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Blinkers of Belief
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Continued from “Pitfalls of Faith”

Though Muhammad’s religious constituency was the meek of the world, as Jesus had paraphrased, he seemed to have shaped Islam but to their detriment. Thus, it calls for the examination of the poor Musalmans as to how Muhammad’s personal agenda would have influenced the ethos of Islam miring their life ‘here’. More so, it is for the women of Islam, even the rich among them, to delve into the proclivities of their prophet that shaped the precepts and practices of their faith to their eternal hurt.

It is not too hard to see how the faith supposedly shaped for the poor in theory is heavily loaded against them in practice. On the other hand, the religious craft of Muhammad as enunciated in his address to the Yathribs - O Helpers, are ye stirred in your souls about the things of this world whereby I have reconciled men’s hearts that they may submit unto God, when you yourselves I have entrusted unto your Islam? – is seemingly designed to favor the privileged of the faith. What is inimical to the poor amongst the faithful is that the long and uncertain path to the ‘Hereafter’ is paved with the needles of sharia.

It was Muhammad’s ideal of a puritanical society that seems to have unwittingly pitted the poor of Islam against his penal code. After all, why should the well-to-do steal at all, to be on the wrong side of the sharia! Needless to say, the hands that feed the sharia would be but that of the poor. Likewise, where was the need for the resourceful male to resort to adultery? After all, the four wives quorum, not counting the divorces and remarriages, would entail the needed variety to spice up their life, wouldn’t it?

And as if that concession is not good enough for the lecherous rich, then there is the sharia sanctified instant nikah lasting but a single ejaculation, if one pleases. The world was the witness to it all at the height of the Islamic moral policing in Iran that brought brisk business to the kazis. And in what must be the height of hypocrisy, Islam frowns upon adultery and punishes the involved with savagery! And, sadly, it is those Musalmans without moolah to circumvent the sharia that have to face the harsh music of Islam.

Nonetheless, in the Islamic Paradise, for the poor who tend to be better Musalmans than their well-heeled brethren, it’s a different amorous game altogether! However, the only hitch is that it is a lifelong wait of drudgery for them to reach the ‘Hereafter’. And meanwhile, the sharia lets the rich and the powerful get away with murder even, albeit through the bribe route of blood-money. But then, why only blame the sharia when the modern penal code too leans heavily on the poor to ensure that they are kept at arms-length from the privileged, not to spoil their party. Why doubt that? Well, for the theft of a thousand, the law is smart to catch up with the poor to put them behind the bars but when it comes to the embezzled millions under the white collars, it is slothful in sniffing at the scent.

Unjustifiably though, the Musalmans are proud that their faith grants equality to women vis-à-vis men, i.e. in spite of polygamy. It’s true that the Quran ordains that man should treat his wives equally. But, what sort of equality would polygamy entail for those four wives! Even in bigamy, a woman would be left pining when her fellow wife has their man? And in Islam, we are not even dealing with bigamy but polygamy, involving four women at that! And how the All Knowing God missed this female conjugal constraint is anybody’s guess.

Not quite, for women too are granted their polyandrous time, well, that’s in the ‘Hereafter’. Even that wouldn’t make it a level playing ground for the female believers in the Islamic scheme of gender equality, would it? After all, while women have to wear their chastity belts all the while ‘here’, their men are not bound as such. And in the ‘Hereafter’, it’s not a case of role reversal either for men too have their huries for the asking.

Besides, what if the rationed intimacy and limited emotionality of a polygamous marriage usher in female promiscuity ‘here’? What solace doth the sharia provide for the pining females of polygamy if found in the wrong hands? Why, stoning to death! Well, it’s a different matter though that Islam has so much concern for the satiation of all those black-eyed virgins of Paradise who are wedded in their scores to the martyrs. Of course, Allah increaseth the vigour of the martyr a hundred fold to indulge with his harem of huries seventy-two.

Anyway, in the ‘Hereafter’, man’s virility is not subject to the innate limitations biology imposes on him ‘here’! And that could be no less an attraction for the believing Musalmans to crave the ‘Hereafter. But then, the Musalmans too have the Mirza Ghalib sher to ponder over here:

zannat ki hakikat hah’me maaloom hai lekin
dilko behalaane ke liye ye khayaal accha hai

(To hell with truth of heaven as such
 Feels it good to think it’s there.)

