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Court postpones decision on SIS book ban reversal (25 June 2012)
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Court postpones decision on SIS book ban reversal

UPDATED @ 09:53:40 PM 25-06-2012
June 25, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — The Court of Appeal today delayed its decision on the the status of a book published by Sisters In Islam (SIS) to July 27, which was banned about four years ago.

The book, titled “Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism”, was banned by the Home Ministry on July 21, 2008 on the grounds that it would threaten public order.


The ban was challenged in court where High Court judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof overturned the government’s decision on January 25, 2010.


However, the government filed an appeal against the High Court decision on February 3, 2010, more than two years ago.


“The case was heard in full, but the judges deferred their decision to July 27 because they wanted to consider the matter further,” Suri Kempe from SIS told The Malaysian Insider when contacted today.


Both sides were able to make their submissions, with the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) raising three arguments on behalf of the government, said Suri.


She said the AGC’s first contention was that the High Court judge went beyond his jurisdiction.

It further asserted “the High Court judge was too restrictive in the reading of the word ‘public order’”, saying he should have allowed for the word “likelihood” when interpreting Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

SIS had earlier pointed out that that during the book’s circulation two years before the ban, “there was no evidence that public order had been threatened as a result of the book’s contents”.


The last argument raised by the AGC was that SIS and the respondents had no legal right to be heard as the Act did not contain such a provision.


Suri said SIS’s lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (picture), had rebutted the first point by saying “the judge recognised his role in judicial review and that he centred his judgment on the ban order itself.”

Malik also told the court that the home minister’s ban had “encroached (upon) a fundamental right of the publisher” and made the right to be heard even more important.
SIS had last week said the book is a compilation of scholarly essays and “highlights areas and approaches that are problematic with regards to the administration of Islam in Malaysia, in particular the implementation of Islamic Family Law and syariah criminal laws.” Presiding over today’s hearing were Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail, Datuk Clement Allan Skinner and Mah Weng Kwai.
Source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/court-postpones-decision-on-sis-book-ban-reversal/
Eight reasons why books should not be banned (24 June 2012)
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Eight reasons why books should not be banned

June 24, 2012

JUNE 24 — On Monday, June 25, 2012, Sisters in Islam (SIS) will be in court again. This time around, the Government of Malaysia is appealing a High Court decision that lifted the ban on a book published by SIS, “Muslim Women and the Challenge of Extremism.”

The book was first banned on July 31, 2008, on the premise that it was “prejudicial to public order.” Other reasons cited by the Ministry of Home Affairs were fears that the book would “confuse Muslims, particularly Muslim women” and “those with shallow knowledge of Islam.” SIS appealed against the decision, and on January 25, 2010, Justice Mohamad Ariff Md. Yusof lifted the ban. His reasoning was that there was no evidence that the book had created a public order problem during the two years it had been in circulation.

He also concluded that the minister’s decision was “an error in law” — that the decision was illegal, irrational, and “wholly disproportionate” — to the argument made.

Justice Ariff’s decision was significant as it applied two recent Federal Court decisions which ruled that the court had the right to objectively review a minister’s discretion to be unreasonable.

However heart-warming the Honourable Judge’s decision was, it is disconcerting to note that book-banning in Malaysia is not an isolated practice. Over the years, we have seen a host of other books axed, the most recent being Irshad Manji’s “Allah, Liberty and Love.”  She is joined by a long list of international and local authors, including John Esposito and Karen Armstrong (two Christian academics considered among the most sympathetic to Islam), Khalil Gibran, Kassim Ahmad, Faisal Tehrani and cartoonist Zunar. What is even more alarming today is that the religious authorities are using provisions under the Syariah Criminal Offences law to charge a book store manager for selling a book they deem “offensive.”

While the list of books being banned is growing, the reasons given for their banning are not. The most oft-repeated reasons include the “tendency to confuse”, “tarnishing the sanctity of Islam”, “contrary to a fatwa” or “causing suspicion and public anxiety.”

