Women’s dignity

Published March 25, 2016
The writer is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary issues.
The writer is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary issues.

INSTANCES of violence against women have increased over the years. The apathy of governments and the misogyny of the Islamic political parties have been hurdles in any effort at reform. It is difficult to understand what the maulanas find ‘un-Islamic’ in the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act, 2016.

In order to follow the example of the Prophet (PBUH), we should see how he treated women. He never lifted a finger at any of his wives or daughters throughout his life. He said: “The best of you are those who are the best to their wives, and I am the best, amongst you, to my wives” (al-Tirmidhi, 3895; Ibn Maajah, 1977).

On a man’s complaint that his wife became violent with him, the Prophet advised him to bear his wife’s treatment with patience. The Prophet consulted Bibi Fatima regarding Hazrat Ali’s marriage proposal for her.


Did our so-called scholars ever think about the dignity of a woman?


Do the maulanas think that mistreating wives, torturing them physically and mentally, cutting off their noses and ears, disfiguring them by throwing acid on their faces, kidnapping and raping them and even killing girls if they express their preference in the choice of a husband, are all Islamic acts? Do they not realise that these are criminal acts?

They should teach their followers that in Islam, a marriage is a social contract between a man and a woman and not a holy sacrament. At the time of the nikah, the bride is asked if she is willing to marry the groom, meaning that she has a choice in the matter. A forced marriage is haram or forbidden, while divorce is halal or permissible.

If a woman does not want to live with a man, for any reason, that is her prerogative.

The problems a woman has to face when her own protectors become her worst enemies, the issues of protection, rehabilitation and prevention of repeated negative behaviour by the defendant are addressed by the act.

It includes domestic, psychological and verbal violence, economic abuse, stalking and cybercrimes as matters to be addressed. Many young women are harassed by men who are trying to harm them because their proposal had been refused.

The act proposes to set up shelters and protection centres for victims and their dependent children with modern tools: toll-free SOS phone lines, websites with the facility to receive emails and post details online. They will be run by women protection officers, their qualified staff and voluntary members from civil society. The defendant will be liable to imprisonment and a fine if he does not follow court orders.

A women protection officer will be authorised to apply to the family court under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 on behalf of the aggrieved woman. The centre will provide facilities for rescue, medical examination, medical and psychological treatment, legal help and proper investigation. In case the defendant fails to respond within seven days, the court will proceed to pass any order under the act and will decide the case within 90 days.

The most daring thing in the bill is making the defendant wear the GPS tracker in order to keep a tab on his movements. This has even been challenged in the Shariat Court as being un-Islamic because, ‘it hurts the dignity of a man’.

It would be relevant to ask those who have challenged the bill, whether the criminal who commits all these heinous crimes appears to be a very ‘dignified’ Muslim man in their eyes and in the eyes of God? It is tragic that the so-called ulema are actually pleading to give the criminals dignity, instead of being on the side of justice. Did they ever think about the dignity of a woman?

Sometimes, people quote from Surah Al Nisa (4:34) in the Quran, to suit their own purpose. Here the word ‘qawwam’ means ‘protector’, ‘provider’, and ‘supporter’, but is traditionally translated as ‘ruler’ and ‘lord’. The word ‘nushuz’, which can be translated as ‘disloyalty’, is often translated as ‘disobedience’.

It refers specifically to immoral behaviour on the part of the woman, as evident from the Prophet’s sermon at the farewell pilgrimage (Khutba hajjatul widah), and not to everyday ‘disobedience’.

Besides the fathers and husbands, ar-rijaal, or men as a whole, including the government, are responsible as ‘protectors’ and ‘supporters’ of women.

The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act, 2016, passed unanimously, has come as a breath of fresh air. Once implemented without amendment, it will bring relief to women who have no protection, no support and nowhere to go. It is a one-window operation so that the woman is not buffeted from pillar to post in her struggle to lead a normal, peaceful life, with dignity.

The writer is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary issues.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2016

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