** in Canada amid lots of social controversy and resistance, a Sharia court has formally started working on domestic and business issues with the blessing of Canadian law.
** in Nigeria and Pakistan unmarried girls and widows or divorced women who gets pregnant even by rape, are flogged or sentenced to death by stoning.
** in Malaysia by court order, a woman got instantly divorced by her husband by message left in answering machine.
** in Afghanistan women are banned by law from performing on radio or TV even for news broadcasting.
** in Pakistan hundreds of women are jailed under adultery and blasphemy laws.
** in Bangladesh, women are forced into strangers' beds by Sharia law while raped minor girls are flogged under Zina (adultery) law.
** in Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Malaysia etc, women are fighting against oppressive Sharia laws which limit their lives in countless ways. .
One may wonder how these abuses can happen in a world aware of human rights. Are these really Islamic laws or misapplications of Sharia? This brief essay will explore and analyze the origins, the development and the impact of Sharia law on Muslim women. It will end with a call to the West, and to Muslim's themselves, to realize the magnitude of Sharia's threat to humanity.
Since women's rights under Sharia law is a vast and complicated subject, we will present it in a simple manner and deal with it in the following sections.
1. WHAT IS SHARIA
What does " Sharia Law" mean? In whatever way we define the word "Law" it ultimately means the logical application of conscience. The word "Sharia" literally means "the path on sand created by camels walking to water-spots" but spiritually it means guidance. Islam initially revolutionized women's rights by taking the first steps in that desert society by banning female-infanticide, preventing forcing of women into unwanted marriages, allowing women to retain their fathers' names after marriage, permitting women to be witnesses (albeit their testimony counted as half of a man's) and establishing their ownership rights to property and their income. All of these advances in women's rights occurred in the Middle East when Europe was in the midst of the Dark Ages.
Sharia laws were created to rule the vast expanding Muslim empire after 200 years of Prophet's death. In the 7-8th century, disciples of four Islamic jurists codified the laws in their four respective Masters' names according to their personal understanding of the Qura'an and Prophet's examples. Thus the term "Fiqh" emerged, which literally means human understanding. Their codification is divided in two sections: Hudud and Ta'zir. The word Hudud comes from Hadd, which means limit. The Hudud laws are mostly penal and include stoning to death or cutting hands of thieves. These are considered beyond human authority to change. As Mawdudi, the father of modern Political Islam notes:
"Where an explicit command of God or His Prophet already exists, no Muslim leader or legislature, or any religious scholar can form an independent judgment not even all the Muslims of the world put together, have any right to make least alteration to it".
Source: Islamic Law and Constitution - Maolana Mawdudi.
Believing so is regarded as alliance to Islam itself. All books on Sharia law univocally maintain this dictum.
Yet Sharia is not merely a codification of laws. It is the main pillar of Islamic theocracy. To its followers it is God's divine command to establish a global Islamic State in order to apply Sharia. In that sense, Sharia is the constitution of the institution of Political Islam, which is defined by its founding father, Maolana Mawdudi (1903-1971) as: -
"Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere in the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam?.. If the Muslim Party commands adequate resources it will eliminate un-Islamic governments and establish the power of Islamic governments in their stead." -
Source: Jihad In Islam--Maolana Mawdudi.
This may be taken as an informal declaration of war against all the world's non-Muslims to establish a global Islamic theocracy by defeating secular democracy. Mawdudi was the first person to fuse the century-old philosophy of Political Islam with modern democracy in 1941. Sixty-three years later his voice resonates today throughout the world including major European cities with the promise of a "Clash of Civilizations".
Modern Jihadis remain inspired by Mawdudi's call. Consider this recent internet posting:
"They (European Muslims) swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban".
Source: Bangladesher Dak "European Muslims Call For Jihad". Posted by: News Monitors on Apr 27, 2004.
Recent West proved to be the champion of naivety in human history not to realize the depth, height and magnitude of this threat. It is important, however, to note that Muslims have always debated furiously among themselves over the divinity of Sharia that never enjoyed total support of world Muslims or Islamic scholars. Even the word "Fiqh", Islamic Jurisprudence, literally means human understanding, far from divine gift of Law. The struggle is still ongoing to decide if Islam is about guidance or governance (Ma'arefat and Shariy'at). However, Sharia today is being used as a tool of political governance.
