thus the logic behind taking a shawl is to save Muslim women from being molested by getting identified as chaste ladies. It has nothing to do with covering of face. The confusion regarding this must be cleared.
Should women stay at home?
Secondly, the Quran through the Sura Al-Ahzab advises the wives of the Prophet to stay at home. Obviously, the same order seems to be for all the Muslim women because the wives of the Prophet are the role model for all the Muslim women. So, is this the instruction for all women?
The Quran has related it on several occasions that the rules, rights and duties for the Holy Prophet are different from those of normal men owing to his distinctive responsibilities. In the same way, the wives of the Holy Prophet have distinct responsibilities and thus different obligations and rules from those of other women. Their main duty is to give religious education to other women. For this purpose it is necessary for them to limit their social contact. They should mostly stay at home so that any women seeking guidance in religious matters might not return in disappointment. So, these discussion starts with these words:
“Wives of the Prophet, you are not like other women”. (Al-Ahzab-33:32)
Then they are reminded of their original responsibility:
“Convey the revelations of Allah and the words of wisdom which are recited in your houses.” (Al-Ahzab-33:33)
Therefore, they are advised to stay at home for most of the time in order to work as educational institution for other Muslim women and lead a graceful life:
“Stay in your homes”. (Al-Ahzab-33:33)
In the wake of this discussion they are warned that the law for their punishment would also be different from the general womenfolk:
“Wives of the Prophet, those of you who commit a proven sin shall be doubly punished.” (Al-Ahzab-33:30)
The next point requires explanation of the instruction to the wives of the Prophet when they are directed not to show complaisance while talking to men.
In fact at a time the hypocrites of Al-Madinah had becomes so mischievous that they even tried to scandalize the life of the Prophet. While enacting their evil plans, they used to enter the house of the Prophet in his absence and tried to be frank in conversation with the wives of the Prophet. They tried to catch a word form their mouths in order to scandalize it and thus create conflict among the Muslims. Therefore the Quran through these words countered this evil design:
“Wives of the Prophet you are not like other women. If you fear Allah, do not be too complaisant in your speech, lest the lecherous-hearted should be moved with desire. Show discretion in what you say”. (Al-Ahzab-33:32)
Hence the Quran advised them to show discretion and talk straight to the hypocrites in order to avert their evil plans.
The Muslims were directed in the Quran next in the above discussion to stay behind the curtain of the door while talking or demanding anything from the wives of the Prophet. This point needs explanation too.
While performing different roles, the Quran also reformed all cultural malpractices, which were in vogue in that society and thus countered the conspiracies of the hypocrites. For instance, it was a general practice that some people used to create problems for the Prophet by becoming unwanted guests at dining time whenever he had some guests. The Quran forbade the Muslims to do so.
The Prophet used to meet all guests in the Holy Mosque of Al-Madinah and the same was the practice for meeting other Muslims. The separate houses of all the wives of the Prophet were adjacent to the Mosque. There was just one curtain that worked as partition between the Mosque and the house. Keeping a drawing room or a sitting room was not a practice in those days.
The hypocrites initiated a bad practice. While sitting with the Prophet in the Mosque, under the pretension of drinking water, they used to enter the house of the Prophet without prior permission and demanded something from the Prophet’s wives. In fact they had the evil intentions of seeing the Holy Women in their casual dresses. Certain simpletons among the Muslims also carried on this practice.
Therefore God stopped this practice and told them not to enter the house of the Prophet without permission unless they had a family relation with the Holy Woman. In fact it is an explanation to an aspect of verses 27 of al-Nur. Thus the Quran says:
“Believes, do not enter the houses of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for the proper time, unless you are given leave. But if you are invited, enter and disperse. Do not engage in familiar talk, for this would annoy the Prophet and he would be ashamed to bid you go; but of the truth Allah is not ashamed. If you ask his wives for anything, speak them from behind a curtain. This is chaster for your hearts and their hearts. You must not annoy Allah’s Holy Prophet”. (Al-Ahzab-33:53)
This Quranic teaching had its special implication for the house of the Prophet in order to end every conspiracy.
Is head cover compulsory
Here it seems proper to know whether it is a must for women to cover their heads in front of others.
The word used for a shawl in Surah al-Nur, Verse 31 is “Khimar”. It means an additional cloth worn by women upon their dress in order to cover the bosoms. During the Prophetic period it was a general practice among women of good Arabian families that they used to cover their heads and bosoms with the shawl. It is, therefore, the general opinion that the Muslim women should also do so. It has become a symbol of the Muslim culture as well. But the covering of head has not been emphasized directly in comparison to the covering of bosom. Thus it can be said that it is a good social custom but not a religions binding.
- RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE AND TRUST BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE:
The Quran asserts that the relationship of a husband and a wife is the main unit of a society. Consequently, this relationship develops into a pious society. The Quran gives the logic that this gives satisfaction and contentment to human being who wants love by nature. So it must be a relationship based on confidence.
The Quran has related a comprehensive example in this regard. It says that a husband and a wife are dress to each other. They are part and parcel of each other. They accord pleasure, protect from misery and cover the demerits of each other. The Quran says:
“The (women) are apparel to you, as you are apparel to them”. (Al-Baqarah-2:187)
“And of His signs is that He gave you spouses from among yourselves, that you might live in tranquility with them, and put love and kindness in your hearts. Surely there are signs in this for thinking people”. (Al-Rum-30:21)
“It was He who created you (men and women) from a single being. And similarly He created his mate, so that every one might find comfort in his or her mate.” (Al-A’raf-7:189)
EQUAL RIGHTS, DUTIES AND STATUS OF MEN AND WOMEN:
According to the Quran both men and women are equal in rights as human beings. If one is given an additional right in some peculiar matter the other is relaxed in some other way. However, the Quran affirms that when a man and woman marry each other and thus form a family, the man would act as the head of that institution. Consequently, he will be responsible for fulfilling the financial requirements of the family:
“Wives shall with justice have rights similar to those exercised by men, although husbands have a step above them” (Al-Baqarah-2:228)
The Quran has declared that the preference to a man or a woman has been given over the other in different capacities. For instance man is more suitable for the protection of a family while woman can nourish her children in a better way. It also affirms that man is responsible for meeting all financial and security requirements of the wife and the whole family:
“Husbands have the responsibility as “Qawwam” of wives because Allah has made one (some times man and sometimes woman) superior to the other. So (here) the reason is that husbands have spent their wealth on wives”. (Al-Nisa-4:34)
The word “Qawwam” here used for man means the person who accords protection, supervision, and fulfills the needs. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a man and he deserves it too. In the context of strengthening the family ties the Quran expects from women to show obedience and keep the secrets of their husbands. (Al-Nisa-4:34)
While issuing the above instructions to women, the Quran directs man to meet all due requirements of his wife and not to cause any trouble for her. He is directed to keep his ties with his wife intact in every possible way even if some of her habits annoy him because a human being is born with some shortcomings.
“O Believers, it is unlawful for you to inherit the wives of your deceased kinsmen against their will, or to bar them from re-marrying. Do not force your wives to give up a part of what you have given them, unless they be guilty of a proven crime (of adultery). Treat your wives with kindness; for even if you do dislike them, it may well be that you may dislike a thing which Allah has meant for your own good”. (Al-Nisa-4:19)
The Quran advises men to treat women with nicety and withdraw from their rights in their favor. After a detailed discussion about the laws of divorce in Al-Baqarah, the Quran says:
“It is more pious that you should forgo your rights in favor of women. Do not forget to show kindness to each other. Allah observes your actions”. (Al-Baqara-2:237)
It proves that there is no one-way traffic in Islam; every right is equalized with an obligation.
Here we see a clear and basic difference between the Islamic and the Western values. The West does not accept the status of man as a protector and believes that man and woman are equal in all respects. It does not accept man as the head of this institution, rather does not accept it as an institution at all. It does not put the financial responsibilities on the shoulders of man as well. In fact, this situation generates a large ratio of frequent divorce, a weakening family connection tending to annihilation, an unsustainable love between husband and wife and several other problems of similar nature. In practice all successful couples in the West forgo their rights in each other’s favor and either of the two assumes the status of custodian. Thus withdrawal from some of personal girths is the prerequisite for the success of family life. The West must consider if its concept of personal freedom is better than that of Islam, which draws equilibrium between the individual’s freedom and the assuredly of a successful family life. It is obvious that one has to sacrifice some of one’s personal rights for a strong family unit.
Rights of man as head of family
Here the question arises what the rights of man as the head of a family are? Is he free to dictate his wife according to his own sweet will?
The answer is NO. Though the Quran advises her to be obedient to her husband, she is free in her personal life and no one can dictate her (Al-Nisa 4:2). She cannot be stopped from wearing the dress of her choice or cooking her favorite food. Her belongings cannot be taken away by anyone else. She is free to adopt any profession or do social work. In short no man can interfere into her personal matters. The Prophet has also described them all. His sensitivity in this regard can be judged through his last address to the Muslims at the time of Hajj (Pilgrimage).
