1. All Non-Muslims are Kafirs (Disbelievers)
It is generally thought that all non-Muslims are kafirs. This view is not correct. A person becomes a kafir when he denies the truth in spite of being convinced that it is the truth. Since it is humanly impossible for a person to determine whether some person is denying the truth or not, it is only on the basis of information provided by the Almighty that a person can be called a kafir. In the times of when He sent His Messengers (rusul), He chose to impart this information to his Messengers through wahi; however, after the departure of the last rasul Muhammad (sws), people who have deliberately denied the truth cannot be pinpointed since the institution of wahi has been terminated. No Muslim preacher is in a position to reveal the truth in a manner a rasul is able to, nor can he ascertain who among his addressees is guilty of deliberately denying the truth. After the departure of Mushammad (sws), the last of the Messengers of God, only on the Day of Judgement will it now be known whether a particular person is a kafir or not.
It is evident from this explanation that the Christians and Jews and followers of other religions in times after the Prophet (sws) are not kafirs; the right name for them is non-Muslims. As far as Christians are concerned, it must be noted that they are basically followers of monotheism. They never admit to polytheism, though they are involved in it. A person becomes a polytheist when he openly admits that he is a polytheist, even though he may be practicing polytheism in some form; the reason is that a person might be doing something wrong without realizing what he is doing; Christians, whether of today or from the period of Jesus (sws), have never admitted to polytheism. Trinity to them is in accordance with monotheism. Of course, we, Muslims do not agree with them, but unless they realize it, we can only say that in spite of claiming to be monotheists they are involved in polytheism. Their case is the case of a Muslim who goes to the grave of a saint to ask him to grant a wish; we shall not call such a Muslim a polytheist; we shall tell him that what he is doing is something against monotheism to which he himself strongly claims adherence. Similarly, we shall not call Christians polytheists, but we will keep telling them that what they are doing is not in accordance with monotheism.
It is precisely for this reason that the Qur’an never referred to the People of the Book as polytheists though they subscribed to certain blatant forms of polytheism. The Qur’an only called the Ishmaelites as polytheists because they admittedly subscribed and testified to the creed of polytheism. They strongly advocated that polytheism was the very religion the Almighty had revealed and claimed that they were the strong adherents to this religion.
2. Friendship is prohibited with Non-Muslims
On the basis of the following verses of the Qur’an, some Muslim scholars are of the view that Muslims should never make friends with non-Muslims; in fact, they should show hostility and venom towards them:
لَا يَتَّخِذْ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (28:3 )
Believers should not make friends with the kuffar against the interest of the believers. (3:28)
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَتُرِيدُونَ أَنْ تَجْعَلُوا لِلَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ سُلْطَانًا مُبِينًا (4 :144)
O believers do not make friends with the kuffar against the interest of the believers. Do you wish to offer God an open argument against yourselves? (4:144)
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى أَوْلِيَاءَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُمْ مِنْكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ (5 :51)
Believers take not these Jews and the Christians for your friends. They are but friends to each other. And he amongst you who turns to them [for friendship] is of them. (5:51)
If the third verse is understood in the light of the first two, it is evident from the first two verses that the actual word used for the Jews and Christians is kuffar. After the departure of the last Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta), kuffar the among the non-Muslims cannot be ascertained owing to reasons discussed earlier. Thus, these verses cannot be related in any sense to the non-Muslims of today.
3. Non-Muslims should be greeted in an Inferior Way
Some Muslim scholars hold that non-Muslims should not be greeted in the ceremonial way by saying al-salam-u ‘alaykum (peace be to you). It is argued that non-Muslims do not deserve this prayer. The following Hadith is presented in support of this view:
قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا سَلَّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ فَقُولُوا وَعَلَيْكُمْ (بخارى: رقم ، 6288)
The Prophet (sws) said: “When the People of the Book greet you, reply them by saying wa ‘alaykum.”
If all the texts of this Hadith are collected and analyzed, what comes to light is the fact that some among the People of the Book of the Prophet’s times used to mischievously twist their tongue in a swift manner and instead of saying the proper words of the salutation would say al-salam-u ‘alaykum (death be to you), which when quickly pronounced sounded very near to the original words of al-salam-u ‘alaykum. It was to counter this devilish prank that the Muslims were directed to say: wa ‘alaykum (to you too). It must be borne in mind that the Muslims were asked to give this particular reply only after the basic truths had been revealed in their ultimate form by Muhammad (sws) to the People of the Book after many years of propagation, and in spite of that they were not willing to submit to them. Had this ultimate stage not come, one can safely conclude that Muslims would never have been asked to reply with equally harsh words and would have continued to say the words: al-salamu ‘alaykum, the best of prayers and the best of wishes.
Today no Muslim preacher can ever be in a position to say that non-Muslims have deliberately denied the message of Muhammad (sws). Therefore, he must continue his efforts of propagation all his life, and remain a well-wisher of all the non-Muslims of the world, and continue to greet them with al-salamu ‘alaykum.
Consequently, the following Hadith (which contains a similar directive) also relates specifically to the People of the Book of the Prophet’s times. It has no bearing with the People of the Book of later times:
لَا تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَلَا النَّصَارَى بِالسَّلَامِ فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمْ أَحَدَهُمْ فِي طَرِيقٍ فَاضْطَرُّوهُ إِلَى أَضْيَقِهِ (مسلم ، رقم : 1602)
Don’t initiate salutations to the Jews or the Christians, and force them to the narrowest of paths when one of them meets you on your way.
Even in the time of the Prophet (sws), before the non-Muslims of his times had become kuffar by deliberately rejecting his message, they too were greeted as Muslims were. In this period, the Prophet (sws) himself said al-salamu ‘alaykum to the non-Muslims of his times. Uthamah Ibn Zayd reports:
أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّ بِمَجْلِسٍ وَفِيهِ أَخْلَاطٌ مِنْ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْيَهُودِ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَيْهِمْ (ترمذى ، رقم : 2702)
The Prophet (sws) once passed by a mixed gathering of Muslims and Jews and said al-salamu ‘alaykum to them.
