THE TRAGEDY OF PIOUS WOMEN

Mohammed Sameer Anwar is obviously a pious, gentle Muslim. He didn’t threaten to behead me in spite of my writing  the blog, “GOD IS MERCIFUL, A PREGNANT WOMAN STONED TO DEATH”. Instead, he politely reminded me that what  was done to a pregnant woman in Pakistan – stoning her to death in the open yards of a court in public  view – was not according to Islamic laws.

He wrote:

This sought (sort)  of killing is not a part of Islam, it doesn’t originate from Islam and it has no connection to Islam.

The capital punishment of adultery, whether lashing or stoning, is not due to any “honor.” In fact, it is inflicted on both men and women, if and only if the evidence has been established through the intricate and sophisticated process of Islamic law, and the ruling has to be issued by the judge.

Under no circumstances can a family carry out capital punishment. In the event such a killing happens, it is a considered murder and the murderer needs to be punished by the judge.

Unfortunately, like many other religious issues, the issue of capital punishment has also been tainted by Pakistani culture, but elements taken from religion and mixed with cultural beliefs can never represent Islamic Laws.

But I respect your view as a common man.”

Sameer Anwar would feel consoled to know that honour killing, sanctioned by religion or otherwise, is not restricted to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. It happens in India as well. In a previous blog,  I had mentioned a how a Hindu lawyer proudly proclaimed he would kill his daughter or sister by pouring petrol on her and setting her alight. Which is more cruel and painful – stoning or burning alive – I cannot tell. The lawyer struts about judicial courts with impunity and his sister and daughter possibly live in fear while the documentary that published his threat has been banned in India. In my Country sense of justice is restricted to banning books and movies that show up uncomfortable facts.

Sameer also explains how  Pakistan is wrong in interpreting the religious laws; how and why “elements taken from religion and mixed with cultural beliefs can never represent Islamic Laws”. To prove the point, Sameer tells me a well-known story which I had earlier read in a book by Dr. Aid-al-Qami, a Sunni scholar.

To save space, I will give a brief version of the story:

A young woman approached Prophet Mohammed and confessed to him that she had committed adultery (Faahisha), and wished  to be purified. The Prophet sent her away without a comment. She came the next day and told him that she was pregnant from the act. If you insist on it, said the Prophet, come back to me after you deliver the boy. The woman dutifully reported back when she had had the baby. “Come back to me after you wean the baby”, commanded the Prophet. Ever a true believer, she went back to the Prophet when weaning was through with the baby in her hand. The Prophet, in his mercy, entrusted the baby to a Muslim, got a ditch dug up deep enough to cover her up to her chest and ordered that she be stoned, which the believers did with great enthusiasm. Qazi Khalid bin Walid, one of Prophet’s favourite disciples,  flung a huge rock on her head. The victim’s blood splattered on the face of the pious Qazi, for which crime he cursed her. The ever merciful Prophet did not rebuke him, but advised him to be gentle, for she had repented. Then he got her buried.

When this grotesque story is being bandied about as a sign of mercy, you shouldn’t scoff at the religion. Stoning, beheading, crucifixion, slavery, and all such inhuman crimes were not invented by Prophet Mohammed. You would read about it  aplenty in Genesis, Deuteronomy (often eulogised as the gateway to the Bible) Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers Joshua, Judges – in every chapter in the Old Testament that most preachers wave in your face when they speak of God’s mercy. In the peaceful New Testament, full of Jesus’s mercy,  Revelations warns that Jesus has the key to hell; that all Jews (men and women) apart from 144,000 will be sent to hell’s punishment, that Jesus will kill her children to death.  Jesus warns that “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”  That makes 90 percent of Hollywood actors (men and women) adulterers.

Hindus are proud of the legend- according to many, a historical fact – that Sri Ram subjected his wife to a fire-walk  test in public after humiliating her with allegations of infidelity, and despite her miraculous escape from the fiery death, later exiled her, when pregnant, to deep forest.  Her  crime was that she was abducted by the villain of the story, Ravan.

Coming back to Islamic laws, Quran (Al-Nisha) 4 : 15 says: “Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women  (fahishah)– bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them [another] way”.

And  (Al Nur) 24::2 “The woman or man found guilty of (illegal) sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment”.

In the context of the episode in question, let us say that the need for testimony can be dispensed with because the woman confessed to the crime of unlawful sexual intercourse. So God’s initial dictation was that the woman should have been confined to her house until she died or ‘Allah ordains another way’.

