18 December, 2018

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MMDA, ACJU & Empowerment Of Muslim Women

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

Attempts to reform an outdated piece of legislation, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), and empower Muslim women to have a say in determining their conjugal life, appear to have hit a brick wall, partly because of a gutless woman Minister of Justice and partly because of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), an unelected body of theocratic delinquents arrogantly claiming monopoly over interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts. Much has been said about the positive recommendations made by the Marsoof Committee, and it is pointless to repeat them here. However, it is important to remind those who are standing in the way of reform and progress that an increasing number of Muslim women, no matter what the Mullahs think about them, are on the march to liberate themselves from centuries-old injudicious rules and regulations imposed upon them with a divine seal by a theological patriarchy that seems to be oblivious to the changing intellectual environment of the female half of Muslim world. 

Historically, with few exceptions, it was the men who interpreted the Holy texts of Islam and dictated to women what those scriptures taught about women’s status and their rights and duties. Given the patriarchal structure of societies at that time there was an understandable gender bias in the male interpretation, which virtually confined the women to kitchens and bedrooms. That situation is quickly vanishing and women are now learning themselves, thanks to modern education and technology, not only what the Quran and Hadiths are saying about women as well as men but also, and more importantly, why they are saying so. It is the latter that is opening up new vistas of knowledge regarding the role and history of women in Islam. Muslim women are rereading the history of their religion and relearning about the life and times of the Prophet. There is, in short, a silent revolution taking place in the world of daughters of Islam and that revolution is unstoppable. 

To those Muslim men who have cultivated the habit of reading (a rare virtue in today’s world of instant knowledge through Google) my humble advice is to search out in the internet and study the writings of some of the astonishing products of Muslim female scholars such as the late Fatima Mernissi (Moroccan Professor of Sociology and Islamic Studies), Amina Wadud (Professor in Quranic Studies), Kecia Ali (Professor of religion at Boston University), Shaheen Sardar Ali (Professor at the University of Gottingen), Asma Lamrabet (Moroccan doctor and author), Leila Ahmad (Egyptian-American scholar) and several others. Their critical and penetrating insight into Islamic religious thought and knowledge with impeccable command over classical Arabic has won worldwide recognition. Their originality of thought and rationality of arguments have created a new genre of research in the field of Muslim women studies. The practical impact of their research and publications is demonstrated in a number of constructive initiatives by women activists.                

In some countries Muslim women are establishing their own mosques, officiating as imams and conducting daily prayers for even mixed congregations, delivering khutba (sermons) on Fridays and on days of Eid, acting as marriage celebrants and adjudicating marriage disputes.  In several other countries, including the Arabic Middle East, mosques that traditionally barred women from entering, like in Sri Lanka, are now forced to open their doors and admit them. In neighbouring India, in the state of Kerala there is a women leading prayers for mixed congregation. 

It is indeed too radical and unrealistic to expect such sweeping changes to take place in Sri Lanka at the moment, even though those developments will be unstoppable in the future. However, measures that are least controversial and recommended by experts and the erudite after careful scrutiny, like the Marsoof recommendations regarding MMDA, should be implemented so that future generations of Muslim women can take their place as equal partners with men in building their community and the country. Muslim women are increasingly entering the job market and becoming economically independent. They are prepared to share the financial burden of running a family without depending solely on the income of the husband. They are intelligent, smart and even better skilled than some of the Muslim men. Why then are they being denied a say in selecting their life partners and divorcing him when that partnership doesn’t work out? Why should they be virtually sold in the marriage market for an exorbitant dowry? Why shouldn’t qualified women officiate as judges in resolving marriage disputes? Why? Why? Why?