4. Non-Muslims shall necessarily be Doomed in the Hereafter
It is generally held that all non-Muslims will necessarily go to Hell. Verses like the following usually form the basis of this view:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَـابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ فِى نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَـالِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَوْلَـئِكَ هُمْ شَرُّ الْبَرِيَّةِ (98 :6)
The disbelievers among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] and the Idolaters shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. (98:6)
Once again, it must be appreciated that these verses speak of the Jews and Christians and the Idolaters of the Prophet Muhammad’s (sws) times, who had deliberately denied the message of Muhammad (sws). As far as the non-Muslims of later times are concerned, they will meet this fate only if they also deny Messengerhood of Muhammad (sws) in spite of being convinced about its veracity.
5. Muslims should Curse Non-Muslims in the Prayer
The common Muslim thinks that he must curse non-Muslims and have an ill-intent for them. In this regard, a supplication called the qunut-i nazilah in which the Almighty’s help is invoked to destroy and crush non-Muslims is at times read in the prayer.
Again it needs to be pointed out that cursing non-Muslims or expressing ill-intention towards them is only related to the kuffar who no longer can be pin pointed. For this very reason, today, a Muslim preacher must continue his efforts of propagation all his life, and remain a well-wisher of all the non-Muslims of the world. So, as far as reading the qunut-i nazilah is concerned, it was only Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) who had the prerogative to read it. Later Muslims do not have this right.
In this regard, there is also a common perception among Muslims is that the following verse of the Qur’an has stopped them from asking the Almighty for forgiveness of non-Muslims
مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرُوا لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا أُوْلِي قُرْبَى مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ (9 :113)
It is not proper for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allah’s Forgiveness for the mushrikun, even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire. (9:113)
Again, it needs to be appreciated, as the verse itself clarifies that the Idolaters of Arabia of the Prophet’s times were condemned to Hell because of their persistence in denying the truth in spite of being convinced about it. Today, since no one is in a position to ascertain this denial, this verse does not relate to non-Muslims of times after the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta).
VII. Family Issues
1. A Wife cannot go out without the Husband’s Permission
It is believed in religious circles that a wife cannot go out of the house unless she seeks permission from her husband. In this regard, a Hadith is also quoted. It reads thus:
عَنْ بن عُمَرَ عَنِ النَبِّي أَنَّ اِمْرَأَةً أَتَتْهُ فَقَالَتْ مَا حَقُّ الزَّوْجِ عَلَى اِمْرَأَتِهِ فَقَالَ … لاَ تَخْرُج مِنْ بَيْتِهِ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ (سنن البيهقي الكبرى ، رقم: 14490)
Ibn ‘Umar reports from the Prophet that once a lady came to the Prophet and asked him about the rights of a husband on his wife. He replied: “… She should not leave his house without his permission.” (Sunan Bayhaqi, No: 14490)
It needs to be appreciated that a family by analogy is similar to a state. All citizens of a state are expected to abide by the rules and regulations of the country they live in. They are expected to adopt an attitude of adjustment and harmony with the country. This, of course, does not mean that they cannot differ with its policies. They have the inalienable democratic right to differ and present their differences in a befitting manner. This submission is actually an essential requirement for discipline and order without which anarchy may result. Similarly, in the case of a family set up, it is essential that the person who is its head be shown obedience. In other words, submission to authority is not specific to the gender of the authority. Whoever is the authority, must be submitted to. Gender does not dictate submissiveness – it is authority which does. It is common knowledge that in different spheres of activities people have different abilities and justice entails that a person be made responsible according to his or her abilities and given authority on that basis. We have been informed by divine revelation that it is the husband who is more suitable to be the head of the family. Owing to this relative superiority, women are directed to submit to men not because men are superior human beings, but because in this particular case it is the men who have been vested with authority in accordance with 4:34. If women had been more suitable for the task of heading a family, men would have been similarly directed to adopt this attitude of adjustment.
Thus Islam requires that the wife adopt an attitude of adjustment and harmony with the husband and the husband is required to be affectionate and accommodating as far as possible to the needs of his wife. He must not impose any undue restrictions on her for this will ignite the wrath of God upon him.
With regard to a wife seeking her husband’s permission before leaving the house, the proper perspective must be understood. In general circumstances of mutual trust, there is no need for a wife to ask permission from her husband to go out. However, in certain circumstances in which the husband genuinely considers that going out might disrupt the family in any way, he has the authority to exercise his right of stopping her and in these circumstances, she should always ask permission to leave the house. In this regard, the husband must remember that if he imposes himself without any sound and justifiable reason, he would be crossing the bounds and invoking the displeasure of the Almighty. His wrong behavior may even lead the wife to abandon him for which he would be solely responsible.
2. A Wife cannot refuse Sex to the Husband
On the basis of the following Hadith, it is generally understood that if a wife refuses sex to her husband she will be cursed by the angels:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا دَعَا الرَّجُلُ امْرَأَتَهُ إِلَى فِرَاشِهِ فَأَبَتْ فَبَاتَ غَضْبَانَ عَلَيْهَا لَعَنَتْهَا الْمَلَائِكَةُ حَتَّى تُصْبِحَ (بخارى ، رقم: 3065)
Abu Hurayrah reports from the Prophet (sws): “When a husband calls his wife to bed, and she refuses and [as a result] the husband spends the night in anger, then angels curse the wife all night till dawn.” (Bukhari, No: 3065)
In order to understand this Hadith, the following points need to be understood:
Firstly, a husband and wife safeguard the chastity of one another by providing one another a legitimate means of satisfying the sexual urge. This protection of chastity is essential for the preservation of the family unit – the very institution on which the stability of a society hinges. Hence anything which puts chastity in jeopardy is disliked by the Almighty.