2. EXAMPLES OF SOME SHARIA LAWS.
Modern laws are based on human rights. Sharia however is based on perceived duties to God. In Sharia there is hardly any distinction between crime and sin. Social obligations are fused and confused with worship of the Creator. Political Islam, the main torchbearer of Sharia, was born out of a misleading conviction of the political dimensions of Muslim-empire with Islamic faith system. It integrated political events of Muslims with Islam itself. It is important to note that in the ongoing debates on Sharia in numerous articles books and interviews, Political Islamists make only sweeping comments. Quoting the actual Sharia laws are carefully avoided. As examples are better than explanations, here are a few laws on women's rights and human rights from Islamic world's most authentic sources namely: - (A) Umdat Al Salik, Imam Shafi'i, one of Islam's four foremost Jurists in 7th century. (B) Hedaya of Imam Abu Hanifa, one of Islam's four foremost Jurists in 7th century. (C) Text of Pakistan's Hudood Law. (D) Penal Law of Islam (E) Sharia the Islamic Law - Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi and (F) Islamic Laws - Ayatollah Seestani.
1. A Muslim cannot be put to death for the murder of an unbeliever. (According to clause #14 of Prophet's Medina-Charter, proudly claimed by Sharia-proponents as "The First Written Constitution in the World".
2. A Muslim man is allowed to beat his wife or wives. - Qura'anic dictum.
3. A Muslim man is allowed to have four wives at one time. - Qura'anic dictum
4. A Muslim man can divorce his wife or wives instantaneously. Then he can marry a new set of wives and continue the cycle. - Corollary of Qura'anic dictum.
5. A Muslim woman must pay money to the husband by court orders to have the marriage dissolved. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum..
6. If a divorced couple wants to remarry each other, the wife must marry another person, must have complete sex with him and must be divorced by him willingly. - Qura'anic dictum.
7. The evidence required in a case of adultery is that of four Muslim adult men - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum.
8. Women's testimony is not accepted in cases of adultery or in any capital offence. - Faulty human development.
9. Evidence of a female singer and slave (male or female) is not admissible. - Faulty human development.
10. Testimony of a non-Muslim that has been punished for false accusation is inadmissible. If s/he later becomes a Muslim, her/his evidence is then admissible. -Faulty human development.
11. The Judge of the Court shall be a Muslim. The Judge may be a non-Muslim only if the accused is a non-Muslim. -Faulty human development.
12. Adoption is not allowed in Sharia. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum.
13. Custody of children goes to mother as long as the kids need care, normally 9 years for boys and 7 for girls, after which the father takes over. But if the mother does not pray or gets married, the kids immediately go to the father. - Faulty human development.
14. Women inherit half of men. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum..
15. Women's witness is half of men's in business transactions. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum..
16. If a woman is killed, the blood money (the money a killer has to pay to the family of the killed on demand to get acquitted) is half of that of a Muslim man. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum.
17. Apostates (Muslims who leave Islam) automatically get death penalty. If not available for killing, their marriage is dissolved and they cannot inherit from Muslim parents or children. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum.
18. Muslim men can marry Christian and Jews women but Muslim women can marry only a Muslim man. - Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum.
19. A Muslim virgin cannot marry without permission of her male guardian.- Faulty human development on Qura'anic dictum.
20. A man can marry a woman for a fixed time, from few hours to several years (Mu'ta Marriage, - Sharia of Shia sect.). Rich men from the Middle East travel to Southern India to take advantage of this law on financially poor women, so do rich Iranian men on their women. The misery of those women and children born out of this practice are beyond comprehension. - Faulty human development.
Although full with pro-women advices, it is difficult to find pro-women laws in Sharia. There is no punishment for violating the pro-women advices either. So, in case of conflict of interest, law overrules advice. In that sense it perfectly represent strong patriarchy. Obviously, what Dr. Hisham Kamali, one of strongest authorities on Sharia suggested in his voluminous "Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence" has never been taken care of, quote- "I have consequently commented on the nature of the challenge that Muslim scholars and jurists must take up if the methodology of Usul-al-Fiqh and Ijtihad are to be revitalized and integrated into the process of law and government in modern times".
