Social Independence of Women


Woman And Her Rights Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari

INDEPENDENCE OF CHOOSING DESTINY

One day a girl, who looked very perturbed, came to the Holy Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah! My father has done me a great injustice".

"What has your father done?"

"He has a nephew and he has married me to him without taking my consent".

"If so, agree to what he has done and be the wife of your cousin

"I don’t like my cousin. How can I be the wife of a person whom I don’t like".

"Then nothing has gone wrong. If you don’t like him, go and choose another person whom you like".

"By the way, I like him very much. I don’t like any other person. I won’t he the wife of anybody else. But, because my father gave me in marriage without taking my consent, I intentionally came over to have a talk with you. I wanted you to say what you have said. I wanted all the women to know that the fathers no longer had a right to decide as they pleased and give their daughters in marriage to whomsoever they liked".

The incident has been narrated by eminent jurists in such books as the Masalik (by Shaheed Thani) and the Jawahirul Kalam. During the pre-Islamic period the Arabs, like all other people of those days, thought that they ‘had full authority in regard to their daughters and sisters and sometimes even in regard to their mothers. They did not acknowledge the rights of women to choose their husbands, this choice being the exclusive privilege of the fathers or the brothers and, in their absence, of the paternal uncles, so much so that prospective fathers could give their daughters in marriage even before they were actually born. A man could enter into a contract with another man pledging that if a daughter was born to the former, she would, when grown up, be the wife of the latter.

MARRIAGE BEFORE BIRTH

One day, during his last pilgrimage, while the Holy Prophet was riding and had a whip in his hand, a man approached him on the way and said:

"I have a complaint to make".

"Yes, what’s the matter?"

"Years ago, during the pre-Islamic days, Tariq ibn Murqa’a and I took part in a battle. During the fighting he came to require a lance and cried: "Is there anybody who will give me a lance and take a reward?" I went to him and asked him what reward he would give. He said that he would bring up for me the first daughter that was born to him. Since then years have passed. Recently, on inquiring, I found out that he has a grown up daughter in his house. I went to him and reminded him of the promise. But he went back on his promise and demanded a fresh dower. Now I have come to you to find out whether he is right, or I am right".

How old is the girl?"

"The girl is grown up. Grey hair has also appeared on her head".

"If you ask me, neither you nor Tariq is right. Go after your business and leave the girl alone".

The man was taken aback at this reply and stared at the Prophet for several moments. He wondered what sort of verdict it was. Even if he paid a fresh dower to the girl’s father and he willingly gave his daughter to him, still the deal was not proper.

The Prophet observed his wondering looks and said: "Don’t worry. If you do things the way I have told you, neither you nor your friend, Tariq, will be doing anything wrong".

EXCHANGE OF DAUGHTERS

During the pre-Islamic days there was a form of marriage in vogue in Arabia under the name of Shighar marriage, (exchange of daughters) which was a manifestation of the absolute authority of the fathers over their daughters. A man would give his daughter in marriage to another man in consideration of the latter giving his daughter in marriage to him. In such a form of marriage neither of the wives would get a dower. Islam abolished this custom. It is worth noting that the Holy Prophet allowed full liberty to his daughter Fatimah Zahra (Peace be upon her) in choosing her husband.

He gave in marriage several other daughters also, but he did not deprive them of their freedom. When Ali Ibn Abi Talib, (peace be on him), approached the Holy Prophet, seeking Fatimah’s hand, the Prophet said that several other people had already approached him and that he had conveyed their proposals to Fatimah, but she turned her face away, as a mark of disapproval. The Prophet assured Ali that he would convey to her his proposal as well.

The Prophet went to Fatimah and told his beloved daughter what Ali wanted. This time she did not turn her face away, but kept quiet and thus expressed her consent. When the Prophet came out, he was happy. He exclaimed, "Allah is the Greatest!"

THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT FOR WOMEN’S LIBERATION

Islam has done a great service to women. It not only put an end to the absolute control of the fathers, but gave women freedom, a personality and independence of thinking and opinion.

It officially recognised her natural rights. However, there are two basic differences between the steps taken by Islam and what is happening in the West and is being followed by others.

The first difference concerns the psychology of man and woman. Islam has done and revealed wonders in this respect. We shall further discuss this question in the subsequent chapters.

The second difference is that, while Islam made the women aware of their rights and gave them an identity, a personality, freedom and independence, it did not instigate them to revolt and harbour malice against the male persons.

The Islamic movement for women’s liberation was white. It was neither black nor red; neither blue nor violet. It did not put an end to the respect in which the daughters held their fathers and the wives their husbands. It did not upset the basis of the family life and did not make women suspicious of their responsibilities in regard to their fathers and husbands. It did not provide any opportunity to the unmarried men who are always after enticing women. It did not snatch away the wives from their husbands and the daughters from their parents and did not hand them over to the sensual executives and the moneyed magnates. It has done nothing similar to what has caused a hue and cry across the oceans that the sacred family system has broken into pieces. There the paternal protection has vanished. No one knows what to do with all the corruption that is rampant, with the ever-growing cases of infanticide and abortion, with 40 per cent illegitimate children and with those new-born infants whose fathers are not known and whose mothers do not want to have anything to do with them, because they were not born in lawful wedlock. The mothers of such children simply hand them over to some social organisations and then never come back to inquire about them.

No doubt, we in our country are in need of a movement for women’s liberation, but what we need is a clean Islamic white movement and not a movement of the European brand with a dark and gloomy taint. We want a movement in which sensual young men should have lesser part and which should spring directly from the lofty teachings of Islam and be based on the deep and logical study of the Muslim society.