Secondly, a man is an addressee of the directive mentioned in this Hadith on an equal basis. This is evident from the directive of ila mentioned in the Qur’an (2:226-7) in which the Arabs of the pre-Islamic period would swear to sever sexual relationship with their wives because of anger. Although the husbands were prescribed a period of four months to decide the fate of their wives by either resuming these relations or divorcing her, it is evident from the directive that in normal circumstances a husband is not allowed to sever sexual relations from his wife without a valid reason. So much so, if a person swears such an oath, he must break it. Such relations are the right of a wife and if a husband does not fulfill them, then he can be regarded a criminal both in the eyes of the law and before the Almighty in the Hereafter.
Thirdly, the basis of refusal by the husband or wife must also be taken in consideration. If either of them is tired, sick or simply not in the proper mood and in the appropriate frame of mind then it does not entail any wrath of the Almighty. It is only when a spouse starts to deliberately evade such natural needs of the other that the attitude becomes questionable.
3. A Husband has an Absolute Right to beat his Wife
The right given by the Qur’an to the husbands to physically punish their wives in certain circumstances is a thorny issue in the modern mind. The issue needs to be understood in its true perspective. The Qur’an says:
وَاللَّاتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلَا تَبْغُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا (34:4)
And as for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them [first] and [next] refuse to share their beds and [even then if they do not listen] punish them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted and Mighty. (4:34)
The following implications of this verse need to be understood in their proper perspective:
a. Firstly, this measure can only be resorted to when a wife starts to challenge the authority of the husband and threatens to disrupt the family set-up. It is in fact a last resort to protect the institution of family from breaking up. It must not be resorted to in anything less in severity than a rebellious attitude from the wife. This rebellious attitude is termed as نُشُوز (nushuz) by the Qur’an. It has not used the word “disobedience”. Any difference of opinion or altercation must not be resolved by this procedure. Disagreements and disputes must be settled mutually. It is only when the wife stands up against the authority of her husband that this procedure be employed.
b. Before resorting to physical chastisement, the two previous stages mentioned by the Qur’an (4:34) must elapse. The husband should first of all admonish his wife and convince her to give up her defiant behavior. He should exercise all the patience he can muster to urge and beseech her to change her stance. If after repeated pleas and continuous admonition over a considerable span of time, the wife continues to persist in her rebellious attitude, he has the authority to go on to the second stage by avoiding marital contact with her. This detachment, it is clear, is a form of reproof, and a very strong appeal to the wife to correct herself. Again, this attitude should continue for a substantial period of time so that the point is driven home. It is highly unlikely that most wives would persist in their arrogance after these two initial stages. In all probability, patience, forbearance, and restraint would have conquered their hearts. However, even after this stage, if a wife refuses to accept the authority of her husband, the husband has the right to finally resort to gentle physical affliction.
c. If the husband is left with no alternative but to physically punish his wife, he must be very careful in this regard and must not wound or injure her. He should remember that this physical chastisement is similar to the one a mother gives to a rebellious son or the one a teacher gives to an unruly student. He must be aware that in case he misuses this authority in any way, he would be held responsible before the Almighty on the Day of Judgement. In this world also, his wife has the right to report his behavior to the authorities who can punish him for any misconduct in this regard.
d. It finally needs to be considered that all rights must be exercised with prudence keeping in view the circumstances. Exercising one’s right is never obligatory. There can be circumstances in which a person chooses not to exercise this right.
4. Regarding Divorce and Divorce declarations
Most people are ignorant of the proper way of divorcing wives. It is generally thought that a wife stands separated from her husband if the divorce is declared thrice. This notion is against the Qur’an which says that a lady must be divorced by just one declaration to the effect.
Moreover, there are many other misconceptions regarding divorce giving rise to the following questions:
i. Do women have a right to divorce?
ii. Should the wife pay money for seeking divorce?
iii. What is the correct procedure of divorce?
iv. How should wrongly given divorces be tackled?
v. In whose custody should the children be given?
i. The Right to Divorce
When a man and a woman marry each other, it is their utmost wish to remain in this relation of wedlock forever. They are desirous of the fact that the change in times not change their commitment to each other and only death separate them in this world. But then, sometimes there does arise a situation when part they must. Differences become so pronounced that it becomes necessary to sever this relationship. If such circumstances do arise that a husband and wife must separate permanently, Islam lays down a specific procedure for this separation. In Islamic terminology this dissolution of marriage is called divorce. It says that both a man and a woman have an equal right to it. The only difference is that a man divorces a woman while a woman demands a divorce from her husband. The Qur’an explicitly states that it is the husband who has the right to give divorce:
ِبيَدِه عُقْدَةُ الِّنكَاح (2: 237)
In his hands, is the tie of marriage. (2:237)
Women, however, can seek divorce if they want to. If the husband refuses, she has all the right to take the matter to the court. The matter will then be decided by the ruling of the court.
This prerogative, sense and reason demand, should go to the head of the family. Since, according to the Qur’an, it is the husband who is the head of a family, therefore, he has been given this right. In other words, this right is not “gender specific” it is “authority specific”: whoever is entrusted with the authority of being the head should possess this right. Had women been more suitable to head a family, they would have been given this right.
ii. Should the Wife pay money for seeking Divorce?
