|Kitab-ul-Taqdeer (Book of Destiny)|
MISFORTUNE OF THE HUMAN FEMALE
Addressing the Annual TOLU-E-ISLAM Convention in March 1966, I read a paper titled ‘Allah’s Will’. It met with widespread appreciation. Here, I quote from the paper a fictional story meant to illustrate my point about the misfortune of the human female:
‘Noor Khan’s wife had born four girls, one after the other. Each female birth had enveloped the family in a melancholic depression. After the birth of the forth girl, Noor Khan, pressured by his parents and close relatives, had decided to take a second wife. He postponed it only after the wife had woefully pleaded with him, but had told her his firm intention of taking a second wife if she gives birth to one more girl. Unfortunately, she did bear a girl for the fifth time in a row. The wife was having fainting spells due to a sinking heart. The family was annoyed with her. The husband refused even to see her. She used to cry out alone! Female neighbors would visit and console Noor Khan’s wife saying: ‘It is all Allah’s will. He decides who begets male offspring or female. Crying won’t change anything. Nobody can alter what Allah has pre-ordained. Be patient and learn to live with it. No divine action is without goodness. He has every right to decide His creatures’ fate. King Soleman once harbored some disapproving feelings about a divine decision. He was punished to work in a bakery for 12 year years! So, don’t complain! The Almighty applies His law almost inconsiderately!’
Later in the chapter we shall examine the notion ’It is Allah who decides, of His own sweet will, who begets what (boys or girls). First, however, let us
Dejection over Female Births
ponder over widespread reaction, especially
in Oriental societies (in particular among the Muslims of the sub-continent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), of despair over the arrival of a female baby. The situation is quite common, by no means restricted to the lower (poor & uneducated) strata of society. Even the claims of broad-mindedness, on the part of the elite, belie undercurrents of the same mood. One reason for this attitude is economic as females are economically dependent on men in a male-dominated society. Secondly, there is the fundamental reason of the female
The Female is Considered Inferior
being considered as naturally inferior to
the male. Let us examine the validity of this particular notion.
The Hindu philosophy treats women like a commodity which remains in
Women and Religion
a man’s (her father husband and son) possession
all her life. She is not allowed to own anything. She gets whatever she does as charity, not as of right. As a wife, she may have to take more husbands than one. The ‘Mahabhart’ records Dropedy as having five husbands who lost her in a gambling bet! According to ‘Prans’, Narpasi Kamya was wedded to seven men. Another lady with the name of Warkashi was the shared wife of the ten Parchita Brahmin brothers who were well-versed in religious literature. Since the religious code was authored by Brahmins (the highest caste), they enjoy special privileges under law. The holy book ‘Hatherved’ (and also ‘Ragved’) records:
‘A woman claimed as his by a Brahmin is his property even if she has had ten non-Brahmin husbands. It is because Brahmins are the rightful owner of women.
The Torah says: God created Adam and woman (EVE) was created
Woman in the Torah and Christianity
out of his side (rib) to alleviate his boredom and loneliness. Eve subsequently got deceived by the
Devil and she tempted Adam who was eventually expelled from Paradise. This story is the basis of the Christian view of woman as the source of all evil. Every human child is born with the original sin of Adam and Eve. The only way to salvation is the belief in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The female, being the source of evil, is detestable enough not to be touched. That forms the basis of Christian saints leading a life of celibacy. So much so that early Christian history records a sect called the Valesians who voluntarily castrated themselves to be close to God. The Christian belief that the female cannot enter Paradise presented the problem of Mary. It was resolved by saying that all females shall be transformed into males in the Hereafter. St. Paul preached that the male begot the female rather than the other way round; since the female was created for the male’s sake, she must stay inferior to him in status.