The Muslim community in Sri Lanka is in desperate need of an intellectual and political leadership that has clear vision and foresight in relation to future developments in the socio-economic, intellectual and political landscape of the nation. They should drive the community like a locomotive fearlessly and by avoiding the obstacles placed on the way by miscreants. There was such a leadership in the past and it is because of its thoughtful guidance and bold actions Muslim girls are at least competing now in the field of higher education and entering the job market. Will this educated female generation accept without revolting against the prevailing inequities and injustices entrenched in the MMDA? If peaceful changes are made impossible violent changes become inevitable. It is this fear of a potential revolt by educated women against tradition, as I argued in an earlier piece (CT 16 August 2018), that prompted Muslim integrists (a derivation from French integrisme, referring to a movement or tendency within the Catholic Church that advocated integration of the state and the Church as opposed to the Enlightenment philosophy of separation of the two) like Boko Haram and Taliban to stop girls from attending schools and even put those schools to the torch.   

One half of the Muslim population, and for that matter of all population, are women. It was the women who brought even the other half to this world. Without them therefore, there is no humanity. The womb that carries the child belongs only to women and not to men. Perhaps, it is because of this unchangeable biological fact that among the ninety-nine beautiful names of Allah, al-Rahman (the Merciful) and al-Raheem (the Compassionate), the two most frequently uttered by every Muslim, derive from the Arabic root r-h-m, which means womb.  Doesn’t this infer to a thinking mind something about the honoured status that Islam bestows upon women? Why then the Mullah is denying that status and rights that go along with it?          

Women are the Future of Islam” is the title of a recent book authored by Sherin Khankan, a Muslim woman activist who built the Mariam Mosque for women in Denmark. It is an apt title because the Prophet had already said that it is on the lap of the mother lies the paradise of the child. The mother is the present and child is the future. It is the woman who shapes the future of Islam and in that she is even more equal than the man. Let the Marsoof recommendations be legislated to empower Muslim women. If ACJU refuses to reform from within, then that institution should be discarded from without.  

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Latest comments

  • 9
    3

    Thanks, Dr. Ameer Ali, for writing so many well thought out articles.
    .
    As for me, there is a limit to what I can read; I also feel that we non-Muslim Sri Lankans ought, by now, to be getting sick of this subject, but just don’t bother to find out what all this fuss is about.
    .
    This is a country belonging to all of us, Sri Lankans, and we ought to have one secular law enforced throughout it. Those who refuse to conform ought to be either put in jail, or preferably, kicked out, to countries which have the sort of laws that they desire.
    .
    Dr Ali, could you please give us a list of countries that don’t have minimum marriage age? I’m sure that it can’t be many. Most Muslim countries do have have a minimum age.
    .
    I’m sure that it would be good for us to know where else little girls can be legally married off to older men. I’m not for a moment suggesting that it happens often here. Education and career opportunities for women can’t really be legislated on.
    .
    Why can’t the 225 donkeys in Parliament change this MMDA law, perhaps outvoting the Male Muslim Members. The are spineless and lack convictions.

    • 2
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      Dr. Ameer Alii and Sinhala_Man,

      “Why can’t the 225 donkeys in Parliament change this MMDA law, perhaps outvoting the Male Muslim Members. The are spineless and lack convictions.

      Because they don’t have functioning balls or balls, like that minister women..
      That was the way, 1,000 years ago when the Ulama controlled the rulers. Now they control the parliamentarians and the ministers.

      Are we in the 10th century or the 21st century of the common era?

      : Sri Lankan Muslims at their darkest hour in the 21st century.

      : Ibn Rushd in his darkest hour

      https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/artsandculture/2015/4/9/ibn-rushd-in-his-darkest-hour

      In the age of civilisational decline the political mixes with the religious, the social with the individual and the economic with the geographic.

      There is often a return to superstitions in societies, the shunning of science, the supremacy of intellectual terrorism, the spread of tribal and sectarian divisions and wars, and the persecution of every free thinker to the point of exile or murder.

      The reasons for the persecution of Ibn Rushd vary according to those who studied his struggle and their intellectual levels.

      Some mention that his persecution was the result of influential court scholars who used religion as a business turning the ruler Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199) against him.