It is strange that without taking the burden of the challenge Political Islam acts a copycat of the past and tries to impose Sharia without updating. Once updated, Sharia might be very similar to existing laws of secular democratic countries. Muslims are not alone regarding objection to few laws such as same-sex marriage or abortion; some non-Muslims share the same vision. It is indeed surprising that Political Islamists remain vague about explaining how to integrate "Islamic teaching" in universal legal matters. They never point out which Western Law is against Islamic teaching and why. Dr. Hisham Kamali showed the serious and huge work done in 7-8th centuries to build Islamic Jurisprudence. But at the end it does not meet justice to humanity in general and women rights in particular. It is like the huge fifty thousand pages research-paper of a medicine that has serious and malignant side effects.
3. TWO MAJOR ROOTS OF SHARIA LAW.
The Qura'an and the Prophet's sayings are two of the most important sources of Sharia. Though Sharia violates the Qura'an in many of its major laws, (see - Violation of the Qura'an) it is undeniable that some Qura'anic verses, such as on wife beating, slave sleeping, women's inheritance and witness etc are unacceptable to today's concept of human rights. On the other hand, we should acknowledge that Islam began by establishing some revolutionary progress on women rights. Those were only the first steps to set the direction, Muslims were supposed to take it further towards women's complete equity. That has never happened. It may be noted that particular interpretations of the Qura'anic verses in law making were never univocal among Muslims. Different versions of Sharia were creates by individuals personally, not by public opinion or by institution. So, with a different interpretation of a different individual, laws have become different. Different Islamic scholars always interpreted verses of wife-beating, slave sleeping, women's half inheritance or witness etc, differently. But political Islam takes the codified Sharia as infallible.
Regarding the role of the Prophet Mohammed, suffice it to say that Abu Bakar and Omar, Prophet's two closest companions burnt their records of Prophet's sayings for fear of getting mixed up with the Qura'an (Shortened Encyclopaedia of Islam - from "Sangskar" - Jamilul Basher). Yet within two centuries of his death, hundreds of thousands, even a million "recorded examples" were established. The reason was probably to protect the Kings' vested interests or to validate their crimes in the Prophet's name. A few of the Prophet's sayings relating to women are quoted here mainly from "Women's Exegesis in Islam" - Abul Kasem. (A compilation about women-related "Prophet's examples" from most authentic Islamic sources).
(A) Women would have been commanded to prostrate before their husbands, had anyone be commanded to make prostration before another. -Sunaan Abu Dawud 11.2135, & Ehya Ulum Al Deen - Imam Gazzali Vol 2.
(B) If the body of the husband from head to toe would be full with pus and the wife would eat that by licking, still her gratitude (to him) would not be fulfilled - Ehya Ulum Al Deen - Imam Gazzali Vol 2.
(C) Majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire are women. -Sahi Bukhari 1.6.301.
(D) If a dog, a donkey or a woman pass in front of the praying people, Prayer is annulled. - Sahi Bukhari 1.9.490.
(E) Evil omen is in the women, the house and the horse. -Sahi Bukhari; 7.62.30.
(F) Women are more harmful to men than anything else. - Shahih Muslim 36.6603.
(G) The house, the wife and the horse are bad luck. - Shahih Muslim 26.5523.
(H) A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife. - Sunaan Abu Dawud 11.2142.
(I) "The essence of marriage is slavery. After marriage the wife enters slavery of the husband". - Imam Gazzali - Ehya Ulum Al Deen Vol 2.
(J) People ruled by a woman will never be successful. - Sahi Bukhari 5.59.709.
(K) Nothing is more harmful to men than women. - Shahih Bukhari 7.62.33.
(L) "The devil says to women: ?You are half my army". - Imam Gazzali Ehya Ulum Al Deen - Vol. II, p367.
(M) Because of Eve women are unfaithful towards their husbands. - Shahih Muslim 8.3471.
This is how our Prophet is misused by countless similar examples recorded in core Islamic scriptures. In secondary or tertiary so-called Islamic sources, extremely objectionable words are mentioned in his name. Example: -. "If a woman offered one of her breasts to be cooked and the other to be roasted, she still will fall short of fulfilling her obligations to her husband. And besides that if she disobeys her husband even for a twinkling of an eye, she would be thrown in the lowest part of Hell, except she repents and turns back." - Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, Al-Mar'ah wal- Islam, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p. 176. It is also quoted in Al-Musanaf by Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn 'Abd Allah Ibn Mousa Al-Kanadi who lived 557H, vol. 1 part 2, p. 255. (Original reference is not checked).
