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The War Within Islam (10 Nov 2009 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Jamiat-ul-Ulema Knows It Cannot Push Muslim Women Back Into Burqas

By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

November 9, 2009

The Jamiat-ul-Ulema's regressive agenda has shocked the nation


 The Jamiat-ul-Ulema's regressive agenda has shocked the nation. Of late the Jamiat had acquired a rather positive image owing to its sustained anti-terrorism campaign, even though it did not go far enough and hence was not very effective.

But in its recent Deoband convention organised by the Maulana Mahmood Madani faction, it has practically served notice on Muslims, particularly women, to stay within the boundaries set by 8th century ulema who had endorsed the so-called ahadees (sayings of Prophet Mohammad) concocted two to three centuries after the demise of the prophet.

These ahadees contravene the progressive, even feminist teachings of the Koran specifically to degrade and humiliate women and uphold the pre-Islamic practices.

The Jamiat has asked Muslim men to ensure "sisters, wives and mothers wear burqa", and do not bring "disrepute to the community". Endorsing Jamiat's archaic thinking, a number of ulema told the large Muslim gathering that a woman's status in society should be "secondary and subdued". They should abstain from watching cinema or television or going to co-ed schools; restrictive Sharia practices would apply to them after the age of 10.

The Jamiat also reiterated its opposition to the government's efforts to provide millions of bonded madrasa students an option to join the mainstream of society by acquiring knowledge and skills other than that of becoming a muezzin or an Imam of a mosque. It also repeated, completely unnecessarily, its earlier fatwa against Muslims singing Vande Mataram, half a century after the issue was settled.

Clearly Jamiat's burqa is slipping and the veneer of broadmindedness is wearing off. Composite nationalism calls for adjustment on the part of all communities. Unity in diversity and not uniformity of the Sangh Parivar world-view is definitely the idea best suited for India.

But any one community cannot insist on maintaining a completely separate identity, emphasise the character of a medieval community in its dress code, education, treatment of women and children, contempt for other religions, virulent sectarianism, and politics of victimhood. Jamiat cannot declare majority of Muslims apostate for going to shrines of Sufi saints revered by people of all faiths and at the same time present itself as part of the national mainstream.

It is natural for many to feel that the latest pronouncements from Deoband will push women further inside their dark holes. It will take the community back five centuries. But rather than arousing such fears, the panicky ranting of maulanas gives me hope. It would appear that they have heard the news. Muslim women are on the move. They are revolting even in the tiniest of towns.

Making use of the Islamic provision of choice given to them in the Koran, an increasing number of Muslim girls are refusing to marry boys of their parents' choice. They are even contemplating and a few succeeding, with sometimes fatal consequences, in eloping with boys of their choice. In many cases parents and the society at large has to accept their choices. In some cases the girls are even contemplating elopement with boys of other faiths.

Normally this should have been no big deal. On the advice of the ulema in his time, Mohammad bin Qasim had treated Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab (People of the Book, that is, followers of one of the 1,24,000 prophets who came prior to Prophet Mohammad, but later Indian ulema have invented for them a new and post-Islamic category of "semi-ahl-e-kitab", whatever that means. Muslims are asked to have close social interaction including marital ties with Ahl-e-Kitab.

I asked one girl who was planning to elope with a Hindu boy, if she was aware that, being a Hindu her friend was ahl-e-Kitab, and she could marry him even under the provisions of Islamic Sharia. This girl of a UP town of just 2 lakh was knowledgeable enough to tell me that was not the case. Only Muslim boys can marry ahl-e-Kitab girls under the Islamic provision.

I told her that this provision had been made at a time when girls couldn't stand on their own; but now you are an earning professional and will be able to fight for your right to follow the religion of your choice, so how would that Islamic provision apply to you today. She said she had never heard such "rational nonsense" and that the only way out for her was to elope and hope that she or her husband doesn't get killed by their relatives.

In her view even a loving invitation for reception to celebrate their marriage could prove fatal, so she won't fall for it. The ulema are clearly rattled. This couldn't be happening. But it is.

Sultan Shahin is editor, NewAgeIslam.com

Source: DNA, Mumbai

URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/the-war-within-islam/jamiat-ul-ulema-knows-it-cannot-push-women-back-into-burqas/d/2077



  • I guess wife-beating is the subject-matter, which in itself is a highly beaten subject.

    Some people quote the religious authority to beat their wife or wives. Some say the situation has changed enormously and no more can anyone beat his wife. 

