By Farweez Imamudeen –
Polygamy and the ACJU
Following is another extract from the chapter of ‘Marriage and the judgments and rulings related to it’ in Thasyeer Mathan Abi Sujah,
“Marriage is recommended to whoever is in need of it. It is permissible for a free man to marry four free women at once, and for the slave to marry two. A free man does not marry a slave woman except under two conditions; not being able to give the dowry to the free woman and fear of fornication”
We shall only look at the first part of this legislation where it allows a free man to marry four free women at once.
The verse that appears in the Qur’an regarding polygamy is as follows,
“Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one (Nisa: 3)”
Qur’an is not a book of laws but it contains laws that were revealed to set order in a society that was given to chaos. Thus, the laws that were revealed at a certain time and place should be viewed in context. A legislator should then be wary of applying the same rule or law word for word in a different place and era. For a student of law this concept is not difficult to understand. For instance, although statutes become laws there are rules of interpretation – ie: Literal rule, Golden rule and Mischief rule – that are used to understand the meaning intended by the legislator. This is only a basic illustration to understand that laws are subject to interpretation since no law can escape the limits of time and space; however, what remains constant and guides the interpretation are the principles and values on which the laws were constructed (ie: justice, fairness and equality).
Public interest or Maslaha in Arabic is a principle of Islamic jurisprudence; a principle of legal interpretation that is derived from the fundamental source of Islamic jurisprudence; the Qur’an. A simple definition of it would be ‘That which leads to good’. In Islamic jurisprudence a purpose, or in other words the purpose of a law, ruling or legal code that does not lead to the fulfilment of some good (Maslaha), or the avoidance of mischief or evil is invalid.
According to Dr.Jasser Auda, a scholar in the subject of Islamic jurisprudence, Maslaha or public interest is the purpose/ goal (Maqsid in Arabic) of Islamic laws. In other words a law that is in contradiction with public interest is no law at all.
So what was the purpose of this law when it was revealed in seventh century Arabia?
The late former Justice of the Supreme Court of Srilanka and vice president of International Court of Justice in Hague, C.G.Weeramantry in his book ‘Islamic Jurisprudence: An International Perspective’, cites an interesting example of how certain Muslim majority countries have derived laws from the Qur’an based on the notion of women rights which is a part of public interest.
“The permissibility of polygamy under the rules of Islam has been one of the bases of severe attack by its critics. The relevant Qur’anic passage runs, ‘You may marry two, three or four wives but not more’. The passage goes on to declare, ‘…but if you cannot deal equitably and justly with all, you shall marry only one.’ The word equitably has been explained by jurists as meaning not merely equality in lodging, clothing and necessaries, but also equity in love, affection and esteem…on their interpretations of this verse many Islamic communities recognize monogamy as the norm.
It should be noted that the clauses qualifying polygamy are reinforced also by the Quranic passage, ‘you will not be able to be equitable between your wives even though you be eager to do so’ (4:129). It is noteworthy that Tunisia adopted the rule of monogamy on the basis of this clause and that Muhammad Abduh (d.1950) the reformer and Grand Mufti of Egypt often said that no husband can be just to more than one wife under modern living conditions (Khadduri, 1978).”
What follows is an astonishing revelation,
“Majid Khadduri places this whole matter in an interesting perspective when he asks whether the Quranic law was meant to confirm the principle of polygamy or to reform it by imposing qualitative and quantitative restrictions on its practice. He suggests that the Quranic law concerning marriage, rather than intending to ratify the widely prevalent practice of polygamy, sought to reform it as far as was possible at the time. The ultimate intent of the Prophet, according to his view, was ‘to transform marriage from a polygamous to a monogamous relationship’. The ultimate objective of Quranic marriage law, then was to legitimate monogamy, rather than to endorse polygamy”
Thus it is the author’s argument that the principle of gradual reform in the interest of the public is what is intended by this verse. In other words that was the purpose/ maqsid. This principle of gradual reform can be found in many places in the Qur’an such as in the different stages through which alcohol was eventually prohibited.
Why did Qur’an set out to reform the seventh century Arab Society?