These documents continue to embarrass good Muslims. No good law can be made based on such examples. That is why Dr. Hashmi says, - "Sharia was destined to be corrupt because it is made out of a corrupt element called Prophet's examples". The vast Muslim population is illiterate and mentally weak, their Islam is whatever their clergy says. They cannot even think outside the clergy's sermons.
There are a few other sources of Sharia, reflecting the patriarchy prevailing at that time. The concept of women's rights did not develop in the Muslim empire mainly because Muslims have a tendency to detach themselves from others. As Dr. Maimul Ahsan Khan very eloquently said: -
"Surprisingly enough, the Muslim rulers, politicians, intellectuals, and religious personalities overlooked the entire ongoing process of constitutional and legal developments in the Western countries". -
Source: Human Rights in the Muslim World: Fundamentalism, Constitutionalism and International Politics.
This attitude of staying aloof is reflected in every recent important development of human civilization. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Law was constructed, instead of proposing modifications to it, Muslim clergy were quick to formulate an alternate Islamic Declaration of Human Rights and Islamic International Law. With better cooperation from Muslims, as important members of humankind, human progress could be easier and faster.
4. WOMENS' RIGHTS UNDER SHARIA IN THE PAST.
The picture of the past is not bright, disproving Political Islam's claim that since Sharia protected women's' rights in the past, it can do so now and in the future. The records of past centuries from "Shikayat Defterleri" (Petitionery Records) of the Turkish Basbakanlik Archives show that women suffered historic injustices in Sharia courts.
Muslim men, then as now, could divorce their wives instantaneously but Muslim women had to go through the Sharia court's lengthy process and had to pay money to their husbands (give up the bride-money which she was supposed to get from the husband plus some more) to get an unhappy marriage dissolved by court order. Then came other issues concerning money, namely the alimony for divorced wives and maintenance-money (Nafaka) for their children. Alimony was given only for three months. The husband was to pay the rest of the bride-money (Mehr) only if he himself had initiated the divorce, but not if the wife initiated it. So the inevitable used to happen in past Sharia courts. Husbands used to force their wives to initiate divorce. Moreover, judges were complicit in the charade because they accepted bribes, obviously from the husbands. The examples below from "Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History" by Amira El Azhary Sonbol quote from actual Sicil documents:
1. In Istanbul in July 1702, Ahmet forced his wife Halime Hatun to initiate the divorce so that he didn't have to pay the Mehr. (Sikayet Defterleri 35:1483).
2. "It was usual for a wife to give up any material compensation due her from her husband, including the delayed dowry and the usual allowance for herself and her children".
3. Thus, when Hava Hatun divorced her husband in 1783 she had to abandon the allowance and the remaining dowry.
4. "Sometimes a mother undertook to provide for her children herself, liberating the husband from the responsibility".
This shows how desperate the wives were to get a divorce from torturous husbands. It is painful to observe that instead of addressing the injustice of women, Sharia courts instead facilitated the injustice by including a new paragraph recording the wives' agreement to abandon their legal rights.
The often forgotten fact is that women's' rights are intimately related with children's' rights. Sharia shows a poor understanding of children's' rights, probably because the conception is relatively recent. Elders can get children married. Even minor girls can be married to elderly men.
Here it may not be irrelevant to compare Sharia with some pre-Islamic laws regarding women's rights. The Assyrian (1700 - 2400 years before Sharia) and Babylonian (Hammurabi laws - 2700 years before Sharia) laws seem to be more just to women- "History of Assyria"- By Olmstead and "Laws from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor" -By Driver and Miles. Source: - Women and the Koran - Anwar Hekmat. We have seen that a Muslim husband had and still has absolute authority to divorce his wife or wives instantaneously, though the wives do not have corresponding rights. The Babylonian law said:
"If a man's wife becomes crippled (or afflicted with an incurable disease) and he decided to marry another woman, he may do so but cannot divorce the first wife who shall continue to live with him in the same house and to be cared for the rest of her life".
In a second case, if a man abandons his wife and disappears, in Sharia the wife has to wait at least four years to remarry. In Assyrian law the time limit is two years. The older Babylonian law is even more rational: -
"If a man has deserted his city and fled, and his wife thereafter entered the house of another; if the man has returned and wants to take back his wife, the wife of the fugitive may not return to her husband".
5. WOMEN-RIGHTS UNDER SHARIA TODAY.
SHARIA-POLICE BEATING MUSLIM WOMEN.
