By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
30 October 2013
Bangladeshi woman journalist Nadia Sharmeen aged 26 who was beaten up badly by the Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh goons, now appears to be more courageous, committed and determined in her journalistic career. Being a Muslim woman, she has every Islamic right to continue with this decent and dignified job. Therefore, she speaks out in clear, strong and spirited words leaving some straightforward questions that create sparks in every thinking Muslim mind and require us to find their answers from the Hefazat-e-Islam ideologues:
“Why would I give it (journalism) up because of some cowards? Who are they if not cowards? When 50- 60 or more of them beat up one unarmed woman? Is that their way of showing respect to women? How can they claim to be protectors of Islam when they treat women this way? How can they protect Islam if they can't protect a woman journalist at their own event?” (Political Islam & the Elections in Bangladesh, a report by Frances Harrison)
After reading Sharmeen’s account, the first thing that struck my mind is the mischievous intentions and designs of this extremist Muslim organisation behind the choice of its name: Hefazat-e-Islam, meaning protection of Islam. What Islam do the Hefazat’s activists and supporters protect by demeaning and torturing women, besieging the capital, destroying the national properties, vandalising the holy mosque (Baitul Mukarram) and burning down the Holy Quran? Don’t all these mindless acts of violence make a mockery of their tall claim of “protecting Islam” (which is the literal meaning of their name: Hefazat-e-Islam)?
These real enemies of Islam and humanity in the disguise of “protectors of Islam” attract the gullible and naive Muslims by their deceitful names like “Hefazat-e-Islam”. No doubt, many Muslims, unaware of the true version of Islam, fall prey to such terror outfits that entrap them by their illusive and deceptive names. Why don’t they come clean and openly tell us their true name: Wahhabis? After all, the world has right to know them with their true name and identity so that they can stay alert about their fatal conspiracies and deadly attacks.
The country’s largest radical Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh was formed in January 2010, primarily with an aim to protest against the women's equal rights policy of the Bangladeshi democratic government. Since its inception, its prime concern has been the stiff and violent opposition to all the government’s plans and schemes meant for the women empowerment and their rights equal to those of men. Right from the beginning, Hefazat’s attitude towards working and progressive women has been very hostile and appalling. Describing her own story, the Bangladeshi woman journalist Nadia Sharmeen, a staff reporter for Ekushey Television (ETV) gives a saddening account of how women journalists were mistreated at the hands of Hefazat-e-Islam goons during their rally on 6th April 2013:
“I am a crime reporter and I know that I might find myself in a difficult situation now and then. But this wasn't anything I had ever experienced. They were like a bunch of hyenas, or wild dogs, not human. I thought then, and I think now, that they wanted to kill me. They (Hefazat-e-Islam members) wanted to tear me apart, limb by limb. Why else would they start beating me from Paltan all the way to Bijoynagar? They hit every conceivable part of my body. I had to have two CT scans and ultrasonography to see if my abdomen and some other parts inside my body were alright, four X-rays of my left knee joint, left shoulder, neck.”
