Social Independence Of Women
Social Independence of Women
Independence of Choosing Destiny
One day a girl, who looked very perturbed, came to the Holy Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah! My father has done me a great injustice".
"What has your father done?"
"He has a nephew and he has married me to him without taking my consent".
"If so, agree to what he has done and be the wife of your cousin
"I don't like my cousin. How can I be the wife of a person whom I don't like".
"Then nothing has gone wrong. If you don't like him, go and choose another person whom you like".
"By the way, I like him very much. I don't like any other person. I won't he the wife of anybody else. But, because my father gave me in marriage without taking my consent, I intentionally came over to have a talk with you. I wanted you to say what you have said. I wanted all the women to know that the fathers no longer had a right to decide as they pleased and give their daughters in marriage to whomsoever they liked".
The incident has been narrated by eminent jurists in such books as the Masalik (by Shaheed Thani) and the Jawahirul Kalam. During the pre-Islamic period the Arabs, like all other people of those days, thought that they 'had full authority in regard to their daughters and sisters and sometimes even in regard to their mothers. They did not acknowledge the rights of women to choose their husbands, this choice being the exclusive privilege of the fathers or the brothers and, in their absence, of the paternal uncles, so much so that prospective fathers could give their daughters in marriage even before they were actually born. A man could enter into a contract with another man pledging that if a daughter was born to the former, she would, when grown up, be the wife of the latter.
Marriage before Birth
One day, during his last pilgrimage, while the Holy Prophet was riding and had a whip in his hand, a man approached him on the way and said:
"I have a complaint to make".
"Yes, what's the matter?"
"Years ago, during the pre-Islamic days, Tariq ibn Murqa'a and I took part in a battle. During the fighting he came to require a lance and cried: "Is there anybody who will give me a lance and take a reward?" I went to him and asked him what reward he would give. He said that he would bring up for me the first daughter that was born to him. Since then years have passed. Recently, on inquiring, I found out that he has a grown up daughter in his house. I went to him and reminded him of the promise. But he went back on his promise and demanded a fresh dower. Now I have come to you to find out whether he is right, or I am right".
How old is the girl?"
"The girl is grown up. Grey hair has also appeared on her head".
"If you ask me, neither you nor Tariq is right. Go after your business and leave the girl alone".
The man was taken aback at this reply and stared at the Prophet for several moments. He wondered what sort of verdict it was. Even if he paid a fresh dower to the girl's father and he willingly gave his daughter to him, still the deal was not proper.
The Prophet observed his wondering looks and said: "Don't worry. If you do things the way I have told you, neither you nor your friend, Tariq, will be doing anything wrong".
Exchange of Daughters
During the pre-Islamic days there was a form of marriage in vogue in Arabia under the name of Shighar marriage, (exchange of daughters) which was a manifestation of the absolute authority of the fathers over their daughters. A man would give his daughter in marriage to another man in consideration of the latter giving his daughter in marriage to him. In such a form of marriage neither of the wives would get a dower. Islam abolished this custom. It is worth noting that the Holy Prophet allowed full liberty to his daughter Fatimah Zahra (Peace be upon her) in choosing her husband.
He gave in marriage several other daughters also, but he did not deprive them of their freedom. When Ali Ibn Abi Talib, (peace be on him), approached the Holy Prophet, seeking Fatimah's hand, the Prophet said that several other people had already approached him and that he had conveyed their proposals to Fatimah, but she turned her face away, as a mark of disapproval. The Prophet assured Ali that he would convey to her his proposal as well.
The Prophet went to Fatimah and told his beloved daughter what Ali wanted. This time she did not turn her face away, but kept quiet and thus expressed her consent. When the Prophet came out, he was happy. He exclaimed, "Allah is the Greatest!"
The Islamic Movement for Women's Liberation
Islam has done a great service to women. It not only put an end to the absolute control of the fathers, but gave women freedom, a personality and independence of thinking and opinion.
It officially recognised her natural rights. However, there are two basic differences between the steps taken by Islam and what is happening in the West and is being followed by others.
The first difference concerns the psychology of man and woman. Islam has done and revealed wonders in this respect. We shall further discuss this question in the subsequent chapters.
The second difference is that, while Islam made the women aware of their rights and gave them an identity, a personality, freedom and independence, it did not instigate them to revolt and harbour malice against the male persons.
