Monday, 4 October 2021

‘Shown their place’: Muslim livelihoods under attack in India

New Delhi, India – Not everyone in India is excited about the upcoming festive season in October and November.

For Afzal, a mutton seller in Greater Noida – a suburb in Uttar Pradesh state neighbouring capital New Delhi – who did not wish to give his real name for fear of reprisal, it would mean a loss of business for nearly 10 days.

“We have nowhere to complain. The police and the municipality officials side with such groups,” adds Afzal, with some trepidation.

Afzal has been fortunate: though he has been targeted, he has not faced any physical violence. Many others have not been so lucky.

On September 23, two Muslim men in Mathura, a temple town in Uttar Pradesh, were badly beaten up for carrying meat. Earlier this month, the government decided to make a large part of the city alcohol- and meat-free.

About a month ago, in Indore city of Madhya Pradesh state, also governed by the BJP, a Muslim bangle-seller, Tasleem Ali, was beaten up because he was selling his wares in a “Hindu locality” allegedly under an assumed Hindu name.

Within a week or so, in Ujjain city in the same state, a Muslim scrap dealer was forced to shout “Jai Shri Ram” (Victory be to Lord Ram), a war cry used by Hindu supremacist groups.

Similar incidents were reported in Uttar Pradesh as well in the same month.

The owner of a horse carriage in Lucknow was forced to chant “Death to Pakistan” on the basis of a fake claim that he had hoisted a Pakistani flag on his carriage.

Then again, in Mathura, a Muslim eatery owner was forced to change its name from “Shrinath Dosa” to “American Dosa Corner” because right-wing groups objected to him using the name of a Hindu god.

All these incidents were recorded in a series of disturbing videos that went viral. The common thread in the videos is that they showcase Muslim vendors and small traders being assaulted because of their religious identity.

Also, the assaulters in all such cases are alleged members of Hindu right-wing groups, who feel emboldened under Modi’s government and exercise significant impunity.

Such incidents are being seen as part of a larger attack on the livelihoods of Muslims, many of whom are self-employed or are engaged in low-paying jobs.

Nearly 46 percent of Muslims are self-employed in urban India, the largest as compared with any other community, according to data from the government’s National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), 2013.

The report adds that Muslims are the poorest among all religious groups in India and are concentrated in low-paying jobs in the informal sector.

Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, in their book People Without History: India’s Muslim Ghettos, have documented a gradual “de-skilling of Muslim workforce” due to globalisation, which has forced them into low-paying jobs.

If these frequent incidents of attacks on Muslim livelihoods are seen “in consonance with some policy measures which the BJP government has taken in different states in the last few years, then it is a worrying trend indeed,” Abdul Waheed, professor of sociology at the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, told Al Jazeera.

In 2017, when the BJP government came to power in the northern state, one of its first moves was to shut down slaughterhouses and meat shops. The ostensible reason was that such places were not following legal regulations.

However, till date, no related regulation has been enacted. “The absence of any regulation in this regard makes it clear that the intention behind such a move was to destabilise Muslim businesses,” Manoj Singh, journalist and researcher in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur city, who has been tracking the rise of the BJP in the state, told Al Jazeera.

In March this year, the city council in Gurugram in Haryana state – also governed by the BJP – decided to close all meat shops and ban all restaurants from serving non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays to respect “Hindu sentiments”.

Such measures are likely to affect Muslims adversely. “This is a clear attack on Muslim livelihoods since, traditionally, it is primarily Muslims who are engaged in the meat and poultry business in India,” says Waheed.

Singh argues that such incidents belie the Uttar Pradesh government’s claim that it is interested in the development of all. “We do not see members of such vigilante groups arrested which only means that they have the tacit support of the government.”
Shalabh Mani Tripathy, BJP’s spokesman and media adviser to Uttar Pradesh chief minister, counters such claims.

“The state government is popular even among Muslims because of its various schemes. A narrative is being built by vested interests that the government is anti-Muslim which is not true,” Tripathy told Al Jazeera.

“Some of these videos and incidents have turned out to be fake. Others are being probed; therefore, it will be premature to comment on them. Let me assure you that no one is above the law in the state.”

Economic marginalisation
It is well-documented that Muslim properties have been targeted during various communal riots in India. But focused attacks on small traders and hawkers seem to be a new trend.

As the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in India last year, Muslim fruit-sellers were targeted and scapegoated for allegedly spreading the virus. Posters were put up in several villages announcing that Muslim vendors were not welcome in those areas.
The National Hawker Federation, an association of street vendors across 28 states in India, issued a statement in April 2020, condemning the profiling and harassment of Muslim vendors.

“These attacks are sure to make the economic situation of Muslim hawkers more precarious,” Waheed told Al Jazeera.

“It is an effort to create terror and insecurity in the minds of Muslims and restrict their free movement. Now an average Muslim trader will have to think twice before venturing into a Hindu locality. Such restrictions will only mean that their businesses will suffer.”

It appears that such attacks are happening due to an ideological motivation to hit Muslims economically by driving them out of their professions, so that they are forced to convert eventually.

In January 2021, at a Hindu panchayat (mass gathering) in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, anti-Muslim preacher Swami Anand Swaroop said the Hindus “should decide that they will not buy anything from Muslims”.

“If you destroy them socially, politically and economically, they will begin converting to Hinduism from Islam,” he told a crowd of hundreds.

Journalist Singh links the current spate of attacks against Muslims to the upcoming state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, in which the BJP is seeking to retain power.

“The BJP government has been speaking against Muslims since it came to power, but just speaking against them is not enough to win the hearts of their Hindu supporters in the politically charged state,” he said.

“The Muslim community has to be brought to its knees by economically marginalising them even further. This is being done in order to send a signal to the Hindu electorate that Muslims are being shown their place.” 


Monday, 20 September 2021

Love thy neighbour...


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “(The angel) Gabriel kept recommending to me to treat (my) neighbors in a kind and polite manner, so much so that I thought that he would order (me) to make them (my) heirs." Sahih Al-Bukhari

The Prophet (pbuh) also said: "By God, he does not believe! By God, he does not believe! By God, he does not believe!" When he was asked by the people who he was referring to, the Prophet (pbuh) said: "That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his (or her) evil." Sahih Al-Bukhari

When asked what the rights of the neighbor are, the Prophet Mohammed answered: “The least of a neighbor’s rights on him is that if he asks him for a loan he should grant it to him. If he asks for help, he should help him. If he wants to borrow something from him, he should lend it to him. If he needs him to donate something to him, he should do so. If he invites him, he should accept his invitation. If he gets sick, he should go and visit him. If he passes away, he should attend his funeral procession.” [Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, v.2, p.79]

“One who spends the night with a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry, has not believed in me. One who spends the night clothed, while his neighbor has no clothes, has not believed in me.” [Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, v.2, pp.78-79]



Monday, 13 September 2021

Spread of 'sexual terrorism' seen in Pakistan: Report


With Pakistan reporting a number of incidents of rape and sexual assaults, the country is undoubtedly witnessing the spread of "sexual terrorism" according to a report published in Friday Times.

Nazeer Arjio, writing in the Friday Times said: "The Minar-e-Pakistan tragedy on Independence Day has not only brought national embarrassment but also reaffirmed that the Pakistani society is full of sexual predators and their supporters. Man has crossed all limits when it comes to unleashing sexual atrocities, while the state watches on."