Use permitted by Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan - rawa.org
It is important to note that all criticisms of Islam and its defense mainly rotate around Sharia's approach to women rights. On the light of the laws shown above, added to strongly anti-women cultural aspects, one can easily imagine women's condition in Muslim majority countries. The following examples of the Muslim world should be of concern to any person with conscience. The examples are not rare or isolated but epidemic in some countries.
As Sharia needs four male adult Muslim eyewitnesses to prove prohibited sex (Zina), and as Sharia regards rape in prohibited sex (Tex of Pakistan's Hudood Law), there are many reports of flogging raped girls, even minors, for want of such requisite evidence. The raped girls and women either report the rape to police or get pregnant. Sharia court regards these as "proofs" of having prohibited sex. For widows and divorced women the punishment of getting pregnant is stoning to death- (Maliki Sharia), if there are no such eyewitnesses to prove the rape.
Often on different pretexts, informal "instant" Sharia courts in villages decree different types of punishments including the marriages of the victims dissolved. In one such case the wife "Nurjahan" was buried up to her waist and stoned 101 times; her husband was also stoned 101 times. Her parents were forced to flog each other 50 times. Nurjahan committed suicide immediately. To marry her former husband, a divorced wife must marry another person, have complete sex with him and get divorced by the new husband. This may be considered as forced prostitution. These cases are epidemically common in Bangladesh. The government helplessly observes, as does the entire nation.
Further evidence of sharia law's injustices towards women abound. A Dubai Court in 1998 ruled that a husband has the right to beat his wife "in order to discipline her" provided that the beating is not so severe as to damage her bones or deform her body. The Noble-laureate, Shirin Ebadi, is pleading a case in Iran where three men were accused of raping a girl, Leila Fathi. One of them committed suicide in prison; the other two were tried and found guilty. However, since a female's life is worth half that of a man's life in Sharia, Fahti's family was required to come up with $18,000 dollars to pay the "blood money" for the execution of their daughter's killers. Leila's elderly father, a day laborer, and her disabled brother sold their house and tried to sell their kidneys to raise the execution money and had moved into a tent outside the local courthouse!
Pakistani women are denied medical care under the pretext of sharia law. In order "to uphold the supreme values of Islam", the government of the fundamentalist six-party alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), has decided to ban male doctors and medical technicians from conducting these examinations on female patients. "They could derive sexual pleasure from women's bodies" while doing so, explained Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan, general secretary of the MMA of NWFP. "Similarly, some women could lure men under the pretext of ECG and ultrasound." There is only one female ECG technician in the province and not a single female ultrasound specialist.
While rape and sexual violence against women is rampant in Pakistan, a Hudood law-- the so-called Zina Ordinance-- exposes women to arrest and trials, if they fail to meet evidentiary standards or to win a conviction in rape cases. Rape victim Zafran Bibi was sentenced to death by this law. Says Dr Farzana Bari, Acting Director, Centre for Women's Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, - "The law is extremely unjust and gender biased. It equates rape with adultery and extends the requirement of four adult Muslim male witnesses to prove adultery to the cases of rape as well. This means in practice that the law protects rapists. Also, it excludes the testimony of women and minorities in awarding Hudood punishment". In the Malaysian province of Gombak Timur Syariah, Judge Mohamad Fauzi Ismail had ruled that an 18-month marriage was over because the husband Shamsudin, sent his wife, Azida Fazlina, an SMS (Short Message System - sticky note or in the answering machine) stating, "If you do not leave your parents' house, you would be divorced". It may be noted that Sharia allows a Muslim husband to divorce his wife instantly by utterance, by body language or simply by a short-note.
Here is another heartbreaking example. Yearly at least two million girls in North Africa are circumcised in the name of Sharia. Though the word "circumcisation" is mentioned in Sharia for males and females, and though all Muslim men are necessarily circumcised, for women the law is stretched to cutting their clitoris off - (Cover story, Reader's Digest August 1999). While all enlightened Muslims know that the practice is not Islamic, their united effort from all over the world could uproot this evil. Yet no Muslim organization has effectively worked to stop this serious violation of women's rights. Only the UN World Health Organization has launched a movement against it.