Husband is only a symbolic final authority. That is why Islam has given women the right to disagree with their husbands. Islam desires that man should seek the consent of his wife in all matters. Similarly the woman is expected to regard her husband’s likes and dislikes in the matters related to her personal life. The Quran and Hadith emphasize it a lot. In fact this teaching is the true explanation of the verse 187 of Al-Baqarah where husband and wife are declared apparel of each other.
Violence against women
Islam is against every kind of violence against human beings. A person can only be punished through law by a Court. Apart from this nobody else has the prerogative to hurt anybody through any means. As far as physical violence in concerned, the Holy Quran has very clearly forbidden it and has declared that the perpetrator will be punished in proportion to his or her violence. The Holy Quran says:
“We ordained therein for them: “Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, Tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.” But if any one remits the retaliation By way of charity, it is an act of atonement for him. And if anyone fails to judge by (the light of) what God has revealed, they are (no better than) wrong-dowers.” (Chapter Maida 5:45)
This verse does not make any distinction between man and woman. Nobody is allowed to physically abuse any other person. Again the Holy Quran says:
“The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person Forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: for (God) loves not those who do wrong” (Chapter Al-Shura 42:40 )
As far as psychological or verbal violence is concerned, the Holy Quran has also prohibited it very clearly (see chapter Al-Maida 5:2 and chapter Al-Haj 22:77). Especial emphasis has been given to the rights of relatives which include both Genders. (see chapter Al-Nahal 16:9, chapter Al-Baqara 2:83 and 177, chapter Bani-Israel 17:26, chapter Al-Shura 42:23 and many others. All the Human beings have been advised to repel evil with the best attitude. (see-chapter Al-Mominoon 23:96, chapter Al-Sajda 41:34, chapter Al-Haj 22:22 and many others).
The Holy Quran has specifically advised everybody to use soft language and to take care of the self respect of every Human being (see Al-Baqara 2: 261, 262, 263, 264 and many others).
As regards the relation ship between husband and wife is concerned the Holy Quran has described that the base of this relationship is love and tranquility. (see chapter Al-araf 7:189 and chapter Al-rum 30:21). Quran also describes that a husband and wife are like apparel and garment for each other. This phrase shows the extreme intimacy and care which both the partners should have for each other in every sphere of life. (See chapter Al-baqara 2:187).
The Holy Quran also says that a husband is the head of the family and due to this he has got a slight edge over her. But apart from this both have got equal rights over one another. (see chapter Al-Baqara 2:228 and chapterAl-nisa 4:34). The Quran advises husbands to live a life according to the best human standard with their wives. (See chapter Al-Nisa 4:19). Similarly the Holy Quran also advises husbands to forego their rights with respect to the rights of their wives. (see chapter Al-Baqara 2:237).
The Holy Quran also accepts the fact that a wife can have a difference of opinion with her husband and there can be a dispute between both partners. She has the right to oppose her husband. If the matter becomes so serious that there is a danger of separation between the two, then the Holy Quran advises that one arbitrator should be appointed from both sides who should try for reconciliation. (see chapter Al-Nisa 4:35).
After this discussion, we are in a position to explain one of the most controversial and ill understood verse of the Holy Quran, i.e. the last part of verse 34 of chapter Al-Nisa 4. the translation of this part is as follows:
“As to those wives, on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, (first) admonish them, (but if they refuse to mend their ways then next) refuse to share their beds, and (if the situation is still grave then) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, then do not seek against them any means of annoyance. Because God is Most High and Great.”
Two things are very clear from the above verse; one is that it deals only with those wives who have started interest in other men and are becoming unfaithful to their husbands. This point has been very clearly stated by the Holy Prophet in his narrations. It means that it is a remedial measure to save the family from disintegration. This verse does not allow husband to beat his wife in any other circumstances. If the wife comes with a complaint of violence against her by the husband in a court of law, the husband will have to prove the disloyalty of his wife or he will have to face punishment. If he charges his wife with the allegation of disloyalty and he does not have any eye witness, then he will have to face separation from his wife through the process of “Leaan” as explained in chapter Al-Noor 24:6. It means that the husband will have to face very grave consequences in either case.
The second point is that this verse only permits a light beating, because more than that has been very clearly forbidden by the Holy Quran in chapter Al-Maida 5:45. This has been very clearly stated by the Holy Prophet in many narrations. The Holy Prophet has also forbidden to strike on face or any other delicate part of the body.
The above discussion bears testimony to the fact that Islam totally forbids violence against women. The only point which has been mentioned in last part of chapter 4:34 does not relate to violence, rather it relates to a situation where saving a family bond becomes top priority.