      A final reason offered was Ibn Rushd’s book The Incoherence of the Incoherence, in which he responded to the fallacies of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s The Incoherence of Philosophers. He did this despite knowing Ghazali was the master of the Almohad dynasty who were in power, and believed the earth was located between the horns of a bull.

      Ibn Rushd was summoned to the Mansur’s court, publically insulted and cursed and accused of heresy. The king ordered him to be exiled along with anyone who spoke about philosophy.

  • 7
    3

    What is imperative is to have a well balanced Act legislated, without compromising on the divine rules as stipulated in Sharia, whilst also ensuring women’s rights be protected without further exploitation, and as the writer says:- quote “All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), an unelected body of theocratic delinquents arrogantly claiming monopoly over interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts and if peaceful changes are made impossible violent changes become inevitable” unquote – then this is a serious issue. Who is responsible for wasting nine years? the present Govt. should be held accountable for wasting resources and for not having the determination & strength to settle the matter.

  • 8
    8

    One law for ALL of us.
    Muslims who can’t adhere to that can migrate to Saudi Arabia

    • 3
      7

      Brainmaster

      One law for ALL of us.

      One law is one god, that is what Muslim Belive, Allah means not muslim God
      it is Universal God.

      • 2
        4

        rbh

        There’s never been a human being (to the best of my knowledge) called Allah, so how can a non-human being make law for human being.

        You’re a shameless man; don’t know how to keep the human dignity.

        Law is by the people for the people.

        Gods’ law (if any) is relevant to their world only, so be matured enough to accept that only man made law is relevant to us.

        If you want to obey dog’s law please commit suicide & god will be there to take you to his fold; I’m sure.

        • 0
          0

          Real Revolutionist

          This is your way of thinking man made laws change every second Gods law never changes.The second coming of Jesus which Muslim and Christian for peace and righteous.

      • 0
        2

        That view is not shared by most Srilankans.

        Don’t mix up the law and Allah.

      • 2
        2

        rgh.
        Talking tosh.
        Universal God does not suppress women’s rights and freedom and that’s what Educated Muslim Women believe!

        • 0
          1

          Sarrij

          You may flatter women to some extent only.

          They’ll pray for your so called universal almighty to appear physically before them & his failure will be fatal for you.

          Educated & wise women don’t believe, they question & argue, they resist. One day in the near future they’ll explode so be careful.

  • 6
    5

    This is to tell our Muslim brothers to stop violating HRs of our women.

    You didn’t come here with women, you married Sinhala & Tamil women so they belong to us as well.

    We don’t care two hoots for any religion that support violating women’s/human rights.

    Civilized people volunteer for good cause.

    • 0
      0

      Real Revolutionist

      This is your way of thinking man made laws change every second Gods law never changes.The second coming of Jesus which Muslim and Christian for peace and righteous.

  • 3
    1

    Ameer Ali describes All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), ~ “…….an unelected body of theocratic delinquents arrogantly claiming monopoly over interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts……”.
    Delinquents maybe but very powerful they are. They silenced the Muslim MPs and now the few female activist through threats of social boycotts.
    The last paragraph of the article says it all.
    PS: All religious clergy interpret the original teaching to strengthen the hold on the followers.

  • 3
    2

    MMDA – Ameer Ali’s Bee in his bonnet!

    • 1
      1

      M.
      Rightly so.
      What is wrong with that stance?

  • 1
    0

    Dr. Ameer Ali: Mahinda Rajapakse did it. I heard Maithripala Sirisena is also doing and that would cost his professional life of PResidency. that is Rishad Bathiuddin uses QATAR money to buy Sri lankan politicians to expand his territory and establish a politcal dynasty. MMDA is another that muslim politicians are listening to muslim clerics/Mullahs and bribe sinhapa politicians with what ever they can. But, I don’t know why sinhala politicians are that corrupt instead of reachig muslim votes directly, they recruit always NATIONAL – LIST Muslim Ministers.

