Epigraph: Say, ‘Bring forward your proof if you are truthful.’ (Al Quran 27:64)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
If you have not heard about Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations then perhaps this article is not for you and my apologies to you.
For those who have heard about this and talked about this you may want to learn some more details about a few verses of the holy Quran, as the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said, “The best among you is one who learns and teaches the Quran!”
This article is written in that spirit mainly as an academic study to read and understand the Quran better and answer those Islamophobes who find this Scripture to be misogynistic.
Let us travel back to seventh century Arabia. Year is the 8th year after migration to Medina by the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, he is traveling to Mecca to perform his last Hajj.
Muhammad, the Chosen of Allah; rejected by Quraish; persecuted; penned in with his family and a few Companions for thirty months in Shi’b Abi Talib and denied all provisions and contact; hounded out of Taif; forced out of Mecca with a price of one hundred camels proclaimed for his person, dead or alive; pursued by the hatred of Quraish even in Medina; challenged by force, besieged, plotted against; faithful, loyal, steadfast, humble, obedient servant of Allah; His Messenger par excellence; in rejection and in acceptance, in trial and in triumph proclaiming as his stand: ‘Sufficient unto me is Allah, there is no god but He, in Him is my trust, the Lord of the Glorious Throne’ (9:128); Muhammad was now surrounded by an ocean of faithful, devoted hearts, all proclaiming the glory of Allah, celebrating His praise, affirming His Unity, supplicating Him for forgiveness, mercy, compassion, invoking His blessings upon Muhammad. Arrived at the Mount, the Holy Prophet stood on the back of Qaswa and made his address:
I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship save Allah, the One, without associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.
I do not think, O people, that we shall be gathered together here again. Your belongings, your honor, and your lives are sanctified and made inviolate like the sanctity of this day, this month and this city. You will soon appear before your Lord and He will call you to account for all your doings. Take heed that you do not go astray, after I am gone, and start slaying one another. …
The Muslim jurisprudence developed in the centuries after the prophet came to a clear understanding of the sanctity of human life and property and these values were then inherited by Europe from 12-16th century, as the torch of civilization passed from Arab Spain to the rest of Europe. However, the concept of ‘human honor’ remained vague and nebulous and continues to be so, both in the Islamic societies and the West.
The holy Quran has beautifully laid down the principle of libel, slander and false accusation, in one of the early verses of the Surah Nur: “As for those who accuse chaste women of fornication, and then fail to provide four witnesses, strike them eighty times, and reject their testimony ever afterwards: they are the lawbreakers, except for those who repent later and make amends––God is most forgiving and merciful.” (Al Quran 24:4-5)
The translation I am using is by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem and published by Oxford University. However all translations are similar as regards these verses. You can check for yourself: More than Fifty different simultaneous translations of the Holy Quran in English.
If someone is not able to prove an accusation against a woman he or she will be punished with 80 lashes and his or her future testimony will not be honored. This means people have to be very careful in their gossip or accusations. What a guarantee against trifling with anyone’s honor! Now this is a Divine guideline for a clear cut extreme case, and states can legislate regarding honor of individuals along a spectrum of situations.
Establishing sanctity of human honor, especially of women will be a beneficent use of the above verses. But just to create a hype for Shariah Law and Islamomania will be a misuse. The fact of the matter is that in 60 years of my life, growing up in Pakistan and then living in the West for the last 33 years, in the Muslim societies, I have never heard any good discussion by the Muslim clergy or lay people, trying to understand or precisely define human rights, as best enunciated by Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The focus and intention of any related discussion is invariably something else.
The biggest misuse of the Surah Nur that I have seen over the years and also during the recent events of Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations is demanding 4 witnesses from rape victims. How is a rape victim supposed to negotiate with any possible witnesses and ensure the steadfast testimony on their part? There are also several other reasons to believe that applying ‘4 witnesses’ that are described to discourage adultery allegations, by the Quran, to rape victims is myopic and short sighted. However, this is meant to be a brief more like a summary article.
In the following interview, one of the most learned scholars and proponent of Sharia says that if a woman is raped and does not have four male witnesses, regardless of other circumstances, she should better be quiet. The learned scholar does not suggest how the victim should negotiate with the potential witnesses before the legal hearing in presence of strict Purdah requirements, to make sure that they are not going to deviate from their testimony. Such lack of insight and empathy should send shivers down the spine of every sensitive human being! All the moderate Muslims may be better off under any Western law rather than such medieval understanding of Sharia Law. My apologies to the English readers, for the video clip is in Urdu. You will need to find an Urdu translator. Munawar Hasan, the scholar in this video, is also completely unable to conceptualize that he may not have the correct interpretation of the Holy Quran.