It can be asked; what will a wife do if she comes to know about the disloyalty of her husband? My answer is; she has got the same right as her husband. At first she will try to persuade her husband not to be disloyal to her. As a second step she can refuse to share bed with him. And as a final step she can also scold and chide him bodily so that he understands the gravity of the situation. My answer is based on an analogy from a similar situation. In chapter Al-Noor 24: verse 6-10, it is stated that if a husband charges his wife of adultery and he has no other witness, then he and she will take oath five times and after that they will be separated.
Every body agrees that if in a similar situation, a wife charges her husband with adultery and she has no other witness, then the same procedure will have to be followed. In my view similar is the case with chapter Al-Nisa 4:34.
From the above discussion we come to the conclusion that legislation on the issue of violence against women is imperative in Muslim states. This legislation should clearly say that any kind of violence against women is a crime. Even in cases of alleged disloyalty, the husband cannot inflict an injury, whether grievous or simple, against his wife. Even in a lighter scolding, if the wife comes with a complaint before a court of law, then the husband will either have to face punishment or prove disloyalty of his wife by way of Leaan. He must keep in mind that in case of Leaan he will lose his wife for ever.
Disagreement between husband and wife
At times husband and wife disagree on an issue, which cannot be resolved under normal circumstances. What is the guidance of Islam in such matters?
Islam has laid down different ways to tackle such matters/situations. Firstly, if there is a sensitive issue, its terms can be mentioned in the agreement of marriage. Marriage is an open agreement between a husband and a wife and any term can be included in it. The Quran calls it a strong agreement.
In case of an unforeseen issue both the parties can resolve it through dialogue. If it still remains unsettled it should be solved through arbitration by the state or society.
“If you fear a breach between a man and his wife, appoint an arbiter from his people and another from hers. If they wish to be reconciled, Allah will bring them together again”. (Al-Nisa-4:35)
Why a man is allowed to marry upon four women at a time?
In fact as per Quranic teachings it is better for a man to marry just one woman. This is the logic behind equal ratio of men and women in the world. There was only one wife for Adam. It is natural for a man and a woman to build their joint home. However, if women and children become widows and orphans at a large scale and lose every prop of affection or a man’s first wife fails to give birth to a child, the man may marry the second woman with two conditions. First, that the man must do justice with his wives. Second, he cannot marry more than four women.
In fact, in the second battle of Islam, commonly known as battle of Uhad, many Muslims were martyred leaving behind a large number of widows and orphans. It was felt that the orphans might be stricken by a sense of deprivation without the affection of a father. Therefore, the Quran encouraged this solution as such:
“If you fear that you cannot treat orphans with fairness, you may marry such women as seen good to you; two, three, or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot do justice, marry one only or those you possess”. (Al-Nisa4:3)
Thus, a man is allowed to marry more than one woman conditionally. It is admissible under unavoidable circumstances and maintaining justice is a must.
It is worth asking whether the state has a right to intervene if the above permission is being exploited.
The answer is that the state may ban this practice if it becomes an unjustified tradition. The man may be asked to seek the prior permission of the state justifying his claim for the new marriage. The state, through the court of law, may make the man bound to maintain justice among his wives and meet all their economic needs.
The West and Islam differ on this point as well. Despite the permission, the ratio of a second marriage in the Muslim society is not more than 1%. The second marriage is unlawful in the West but it is important to note that people in the West may have more than one wife out side the bond of marriage. They may have kids from them and it is not a secret. The most pitiable aspect of the whole affair is that such women have no legal rights at all and thus, doing of justice is out of question.
It can be said that Islam has faced the reality and has determined rights of all parties within the law whereas the West has turned its eyes away from the fact and has not done justice to several women by not regarding their rights.
Woman as witness in a court of law
It is said that Islam maintains distinction between the witness of a man and a woman as the witness of two women is considered equal to one man. Further the witness of a woman is not taken as reliable in the cases of Hudood i.e. Grave offences. If it is so, is it not that Islam gives an inferior status to woman?
It becomes necessary to know the real instruction of Islam in this regard.
These instructions about evidence have come at eight different places in the Quran. At seven places there is no difference between the witness of a man and a woman. In Surah Al-Baqarah only, this difference is maintained in connection with the deal of a debt. The concerned verse says:
“O believers, when you contract a debt for a fixed period, put it in writing (….) Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge fit to act as witness; so that if either of them forgets, the other will remind her.” (Al-Baqarah-2:282)
There are two different interpretations of the above verse made by two different schools of thought. According to one group, women are born with weak intellect and are habitually forgetful therefore the witness of a woman is half to that of man in petty affairs and witness of a woman cannot be accepted at all in crimes of extremely grave nature like murder etc.
