The menace of Quran marriages is perhaps the most horrifying and despicable practice in Pakistan. The phenomenon seems to prevail in high ratio in the Sindh province where large number of feudals, including leading politicians marry off single women in their families to the Quran to prevent their share of the land going to them and thus avoid redistribution of land.
Obviously, this is abusive and un-Islamic.This heinous practice has nothing to do with religion. It’s about greed, power and control. What bothers me the immensely is that Islam does NOT give men limitless power to abuse women when they are given the status of ‘head of the household’.
As head of the household it does not allow them to legitimize their abuses. In trying to legitimize this barbaric behavior, the Holy Quran and Islam have been badly abused. Its sick beyond imaginations that Muslim men are walking scotch-free by giving such a horrific tradition a religious twist, thereby integrating it in the prevailing patriarchal mind-set. This allows easy penetration within the society and a sick acceptance because of the Islam tag. It is beyond any rational explanation that such a marriage to the Holy Quran is supposed to elevate the status of the women and brings an increase in the so-called honor to her and her family.
The next thing that bothers me is that this particular “honor” crime against women feeds in to the already bad image of Islam and Muslims across the globe. The world also does not look beyond the usual Islamophobiac prejudice and hatred against the Muslims. Frankly, when faced with Quran Marriage issue, who would really look at us without being disgusted or appalled.
But. I feel the strong need of awareness on Islamic issues, such as this, where Quran is being tampered with to endorse heinous crimes do need to take place in a neutral, non-threatening and constructive manner. More than often we rely on media to provide us with facts, updates and information. But on issues such as these, media continues to be a key-player in assisting the Islamophobic doctrine and the monstrous image of Islam across the globe.
In today’s world, the main-stream media is responsible for the creation of fears, irrational and illogical, mostly because gory bearded killers sell like hot cakes. More than often its a case of just plain,bad journalism. The attitudes within media are very discouraging and disappointing, social issues which are an integral part of any society are either ignored or deliberately sensationalized. The overall media reporting on Quran marriages lacks the authenticity, situational context and more than often it’s sob stories.
Parachuting from Paris to get a sob-story of a poor village woman in Southern Punjab, Pakistan is considered the wow-factor for many wanna-be journalists. More than often the wanna be uses his or her stereotypical image of Islam, women in articulating the story or giving it a brutal twist. This is just one example, and no am not singling out any particular media from that city. The media reporting from Pakistani local channels is equally sensationalized too.
The other huge obstacle due to which under-reporting of the issue maintains, is the lack of credible data on this issue. As its prevalence is observed in high-class elite Muslim feudal clans, more than often it’s very dangerous to find real-case studies or meet with an affected woman. Most of the times, they are locked behind huge castles, villas and are not publicly accessible. In trying to find one such person, the elites fury can be roused and end up in disastrous situations for the reporter.
This issue is far by extremely important, therefore today let’s meet Professor Habib Rehman, who teaches at the International Islamic University, Islamabad. In addition he’s also an expert at Islamic marriage laws and regulations. The interview unfolds on his thoughts about the prevalent custom of women’s marriages with the Holy Quran.
Question 1: Does Islam approve of Quran Marriages under any conditions?
Professor Rehman: Well before I begin we should understand that marriage is to be between two human beings only. Whenever the Quran or the Prophet talked about marriage it was about a relationship and a bond between a man and a woman. In the Islamic law, any person has to choose a spouse. This right of choosing could be a man or a woman’s. Then you have to take approval from the selected person. Acceptance should be from both sides. This acceptance should be openly announced and at the time of approval also the decision for the Haq Mehr (the Islamic financial responsibility of money pledged by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage) should be decided and agreed upon. When people try to stop marriages unnaturally they resort to such wrong and foolish customs. The marriage to Quran or a ‘thing’ is strictly unnatural. It is important to know the motives behind such customs. Quran marriages are held to retain the share of the daughter’s inheritance because if the daughter marries outside the family the property and assets would have to be divided. For worldly gains, many people started using this cruel custom against their daughters and sisters. During my time as a marriage counselor, I have also witnessed that there were cases when the women were not allowed to marry at all, sometimes several women were married to trees, objects etc. This is strictly unnatural, un-Islamic and inhuman. This is a crime in Islam because two rights, right of marriage and right of inheritance of women are violated.
