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Women in Islam

What does dowry mean? Jahez or Mehr….

Written and Narrated by: Rabia Nazir

The literal meaning of dowry stands as ‘gift or present’. In a south-Asian society, dowry is referred to as a collection of household items, jewellery, and cash given as gift to the bride by her family at the time of marriage. Happily or unhappily, changing its form from time to time, dowry is in practice in almost all social strata of Pakistan commonly known as ‘Jahez’. Jahez has been adopted from pre-partition times in subcontinent when Muslims and Hindu used to live together in an integrated society. In Hinduism, the custom of dowry emerged due to the lack of inheritance rights of women. Hence dowry at the time of marriage could be thought of financial security to the bride while preventing the division of family assets. As I have discussed the inheritance right for women in Islam in my previous article, it clearly makes no sense of jahez in the name of ‘dowry’ according to Islamic teachings.

Quran has frequently used the word of ‘dower’ while laying out the matters on family life. Let’s see what does it mean? Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And give the women their dowries with a good heart…” [4:4]

“…All others have been made lawful for you provided you seek (them in marriage) with your property…” [4:24]

These verses from Quran refer to ‘mehr’ as ‘dowry’ given to the bride from the groom. Mehr solely belongs to her and at her disposal. It does not belong to her guardians, husband and anyone else unless she willingly foregoes it. I have come across a misconception from people who interpret ‘dowry’ as ‘jahez’. They refer to the event of marriage of Hazrat Fatima (R.A), the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) when she was given basic household items including cooking utensils and mattresses etc. A little deeper study about the household of Prophet (P.B.U.H) makes it clear that the modest dowry of Hazrat Fatima (R.A) was purchased with the money that Hazrat Ali (R.A) offered as ‘mehr’ by selling his only sword to Hazrat Usman (R.A). It surely did not cost anything to Prophet Mohammad (P.B.BU.H).

The craze of ‘Instagram weddings’ is increasing as ever with enormous amount of money wasted on designer dresses, venues, photography and so on! The average cost of a reasonably ‘OK’ wedding in Pakistan may range anywhere 1,500,000 – 3,000,000 PKR. The most loving and caring parents on earth perceive the weddings of their children as one of the most financially challenging events in their lives. For a working couple, sometimes the cost of wedding exceeds their own annual income and even the average per capita income of our developing homeland. I have been curious to understand the reason behind this craze, so I decided to have an informal discussion around my acquaintances. Surprisingly, hardly any man supported the highly budgeted week-long series of celebrations whereas much to my disappointment these are the ladies who are pushing the boundaries. Almost every girl dreams of a fancy wedding from very early age but it has not been of any benefit in future. This has now slowly been turned into unspoken expectations and shameless demands from both sides of families which often lead to distance and frustration in the life of newly wedded couple afterwards.

I am sorry to say that we women themselves are playing a vital role in their own exploitation. We are to remind ourselves that our religion has granted enormous dignity to the woman who should not be traded-off like an object in the exchange of valuables. I am sure that we all love to be desired and respected in our relationships. Let me please include myself too to say that our worth cannot be calculated by the number of ‘thumbs-up’ for how exclusive was the ceremony. Please support your fathers, brothers, and life partners to say ‘NO’ to big-fat desi weddings. I wish everyone of you realise your real worth!!!

 

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Categories
Women in Islam

A Fair Deal

Written and narrated by: Rabia Nazir

The act of inheritance has a long history in human race and is also not spare from the effect of religion. The laws of inheritance are diverse round the globe due to cultural and religious influences. For instance, In the Old Testament (Torah) it is said,

“Therefore, tell the Israelites; if a man dies without leaving a son, you shall let his heritage pass on to his daughter; if he has no daughter, you shall give his heritage to his brothers; if he has no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his father’s brothers; if his father had no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his nearest relative in his clan who shall then take possession of it.” (Numbers 27, 8-11)