The psychological, social, and practical baggage emanating from sexual assaults is immense. But the victim of the Minar-e-Pakistan assault is just the latest to be left helpless, Arjio said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last month stated that sexual crimes are rising in the country due to misuse of mobile phones, according to local media.

His remark came after, a Pakistani TikToker, on August 14, was captured being "brutally attacked" by hordes of men in Lahore's Minar-e-Pakistan even the country celebrated its Independence Day and for a while, the incident was among top hashtags on Twitter #minarPakistan and #400 men were among the hashtags being used by outraged netizens who expressed their shock and disgust at the violence against the woman.

Following the Minar-e-Pakistan incident, women's studies professor Shahla Haeri said, "Rape in Pakistan is often institutionalised and has the tacit and at times the explicit approval of the state."

Citing the few incidents, Arjio wrote, "In Thatta, a dead body of a 14-year-old girl was raped. In Khairpur, a 14-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped by an influential money-lender owing to her father's failure to repay borrowed money. Earlier this month, another 14-year-girl was raped at gunpoint in Khazan."

"In June, an elderly woman was held hostage at gunpoint and subsequently subjected to sexual assault by influential people in Muzaffargarh, to avenge her son's love marriage," Arjio said, adding "Pakistan is undoubtedly witnessing the spread of sexual terrorism."

"Women's struggle against sexual victimisation will not end until the mindset that sees woman as an object of sexual pleasure is changed. While establishing true gender equality would require time, right now it is pertinent that the state declare a sexual terrorism emergency to protect its women," Arjio added.


Friday, 10 September 2021

Lost History of Women Scholars in Islam


It surprises people to learn that women living under an Islamic order could be scholars, that is, hold the authority that attaches to being knowledgeable about what Islam commands, and therefore sought after and deferred to.

The typical Western view is that no social order has (or aspires to have) more 'religion' in it than Islam. The more "religion' a society has in it, the more restricted the scope in that society for women to enjoy agency and authority. Behind that is the assumption that religion is 'really' a human construct, done mainly by men and therefore done to secure advantages for them at the expense of women. Muslims, of course, do not share this view.

In the Quran and Sunnah, Muslims believe they have a framework of guidance that is strictly impartial and sufficient because God's knowledge and mercy encompass all beings and all their pasts and futures. Any human derivation from and within that framework is subject to revision, but the framework itself is not. Accordingly, in the Islamic tradition, to say 'God says in His Book' decides the argument.

Where it is not certain how the guidance of the Quran is to be acted upon, Muslims look to the example of how God's Messenger acted in the same or a similar situation. The record of his example (Sunnah) is now, for all practical purposes, conveyed through a body of texts, known singly and collectively as hadith (lit. 'saying). A man who becomes an expert in knowledge of the hadith is called a muhaddith; a woman, muhaddithah (plural, muhaddithat).

The Quran rebukes the people of the jāhiliyyah (the Ignorance before Islam) for their negative attitude to women. When news is brought to one of them of [the birth of] a girl, his face darkens, and he is chafing within! He hides himself from his folk because of the evil he has had news of. Shall he keep it in disdain or bury it in the dust? Ah - how evil the judgment they come to! (Quran, 16:58-59)

The costly prospect of bringing up a daughter (a son was expected to enhance a clan's military and economic potential) perhaps explains this negative response to the birth of a girl. Burying infant girls alive was a custom among some (not all) of the Arab tribes of that time. The Quran warns of retribution for this gross atrocity on the day When the infant buried alive shall be asked for what sin she was killed (Quran, 81:8-9)

Human rights and duties indicated in the Quran are pegged to two fundamentals that are the same for men and women - namely they being creatures and slaves of God, their Creator, and Lord, and they being the issue of a single human self. God has said in the Quran;  O humankind, be wary of your Lord who created you from a single self, and from it created its pair, and from the pair of them scattered many men and women. Be wary of God, through Whom you ask of one another [your rights and needs] and close kindred:! God is ever-watchful over you. (al-Nisa 4:1) And (al-Araf, 7:189): He, it is Who created you from a single self, and made from it its mate, so that he might settle at rest with her. Male and female are created for the same purpose: I have not created jinn and humankind except so that they worship Me (al-Dhariyat, 51:56). The Quranic term 'abd signifies both 'worshipper and 'slave' in relation to God.

The duties owed to God, and the virtues that ensue from the effort to do them, are the same for men and women. This is affirmed in a well-known Quranic verse. The verse and the occasion of its revelation are recorded in this hadīth, narrated by Abd al-Rahmān ibn Shaybah:

I heard Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ say: I asked the Prophet ﷺ Why are we [women] not mentioned in the Quran as the men are mentioned? [...] Then, I was alerted that day by his call on the pulpit. [...] At that moment, I was combing my hair. I gathered up my hair and went to one of the rooms; I listened hard. I heard him saying on the pulpit: O people, God says in His Book: The Muslim men and Muslim women; the believing men and believing women; the men who are obedient [to God] and women who are obedient [to God]; the men who are truthful and the women who are truthful; the men who are persevering and patient and the women who are persevering and patient; the men who give alms and the women who give alms; the men who are humble and the women who are humble; the men who fast and the women who fast; the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard their chastity, and the men who remember God much and the women who remember God much - God has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward. (AL-HAKIM, al-Mustadrak, ii. 416. The verse cited is al-Ahzab, 33:35)

Having 'the knowledge' and the conscientious preserving, transmitting and understanding it is the strong basis for the public authority that learned Muslims, men and women, were able to command. Sometimes there were different opinions on the import of the knowledge people had. Still, the differences were not settled based on the gender or the tribe, or socio-economic class of the person who conveyed it.

A striking case is that of Amrah bint Abd al-Rahmān, the great tabi'iyyah (Successor), muhaddithah and faqīhah, who intervened in a court case in Madinah to prevent a miscarriage of justice. It is remarkable enough that she knew that the case was in progress and the circumstances of it and what sentence the qādī had passed but not yet carried out. Many famous men jurists were residents and active in the city; none of them intervened. What is astonishing is that she did intervene, and no one questioned her right to do so. The defendant was a non-Muslim, not known to Amrah except as the defendant in this suit, in which she had no personal, private interest. The qãdi reversed his decision and released the defendant only because he could have no argument against the authority of the hadith she was able to cite. He did not know or remember it, or simply failed to bring it to bear when reaching his judgment. Once he knew the hadith, he did as a Muslim should – he acted upon it.

The Quran speaks about women in general and specific terms. It does not associate womanhood with inferiority or deficiency of any sort, any primordial sin, or any disposition to sin not also found in men, or any disposition to induce sin in others not also found in men. It does not regard women as an appendage of men but as distinct beings, each called individually, just as are men. The language of the Quran, Arabic, like many others, uses masculine forms to mean women also unless the context expressly excludes them. The grammar does not require women to be expressly included; therefore, when that explicit inclusion occurs, it is all the more striking. The above verse 33:35 enumerates the virtues, distinctly for men and women. Starting with the next verse in that sūrah, here are a few more examples:

It is not for a believing man or believing woman when God and His Messenger have decided a matter [...] (al-Ahzab, 33:36).

Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, male or female (Al Imran, 3:195).