The reason why the Hefazat-e-Islam’s zealot members beat her blue and black was merely that she happened to be a woman journalist and went to cover their event. Obviously, the political Islam that Hefazat believes in does not sanction any such liberty to a woman. This became very clear when the Hefazat members harassed Nadia Sharmeen rebuking her loudly: "Haven't you read our 13-point demands? Why are you here? Don't you know women can't be here?" She enumerates how she was dealt with by the Hefazat members:
"On that day we had another reporter to cover the main event – the rally of Hefazate Islam. I was there standing in for the reporter who was doing supplementary stories – such as who supplied food and water to the rally and if there was any signature campaign going on…My cameraman was filming, when I was approached by a man, whom I thought belonged to Hefazate Islam. He came towards me and said antagonistically: "You're a woman, why are you here? Get out of here right now!" (Political Islam & the Elections in Bangladesh, Frances Harrison)
It should be noted that recently the Emir of the Hefazat warned the government with 13-point demands, which include banning the women’s right to work outside. Women, in the eyes of the Hefazat leaders, have been created to just stay in their husband’s homes, look after them and their belongings and raise their children. They admonish their followers in their preachy speeches not to educate their girls in schools, colleges, and universities and to confine their early school education up to grade 4 or 5. Here is the crux of a sermon delivered in July, 2013 by the Emir of Hefazat-e-Islam, Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi, available on the YouTube:
“Oh women, if you believe in the book of Allah, remain within the four walls of your home. Do not stray outside the home.....You must stay in your husband’s home, protect your husband’s belongings, and raise children. These are your duties. Why should you go out? ....(O people!) Your women are educated in schools, colleges, and universities. You should educate them up to grade four or five. That way, after you marry her off, she can do bookkeeping for her husband’s earnings. That is enough.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpoI5aaFB7s)
This nasty religious speech was delivered in a big-scale programme named “Islamic grand conference” in Chittagong (Bangladesh) where the Hefazat organisation is based in. These were the remarks by the Emir of the Hefazat-e-Islam, also known as “Boro Hujur” (the greatest person) who is highly venerated by the Hefazat members and their followers and considered to be their top Islamic cleric and religious leader. It is worth mentioning that Shah Ahmed Shafi, the Hefazat’s chief studied at the leading Islamic seminary of the Deobandi school of thought in India, Darul Uloom Deoband, commonly known as Deoband Madrasa.
Ironically, while Islam gives paramount importance to the freedom of women and considers women’s participation a key to the development of human society, the Hefazat goons are vehemently opposed to women empowerment, their liberty, education and employment. While the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (PBUH) asserted that “an educated lady is the greatest blessing of God to a family”, these stereotyped and self-styled protectors of Islam frown upon the people who provide their women with higher education. Their religious guru’s regressive remark stating that girls should not be allowed to study after the grade 4-5 is a sign of his intellectual starvation. It clearly goes against the first Qur'anic revelation calling for the pursuit of knowledge to no end, and with no discrimination between men or women (96:1).
The most disturbing aspect for us Muslims is that despite brazenly violating the core Islamic principles, Hefazat enjoys the support of large number of Bengalis professing faith in Islam, a religion of peace and women rights. That is perhaps why it exerts control over the vast majority of Islamic schools and seminaries in Bangladesh. The time is not far when we will see more extremist imams and mullahs in Bangladesh graduating from their seminaries and adopting the path of extremism and radicalism paved by the Hefazat’s chief and the ilk.
The gravest threat that those future imams would pose to the country’s traditions of religious pluralism and social integrity will be seen when they would misuse the unrelated Qur'anic verses and Prophetic sayings to achieve their fanatic goals. This is what the Hefazat’s religious leaders are currently doing in their bid to impose stern restrictions on the women folk. They resort to the misuse of a Qur'anic verse (al-Ahzab 33:33) to justify their un-Islamic pressure on women to remain indoors and not to go about any business outdoors. In fact, they find most of the translations and exegesis of the Quran by their ideologues and Quran exegetes rendered in a way that suits their misogynist doctrines. Here is the founder ideologue of Jamat-e-Islami, Maulana Abul A’ala Maududi’s translation of this Quranic verse that the Hefazat’s clergy often use:
“Stay in your houses and do not go about displaying your fineries as women used to do in the days of ignorance.” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an)
Regardless of what explanation Maulana Maududi gives to this translation of his, the Hefazat members are hell-bent on the literalist understanding of the Qur'anic commandment for women: “Stay in your houses”. This is the translation that the Hefazat’s chief Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi quoted in his fiery speech addressing to Muslim women:
“Oh women, if you believe in the book of Allah, the Quran says about you: “Stay in your houses and do not go about displaying your fineries as women used to do in the days of ignorance.” He went on interpreting this verse in stark contradiction to the true Quranic essence of this verse, yet falsely attributing it to Allah: “Oh women, remain within the four walls of your home. Do not stray outside the home. Who said this? Allah did.”