Unlike other religions, a Muslim can generally do whatever he wants with his wealth during his life but his will have certain restrictions according to Islamic Law. In continuation of my series of podcasts about general misunderstandings about the ‘financial standing of a Muslim women’, today I am opening up the debate on the practices in our society regarding the inheritance rights of women. A great beauty of our religion is that woman ‘inherits’ and is also entitled to receive share from the property of her close male relatives such as father, husband etc. The Islamic laws of inheritance for women has also been clearly laid out in Surah Al Nisa:

(Allah commands you as regard to your children’s (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females. [4:11]

Here, I shall also refer to an incident from the life of the companion Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas who was a wealthy man and had only one daughter. He was on death-bed and requested to bequest most of his wealth as charity, or a half of it. The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) forbade him and only allowed him to give a third, and said:

“A third and a third is a lot, and it is better that you leave your heirs wealthy rather than leave them needy begging from the people. You will not spend anything seeking Allah’s countenance, but you receive a reward for that expenditure, even the morsel of food you put into your wife’s mouth.” [Bukhari #2591 & Muslim #1628]

As a general principle daughter have a right to half the share of their brothers or 2/3 if there are no brother/s with further differences depending on the configuration of the family and depending on the sect. Family law has been amended to favour and recognize women’s inheritance rights even if this is in conflict with social practices. The Constitution of 1973 broadly speaking also protects women’s inheritance and the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act, 2011 specifically prohibits women’s disinheritance with section 498 A (Prohibition of depriving woman from inheriting properly) and 498 C (Prohibition of marriage with the Holy Quran). However, inheritance rights though present in white and black are often denied due to socio-cultural practices. One of World Bank’s report on gender gap between policy and practice with respect to family law in Pakistan has shown that only 5% of women own a piece of land as compared to 45% of men in the possession of land.

The most common belief I have seen is that ‘dowry is the substitute or at least a part of the inheritance’ for a girl. The concept of dowry itself needs a separate discussion and I shall come to that in a later script.  I believe that we all have witnessed one of those high-budget wedding ceremonies at some point where a great deal of money is spent on a series of unnecessary formalities. For a middle-class family with two or three daughters, it is a heavy financial burden on earning hands to get them married even in a respectable manner. However, fear of being looked down upon by the society is the driving force to become a part of this practice.

Now, the other side of the coin shows an entirely different story. The girls who were once a part of well-established families and were married off like princesses were denied of their inheritance rights later. This is usually done by close male relatives from her own family including brothers, cousins or other male relatives. Because a Muslim woman is also entitled for a share in her deceased husband’s property, I have seen widows struggling with life due to denial of their inheritance rights by their husband’s families. If, unfortunately, she is not educated or skilled enough to support herself, how would she survive?

Our society is full of sealed lips who are deprived of their justified rights. These are lips of ‘happily married’ women who are afraid of speaking for inheritance because they may lose family-ties with their parental families in the time of need. They are silent to keep up appearances because it can jeopardize her relations with her in-laws who would tease her for having no respectful place in her father’s family. Getting legal advice and help from court is also a matter of shame and disrespect for them and their families.

I want to put this question forward that if it is ‘OK’ to spend loads of money on wedding in which clearly there is no financial security for the bride why is it not ‘OK’ for her to receive a legitimate share from the property of her father which will put her in a much more secure financial status?

It is perfectly fine to spend money on wedding if someone can happily afford it, however it should not be done with the expectation of ‘dismissing’ the inheritance rights of the bride. ‘Dowry is an option’ whereas ‘Inheritance is a right’. Let’s not substitute the ‘inheritance’ with ‘dowry’, lets replace ‘dowry’ with ‘inheritance’ and give our daughters and sisters a secure future. Household items given in the name of dowry will not support her on a rainy day, but a small piece of land will! Isn’t it a fair deal?