Thinkers of the human race have not treated women any better. Aristotle, the original thinker, preached that women were inferior to men in
every aspect. He believed women had 28 teeth against
men’s 32! He said, ‘Suffice to say that Woman reflects a flaw in Nature’s plan.’ Pluto used to say: “A good woman is an impossibility. Every other woman is worse than the previous one”. In the modern age, Rousseou, the initiator of concepts like human rights and democracy, said, ‘Woman has been created solely for the purpose of obeying & serving Man and bear his injustice’. Upto the 19th Century, the Western researchers believed that ‘the very first animal to be domesticated by Man was Woman.’ It seems only yesterday that Queen Victoria of Britain, a woman herself indeed, commented angrily on the new movement for the rights of women:
‘Her Majesty the Queen strongly desires to get support and help, oral or written, of all intellectuals who can do something to put an end to this mixture of feminine stupidity and madness. The problem is too infuriating for Her Majesty to contain her anger. God has created men and women differently. Therefore, women must stay within their limits.’
Sadly, the situation has not improved upto the present day. H. L. Mencken writes: ‘The concept of love has been invented to inculcate the false notion that one woman is different from another. This is an illusion. All women are alike C. O. Skinner says: ‘The most fantastic of human concepts is the idea that the female also contains some good’.
At present, the United States represents the apex of human civilization where women are supposed to have been emancipated. It is saddening to note from a semi-official publication, Dialogue (Number 4, volume 3, September 1970), that the research therein tries to prove that women should not be considered equal to men.
The mistreatment of the human female at the hands of the male of the species is matchless throughout the animal kingdom. At the advent of Islam,
when Christianity was the dominant philosophy, degradation
of women had reached its peak.
Entered the Quran with a resounding claim that the prevailing notions about women are fabrications of the male mind. They have absolutely nothing to do with reality. Men and women are equally human. “Your Preserver created you from one living being” --- (4/1). The biological difference between male and female is of function not of status. They have equal potential as human beings. Sura Ahzab says:
“Both men and women can:
submit completely to the will of Allah,
be members of the group which is convinced of the validity of Allah’s laws to ensure universal peace,
preserve and use their capabilities in the Divine Cause,
practically prove their commitment to Allah’s program,
Equality of Sexes
improve themselves progressively working for Allah’s plan,
sacrifice for others,
put their sexuality under Allah’s program,
remember always Allah’s plan and laws,
Allah promises for them safety of protection and a great reward!
Thus covering each and every aspect of human life, the Quran announces: “And whoever does good deeds --- male or female --, and is convinced of the Divine Message, shall enter Paradise with none of their deeds going waste!” --- (4/124). Regarding marital life, the Quran treats them absolutely equally as far rights and responsibilities are concerned (ولهن مثل الذي عليهن بالمعروف). The only exception is that, after a divorce or the death of a partner, the male may remarry immediately while the female has to undergo a period of waiting. The reason is very clearly biological --- pregnancy.
It is interesting to note the purpose of marital union put forward by the
Purpose of Marriage
Quran: “So that it breeds calmness, closeness and
benevolence between you. In it there is truth for those who care to ponder” – (30/21). Obviously, there can be no mutual love and peace of mind if a marital union is based upon the notion of one partner’s superiority and dominance over the other. As far as Quran is concerned, EQUALITY is the rule regarding men and women.
But later, as had happened with religions before, Muslims abandoned
the Quran pure. Consequently, wrong notions about the female
of the human species infiltrated and eventually became part of the Muslim philosophy. The technique employed to achieve this was, as I have previously mentioned, fabricated traditions of the Messenger of Allah (Mohammed), the most prominent champion of equality of human rights. For example, borrowing
from old Testament, Ibn Kathir wrote in his
commentary on the Quran:
‘True Tradition has it that woman is created out of (man’s) rib. Since the top-most rib is the most curved, it can only break if you try to straighten it. So, you can use it to your benefit only with the curve there.’
The Authentic Collection By Bokhari reports from Abu Huraira: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: “If the children of Israel were not created, meat would never rot; if Eve was not created no wife would betray her husband!” Another report in Bokhari says: ‘The Messenger said, “After I am no more, no problem will be more damaging to men than women!”’ Yet another report says: ‘The Messenger said, “Three things are ominous – woman, home and horse”’ – (Bokhari; Book of Marriage). The Book of Prophets in Bokhari reports the Messenger as saying: ‘When I visited Paradise, I found the majority to have been the poor; in Hell the majority were women.”
