I was browsing through a well known Islamic website recently. This particular website offers a service where readers can send in their own questions if they are having doubts or concerns over any Islamic view points or guidelines. Usually, I enjoy this website and as a revert, I find it very useful in clarifying things for me. It’s also great for getting an idea of what the “‘real” issues are that people face. The answers are all provided with authentic hadith and Quranic evidence as well as any referrals to previous questions which have touched upon similar topics. Given this, we can assume that this is a credible source of information for both born and revert Muslims.
And yet – should simply accept that what we read is right? Last week I read a question that had been sent in by two brothers. They were expressing concern over their two wives who had been left in the care of their father while they had traveled abroad to work as a means of supporting the family. They stated that the wives had been in contact with them and said that their husbands father was sexually assaulting them on a daily basis along with other forms of mental and physical abuse. On a personal level, I find it shocking that two grown men actually felt the need to write to an unknown Sheikh on a public forum regarding this matter, but everyone to their own!
Now – as women (and probably most men) our automatic judgement is that the father is in the wrong, the brothers need to man up and stand up to their father, and the wives need to move out. Simple? Apparently not.
The ruling that the Sheikh gave was firstly that the women should take care not to tempt the father and that they should make sure they are fully covered and avoid all contact. I can hear you thinking….hang on a minute! These two (newly married) young girls had been left in their father in laws care. HE abused them. HE took advantage of the situation. He was in the wrong. How are they supposed to avoid contact when they have, by their husbands orders, been instructed to live there and take care of their father in law? And yet, the alleged Islamic ruling is that the first assumption is that the women are to blame? I can tell you that didn’t sit well with me.
I am aware that this is a purely circumstantial situation, and given that it was posted on our best friend, the internet, we cannot guess as to the credibility of the story – but all that aside, whether true or not, the Sheikh still ruled that the father should be forgiven. I am a big fan of forgiveness, and in fact it is advisable for us as Muslims to forgive whenever possible; but does that mean that as women we have no rights to stop ongoing abuse? Can this simply be brushed aside with a quick “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean to”? Is this what we still have to battle with in the 21st century?
Further to this, there was no mention of what the sons should actually do about this situation i.e.go home and sort out the problem, or even call the father and ask for his side of the story. There was no mention of the rulings in the Quran on extra-marital sex or abusing your power to take advantage on others (verses which we all know are quick to be thrown out when the primary party is in fact a woman), and there was no encouragement for the brothers to talk to their father and ask for his side of the story, or even take a trip home to fix the problem. As husbands, they have an obligation to their wives to protect them – and as the head of the family, their father has an obligation to protect the women while staying in this home. An obligation which perhaps he has misinterpreted.
Women in Islam were given a multitude of rights as per our Holy Quran, and as someone who reverted to this religion, in my experience, I do enjoy a higher level respect and treatment. BUT, given this, when there are still people in positions of authority, such as Sheikhs, TV personalities, Imam’s and even Islamic bloggers to some degree, all giving their own cultural opinions, and when the most powerful source of information is the internet which is trusted almost blindly – will we ever be treated truly equally?