It is important to re-emphasize that mostly due to the violations of women's rights, a large number of world-Muslims and Islamic scholars consider Sharia as the antithesis of Islam. Dr. Sachedina, one of world's finest Islamic scholars says, - "It is undeniable that Sharia is anti-women". As mentioned before, Dr. Taj Hashmi, professor of Islamic history says, "Sharia was destined to be corrupt because it is made of a corrupt element called Prophet's Examples". Dr. Abdulla An Nai'm, one of the foremost Islamic reformers says, "Current International Law, including the human rights standards established there under, cannot co-exist with corresponding principles of Sharia".
Still, millions of Muslims, including many women, support Sharia. Their firm belief that Sharia is indeed God's law stems from their teachings since childhood. They were taught to believe that humankind will never be able to create just laws. Thus God gifted Sharia to humans to apply to the whole planet so that all evil would be completely and permanently uprooted. A believer creates a rationale in her/his mind that the real examples of injustice to women are misapplications of Sharia by ignorant mullahs. But then, there has never been an effort in the Muslim world to take the authority to apply Sharia out of mullahs' hands. A study shows that all applications comply with the laws more or less. It is extremely important to note that women's voices, their involvement or contribution, is not found in the developmental process and codification of Sharia laws throughout Muslim history. Today, women's lives under Sharia is constantly monitored and reported by a dedicated organization, Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East and they are owed a debt of gratitude.
6. SHARIA'S PENETRATION IN THE WEST
This is something that everybody knows in details. Recently, it has been observed that Sharia-based institutions have secretly penetrated enlightened and tolerant Western societies in different forms. Their only objective is to topple secular governments and establish Islamic states in Britain, France, Germany, Canada, etc. Such is the danger of religious blindness in the name of religious tolerance. Hundreds of such Sharia-oriented organizations are listed. They claim Sharia as world-Muslim's common heritage. But a big part of world-Muslims (in Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Russia, Europe etc, Pakistan until recently) never lived under sharia. Similar is the case of Indian history - Richard Eaton 1993. Also, Sharia never enjoyed support of all Muslims. Examples below demonstrate that even the world's most civilized countries in their own lands, under their own laws, are unable to protect some of their Muslim women from Sharia. These all are reported in the world's well-known newspapers.
1. Taking advantage of a loophole of Canadian laws, a formal Sharia court has been established in Canada. This has made a serious dent on the notion of separation between religion and state. Moreover, the Sharia courts of the Muslim empire were free to the public, but this modern Sharia court has imposed fees violating Qura'anic Chapter 2 verses 41, 79 etc.
2. Cases of abuse of women through the application of Sharia law in England are well known. The British government either doesn't know or care.
3. A Spanish court sentenced a Muslim leader to 15 months in prison for writing a book advising husbands how to beat their wives without leaving bruises.
4. In 2004 France expelled an Algerian-born Muslim prayer leader for defending the stoning and beating of adulterous wives as acceptable in Islam, even though illegal under French law, the Interior Ministry said.
5. A speech by Aly Hindy, an Imam at the Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Toronto, was broadcast in TVO-TV, STUDIO 2, on Friday 23rd 2004. Hindy said repeatedly that there were cases of polygamy in Toronto, which he approves. He also repeatedly said that in the case of inheritance, a son gets twice what a daughter gets, and that if the daughter objected, she would be going against God. Needless to say that Canadians do not notice this dangerous trend in their own country.
Much of humankind's future depends on how the West deals with these violations of human rights in their own lands. Until now the West has appeared to be naﶥ about this. They seem not to understand that Political Islamists believe that, since it is their God's order to them, they will not end from such violations. History proves that religion, when mixed with politics, is bound to violate human rights. Religious fanatics never listen to calls for humanity, logic and conscience. Church-governments in Europe had to be uprooted by mass-movements. In India, burning of widows alive with their dead husbands had to be stopped by passing a law, not by sermons about human rights. Ultimately the force of law is needed to neutralize religious fervor.
It would be a mistake to think that Muslim women suffer only in the countries where Sharia is the formal law of the country. In the past as well as the present countless Muslim women, anywhere on the planet, inherited half of what their brothers received, lived under the possibility that their husbands could beat them, or divorce them instantaneously (nobody could stop it), or marry other women (they do not need any permission from anybody), or deny them equal custody of their children or the right to be equal witnesses in criminal cases and business transactions.