A common misconception when a woman seeks divorce from her husband is that she must give some wealth to her husband on this occasion of separation. This has no basis in the Qur’an; on the contrary, the Qur’an says that it is not at all permissible for the husband to demand anything from his wife on this occasion. However, there are two exceptions to this:
Firstly, if a husband has gifted a lot of wealth and property to her wife and is afraid that in divorcing her he would lose all his riches, the Qur’an says that she can forgo some or all of her share and return it to her husband to end the whole affair. It is clear that this is only an exception and not a general principle as is generally held and practiced. It is allowed when only wealth is the husband’s reason for not divorcing his wife. The Qur’an says:
وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَنْ يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا وَمَنْ يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الظَّالِمُونَ (2 :229)
And [if you decide to depart from them, then on this occasion] it is unlawful for you to take back from them anything you have given them unless both husband and wife fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by Allah. Then if you also feel that they will not be able to remain within the bounds set by Allah, there shall be no offence for either of them [regarding the gifts given by the husband] if the wife seeks divorce [by returning them to him] in ransom. These are the bounds set by Allah; do not transgress them. [And you should know that] those who transgress the bounds of Allah are wrongdoers (2:229)
Secondly, if the wife is guilty of open sexual misconduct. Since such a behavior destroys the very foundation of marriage, a husband has been allowed to take back any gifts or wealth given to her. The Qur’an says:
وَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذْهَبُوا بِبَعْضِ مَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ إِلَّا أَنْ يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ…. وَإِنْ أَرَدْتُمْ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَكَانَ زَوْجٍ وَآتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ قِنطَارًا فَلَا تَأْخُذُوا مِنْهُ شَيْئًا أَتَأْخُذُونَهُ بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُبِينًا وَكَيْفَ تَأْخُذُونَهُ وَقَدْ أَفْضَى بَعْضُكُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ وَأَخَذْنَ مِنْكُمْ مِيثَاقًا غَلِيظًا (4: 19-21)
And do not treat them with harshness that you may take away what you have given them – except where they have been guilty of open lewdness… And if you decide to take a wife in place of another, even if you had given the latter a whole treasure of wealth take not the least bit of it back: Would you take it by slander and usurping [her] rights? And how could you take it when you have lain with each other and [at the time of marriage] they have taken from you a solemn covenant? (4:19-21)
iii. The Procedure of Divorce
If a husband has decided to divorce his wife, he should first wait until she has completed her menstrual cycle and then desisting from any further carnal relationship, he should utter the divorce sentence just once. The wife, after she has been divorced in this way, must stay in her husband’s house for a period of three menstrual cycles. This period is called ‘iddat. If a woman does not have menstrual cycles owing to age, disease or any other reason, and still there is a chance of pregnancy, then she must wait for three months. For a pregnant woman this period is up to the birth of the child, while for a newly married couple who have had no contact, divorce does not entail any period of ‘iddat for the wife. According to the Qur’an, there is one basic reason for this waiting period: to ascertain whether a wife is pregnant or not so that the lineage of the child does not remain a matter of doubt. Another thing which is achieved through it is that it affords the husband and other family members a chance to rectify the situation, for matters in which emotions and feelings run high, sometimes only time is needed for recovery.
During this ‘iddat period:
(a) The husband cannot turn his wife out from the house except if she is guilty of adultery, nor should she leave the house herself.
(b) The wife, if she is pregnant, must not hide her pregnancy.
(c) The husband should continue to provide for her.
(d) A husband, if he changes his mind, can revoke his decision. The only thing required, according to the Qur’an, is that he should call in two persons to testify to his decision.
If after this period of ‘iddat, a man is still firm in his stance, his wife shall be considered as separated permanently. She is now a free woman and if she wishes to marry some other person, she has all the right to do so and must not be inhibited in any way. If circumstances change, she can even remarry her former husband. Furthermore, the Qur’an stresses that on this occasion of parting it is not at all lawful for a husband to take back any property or asset gifted to her. This, it must be kept in consideration, does not pertain to mahr (dower) only, but to every type of gift given to the wife. Not only should a husband not take back these gifts, he should, in fact, give her something on this occasion of separation. Even if her mahr has not been fixed, it is better for him to give her something. If the mahr has been fixed but the divorce occurs before the husband and wife have had contact, he must return half the money, unless the wife even forgoes this. In this case also, though it is better that he should give her the whole money.
However, in case the husband revokes his decision during the ‘iddat period, there is no need for re-marriage. The two shall be considered as husband and wife once again. If after annulment of this divorce, due to some reason, the untoward situation arises a second time that the husband intends to divorce his wife, the Qur’an says that the husband can exercise his right of divorce for the second time as well. He should pronounce just one divorce sentence to repudiate his wife. Again, the post-divorce period shall be observed in the manner just described. Once again, if the husband wishes, he has the chance to revise his decision during this period, in which case the divorce shall be considered null and void and the two shall once again become husband and wife. If, unfortunately, for the third time, the situation arises that divorce becomes inevitable, the Qur’an says that a husband can exercise his right for the third time as well and pronounce the divorce sentence. After the expiry of ‘iddat during which a husband will have to support and provide shelter to his wife (though the two are not required to live together), the wife shall be permanently separated from him. After divorcing his wife for the third time, he cannot re-marry her now, unless and until, the wife marries some other person and owing to some reason gets divorced from him – not under a planned strategy, but on account of naturally arisen circumstances. This last measure, actually, is meant to prevent this affair from becoming mere child play.
In the words of the Qur’an:
الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ فَإمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ (2 :229)
This divorce [in which the husband can revoke his decision in the ‘iddat period] is permitted twice only, and then a woman must be retained with kindness or allowed to go with kindness. (2:229)
It is evident from these details that the Qur’an only prescribes one divorce sentence and stresses that a husband has the right to divorce her wife three times in one marriage contract. It does not at all approve the utterance of three divorce sentences in one go. Consequently, it is clear from these details that the two prevailing procedures of divorce ie (1) pronouncing three consecutive divorces in one instance, and (2) pronouncing each of the three sentences in three months are not at all prescribed by the Qur’an. When the Prophet (sws) came to know that a certain person had divorced his wife by pronouncing three divorce sentences one after the other, he stood up in anger and said:
أَيُلْعَبُ بِكِتَابِ اللهِ وَأَنَا بَيْنَ أَظْهُرِكُمْ (نِسائ ، رقم: 3401)
In my presence, such playful attitude has been adopted with the Book of Allah. (Nasai, No: 3401)
iii. Tackling wrongly given Divorces
Mentioned above is the shari‘ah as far as the concept of divorce is concerned. However, as does happen with prescribed laws and procedures, situations arise in which a person is guilty of breaching the law and deviating from the right course. Human nature is prone to extreme emotional conditions in which it deviates from the path set forth by the Almighty. These deviations, it is extremely evident, are not part of the shari‘ah; they fall into breach of law category and it is up to the legislature of a country to enact laws about such departures. At times, such cases are even left to the discretion of the judge and at other times the judge himself is bound by the legislation done in this regard by the parliament.