On the other side, the second school of thought does not consider the above quoted Quranic verse as against women. It argues that during the Prophetic period the women were generally unaware of the business affairs and it was mostly a man’s field. The education level among the women was also very low. Before the complete Islamic rule it was unsafe for woman to travel long distances in an atmosphere of disorder and chaos. Therefore it was quite natural for them to show forgetfulness in a business deal or a contract of debt.
It can be said that the Quran believes in the fact known to us through a proverb which says: “Every person doth his business best.” It means that if a matter is beyond one’s understanding or there is a risk of any complication or forgetfulness, it is better to take the written witness of at least two people. Thus the above-mentioned Quranic verse gives us a principle based on wisdom and does not declare women as an inferior creation at all.
Four more aspects must be kept in mind while studying this particular verse of Al-Baqarah. One that it is related with documentary evidence only and does not pertain with any event, accident or sudden occurrence. Documentary evidence is one’s own business. One can get the signature of one’s choiced persons and can be scribed in a well-planned manner. Quite unlike that, the circumstantial evidence is of immediate, sudden and accidental nature. Every event is unforeseen. Since both kinds of evidence are basically different. One’s rule can’t apply to the other.
Second important point is that this verse does not give any legal code at all; rather it gives a guideline to all the Muslims so that the disputes may be avoided if any. The Quranic words are. “O believers. When you contract a debt……..” If the instructions would have been for the court of law, the wording would have been like this. “O believers, when a contract of debt is brought to you……..” In fact, a court does not require a document signed by the witness while reaching a decision. It might be helpful but it is the duty of the court to accord justice to the affected party on the basis of other evidence and facts as well when the documentary evidence is non-existent.
The third aspect of this matter is why a woman cannot be witness in the court whereas she can be a doctor and an engineer and there is no scientific or logical justification to prove her weak in intellect. If woman can relate the Prophet’s saying (Hadith) why she is no granted the right of witness. It is certified even by the religion that the men and women are equal in faith. The Quran maintains this fact in clear terms as in Surah Al-Ahzab 33:24
The fourth aspect is that it is a historically proven fact that during the Prophetic period and afterwards during the pious Caliphate, the criminals were inflicted heavy and severe punishments on the evidence granted by women only. For instance, a murderer was sentenced to death by the Prophet on the evidence of a girl. Naila, the wife of third Caliph of Islam, Usman was the only witness of her husband’s murder. On the basis of this witness, the blood of the Usman was demanded to be avenged upon.
Blood money of a woman as compared to man
It is also said that the amount of penalty charged from a person committing unintentional murder is half for the blood of a women to that of a man.
This allegation is baseless. Islam has not determined any fixed ratio of DYAT’ (ransom) at all. Islam has only given a guiding principle that ransom must be paid keeping in view the law and practice of the society. Obviously, every place has different social, economic and culture conditions. If Islam had determined a fixed amount of ransom it would have been inappropriate.
It is important to keep in mind the particular principle of Arabic linguistics. Wherever a Quranic order takes along Arabic word. “Al” it becomes a proper noun and gives the peculiar meanings, which were taught by the Holy Prophet. For example, ‘Al-Salat’ means the particular way of offering the prayer taught by the Holy Prophet, which all the Muslims are bound to follow. On the other side a Quranic order given in the shape of a common noun does not determine a peculiar way of implementation. The word, ‘DIYAT’ (ransom) has been mentioned in the Quran at two places. Firstly, in Al-Baqarah, verse 178-179 and secondly in Al-Nisa, verse 92. At both the places this word has been used in the sense of common noun.
Muhammad (SWS), the Prophet of God, enforced “DIYAT’ in his own times according to the old traditions of Arabia and did not bring any change at all. ‘DIYAT’ can be fluctuated according to the time, conditions, economy and society of different epochs.
Can a girl marry on her will?
It is generally alleged that a Muslim girl is not free to exercise her will in the matter of her marriage. Rather her parents decide her fate according to their sweet will.
It is again a baseless thing. It is, of course, desirable in Islam that both man and woman and their respective families should get introduced to each other and shows their consent before marriage. It is so because a marriage is the union of two families as well. However, if this ideal situation is not possible, a man and a woman are free to marry according to their choice. It is clear through the study of the Quran and the events of the Prophetic period that Islam does not deprive a woman of this right of hers. It is rather known to us that the Holy Prophet restored this right of a woman if ever it was snatched from her previously.