Even today Muslim women are divided about Sharia. Until recently, most Muslim women were convinced that Sharia indeed is God's law and God's blessing is in obeying Sharia's torture silently. But more and more women are becoming aware of their rights and of Sharia's violation of the Qura'an. Many of them have started rejecting Sharia and Political Islam. A few rebels are also seen in the society in the form of "apostates" who do not speak out for fear of social and familial backlash.
7. SHARIA - VIOLATION OF THE QURA'AN
The next question is, can such a legal system be a part of any divine religion? Is Sharia really Islamic, or sold to unsuspecting world Muslims as Allah's Law either by misguidance or to protect vested interests?
Any law is basically imposed on people. The state imposes its laws on people and people are bound to obey those laws. In that sense Political Islam is nothing but an imposition of its unique brand of Islam on people through the application of Sharia. But any kind of religious imposition is a clear violation of the Qura'anic spirit. Even compensation for establishing Islam is clearly prohibited by the Qura'an in many places. (See footnote).
Each of Islam's five pillars (declaration of belief, prayer, fasting, Islamic tax and Hajj the pilgrim to Mecca once in life) is essentially non-political. Had governance by a Sharia-based Islamic state been so important in Islam, we would have expected clear instruction in the Qura'an and the Prophet to say so. But there is no such document. The Prophet never instructed this even in his last sermon during the last Hajj or in his last three instructions from his deathbed.
Now let us look into a few specific Sharia laws to evaluate how they violate corresponding Qura'anic verses.
1. Law of stoning to death for committing prohibited sex violates Chapters Noor, verses 2 &3, Nisa 15, 16 and 25. The Qura'an does not prescribe the death sentence, but accepts repentance for such acts.
Footnote: - The very concept of Sharia as a tool of governance violates the Qura'an in Chapters Ahkwaf -9, Ahzab-45 & 48, Anam -48, 52, 66, 69 & 107, Araf -61, 62, 67, 68, 79 & 93, 188, Bakara 272, Gashiyah -21 & 22, Kwahf - 29 & 56, and Mayedah -92 & 99, Nisa 165, Kwaf 45, Yunus -108, As-Shura 48, Ra'ad 40 etc. In these verses, the Qura'an clearly declares that the only responsibility of Prophets was not to govern, but only to deliver God's message. Even the word "Poygamber" (Prophet) comes from the word "Poygam" (Message). Examples- "I send messengers only to deliver message", "Prophets' task is only to deliver", "Duty of My Prophets is nothing but to deliver the message", "You are not their administrator, you are only a messenger", "Do you want to force them?" etc.
2. Law of rejecting women's eyewitness in Hudood cases violates Chapter Noor 4, 11-20. Sahi Bukhari Vol-5, Hadith # 462, confirms this violation.
The Polygamy law violates Chapter Nisa verses 3, 4 and 127. Sahi Bukhari Hadith # 2428, 2472 and 2473 confirm this violation. Polygamy is only admissible in case of orphans, and still restricted by behaviour-codes.
3. Law of killing apostates violates Chapter Bakara 256, Tawbah 66, 68, Imran 86, 88, Nahl 106 etc.
4. Law of instant divorce by Muslim husbands violates many Qura'anic verses.
5. Law of requirement of four adult male Muslim eyewitnesses to prove rape is a clear violation of common sense and Qura'anic use of the word "Sharia" as justice.
6. Law of forcing divorced women to marry a stranger, have sex with him and get divorced from him to remarry her former husband is nothing but forced prostitution.
It is important for Muslims to note that even Caliph Omar (one of Prophet's foremost companions) realized the contextual characteristics of the Qura'anic verses and Prophet's examples. That is why he stopped observing few examples of the Prophet and also did not cut hands of a thief during famine although the Qura'an asks for that. In Pakistan and Nigeria the Supreme Courts overturned the death sentences of Zafran Bibi and Amina Lawal Kurami given in two lower Sharia courts. These examples show that it is not only possible but also desirable to apply conscience in the court instead of blindly copying the past. Sharia is indeed man-made law because more than six thousand laws (In Imam Shafi'i's and Imam Abu Hanifa's books) cannot be made based on only few Qura'anic verses relating legal instruction, which are indeed contextual. As other sources of Sharia are not divine, those cannot contribute to so called "Allah's Law".
