ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa has regretted that Quranic injunctions in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have at times been relegated in favour of retrogressive practices.
In a 12-page judgement, Justice Isa, who was part of the two-judge Supreme Court bench along with Justice Yahya Afridi, observed that radical awakening was brought about by the Holy Quran as unfamiliar women’s rights were established for the first time in the scripture.
The observations came on an appeal against the Jan 11, 2016 Lahore High Court order, which was moved by Sheikh Mohammad Muneer.
The case revolves around filing of a suit on March 8, 1999 by the petitioner seeking specific performance of Aug 3, 1998 agreement through which he had agreed to buy Ms Feezan’s (respondent) house for which certain amount had already been paid in advance. But the respondent refused to receive the balance sale following which the suit was filed.
Justice Isa rules women enjoy right to retain their income, property
The agreement showed to be witnessed by three persons namely Mohammad Ali, the husband of the respondent, Allah Ditta and Mohammad Nawaz.
“A woman has the right to own and dispose of her property and she enjoys the right to retain, both before and after her marriage, her income and property, her ability to do business without permission of her father or husband and keep and spend what she earns,” observed Justice Isa.
“Men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn,” Justice Isa said while citing verse 32 of Surah An-Nisa. He observed that her entitlement to inherit from her parents and husband was also precisely ordained in the fourth chapter of An-Nisa of the Holy Quran.
A woman also does not need permission to acquire or dispose of property. What she inherits is hers and hers alone and neither her husband, father, brother nor her son has any entitlement to it.
Justice Isa then quoted verse 29 of Surah An-Nisa which ordains, do not eat up (consume) one another’s property and explained that the bridal gifts given at the time of the marriage were the wife’s property and remained hers.
Her right to enter into contracts and to witness contracts, the Holy Quran mentions in great detail, Justice Isa said.
In this case the respondent woman denied having entered into the agreement which the petitioner, an attesting witness and the scribe testified that she had. However, her solitary testimony was to be accepted because this is what the law and the injunctions of the Holy Quran mandate, Justice Isa observed.
A chasm existed between a woman’s position in Islam to that which prevailed till a century ago in Europe and America where upon marriage a wife stood deprived of her property, which became that of her husband to do with it as he pleased.
Justice Isa also cited certain observations from a case titled Fawad Ishaq versus Mehreen Mansoor in which it was stated that discrimination against women pervaded in other areas too. It was only in 1960 that women in America could open bank accounts without their husbands’ permission and this right was acquired by women in the United Kingdom as late as 1975.
Professions were also barred to women, the judgement said, adding that Myra Colby Bradwell had passed the bar examinations but was not allowed to practice law; she asserted her right to practice but in 1873 the United States Supreme Court held that denying Mrs Bradwell the right to practice law violated no provision of the federal constitution.
The court added: “That God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action, and that it belonged to men to make, apply and execute the laws, was regarded as an almost axiomatic truth.”
The Supreme Court in the end, however, declined the leave to appeal to the petitioner with an observation that the high court and judges of the subordinate court correctly dismissed the suit as the petitioner had failed to establish that the agreement had been executed by the respondent or that she had agreed to sell her house to the petitioner.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2021