The truth of the matter is that the Arabic verb used in this verse is “Qarna” that has been driven from the root word “al-qarār” meaning “peace”, “calm” and “comfort”. Now it is not difficult to understand the meaning of this verse, as it tells women: “Live in your houses with calm and peace”. It does not seek to restrict women to the four walls of their homes, nor does it prohibit them from going or working outside. It rather enjoins upon them maintaining peace and security at their homes.
As for the Arabic word Tabarruj used in the second sentence of this verse (do not go about displaying your fineries), it literally means to become openly manifest and transparent before others. Here, the canonical Qur'anic meanings of this word, as has been explained by the leading Islamic scholars and Quran exegetes, are as follows: walking in a vain or alluring and coquettish manner (as interpreted by Mujahid, Qatadah and Ibn Abi Nujaih) or a woman's displaying of her body, dress or adornments to attract men’s attention (as interpreted by AI-Mubarrad and Abu Ubaidah).
A regular contributor for New Age Islam, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He has graduated from a leading Sufi Islamic seminary of India, Jamia Amjadia Rizvia (Mau, U.P.), acquired Diploma in Qur'anic Arabic from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P., and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, Badaun, U.P. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
All religions should see themselves as works in progress. Pointing fingers at problems in the religions of others is sheer foolishness.
The Qur’an spells out the reciprocal role of men and women
in wedlock (4:34):
“Men are the supporters (qawwamah)
of (their) wives because God has favored each of them in different measures (ba'dahum ‘ala ba'din),6
and because of what they spend (for them) of their wealth. The righteous women
are devout (qanitatun) and
guard the unseen that God would have them guard. As for those (women), of whom
you fear extramarital perversity (nushuz), counsel them, leave them
(alone) in their beds and assert on them (wadribuhunna); but if they listen to you, do not seek a way
against them. (Remember,) God is Sublime, Great” (4:34).
It is one of the most critical and important verses of the
Qur’an. Most commentators have interpreted it in a manner that i) admits of a
man’s superior and commanding role, and a woman’s inferior and subordinate role
in marriage and ii) empowers a man to beat an allegedly wayward or disobedient
wife. They interpret the critical words and phrases of the verse in the
following traditional lines:
Thus Marmaduke Pikthall’s rendition of this verse, which is
typical of the traditional, reads as follows:
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of
them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the
support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that
which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish
them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you,
seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great” (4:34).
Our rendition does not support a husband’s superiority or a
wife’s obedience to, or being beating up by her husband regardless of cause,
and is based on the interpretation of its critical words and phrases from
Qur’anic illustrations. Since this is a somewhat exhaustive exercise, we have
placed it in the footnote for those who may wish to verify it, or fully satisfy
Let us now try to further probe this keynote verse from
First, as the opening statement suggests, a man is expected
to support his wife – financially and otherwise. In the context of the
revelation, this gender-specific pronouncement was an historical necessity. Men
left homes on trading missions without providing for their wives, who cohabited
with strangers to sustain themselves (Note 7/Ch. 1.1). This needed correction
and hence the gender-specific responsibility. However, the Qur’an connects the
role of the man as a ‘supporter’ with his spending for his wife. Thus, in the
event God favored a woman with a higher level of earning than her man, she
could also play the role of the ‘supporter (qawwamah),’
as a joint awliya’ (protector) of the
“The believing men (mu’minin) and the believing women (mu’minat) are
protectors (awliya’) of each other: they enjoin the good and restrain the evil;
they keep up prayer and give charity, and obey God and His Messenger. They are
those on whom God will have mercy. (Remember,) God is Almighty, Wise” (9:71).
The verse (4:34) is directed to the community at
large and is not an injunction to be executed by the husband, and as such does
not accord him any superior position over his woman.
Second, the linking together of the stipulations “devout (women) guard the unseen that God
would have them guard,” with the exception clause, “As for those (women), of whom you fear extramarital perversity...”
suggests that a devout woman is one who abstains from extramarital perversity,
and therefore, the unseen (ghaib)
that she is asked to ‘guard’ is nothing but her chastity.