    As a weather-beaten person myself (you could read wife-beaten but it would be unfair to me wife, being a lie) I find difficult to accept any of these stereotyped views, and I take a position which almost accidentally coincides with what has been stated in the Quran. This is one among the many similar reasons that makes the Quran holy for me.  Believe me it is not a fake-talk or leg·er·de·main, but the result of my weather-beaten-ness.

    Quran gives permission for the man to beat his wife.  A legitimate question does arise, why was a similar permission not given to the wife? My hunch is, because such permission is not needed for the wife to beat her husband. Okay this lighter side statement was made with the serious purpose of drawing attention to the exceptional nature of husband-wife relationship. 

    Tell me one thing honestly; if a husband is beating his wife, will the wife stay quiet like a cow. She can certainly and most probably will, if man exceeds his limit (defined by the overall relationship between the two) and if luck permits, bite his arms.  And I assure everyone that if by any chance, for reason of wife being stronger or situationally better placed (her hand can reach him and his hand cannot reach her), she takes the initiative, then the husband will do the same thing. Perfect equality! 

    Quran has however raised a clear bar for the man (physically stronger of the two, generally), not to beat his wife beyond the point that is absolutely necessary to show his resentment.  In a retaliatory fit of anger, I am sure a Muslim woman can bite his back, and I am further sure that Islamic Sharia will not punish her, except permitting a hearty laugh to the men-folk. 

    When the allergic critics of Islam set out to examine a provision made by Quran, they somehow leave their common sense behind. Gentlemen and ladies, ask a lawyer, if this be not the law to govern relationship between wife and husband, most husband and wife will end up in courts for the crime of inflicting simple hurt on each other. Luckily the British jurists had the good sense of accepting this principle of Islam by making permissible such spanking or paddling within a family fold.

    Since Islam already prohibits the use of liquor, high-handedness on the part of men is ruled out to a large extent. The reference to my weather-beaten-ness was only to inform my readers that I have come across with thousands of cases of wife-beating by drunkard husbands, only to hear both from the husband and the wife next morning, the story of falling in bathrooms to explain their black eyes. I do not remember if any one of them was a Muslim couple. Possibly the same will be the outcome in the case of Muslim couple, but I think Muslims must work hard to reduce drunkenness amongst Muslims as ordained by Allah.

    About gender equality issue, I have expressed my ideas through a poem ‘woman - thou art not frail’, which is available on this website and which I think is rooted in the soil of Islam.

    I do not know about the views of Islamic clerics which can vary from one school of thought to another, but I think there is no question of pushing women back to Burqas.  Who the hell could push my wife into Burqa - certainly not me! But it so happened, that one day, she ordered one Burqa for herself which she has been wearing now though she never did wear a Burqa in her life before. Believe me friends, I had to intercede with her to not cover her face, and I cited to her scriptural authority (after doing a little bit of research, which included referring to hadith, to keep on the safe side) that it was entirely her discretion whether she wanted to cover her face or not, and so she should choose the option that suits her husband. She obliged. Actually she wears her Burqa as a kind of dress in which she finds comfort level high, because I do not find her observing strict classical parda when someone visits us. I have mentioned this personal angle to give authenticity to the story, but more importantly to convey the principle that this Burqa thing may not un-suit all women uniformly, and so the moral of the story is that Burqa-burning may itself be immoral.

    Then there is celebration of girls or women breaking free of so many moulds and all that. As far as I am concerned any girl or woman is free to walk away from Islam, but if her walking away from Islam is to run away with a man, then she is going for a bad bargain, unless she turns out to be an exception. If she wants me to give proof of it, what proof can one possibly give to a love-smitten?  Only time will teach such runners-up something about rational sense. As the world (third world to be precise, first world has already faced it) progresses from poverty to opulence, of the many social issues, this running away business is going to take its largest emotional toll. When a girl runs away, she repays the debt of the family with the cruelest currency. And one doesn’t have to be a Muslim, to receive this repayment.

    Manzurul Haque

    By Manzurul Haque -

  • There has been some mismatch between the comments and the text of the Article. Please correct.

    By Manzurul Haque -

  • Mr.Rizvi, it is not that the fundamentalists have better arguments for the young people, but that the progressive Muslims have not seriously framed their arguments, so that the young are exposed to only one point of view. The young would understand that Sharia laws are designed to be consonant with the ethos of the times and the place. The fundamental Quranic principles on which these laws are based, however, are eternal and immutable. These principles are equality, fairness, justice, human dignity and common sense.