Book-banning is the precursor to far more dangerous and insidious developments. The collateral damage created in such a climate of paranoia is only to our detriment.Here are eight fundamental reasons why book-banning should stop.

1. Ban a book, close a mind
Book-banning is an attempt to stop free flow of thought, ideas and information, usually the kind that does not conform to mainstream views. In Malaysia, the argument is that these ideas may potentially create confusion, disrupt public order, and/or are allegedly against a religion.History shows that many banned publications are now visionary and brave observations that promoted “sacrilegious” ideas, for example, the idea that the Earth is round, not flat. Choking knowledge is one effect of book-banning but there is deeper injury inflicted on society.It sends a menacing signal, eventually nurturing fear of knowledge. A frightened mind is a closed mind, one that cannot create or produce a bright future.

2. What on earth are we thinking?
Authorities that ban books ostensibly believe that people cannot think for themselves. When people are barred from thinking, ideas are created in isolation. These inevitably clash with reality, or have no connection to it.Ironically, this is a key factor that creates confusion in society, creating fertile ground for the very same disorder the authorities claim they are trying to prevent. Allowing free flow of thought, however, gives individuals the opportunity to engage and interact with new ideas, creating vibrant intellectual activity and discernment. Robust ideas will withstand critique and argument.

3. Two thumbs down for the education system?
A good education system produces individuals who can think critically and with conscience. The widespread banning of books is an acknowledgement of the failure of the existing education system.It is a clear signal that we have failed to produce Malaysians who can tell the difference between knowledge and ignorance. Ironically (once again) the authorities’ actions indicate that the problem lies not in the book, but in an education system that produces easily confused, disruptive and disrespectful citizens.

4. A monopoly of ideas
In a democratic society, it is only logical that those who are responsible for public administration must always be open to criticism. In fact, as citizens we have the right to voice our opinions, more so on the policies that govern and impact our daily lives.However, when an authority perceives its interpretations or solutions are challenged, book-banning provides a means by which to stifle this criticism. In Malaysia and in the context of Islam in particular, book-banning is an attempt by the religious authorities to monopolise the discourse to only those who subscribe to one particular point of view.Freedom of expression is a universal value guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in the teachings of Islam.

5. Irksome, ineffective and irrelevant
The ostensible reason for banning a book is to stop it from being read. But all publicity is good publicity. A ban merely arouses curiosity and books that otherwise would not have garnered much interest will now be sought out by many more online.Moreover, barriers to information have been decimated by the Internet. Not only can one buy a banned book online, one can easily gather the “taboo” information with a few smart search words. A single email from one individual to another can go viral, hitting the inboxes and social media accounts of thousands worldwide.This phenomenon is anything but new. Those who think books should be banned are simply exposing themselves as commodities that have long passed their sell-by date.

6. Is this where our taxes go?
When a book is banned, the relevant government authorities mobilise resources, both human and financial, to raid bookstores and publishers, and seize the books. The cost of this exercise in futility is borne by the taxpayers when funds should instead be spent in ways that enrich, not cripple, the rakyat.

7. The knowledge economy
We hear much about Malaysia becoming a knowledge-based society in mainstream news, an idea that is publicly promoted by authorities. The banning of books and the knowledge and ideas within them is in direct contradiction to realising this goal.A stunted mind cannot be a resource for growth in a knowledge economy and will leave Malaysia far behind, as the world races ahead towards a higher quality of life.

8. Fundamental liberties in Islam
Islam is clearly based on principles of justice, equality and fairness. All the points above show
Government Appeal on KL High Court Decision on SIS Book (23 June 2012)
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Government Appeal on KL High Court Decision on SIS Book

On 25 June 2012, the Court of Appeal will hear the Minister of Home Affairs’ appeal against the High Court decision to lift the ban on a book published by Sisters in Islam (SIS).

The book, Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism was first banned by the Government on 21 July 2008. High Court judge Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof overturned the ban on 25 January 2010, ruling that the book is not a threat to public order. The High Court’s decision was appealed by the Government on 3 February 2010.


