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Article appeared Friday, July 22nd, 2011 in The News Today, Bangladesh

The Revelation (188)

yousuf mahbubul Islam, PhD

Are women like possessions possessions that can be inherited, given away, bought, sold, put on display, used and discarded at will? Are they objects that should be put on parade and used as desired by the advertising media to promote their industry and the sale of their products? Throughout the world, are women treated as equals? The American author, professor, activist and organiser of human rights movements Charlotte Bunch (b. 1944) continues her campaign {1} to bring to our notice how women are being used in the world today. We are asking people to understand that slavery still exists today; in fact, according to a recent New York Times article, if you count the number of women and children in bonded labor, domestic slavery or sexual slavery today, there are more slaves in the world than at any other time in history. {2} How does the modern world condone such a behaviour? To help understand the general psyche towards women, 1st African-American US Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1924 2005) pointed out: The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl." {2} In actual fact, what is a woman in relation to a man? Let us look at what the most recent Revelation, the Qurn, has to say about the relationship between a husband and his wife; ...They are your garments. And you are their garments... [2.187] The mutual use of the metaphor garment is instructional as well as a directive. Let us look at some of the qualities of a garment. It covers our shame, is very close to our bodies, provides warmth, soaks up sweat, protects from the sun as well as from other things, it reflects our status as well as our moods. How can a husband be like a garment to his wife and how can a wife equally be like a garment to her husband? Notice that our Creator also informs us through the Verse that the relationship is equal, mutual and complementary! Equality is a right granted by our Creator as He informs us in the following Verse: O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person created of like nature his mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. [4.1] Allah is therefore constantly taking account of how we treat women and vice versa. On the Day of Judgment, each of us will be accountable for the action or inaction that we take towards injustices done to women. Allah therefore clarifies the general role that men should play towards women: The believers men and women are protectors of one another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil:... [9.71] Men generally have no qualms about protecting women who happen to be their mothers, sisters or daughters. What is it then that goes amiss if the woman concerned does not happen to be his own mother, his own sister or his own daughter? How do women outside these relationships become mere objects? The Qurn also gives the history of Satans initial role in creating this discord.

...They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife... [2.102] On the other hand, in Chapter 4, i.e. Sura An-Nisaa, our Creator provides commandments on how to treat women.

4.19 O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness (so) that you may take away part of the dower you have given them except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.
So, regardless of whether a woman is married, single, divorced or widowed she has a right to choose what she wishes to do and who she wishes to marry. Women may not be treated like objects with harshness to further other selfish needs. In addition, regardless of whether one likes or dislikes his wife, she should be treated with kindness and equity. With the exception of proven lewd behaviour {3} for which due punishment is prescribed, under no circumstances should a woman be treated harshly. Such treatment of kindness and equity also extends to the case of a man who wishes to divorce his wife.

4.20 But if you decide to take one wife in place of another even if you had given the latter a whole treasure for dower take not the least bit of it back: would you take it by slander and a manifest wrong?
Not only does Allah forbid slandering a wife to fabricate grounds for divorce, He forbids taking back any part of dowry as well as provides an amicable method for those who wish to separate. Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-Forgiving Most Forbearing. For those who take an oath for abstention from their wives a waiting for four months is ordained; if then they return Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. But if their intention is firm for divorce Allah hears and knows all things. [2.225 2.227] Understandably, Allah questions our sense of justice:

4.21 How can you take it away when each of you has been privy with the other, and they have received from you a most solemn pledge?
Qutb (1999, p.73) explains the meaning of privy with each other: When we reflect on this verse, numerous images of married life come to mind, depicting what happens between a man and his wife at every moment of the night and day. Past memories are recalled. They have been privy with one another in their expressions of love, in their happy moments, in what they had shared of hopes and problems, in their aspirations for a happier present and a brighter future, in their shared thoughts about their children. {4} ---------{Notes}: {1} http://www.betterworldheroes.com/bunch.htm {2} http://www.betterworld.net/quotes/women-quotes.htm {3} http://www.scribd.com/doc/60036143/How-does-slander-affect-a-woman {4} Qutb, S. (1999). In the Shade of Quran. Translated by M.A. Salahi and A. A. Shamis, Vol.3, Markfield, Leicester and Nairobi, Kenya: The Islamic Foundation.