Whoever does righteous deeds, male or female, and is a believer, him We shall enliven to a good life, and We shall pay them certainly a reward proportioned to the best of what they used to do (al-Nahl, 16:97).

Whoever does righteous deeds, from among the male or the female, and he is a believer, those will enter Paradise [...] (al-Nisa, 4:124).

The believing men and believing women are protecting friends (awliyā') of one another, they bid to good (al-maruf), and forbid from evil (al-munkar); they establish the prayer and give the alms (zakah) and obey God and His Messenger (al-Tawbah, 9:71).

The Quran and Sunnah are replete with examples that give women the right to attain high rank in all spheres of knowledge. 


Thursday, 2 September 2021

Victim Blaming


Over the past few years Pakistan has witnessed a phenomenal rise in rape, assault and abuse cases. Some cases are reported by the victims or their families while most of the cases remain unreported. The reason behind that is pressure from the family and society. Also a big reason that stops victims from reporting is the lack of trust in the judicial system. However the reported cases are mostly pending in courts and the culprits get away due to weak prosecution.

Pakistan is a country with an approximately 49 percent female population. Here, women play a vital role in the economy and progress of the country be it in the fields of politics, journalism, business, education, or others,  but this is one side of the picture.

The other side has been quite horrific and devastating. On 14th August,  a mob of 400 men openly abused and assaulted a female TikToker, who was filming a video in front of Minar-e-Pakistan which happens to be the national monument of Pakistan.

A stable and balanced society is built only when women are safe, respected and honoured by all. There should be no space for misogyny in our society. Pakistan needs to work on creating awareness and implementing strict laws to punish the culprits and encourage the victims to report any sort of assault. The impact of recent horrific assault cases will be severe on women and children of our society. They need a safe and protected environment to live and most importantly there should be an end to victim blaming once and for all
Nobody came to rescue the victim from the mob of vultures. There was rage in social media for her justice, and many influential political leaders like Bilawal Bhutto and Aseefa Bhutto raised their voices immediately for the victim and demanded justice for her. The civil society, human rights activists, and social activists, have largely condemned the barbaric act but unfortunately in this same society  there are some sadistic minds who believe in blaming the victim for being assaulted, this was one of the many cases that infuriated the society.

Noor Mukaddam, a 27-year-old girl, was recently beheaded brutally in Islamabad by an acquaintance who is currently under trial; the civil society and the entire nation condemned this barbaric act but as usual some insensitive souls started to blame the victim by giving bizarre reasoning and justification for the murder.  This polarization in our society is somehow suppressing humanity and haunting the victims and their families who need support and healing after being traumatised. This is the reason why most of the rape cases are not reported; the problem lies is the justice system and disturbing social behaviour for the victim.

Prime Minister ImranKhan in an earlier interview had blamed victims of rape for wearing skimpy clothes; and that it had an impact on men unless they were robots. This statement backfired and later he had to take a U-turn on this, but the damage was already done. Such an insensitive statement coming from the head of government was a shock for the nation. Also, his earlier statement gave a feeling to the assaulters that they could get away with any sort of molestation or abuse as the Prime Minister himself had put the burden of assault on the victim’s shoulders.

Recently a horrific case of necrophilia wrenched the hearts of the country when some beasts dug up the grave of a 14-year-old girl who had died of natural causes and raped the corpse.

Such  incidents show the ugly side of the society we live in. The victims are never at fault, rather they are the ones who need empathy, care and respect from the society and especially from the government.

Any insensitive comment can cause them extreme psychological trauma as they suffer isolation after assault, it is important for the society to treat the victims with the same honour as they treated them before and not isolate them.

A rotten theory is advocated by some misogynists that wearing provocative clothing stimulates sexual aggression in men. This theory must be dumped in the garbage bin as no victim ever asks to be abused. Even the victim of the Motorway rape case that sparked national outrage was blamed by a senior police officer for not chosing a busy road and not checking her fuel.

Victim blaming and judging a woman’s character is a deep rooted dilemma of our society which needs to be removed. If the society acts responsibly and the justice system solves such cases on priority basis then many other women who face domestic violence would get hope to register cases against the assaulters.

A stable and balanced society is built only when women are safe, respected and honoured by all. There should be no space for misogyny in our society. Pakistan needs to work on creating awareness and implementing strict laws to punish the culprits and encourage the victims to report any sort of assault. The impact of recent horrific assault cases will be severe on women and children of our society. They need a safe and protected environment to live and most importantly there should be an end to victim blaming once and for all.


Monday, 30 August 2021

Is the Taliban’s treatment of women really inspired by Sharia?


According to Human Rights Watch, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group whose stated goal was to create a state based on the biblical 10 commandments, kidnapped and killed tens of thousands of people in the 1990s and 2000s.

Their practice of abducting boys to train them as soldiers and girls to force them into sexual slavery has been documented and put before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, resulting in an arrest warrant for Joseph Kony, the group’s founder, along with four of his senior leaders, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Although according to its leadership, the armed group was a Christian army acting in God’s way, few op-eds have had to be penned arguing that the LRA’s actions are not in congruence with normative Christianity. It is just (rightly) assumed.

Unfortunately, a completely different set of rules is applied when it comes to Muslims. The commentary surrounding the most recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is but one example.

Reports have emerged that Afghan women are being forced to marry Taliban fighters, quit their jobs and schooling, as well as endure public flogging.

Rather than call for expanding asylum programmes or even exerting political pressure on the Taliban to reform, right-wing politicians in Europe and the United States have instead weaponised the ongoing instability in this war-torn country to score political points against their Muslim citizens and immigration proponents.

As Muslim citizens of Western nations, we have yet again found ourselves defending our community and faith against those wishing to exploit this tragedy to propagate Islamophobic tropes – the same tropes that were used to justify invading Afghanistan two decades ago.

We are now, as we were then, expected to clarify, condemn and distinguish our faith from the actions of a militant group claiming to act in its name, an unfair and exhausting demand not made of our Christian compatriots, regarding any armed group or war criminal claiming to act in Christ’s name.

Still, despite the double standard, we must take these moments as opportunities to educate. So let me be clear: The normative teachings of Islam are antithetical to the Taliban’s reported treatment of women.

The teachings of Islam, in all their diversity, encourage a woman’s spiritual aspirations absent an intercessor between her and God and define her identity as first and foremost a servant of The Divine, whose rights constitute a sacred covenant. In seventh-century Arabia, Islam’s advance took a woman from being treated as property to a fully independent agent who had control over her financial decisions and possessions and who had the right to choose to marry and divorce.

What about women’s employment? From the first generation of believers, women served as everything, from medical workers to warriors. For example, Rufaida Al-Aslamia was a surgeon recognised by the Prophet for her care for the wounded, her training of other women as nurses, and her role in establishing the first field hospital for the community. Nusaybah bint Ka’ab was known as the “Prophet’s shield” for defending him in battle, even when many men fled.

Islam’s teachings also emphasise the importance of seeking knowledge, for both men and women. In fact, the first known university in the world, the University of al-Qarawiyyin in the Moroccan city of Fez, was founded more than 1,000 years ago by Fatima al-Fihri, a Muslim woman. It is the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world.

Fatima and her sister, Mariam, were highly educated and devoted to their faith. Upon her father’s death and her inheritance of his fortune (yes, Muslim women could inherit property centuries before their European counterparts), she and her sister decided to use their wealth to build an institution of higher learning.