In his full written judgement, the learned Judge explained there are no objective facts to show that the book would “disturb public order, confuse Muslim women or confuse those with shallow knowledge of Islam”. Moreover, the book had been in circulation for over two years prior to the ban. During this time, there was no evidence that public order had been threatened as a result of the book’s contents.


He also concluded that the Minister's decision constituted "an error in law"  on the grounds of  'illegality' and 'irrationality' and that it was  'wholly disproportionate' to the concern expressed.


The book is a compilation of essays based on research carried out by renowned international scholars and activists. As Justice Mohamad Ariff rightly pointed out, the book is academic in nature. It highlights areas and approaches that are problematic with regards to the administration of Islam in Malaysia, in particular the implementation of Islamic Family Law and the Syariah Criminal laws.


These essays attempt to discuss issues that are related to the rights of Muslim women. The ability to maintain these rights are inexorably intertwined with freedom of expression. We must be able to openly discuss, without fear, critical issues that are related to Muslim women, in particular when they impact our everyday lives. In reversing the ban, the judge effectively safeguarded not only a constitutional liberty, namely freedom of expression, but a means by which to uphold women’s rights.


SIS maintains that Justice Mohamad Ariff’s decision was courageous, principled and commendable. We hope the Court of Appeal will honour and stand by the judicious decision made by the High Court.


Sisters in Islam

23 June 2012
Attack on Monogamy Campaign (30 July 2013)
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PRESS STATEMENT


Attack on Monogamy Campaign


SIS(Sisters in Islam)is disturbed by the insulting and misogynistic attack on our monogamy campaign made by a man who is clearly ignorant not only regarding our campaign, but also regarding the concept of marriage according to the divine principles of the syariah as provided in the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w.


This man refers to polygamy as "divine rights endowed to Muslim men". Does he think that in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah society in the Age of Ignorance, a man could only have one wife, and the Qur'an was revealed to "endow" men with the "rights" to have up to four wives? For his information, even the most basic look at history will show that in the pre-Islamic society, men were practising unlimited polygamy -- a man could have any number of wives that he pleased -- and it was the Qur'anic revelation which introduced reforms by restricting the maximum number of wives to four, as well as by commanding monogamy if there is fear of injustice to the women. Surah an-Nisa’ 4 : 3 states to the effect that:



If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four, but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one … that will be more suitable to prevent you from doing injustice.



Moreover, this verse in Surah an-Nisa’ was revealed after a battle (the Uhud battle) which had resulted in many men being killed, leaving behind many war widows and war orphans. As the breadwinners were chiefly men, the widows found it difficult to provide for their children. It was in this context that polygamy was tolerated in Islam, to provide for the welfare of widows and their orphaned children. In fact, it is remarkable that even in that post-war situation, the Qur’an discontinued the then-existing practice of unlimited polygamy.




From the historical point of view, polygamy was an institution that existed not only in pre-Islamic Arabia, but also in various civilizations, religions and cultures in many parts of the world. Polygamy was practised among the Jews, Chinese, Indian and Mormon Christians, until it was abolished by the laws. For instance, the United States of America banned polygamy under the Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, and the Mormon Church officially renounced polygamy in 1907 after their efforts to challenge the law in the Supreme Court were unsuccessful. In Malaysia also, polygamy was practised among the Chinese and Indian Hindu communities until it was forbidden under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act which came into force in 1982.




Unfortunately, with the abolition of polygamy among the people of other faiths, confusion has arisen among the ignorant members of the Muslim community who now regard polygamy as "divine rights endowed to Muslim men". As a result, those who are conscious of the true divine principles of the syariah and object to the abuse of polygamy  are subjected to insulting attacks by such ignoramus.