Third, regarding the highly controversial issue of wife
beating, the concluding God’s attributes (Sublime, Great) rule out any notion
of beating – even symbolically. Our rendition (‘to assert’) symbolizes a
gesture of beating and is based on the Qur’anic use of this verb form in the
verse 38:44, in which the Prophet Job is commanded to take a ‘tuft of grass’ in
his hand and fadrib (his wife) rather
than break his oath. While the Qur’an leaves it there enigmatically, Biblical
accounts are accommodative of the
classical Muslim commentators’ view that this simply meant flinging the tuft of
grass towards his wife, as a symbolic gesture of beating.8
Some of the early scholars of Islam including al-Tabari, al-Razi, al-Shafi’i,
also interpreted this verb form (wadribu) in the verse 4:34 in
similar manner, while the Prophet detested the idea of beating one’s wife and
is reported to have said: “Never beat God’s handmaidens.” The English language
does not have any suitable word for the symbolic gesture of beating to match
this situation, and so the word ‘assert’ in our rendering may be more
appropriate and less misleading than the traditional word, ‘beating’ to
maintaining thematic continuity with the next verse and compatibility with the
broader reciprocal and equitable role of men and women as the awliya’
(protector) of one another as enjoined by the Qur’an (9:71 above).
This brings us to the concluding injunction of the verse: “but if they listen to you, do not seek a
way against them.” This raises the question, what measure a man should take
if his assertiveness fails, and a breach is established between a man and his
wife and the community gets to know of it. This is answered in clear and simple
terms in the very next verse (4:35).
“If you (the community) fear breach between the two, appoint an
arbiter from his family and an arbiter from her family. If they wish
reconciliation, God will unite them. Indeed God is All-Knowing and Informed” (4:35).
Thus, read together the verses 4:34 and 4:35
(the passage 4:34/35) spell out not only the roles of men and women in wedlock
but also the measures to be taken if a woman continues to show marital
infidelity, and recommends arbitration as the final option for settling
conjugal disputes. In a later verse, the Qur’an prescribes the same ultimate
course of action for the reverse situation, and declares:
“If a wife fears extramarital perversity (nushuz) or desertion (i‘rad) from her husband, there is no blame on either of them if
they mutually settle (the matter) amicably. Such settlement is best, though
(our) souls are (drawn to) greed.9 But if you do good, and
are heedful (tattaqu), (remember,) God is Informed of what you do” (4:128).
If the breach persists and the peace and stability of the
family is destroyed, the Qur’an allows for the termination of a marriage
(4:130). Since this is an extremely painful decision that can also have serious
financial implications for the financially dependent partner of the marriage,
the Qur’an declares:
“And yet if they do separate, God will provide each out of His
Abundance, for God is Boundless (in resources) and Wise” (4:130).
Under compelling circumstances however, the Qur’an also
empowers women with unilateral right of separation (2:229/Ch. 34.2)" - Ch. 33.6
Dear Gholam Rasool Dehlvi,
I am delighted to see this
article penned by a classical Islamic scholar defining Islam very correctly as
a “religion of of peace and women’s rights”, and declaring,
“These real enemies of Islam and humanity in the
disguise of ‘protectors of Islam’ attract the gullible and naive Muslims by
their deceitful names like “Hefazat-e-Islam”. I
admire your honesty in coining the caption of your article and your exegetic
depth in interpreting the verse 33:33 in line with the holistic message of the
Qur’an, as I have attempted to capture summarily in my following article – I give
this cross reference for anyone who may be interested to drink deep into the
Since in today’s world of cut and paste
scholarship, every computer literate person can claim scholarship, I will like
to quote the following lines from the English poet, Alexander Pope that I have
cut/pasted from the Internet and must not be attributed to my scholarship in
English literature – which is the forte of my well wisher on this forum:
“A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”