Before we go further, let me first share all the relevant verses that some medievalists confuse with the alleged rape situations. Nevertheless, these verses actually become a commentary of the verses discussed above, as far as they prevent slander of innocent women:
If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you, if it were not that God accepts repentance and is wise . . .! It was a group from among you that concocted the lieb –– do not consider it a bad thing for you [people]; it was a good thing––and every one of them will be charged with the sin he has earned. He who took the greatest part in it will have a painful punishment. When you heard the lie, why did believing men and women not think well of their own people and declare, ‘This is obviously a lie’? And why did the accusers not bring four witnesses to it? If they cannot produce such witnesses, they are the liars in God’s eyes. If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you in this world and the next, you would already have been afflicted by terrible suffering for indulging in such talk. When you took it up with your tongues, and spoke with your mouths things you did not know [to be true], you thought it was trivial but to God it was very serious. When you heard the lie, why did you not say, ‘We should not repeat this– God forbid!– It is a monstrous slander’? God warns you never to do anything like this again, if you are true believers. God makes His messages clear to you: God is all knowing, all wise. A painful punishment waits in this world and the next for those who like indecency to spread among the believers: God knows and you do not. (Al Quran 24:11-19)
These verses are pertaining to securing the honor of women, morality of the society and honesty in discussions and to avoid talking about things that we do not know or do not understand, for some political gain or frivolous agenda. These verses were more specifically related to the false accusation of Hazrat Ayesha, a young wife of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. Any reasonable Quranic commentary will provide you the details if you are not familiar with the story.
There are other verses of the Quran that are applicable to alleged rape including those of Surah Yusuf, when it describes the incident when a lady falsely accused the Prophet Yusuf of attempted rape. But that is for another day.
As soon as OJ Simpson’s murder trial started the Caucasians were convinced of his guilt and the African Americans were convinced of his innocence. They did not need to wait for evidence, their minds were made up, as if evidence did not matter. I saw a similar situation interacting with my Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi friends and family, in person and online. One party was almost convinced of the innocence of the accused and the other of the innocence of the accuser respectively. ‘Innocent until proven guilty,’ is a good principle, but applies to all parties under consideration, if they are being accused of something.
So, my question to all my Muslim brothers and sisters is that what happened to the teaching of absolute justice in Islam?
As authors it was almost expected from us to be silent, if we were a neutral voice or had sympathies with Nida Ul Nasser, not in so many words, but by implication of different memoranda, while authors favoring the majority sentiments of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community were free to write and publish. For example, just day before yesterday an article was published under the title Sacred Justice.
In fact the above verses 24:12-19 were used to silence all discussions on the topic by implication in some emails. What if some were only discussing whether these verses are applicable to rape victims or not? Nobody bothered to clarify that academic discussions are always a good and honorable Islamic traditions.
God did not reveal these verses to stifle free speech and academic discussions. The teaching in these verses is not to gossip and play lose with the honor of others. These also tell to avoid lewd discussions or pornography or the character of the society will be spoiled and indecencies will spread in such societies.
I am guided by the Quranic verse about justice that has been picked up by the Harvard Law School as one of the best examples of justice in the world history: Did you know Harvard recognizes Quran as one of the best expressions for justice?
The verse is:
You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly– if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do. (Al Quran 4:135)
I do not have a party and have no axe to grind. I don’t have enemies or friends. I am with the innocents and not with the guilty. I will honor and respect the due process started by police in UK. It is not a war, these are peaceful times of coexistence in Europe, USA and Canada. We cannot invoke the Bush doctrine, “You are either with us or with the terrorists!”
The chips may fall where they may, in regards to Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations, I simply want justice to prevail. I want supremacy of the Quran and prevent its misuse for that corrupts the life of all Muslims in so many different ways.
I am also guided by the rich tradition of justice in our own community by none other than the legendary Sir Zafrulla Khan, who was President of United Nations General Assembly in 1962–63 and also President of the International Court of Justice from 1970 to 1973, as he wrote: The Concept of Justice in Islam by Sir Zafrulla Khan and a book about human rights that has been reviewed as: Book Review: Islam and Human Rights by Sir Zafrulla Khan.
Categories: Highlight, Human Rights, Muslim women, Organized religion, Qur'an, Quran, Rights of Women, Sectarianism, Women, Women In islam, Women Rights, Women's right
Dear Dr Zia Shah Sahib,
I very much share your heartfelt sentiments.
You are absolutely right when you state that Sura Nur is misused to demand 4 witnesses from rape victims. They have in practice distorted the Qur’an [4:35] to suggest that men are the protectors of men rather than of women! There is a real need to hear the voices of helpless women who have been oppressed for centuries by men, and subjected to untold cruelties in the name of Islamic Shari’ah.
And you are absolutely right in saying: “All the moderate Muslims may be better off under any Western law rather than such medieval understanding of Sharia Law.”
And again, many people are indeed wrongly making up their minds on ‘the Nida controversy’ based on personal interests, even though they haven’t seen any evidence. They have indeed deviated from the principle of justice stated as ‘innocent until proven guilty’, and accuse one or the other party in haste.
May Allah Ta’aala save us from errors and guide us aright, Ameen.
Thank you so much and Jazakallah for your kind words and sentiments.
Dear Mr Zia,
I do agree that when Islam asks for absolute justice, We have no option other than to take every possible evidence to solve the matter. Secondly, we are nobody to decide or take sides when we do not know the whole case and the given evidences by both parties as the Quran say it best that it was not right to speculate when we do not know matter in its entirety.
Je suis intéressé
4 witnesses in rape not doing any thing to stop a violent crime are not honorable to be accepted in the court of justice.
Very good point Daar sahib. I never thought of that. It also proves that many a Muslim scholars and theologians have simply not thought through the issue of rape and many may be simply copy cats of the old scholars.