  • 6
    5

    Muslim women not only are completely under male dominance, they are treated as mere “instruments of pleasure” and “child producing machines”.

    It has been said by obstetricians in Muslim areas that Muslim women menstruate only once, at puberty, and thereafter produce children one after another (attended at home by untrained ‘midwives’) until early menopause and death, as, they “cannot” be examined by male doctors for any ailment – female doctors being scarce, & women being allowed to be examined only at home, & investigations – X-rays & Lab can never be carried out.
    Deaths – perinatal, neonatal & childhood – and maternal deaths, are rarely registered & private funerals are the norm.

    • 0
      0

      Jsutice

      They “cannot” be examined by male doctors for any ailment.

      In US UK Cananda and Sri Lanka Muslim Doctors are less the go to Non Muslim Doctors Check All muslim Birth Certificate

      Today Kulsoom Nawaz, Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, is undergoing a treatment at Harley Street Clinic in London. Doctors say, her condition is “highly critical”.

    • 0
      0

      Justice
      Periods of banishment

      What is happening in Nepal today ( treatment for menstruation)
      Women in western Nepal are starting to refuse to be thrown out of the house once a month

      The practice is called “chhaupadi” – a name for menstruation which also conveys the meaning that a woman is unclean when she is bleeding.
      Forced to live in cattle sheds

      • 0
        0

        I found that there is such a room in Maduwanwela Walawwa, Panamure, in the wilds of Sabaragamuwa.
        .
        The old man with about twenty names ruled that area like a king about 120 years ago. Now, like Ozymandias of Egypt, nothing remains.
        .
        Can’t our aging politicians understand that all is ephemeral? And don’t Muslims understand that while it is possible that if there is only one God, that is the being called, variously, Allah, Shiva, Zeus, Jupiter and Jehova. No, Gautama doesn’t belong there; he was a man, and he could never have come here, to Sri Lanka, since there never was a “Dandumonara”.
        .
        Of all those Gods, Zeus certainly lived the most interesting life.
        .
        Dear rbh and Ayub Ali; what happens if it transpires that it is we who have made this God in our own image? That must be acknowledged to be at least a possibility by you. To me that is a certainty, but one that cannot be proved.
        .
        That being the case, let the one law for us all be rational and fair – definitely not drawn up by Gnanasara. Get that law made, abide by it, and live happily with us all. Can’t do? Please leave our would-be Rational Country and find yourselves a country governed by your superstitions
        .
        Stay here? You are free to pray five times a day looking towards Mecca or any other place, dress any way you please, but face showing, fast during the day when you see the crescent moon. That is none of our business. But don’t ill-treat half your population. Isn’t this a reasonable enough request?
        .
        Start thinking!

    • 1
      1

      Mr. Justice are you from Myna family or parrot family? Just repeating same fabricated stories as the other bad chaps do. Have you got proofs to show what you are saying was the truth.

    • 0
      5

      Sinhalese doctors in the North-East tie the palopian tubes of Muslim women whenever they get the chance.

      This is the only way to control this parasite.

      • 0
        0

        Real Revolutionist

        Google The practice is called “chhaupadi”Nepal

        The practice is called “chhaupadi” – a name for menstruation which also conveys the meaning that a woman is unclean when she is bleeding.
        Forced to live in cattle sheds

  • 3
    2

    Well done but Sri Lanka Muslims community is not yet grown up in education and modern thinking as you think and as you imagine .
    A long way to go ..

  • 4
    2

    What a breath of fresh air. Would look forward to reading more articles by the likes of Dr. Ameer Ali.

  • 3
    2

    Dr. Ameer Ali quotes words of a Prophet to show women should be honoured and some Arabic explanation on Rahm and so on.

    It will be great if he can prove Saleem Marsoof’s Reforms in the same manner with reliable proofs. In order the public will have a better picture about the entire subject.

    Rather than come to conclusions based on personal whims.

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