The Quran has mentioned it with full clarity that women are free to marry the men of their choice and no one is allowed to interfere. This right is meant for all the women, unmarried, divorced and widows. It is feared that the relatives of a widow’s deceased husband might force her not to remarry. The Quran says:
“If a man has divorced his wife and she has reached the end of her waiting period (three menstrual cycles), do not prevent her from remarrying the husband of her choice if they have come to an honorable agreement. This is enjoined on every one of you who believes in Allah and the Last Day; it is more honorable for you and the chaster. Allah knows, but you do not.” (Al-Baqarah-2:232)
“And those of you who die and leave wives behind, such wives should keep in waiting for four months and ten days after their husband’s death. When they have reached the end of their waiting period, it shall be no offence for you to let them do whatever they choose for themselves provided that it is lawful.” (Al-Baqarah-2-234)
Once a girl complained in front of the Holy Prophet that her father had forced her to marry against her will. The Holy Prophet told her that she was free to accept or reject the decision of her father. (Abu Dawud, Nisai, Ibne Majah, Masnad Imam Ahmad through Ibni Abass.) In another case like this, the Holy Prophet declared the marriage void as it had been against the will of the girl. (Dar Qutni, reference Jabir)
On another occasion, a woman complained to the Holy Prophet that her father had married her with her nephew against her will. The Holy Prophet left it upon her whether to accept or reject her father’s decision. In response to that she said:
“I accept whatever my father has decided. I simply wanted to make it clear upon women that their fathers are not masters of their choice in this matter. (Nisai, referred by Ayeshah).
Woman’s right to divorce her husband
There is another misconception that a man can divorce his wife any time whereas a woman has not been granted any such right.
In fact, a woman can get the divorce as well. In has been termed as “Khula”. In this case, if the husband insists, the wife will return a part of the wealth given to her by her husband. There is no other condition for ‘Khula’. It is not essential for the woman to charge some allegation against her husband or base any of his weakness in order to get divorce. It is the best way to resolve the matter amicably within the home. If the woman withdraws from her right of MEHR (the amount paid to the wife by the husband at the time of marriage), no other dispute is left behind. However, the court must separate the two parties in case of a dispute. Many events quoted through several ‘Hadiths’ relate that the Holy Prophet , after having made efforts for reconciliation, separated the two parties whenever any such case was brought to him for the decision. The Quran says:
“(In case of divorce demanded by a woman) It is unlawful for the husbands to take from them (their wives) anything they have given them, unless both fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by Allah; in which case it shall be no offence for either of them if the wife ransom herself. (Al-Baqarah-2-229)
Are four witnesses required for proving rape?
It is also objected that if a sexually assaulted women files a petition in a court of law, it is generally dismissed because she is unable to present four eyewitnesses required in such a case. A case is rather instituted against her for raising false allegation.
In fact, the Quaranic verse revealed on this topic is not properly interpreted. The Quran rather affirms that at least four eyewitnesses are required to prove the charge of adultery against a woman. It shows that Islam basically wants to protect women against such allegation as long as it is not proved on logical grounds. The Quran says:
“Those that defame innocent women and cannot produce four witnesses shall be given eighty lashes. And do not accept their testimony ever after.” (Al-Nur-24-45)
This verse can be concluded as follows:
Firstly, the Quran wants to save women from such allegation because a woman gets irrevocable loss through them. Secondly, if such guilt is committed by a woman, it is better to conceal it unless it is done in a bold and shameless way. Thirdly, this rule is not applicable to prostitutes. In such a case, the charge can be proved after collecting witnesses, getting medical examination reports and making all sorts of investigation because this comes under “Fasaad Fil Arz’ i.e. creating mischief for society. Fourthly, if a man is charged like this and the court concludes that it was a malicious attempt of tarnishing his image, the accusers themselves can be punished.
In most cases of sexual assault and gang rape, there is hardly any witness except the affected women. How the case would be proved in this situation? If it stands unproven, will the woman be thought guilty of slander? In such situation the court will reach a decision through the evidence like finger prints, medical examination report, and the clothes of the accused, the conditions and the possibilities. In fact this case comes under the Quranic term of “spreading mischief in the society (al-Maida 5:32) If the case is not proved due to some reason, the woman would not be declared guilty of slander. The logic behind this is that the repute of the woman is also damaged through such allegations and it is not expected in normal circumstances.
It is crystal clear through the Quranic words that this law is meant to deal with those trouble mongers who are in a habit of slandering the innocent women. Obviously, it is not for the protection of rapists. However, if it is proved that the woman has a notorious character and that she slandered the man to tarnish his repute, she can also be punished.
The situation gets complicated when a woman gets pregnant and she files a petition for the case of sexual assault against some criminal. This issue can, now be resolved through the sophisticated medical tests like D.N.A. Hence it is no more complicated now.
Love in a Muslim society
Is there any provision of love between a man and a woman in an Islamic society?