Such fabricated Tradition are also to be found aplenty as far as marital life is concerned. They put a husband as an absolute ruler over his wife. Such
Men are QAWWAMOON Over Women
fabrication was supported by certain Quranic verses, suitably interpreted, of course. A well-known
example is the famous verse from Sura Al-Nisa (4/34) which is traditionally translated as: ‘Men are controllers of women’.The Arabic term ‘Qawwamoon’ really means those who provide a sustainable and suitable environment. The verse in question should, therefore, be interpreted as: ‘As women have to spend a considerable amount of their time and energy in bearing and rearing children, men should take on the responsibility of providing the necessities of life’. It is simply division of labor.
It may be interesting to see the background which is traditionally reported for this particular verse. Under the common practice of recording ‘the background of revelation’, it has been reported that: ‘A woman complained to the Messenger that her husband had slapped her. The Messenger had barely finished delivering his ruling of retribution when this verse was revealed, forcing him to cancel his decision!’ Another Tradition says:
The Messenger said, “Don’t hit your wives”. Later, Omar came and said, “Your ruling has encouraged wives to be aggressive to their husbands.” The Messenger permitted wife-beating which resulted in widespread application. Several women came and complained to the Messenger. He said, “It is not nice that you hit your wives.” He wanted to get women the right of retribution but this verse was revealed upholding the ruling that husbands may beat their wives up because they are their lords.
Ash’as reports: “I happened to visit Omar on one occasion. The couple quarreled, by chance. Omar hit his wife. Later, he said to me, “Ash’as, remember three points which I heard from the Messenger and have remembered to this day. One, never ask a husband why he hit his wife. Second, never forget to offer additional prayer (witr) before going to bed at night”. The third point was forgotten by the reporter.
Going a step further, another Tradition reports the Messenger as saying: “I if could order prostration to anyone other than Allah, I would have ordered wives to prostrate (themselves in submission) in front of their husbands!”
Statements of a similar nature have been attributed to Ali, the fourth
Sayings attributed to Ali
Caliph (successor of Mohammed), in the well-
known book Nahaj-al-Belaagha. Ali is reported to have said: ‘O people! Women have faulty beliefs and reason and have less than full share. (Therefore) Keep away from women of loose character, and be careful even of good women! Don’t carry out their instructions even in fair matters so that they don’t expect you to comply in unfair situations.’ Elsewhere, Ali is reported to have said, The female is like a nice well-behaved scorpion – enjoyable to live with but stings whenever she can! Another statement of his is: “Woman is all evil. A bigger evil is that one cannot be without her!” Interestingly there can be found Traditions of a contrasting nature. For example, it is reported that the Messenger said, “Paradise lies under the feet of one’s mother.”
Such Traditions were fabricated in the monarchical era (mainly the Abbasid period) of Muslim history. It was the time when women were treated as a commodity. Ahmed Ameen, the Egyptian, writes in Daha-el-Islam:
Baghdad had commerce of slaves (men and woman). One particular market place was known as Share-Dar-alRafiq (the Slave Market Street). Traders of slaves were known as nakkaas, a term originally used for cattle traders. They worked under an offical inspector known as Qayyam-ar-Rafiq. Caliph Mutawakkil’s harem had 4000 temporary concubines.
The Persians learnt the philosophy of mysticism from Christians, passing it on to Muslim mystics, who in the manner of Christian monks and Hindu jogis, adopted a life of celibacy because the female was believed to be the source of all evil. Ali Hajveri (a highly respected mystic, popularly known as Daata Ganj Baksh) writes:
‘The very first evil to befall Man in Paradise originated from Woman. The very first evil to appear on Earth (the squabble of Cain and Abel) occurred because of a woman. When Allah wanted to punish the two angels Haroot and Maroot, that, too, was because of a woman. Even today, all religious as well as worldly problems occur because of women!’