The al-Fihri sisters’ dedication to the pursuit of knowledge is far from an isolated example. Four years ago, while on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Professor Mohammad Akram Nadwi, who authored an encyclopaedia of the Muhaddithat, the female scholars of Hadith, Islam’s collection of prophetic narrations.

He told me he had set out to write a short book about what he thought would be a handful of female Hadith scholars, and ended up completing 57 volumes (which he had to condense to 40 for publication) on about 9,000 of them. He continues his research and says there are thousands more women he could write about. I learned from him that many of the scholars we consider the pillars of our tradition had female teachers (not just students).

It is also worth noting that Dr Nadwi set out to study just scholars of Hadith. Many of these women also were scholars of fiqh (law), tafsir (scriptural exegesis) and other sciences along with Hadith. I remember wondering what the number would be had he set out to study Islam’s female scholars in general.

And yet these realities stand in sharp contrast to the image of Muslim women in the popular imagination, an imagination easily persuaded that the Taliban represents Islamic devotion, not deviance, in its treatment of women. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s Islamophobia Index, the stereotype of Muslim misogyny is the most pervasive anti-Muslim trope tested among Americans.

Western political figures have long instrumentalised the image of the oppressed Muslim woman in need of Western saviours to justify European, and then later American invasion and exploitation of Muslim lands. While this tendency can be traced back to the Crusades, in the modern context, it takes the form of biased media coverage of Muslim women.

According to a Stanford study conducted by Dr Rochelle Terman, who based her analysis on data collected from 35 years of New York Times and Washington Post reporting, US news coverage of women abroad is driven by confirmation bias. Journalists are more likely to report on women living in Muslim and Middle Eastern countries if their rights are violated, but report on women in other societies when their rights are respected.

Some may argue that this is simply a reflection of reality. Women in Muslim majority countries, they contend, are violated more often. But this is not the case. Terman writes, “Even if the nations rank more or less equally on the women’s rights index, women in Muslim countries are shown suffering misogyny, while women in Western countries are portrayed in more complex ways.”

Even when their lived realities are similar, Muslim women are depicted as more mistreated than their counterparts of other faiths, reproducing the false notion that misogyny is exceptionally and inherently Muslim.

We must become critical consumers of information, questioning double standards and challenging bias, and not allow anyone to use the actions of a militant group to propagate bigotry. This is the only way we will truly stand with the Afghan people, women and men, who must lead any effort to support them.


Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Eight-year-old becomes youngest person charged with blasphemy in Pakistan

An eight-year-old Hindu boy is being held in protective police custody in east Pakistan after becoming the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in the country.

The boy’s family is in hiding and many of the Hindu community in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab, have fled their homes after a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple after the boy’s release on bail last week. Troops were deployed to the area to quell any further unrest.

On Saturday, 20 people were arrested in connection with the temple attack.

The boy is accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept, last month. Blasphemy charges can carry the death penalty.

The Guardian knows the name of the boy and family members, but has chosen to protect their identities for their safety.

Speaking from an undisclosed location, a member of the boy’s family told the Guardian: “He [the boy] is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week.

“We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities living here.”

Blasphemy charges filed against a child have shocked legal experts, who say the move is unprecedented. No one this young has ever been charged with blasphemy before in Pakistan.

Blasphemy laws have been disproportionately used in the past against religious minorities in Pakistan. Although no blasphemy executions have been carried out in the country since the death penalty was introduced for the crime in 1986, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs.

Ramesh Kumar, a lawmaker and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said: “The attack on the temple and blasphemy allegations against the eight-year-old minor boy has really shocked me. More than a hundred homes of the Hindu community have been emptied due to fear of attack.”

Kapil Dev, a human rights activist, said: “I demand charges against the boy are immediately dropped, and urge the government to provide security for the family and those forced to flee.”

He added: “Attacks on Hindu temples have increased in the last few years showing an escalating level of extremism and fanaticism. The recent attacks seem to be a new wave of persecution of Hindus.”

Footage circulating on social media appears to show an angry mob attacking and vandalising the temple with iron bars and sticks last week.

Ahmad Nawaz, a spokesperson for the Rahim Yar Khan district police, said: “Police are hunting the attackers and police teams are conducting raids to arrest the culprits but there has been no arrest made yet.”

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, condemned the mob attack on Twitter and said he has ordered the provincial police chief to take action against anyone involved, including negligent police officers. He promised the government would restore the temple.

In New Delhi, India’s external affairs ministry summoned a Pakistani diplomat to protest the attack and demand the safety of Hindu families living in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

In December last year, a large violent mob of conservative Muslims demolished a century old Hindu temple in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms, published last year, Pakistan reported the highest number of incidents of mob activity, mob violence, and/or threats of mob violence as a result of alleged blasphemous acts.

Four countries account for nearly 80% of all reported incidents of mob activity, mob violence, and/or threats of mob violence as a result of alleged blasphemous acts in countries with criminal blasphemy laws between 2014 and 2018.


Thursday, 12 August 2021

I Don't Love Her!


Umar ibnul Khattab [رضي الله عَنه] said to a man who was thinking of divorcing his wife:
“Why do you want to divorce her?” He said, “I do not love her.” ‘Umar رضي الله عنه said, “Must every house be built on love? What about loyalty and appreciation?”
He went on:

'You men! When we marry, we give a serious promise to her. A woman gives birth to children and goes through hard times during her pregnancy. Then she suckles the baby and takes care all nights about her children, when they get sick or need anything. She sacrifices her beauty and youth for being a mother.
How fair is if, when her husband leaves her, when she is grown up? If she would have never take care of her home and family, instead of taking care of her body and beauty, her husband would say: “What a bad mother she is.” 

Where is integrity and loyalty? 

Fear Allah regarding your behaviour towards your wives.'

[Al-Bayan wa at-Tabayeen, 2/101; Fara’id al – Kalam, p.113]

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Murdered women: A history of ‘honour’ crimes

On a hot summer day in late May 1994, I drove to an eastern suburb of Jordan’s capital, Amman, to investigate the reported murder of a 16-year-old schoolgirl by her own brother.

With limited information, questions roiled my mind as I drove up the hill towards the neighbourhood. Why had this girl’s life been cut short by her brother? What had her final thoughts been?

My questions would soon be partially answered by a man who was walking through the neighbourhood when I arrived. “Yes, I know why she was killed,” he answered calmly as if talking about the weather: “She was raped by one of her brothers and another sibling murdered her to cleanse his family’s honour.”

I asked him again if what he was saying was really true.

“Yes, it is true. That is why she was killed,” the man answered me, before ushering me to the house where the murder took place.

The same “justification” was used by the girl’s uncles when I sat with them to discuss the murder. Her name was Kifaya (“enough”) they told me. “She seduced her brother to sleep with her and she had to die for that,” they said.

That sentence rang in my head throughout my career as a senior reporter at the Jordan Times and as an activist on this topic.

A few months later, I was assigned to cover court hearings on homicides in Jordan. Again, I came across dozens of stories of women who had been murdered by their male relatives for reasons related to so-called “family honour”. Some of these cases I investigated, including Kifaya’s.

To my surprise at that time, the majority of perpetrators would get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. Their sentences would range from three months to two years in prison.