The simple reply is that an Islamic society is in fact a human society. Love is a natural phenomenon. Islam does not aim at crushing nature; rather it canalizes it on the right direction. The Quran affirms:
“And of His signs is that He gave you spouses from among yourselves, that you might live in tranquility with them, and put love and kindness in your hearts.” (Al-Rum 30:21)
This instinctive sentiment is displayed in a Muslim society too. In a Muslim society there is no binding upon men and women to meet in places like educational institutions, hospitals, restaurants, offices and homes. It is, therefore, natural that they develop feelings of love and admiration for each other.
For the expression and satisfaction of these feelings, Islam allows one shape while forbids the other. Islam allows the civilized way of love through the expression of one’s intentions of marriage with the other. On the other side Islam disallows any sexual relationship outside marriage. It is totally prohibited. Islam affirms that developing secret relationships, spending time with an unlawful companion in an environment where one might go off the track and secret marriages are fatal for a Muslim society.
So for as the first shape is concerned, the Quran tells that those who want to marry the widows, can propose them indirectly even during their waiting period. They may marry them after their waiting period is over as per traditions of their society:
“It shall be no offence for you to propose indirectly to such woman or cherish them in your hearts. Allah knows that you will remember them. Do not arrange to meet them in secret, if you want to marry them, speak to them honorably.” (Al-Baqarah-2:235)
“All good things have been made lawful to you now. The food of those to whom the book was given is lawful to you, and yours to them, lawful to you are the believing women and the women from among those who were given the Book before you, provided that you give them their dowries and live in honor with them, neither committing fornication nor taking them as mistresses”. (Al-Maidah 5:5)
Hence it is not love, rather it is fornication and secret marriage that is disallowed in a Muslim society. In this context a Hadith is related through different books like Ibni Majah, Hakim, Behaqi and Tibrani. Imam Jalal-ud-Din Sayuti has related its background in his book “The Reasons for the Hadiths.” As per reference a man told the Holy Prophet that he wanted to marry his only daughter with a wealthy man whereas she loved a poor man and wants to marry him. The Holy Prophet said:
“The best solution for the problem of the two lovers is marriage”.
So it is evident that if a man and a woman fall in love with each other, it is better to arrange their marriage.
However, physical relationships and secret marriage are disallowed. Every marriage is to be announced publicly in Islam.
Relaxation to women in discharging their religious duty
The answer is in affirmative. These relaxations are remarkable. For example a woman will be given equal reward in the hereafter to that of a man even if she offers her prayers at home. It is really a challenging task for every man to offer all his prayers in a mosque. In the same way the pregnant ones and those giving breast feed to their children are given the choice to fast later instead of fasting during the month of Ramadhan. The women are allowed to leave the laborious tasks during the pilgrimage (Hajj)
The women are granted several relaxations in social matters. It is the responsibility of the husband to earn and feed his wife. If she is unwilling to participate in the economic struggle, she cannot be forced. In the same way she is exempted from compulsory military service. In court matters, if a woman makes a mistake, no action would be taken against her; rather the court will help her. The Holy Prophet transformed this method into a regular practice so that the comfort of the women should be given priority.
Reasons for several marriages of the Holy Prophet
What were the reasons for several marriages made by the Holy Prophet?
As in many other fields the rules made by God for the Holy Prophet were different from those for general public: the rules of marriage and divorce were also different for him. Since the Holy Prophet had to formulate the Muslim Ummah during his lifetime, it was all essential. All these rules have been described in detail in Surah Al-Ahzab through verses 6, 28, 40 and 50-52. These verses reveal that the matter of the Holy Prophet’s marriages was managed and controlled by God himself. The Holy Prophet was disallowed to marry out side a limited circle. He was not allowed to divorce any of his wives. His wives were not allowed to remarry after his death. They were given the epithet of “Ummahat-al Mu’mineen” (Mothers of the Believers). They also had to face additional restrictions as compared to other women.
The first wife of the Holy Prophet was Khadijah. At the time of marriage the Holy Prophet was twenty-five, while Khadijah was forty years old. Khadijah had been three times widow prior to this marriage. All her previous husbands had died. She had been the only wife of the Holy Prophet during the next twenty-five years. She died at the age of sixty-five while the Holy Prophet was still fifty. Thus he led the prime period of his youth with a middle aged widow. He was in deep love with her, which he expressed on several occasions.
After the death of Khadijah. The Holy Prophet married Sawdah. She was also a widow of fifty years mature age. The Holy Prophet was still at Makkah at that time.