In case of divorce, keeping in view various precedents, this deviation is generally of two types:
i) A husband divorces his wife during her menstrual period, or divorces her after he has had contact with her in her period of purity.
ii) A husband divorces his wife by pronouncing the divorce sentence thrice.
As far as the first deviation is concerned, an Islamic government can ask the husband to revoke his decision and carry it out in the proper manner at the proper time. The Prophet (sws) in his own times dealt with the case of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (rta) in a similar manner. When he was told that ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (rta) had divorced his wife during her menstrual cycle, he was really annoyed and remarked:
مُرْهُ فَلْيُرَاجِعْهَا ثُمَّ لِيُمْسِكْهَا حَتَّى تَطْهُرَ ثُمَّ تَحِيضَ ثُمَّ تَطْهُرَ ثُمَّ إِنْ شَاءَ أَمْسَكَ بَعْدُ وَإِنْ شَاءَ طَلَّقَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَمَسَّ فَتِلْكَ الْعِدَّةُ الَّتِي أَمَرَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُطَلَّقَ لَهَا النِّسَاءُ (بخارى ، رقم : 5251 )
Ask him to take her back and keep her in wedlock until she is through with her menstrual cycle and then once again passes through this cycle and then is through with it. After this, he can either detain her [in wedlock] or divorce her before having sexual intercourse with her. Because it is this beginning of the ‘iddat keeping regard of which the Almighty has directed [believers] to divorce their wives. (Bukhari, No: 5251)
In case of the second deviation, a deliberation on the injunctions of divorce, particularly on their linguistic aspects, reveals that there are three possible solutions:
(a) The husband can be called to court and asked to testify to the nature of these pronouncements: if he testifies that he had pronounced the three sentences in anger to only strongly assert his decision or that he had thought that pronouncing three sentences was the correct procedure of divorce, the court, if satisfied by his statement, can re-unite the husband and wife. In this case, it shall be clearly spelt out to the husband that he now has exercised one of his three chances to repudiate his wife. If on the other hand, a person testifies that he had consciously uttered the three sentences knowing that he was exercising his three rights in one time, the wife, of course, shall be divorced from him. The case of Rukana Ibn ‘Abdi Yazid (rta) was decided in a similar manner by the Prophet (sws).
(b) A second possible solution in this regard is that a state, while observing that people have adopted a carefree attitude in following this procedure, legislates that three divorce sentences shall be considered as three whether pronounced in anger or in a normal emotional state. A precedent of this solution can be found in the times of the Caliph ‘Umar (rta). He himself, in the capacity of a ruler in consultation with the members of the shura, upon seeing that people had adopted a very careless attitude in this regard, as a punishment, promulgated three divorce sentences as final.
(c) A third possible solution in this regard is that the state while observing the fact that people are mostly ignorant of the correct procedure and in their ignorance think that the correct way of divorce is to pronounce the sentence three times, legislates that the three pronouncements shall be considered as one.
Any of these three ways can be adopted keeping in view the welfare of the Muslims. However, in adopting the second or third solutions, it is necessary that a legislation has been done in their favour, but as far as adopting the first solution is concerned, no prior legislation is needed and the matter can be left to the discretion of the judge.
iv. The Custody of Minors
In post-divorce scenarios, the matter of the custody of minor children has not been touched upon in the shari‘ah. In other words, it has been left to the welfare of the children. In case of a dispute, a judge should make this ruling after analyzing the situation of a case in the light of this principle
Perhaps the reason for which nothing has been fixed in the Shari‘ah in this regard is the varying circumstances which may be found in different cases.
5. Regarding Halalah
The concept of halalah is one of the ugliest and shameful of issues of Islamic jurisprudence. According to the shari‘ah, if a man divorces his wife for a third time in his life, the two cannot re-marry unless the wife marries a second person and then that person due to some reason divorces her. In order to fulfill this legal requirement, subterfuges have been devised and marriages are planned with the understanding that a person will divorce the wife in order to make her legal to marry the first husband. In this regard, the jurists also impose the condition that before he divorces his wife he must have sexual intercourse with her. In religious parlance, this subterfuge in which a lady is made legally allowed for her first husband by marrying another person and then being divorced from her after having sexual intercourse with him is called halalah.
Needless to say, that all subterfuges amount to playing with the Islamic law and its spirit. Moreover, the condition of sexual intercourse imposed has arisen because of not understanding a very subtle comment of the Prophet (sws) in a Hadith. If its text reported by Bukhari is analyzed it is evident that a certain lady had married a person only to become legally permissible to marry her first husband. She demanded divorce from her second husband on the false grounds that her husband was sexually impotent. When the Prophet (sws) became certain of her scheme, he reprimanded her in very subtle words. He told her that she could only become permissible for the first husband after “tasting” her second husband. This of course was not a condition as has been generally construed: the implied meaning being that if according to her, her second husband does not have the ability to copulate with her then she can only be divorced from him after he copulates with her – which of course he will never since, according to her, he is not capable of it. Thus if anything can be deduced from this Hadith, it is prohibition of halalah and not vice versa. Hence it is absolutely prohibited and is tantamount to making fun of the law.