The Islamic movement for women's liberation was white. It was neither black nor red; neither blue nor violet. It did not put an end to the respect in which the daughters held their fathers and the wives their husbands. It did not upset the basis of the family life and did not make women suspicious of their responsibilities in regard to their fathers and husbands. It did not provide any opportunity to the unmarried men who are always after enticing women. It did not snatch away the wives from their husbands and the daughters from their parents and did not hand them over to the sensual executives and the moneyed magnates. It has done nothing similar to what has caused a hue and cry across the oceans that the sacred family system has broken into pieces. There the paternal protection has vanished. No one knows what to do with all the corruption that is rampant, with the ever-growing cases of infanticide and abortion, with 40 per cent illegitimate children and with those new-born infants whose fathers are not known and whose mothers do not want to have anything to do with them, because they were not born in lawful wedlock. The mothers of such children simply hand them over to some social organisations and then never come back to inquire about them.
No doubt, we in our country are in need of a movement for women's liberation, but what we need is a clean Islamic white movement and not a movement of the European brand with a dark and gloomy taint. We want a movement in which sensual young men should have lesser part and which should spring directly from the lofty teachings of Islam and be based on the deep and logical study of the Muslim society.
The Father's Permission
The question, which needs examination from the point of view of the authority exercised by fathers over their daughters, is whether the father's consent is essential in the case of a maiden's first marriage.
From the Islamic point of view certain things are indisputable.
The boy and the girl both are economically independent. Every sane adult is entitled to have full control of his or her property, provided he or she is mentally mature, that is, capable of taking care of themselves. A father, a mother, a husband or a brother has no power of supervision or intervention in this respect.
Another point, which is indisputable, relates to marriage. The adult and mature boys have full liberty in this respect and nobody else has any right of intervention. The position of the girl, who has been married once and is now without a husband, is the same. But the case of a maiden, who wants to marry for the first time, is a little different.
It is beyond any doubt that the father cannot force even a maiden to marry any person against her will. We already know what the Holy Prophet told the girl whom her father had given in marriage, without taking her consent. The Prophet said that if she was not happy, she could marry someone else. But there exists a difference of opinion among the jurists as to whether a maiden can contract a marriage without the consent of her father and whether the validity of her marriage is in any way conditional to the consent of her father.
There is one more point about which there is absolutely no dispute. If the father withholds his consent without a sound reason, he loses his right. The jurists are unanimous that in such a case the daughter is free to contract a marriage with anyone of her choice.
But otherwise, as we have pointed out, the jurists differ on the point, whether the validity of the marriage of a maiden depends on the consent of her father. Most of the jurists, especially the later ones, are of the view that it does not. But still there are some who are of the opinion that it does.
This being a disputed point, it is not possible to discuss it from the Islamic point of view. Anyhow it can be discussed from a social point of view.
Man is after Sex, Woman is after Love
The basis of the rule that the maidens must not or, at least, should not marry without the consent of their fathers is not that they are considered to be less mature than the boys. Had it been so, there should have been no difference between a 16 year old girl, who had previously been married, and as such does not require her father's consent, and a 17 year old maiden who requires it according to the view of some jurists. Moreover, had Islam considered girls to be immature it would not have regarded the transactions, involving money and properties, made by them independently, as valid. Apart from the legal arguments, this point has a definite philosophy which cannot be ignored.
It is not a question of the immaturity or intellectual inadequacy of woman. It is related to a definite aspect of the psychology of the two sexes i.e. man's instinct of alluring and woman's instinct of credulity in regard to man's faithfulness and truthfulness.
Man is after sex and woman is after love. Man is overpowered by his sexual urge, whereas, woman, according to the psychologists, has a greater capacity of controlling and concealing her desires. It is the melody of love, sincerity and faithfulness which subdues woman and brings her to her knees. That is what we mean by credulity of woman.
As long as the woman is a maiden and has had no experience of men, she can easily be lured by his love songs.
Professor Reeck, the American psychologist, says that the best sentence which a man can say to a woman is 'Darling, I love you'. He says that good luck for a woman means to be able to win the heart of a man and to retain it for the rest of her life.
The Holy Prophet, the divine psychologist, clearly expressed this truth 1,400 years ago. He has said that if man expresses his love to a woman, she never forgets that.
The men who are after enticing a woman fully exploit this womanly feeling. The words, 'I am dying for you' are the best lure for enticing girls who have had no experience of men.
That is why it is essential that a girl, who has had no experience of men, should consult her father and should obtain his consent prior to contracting a marriage. Fathers know the mentality of men better and, leaving aside very exceptional cases, wish their daughters well.
In this case, the law has in no way degraded woman, but has taken a step to protect her interest. To raise an objection against the necessity of obtaining a father's consent in the case of girls is more illogical than to ask why a father's or mother's consent has not been made necessary in the case of boys.
