By D Asghar
February 20, 2016
We are told that in the days of ignorance, the Bedouins buried their female infants at birth. The girls were considered a major burden and a liability. They were perhaps a significant source of potential shame and a presumed threat to the familial honour, should their wayward actions happen to challenge societal norms. But we are also told that with the advent of Islam, the same females were given their due right and status in an otherwise utterly ignorant and intolerant society.
You fast forward to this day and age, and thank God for people not burying their female infants alive but the rest, with all due respect, is more or less relatively similar. The holy scriptures address both men and women simultaneously and repeatedly to impress the point that both are considered equal in the eyes of their Creator.
In the guise of edicts and morality, all kinds of absurdities are unleashed and enforced as the will of God. Before this poor scribe gets chastised as usual as some ultra-leftist liberal trying to go on a limb to further the nefarious agenda of the west, let me clarify that I do not box myself into either the liberal or conservative category. That is basically a way of negating your brain’s rational thinking. I have shades of both in me and my actions depend on each individual instance.
What perplexes me the most, as a sinful mortal, is whether a woman has to be covered head to toe and subjected to the confines of her home. Ever wondered who would marry a walking tent? Because in the teachings, it is also mentioned that a woman can marry a man of her own free will. Without complicating the scenario any further, who would ask for the hand of a person in this day and age with only a pair of eyes being the most visible organ? Rationally, the facts on the ground do the least to promote this much-touted free will.
Then the argument is presented that a woman has to be fully covered or else her features will lure a man towards sin. So this, in simple terms, this means that a man is unable to control his desires and the moment he is able to see a beautiful female, he will go totally bonkers. There is no denying that the Holy Scripture commands that women not display their beauty as a tool but, in the same vein, commands men to lower their gaze as well. How often do you see men (including this scribe) able to live up to that requirement? However, all societal pressure is laid on the female as she is the one who instigates the poor, righteous man with her seemingly seductive moves.
Men typically put their entire burden of familial honour on the poor daughter should she go slightly astray. The extent of this honour obsession is not limited to patriarchal societies but is the venomous mindset that most people carry with them, no matter where they reside. The news of honour killings of girls by their own family members in European countries very sadly brings these horrific incidents to the fore. So far, I have never read a single piece of news where a boy has been beaten to death by family members for dating or, in the extreme case, having a pre-marital affair.
Deep down inside such lunatics are not observant of their faith or religion. If they were, they would first seek four witnesses who would testify that they had seen the commission of the act of adultery with their own eyes. Anything short of that is hearsay and to kill someone on hearsay does not bring any feathers to the honour of the family. When you dig deeper, the abhorrent act is only a rotten fear of the ridicule of so-called pious society. The pressures of conforming to the norms of a pious and righteous society make parents so off-balance that they go to the extent of murdering their own children. As if the parents have led their life without an iota of any other sin on their shoulders.
I am often reminded of the two lines we get to read before our prayers. In my poor translation, they go something like this: I seek refuge from the devious devil and begin with the name of God Almighty, who is the most beneficent and merciful. Often these lines ring in my head and I wonder if people even pay attention to these two lines. Because if they did, they would never act like the ignorant Bedouins who used to kill their female infants at birth and at once. I wonder if the most Honourable will shower His mercy on us despite the ugliness of our sins. When will these self-righteous folk ever seek refuge from their own ugly devils?
D Asghar is a Pakistani-US mortgage banker.