By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
13 October 2017
It is astounding. No sooner had the Supreme
Court said that sex with a minor wife would amount to rape, Hashtags began to
run on prominent news channels that Muslim clerics were opposing the verdict.
It must have taken an hour or two for any Muslim mullah to actually come on
camera and give his opinion. Right from the very beginning therefore, prominent
media outlets had read the judgment in a particular way and consequently
decided to make it into a debating point. That’s the not so subtle politics
which the media is indulging in these days. The verdict actually does not
single out any religion or community for special mention, the media houses
polarised the debate as they wanted to give a particular spin to it. Of course
they could not have done so without the special assistance received from our
Mullahs who were more than willing to play the game for grabbing some eyeballs
on prime time or for the simple reason that they really thought they would be
doing good to community which they claim to represent.
The objections raised by the Mullahs on the
verdict fulfilled the objectives for which the media had put a spin on the
story. Mullah after Mullah after Mullah opined that the judgment was in contravention
of the Muslim personal law which flows from the Shariat. They contended that
the Shariat proclaims that Muslim girls can get married as soon as they reach
puberty. The language was hardly civil and one Mullah actually said that if a
girl reached puberty at the age of 10, then she is allowed to marry. It defies
logic that these Mullahs would still be stuck in the medieval morass of tribal
Arabia despite living in a democratic country like India in the 21st century.
The Mullahs have another arsenal: they shout you down if they cannot reason out
with you. Thus the saner voices from within the Muslim community who were
welcoming the judgment were shouted into silence by these Mullahs who kept
repeating their age old nonsense that this was a conspiracy to malign Islam.
Actually it is the custodians of Islam like
the Mullahs who are maligning Islam today. Defending sex with underage girls
and that too under the cloak of religion is nothing but some sort of depravity.
It is delusional to think that the codes which were operating in the 7th
century Arabia would be applicable to all Muslims today located in very
different contexts. Just yesterday, Egypt has proposed a bill to criminalize
all marriages below the age of 18. Now al Azhar, located in Egypt has been the
source of intellectual fountainhead for so many of our Mullahs. The obvious
question to be asked is that if Egypt can do it without any debate on whether
it is contravening the Sharia or not, why can’t Indian Muslims also come
forward and voluntarily raise the age of marriage for girls? But then here, we
have the opposite trend: the Jamat e Islami in Kerala is actually campaigning
for lowering the age of Muslim girls! What is wrong with such people and
organization is the complete non-realization that the world and society has
moved ahead and that if Islamic laws do not keep pace with them then this
religion would be called as medievalist and far worse.
Indeed the number of child marriages
amongst Muslims is also far less as compared to Hindus. I am of the firm belief
that no Indian Mullah would want to marry their own daughters just after they
reach puberty. So are they arguing that the rest of the Muslim community should
follow one set of norms while they (the Mullahs) should have their own set of
norms? Why is there a deep reluctance on the part of the Mullah community to
acknowledge that theologically there seems to be a problem with Islam with
regards to age of marriage of Muslim girls? And this is perhaps a problem which
is symptomatic of a deeper malaise within the Muslim community itself.
This malaise is the stark refusal of the
community and the religious figures to look itself in the mirror and see the
horrors of the theology of silence which they have practising for centuries.
There should be no beating around the bush. Let’s accept that Islamic theology
permits marriage with minor girls and that centuries of Islamic scholarship and
practice have upheld it. If the Mullah is afraid that questioning such a
tradition will amount to weakening it, then let it weaken. After all,
traditions are meant to be broken. And if the tradition subjugates a section of
the population, then it should be broken with a vengeance. Secondly, the
Mullahs also have a problem in abrogating such practices like marriage with
minors because it is said that the Prophet himself married Ayesha when she was
merely nine years old.
Now, rather than questioning whether this
actually happened, the Mullahs have taken this as a fact because it forms a
part of the hallowed tradition. They should perhaps take inspiration from the
Pakistani theologian Javed Ahmed Ghamidi who has argued that the material on
which we know that the age of Prophet’s wife Ayesha is itself doubtful. He
argues that it does not make sense to marry a minor when in fact the tradition
describes that the Prophet was looking for someone who could take care of his
household. It defies common sense that a minor would be able to fulfil this
particular need of the Prophet. Ghamidi is therefore right in asserting that
due to the various contradictions in the Hadith traditions, he suspends his
judgment on the age of Prophet’s wife. Why a similar exercise cannot be done by
Indian Mullahs is simply baffling.
Even if we come to the conclusion that
Prophet did in fact marry a minor, then a historical and contextual reading of
this decision can always be done. What was right during the Prophet’s time is
no longer valid. What was Sharia (the path) at the time of the Prophet is no
longer the Sharia of the present. Contextualising the actions of the Prophet in
its time is perhaps the only way out of the morass which we find ourselves in
today. Rather than shying away from the problem, we must first have the courage
to recognise it and then throw it open for debate. Pretending that everything
is fine with Islam only obfuscates the problem and has already done irreparable
harm to the community and the religion. Obfuscation of the problem also leads
to a belligerent and senseless defence of something which is clearly wrong and
Arshad Alam is a columnist with www.NewAgeIslam.com
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You have taken up a good subject Arshad and your critical analysis is good. Without criticism there can be no improvement. I am glad you have recognised that the greatest defect of Islam, and the main reason that Muslims are behind the West, is the treatment of women. Think of a child that grows up in a Muslim household, where the mother is uneducated and married at a young age of 13 or 14, who would be detrimental to her children’s all round growth and education. At this age girls are not mature physically, emotionally and psychologically to assume the responsibility of running a beautiful home.
In the West teenage pregnancies are rampant, yet these girls have access to higher education and employment. In the East or West all sex between a man and his wife which is not consensual is rape. Similarly, all sex between man and an underage girl or underage wife is rape.
“Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer, and all the sexually immoral”. (Hebrews 13:4).
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