Article appeared Friday, July 15th, 2011 in The News Today, Bangladesh

The Revelation (187)

yousuf mahbubul Islam, PhD

How often do we find people giving an ear to the slander of a woman? What does such a slander do to the woman’s reputation? To help understand the overall situation, a proverb in Hebrew enlightens, “Slander slays three persons: the speaker, the spoken to, and the spoken of.” {1} Regarding what slander does to the person being slandered, Church Father, biblical interpreter and Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom (347 – 407) is reported to have said, “Slander is worse than cannibalism.” {1} What could be the possible motivation of a slanderer? Other than ill-intent, could suspicion be a cause for slander? Let us look at what the most recent Revelation, the Qurán, commands believers regarding suspicion: “O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it...but fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning Most Merciful.” [49.12] So speaking ill of a person is equivalent to eating the meat of the persons dead body! Having told us the effect of a slander, how much weight does our Creator put on the testimony of a slanderer? “And those who launch a charge against chaste women and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegation) flog them with eighty stripes: and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors.” [24.4] The weight given is one-fifth, i.e. four more independent witnesses are needed to establish the truth of the slander. If the number of witnesses falls short, the slanderer must be punished publicly as prescribed. In addition, if the slandered woman happens to be a believer, “Those who slander chaste women indiscreet but believing are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: for them is a grievous Penalty.” [24.23] The injunction towards the act of slander extends to a husband who wishes to bring a charge against his wife. “And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own their solitary evidence (which can be received only) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie.” [24.6 – 24.7] To bring a charge against one's wife therefore, the husband's testimony can only be accepted if the husband swears, under oath, four times as to the truth of the charge. In the fifth oath he must invoke the curse of Allah upon himself if what he says is untrue. In such a case, has our Merciful Creator Allah arranged any defense for the wife? “But it would avert the punishment from the wife if she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a lie; and the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. If it

were not for Allah's Grace and Mercy on you and that Allah is Oft-Returning Full of Wisdom (you would be ruined indeed).” [24.8 – 24.10] If the charge is untrue, the wife similarly has to swear, under oath, four times that there is no truth in the charge. In the fifth oath she has to invoke the curse of Allah on herself if she is telling a lie. If the wife does so, she should be cleared of the charge. What lesson can we derive from these verses? We should not judge just as we ourselves would not like to be judged. In the case of husband and wife (Verses 24.6 – 24.10) who should both ultimately accept as best Judge? Why? “It is your Lord that knows you best: if He Pleases He Grants you Mercy or if He Pleases punishment: We have not Sent you to be a disposer of their affairs for them.” [17.54] Keeping in mind these injunctions, let us study the following Verses of Sura Nisaa (Chapter 4) of the Qurán:

4.15 “If any of your women are guilty of lewdness take the evidence of four (independent) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify confine them to houses until death do claim them or Allah ordain for them some (other) way.”
The definition of lewdness given in the dictionary {2} is a pre-occupation with sex and sexual desire. If such behaviour is confirmed by four independent witnesses, the punishment is simply confinement and no more. If men in the household are found practicing lewdness on each other,

4.16 “If two men among you are guilty of lewdness punish them both. If they repent and amend leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning Most Merciful.”
In general, regarding the preference of men over women, Allah says: “Would you really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay you are a people (grossly) ignorant!” [27.55] Such acts of slander as well as acts of lewdness may be done in ignorance. Allah therefore provides commandments to manage the entire affair of indecency. It is better to help such people understand after giving punishment as prescribed. If such people are believers, and turn to their Creator in repentance after understanding the evil of their deeds, Allah reassures:

4.17 “Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy; for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.”
However, such Mercy does not extend to those who continue in these deeds after punishment and counseling. However, repentance is not accepted on one’s deathbed as Allah tells us in the next Verse.

4.18 “Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil until death faces one of them and he says "Now have I repented indeed"; nor of those who die rejecting faith: for them have We prepared a punishment most grievous.”
----{Notes}: {1} {2}

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