But in Kifaya’s case, the court rejected the “rape excuse that was uttered by her brother and handed him a 15-year prison term for manslaughter”, as I wrote in my report for the Jordan Times. It was an unusually harsh sentence for its time.

But that sentence, like most of those relating to “honour” crimes, was later cut in half because the victim’s family dropped their legal claims against the defendant, who was, of course, also a family member. While sentencing has gradually become more severe over the years, it is still possible in Jordan for defendants to have their sentences cut in half if the victim’s family drops the charges.


Thursday, 5 August 2021

Noor Mukadam's murder exposes toxic misogyny in Pakistan


Noor Mukadam, a 27-year-old woman and daughter of Pakistan's former ambassador to South Korea, was brutally killed in Islamabad on July 20. The alleged killer, Zahir Zamir Jaffer, was reportedly her acquaintance. According to police reports, he beheaded Mukadam after shooting her.

Violence against women is widespread in Pakistan, but the recent spate of women killings has shocked the South Asian nation.

On Sunday, a man burned his wife to death in the southern Sindh province, while another man shot dead his wife, his aunt and two underage daughters in Shikarpur city on the same day. A 30-year-old woman who was raped and stabbed on Saturday in Rawalpindi city succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

On July 18, a woman was tortured to death by her husband in Sindh. Last month, a man killed two women, including his former wife, in the name of "honor" in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

The recent cases have triggered a debate about the state's failure to protect women, the culture of impunity, and the reasons behind society's tendency to curtail women's independence and inflict pain on them.

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, and is currently witnessing a rapid rise in cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence.

Rights activists blame a culture of impunity for the recent spike in violence against women.

"A man who stabbed a young female lawyer more than 12 times was recently released by the court. What message does it send to the perpetrators of violence against women?" Yasmin Lehri, a former lawmaker from Balochistan province, told DW.

Mukhtar Mai, a women's rights activist and a 2002 gang rape survivor, shares the same view: "Those who commit violence against women are not afraid of legal consequences," she told DW, adding that for most Pakistani men, beating a woman is not even a form of violence. Pakistani society is still entrenched in feudal and tribal customs, she says.

Other activists also blame society's patriarchal attitudes . "Women are taught to obey men, as they have a superior status in the family," said Mahnaz Rehman, a Lahore-based feminist, adding that when a woman demands her rights, she is often subjected to violence.

Shazia Khan, a Lahore-based activist, believes that in certain cases, men feel emboldened by religious teachings.

"Islamic clerics interpret religion in a way that it gives the impression that it allows men to beat women. They also support underage marriages and tell women to obey their husbands even if they are violent toward them," she said, adding that these clerics actually encourage men to commit violence against women.

Many rights activists in Pakistan blame Prime Minister Imran Khan's "victim blaming" for the rise in violence against women in the country.

Last month, the conservative premier faced backlash following his comments that appear to put the blame for sexual abuse on women.

"If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they are robots," Khan said during an interview for documentary-news series Axios, aired by US broadcaster HBO. He proceeded to say that this was "common sense."

Earlier this year, he made similar remarks during a question and answer briefing with the public, suggesting that the rise in sexual violence in Pakistan was due to the lack of "pardah," the practice of veiling, in the country.

"PM Khan and his ministers continue to make anti-women remarks that encourage misogyny, and in a way violence against women, in Pakistan," said activist Shazia Khan.

Former lawmaker Yasmin Lehri believes that Khan's government hasn't done anything to protect women. Instead, she said, the government sent a bill to stop torture against women to Islamic clerics, who have stalled it.

Just like PM Khan, the country's conservative sections, too, blame the "Western culture" for sexual and physical violence against women.

Samia Raheel Qazi, a former parliamentarian, says the recent incidents of violence involve people who have drifted away from Islamic teachings.

"In Noor Mukadam's case, the alleged perpetrator is a Westernized atheist," she told DW, adding that the weakening of the family system amid an onslaught of Western culture in the country is responsible for these crimes.

Lawmaker Kishwar Zehra agrees. "We need to revive our family values to stop these crimes."


Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Brutal killing spotlights violence against women in Pakistan

  Noor Mukadam’s last hours were terror-filled. Beaten repeatedly, the 27-year-old jumped from a window but was dragged back, beaten again and finally beheaded. A childhood friend has been charged with her killing.

The gruesome death last week in an upscale neighborhood of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, is the latest in a series of attacks on women in Pakistan, where rights activists say such gender-based assaults are on the rise as the country barrels toward greater religious extremism.

Mukadam was the daughter of a diplomat, and her status as a member of the country’s elite has shone a spotlight on the relentless and growing violence against women in Pakistan, said prominent rights activist Tahira Abdullah. But the majority of women who are victims of such violence are among the country’s poor and middle classes, and their deaths are often not reported or, when they are, often ignored.

“I could give you a list longer than my arm, only in one week” of attacks against women, said Abdullah. “The epidemic of sexual crimes and violence against women in Pakistan is a silent epidemic. No one sees it. No one is talking about it.”

Still, Pakistan’s Parliament this month failed to pass a bill that seeks to protect women from violence in the home, including attacks by a husband. Instead, it asked an Islamic ideology council to weigh in on the measure — the same council that previously said it was OK for a husband to beat his wife.

Data collected from domestic violence hotlines across the country showed a 200% increase in domestic violence between January and March last year, according to a Human Rights Watch report released earlier this year. The numbers were even worse after March, when COVID-19 lockdowns began, according to the report.

In 2020, Pakistan was near the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s global gender index, coming in at 153 of 156 countries, ahead of only Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, which held the last spot despite billions of dollars spent and 20 years of international attention on gender issues there.

Many of the attacks in Pakistan are so-called honor killings, where the perpetrator is a brother, father or other male relative. Each year, more than 1,000 women are killed in this way, many of them unreported, say human rights workers.

“The authorities have failed to establish adequate protection or accountability for abuses against women and girls, including so-called ‘honor killings’ and forced marriage,” according to the HRW report.

Rights groups have been sharply critical of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, saying he panders to the religious right and excuses the perpetrators of attacks on women.

A former cricket star who has married three times, Khan once had a reputation as a womanizer but has now embraced a conservative Islam. He keeps close ties with a religious ceric who blamed COVID-19 on “the wrongdoing of women.” He once appeared to blame women for attacks by men saying, “if you raise temptation in society ... all these young guys have nowhere to go, it has consequences in the society.”

His information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, says Khan’s statements have been taken out of context and denied violence against women is on the rise, without offering evidence. He said his government encourages women in politics and sports and in provinces where Khan’s party dominates human rights legislation has been strengthened.

“I think this perception is not really close to reality, that in Pakistan women are not safe or maybe that there’s a misogyny in practice in Pakistan,” Chaudhry said in an interview.

Yet last week, one of Khan’s Cabinet ministers, Ali Amin Gandapur, told a rally of thousands of mostly male supporters, that he would “slap and slap” a female opposition political leader.

Last September, a senior police officer blamed a woman who was ambushed and gang raped in front of her two children, saying she should not have been travelling at night and without a man.

Such remarks reflect an increase in ultraconservative and even extremist religious values in Pakistan, said Amir Rana of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.

The country has seen an explosion of religious organizations and religious political parties, many with extreme beliefs, said Rana, whose organization tracks and documents extremism in Pakistan.

These organizations have tremendous reach in most cities and towns, where they provide services from education to health care, and thus have extensive ability to influence social values, said Rana.