The Prophet migrated to Al-Madinah at the age of fifty-three and remained there for the next eleven years till his death. This was the period when he had to marry for many times. Some important requirements from the women’s point of view had arisen at that time. Firstly, the Muslim population started growing rapidly. It was important that their women should get excellent training which was possible through the trainer women trained directly by the Holy Prophet. Secondly, some prominent tribes had enmity with Islam. The ideal way to merge these tribes in the Muslim Ummah was to marry their women with the Holy Prophet. It was also a requirement that there must be certain well-trained Muslim women after the death of the Holy Prophet so that they may educate other women on religious matters. It was also necessary to end certain wrong social practices already prevalent in Arabia. For the fulfillment of all such motives, the Holy Prophet married for several times during the last eleven years of his life. It is worth noticing here that the only maiden among his wives was Ayeshah before marriage. All the rest were either widows or divorced. Every marriage helped in the further propagation of Islam.
After studying the above circumstances every honest person can understand that there was no sexual motive behind these marriages. All these marriages were made for the formation of the Muslim Ummah as per direct instructions of God. This is the whole background of the Holy Prophet marriages. This is why the Quran lays down clearly that the rules of marriage and divorce for the Holy Prophet are different from those meant for the rest of the people.
It is generally objected that honor killing is admissible under Islam. It means that Islam does not object if an individual assassinates his relative woman in case he finds her involved in an illegitimate relationship with a man. Generally, the rest of the members of the family pardon his act of murder in these circumstances (seems all conspiring).
It is true that such merciless customs are still in vogue in various Muslim societies but it has nothing to do with Islamic teachings. Some facts must be kept in view in this context.
Firstly, murder of a human being is the gravest of all crimes on this earth of God. Quran affirms that the murder of a human being amounts to murder of the whole of the humankind and saving a human being’s life is like saving the whole of the humankind. (Al-Maidah-5:32). This is why Islam inflicts death punishment on the assassin. The Quran declares this law as savior of the whole society because it relieves men from the brutality and fear of the murders (Al-Baqarah-2:179). Unlike this, the punishment of adultery is just hundred lashes, which is because of the far less gravity of this crime than murder. (Al-Nur-24:2-3)
Secondly, Islam in no way allows honor killing. Islam disallows honor killing to that extent that even a husband cannot take the law in his hands, in case he finds his own wife indulged in an illegitimate relationship. The husband has to swear in the court of his eyewitness, but if a woman also swears of her innocence, both of them will be separated and their Nikah (Marriage bond) will be declared void by the count of law. The Quran says:
“And those who accuse their wives and have no witness except themselves, let each of them testify by swearing four times by Allah that his charge is true, calling down in the fifth time upon himself the curse of Allah if he is lying. But they shall spare her the punishment if she swears four times by Allah that his charge is false and calls down Allah’s wrath upon herself if it be true” (Al-Nur-24:6-9)
It proves that there is no room for honour killing in Islam, rather every such matter will be decided by the court of law.
Thirdly, the Quran asserts that every law must be implemented in its true spirit. Everyone knows that some criminal minded people exploit the wording through flexibility in the law or take shelter of the misinterpreted statutes and thus act against the spirit of the law. All such efforts are wrong and must be countered. The Quran asks the Holy Prophet:
“Give good news to my servants, who listen to my word and follow the best interpretation of it. These are they whom Allah has guided. These are they who are endured with understanding” (Al-Zumar-39:18)
Fourthly, every Quranic injunction has certain common sense exceptions, which must be taken to account. All the Quranic orders are for ordinary and normal circumstances. New legislation is required for extra-ordinary circumstances.
Keeping in view the above facts, now we analyze a particular Quranic instruction. This instruction affirms that the death punishment of a murderer can be pardoned if the heirs of the murdered are willing to accept the ransom. The spirit behind this instruction is to maintain peace between two families or two tribes. So far as the justice on the Doomsday is concerned, the murderer will receive his punishment even if he has been pardoned in this world. (Al-Nisa-4:93)
Now, if a woman is killed in a family, in the name of honour, it would be certainly a platform for the forthcoming chain of slaughters. On the basis of this honour killing, the criminal minded people would start killing women within their families under true and false allegations. The women would feel themselves unprotected and they would rightly understand that the men folk have a license to kill them. Therefore, it cannot be called a simple murder, rather a disorder and mischief on earth (Al-Maida 5: Verce 32-33) for which the criminal must be inflicted upon severe punishment so that peace and order is maintained in the society. There should be no room for apology or compromise in such cases.
Since Islam believes that the murder of an individual is tantamount to the murder of the whole of the humankind, the court can have the prerogative to award compulsorily a punishment inferior to the death penalty if any of the heirs of the murdered insists on not pardoning him.
In the likewise manner, the murder of a woman within the family must also be declared an unpardonable crime because in both these cases it is no more a simple murder rather it is a disorder on earth. And there is no room for ransom or apology in this crime.