April 19, 2013

My Message to the Misconceptionist: Responding to Nonie Darwish 2

Filed under: Religion and society — by Zuhair @ 5:22 pm


On underage marriages:

Darwish, in her interview speaks of the fact that men can marry under aged girls and have sexual relations with them. This is not entirely true.

Firstly, it might be true that in some parts of the world, men do marry very young girls. This might be because the girl’s family is very poor and a better option for them would be to hand her over in marriage so that she is taken care of.  This then comes down to poverty, something more than half of the world’s population cannot escape and as all society’s negatives lead to practices and habits, however cold and incomprehensible, poverty does too.

The idea then that her husband would be entitled to her sexually when she has still not come of age is disturbing. It is also not true because he is not supposed to have her until she does come of age.

When she does come of age, if she feels like the man she is married to has become too much of a father, she is entitled to ask for divorce and it should be granted. If the man forcefully takes her, it is up to the authorities to act upon it and they must. If they choose not to, it is not the fault of Islam but it is the fault of corrupted officials, whether they claim they follow Islamic law or not.

In a modern context, this kind of marriage is not really necessary. In fact, neither is the practice of taking many wives. In terms of child marriages, it really is up to the parents to ensure the protection of their child and if I am not mistaken, this is made much easier by the implementations of laws restricting underage marriages. It is in common sense to know that a child would not be happy in a marriage and she would certainly be scarred emotionally for having her childhood taken away from her.

Herein lies the problem with Darwish’s ideas about Islam. She is blaming Islam as a religion for the misuse of it by those in power (this includes both parents of the children and government officials) and by many of the misguided and unlearned Muslims.

It must be further said that there have been cases of underage marriage where the child, being unhappy took a stand and authorities were forced to intervene. One such case is that of Yemeni girl Nujood Ali. [1]  After fighting for a divorce, she had it granted. I regret to say that there have been others in her situation but I do not regret to say that some of them have, like her, asked for a divorce which was granted to them because according to Islamic law, it must be.

The reason I bring these reports to light is so my readers know that I am aware of child marriages and I am aware that some Muslims treat the issue very lightly. However, as a Muslim woman and more importantly as a human being, I know when an injustice has occurred and often times; such marriages are forced upon the child, therefore making it wrong in Islam.

According to Islam, no woman, or child for that matter can be forced into marriage. Therefore, if the child expresses dislike over the idea of getting married, even her father cannot force her. In fact, he is prohibited from forcing her into marriage. It is sad to say that girls are often forced into accepting a husband and this is a vice that leads to others. Perhaps, we must tackle the issue from here.

Abu Hurairah narrated that:

The Prophet said: “A matron should not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a virgin should not be given in marriage until her permission is sought, and her silence is her permission.” (Sahih)[2]

Finally, most critics of child marriages attack Islam blaming the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) for his marriage with Hazrat Aisha (RA) when she was very young. To enlighten such misconceptionists and my readers on the issue, I suggest they listen to Yusuf Estes address the issue and I hope that he might put them and you at ease. [3]

I also advise misconceptionists and people who choose to publicly attack a faith that is not their own to do their homework first and put things into perspective, considering all relevant factors such as time period, society, etc.  The problem today is people look at things from a modern perspective and attack what they don’t understand before attempting to understand it.

Image: Child playing in the sand Greeting card. Google Images.

[1] Newton, Paula. Child bride gets divorced after rape, beatings. 2008. CNN.

[3] Yusuf Estes talks about Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) marriage to Aisha (RA). Uploaded by t6658. Originally uploaded by khalifaklothing. April, 2012. YouTube.


April 18, 2013

My Message to the Misconceptionist: Responding to Nonie Darwish

Filed under: Religion and society — by Zuhair @ 1:30 pm

Listening to Nonie Darwish speaking, I am shocked that someone could say so many negative things about one religion. I am even more shocked that someone so educated could know so little about a religion that keeps growing, despite all the negativity it has had to face.