The text of the Hadith is as follows:
عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ أَنَّ رِفَاعَةَ طَلَّقَ امْرَأَتَهُ فَتَزَوَّجَهَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ الزَّبِيرِ الْقُرَظِيُّ قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ وَعَلَيْهَا خِمَارٌ أَخْضَرُ فَشَكَتْ إِلَيْهَا وَأَرَتْهَا خُضْرَةً بِجِلْدِهَا فَلَمَّا جَاءَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَالنِّسَاءُ يَنْصُرُ بَعْضُهُنَّ بَعْضًا قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ مَا رَأَيْتُ مِثْلَ مَا يَلْقَى الْمُؤْمِنَاتُ لَجِلْدُهَا أَشَدُّ خُضْرَةً مِنْ ثَوْبِهَا قَالَ وَسَمِعَ أَنَّهَا قَدْ أَتَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَجَاءَ وَمَعَهُ ابْنَانِ لَهُ مِنْ غَيْرِهَا قَالَتْ وَاللَّهِ مَا لِي إِلَيْهِ مِنْ ذَنْبٍ إِلَّا أَنَّ مَا مَعَهُ لَيْسَ بِأَغْنَى عَنِّي مِنْ هَذِهِ وَأَخَذَتْ هُدْبَةً مِنْ ثَوْبِهَا فَقَالَ كَذَبَتْ وَاللَّهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّي لَأَنْفُضُهَا نَفْضَ الْأَدِيمِ وَلَكِنَّهَا نَاشِزٌ تُرِيدُ رِفَاعَةَ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَإِنْ كَانَ ذَلِكِ لَمْ تَحِلِّي لَهُ أَوْ لَمْ تَصْلُحِي لَهُ حَتَّى يَذُوقَ مِنْ عُسَيْلَتِكِ قَالَ وَأَبْصَرَ مَعَهُ ابْنَيْنِ لَهُ فَقَالَ بَنُوكَ هَؤُلَاءِ قَالَ نَعَمْ قَالَ هَذَا الَّذِي تَزْعُمِينَ مَا تَزْعُمِينَ فَوَاللَّهِ لَهُمْ أَشْبَهُ بِهِ مِنْ الْغُرَابِ بِالْغُرَابِ (بخاري ، رقم: 5377)
‘Ikramah narrates that Rafa‘ah divorced his wife. Thereafter she married ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Zubayr Qurzi. ‘A%’ishah says that she came to her wearing a green cloak and complained of her husband and showed ‘A’ishah her bruises – women do help one another – so when the Prophet (sws) came by, ‘A’ishah said: “I have only seen Muslim women being treated in such a way. Her skin is greener than her cloak.” ‘Ikramah says that when her husband came to know that she had complained to the Prophet (sws), he also came over to the Prophet (sws) along with his two sons from his other wife. Upon seeing her husband, she got hold of the end of her cloak letting it hang from her hand and remarked: My only complaint is that whatever he has is no more than this [soft cloth]. At this, ‘Abd al-Rahman said: “O Prophet (sws) of Allah she has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her; the truth of the matter is that she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rafa‘ah.” When the Prophet (sws) heard this, he said: “If this is the case then you shall not be permissible for Rafa‘ah unless ‘Abd al-Rahman tastes you.” Then, upon seeing the sons of ‘Abd al-Rahman, the Prophet (sws) remarked: “Are these your sons?” When he replied in the affirmative, the Prophet said: “Do you tell such lies [O ‘Abd al-Rahman’s wife]. By God, these [young boys] resemble ‘Abd al-Rahman n more than a crow resembles another crow.” (Bukhari, No: 5377)
1. In the very beginning of its revelation, the Qur’an regarded emancipation of slaves as a great virtue, and urged people in a very effective way to do so. The tremendous appeal found in the words it adopted فَكُّ رَقَبَة (release the necks) can be well imagined by a person who has flare for the language. It is evident from the context of such expressions – wherever they are found in the Qur’an – that it has regarded this virtue to be the first as well as the greatest step in pleasing God.
In a similar manner, the Prophet (sws) also urged Muslims to liberate humanity from the yoke of slavery in the following words: “Whoever liberated a Muslim slave, the Almighty in return for every limb of that slave would shield every limb of that person from Hell.”
2. People were urged that until they free their slaves they should treat them with kindness. The way their masters had total and unchecked control on them in the age of ignorance was put to end. They were told that slaves are human beings too, and no one should in any way violate the rights they possess as human beings.
Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrated from the Prophet (sws): “Slaves have a right to food and clothing and he shall not be asked to carry out an errand that is beyond him.”
Abu Dharr Ghaffari (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): “They are your brothers. The Almighty has made them subservient to you. So whatever you eat, feed them with it, whatever you wear, clothe them with it and never ask them to do something which is beyond them and if there is such a task then help them out with it.”
Ibn ‘Umar (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): “Whoever slapped a slave or beat him up should atone this sin by liberating him.”
Abu Mas‘ud (rta) says: “Once when I was beating my slave I heard a voice from behind me: ‘O Abu Mas‘ud you should know that the Almighty has more power over you.’ When I turned back, I found that it was the Prophet. I immediately remarked: ‘O Messenger of God, I release him for the sake of God.’ The Prophet said: ‘Had you not done this you would have been given the punishment of the Fire.’”
Ibn ‘Umar (rta) narrates that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and asked: “How many times should we forgive our servant.” [At this], the Prophet kept quiet. He asked again and the Prophet again kept quiet. Upon being asked the third time, he answered: “Seventy times in a day.”
3. In cases of un-intentional murder, zihar, and other similar offences, liberating a slave was regarded as their atonement and sadqah.
4. It was directed to marry off slave-men and slave-women who were capable of marriage so that they could become equivalent in status – both morally and socially – to other members of the society.