Those who support polygamy often refer to the Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and are probably ignorant of the fact that the Prophet (s.a.w.) was monogamous for more than twenty five years, i.e. throughout the lifetime of his first wife Siti Khadija (r.a.) and that his polygamous marriages after her death were to widowed or divorced women for political and tribal reasons. The only virgin he married was his second wife, Aishah (r.a.). There is also an authentic Tradition that the Prophet (s.a.w.) forbade his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib (r.a.) from marrying another woman unless Ali first divorces the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah (r.a.)  A great-granddaughter of the Prophet (s.a.w), Sakinah binti Hussein, a granddaughter of Ali and Fatimah, put various conditions in her marriage contract, including the condition that her husband would have no right to take another wife during their marriage



It is therefore clear that giving a wife such an option for obtaining a divorce through the marriage contract or ta’liq is not against Islamic teachings. It is not a new interpretation which has only arisen in these modern times. On the contrary, it is supported by traditional practices from the early days of Islam. It is not an innovation introducing anything that is unlawful, since divorce by ta’liq is also lawfulin Islam.




The ignoramus who assume that polygamy is a divine right endowed to Muslim men apparently assume that unilateral right to divorce is also a divine right endowed to Muslim men. Does he think that in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah society, men were unable to divorce their wives unilaterally, and the Qur'an was revealed to endow men with the unilateral right to divorce their wives as and when they please? For his information, the Qur'anic verses on divorce were revealed to impose some form of control on the men's pre-existing unilateral right of divorce. Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 229 states to the effect that:




the parties should either hold together on equitable terms (ma’ruf), or separate with kindness (ihsan)



The Qur'an also recommends arbitration as a means for resolving disputes between an estranged couple, and in this process, equal rights are granted to the husband and wife as Surah an-Nisa’ 4 : 35 provides that:



If you fear a breach between a married couple appoint (two) arbiters, one from among his people, and the other from among her people



The rights of divorced women are also safeguarded in the Qur'anic provisions. In addition to the iddah maintenance for a period of three to four months, there is a clear general injunction for the payment of reasonable compensation or financial provision (mut’ah). There is no specific form or limit for mut'ah, in Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 241 which states that:



For divorced women mut’ah (financial provision) (should be provided) on a reasonable (scale), this is a duty on the righteous.



The misogynist who attacks our monogamy campaign also attacks the whole issue of women's status in Islam, in his unwarranted, sarcastic and insulting remarks on the possibility of women wanting to marry up to a maximum of four, and on women being granted a unilateral right of divorce. His remarks on women wanting to marry up to a maximum of four is beneath contempt. However, regarding women's unilateral right of divorce however, for his information, historical research has shown some remarkable individual marriage contracts in the early days of Islam, where the husband had agreed that the wife should be equally entitled to dissolve the marriage unilaterally. This right through the marriage contract, known as 'isma, is discussed in classical Islamic jurisprudence and accepted by some of the classical jurists.




The pathetic mindset of some ignorant members of the Muslim community today has brought Islam and syariah into disrepute. These ignoramuses apparently think that the concepts of justice and equality between men and women in the family are notions foreign to Islam.  They pay lip service about not being "against women", but their whole attitude reveal the hypocrisy of such lip service, and their deep seated misogyny with their self-contradictory  assertions.  They accuse women who seek to expose the realities of injustice and suffering resulting from unfair practices by irresponsible men as stupid and absurd. These misogynists claim "divine rights endowed to Muslim men" without being aware of what is actually the letter and spirit of the divine revelations.

Sisters In Islam
30 July 2013



22 January 2002


In reference to the letter “It isn’t polygamy but the way its practiced” in New Straits Times, 14 January 2002, saying it is wrong and offensive to recommend a ban on polygamy for Muslims because it is the sunnah of the Prophet, we would like to correct the many misunderstandings about Prophets practice of polygamy.