THE FATHER’S PERMISSION

The question, which needs examination from the point of view of the authority exercised by fathers over their daughters, is whether the father’s consent is essential in the case of a maiden’s first marriage.

From the Islamic point of view certain things are indisputable.

The boy and the girl both are economically independent. Every sane adult is entitled to have full control of his or her property, provided he or she is mentally mature, that is, capable of taking care of themselves. A father, a mother, a husband or a brother has no power of supervision or intervention in this respect.

Another point, which is indisputable, relates to marriage. The adult and mature boys have full liberty in this respect and nobody else has any right of intervention. The position of the girl, who has been married once and is now without a husband, is the same. But the case of a maiden, who wants to marry for the first time, is a little different.

It is beyond any doubt that the father cannot force even a maiden to marry any person against her will. We already know what the Holy Prophet told the girl whom her father had given in marriage, without taking her consent. The Prophet said that if she was not happy, she could marry someone else. But there exists a difference of opinion among the jurists as to whether a maiden can contract a marriage without the consent of her father and whether the validity of her marriage is in any way conditional to the consent of her father.

There is one more point about which there is absolutely no dispute. If the father withholds his consent without a sound reason, he loses his right. The jurists are unanimous that in such a case the daughter is free to contract a marriage with anyone of her choice.

But otherwise, as we have pointed out, the jurists differ on the point, whether the validity of the marriage of a maiden depends on the consent of her father. Most of the jurists, especially the later ones, are of the view that it does not. But still there are some who are of the opinion that it does.

This being a disputed point, it is not possible to discuss it from the Islamic point of view. Anyhow it can be discussed from a social point of view.

MAN IS AFTER SEX, WOMAN IS AFTER LOVE

The basis of the rule that the maidens must not or, at least, should not marry without the consent of their fathers is not that they are considered to be less mature than the boys. Had it been so, there should have been no difference between a 16 year old girl, who had previously been married, and as such does not require her father’s consent, and a 17 year old maiden who requires it according to the view of some jurists. Moreover, had Islam considered girls to be immature it would not have regarded the transactions, involving money and properties, made by them independently, as valid. Apart from the legal arguments, this point has a definite philosophy which cannot be ignored.

It is not a question of the immaturity or intellectual inadequacy of woman. It is related to a definite aspect of the psychology of the two sexes i.e. man’s instinct of alluring and woman’s instinct of credulity in regard to man’s faithfulness and truthfulness.

Man is after sex and woman is after love. Man is overpowered by his sexual urge, whereas, woman, according to the psychologists, has a greater capacity of controlling and concealing her desires. It is the melody of love, sincerity and faithfulness which subdues woman and brings her to her knees. That is what we mean by credulity of woman.

As long as the woman is a maiden and has had no experience of men, she can easily be lured by his love songs.

Professor Reeck, the American psychologist, says that the best sentence which a man can say to a woman is ‘Darling, I love you’. He says that good luck for a woman means to be able to win the heart of a man and to retain it for the rest of her life.

The Holy Prophet, the divine psychologist, clearly expressed this truth 1,400 years ago. He has said that if man expresses his love to a woman, she never forgets that.

The men who are after enticing a woman fully exploit this womanly feeling. The words, ‘I am dying for you’ are the best lure for enticing girls who have had no experience of men.

That is why it is essential that a girl, who has had no experience of men, should consult her father and should obtain his consent prior to contracting a marriage. Fathers know the mentality of men better and, leaving aside very exceptional cases, wish their daughters well.

In this case, the law has in no way degraded woman, but has taken a step to protect her interest. To raise an objection against the necessity of obtaining a father’s consent in the case of girls is more illogical than to ask why a father’s or mother’s consent has not been made necessary in the case of boys.

I wonder how the people, who daily come across incidence of the evils of free romance between boys and girls, still advise the girls to revolt against and he indifferent to the advice of their guardians.

In our view this act amounts to a sort of collusion between those who claim to have sympathy with women and those who are after enticing them. The former prepare the ground for the latter and make their job easier.

The girls have an absolute option in the matter of marriage. Only its validity depends upon the consent of the father, provided that he does not withhold it with any bad intention, or because he is not competent to exercise his judgement rightly for any special reason. Can anything be wrong with such a rule, or can it be regarded as against the basic concept of human liberty?

It is just a precaution to safeguard the interests of inexperienced girls and is based on a sort of suspicion about the male nature.

In this respect no objection can be raised against the Islamic law as such. What is objectionable is the custom prevailing among the Muslims. Most of the fathers still think that they have absolute authority and regard it as against her modesty, if a girl expresses her views about the selection of her partner in life, who is to be the father of her future children. They mostly do not pay attention to the intellectual maturity of the girl, which, according to the Islamic law, is an indisputable necessity. Many marriages, which take place before the girls are mature, are legally invalid and void. Mostly no inquiry is made about the maturity of the girl and puberty is considered enough. But we know what the great jurists have written about testing the intellectual maturity of the girls. Some jurists have regarded religious maturity also as a condition of marriage. They hold that only those girls who know the principles of religion with reason and proof are fit for marriage. Unfortunately, most of the guardians and those who preside over the religious ceremony of the marriage do not observe these conditions.

It may be mentioned that in all old marriage deeds the words ‘adult, sane and mature’ are found along with the names of the bride and the bridegroom.

Anyway, according to the Shi’ite law, a woman who is adult and mature and has once been married does not require her father’s consent.

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