    Good things have been written on how we should read and interpret the Quran by Ziauddin Sardar, Chandra Muzaffar and Asghar Ali Engineer.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin -

  • In his 11/18/09 note Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin also made a comment that “the liberals, moderates and progressives need to come together, organize and enunciate a clear manifesto.”

     Whereas I fully agree with Ghulam Saheb’s views, I have my reservations regarding its implementation when it comes to changing the hearts and minds of our young people. It is this faculty where the fundamentalists have been very successful, and, which forms the source of their strength.

     I say this because the fundamentalists have a trump card of “Shraia in its purest form.”  What we have is Sharia’s interpretation of which there can be many. This puts us on a slippery slope. The only way out of this dilemma would be to instill among our young people the value of critical thinking and let the chip fall where it may.  This kind of incentive is more likely to come from the outside rather than from within the community.

    And, since the topic of this section relates to the equality of men and women, I would like to close my comment with the following passage from the page 60 of Tariq Ali’s book “The Clash of Fundamentalisms.”

     “Men have the authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.  Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in bed apart, and beat them.  Then, if they obey you, take no further actions then. Surely, Allah is all-knowing and wise.  (Quran 4.34)

    It is encouraging to see that when it comes to wife-beating, even the fundamentalists are shying away from taking the words literally.  I heard one Aalim saying that you take a copy of a newspaper, fold it and hit your wife with it - very gently.  Another one, probably more enlightened one, said that the word “beating” should be taken in the same context as used in everyday conversation where we say “you beat me on this” or “I beat you on that.”  

    At least we are making some headway toward a more progressive Islam.

    By Syed Rizvi -

  • I do agree to some extent with the following comments from Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin. It is proabably so.

    Attacks from outside, be it from the Sam Harrises, Arun Shouries or ex-Muslim apostates tend to have the effect of the community becoming defensive, closing the ranks and eventually strengthening the hands of the fundamentalists and the fanatics

    By Syed Rizvi -

  • Mr. Syed Rizvi,

    Attacks from outside, be it from the Sam Harrises, Arun Shouries or ex-Muslim apostates tend to have the effect of the community becoming defensive, closing the ranks and eventually strengthening the hands of the fundamentalists and the fanatics. This retards progress. The spur to change has to come from within. The number of Muslims in leadership positions who spoke up against the recent pronouncements of the Jamiat Ulema was a pleasant surprise. One would not have expected such a response just 25 years ago. The liberals, moderates and progressives need to come together, organize and enunciate a clear manifesto.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin -

  • In response to Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin's comment that Sam Harris has a special vengeance against Islam, I would say YES, it does appear from Sam’s tone of voice and facial expression.  I am not here to defend Sam Harris.  But in Sam’s own words it was not until 9/11 that he became aware of the power that religion can exert on an individual’s psyche to do things of this magnitude.  True; worst things have happened propelled by beliefs other than religion. In this case, it just happened to be religion and unfortunately people involved were Muslims. This incident was more dramatic, which did strike different people in different ways.  After all, Sam Harris could as well have written a book titled “Letter to a Muslim Nation.”  But he didn’t.  He wrote “Letter to a Christian Nation.”   Recently Sam Harris has posted the audio edition of his book on the web.  Those interested can also access the book from the following site.



    As regard to the objection in bringing Harris/Dawkins into the equation, I do agree that we should be able to fix our problems by working from within. However, we also have many taboos that we will not touch.  Working under such constraints will do some window dressing but will not address the core issues.  Most likely it will be the outside calling “emperor has no clothes” that may draw our attention.

    By Syed Rizvi -

  • Dear Friends,


    The right to life has been given by the almighty. Each religion calls the Almighty by different names. But who has given the authority to fellow humans to decide the course of action of the personal lives of other humans?

     This view is entirely absurd.

     No religious scholar, to whichever religion he belongs has been given this right.

     If somebody has been given this right, let him prove it to the majority of the populace there.

     Let any man or woman decide what is best for them.

     Every human being has a right to lead the way he wants to.



    By Bala -

  • Syed Rizvi,

    Sam Harris may be against all religions, but he comes down with a special vengeance against Islam. He has a right to do so, but such attacks imply that there is no possibility of Islam ever being able to discard its creed of intolerance and violence. This is a slap on the face of those who are working on reforms, on re-visiting and reinterpreting Quranic verses, on discarding the Hadith and on highlighting the messages of peace, tolerance and compassion which too are present in abundance in the Quran.