Because Qur’an is not just a book of laws, rather it contains laws, among various other teachings, ethical and moral disciplines that were revealed throughout a certain period of time (nearly two decades) in a certain context to demonstrate the principles and methodologies of reform, and that social reform and a just society is possible.
However the Madrasa curriculum consists of substandard text books that contain none of these topics. So it ends up teaching laws that allow men to marry up to four women unconditionally, which is clearly contrary to the values the Qur’an set out to establish.
The content of Fiqhul Islamiyya or Islamic law which is only one of the subjects that is taught in the Madrasa is entirely out of context and irrelevant. Thus, the graduates of these institutions who are appointed as leaders of an entire community are vehemently attempting to steer the course of history away from the future towards an ancient past, which is not only impossible but due to its conflicting nature with the modern world is bound to foster conflicts.
It is because of such rigid teachings that they even blatantly violate Islam itself while claiming to preserve Islam.
A good and clear example of this can be found in gender discrimination; the so called scholars of Islam are refusing to allow Muslim women inside the Mosques while Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his companions not only allowed them inside, but let them voice their opinions as well. The ACJU invents what is not in Islam while claiming to uphold Islam.
Adding to this dilemma is the fact that these Madrasa graduates receive no education or training in any of the other essential sciences that are required to assume a scholarly leadership. So for instance a Madrasa Graduate might be appointed as a legislator, but ironically he neither has a holistic view of Islamic law nor does he have any knowledge in conventional law. He might be appointed as a financial advisor or to manage billions of rupees of public funds, but he bears no qualification in the sciences of finance or economy. He has no education or training in anthropology, psychology or social sciences that are essential to understand and lead a community accordingly.
In summary the Madrasa graduate is ill qualified to be a leader.
The Blind, Bigoted, Confused Shepherds
ACJU as the only acknowledged body of leaders of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka is primarily a legislative authority. It is through laws or fatwa that it guides the Muslim society. However, there is abundant proof that this so called intellectual body lacks sufficient knowledge and qualification to legislate.
Following is a ruling or fatwa regarding the female attire that appears in the official website of ACJU.
“Islam is a religion that preaches morality and dignity. It educates both the men and women in regards to their dress codes. When addressing the dress code of women, Allah states in the Holy Quran:
And tell the believing women that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts, and must not expose their adornment, except that which appears thereof, …. [24:31]
It is very clear from the above Verses, that women should conceal their adornment. Thus, concealing the face, hands and the complete body is a necessity. This is the opinion of majority of the scholars.”
It is interesting to note how simplistic this interpretation and fatwa is considering the plethora of facts, and historical evidence that have been neglected in the process. The extent of irresponsibility and ignorance showcased by an organization that proclaims to be scholarly is appalling. How rapidly have these so called scholars arrived at a half-baked conclusion to impose something on an entire community by making that which is not a necessity a necessity!
M.A.M.Mansoor or Usthaz Mansoor as he is popularly known, a graduate of Jamiah Naleemiah and the only scholar from Sri Lanka who has written an exegesis of the Qur’an, writes in his book ‘Unveiled’ how only a few Imams are of the opinion that the whole body of a woman should be concealed, whereas the majority of scholars, including the companions of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) have argued otherwise.
“Many among the companions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), including Ibn Abbas, Anas, Aisha (wife of the Muhammad (Peace be upon him)), Miswar ibn Mahrama (RA), and many among the scholars and Imams interpreted the phrase ‘that which is apparent’ to mean the face and hands. The scholars among the Thabioon (the generation that immediately followed Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) such as Ikrima, Qatada, Saeed ibn Zubair (Rah) who were Ibn Abbas’s (RA) students held the same opinion”
He argues further,
“The phrase lower your gaze appears numerous times in the Qur’an.
‘Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest.’ (24:30)
This verse addresses men (and it is important to note that this verse appears before the verse about women). If the faces were veiled (men) lowering the gaze would serve no purpose.”
He further states,
“Once the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was riding a camel with Fadhl; the son of Abbas (RA) behind him. A beautiful woman came to the Prophet for a fatwa. Al Fadhl stared at her, and she stared back. The Prophet having noticed this placed his hand on his chin and turned his face away, but he looked again and she looked at him. Once again Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) turned his face away, but he looked again a third time and she looked at him. Once again Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) turned Fadhl’s face away….