Allah’s law demanded that the man involved should be punished as well. In the story recounted by my friend Sameer Anwar, and mentioned in other Islamic texts, The Prophet neither asked for the name of the man who colluded with her in adultery,  nor did he attempt to find out who the culprit was, He awarded a punishment to just one of the offenders – a judgment vastly different from what was prescribed by God.

Two reasons are furnished for the variation: Quranic prescriptions were of an earlier time, but later they were revised by the Prophet himself in Hadith. That argument would challenge the Quranic claim that Quran is flawless

5 (Al Maidah:3) : Today I have perfected your religion : inclination transgression is pardoned  only by force of hunger;

18 (Al Kahf: 2)  He hath made a straight path in order that He may warn of a terrible punishment from Him.

The  Quran prohibits anyone – there is no exemption mentioned to the Prophet – from making corrections or insertions into the divine sayings that were dictated bt God. Prophet has repeatedly said he is a humble servant and messenger of God. Sir Abdullah Suhrawardy, in his work ‘Sayings Of Muhammad  quotes the Prophet this: “I am no more than man; when I order you anything respecting religion, receive it; and when I order you anything about the affairs of the world, then I am nothing more than man” .

The Holy Quran says in no uncertain terms that the Prophet’s wisdom originates entirely from the messages from God. Thus,

(Al-Araf, 2/158)” So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believed in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided

If Quran is perfect by itself, and if God declares that the punishment prescribed by him is terrible enough, how can someone quoting the Prophet (Sunnah or Hadith)  make it even more terrible by changing 100 lashes to death by stoning?

I receive many obscurantist explanations from Christian preachers and Hindu Babas.on the crimes committed by their God, Trinity, saints, gods, incarnations or god’s men on  people of different faiths and  to women of their own faiths and/or to people of a different sect of the same faith, or in the case of Hindus, people of different castes,. Why only individual murders, history is replete with instances of massive fratricides and  genocides – be it in Islam, Christianity, or Hinduism – even Buddhism, though the last named explicitly prohibits all kinds of violence. Every war among men results in rape and murder of women.

The defeated and massacred become the villains in religious tales.  The Biblical warning “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” has been an excuse for Christians of all denominations till as recently as early  nineteenth century to get rid of women by the most torturous methods of murder – quartering (cutting into for pieces), burning them on stakes, and other innovations in cruelty. While Europeans used to express shock at the primitiveness of the practice of Sati among Hindus (gruesome enough, but only practised only by a few soldiering class in the North) in, they forget the gross cruelty of their own stakes and Catherine wheels. The St. Xavier -headcommand, “Thou shalt not kill” is relegated to a status of no significance.St. Francis Xavier demanded and obtained inquisition and murder of thousands of errant Catholic converts as well as pagans (including a sizable number of women and children) in Goa is revered by Catholics as a Saint and his supposed remains (left) are kept in a glass Casket and put on display every ten years in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. You are supposed to believe that by divine grace his body has not rotten over the centuries. Tollund man - well preserved 3000 year old bodyThe withered and badly shrunken body is no distant match to that of the Tollund Man (Right) who lived four thousand years ago in Scandinavia. The man was probably a victim of human sacrifice, but has no claim to divinity or sainthood.

In the modern context, however, Islam takes the top podium in murdering women. If you have the heart to bear it, click here to see a Beheading in Saudgruesome video of a woman being beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Note that the act is done in public, that there is not a sound of alarm from those present while the woman wails pitifully till the end.

What happened that day in Pakistan, and had been happening then and again, might not have the sanction of religion. That also applies to several instances of murders of inter-marrying couples who were hanged, burnt  or hacked in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states in India. I must also mention that bride-burning for the sake of dowry is far more prevalent among Hindus of India than among Muslims of Pakistan. There are instances where Muslims and Christians had burnt their daughters-in-law, but that could be attributed to convenient adaptation of the practice of dowry system prevalent all over India. Destroying female fetus and  Killing away female infants are still prevalent in many parts of Asia (while India takes the first prize)  with implicit religious justification. A son is essential for ensuring one’s residence in heaven by doing one’s funeral rites; a daughter is a burden because she is parayi dhan or other’s property who will take away some of one’s assets as payment to the bridegroom for marrying. The son, apart from the promise of funeral rites after one’s death would bring home, like a gigolo, money from his nuptials.

King Henry VIII, the proponent of Anglican Church, had his two wives decapitated for the crime of giving birth to female offspring. He is still considered a great king. History of England records that “One should not see him as simply an ogre king who beheaded two wives, divorced two others, and rejected another in one of the most humiliating ways possible.His personality was quite amazing; his intelligence, learning, and curiosity impressed even the world-weary ambassadors who littered his court.”

The irony is, the staunchest adherents to their  own oppressive and torturous religion are women.

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