By Durdana Najam
Fakhra Sarfraz (not her original name) remembers how her late husband would turn violent whenever they had argument. What makes Fakhra more miserable is that her daughter is facing same issues because she is married to her father’s cousin.
Recently, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) proposed that husbands should be allowed to lightly beat defying wives.
When News Lens Pakistan asked about CII’s proposal that a husband could lightly beat his wife. Fakhra says that once a person becomes wild expecting him to beat his wife lightly sounds a joke. She said, “Men in our family have developed the habit of beating their wives. Like me, my daughter is bearing this out with patience.”
She said that women in our society are taught to take the extra mile to keep their marriage intact. “Just as I would not tell my mother about my husband’s beating, my daughter is doing the same. However, when a man beats his wife she does not only become insecure but loses respect for her husband as well. It is an awful feeling,” says Fakhra.
Nomana Amjad, Associate Professor, Institute of Applied Psychology, University of Punjab, in her conversation to News Lens Pakistan says that a woman’s self-respect is affected when her husband beats her.
“Can one imagine the kind of negative influence such debates have on a woman’s mind when she sees society talking about the ways and means of giving her husband the right to thrash her? We need to end such discussions for the sake of a healthy mental well-being of our girls,” says Amjad.
In a press conference held at the Council’s office on May 25, the Council of Islamic Ideology presented a model bill for the protection of women’s rights in Islam. The overbearing part of the proposed law revolves around husband’s right to raise a hand on his wife. The word used by the CII “light beating” has drawn broad condemnation not only by women but men as well.
Furrukh Abbas, Associate Professor of Post-Colonial Studies at LUMS calls it a retrogressive step. He says that instead of challenging behavior that builds misogynistic attitudes, the CII is creating an atmosphere where men look down upon women.
“To me lifting a hand on a woman to beat her is a shameful act. By giving such verdicts or statements, the scholars at CII are giving religious cover to the anti-women activities,” says Abbas.
Malaika Raza, a PTI activist and volunteer at the Justice Pakistan an NGO, says that it is horrendous for any women to be treated like a slave by her husband. She says that a frustrated, insecure and mentally insane man who has been rejected by society would beat his wife. She further adds that the CII has become too controversial because of repeatedly giving anti-women verdicts. Therefore, it should be completely disbanded.
The bill is proposed in reaction to two bills presented each by the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, she said.
Another part of the bill condemns co-education, mix gathering and all those cultural activates that promote dance and music. Even nursing is designated a no-go profession for women.
Talking to News Lens Pakistan on this issue, a religious scholar and fellow at Al-Mawrid, Dr Zaheer Ahmed said that Quran encourages mix-gathering and does not ask Muslim women to refrain from meeting men or mingling with them. He quotes verse 31 of chapter Noor that goes:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent.”
The question is, says Dr Zaheer if a woman is not allowed to mingle with men, meet them or work with them, then in which situation this verse becomes applicable.
“From whom would a woman lower her gaze and hide her body parts if she is not allowed to attend mix-gathering,” says Zaheer.
The religious organization rejected the Women Protection Bill passed by the Punjab Assembly considering it a mean to degrade the position of a husband in society. As far as the KP government’s women protection bill is concerned, it was sent to the CII for the recommendation, which the council has also rejected calling it un-Islamic.
When News Lens Pakistan contacted Mufti Abdul Qavi, Advisor Federal Shariah Court, for his comment on this issue, he says for quite a time, CII is working with only 40 members out of 60. He said the Chairman CII Maulana Shirani hardly consults members of the council, and his statements are mostly considered his opinions.
Talking about the practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions during and after Prophet’s life, Qavi says, “We do not find a single instance where the prophet has spoken with his wives in a loud voice leave alone beat them.”
He further goes that Maulana Shirani wants to bring Afghani Islam into Pakistan. On nursing, that CII has relegated a condemned profession, he quotes examples from the wars prophet Muhammad fought where women did not only participate actively but also provided first aid to the injured soldiers.
Qavi also questioned Maulana Shirani that if he thinks that women should not mingle with men or work along with male companion then what the female parliamentarians from Shirani’s party Jamiat Ulema e Islam-Fazal group are doing in assemblies.
News Lens Pakistan contacted Islamic Scholar Syeda Gul-e-Zohra Rizvi to seek the point of view of Shia sect on beating women in Islam. She says that Islam is all about treatment—how we treat our Lord, His messengers and Ahle Bait. How a society treats us and how we treat society back.
“The CII, which claims that its recommendations are based on Quranic teaching and Sharia laws, should correct its facts first. There is no permission given in Islam either through the teaching of Quran or by the ways of Muhammad (PBUH) wherein one person could ‘beat’, another person at his discretion.”
The CII is paying lip service to Islamic injunctions. “I strongly suggest that instead of creating new laws the CII should try to build new mindsets against forced marriages, acid attacks and other forms of harassments women face today in our society,” says Rizvi.