The history of religious extremism in Pakistan is complicated, and Chaudhry, the information minister, argued that America shares responsibility for the role it played in the region in the 1980s. At that time, Pakistan’s military dictator aided by the U.S. used religious fervor to inspire Afghans to fight an invading Soviet Union. Many of those Afghans ended up in Pakistan as refugees.

“And very conveniently now, the U.S. media and U.S. authorities ... blame everything on Pakistan and have left the region,” he said.

But Abdullah, the rights activist, said Pakistan cannot shirk its own responsibility, noting that same dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul Haq, introduced Islamic laws that, among other things, reduced women’s rights to inheritance, limited the value of their testimony in court and made reporting a rape almost impossible by requiring four male witnesses.

In Mukadam’s assault, police have charged Zahir Jaffar, the son of a wealthy industrialist, with murder. Initial reports say she was killed after spurning his marriage proposal. It’s not clear whether Jaffar has a lawyer.

The brutality of the assault — the attacker used so-called brass knuckles — and the fear that his high social status means he could be freed, galvanized many in Pakistan to speak out. They have held protests and a candlelight vigil and launched a social media campaign #justicefornoor to preempt attempts to use influence and money to whisk the accused out of the country.

In one petition circulating online, the author demanded the country’s judicial system “hold perpetrators of violence responsible. We demand justice. We demand it swiftly. We demand it for Noor. We demand it for all women.”

Zarqa Khan, a student who attended a candlelight vigil for Mukadam, bemoaned how religion now pervades so much of life in Pakistan and how today she fears walking alone on the streets.

“I just didn’t feel safe outside anymore,” said Khan. “And that shouldn’t be the scenario.”

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Love and Relationship Quotes

“The man dreams of a perfect woman and the woman dreams of a perfect man and they don’t know that Allah created them to perfect one another.” [Ahmad AlShugairi].

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Verily, Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection: Where are those who love each other for the sake of my glory? Today, I will shelter them in my shade on a day when there is no shade but mine.” [Prophet Muhammad PBUH, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2566].

“Once you begin to see everything beautiful as only a reflection of God’s beauty, you will learn to love in the right way.” [Yasmin Mogahed].

“The most perfect believer in faith is the one whose character is finest and who is kindest to his wife.” [Prophet Muhammad PBUH].

“Forbidden love stories end at marriage, while true halal love stories begin at marriage and end with both entering paradise.” [Abdulbary Yaha Bari].

“And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.” [Hafez]


Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Top Inspirational Quotes on Strengthening Our Islamic Faith


“There is no relationship between Allah and anyone except through obedience to Him.” [Umar Ibn Al Khattab].

“We were the most humiliated people on earth & Allah gave us honour through Islam.” [Umar Ibn Al Khattab].

“If you want to focus more on Allah in your prayers, focus more on Him outside your prayers.” [Yasmin Mogahed]

“The most beloved actions to Allah are those performed consistently, even if they are few.” [Prophet Muhammad PBUH, Sahih Bukhari].

“Once prayer becomes a habit, success becomes a lifestyle.” Anonymous
“Indeed, I am near.” | [Quran 2:186]

“The more you read The Quran the more you’ll fall in love with The Author.” [Anonymous].
“Allah comes in between a person and his heart.” [Quran 8:24] 

“When was the last time you read the Quran? If you want to change, start with the book of Allah.” [Anonymous].

“Turn to Allah and you will find His Mercy heal every aching part of your heart and soul. Allah will guide you, He will bring clarity to your eyes, make soft your heart and make firm your soul.


Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Why are Muslim women living ‘in fear’ in this Canadian city?


Dunia Nur was out buying paint when it happened. The community organiser in Edmonton, Alberta was speaking Somali to her aunt on the phone when a man at the shop aggressively told her to “speak English”. When she tried to get out of the situation, he blocked her path.

“He was offended at the fact that I was speaking my language,” Nur, a Somali Canadian and the president and co-founder of the African Canadian Civil Engagement Council, told Al Jazeera. “I tried to move and then he blocked me.”

While the recent incident did not escalate further, Nur said it left her feeling unsafe, especially as it took place shortly after a Muslim family was run down by a driver in London, Ontario in a deadly attack that police said was spurred by anti-Muslim hate.

It also came amid a string of verbal and physical attacks against predominantly Black Muslim women in and around Edmonton since late last year – a reality that Nur said has left many members of the community feeling afraid to leave their homes.

In late June, two sisters, Muslim women who wear hijabs, were attacked by a knife-wielding man who hurled racial slurs at them on a path just outside the city. In other instances, Muslim women have been knocked to the ground while out on a walk or threatened while waiting for public transit.

The city says Edmonton police have received reports of five incidents involving Black women wearing hijabs since December 8, 2020, and the police force’s hate crime unit arrested and laid charges against a suspect in each case.

But Muslim community advocates say incidents often go unreported. “We had a town hall meeting where many women came out and actually stated that they have previously been attacked with knives, they have been told to go back to their homes, they have experienced a lot of gender-based violence and hate-motivated crimes – it just went unreported,” Nur said.

“Muslim Black women are being attacked and they are being attacked because of anti-Black racism and they’re being attacked because of Islamophobi[c] rhetoric and they are being attacked because they are women… I feel like right now we’re at a point that we’re not sure what’s going to happen to us when we go outside.”

The capital of the western Canadian province of Alberta, Edmonton was home to just more than 972,000 residents in 2019, according to a municipal household survey.

In an email to Al Jazeera, Mayor Don Iveson’s office said some Edmontonians “have not gotten the message that racist and bigoted behavior is not welcomed in our city”.

“There are systemic and long-term contributing factors to that, there are also issues of specific prejudice in the hearts and minds of [Edmontonians] who ought to know better – and there are far too many of those people that have been given license, in a variety of different ways, to spew their hatred in this community. And I, like most Edmontonians, want it to stop. Now,” the statement said.

Iveson said Edmonton city council supports calls to strengthen hate laws in Canada and has provided financial assistance to bolster initiatives to address hate and violence, including a task force to provide advice on how to make the community feel safe.

“The City, the Edmonton Police Service, and the Edmonton Police Commission have responded with a work plan outlining 70 different actions that are responding to the issues identified. A more comprehensive strategy will be coming forward in early 2022,” the statement said.

The city council also passed a motion earlier this month directing Edmonton to further engage with Black, Indigenous and other communities of colour to address harassment and violence.

The motion also orders the mayor to write to the federal government “requesting a review and potentially update the current definition of hate crime” for any racial, gender or cultural gaps or biases, the city said.

But despite these measures, activist Wati Rahmat told Al Jazeera that “Muslim women are in fear” in Edmonton.

“I have had friends who have conversations about whether they should be changing the way they wear the hijab, or take off the hijab, or go out with a friend, or not go out,” said Rahmat, who founded Sisters Dialogue, a Muslim women-led initiative, in response to the attacks. The group is currently working on a safe-walk service to offer accompaniment to Muslim women who do not feel safe going out by themselves.

The demands for more support in Edmonton come amid growing, Canada-wide calls for the federal government to implement an action plan to stem Islamophobia, as advocates say systemic racism and far-right bigotry increase the risks of violence.

For many, the June attack in London, Ontario – as well as a deadly 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque and a fatal stabbing last year outside a mosque in Toronto’s west end – show just how deadly the problem can be.