I wonder how the people, who daily come across incidence of the evils of free romance between boys and girls, still advise the girls to revolt against and he indifferent to the advice of their guardians.
In our view this act amounts to a sort of collusion between those who claim to have sympathy with women and those who are after enticing them. The former prepare the ground for the latter and make their job easier.
The girls have an absolute option in the matter of marriage. Only its validity depends upon the consent of the father, provided that he does not withhold it with any bad intention, or because he is not competent to exercise his judgement rightly for any special reason. Can anything be wrong with such a rule, or can it be regarded as against the basic concept of human liberty?
It is just a precaution to safeguard the interests of inexperienced girls and is based on a sort of suspicion about the male nature.
In this respect no objection can be raised against the Islamic law as such. What is objectionable is the custom prevailing among the Muslims. Most of the fathers still think that they have absolute authority and regard it as against her modesty, if a girl expresses her views about the selection of her partner in life, who is to be the father of her future children. They mostly do not pay attention to the intellectual maturity of the girl, which, according to the Islamic law, is an indisputable necessity. Many marriages, which take place before the girls are mature, are legally invalid and void. Mostly no inquiry is made about the maturity of the girl and puberty is considered enough. But we know what the great jurists have written about testing the intellectual maturity of the girls. Some jurists have regarded religious maturity also as a condition of marriage. They hold that only those girls who know the principles of religion with reason and proof are fit for marriage. Unfortunately, most of the guardians and those who preside over the religious ceremony of the marriage do not observe these conditions.
It may be mentioned that in all old marriage deeds the words 'adult, sane and mature' are found along with the names of the bride and the bridegroom.
Anyway, according to the Shi'ite law, a woman who is adult and mature and has once been married does not require her father's consent.
Islam and Modern Life
The question of religion and modernity is one of those subjects which do not concern the Muslims alone. Other religions also had to face this question. Many liberal minded people in the world have renounced religion, because they are under the impression that religion and modern life are incompatible. They think that inertia, stagnation and rigidity are the inherent properties of religiousness. In other words, they think that inertia, monotony and the maintenance of status quo are the characteristics of religion.
The late Mr. Nehru, a former Prime Minister of India, had secular ideas and did not have faith in any religion. It appears from his statements that what made him averse to religion was its rigidity and monotony.
Towards the end of his life Nehru felt a vacuum within himself and in the world and believed that it could be filled only by a spiritual force. But still, he was not inclined to accept any religion, because he believed that a state of rigidity and monotony pervaded all religions.
An Indian journalist, named Karanjia, interviewed Nehru towards the end of the latter's life and apparently this was the last interview during which Nehru expressed his views on general world problems. While talking about Gandhi, Karanjia said:
"Some liberal and progressive elements believe that Gandhiji, through his emotional solutions and moral and spiritual ways, weakened and dampened your original belief in scientific socialism".
In the course of his reply, Nehru said: "It is necessary and good to take advantage of moral and spiritual ways. I have always agreed with Gandhiji in this respect. I believe that it is more necessary to take advantage of these means, for now, more than ever, we need moral and spiritual answers to the questions resulting from the moral vacuum caused by the modern culture, which is becoming popular."
Then Karanjia put questions about Marxism. Nehru admitted its imperfection and, in his replies, pointed out some of its failures. He again suggested a spiritual solution to the world's problems. At this juncture, Karanjia said: "Mr. Nehru, does not your present concept of moral and spiritual solutions make you different from yesterday's Jawaharlal (Nehru himself during his youth)? What you have said gives an idea that Mr. Nehru, towards the end of his life, has come out in search of God".
Nehru said: "Yes, I have changed. My emphasis on moral and spiritual values and the solutions is not unintentional". He added: "Now the question is how to raise the morality and spiritualism to a higher level. No doubt, for this purpose, religion is there, but unfortunately it has taken the shape of a short-sighted and rigid ritualism and has been reduced to dry formalities. Only its apparent form and external shell have remained and its real spirit and concept have disappeared".
Islam and Requirements of the Time
Of all the religions Islam alone is more concerned with all the aspects of human life. Its teachings are not confined to acts of worship and prayer and to a set of moral counsels. As Islam has dealt with men's relations with God, it has also given the broad lines of men's relations with each other. It has, in various forms, dealt with individual rights and obligations, too. That is why the question whether its teachings are applicable or not to the ever-changing circumstances is more valid in the case of Islam than in that of any other religion.