Her portrayal of women in Islam cannot be more wrong and misunderstood. Darwish claims there is no such thing as Islamic Feminism. How can she say something like that when all Muslims must know that with the coming of the Prophet (PBUH), women gained rights? Before that, girls were buried alive on account of the fact that they were girls.

As a Muslim woman today, I take faith in this and am aware that if I were wrongly treated, I could speak up. Just because many women choose not to speak up does not mean they are not allowed to. Often times, women will remain silent in order to protect their reputation or the name of their family. This too is their right.  It must also be said that this kind of thing can happen anywhere in the world in any society.

Some women however do speak up. One example is the case of Rania Al Baz, A Saudi television presenter. [1] Speaking up really has nothing to do with your religion. It has more to do with how brave you can be in a male dominated world. (Yes, the world! Not just one society)

My Message to the Misconceptionist: Responding to Nonie Darwish 1

Filed under: Religion and society — by Zuhair @ 1:28 pm


On Marriage and Divorce:

Marriage in Islam is not slavery for the woman. How can it be so when the woman does not have to work to earn her bread, when she is entitled to an allowance from her husband, of which she can spend for herself alone? I further mention in passing, the dowry is not the purchasing of the woman’s body. This could not be farther from the truth and if you think about it, there are cultures where the dowry is given by the woman. Does this then mean that the woman is ‘purchasing’ her husband’s body? Darwish claims that she knows this because scholars say it. I’d like to know the name of the scholar who would say something like this.

Whoever believes that a woman is nothing but an object of pleasure for her husband has either been in an unhappy marriage or knows someone who has.  All I can say in response to this is that Islam did not make her an object but her husband did. Any woman who is treated correctly and fairly by her husband would disagree with the idea.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “The most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.”[At- Tirmidhi]. [1]

Darwish further speaks about a woman’s right to divorce in Islam. It is true that women are not as freely allowed as men to ask for divorce. This is because they are easily affected by their emotions, especially during a pregnancy or menstruation.  In fact the husband is not permitted to ask for a divorce when his wife is having her period either. However if a woman is being mistreated by her husband and is very unhappy in her marriage, it is her right to ask for a divorce; and a judge who is following Islamic Law correctly is obligated to grant her permission.

Another reason a woman is restricted in asking for divorce is that a woman may be able to marry a man for his dowry and then simply ask for a divorce shortly after the marriage contract is signed. Therefore, she would be able to keep the dowry and leave the man. This would be unfair to the man.

Furthermore, regarding divorce, if you look at divorce statistics worldwide, the divorce rate in the West is very high. This is because divorce is dealt with very freely and occurs over issues that can be worked out between husband and wife. If such a high divorce rate is a positive thing, think of the effect it has on the society as a whole and more importantly, I invite you to think of the children who are caught in between divorces and broken marriages.

Finally, it is untrue that in Islam a man may beat his wife without having to answer for it. He is not allowed to hurt his wife in anyway and no good man, whether Muslim or otherwise would do so.

Bahz bin Hakim reported on the authority of his father from his grandfather (Mu’awiyah ibn Haydah) as saying:

I said: Messenger of Allah, how should we approach our wives and how should we leave them? He replied: Approach your tilth when or how you will, give her (your wife) food when you take food, clothe when you clothe yourself, do not revile her face, and do not beat her.[2]

If a Muslim wife misbehaves with another man, it is the right of her husband to speak to her about it. If she does not listen to him, he may sleep in a separate bed and if she still does not listen, he can hit her on her shoulder, but not hard enough to leave a mark. If she still proves to be stubborn, he can file for a divorce.

How is any of this unfair to the woman? Moreover, if the man is misbehaving with another woman, his wife can leave him. A woman in Islam is given her rights, despite what individuals like Darwish might think. A man is permitted to take more than one wife if he likes, but a woman can divorce him, if she dislikes it. Furthermore, a woman can include, in her marriage contract her not wanting him to take another wife. When he signs the contract, he will have to abide by it.