…if a woman’s face had to be concealed, and if it was forbidden to look at it the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would have ordered the woman to cover her face, but he didn’t”
In the Islamic tradition there are scholars who have sided with the opinion that a woman should conceal her entire body, but they are only a handful according to AsSheikh M.A.M.Mansoor.
In his book, ‘Unveiled’ he cites ample examples from the life of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) himself to demonstrate why concealing the entire body is not a necessity. He also mentions how Imam Shafi himself, whose school of thought the ACJU claims to religiously follow, is of the opinion that women can reveal their faces. In fact the four great scholars in the Islamic tradition – Imam Malik, Shafi, Abu Hanifa, Ahmad ibn Hanbal- hold a contrary opinion to that of ACJU.
Only a few Imams from the Hanbali school of thought (while Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of Hanbali school of thought, himself argues in favor of women revealing their faces) are of the opinion that women should conceal their entire body.
My question to ACJU is, if there is evidence to the contrary, on what basis did you issue the fatwa that covering the face and hands is a must for women? Did you even think of the consequences of enforcing such extreme attire in a minority community? The amount of resistance it might receive from a predominant culture that is alien to such an extreme practice?
So we have all the four great scholars, the companions of the Messenger of God (Peace be upon him), and the students of the companions of the Messenger of God (Peace be upon him) and numerous scholars both ancient and modern holding a contrary opinion to ACJU’s, and God himself leaving his revelation to open interpretation, while ACJU dares to challenge and override them all and make it an absolute necessity! What bigotry!
Thus we can conclude that the ACJU is either perfectly confused or adamantly ignorant. Either way they are not qualified to lead the Muslim society.
ACJU: In the Way of Co-Existence
What ACJU has done through its fatwas that polarize a community is push the Muslim community away from the mainstream to a point of isolation. The fatwas regarding child marriage, face cover, halal and haram, and male and female attire have gradually erected a community that strives to look, and be different from others not for rational or ethical reasons, but for reasons that are irrational and silly.
The consequences of driving the Muslim community towards creating a unique religious identity in terms of dress, appearance, food (stupid undertakings such as going to the extreme extent to find out whether mineral water is haram or halal) and attitude has gradually polarized the Muslims from the larger society, and a national agenda. Thus it has restricted interacting and socializing with other communities, and driven the Muslim community to live among its people in seclusion as a closed society. This is the primary barrier to co-existence, and this barrier was designed, constructed and established by none other than the Apex Islamic scholarly body of Sri Lanka; The All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulama.
As a result the majority of Muslims have withdrawn from the national cause, the common crisis that afflicts the nation.
ACJU has excluded and expelled women from society; despite Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) himself allowing women to enter the Mosques, at a time and in a society where women were used as mere chattel and objects, our so called scholars have reversed the progress of time going against the practice of their own Prophet, and forcefully and anti-Islamically imposed restrictions on their entering the Mosques. They promote child marriage, once again legalizing an abominable practice in the name of a religion that strove against such vile social practices.
Such an attitude towards Muslim women has paralyzed a vital limb of the society. A predominant majority of Muslim women are socially inactive. A lifetime of oppression and suppression has imposed a passive slave mentality in most of them. They are scared, suspicious and extremely cautious.
Thus once again ACJU has succeeded in standing in the way of co-existence.
As we have seen, these fatwas are found on no sound basis. Rather they are issued to serve and safeguard the interests of an elite organization that seems to have a hidden and sinister agenda. If that is not the case what can explain their attitude towards vehemently clinging on to fatwas, claiming them to be Islamic laws, while they seem to be anything but Islamic? They seem to be nothing but fancy interpretations of texts according to the whims and desires of a body of graduates from Madrasas, whose syllabus predate the medieval times.
ACJU is legislating to a world that does not exist anymore; in doing so they have constructed a culture that is in conflict with the modern world. They have created a society that has pushed itself from the mainstream to a secluded and isolated cocoon, where it prefers to live in isolation among its people, divorced from the larger nation and national issues. Muslims didn’t bring this condition upon themselves; it is to a certain extent ACJU made. However, as a result inevitably the Muslims are drifting away from co-existence.
And I blame the ACJU.