Diary of Feminist: Islam and Women

We have been reciting the Quran without know­ing its meaning since our childhood. I don’t re­member anybody ever en­couraging me to read its Urdu translation. Whenever I said, “Mother, I am reading its transla­tion,” she said “O.K. That’s fine. But read it in Arabic too,” with an implication that reading in Arabic is far more desirable (though you can’t understand a word) than reading the Tarjuma. As a growing child I found it a double task to read it both in Arabic and Urdu. Thus most of the time I ended up just reciting it in Arabic.

When I grew up I was told that reading the Urdu transla­tion is useless unless you read it along with Tafseer. I don’t disagree with this observa­tion. You can’t take the Di­vine book lightly. If you really want to understand it you’ve got to study it thoroughly, seriously. And it requires an immense effort as well as a genuine desire.

But I can tell you one thing: even if you just read the trans­lation without really going into the deeper meaning, it makes you feel good. As a wo­man. Because God has addres­sed both men and women, categorically, without any dis­tinction. As far as the Law of Evidence is concerned there are eight situations described in the Quran. And in seven cases there is no specification of sex but only of number. Only in the eighth — in the dealing of money transac­tions, it is said ‘take witness two men if not, then one man and two women as one of the women may forget.’

To tell you the truth, as a feminist this injunction doesn’t really hurt me. If I am a witness of a dealing in a money transaction between two parties, I may forget if A gave Rs 492S87623 or Rs 492523876. For one thing, my memory is lousy, for second I am not interested in numbers.

But I find nowhere in the Quran that if I see a murder with my own eyes my evi­dence will not be considered. That’s what the Law of Evi­dence Ordinance 1982, Sec­tion 10 (B) says. It requires “…at least 2 Muslim male adults for proof of murder (qatl-e-amad)”   thus  excluding women as possible witnesses. I tell you. I don’t buy it.

Similarly, Section 8(b) of the Ofence of Zina (Enforce­ment of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979; Section 6 (c) of the Off­ence of Qazf (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance. 1979; Section 9 (b) of the Prohibi­tion Ordinance, 1979; and Section 7 (b) of the Offence against Property Ordinance, 1979, exclude evidence of females for awarding the Hadd punishment.

It all makes me wonder who the hell these people are who formulate regulations re­pugnant to Islam. Guised as religious authority they are in fact enemies of Islam.

Paradoxically, Islam which is said to be the most simple (and universal) religion of mankind, is the most misin­terpreted and remains wrap­ped up in centuries of conflicts.

An attempt to study the history of Islam and under­stand the true spirit of this di­vine religion is like stepping into a labyrinth. Many get lost in the maze of five fiqahs (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafai, Humbli, Jafri) who give diametrically opposite views on scores of issues. Quite a few sink into the quicksand of thousands of interpretations. Some get stuck at one or the other dead-end, deluding themselves that they have reached the light.

Just a few come out of this jungle unscathed, though scar­red. But they find themselves as lonely souls, far away from the masess still trapped in the maze where the voice of reason cannot reach. And they don’t know how to get their companions out of the darkness.

Shouldn’t they demolish the whole labyrinth and open the door of Ijtehad closed by Muslims themselves centuries ago? Ijtehad is defined as “the process of legislation employing reason and logic to situation created due to new and novel circumstances such that laws so developed shall not be in divergence with the funda­mental spirit of legislation founded in Islam.”

And if men stubbornly re­fuse Ijtehad through Ijma (con­sensus of the community) to keep the status quo, shouldn’t we, the women, take charge?

But we’ll have to start from scratch. Remember, there never have been women ulema.    Yet that doesn’t mean there can never be.

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