Incidentally, many non-Muslim intellectuals and writers have studied the social and civil laws of Islam and have commended them as a body of progressive laws. They have paid rich tributes to Islam, as a living and everlasting religion, and have recognised the applicability of its laws to all times and circumstances.
The well-known liberal minded English writer, Bernard Shaw has said: "I have always held the religion of Muhammad (P) in high estimation, because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow, and the signs of this are becoming apparent even now. The medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Muhammadanism in the darkest colours. They were, in fact, trained both to hate the man, Muhammad, and his religion. To them Muhammad was anti-Christ. I have studied him, the wonderful man, and, in my opinion, far from being anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the leadership of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness".
Dr. Shibli Shama'il is an Arab materialist of Lebanon. He, for the first time, translated Darwin's 'Origin of Species' into Arabic, along with the German scientist Boucher's commentary on it, giving it the name of 'A weapon against religious beliefs".
Though he is a materialist, he does not feel shy of admiring Islam and its great founder. He appreciates Islam as a living religion, applicable to all times.
This man, in the second volume of his book "Philosophy of Evolution", which he has published in Arabic, has written an article under the caption "The Qur'an and Civilisation". He has written this article to refute a non-Muslim who had travelled in the Muslim countries and had expressed the opinion that Islam was responsible for the decline of the Muslims. Shibli Shama'il has tried to prove that actually the cause of the decline of the Muslims is their deviation from the social teachings of Islam. Those Europeans who attack Islam, either do not know it or criticise it with the bad intention of making the people of the East sceptical about their laws and their system with a view to keeping them under the western tutelage.
During our time the question, whether Islam is compatible with the present age, has become a burning question. We meet a cross-section of people, especially those belonging to the educated class and we find that this question is asked more often than other questions.
Sometimes these people give a philosophical turn to their query and say that everything in this world is subject to change. Nothing is static and stationary, human society being no exception. Then, how can a body of laws remain unchanged through the ages?
If we look at this question from a purely philosophical point of view, the answer is simple. It is the material things of the world which are ever changing; which grow and decline, and which are subject to evolution and decay. As for the universal laws, they do not change. For example, all living things have evolved and continue to evolve according to certain laws which have been set forth by the scientists. The living things themselves are, no doubt, ever changing, but the laws of their evolution and development are not subject to any change. And we are at present talking about the laws. In this respect it makes no difference whether the laws are natural or have been framed and compiled, for it is possible that the laws which have been framed might have nature as their source and be in conformity with the evolutionary process of the individuals as well as the human society as a whole.
Anyhow, the queries in respect of the compatibility and incompatibility of Islam with the requirements of the time do not have a general and philosophical aspect alone.
The question, which is more often asked, is that when the laws are framed to meet human requirements which are not constant, how can social laws be constant and unalterable?
It is a good question. Incidentally, it is a miraculous characteristic of Islam that it provides constant laws to meet all constant requirements of the individuals and the society, and flexible laws for the temporary and changing requirements. This is its characteristic of which all judicious and knowledgeable Muslims are proud of. We propose to explain it further to an extent appropriate to the present occasion.
Is the Social Change Compatible with Time?
Before going into this question we should like to bring forward two points:
The first point is that most of the people who talk of progress, development and change in a situation suppose that any social change, especially if its source is in the West, is the consequence of progress and development. This is one of the most erroneous ideas entertained by the present generation.
These people are under the impression that as the means of life change from day to day, and the imperfect ones are replaced by the perfect ones and as science and industry are constantly advancing, all changes in human life are a sort of progress and advancement and should be welcomed as such. Not only that, they think that such changes are inevitable and have to come with the passage of time.
In fact, all changes are not the direct result of the advancement of science and industry, nor are they inevitable. While science is progressing, the selfish and animal nature of man is also not idle. Knowledge and wisdom carry man towards perfection and the selfish and animal human nature pushes him towards corruption and perversion. The animal nature of man always tries to utilise knowledge as a means of attaining its base desires. With the passage of time, as progress and development takes place, corruption and perversion also grow. We have to march forward with the advancement of time, but at the same time we must fight corruption also. The reformer and the reactionary both fight against time, with the difference that the reformer fights against the perversion of time, and the reactionary fights against its progress. If we regard time and its changes as the criterion of all good and evil, then what is the criterion to judge time itself? If everything should conform to time, then what should time conform to? If man should follow time and its changes with folded hands, then what will happen to the constructive and creative role of the human will? Man is riding the vehicle of time, which is in motion. He must not be negligent of guiding and controlling his vehicle. Otherwise, he will be like a person mounted on horseback, who leaves himself to the will of the horse.
Adjustment or Abrogation?