Question 2: Such customs are prevalent in many parts of Pakistan. What do you believe are the collective effects on the society?
Professor Rehman: Society develops through humans, its people. In a society where Quran marriage victims live, obviously she is part of that society too. If she is being forbidden for her natural rights to live and develop relationships, she will resort to other methods. Many a times, women’s lives are destroyed forever due to this ignorant custom. Also there are more chances of spreading negative customs, breaking family ties but worse the affected woman is shattered. Such customs are cruelties against humanity. Whoever are involved in such heinous customs must remember that they will have to answer for their deeds one day.
Question 3: It is also been observed that if a family is unable to find a spouse for their daughter, sister, they resort to marrying the said woman to the Quran. What do you have to say about it?
Professor Rehman: You have to take into account that according to the teachings of Islam, all men and women are offspring of Adam and also they are born equal. So if any man or woman is from an elite Islamic family clan example: the Syeds, or not, it does not make him/her any better than the other. In Islam it is clearly stated that you were divided into tribes and clans for recognition only, not to make one clan better than the other. Only the one who is better in morals and character is better than the other. So if people think that since our family is better than others and our daughter cannot marry into that family, it is wrong to think so. It is totally against Islam. The Islamic teachings and the Islamic philosophy endorse that all humans are born equal. The conditions that apply for suitable marriage should be that Muslims should preferably marry a Muslim of good character and morals. This applies to both Muslim men and women alike. room, if he is able to pay the dowry money and to earn a lawful livelihood.In order that problems should not arise after marriage, it is recommended that in the selection of a spouse, both the groom and the bride should meet before the betrothal lest blindness of choice or an error of judgment should defeat the very purpose of marriage. But this “seeing” is not to be taken as a substitute for the “courtship”. The man should not behave in a sleazy manner as to make the woman uncomfortable. The purpose of the meeting is to get an acquaintanceship with each other’s personality and looks. Since believing men and women are referred to in the Quran, a woman also has the right to look at her potential husband.
Question4: If a woman who is married to a Quran and gets a suitable option to marry a man, can she change her decision?
Professor Rehman: Of course yes. She has full right to marry a man of her choice. Quran marriage is no marriage at all. It is wrong to think that if a woman if forcefully married to Quran, then she cannot marry a man. Whenever that woman finds a suitable match, she can marry of her own accord. Because in Islamic point of view, she’s still unmarried and can exert her choice to get married to a man. The marriage of a woman with a Holy Book is not considered a “real marriage” in Islam because there is no law stating that a human being can marry an object etc. Further more, Islam does NOT allow or encourage detaching from the world for the sake of religion. The women who are married off to the Holy Quran live an isolated, prison style of life. They do not mingle in the society or public eye, they are completely devoted to just pray and spend time solely in religious duties. That is unnatural and inhumane. When in Islam, becoming a monk or nun is very seriously discouraged, nor is it seen as the height of piety or devotion… how can the families claim that it’s permissible or a right, that get enforced on a women? Such lifestyle is considered going against the forces of nature and human nature. To tamper Islam to make women to trust this logic is a crime, it’s ludicrous and terrifying in particular for the women.
To counter the Quran marriage issue, several steps have been taken on a religious as well as legal level within the country. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has unanimously approved a draft bill aimed at eliminating the inhuman customs of marrying a woman to the Holy Quran by declaring them un-Islamic. Last year, after much debate and mobilization the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill, was finally passed after being debated on for three years.
According to the Law, punishment will be in place for depriving women of their share of hereditary property, imposition of forced marriages against a woman’s will and in particular arranging a marriage of a Pakistani woman with the Quran. For this specific crime, the law states clearly that it is”against the Sharia Law to violate a woman’s life by binding her to a book, ; imposing forced marriage on a woman; and arranging marriage of a woman with Quran.
The law further states that whoever compels or arranges or facilitates the marriage of a woman with the Holy Quran shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend to seven years which shall not be less than three years and shall be liable to be fined of five hundred thousand rupees. The most positive thing in the law is that the offenses mentioned in it would be non-compoundable, therefore, an accused could not be pardoned even if after a compromise takes place between the two parties.
With what can be termed a victory for women rights in Pakistan, such moves might help in eradication of socially acceptable crimes, such as Quran Marriages.