8. CONCLUSION: What kind of religion is Islam.
If Islam's ultimate message is anti-women, it could have easily continued with the oppression on women prevailing in the Prophet's time. But Islam made unprecedented revolutions in favor of women's rights by banning girl-infanticide, allowing women to retain their father's names after marriage, setting the system of bride-money, acknowledging their witness and inheritance (even if half of men's), accepting their ownership on properties and earnings, banning forced marriage, restricting the number of wives, praising them high, etc.
On the other hand, if Islam support ?s women's rights, why did it allow polygamy, wife beating, sleeping with slaves, women's half inheritance and half witness in business transactions etc? To counter these allegations, Islamic leaders have always pretended that the negative verses and examples never existed. They only quoted the positive Qura'anic verses and the Prophet's examples. This strategy proved suicidal to Muslims in the long run.
We can look at this conflict from another angle. Violation of women's rights is an eternal social disease. Islam's Prophet accomplished the miracle of establishing women's rights overnight. But we must walk a thin line here. His extraordinary vision and foresight knew well that his population did not have slightest idea of women's rights. Without developing the concept of human rights, rapid application of male-female equity was certain to enormously confuse the whole population. Thus we find him taking the very first steps very slowly, steadily and cautiously towards developing concepts of: - (1) human and women rights, and (2) individual responsibility and accountability overriding century-old tribal concepts of "My tribesmen, right or wrong".
In other words, not to establish women rights magically overnight but to develop its concept in people's minds was his foremost challenge. The process is slow by nature. But once that was done, male-female equity was to follow automatically. This is what eventually happened in the West. He sowed the seed and showed the direction quite well, given the extremely stressful life he lived. It was Muslim leaders who were supposed to take the next steps to achieve total equity and fairness between men and women.
Sadly, that never happened. The beginning of women's right was taken as the final destination. A dangerous culture of sacrificing women's rights to save scriptural letters settled in Muslim societies. A terrible and successful brainwashing went on, unresisted for many centuries, to sell Sharia as Allah's Law to unsuspecting world-Muslims, so much so that today many Muslim women are found to support Sharia. Observance of man-made Sharia virtually became Islam itself by replacing the Qura'anic spirit.
Women's rights under Sharia are intimately related to the rise and fall of Political Islam, which recently succeeded in assuming Islam's virtual ownership. It has been successful in posing as the only option for world-Muslims to "save" Islam and Muslims from Western aggression. Its popularity among Muslims has reached an all time high. Throughout the Muslim world, enlightened civil society has become helplessly mortgaged to Political Islam. It is efficiently furthering its agenda of establishing Sharia-based Islamic states under that smokescreen of resisting the unjust Western aggression in the Middle East.
The main reason for the violation of women's rights by Sharia seems to be the confusion between the normative and contextual verses of the Qura'an. A few incidents took place in a society 1400 years ago, Qura'anic verses addressed those, and the Prophet made decisions. In the shape of Sharia those verses and decisions have become a burden placed on world-Muslims' shoulders to carry forever. But there is no evidence of the Prophet instructing his followers to use those incidents in law making. That is why the famous Maolana Chirag Ali said: - "There is not a single Qura'anic verse which can serve as the base of an eternal state-law". That is why Dr. Sachedina says: - "No human institutions can claim to represent God's interest on earth". Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer said so eloquently, - "The doctrine that religion and politics cannot be separated in Islam is a later historical construct rather than the Qur'anic doctrine. It is a human construct rather than a divine revelation." Probably the most important comment was made by Fazlur Rahman, -"The difficulty before the real secularist (in the Muslim world) is to have to prove the impossible, namely that Muhammad, when he acted as a lawgiver or political leader, acted extra-religiously and secularly".
These statements are Islam's most important cornerstones. Imposition and governance is no religion. The Qura'an declares that in clear words, again and again.
Pascal rightly said, "Man never committed cruelty so completely and so cheerfully as he did in the name of religion". This has been happening on each Muslim woman for too long, defying the truth that no community can prosper keeping half of its population crippled. Today no other community tortures its own women in such huge number, so cruelly, as we Muslims do in Allah's name. In the present world with so many religions around, rejecting theocracy is not a choice but a must for establishing religious harmony on our planet. The sooner world-Muslims realize this, the better it will be for themselves and humankind.
SHARIA - A DANGEROUS TOOL.
POLITICAL ISLAM - A DANGEROUS MISSION
MILLIONS OF DREAMERS, BILLIONS OF VICTIMS. IT MUST BE STOPPED.