And what does veiling women in Islam mean? Won’t it reveal the lack of male appreciation of womanly emotions? Oh, how the veil and all that goes with it stunt female sexuality! The embarrassment of Muhammad in desiring Zaynab, wife of his adopted son Zayd, could have caused him to stress upon veil for the female as a barrier against male frailty. Besides, he was extremely possessive about his women, in particular Ayesha. In fact, he hoped that she were dead ahead of him, in spite of the fact that wives of the prophet were barred from a fresh nuptial.

The Islamic veil thus, is the legacy of a man, who genuinely respected women while at the same time believing them to be objects of male possession, if not their vassals as such. And ironically, it is his dual attitude towards women that denies the fair sex of Islam the feel-good that a normal socializing would have afforded them!

Though the medieval man’s attitude towards women was no different from that of Muhammad, the burkha that Islam ordains them, deprives them whatever little freedom their sisters of other faiths have! Thus, if the globe were to become an umma as Muhammad had dreamed, and should its mullahs come to reign, as they would in such an eventuality, half of it would be reduced to walking tents for all that. On this score, can it not be said that Islam, exhibiting its lack of concern for the female well-being, is inimical to the development of half of its believers? And yet, some hypocritical apologists of the burkha would have it that what the Muslim women are hiding from the public view is not their persona but their poverty exemplified by the rags they wear!

However, the moot point that Islam misses here is the need for the male to develop self-restraint in the society of women and not to veil them. But then, if the veil is so vital for the niyyat (character) of the Musalmans, why Islam has no remedy for those male believers living in the non-veiling societies of ‘the others’? The answer to this, as well as to other predicaments of the Islam is that Muhammad had devised Islamic code for the Arabic culture and society of his time and not beyond.

And it’s naïve to think it’s the God’s Will for He didn’t ordain veiling of the Jewish and the Christian women. What is worse, while providing no clues for the Islamic adaptation to the changing times, the Quran and the sharia blindly bind the Musalmans to the medieval values, don’t they? Thus Islam has become ‘a square peg in the round hole’ syndrome for the Musalmans everywhere.

Be that as it may, if veiling the fair sex is the cure for adultery, then it would have been still worth its cloth, if not for anything but to avert the exploitation of women. And it’s not the case either. Thus, it’s an irony of Islam that in veiling its women it veils the vision of its men as well. It is this mind-set of the Musalmans that made the word of a believing woman unequal to that of the male believer in the Islamic evidentiary value system! Nonetheless, Muslim women are wont not to complain about this and such gender biases of Islamic socio-religious practice and precepts. And that speaks for the potential for, or lack of it, to the mental development of women in the Islamic socio-religious fold.

Continued to "Shackles of Sharia" 

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Comments on this Article

Comment Dear Khan saheb:
If one were to concede that the baneful practices in Islam are owing to the 'wrong interpretation of verses of Holy Quran and Hadiths', then why not people like you, one hears such educated voices here and there, change the perception of the believers about them thereby ushering in a welcome change for the good of the Muslims in general . But the reality of the Islamic society is that there is no way , as yet, for the questioning Musalmam to take on the obscurantist Mulla-Maulvi nexus for course correction.
On the other hand, fortunately for the Hindus, the reform minded had brought the religio-cultural hegemony of Brahman over the minds of the Hindus to an end, thereby fanning fresh secular air in the Hindu society.

BS Murthy
02/09/2013 12:09 PM

Comment Wearing the Burqa is not mandatory. Burqa is supported by the tradition based on wrong interpretation of verses of Holy Quran and Hadiths. Modesty in dressing is prescribed and when going out wearing over garment in way that face is not hidden to make recognition impossible.
According to most historians like Karen Armstrong: "There is nothing in the Qur’an about obligatory veiling for all women or their seclusion in harems. This only came into Islam about three generations after the prophet's death, under the influence of the Greeks of Christian Byzantium, who had long veiled and secluded their women in this way. Veiling was neither a central nor a universal practice; it was usually only upper-class women who wore the veil. But this changed during the colonial period."

