Narrow-Minded Clergy: Our Hopeless Fate
Is it okay in Islam to beat your wife? Is it okay for her to do all the housework and for the husband to only exercise his dominance over her? Is it okay for her to be shut inside the house and forbidden to step outside due to her husband’s irrational and illogical thinking?
Since the passing of the Women Protection Bill by the Punjab Assembly, different views have come to surface regarding the status of women in our society. The religious clerics have opposed the passing of the Protection of Women Against Violence Act, claiming it to be ‘un-Islamic’ whereas the general populace has welcomed it with open arms, which reflects a glimmer of hope for women who have finally received an opportunity of being protected. What is more disturbing than the extreme dichotomy between the opposing opinions is the fact that people of Pakistan – and the Muslim people of a Muslim nation – need of an Act of Parliament to be told that beating women or attacking them with acid is unacceptable.
The ‘enlightened’ members of our clergy have based their claims on the detailed study of Sharia law and the legal rights and duties given in Islam. As enlightened as they are, they seem to be missing out on a very important point: that Sharia law is at the end of the day a religious law. This means that it not only regulates the relationship between individuals and their fellows, but also the relationship of an individual with God. Thus when our enlightened members of clergy only look at the legal obligations, their conclusions would always be incomplete or faulty because of their ignorance towards the moral aspect of our religion.
The moral aspect refers to the good deeds that a person must perform in order to improve his or her relation with God. It is sawab that an individual is rewarded with, in order for his or her life to be prosperous in this world and the next. The morality aforementioned is as important as any legal obligation, in order to capture the true essence of Islam and create a proper Islamic society. In certain areas there may not exist any legal obligation but the moral one is of such a nature that it becomes binding. For example, there is no legal obligation in Islam to care for one’s elderly parents, but in this case a hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) regarding Harzat Awais Qarni is such that it illustrates a moral obligation that is inherently binding.
Moving back to the discussion at hand, the family is a founding stone of the society and marriage is the founding stone of a family. Thus, unless this sacred institution is protected and constructed in a manner envisaged in Islam, a true Islamic society cannot prosper.
The esteemed members of our clergy are too busy to create means of beating up our wives that they have forgotten about the true nature of the concept of marriage in Islam. In our religion, a wife is not obligated to do housework, but a moral obligation gets placed upon her to do so, stemming from the notion that wives should take care of their husbands. Thus, in Pakistan it is common practice for women do housework.
The clergy is happy when women act morally towards their husbands but are not so ecstatic when reciprocity is demanded in respect of such moral obligations from the husbands whereby a man should be considerate towards his wife and care for her needs as well. Rather than fixing this, the clergy is too busy in finding ways in which they can beat their wives. I would not be too surprised if the clergy even comes up with a scenario such as justifying the beating of a wife if the food had too much salt in it.
Islam has sought to include moral obligations as supplementary towards legal obligations but the clergy is hell bent upon ignoring them. The legal right of a man to beat his wife is limited to such an extent that it is almost impossible for such circumstance to arise. Legally the right only comes after he has done talking to her about the issue, forbidden her from doing something inappropriate or actually separating from her. And even then the scenarios where light beating may be allowed are too narrow. Furthermore, there is a moral obligation, to love and pamper your wife and to treat her with compassion. However, the members of the clergy in their supreme wisdom choose to ignore these moral principles, and rather wish to further the suppression of women. The clergy has on countless times advocated that wives cannot leave the house without the permission of husband, but they choose to ignore the moral obligation for men to be kind and gentle towards their wives and not shut them inside the house for unreasonable reasons.
The result of such deliberations by the members of clergy is that, the rules that are created by them are morally empty and do not portray Islam in its true image. Instead, Islam gets portrayed as a distorted fragmentation of the clergy’s narrow-mindedness. As hopeless as it may seem, the fate of our religion rests in the hands of such people.
A society where only legal obligations are followed and moral obligations ignored, does not portray the true essence of Islamic teachings. Such ‘morally empty’ rules are the reason why Islam is thought of as intolerant by much of the western world because these rules cannot capture in totality the teachings of our religion, while the principles that are advocated by the clergy are incomplete in nature.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.