Many Muslims who regard polygamy as the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw), forget or fail to fully understand the type of polygamy that the Prophet practised. First of all, the Prophet himself was monogamous throughout his 25 year marriage to his first wife Khadijah (r.a.), and his polygamous marriages after her death in the tenth year of his prophethood were to widowed or divorced women for political or tribal reasons. The only virgin he married was his second wife, Aishah (r.a.). He married a total of 11 times, and most of his marriages were to elderly widowed or divorced women with children, entered into for political and tribal reasons. The Prophet married his nine wives after Aishah within a space of 5 years and never divorced any of the women he was married to. The Prophet did not marry younger and prettier women to fulfill his desires. In fact, he practised polygamy within the realm of spreading Islam to the communities at the time. Unlike the other men, the Prophet was allowed to keep all his wives after the maximum four wives limit was imposed upon the previous practice of unlimited polygamy, but he was eventually prohibited from adding to his wives or divorcing any of them with a view to taking another wife in her stead (Surah al-Ahzab 33 : 52).




Many, if not most, polygamous marriages today share almost nothing in common with the Sunnah of the Prophet. It would be unjust and offensive for those who contract polygamous marriages today to even compare their justification for polygamy to the reasons that the Prophet practised it. Moreover, considering the Prophet’s monogamous marriage with Khadijah, if one were to strictly follow the sunnah of the Prophet, it would appear that a man should not take another wife at all during the lifetime of his first wife!



Many Muslims also forget the significance of the authentic hadith reported in Sunan ibn Majah that that even though the Prophet himself practised polygamy, he did not allow his son-in-law Saidina Ali ibn Abi Talib, to marry another woman “unless and until Ali ibn Abi Talib divorces my daughter (Fatimah) for surely she is part of me and what troubles and agitates her, troubles and agitates me too; and what harm befalls her befalls me too.”


It would therefore appear from this tradition that the first wife is fully entitled not only to know about the proposed polygamous marriage, but also to reject it by refusing her consent, as well as to demand a divorce should the husband persist in his desire as well as to demand a divorce should the husband persist in his desire. The letter and spirit of the Qur’anic verses, as well as the Sunnah of the Prophet, is concerned with the welfare of women and children who were left unprotected after their husbands and fathers were killed in battle. At the same time, it is also anxious to prevent injustice in the family. It may be said that the type of polygamy permitted or tolerated in Islam is not a “male right” but a “female privilege”, and as such it should not be desired only by the man, but should be understood and agreed upon by all the women involved as well – the existing wife and the proposed wife.


Accordingly, it is submitted that it is not wrong or offensive to suggest the possibility of a ban on polygamy for Muslims, especially at a time when there is no social emergency as a result of war, when marrying more than one wife may be a temporary for a social problem.



SURAT KEPADA PENGARANG

8 Januari 2002


Kami amat kesal dengan kenyataan Menteri Besar Perlis yang menyatakan bahawa soalan-soalan yang diajukan kepada beliau dan Mufti Perlis boleh menyebabkan kami syirik kecil. Adalah amat tidak wajar bagi seseorang yang mengaku dirinya berpelajaran agama untuk melabelkan orang yang seagama dengannya dengan cara begitu.


Agama Islam adalah amat teguh dan tiada apa yang boleh mengoyahkan kedudukannya. Ayat pertama yang turun merupakan perintah untuk belajar (Iqra'). Selaras dengan itu juga adalah menjadi tanggungjawab bagi mereka yang mengaku berpelajaran untuk bersikap terbuka dan turut terlibat di dalam perbincangan bagi mencapai matlamat syariah iaitu keadilan sejagat. Nabi Muhammad saw sendiri sentiasa terbuka untuk perbincangan dan tidak pernah menidakkan hak bersuara apalagi di kalangan wanita.



Persatuan wanita semasa mengajukan soalan dengan MB Perlis dan Mufti Perlis tidak pernah menyentuh kepada Hukum Syarak. Apa yang kami persoalkan adalah perlaksanaan Hukum Syarak oleh kerajaan negeri Perlis.