The second point worth mentioning here is that some people have solved the difficult problem of 'Islam and the requirements of time' in a very simple and easy way. They say that Islam is an everlasting religion, and it can be adjusted to every age and every time. But when asked how this adjustment takes place and what its formula is, they at once say that when the circumstances change, the existing laws are repealed and replaced by other laws. They argue that the temporal laws of religion must be flexible and in harmony with the progress of knowledge and science and the expansion of culture and civilisation. According to them, such flexibility and adjustability to the requirements of time conform to the spirit of Islam and are not against its teachings.
They hold that, as the requirements of time are always changing, every age demands a new set of laws. They further hold that the civil and social laws of Islam are in conformity with the simple life of the pre-Islamic Arabs, and are mostly based on their customs and usages. As they are not compatible with the present age, they should be replaced by modern laws.
Such people should be asked: If adjustability means capability of being repealed, which law does not have this type of flexibility? Is there any law which is not compatible with time in this sense?
This interpretation of flexibility and applicability to all times is exactly like saying that books and libraries are the best means of enjoying life, because whenever one wants enjoyment, one can sell them and spend the money so obtained, on the gratification of one's desires.
An Iranian writer says that the teachings of Islam are divided into three parts. The first part consists of basic doctrines, such as Divine Unity, Prophethood, Resurrection etc. The second part is related to the acts of worship such as prayer, fasting, ablution, ritual cleaning, pilgrimage etc. The third part consists of the laws concerning the life of the people.
According to him only the first two parts are an integral part of religion, and something to be preserved for ever. As far as the third part is concerned, it is not an integral part of religion, for religion is not concerned with the daily way of life of the people. The Holy Prophet himself did not prescribe these laws as a part of religion, for they were not related to his mission as Messenger. It was only a chance that, as the Head of the State, he had to give some laws also. Otherwise, religion has nothing to do with the worldly life of the people.
It is hard to believe that a person living in a Muslim country should be so ignorant of the precepts of Islam.
Has not the Qur'an described the aim of the Prophets and the Apostles? Does not the Qur'an expressly say: "We have sent Our Messengers with clear proof and We have sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that people may rise with justice" (Surah al-Hadid, 57 : 25). The Qur'an describes social justice as the main aim of all the Prophets.
If you like, you may not act on the teachings of the Qur'an, but why do you commit a bigger sin by bringing a calumny against Islam and the Qur'an? Most of our misfortunes are due to the fact that our morals and laws have lost their only source of strength, viz. religion.
It is only during the past half a century that we have come to hear the cry that Islam is good, provided it remains confined to the places of worship, and has nothing to do with the society. This cry has burst forth from across the frontiers of the Muslim countries, and has been propagated throughout the Muslim world.
To make the purpose of this cry clearer, it may be said that the idea behind it is that Islam should stay as a force to withstand the spread of communism, but when it clashes with the interests of the West, it must go. From the viewpoint of the West, the devotional rites of Islam must continue so that the Muslims, whenever need be, could be stirred up against the atheistic and godless system of communism, but the social rules of Islam which provide a philosophy of life to the Muslims must go, for these rules give the Muslims a sense of independence and separate identity, and prevent their being swallowed up by the greedy West.
Unfortunately, the exponents of the thesis that Islam is not concerned with the daily practical life, have ignored certain basic facts.
Firstly, Islam, 1,400 years ago, depreciated the principle of, "We believe in certain things (some of the teachings of Islam) and reject the others", and proclaimed that the rules of Islam are irreversible.
Secondly, we believe that the time has come, when the Muslims should not be misled by such deceptive slogans. The critical sense of the people has now, more or less, been awakened, and gradually they are beginning to differentiate between the manifestations of progress and advancement, which are the outcome of the blooming of the scientific and intellectual forces, and the manifestations of corruption and perversion, though their source be in the West.
The people of the Muslim world have now, more than ever, become conscious of the value of the teachings of Islam, and have realised that they can lead an independent life only by following them. They are not going to give them up, at any cost.
The vigilant Muslims know that the propaganda against Islamic laws is nothing but an imperialistic fraud.
Thirdly, the exponents of this thesis should know that Islam, when powerful, withstands any other system, whether it is atheistic or not. Islam wants to dominate the society as a philosophy of life, and does not want to be confined to the 'masjids' and other places of worship. The Islam which will be restricted to the places of worship, will vacate the field, not only for the Western ideas, but it will vacate it for the anti-Western ideas and doctrines as well.
The penalty which the West is paying, in certain Muslim countries, is the result of its not realising this fact.
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