Members of the Muslim community and supporters gather for a vigil after a deadly attack in London, Ontario, killed four members of a Muslim family in June [File: Ian Willms/Getty Images via AFP]
“I don’t think it’s right for women to have to fear going out,” Rahmat said.

Some Muslim advocacy groups, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), have also called for street harassment laws to be bolstered, as most of the recent attacks on Muslim women in Alberta have taken place in public.

Fatema Abdalla, NCCM’s communications coordinator, said at least 15 attacks on Muslim women were reported in the cities of Edmonton and Calgary over the past six months.

“These women were either on their daily walks or they were at a park or an LRT [light-rail transit] station or some form of a transit station,” Abdalla told Al Jazeera, adding that NCCM receives calls nearly every week about verbal abuse targeting Muslim community members across the country.

“It’s instances like these that we need to prevent from happening so that they no longer lead to such devastating attacks as the one that we have seen in London, Ontario,” she said.

In the meantime, Muslim community leaders are taking steps to try to stem the violence on their own. Noor al-Henedy is director of communications at Edmonton’s Al Rashid Mosque, which organised self-defence courses for Muslim women this year.

While the community felt it was necessary to provide women with concrete tools to get out of a bad situation – and the courses drew overwhelming interest – al-Henedy said they also reflect an upsetting reality.

“It’s very sad and disappointing to be honest with you and I think it makes some people a little bit angry that we do have to do this, that we have to resort to these measures,” al-Henedy told Al Jazeera in an interview in March.

“We worry about the future generation; we worry about our daughters,” she added. “When a 15-year-old comes and tells you that she’s too afraid to cross the street, walking from school to home, that’s extremely concerning. It’s heartbreaking.”

Nur at the African Canadian Civil Engagement Council said the organisation is also working on offering psychological support, as well as information for Muslim women to know what to do if they are attacked, including how and to whom to report an incident of violence.

She called for international organisations such as the United Nations to push Canada to take action to urgently respond to the situation in Edmonton.

“We need international attention and solidarity because we can’t do this on our own and our public officials are failing us. We need international help and intervention,” Nur said. “We’re not okay. We really are not okay.”


Friday, 16 July 2021

Pakistan: The ordeal of 'abandoned wives' left behind by UK families


Sana Hafeez, 28, from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, had hardly started the 10th grade when her family arranged her engagement to her British-born cousin Muhammad Bilal Choudhary.

Although Hafeez had wanted to become a civil servant after completing her education, she was excited by the prospect of going to the United Kingdom. She thought it would help ease her family's financial troubles and provide her with an opportunity to get an education and a good job.

"But to my surprise, my fiancée and his family asked me not to pursue my studies beyond grade 12," she told DW. "I was heartbroken, but the prospect of going to the UK and supporting my family financially was still a solace."

The pair remained engaged for five years and married in August 2018. Her husband left for the UK a week after the marriage, and both he and her in-laws had promised to take her there as well, said Hafeez.

Hafeez is one of many women from her region who have been married off to British Pakistani men in the hope they can help their families financially. But lawyers and womens' rights activists say that many of these marriages often go awry.

Several residents of Hafeez's district of Mirpur have family members in Britain. Many people left in the 1950s and 60s, when the construction of a large dam affected thousands in the district.

Over the years, through marriages, asylum, work permits and family connections, many made their way to the former colonial power.

"For a year we remained engaged and talked over the phone," Hafeez recalled. But her fiance's attitude started to change in 2019. "When I insisted on coming to the UK, he started hurling slurs and insults and finally filed for divorce in May of this year," she said, fighting back tears.

"It was a bombshell for me and the family. He wasted eight years of my life," she said. Additionally, her family had to borrow money to pay for the marriage — money which they thought could be repaid once she was settled in the UK.

"I could have become a civil servant or gotten a higher education. Who will compensate for all my losses?" she asked.

Hafeez's case is not unusual, said Ghazala Haider Lodhi, a women's rights advocate.

"Since the 1990s, I have heard and seen thousands of cases of such women," Lodhi told DW.

"Because of the conservative nature of our society they cannot share their ordeals."

Lawyer Ifzal Ahmed Khan has witnessed many similar cases. Khan told DW that a British Pakistani man, originally from the town of Bhimber in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, married his cousin Sadaf more than seven years ago. He stayed with her for a few years and abandoned her after the birth of a baby boy.

The man later divorced his cousin, he said, adding that the man is now threatening to take the child.

Sardar Abrar Azad, an activist in Mirpur, says his friend's sister was also abandoned after being married to a British Pakistani. According to Azad, poverty is what drives families to marry off their daughters to British Pakistanis. He added that people are often so desperate to send their daughters to the UK that they don't pay much attention to the character of the husband-to-be.

Many of the men turn out to be utter frauds, Azad said. "Instead of taking the girls back, they stay here for months while the girls' families bear their accommodation expenses."

While poverty is one reason young women are married off, some parents seek husbands for their daughters in order to strengthen existing family ties, he said.

Most of the girls, advocate Lodhi said, are from impoverished families, who hope that their daughters will call one of their brothers to the UK or will themselves work there and send money back. What seems like a dream can soon turn into a nightmare, she said.

'Parents should seek consent'
"I think parents need to seek the consent of their sons and daughters who are born and brought up in the UK under completely different socio-economic conditions," Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, former prime minister of the disputed territory, told DW.

He believes that a lack of consent leads to the breakup of such marriages. "The man and woman should be given a chance to communicate with one another and understand each other before they decide to marry," he said.

In Mirpur, the British Pakistani men marrying local women have an increasingly bad reputation. Lodhi claims that almost half of them are already married. In one case, a British Pakistani man married more than six times. "Most of these men are over 40 and even 60 in some cases," Lodhi said.

"They know most of their victims are poor and cannot do anything against them," said Khan. "So they marry here, and spend a few months or years impregnating women. In some cases, they take the kids with them and in others they leave both the wife and kids here, and ruin their lives."

"What else could it be described as except debauchery and lust?" he said.

Attique Khan believes that society has to take steps to stop such marriages. "Efforts could be made at the government level, but civil society has to create awareness to stop this trend," he said.


Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Secret Marriages


Some brothers and sisters have asked me to comment on a practice that is increasingly reported of travelling Muslim scholars and teachers of Islam in the West, and those who travel to the West as teachers and preachers. This is the practice of contracting secret marriages in the places these scholars visit or pass through.

The first thing to be said is that people generally do not make a secret of actions and relations except when they have some sense that these actions and relations, if known, would be disapproved of. Those who take the responsibility of public teaching of Islam must know that they are seen as representatives of the religion and looked up to as role models. Not only the words they preach but also their actions and lifestyle influence the decisions and actions of others; before God they are liable for that influence and for its consequences in the lives of others. Preachers, teachers, and other public figures in the community, have a responsibility to ensure that their conduct adheres to the ideal of those who fear even to displease God, let alone wilfully disobey His commands or those of His Messenger, upon him be peace.

Every Muslim knows that good deeds repel evil ones. God has said so in His Book: “Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds”. (Surah Hud 114) The effort of preparing for prayers and doing the prayers through the day helps to sustain God-wariness, to prevent failures and shortcomings from becoming established habits with consequences hard to undo. We strive after good thoughts, words and deeds in order to disable and annul temptation, so that we acquire, so far as God wills, something to negate/counter the harms and wrongs that we accumulate to our account over a lifetime.