POLYGAMY: Hardly 2% Muslims take more than one wife. Taking more than wife is conditioned upon ability to do justice to each of them. It is often argued that polygamy saves men from resorting to illegitimate relationship with other women. The Qur'an does not refer to any such argument. On the other hand the Qur'an reluctantly permits polygamy to take care of orphans and widows (4:3) and warns that "if you fear you cannot do justice then (marry) one." Not only this in yet another verse 4:129 it says " And you cannot do justice between wives, even though you wish (it), but be not disinclined (from one) with total inclination, so that you leave her in suspense.

The message of this verse is very clear and if one reads both the verses i.e. 4:3 and 4:129 together it becomes quite clear that he can take more than one wife only in some exceptional cases but otherwise one should take one wife. It is wrong to treat it as a privilege for men to marry up to four wives without any condition.

Shah N. Khan
02/09/2013 00:53 AM

Comment You make an interesting point about four wives in this life and seventy in the next implying in each case sufficient satiation of sexual appetite. But sexual attraction is not numerically contained either in this life or, in the mythical projection of it, in the next. A man with four wives is just as constrained as the man with one, in that every day in 365 days in the year brings the possibility of a new face or figure of irresistible allure, which he has to forgo possession of. Happily, circumstances assist his restraint, sometimes difficult, but if he has sufficient status and wealth, he can have a lot of casual
encounters or affairs with women he feels compulsively attracted to. This used to be the case for keeping of concubines, but again, whose number is limited. In other words, in sexuality, infinity is the number of women that a man needs to satisfy him – clearly an irrational propect. In being faithful to four wives or seventy, he is just as honorable as a man faithful to one, and just as liable to stray.

It is the very insatiability of sex that makes a man, any man, early realise its irrational character: one simply cannot have sex with every woman one desires. Marriage, as St Paul sees it, is for those who cannot abstain from sexual longings, as he, St Paul imagines it, whereby 'It is better to marry than to burn' (1 Cor 7:9). He imagines that in marriage a man can tap all his cravings in a sexual relationship with one woman; and since marriage is a sacrament a man does no wrong. He too misses the point of the insatiability of sex. However, St Augustine of Hippo several centuries later states that the very act of sex is wrong - even in marriage, since it entails lust. Perhaps Augustine gets to the root of the problem: there is no immune state from lust, not even in marriage. Marriage is still a holy union, but it is not sustained on sexual libido, but, ideally, on a union of souls by divine grace, whereby the two, man and woman, are joined in a chaste love, raised in the sacrament to be of the nature of Christ's love for the church, which sustains them through the trials of this life, and is indeed the path of their mutual salvation.

Such idealism may be sustained in a community of believers; where indeed there are records of man and wife living together in exemplary chastity; but when the Christian society gradually becomes infected with worldly values, with the widening of the gulf from the early Christian community, indeed, into the overturning of ideals of the Roman Catholic Church in the new age of Renaissance and Reformation, the irrational impulses of sexuality are attempted to be rationalised, influencing art and literature, and, come to think of it, Mohammed in his ideas of the reward with many wives.

This attitude is, as explained, self-defeating for the insatiability of man's sexual appetite; who will only be satisfied in a marriage of souls, such as Mohammed himself had with his first love and wife, with common ideals expressing itself as a love of the members of a community, in which sexual impulses are to be restrained. The idea of 'wives' as a reward implying fulfilled sexual pleasure is both illusory as it is dis-functional. Death is the end of sexuality, the life to come is one in spirit and in truth, Christians believe, in union with and by the merits of Christ risen from the dead, who personifies the Divine Truth and Righteousness. There is the ecstasy of the saints.

02/01/2013 22:30 PM

Comment Dear Mr. Jehangir:
I believe that the 'index of faith' is what 'religious commoners' perceive it to be, and not what its 'religious preachers' postulate about it.

BS Murthy
02/01/2013 11:36 AM

Comment Dear Mr. Murthy, you wrote a very good artical about Islam . All you need is to sit down with a scholar of Islam and get it straight , I mean get the answers of your questions . I hope someone can satisfy you. God bless you , please keep reading about Quran and its message .

m. jehangir
02/01/2013 07:32 AM

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