    The response to the Jamiat's fatwas is to address those fatwas directly and to show a better way, rather than to bring in Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. I do however respect your right to your opinions.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin -

  • Dear Mr. Rizvi,

    Your point about atheism and communism is well-taken.

    But I was arguing something totally different. I was saying that it is human agency that gives religion whatever form it takes in the world, moderate or extremist. Just like human agency turned communism, a secular and egalitarian ideology, extremist in form in some places.

    Therefore, I think that when so-called secular people argue that religion is the root of all conflict. I think they have got it wrong.

    My point is to bring religion forward, to make known the moderate understanding of scriptures. So that, common people get both sides of the picture, not just the one presented by the extremists. If that is confusing, so be it. At least, it is not violent, it just makes one think. And thinking is good :-)

    - Juhi

    By Juhi -

  • I agree with Tushudoshi’s comment that said:  “the very same scriptures that so called moderates like you refer for moderation are being used by extremists to justify violence. If we carefully study any religious book of any religion it is at best confusing.” 

    In support of Tushudoshi’s comment, I can refer the readers to following sites:



    or, the following site to be more specific.


    This site is being maintained by Sam Harris, author of the two best selling books “The End of Faith” and   “Letter to a Christian Nation.”   I don’t need to say much about the author or his books since in this age of Google and YouTube the readers can do their own findings and research on the subject.

    As regard to Juhi’s comment on the association of atheism with communism, I have to respectfully disagree with her. While it may be true that most communists have been atheists, but it is not the other way around.  If it were so, then both philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett would be communist and so will be other humanitarians like Angelia Jolie, Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, and all the hundreds of thousands of Unitarians in this county.

    Finally, if it is the same Juhi, who is at Tufts, I would recommend her to stop by at Daniel Dennett's office (Dept of Philosophy) and find out for herself how much of a Marxist he is.   Daniel Dennett is the author of the book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomena.” Needless to say the readers can do their own home work using Google and You Tube on Dennett also.

    On a personal note I would like to add; I grew up in Patna (India) and went to Bihar National College.   Right across the street   there used to be a book store “Peoples Book Store” with huge pictures of Marx, Lenin and Engels. I knew they were all atheist and so I also used to associate atheism with communism.

    Syed Rizvi

    San Jose, California

    By Syed Rizvi -

  • A lot of 'secular' people argue like you Mr. Tushudoshi. But is it really religion's fault that people utilize it to serve their political purposes, and their power games. What happened to the secular, in fact atheistic philosophy, communism. Marx called religion as the opium of the masses. Communism became as fanatical as a religion.

    It is time 'secular' and 'educated' people, instead of calling religion 'medieval', start participating in it and make it grow to become inclusive and rational, instead of the obscurantist form it is increasingly taking today.

    By Juhi -

  • from   tushudoshi

    to       Sultan Shahin  Editor@NewAgeIslam.com

    date   10 November 2009 09:23

    subject         in response to your article in DNA on nov.10

    I wholly agree your views in the article. But at the same time I wish to convey that we should stop taking recourse to any religion while making decisions about personal life.

    Religion as a concept has outlived its utility. It is the truth that every religion is manmade. Why we should refer to a system which is an outcome of thinking before the advent of true scientific thinking.

    Also ironic is that the very same scriptures that so called moderates like you refer for moderation are being used by extremists to justify violence. If we carefully study any religious book of any religion it is at best confusing. Imagine such books being written today and its author will be ridiculed. Time has come to understand that a modern society cannot be slave to any medieval ideology.

    By tushudoshi -

  • Kudos to the women who are taking a stand against such medieval thinking. It doesn't make any sense in today's age, for women not to get educated and choose for themselves whether they want to work or stay at home.

    Mr. Mohiyuddin has made a valid point, it is when the 'ulama will consist of women as well, that women's point-of-view will get representation. It is one professional field that remains the domain of mostly men, although there is no reason for it being so.

    By Juhi -

  • Sultan Shahin has excellently exposed the of J-u-U's regressive ideological interpretative exhortations to the Muslim community. He is absolutely right when he says that the present day Muslim woman with the modern scientific input would not pay any heed to their ranting.

    Just curious. May we ask: why there were no women in the congregation? What is the message the world gets from these assemblages. Are these interpretations the exclusive preserve of one half of humanity where as the other half has to know tow the dictates of these feudal mindsets? How can the hapless women get justice when only men are their lawyers and judges at the altar of religion?


    Kasim Sait

    By Kasim Sait -

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