Sunday, March 4, 2012

Let Me Get This Straight -- the Double Standards in Islamic Law (not Islam)

Disclaimer: I don’t think “Islam” = Islamic law, which is actually the case. For me, the Qur’an is the ultimate source of Islamic knowledge and everything else, and hadiths come much after – but I’ll talk on hadiths another time. Just know that by “the double standards in Islamic Law,” I don’t mean “double stands in ISLAM.” For me, the two are not the same. And I explain here why.

The life of the Muslim man and the Muslim woman, according to classical Islamic Law – and much of modern Islamic Law as well, although many contemporary scholars are speaking up and attempting to practice their right of ijtihad, independent reasoning that’d lead to re-interpretations of laws that were made by an influential group of men from certain time periods who neglected to consider the perspectives of the women while making laws about women. And this is what they came up with, as far as gender relations as concerned (the list is to be continued soon). Today, all of this is considered Islamic, and none of these points are derived from the Qur’an. None. And I mean none. It’s time we started thinking about our rights and roles. Oh but we can't! They tell us ijtihad is no longer allowed! Really? Right after you made all these laws? Talk about arrogance. Watch us challenging these laws anyway. Or explain to us what is "divine" about them. What kind of a God who created both men and women and all other genders allows His laws to be frozen in time? Oh, wait, God didn't codify these laws. Never mind.

So let me get this straight. They tell me that

1. The man does not need the permission or consent of his father or any other male guardian in order to get married. The woman’s marriage is invalid if she does not have the permission of her father or another male guardian before she marries. Now, they've more "modern" reasons for justifying this, but the original argument was that the woman is not fit to make decisions on her own. She'll always need someone else to take care of her, to make decisions for her, to be there for her -- because she might err. But God forbid the man ever make a wrong decision. Ever. God forbid. But if he does, at least he tried. When/if the woman makes a mistake, we TOLD you not to leave anything in her hands. We told you.
2. When a man leaves Islam, he is to be killed. When a woman leaves Islam, she is to be imprisoned and beaten every three days until she repents or reverts to Islam. (She doesn’t need to be killed because she’s deemed incapable of making an intelligent decision, and her decisions, no matter how big or small, aren’t likely to have a serious impact on society anyway, compared to the decisions of the man.)

3. Divorce is not a light issue, they tell us. It is to be taken very seriously. Yet, according to Islamic law, a man can divorce his wife just like that for whatever reason he likes, and he can divorce her by simply uttering the Arabic word for divorce (talaaq) three times, and they are divorced. But the woman? A woman must have a “legitimate reason” for getting a divorce, and, in fact, she cannot initiate a divorce unless she stated in her marriage contract that she will divorce him if such and such should ever be the case.

4. Men decided, at the time of Islamic law formation, what aurah meant, and they concluded that it means anything that a woman must cover because it is likely to attract a man. Hence, the woman’s hair and all other body parts are to be covered at all times except when she’s with her husband, father, brother, son, etc. Even her voice has been declared aurah.
What do the men have to cover? Nothing, really. (But it’s navel-to-knee, they tell us still). Because who cares if a woman might be attracted to a man’s voice or hair or legs or arms or neck or chest or whatever else, right? A woman, like a doll, should have no desires to begin with.

5. The man can marry a non-Muslim (Jewish or Christian) woman, but the woman cannot marry anyone but a Muslim man – and they use the Qur’an to tell is this is so, even though the Qur’an doesn’t mention whether a woman can marry a man from the People of the Book (Jew/Christian) but it makes it clear that a man can. So, basically, whereas in most other instances, the masculine “you” in the Qur’an can mean both men and women, in this case, it means only men. Why?

6. The man can marry up to four wives and does not need the permission of his current wife (or wives), although it is recommended that he get their permission—but the marriage is still valid and recognized by the Shari’a if he goes ahead with it without their consent.
7. A man can lead men and women in prayer. Any gender-mix prayers led by a woman are deemed invalid. Apparently, men won’t be bending down for prayer at the same time that women do when the prayer is mixed-gender, and so a man might accidentally (or intentionally?) glance over a woman’s behind and be attracted to her and have some inappropriate desires in his head while praying. But, of course, so what if it shall ever happen the other way around, right? I mean, shame on a woman who thinks about sex and other things inappropriate during prayer.  Why oh WHY does it not cross these people’s minds that things just don’t make sense or become “shameful” if we switch the gender here—or in most other issues.
8. Speaking of the marriage contract, yes, it’s true that the woman is actually legally not expected to do ANYTHING for her husband or her family (no, seriously), and that includes raising her kids and providing for the family and cooking and cleaning and so on. The only thing she is required to do under all circumstances is to be sexually available for her husband – no matter what. All scholars, both classical and medieval ones, agreed that the role of the dower is for the man to have sexual access to his wife at any time he likes. He does not own or control her in any way except sexually. These scholars did acknowledge the sexual needs and desires of a woman—but they didn’t make it an obligation on the man to make sure she enjoys it or that they not force it on her. You want to talk about the marriage contract with me? It does nothing but allows the husband to sexually control his wife for as long as they’re married! Thanks for the offer, but I’ll pass.

9. I am to be segregated from males at all costs (preferably even when I need to get a medical check-up, but it’s okay if a female doctor isn’t available at that time), especially Muslim males, but I am to marry only and only a Muslim male and am utterly forbidden from marrying a non-Muslim male – even though a Muslim male can marry a Christian or a Jewish woman all he wants.

10. They tell us that the Qur’an is for all people of all times, but, you see, they also tell us that some of the verses aren’t really fully applicable anymore. For example, the verse that tells us that we can eat the food of the People of the Book (Jews/Christians), and food includes meat, but in reality, the scholars say the meat of the People of the Book is haraam on us today because the Christians—bad, bad Christians that they are – don’t sacrifice their animals the way they’re supposed to. Yet, the Qur'anic law is somehow still pertinent (what? how?). But when I ask about the verses that relate to women’s dress code, they tell us that “oh, no – that’s definitely universal and eternal; can’t escape that at all” – even though the Qur’an doesn’t at all make it clear that the woman’s head is to be covered. (Clear? Really? What’s “clear” about that verse?!) The moment I state that I prefer the Qur'anic law, they label me heretic. What? Why?!

Really? REALLY now?
Okay.

To be continued

8 comments:

  1. Great post! I love how you raise questions so pertinent to women and I only wish patriarchal patronising Muslim men read your blog posts too!

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  2. Loved the post as I do all your other posts!

    Please check out the following post on my blog, would love to hear to comments on the same!

    http://snehabhatsepo.blogspot.in/2012/02/great-middle-east-obsession.html

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  3. Thanks for your comments, ladies! Pri, I wish the same thing :) Hopefully with time!

    SEPOOOOOoOooowie! Thanks for the link, girl. Just saw it and *blush* :) - will respond!

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  4. I happen to be a patriarchal Muslim man =P. I think you're right a lot of these things have been made up by idiots with beards and there's no escaping the fact that these bearded nutcases make up the majority of Muslim clerics nowadays, and no matter how much you protest you can't run from the fact that most people buy into it left right and centre.

    It's only to be expected though if the people of the book before us went loco there's no reason that we should be any different zamung yo der spera qom patey sho.

    Kho masala da da che when you're vastly outnumbered - what do you do?

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  5. I know :( It sucks being outnumbered - but heeeey, as long as we have the support "Patriarchal Muslim men" like 's all good, no? lawl!

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  6. Thanks, Eccentric Yoruba! So glad you found it worth a read! :)

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  7. This was an excellent read, thank you so much!

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Dare to opine :)

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