Surah an-Nisa' 4:3 menyatakan "Jika kamu takut bahawa kamu tidak akan berlaku adil tentang anak-anak yatim, maka kahwinlah olehmu perempuan yang baik bagimu; dua tiga atau empat. Tetapi jika kamu takut bahawa kamu tidak akan berlaku adil kahwinilah seorang sahaja…. yang demikian itu adalah lebih dekat (untuk mencegah) supaya kamu tidak melakukan kezaliman". Ayat 4:129 menyatakan "Kamu tidak akan mampu berlaku adil antara perempuan-perempuan itu, meskipun kamu sangat ingin akan demikian".

Kedua-dua ayat tersebut amat menekankan keadilan bagi suami yang ingin berpoligami. Sebaik-baik  saksi yang boleh memberi kesaksian samada suami adalah seorang yang adil adalah isteri sedia ada. Kami mempersoalkan rasional untuk tidak memanggil isteri sedia ada sebagai saksi sifat keadilan suami.


Kerajaan Perlis menyatakan bahawa mereka akan membuat siasatan ke atas keadilan suami tersebut tetapi saksi yang akan disiasat adalah saksi yang dibawa oleh suami yang ingin berpoligami ! Saksi yang dibawa oleh suami adalah berkemungkinan besar akan berat sebelah terhadap suami. Ia akan menyebabkan Mahkamah Syariah mengambil keputusan berdasarkan bukti-bukti yang berat sebelah dan memberi keputusan yang menyebabkan ketidakadilan.



Persatuan wanita tidak mempersoalkan bidangkuasa Mahkamah Syariah untuk menentukan samada suami tersebut boleh berpoligami. Kami inginkan Mahkamah Syariah untuk berlaku adil dan di dalam perkara permohonan berpoligami oleh suami, adalah adil bagi Mahkamah Syariah untuk memanggil isteri sedia ada sebagai saksi keadilan suami selama ini. Siapa lagi yang lebih arif mengenai sikap suami jika bukan isterinya?

Sikap angkuh kerajaan Perlis menidakkan kesaksian isteri sediada adalah amat tidak wajar. Juga sikap mereka mempertikaikan hak isteri pertama untuk sekurang-kurangnya dimaklumkan mengenai perkahwinan poligami suami. Sisters In Islam 8.01.2003
Yemen Strategies
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Summary of the Strategy The problem Early marriage Importance of the problem: It cuases: Physical, psychological and social damages to women. Deprivation of Education. Early Death. Reasons of the problem The Law The Father’s domination Customs and traditions Poverty Lack of awareness
 
Objective 
Amending the Law 
Setting legal limits for the age of marriage 
Punishment for those who do not obey the law
Women’s ability to express their own wills 
 
Points of Strength
We have legal experts
There is no incompatibility with sharī‘a
We have supportive organizations
The attitude of the government
 
Opportunities
The demands of the international community
The need for improving the government’s image
 
Points of weakness
Shortage of financial resources
Minimal support from the ulama
 
Threats
The government’s reluctance 
The presence of traditional groups 
 
Activities
Preparation of studies
Raising awareness activities
Broadcasting activities
Supporting activities
Financial activities
 
Timeframe
During one year  
 
Expectations
Reforming the law
 
*             *             *
 
The practice of early marriage, which entails forcing minor females to marry at early age, is the worst discriminatory behaviour experienced by Yemeni women. In addition to its physical, psychological and social damages on women, this practice hampers the social development of Yemeni society. 
 
The negative effects of early marriage might be summarised as follows:
1.                  Physical damages of minor females, which reflects on their general health conditions.
2.                  Depriving large number of girls from education and in consequence from participating in the labour force.
3.                   Early marriage and in effect, high fertility rates cause substantial incidents of early death among women.
4.                  Early marriage causes poor upbringing of children due to their mothers’ immaturity.
 
*        *            *
 
Our major objective is to stop this discriminatory practice, which represents a threat to the development of Yemeni society. Our previous studies and research inform us that there are key factors in the persistence of this phenomenon. They are summarised in the following:
 
Law
Yemeni law permits the marriage of minor females (M/15 Personal Status) by keeping the minimum age of marriage undefined. This is despite the existence of a legal clause that allows women to refuse or accept their marriage after reach puberty.
 