Another right, a woman has in Islam is that when she is married; she can in no way be forced to speak of her past. Her husband does not have this right on her. Therefore, if a bride is found not to be a virgin, the man she has married can leave her but has no right to ask her about her past or turn her in. Any good man might try to look past her past or if he finds himself unable to do so would file for a divorce but will do his very best to preserve her reputation and not publicly declare her a sinner.

April 14, 2013

Dearest Srilanka 2

Filed under: Sociopolitics — by Zuhair @ 8:42 am

I ask you this, Srilanka. You may have men and women of different religions and different ethnicities but are they all not Srilankans? Is that not what unites them? Is it not powerful enough to be a Srilankan? What I mean to ask is ‘Is the force of being a Srilankan so weak that it is brought down by differences in faith?’ Here’s your answer, Srilanka. My faith is you. You are me and my sister and my brother. And it does not matter if my ancestors were Arab and my brother’s ancestors were Indian or vice versa. What matters is that now we are Srilankans and one day we will be the ancestors of those Srilankans to come.

Now is the time to build on this fact. Look to the future. Many countries have been divided because they have forgotten that their people are the same. Srilanka, you cannot let that happen, not to us. We are all yours and we are proud to be yours.

Your leaders might tell you it is one man, two men or 10 men for the sake of a cause. But what about your cause? What about the life for which you live? Do you not wake up everyday to send your son to school? Do you do so, so he will grow up to turn away his fellow countrymen, and decide he hates another because of difference in belief? Do you work so hard to pay for his education only to watch him abuse his brothers without him even entirely understanding why?

What’s that you say? He understands? What does he understand? Do you really think that when you tell a child to harm his neighbor because he prays to another god, he understands you? Of course he doesn’t. The first thought that comes into his mind will be ‘what if my neighbor’s god is the right god?’ Then he will ask himself, ‘Does my neighbor dislike me too because my god is different?’ And you will answer this sometimes unasked question not with your own words but with the words of some reporter or some politician on the television, people whose names your child will not even have heard.

Your child will listen to you say his neighbors are teasing and taunting others like him and although your child will believe you because he thinks it is coming from you and not the television, you know at the back of your head that those were not your words. So, I present to you the same question. Do you think your child really understands? What’s more important is do you understand?

You listened to the reporter; you read the paper. So what? How can you be certain the reporter is right? Is he not just saying what he has been told to say; what his superiors want him to say? So are his superiors correct? Have you thought that they might be saying what they think will increase their popularity and their funding? Finally, how can you listen to someone who does not even say what he wants to say but what someone else wants him to say?

And now you will ask how you can be certain that you should listen to me. I will give you a fair argument to that clear that doubt. You do not have to listen to me but I hope you do. I hope you do because what I am telling you comes from the soil of Srilanka, the same soil that runs through my veins in the form of blood. I am not speaking for money or for fame. It does not matter if you don’t know who I am. All you need to know is that I’m a Srilankan and so are you and I am here because I love you, Srilanka.

Sri Lanka, if all the questions I have asked have not crossed your mind, I ask you to pause for a second and think of them now before it’s too late; before you have done too much damage, not necessarily physical damage but psychological damage.

Dearest Sri Lanka, what do you think all this amounts to then; all this shame and all this humiliation? Have you not abused each other enough? Do you not think of what you have done Sri Lanka to your people? Does it not keep you awake at night? If it does not, then know that it keeps awake the hungry orphan; and the grieving mother whose son died before her hair turned white; and the soldier who was forced to ignore a suffering man because he was on the other side; and the earth as it tosses and turns in its wet, unnatural soil, as it conceals the bones of those who have died in vain and as it begins to be aware of the stench of shame in itself.

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Amal Ahmed Albaz

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