But how many of us are mindful that the converse is also true: that evil deeds can negate, undo or outweigh good ones? The following is reported by `Abd al-Razzaq in his Musannaf:

Ma`mar and Sufyan al-Thawri narrated to us from Abu Ishaq, who narrated from his wife saying that she called among a company of women on `A’ishah. A woman said to her: O umm al-mu’minin, I had a slave-girl, whom I sold to Zayd ibn Arqam for 800 with deferred payment of the price. Then I bought her from him for 600 and I paid those 600 on the spot and I wrote him 800 as debt. `A’ishah said: By God!How evil is what you bought! How evil is what you bought! Tell Zayd ibn Arqam that he has invalidated his jihad with the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, except if he repents. (Abd al-Razzaq, al-Musannaf, 8/185)

Note here the strength and presence of mind of `A’ishah. In her indignation against this legal trick to do what God’s law fiercely condemns and pronounces as illegal (namely, loans on interest), she does not exaggerate or lose her balance of judgment. She does not hesitate to say of Zayd that, by taking part in this transaction, he has annulled his effort of jihad. But she also remembers to say, ‘except if he repents’. Some wrongs (like riba) are indeed so heavy in their nature and their personal and social consequences that that they may annul one’s good deeds. Yet, until death is known to be imminent, the door of repentance is not closed to any sinner, and God has said that He loves to forgive.

Secret marriage is one of several kinds of violation by men of the rights and dignity of women. I have been informed that it is increasingly common for Muslim preachers in Europe and America and for those visiting the West to marry women in secret and for a short period, after which they, presumably, end the marriage, before going on to contract another marriage of the same sort somewhere else. This is a violation of the laws and good purposes of marriage, and a vicious exploitation of women whose circumstances oblige them to enter into such contracts. The wrong is analogous to riba, which is a violation of the laws and good purposes of lending money, and severely injurious to those whose circumstances force them to borrow in this illegal way.

Marriage in Islam is presented as a good deed, a noble thing to do, when it is done in the manner and for the purposes described as ma`ruf – i.e., according to the known, established norms of kindness and public, legal form. It is explicit in Surat al-Nisa’ that even when a Muslim contracts a marriage with a slave, he must inform her family and get their consent, and he must pay her the mahr. What is explicitly forbidden is taking lovers in secret, debauchery, and fornication, i.e., sexual relations without responsibility for the other person and for the consequences of the act. Secret, temporary marriages are (just like the legal tricks to enable riba) a legal cover for what is illegal and known to be so.

Marriage is both a personal and social fact for the contracting parties. It is not merely one and not the other. It is an integral part of what makes marriage a good deed that it should be done with the intention of building a legal, social, physical space in which children are to be welcomed and raised. It is an integral part of what makes marriage a good deed that it connects families not hitherto connected, or it extends and consolidates existing connections. In this way, marriage widens the network of family relations, so that there is multiplicity of siblings and cousins, uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces, among whom responsibility for each other’s well-being (physical, economic and spiritual) is shared, usually unevenly, as means and talents and situations are diverse. The social relationships facilitate and diversify, and thereby strengthen and support, the burdens of personal relationship of the husband and wife. It goes without saying that when a man contracts a marriage he commits himself, in principle, to provide for his wife for her lifetime – it is not lawful for a Sunni Muslim to contract a marriage knowing in advance that this commitment is temporary. Let us suppose that a Sunni Muslim owns an oil-well and he is able to pay out, all at once, as much money as any woman could expect to have in a whole lifetime: for this Sunni Muslim it is still unlawful to contract a marriage knowing that it is temporary, however much he pays out, and unlawful also, obviously, for the woman. Of this man it may be that his great wealth makes him the greater sinner, since he could use it not to indulge himself but to assist others to get married.

What distinguishes a marriage as such, what ennobles it above any form of improper association of man and woman, is that it is proclaimed to be a responsible union: marriage proclaims the couple’s right to privacy and intimacy with each other, and the purposes of that right. The neighbourhood and community must know the legal status of the couple’s being together, so that they can celebrate their relation and support it. Secret marriages, in addition to violating the rights of women, also violate the right of the community to be spared the innuendoes and slanders that are so corruptive of social order, harmony and trust. Such marriages do the same long-term damage to what is nowadays called ‘personal and social capital’, as American-style fast foods (and other ‘instant’ conveniences, not least social media ‘friendships’), do to long-term physical and mental health, and to the long-term sustainability of how food is produced and distributed.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘Proclaim the marriage’ (Sunan al-Nasa’i, 3369; Musnad Ahmad, 15697; Sunan Sa`id ibn Mansur, 635). This a clear injunction that marriages must be proclaimed, made public, not held in secret. That is the practice of the Prophet himself, of all his Companions, and of the prominent scholars of the early generations. None of them ever indulged in secret marriages and they never, explicitly or tacitly, approved any such marriages. We read in al-Mughni, k. al-Nikah that among those who expressed explicit disapproval of secret marriages are: `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `Urwah ibn al-Zubayr, `Ubaydullah ibn `Abdillah ibn `Utbah, `Amir al-Sha`bi. Abu Bakr `Abd al-`Aziz says: ‘Such a marriage is void’. There too we find that the majority of the jurists say that the proclamation of marriage is recommended, i.e., they do not make it a legal condition for the validity of a marriage, assuming that it has been legally witnessed. Some say that proclamation is mandatory. This is the opinion of al-Zuhri: ‘If someone marries secretly, brings two witnesses but commands them to keep it secret, it would be obligatory to separate the husband and wife’. Similarly, it is reported that Imam Malik’s opinion is that non-proclamation of marriage invalidates the marriage (al-Mughni, k. al-nikah).

Even those scholars who do not make proclamation a legal condition for the validity of a marriage do not express approval for keeping it secret. Ibn Taymiyyah, as forceful and forthright as ever, likens secret marriages to prostitution (Majmu` al-fatawa, 32/102).

In sum:

Sunni fiqh condemns secret and temporary marriages (secret or public) because they are so injurious to the rights and dignity of women, and because they diminish the good that comes from marriage, namely family life and family relations with all that they provide of testing and training for mind, heart and temperament, and for all the consolations of sharing feelings and experiences across generations. Contracting secret/temporary marriages reduces marriage to sexual relations in an ugly sort of rental arrangement, that is profoundly demeaning, especially to women. Accordingly, I strongly advise women to be careful before they consent to marry anyone. I strongly advise them to inform, consult with and find support from, family, friends and community before they make any commitments so that the matter is known, and so that their rights are observed and respected. It is better (for women and men) to endure the hardships of being single than to enter into contracts that insult the laws and norms, and seek to subvert the purposes, of marriage as commanded by God and His Messenger, upon him be peace.

As for those who present themselves in public as teachers and preachers of Islam and yet have entered into such contracts, what can I say? It is obligatory for them that they refresh their intentions in due fear of God and that they remember that the door to repentance, to reform, and to making amends, is not closed.

God’s Messenger has affirmed in many places that God loves to forgive His creatures if they turn to Him. He makes the way to forgiveness easy for whoever repents sincerely. No believer’s sins, however great or numerous, can be greater than His mercy.

Sh. Akram Nadwi