It is no wonder, therefore, that the arrival of a baby girl is not exactly exhilarating for the family, and she herself is plagued by a permanent inferiority
Civilized Societies of Today
complex. It is tragic that, despite our claims
of being advanced in education and civilization, the despicable situation of maltreatment of the female continues. The age-old tradition of dowry in many Oriental societies is a case in point. Furthermore, according to the prevalent, the so-called Sharia Laws, the husband retains the right of divorcing the wife quite easily at any time he deems convenient for himself. Contrarily, the wife has to go through an excruciatingly humiliating legal process which they often consider to be more painful than their unsuccessful married life! Even when a woman succeeds in getting free from the shackles of such a marital contract, the simple basic question of existence for the rest of their lives stares her squarely and icily in the face. In addition to being financial, the question is also of protection of honor. In most societies even today, a man’s patronage is considered essential for a woman’s protection. Even when a woman does manage to live without male protection, she is under constant threat of ostracization if the evil elements of society spread rumors about her morals. Kidnappings & rapes are common occurrences. The Quran very eloquently referred to the ignorant Arab practice of burying alive their infant baby girls by asking: “What will your reply when that child will be asked on the Day of Judgment: ‘Why were you killed?’” (81/9). Today’s girls may well ask that from Allah Himself! I have had several young girls and women putting to me the unanswerable query: “Why did Allah made me a female?” “What did my brother do to deserve the better life form of a boy?” Trying to answer this query, the Hindu philosophy put the blame on one’s previous sinful life. The Muslim theological answer is: ‘It is entirely Allah’s own unquestionable will to make a person male or female or bestow an honorific life or strip one of it’. The Hindu philosophy does not blame Brahama (the Supreme God) whereas the Muslim philosophy does! The Muslim ‘God’ appears to be unjust and unfair!
The religionists attempt to support their stand with some examples from
Erroneous Examples from Nature
Nature where animals are not allowed to
question the choice of their sex or species, etc. But such examples should not be applied to the human situation. No animal is concerned with, or even conscience of, status, humiliation, respect etc. Man is self-aware as well as sensitive. The Quran declares Man (both men and women) to be respectable by birth (17/70). A just God simply could not create the two sexes with different status; He declares: “We are not unjust to Our people!” – (50/29). In actuality, it is us humans who have created for ourselves unjust, unfair and unequal societies. In a Quranic society, the female will not feel, and will not be, inferior to the male. The biological difference between the sexes is for performing various complimentary natural functions. This difference does not affect their human status at all. Status in a Quranic society shall be determined by the quality of one’s performance (46/19), man or woman (3/194)! The natural biological difference should not be a source of jealousy, or even envy (4/32-35). The Quran aims to put a permanent end to partisan human societies, patriarchy or matriarchy, and create a society on the basis of absolute equality of opportunities, rights, responsibilities and merit of performance.
Male and Female Offspring
Verses 49 & 50 of Sura 42 in this regard uses the phrase (من يشاء) and the term (قدير). If (من يشاء) is to be interpreted in the traditional mode to mean ‘to whom He wants’ it should be in agreement with the view of an absolutely equal status of the sexes. Taking the Quranic position of equality of sexes, the phrase means ‘according to His plan (مشيئة), i.e., natural laws of conception fertility, pregnancy and so on. Infertility, for example, is mentioned in the case of Messenger Zakaria’s wife who got treated and was cured before she gave birth to a boy (John) – (21/90). Treatment of sterility is fairly common in today’s medically advanced world.
Extensive medical research is being done in the era of fetal sex. Sura Aal-e-Imran says: “He is the One who gives you shape in wombs according to His plan” – (3/5). Scientists now know how the sex of a baby is determined by Nature. Next, they are trying to discover ways of controlling the process in a way which enables us to choose the sex of a fetus. This ability of Man to discover Nature and use it to his advantage was referred to by the Quran in (2/31). That is what is meant by ‘angels bowing to Man (2/34), i. e., Man can harness the forces of Nature because it is so permanent (30/30).
Thus, Man is gradually becoming the master of his own destiny.