5. If a person were to marry a slave-woman of someone, great care was exercised since this could result in a clash between ownership and conjugal rights. However, such people were told that if they did not have the means to marry free-women, they could marry, with the permission of their masters, slave-women who were Muslims and were also kept chaste. In such marriages, they must pay their dowers so that this could bring them gradually equal in status to free-women. The Qur’an says:
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ مِنْكُمْ طَوْلًا أَنْ يَنكِحَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ فَمِنْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ مِنْ فَتَيَاتِكُمْ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِإِيمَانِكُمْ بَعْضُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْضٍ فَانكِحُوهُنَّ بِإِذْنِ أهْلِهِنَّ وَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ مُحْصَنَاتٍ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحَاتٍ وَلَا مُتَّخِذَاتِ أَخْدَانٍ …ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِيَ الْعَنَتَ مِنْكُمْ وَأَنْ تَصْبِرُوا خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (25:4)
And if any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, he may wed believing girls from among those whom you own: and Allah has full knowledge about your Faith. You are one from another: wed them with the permission of their owners, and give them their dowers, according to the norms; [the only condition is that] they should be kept chaste, neither being lustful, nor taking paramours … This permission is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that you practice self-restraint. And Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (4:25)
6. In the heads of zakah, a specific head الرِّقَاب فِى (for [freeing] necks) was instituted so that the campaign of slave emancipation could receive impetus from the public treasury.
7. Fornication was regarded as an offence as a result of which prostitution centers that were operated by people on the basis of their slave-women were shut down automatically, and if someone tried to go on secretly running this business, he was given exemplary punishment.
8. People were told that they were all slaves of Allah and so instead of using the words عَبْد (slave-man) and اَمَة (slave-woman), the words used should be فَتَى (boy/man) and فَتَاة (girl/woman) so that the psyche about them should change and a change is brought about in age old concepts.
9. A big source of the institution of slavery at the advent of the last Prophet (sws) was the prisoners of war. The Qur’an rooted this out by legislating that prisoners of war should be freed at all costs – either by accepting ransom or as a favour by not taking any ransom money. No other option was available to the Muslims.
10. Finally the following directive was given:
وَالَّذِينَ يَبْتَغُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِمَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ فَكَاتِبُوهُمْ إِنْ عَلِمْتُمْ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا وَآتُوهُمْ مِنْ مَالِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي آتَاكُمْ (24 :33)
And if any of your slaves ask for mukatabat, give it to them if you know any good in them and [for this] give them out of the wealth which Allah has given to you. (24:33)
The above quoted verse of Surah Nur mentions the directive of mukatabat. It is a term which means that a slave make a contract with his master according to which he would be required to pay a certain sum of money in a specific time period or would carry out a specific service for his master; once he successfully fulfills either of these two options, he would stand liberated. In the above quoted verse, the Almighty has directed the Muslims to necessarily accept this contract made by a slave if he wants to make it and has the required ability to become financially independent. It is further stated that a Muslim government should spend money from the public treasury, which here is called the treasury of God, in helping such slaves. It is evident from the words of the verse that just as this right of mukatabat was granted to slave-men, it was also granted to slave-women. This, in other words, was in fact a declaration that slaves could now be masters of their destiny and could obtain liberation whenever they wanted.
3. Women must travel with a Mahram
Most scholars are of the opinion that women cannot travel alone. They must be accompanied by a mahram (a relative with whom marriage is prohibited). Therefore, in journeys such as hajj they do not allow women to travel alone. The following A%hadith are the basis of their view:
It is narrated by Abu Hurayrah (rta):
لَا يُحِلُّ لِاِمْرَأَةٍ تُؤْمِنُ باِللهِ وَاليَوْمِ الآخِرِ تُسَافِرُ مَسِيْرةَ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ إِلاَّ مَعَ ذِي مَحْرَمٍ عَلَيْهَا) مسلم ، رقم : (1339
It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel a distance for one day and one night without a mahram with her.
Abu Sa‘id narrates that the Prophet (sws) said:
نُهِىَ أَنْ تُسَافِرَ المَرْأَةَ مَسِيْرَةَ يُوْمَيْنِ إِلَّا وَمَعَهَا زَوْجَهَا أَوْ ذُوْ مَحْرَمٍ )مسلم ، رقم : (827
A woman has been stopped from travelling a distance for two days except with her husband or mahram with her.
It needs to be appreciated that there are a number of A%hadith in which directives have been given by the Prophet (sws) for the well-being of the Muslims. However, if the circumstances in which such directives have been given change, then as is the case with all conditional directives such directives may no longer apply in the changed circumstances.
The directives given to Muslim women about travelling belong to the above mentioned category. To ensure a safe journey for a woman and to protect her moral character from any scandalous allegation in the strife-ridden society of Arabia, the Prophet (sws) bade them travel with a mahram relation.
Thus, all tours and journeys etc in which the above two bases still exist, the condition of a woman travelling with a mahram must be followed. However, with the changed circumstances of modern times, travelling has become a lot different from what it used to be in previous days. There are some travels in which safety both physical as well as moral is ensured. So, in such cases, the mahram condition no longer applies. As far as the decision as to which journeys have become safe is concerned, the traveller must decide for herself.
4. Women will Outnumber Men in Hell
The following Hadith is often presented to support the view that women will outnumber men in Hell:
عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ قَالَ خَرَجَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي أَضْحَى أَوْ فِطْرٍ إِلَى الْمُصَلَّى فَمَرَّ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ فَقَالَ يَا مَعْشَرَ النِّسَاءِ تَصَدَّقْنَ فَإِنِّي أُرِيتُكُنَّ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فَقُلْنَ وَبِمَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ تُكْثِرْنَ اللَّعْنَ وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ (بخارى ، رقم : 298)
Abu Sa‘id Khudri reported: Allah’s Messenger (sws) went out to the place of worship on the day of ‘id al-adha or fitr and he passed by the women and said to them: “O Women, give charity for I have been shown the majority amongst you as the inmates of Hell.” They said: “Allah’s Messenger, wherefore?” He said: “It is because you curse one another very much and show ungratefulness to your husbands.” (Bukhari, No: 298)
This inference is incorrect and has arisen by not properly appreciating a particular style of communication used in certain Ahadith which depict dreams of the Prophet (sws). Such dreams are a source of revelation for the Prophets of Allah and in them they are shown certain images by the Almighty for the purpose of educating Muslim men and women. As a principle, all such dreams are not to be interpreted literally; they contain realities which are depicted in symbolic form.