 

 

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Categories
Women in Islam

A working Muslim lady? Who owns the income…

Written and Narrated by: Rabia Nazir

Men and women have been created to run the cycle of life in harmony yet with diversity. While a Muslim woman has been freed from the obligation of breadwinning for the family, her core role is to strengthen the family ties; most importantly raising the off springs as good human beings as her contribution to the society as well as Islam. However, Islam does not restrict the women inside the four walls of the house. We can find many examples of working ladies from early era of Islamic revolution. Hazrat Khadeeja (R.A), the first wife of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him), was a successful and in fact the wealthiest businesswoman in the Makkah at that time. Thus, Muslim women have right to get a degree, have a career choice, run a business, and own a property. They are also entitled for inheritances in the property of guardian. I shall try to cover all aspects (focusing on the false believes) associated with the financial standing of women in Islam in my upcoming podcasts. Today, I want to dust off massive misunderstanding about the right of a woman on her own income.
A Muslim women, no matter how rich she is, is NOT responsible for spending her income on her family. It is solely man’s responsibility to provide for the life essentials for his family (parents, wife, and children). While wife in principle is not obliged to spend, she can with her free will and if she does, it will be regarded as favour (ehsaan) for her husband. I will narrate an incident here for endorsement from the wife of `Abdullah ibn Masud (may Allah be pleased with him). She used to work and earn a living. On one occasion, she asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) if she could donate her money to her poor husband, to which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Yes, and you will be rewarded twice.”(An-Nasa’i). In addition, wife is always entitled for the monthly pocket money from her husband even if she is working herself unless she willingly gives up on it or the marriage itself dissolves. It is also clearly having been said is Quran:

“Whatever men earn, they have a share of that and whatever women earn, they have a share in that.” (Quran 4:32]

Here our society shows a disappointing face where apparently, even in conservative families, women are supported to seek degrees and work but not many of them actually sum up the courage to speak about their access to their own salaries. I personally know many examples where all their income is snatched or at least she faces restriction on spending her money out of free will. The worst case scenario is physical and mental torture in case of refusal and making her to beg for each penny for basic personal needs. It is mostly practiced in labour class and lower middle class where family is financially dependent on few earning hands (including a women in many cases) but mature working couples are no exception to it. In my acquaintances, I have also known to examples where wife’s salary is credited in husband’s account and she is not allowed to maintain her own bank account. Limited income resources coupled with the intense desire to win the race of ‘social status’ lead to the need of controlling the spending rights of woman in poor. While the ‘so-called open-minded’ men are also afraid of financial independency of a woman. It makes me even sadder when I see well-educated men treating their daughter and wives like a dumb cow. While an educated working wife is a nice show-off to the society, at the same time they hypocritically believe that financially independency makes women strong in head. Such a women becomes difficult to control and hard to please. A girl who has earned a degree after spending at least 16-18 years and who have tasted out-door life during education and work should not be trusted enough to spend her money wisely?
This clarification comes with some other aspects too. Of course, the decision of pursuing a career is based on the understanding between husband and wife; it should be a good-will gesture from husband to his lady that he respects her desire to grow intellectually and financially. While many of men might not be ‘narrow-minded’, the fear of disapproval from friends and family greatly affects their thinking pattern. The career choice also matters a lot; academia and health industry based professions are happily acceptable for women in our society, whereas women in technical and trade oriented careers struggle much more and face greater challenges from male fellow colleagues and family members.
I have dared to open up the discussion on this sensitive aspect of a working lady. I have witnessed sufferings happening to my colleagues/friends and stayed silent thinking in my head that ‘It is someone’s personal matter’ or ‘It is their right way to fix their girls’. In my opinion, the real issue is the lack of authentic knowledge as well as the cultural acceptance of the rights for women that Allah has granted those 14 centuries ago. Not raising my finger to anyone but I simply accept my responsibility to raise my son(s) with respect for a women’s right and be a real man who is not afraid of his wife’s or daughter’s independence. If you are a young educated girl too, would you promise me the same?
We, at Meer-e-Karwan, thrive to ‘change the thinking’ about the least cared or talked about social aspects affecting our everyday lives. Please be open to share your experiences and opinions about today’s topic with us!!

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