Symbolic representation is a very subtle and powerful way of expression: Facts seem veiled yet for him who pauses to ponder they are the most evident. They move a person in the manner poetry does. They ignite in a person the spark to look behind the apparent. They urge him to reflect and to meditate and then to discover and to infer. They educate him without rousing his prejudices. The Prophets of Allah (sws) have effectively employed this technique of communication. The words and discourses of the Prophets Joseph (sws) and Jesus (sws) for example are full of powerful parables and subtle symbolism. The dream of the Prophet Joseph (sws) and the way he interpreted it is mentioned in the Qur’an also. If he saw in his dream that the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing before him in prostration, he knew that these heavenly bodies symbolized certain personalities.
The A%hadith which depict more women in Hell should also be interpreted keeping in view this basic principle. These A%hadith do not delineate the population of women in Hell since this would be a literal interpretation; on the contrary, they just caution them that there are certain deeds which they do a lot and which, therefore, would be more instrumental in taking them to Hell; so they should avoid them. In other words, the symbolism is causative in nature. Thus in the above quoted Hadith, the cause has been symbolized to warn women of something which they often do.
5. Women are Inferior to Men
It is argued by some people that men are superior to women. They present the following verses in support of their view:
الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِم ( (34:4
Men are the guardians of women, because God has given the one more preference over the other, and because they support them. (4:34)
وَ لِلِّرجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَه (228:2)
And the husbands hold a degree of superiority over them. (2:228)
As per the Qur’an (see, for example, 3:195 and 4:1), men and women as human beings are equal and deserve equal respect. However, they have been entrusted with different responsibilities in a family set-up which make them superior to one another in various respects. According to the Qur’an (4:34), as far as a husband is concerned one sphere of his superiority is his status as the head of the family alluded to in 2:228 with the words “husbands are one degree superior to their wives”. There are certain spheres in which women by nature – physical, physiological as well as psychological – are superior to men and much more suitable to do certain tasks. Thus 4:34 speaks of the relative superiority of a husband to his wife – that too in responsibility and status – in just one sphere and cannot be generalized to men and women.
Two reasons have been given in 4:34 for granting the husband this status: Firstly, because they are physically and temperamentally more suited to this task and secondly, because they have been entrusted with the responsibility of earning for the family. It also needs to be appreciated in this regard that Islam does not forbid women to earn a living. It has only relieved them of the responsibility of earning, which lies upon their husbands. It also needs to be understood that the verse does not say that the one among the husband or wife who supports the family should become the head; husbands, whether their wives earn or not, are liable for this responsibility. A woman may earn if she likes or if some need arises, but since she has not been entrusted with this duty she has not been given the governing position in the family.
Here it would be appropriate to analyze another concept which has also contributed to the notion that men are superior to women. As per a Hadith, a woman is created from the rib of man referring to the fact that Eve was created from Adam’s rib and thus was a secondary being. The text of the Hadith is:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ اسْتَوْصُوا بِالنِّسَاءِ فَإِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ خُلِقَتْ مِنْ ضِلَعٍ وَإِنَّ أَعْوَجَ شَيْءٍ فِي الضِّلَعِ أَعْلَاهُ فَإِنْ ذَهَبْتَ تُقِيمُهُ كَسَرْتَهُ وَإِنْ تَرَكْتَهُ لَمْ يَزَلْ أَعْوَجَ فَاسْتَوْصُوا بِالنِّسَاءِ )بخارى ، رقم : ( 3135
Abu Hurayrah reports that Allah’s Prophet said: “Treat women nicely, for a woman is created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion; so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked. So treat women nicely.”
It needs to be appreciated that according to the Qur’an, Eve was not created from Adam’s rib. The first verse of Surah Nisa explicitly states that the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) were created directly by the Almighty:
يَاأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ نَفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاءً وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَتَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا (1:4)
O mankind! Fear your Lord, Who created you from a single person, created, of like species his mate, and from these two scattered countless men and women [in this world], and fear Allah through whom you seek mutual help and fear breaking blood relationships. Indeed God is watching over you. (4:1)
Some people translate this verse as “It is he Who has created you from a single person (Adam) and then He created from him his wife (Eve).” They explain this verse by saying that Eve was created from the rib of Adam. This misleading translation has probably arisen because of a literal translation of the Arabic words وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا viz. “and created from him [–the initial soul–] his wife”. Actually the word مِنْهَا (from the soul) does not imply that “Eve was made from Adam”; it rather implies that Eve was made from the same species as Adam. A similar verse points to this interpretation:
وَاللّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا (72:16)
It is God who has made from your species your mates. (16:72)
A literal translation of the words جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا of the above quoted verse (which are similar to وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا) would mean “it is God Who has created your mates from you” implying that every wife is made from her husband as Eve was. This of course is incorrect; the word anfus (plural of nafs) in this verse means “genre”, “species” and not “physical being”.
As far as the actual Hadith quoted above is concerned, it needs to be appreciated that in Arabic the words “created from” do not necessarily refer to the substance of creation; they can also refer to the nature of something. For example the Qur’an says: “Man has been created from hastiness” (21:37). This does not of course mean that man’s substance is hastiness; it only refers to his nature.
Secondly, if all the textual variants of the Hadith are collected and analyzed, it becomes evident that the Prophet (sws) has compared the nature of a woman with a rib. The comparison subtly alludes to the fact that a woman’s nature is very delicate and tender as well as a bit adamant. The Prophet (sws) has advised men to treat them tactfully keeping in view this nature. Instead of forcing them to accept a particular point of view, men should try to convince and persuade them.
وَإِنْ كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَى مَيْسَرَةٍ. The particle of condition ِانْ (if) is not used for general circumstances, but, in fact, is used for rare and unusual circumstances. For general circumstances the particle اِذَا (if) is used. In the light of this, it is clear that the borrower in those times was generally affluent (ذُوْمَيْسَرَة), but in some cases was poor or had become poor after acquiring the loan and in that case, the Qur’an has directed the money-lenders to give them a time rebate.
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