Dominance of the father
The father is considered the main breadwinner as he monopolises the means of production. He dominates the family and thus he can violate the rights of daughters to choose. This permits him to compel minor females to marry early.
 
Customs and traditional culture 
Traditional customs permit the father to exercise authority. Any refusal of his decision is viewed by society as violation of the socially accepted values. Customs and traditions view women as potential threat (‘ār) and therefore they have to be married as early as possible.
 
Poverty
Many families decide to marry their daughters early because they cannot bear their financial burden. Early marriage is also perceived as an ensuring mechanism of the daughters’ future. This is in the context of viewing marriage as the only secure future of daughters. 
 
Lack of awareness
Literal and legal illiteracy are crucial factors especially regarding the women’s right to choose. This should be seen in the context of traditional Islamic culture, which has not been developed to meet the needs of the present times. 
*             *             *
 
In an attempt to resolve this problem, we put forward solutions to eliminate its causes. We focus (in the coming period) on the LAW through a number of strategies for reform. 
 
Legal Reform allows us to achieve the following
 
1.                  Fix the minimum legal age of marriage by 18 years.
2.                  Endorse punishments in the legal text for those who do not comply with the legal age              
             of marriage.
3.                  Ensure the right of girls to express their will regarding their marriage.
 
*             *             *
 
We chose to focus on the legal amendments due to the following reasons:
 
First: Points of strength 
 
1.                  We have the legal expertise in our organisations to prepare well-versed legal suggestions.
2.                  The extremely damaging physical, psychological and social consequences of early marriage deem to convince others to accept our suggestions.
3.                  No incompatibility to be found between our reforming suggestions on the one hand and the Islamic sharī‘a and Yemeni culture on the other.
4.                  The project requires communication and coordination with the bodies that share with us the same concern. These are: International and Local Organisations, Political Parties, Parliament members and Legal Experts. 
5.                  The endorsement of the Yemeni government of a number of international treaties including CEDAW.
      
Second: Opportunities
 
1.                  International Organisations insist that the government should legislate laws that minimise discrimination against women.
2.                  The desire of the government to appear (internationally) as being against discrimination.
 
 
Third: Weaknesses
 
1.                  Our programmes will be hampered by our poor financial resources.
2.                  Currently, we lack support from the religious leaders. 
 
Fourth: Threats 
 
1.                  The government may hesitate from undertaking steps towards legal reform fearing that this may provoke fundamental social norms.
2.                  The traditional groups in society, especially in the parliament may succeed in felling our project. 
 
Activities
First:  Studies and researches
 
1.                  A scientific study will be prepared by a number of specialists to demonstrate the physical, psychological and social damages of early marriage. 
2.                  Another study will be prepared by a number of ulama to clarify the position of Islamic sharī‘a in this regard. It will use the findings of the scientific research to backup its arguments. 
3.                  The legal experts in our organisations will prepare a draft of the recommended legal amendments backed by the required justifications.
 
Second: Awareness raising activities
 
1.                  To organize a seminar for the key social groups (teachers, university students, media experts, mothers and fathers, etc) to discuss the negative consequences of early marriage.
2.                  To invite 150 religious preachers to attend several seminars to discuss the position of Islam regarding early marriage. An emphasis will be put on the role of preachers in restricting this practice.
 
Third: Media-related activities
 
1.                         To prepare a documentary film that highlights the damages of early marriages on women.
2.                         To write articles in the local newspaper to raise awareness regarding early marriage.
3.                         To publish four periodicals and two books.  
4.                         To raise awareness with regard to the problem in schools and universities by utilising the prepared documentary and the published studies.
 
Fourth: Supportive activities
 
1.                  To present our demands to the government for reforming the law.
2.                  To organise a meeting with the official authorities i.e. the ministry of Human Rights, The Committee of Women, the Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of legal Affairs to clarify the reason behind our demand and its conformity with the general policy of the government.
3.                  To convey our demands to the parliament in the name of legal organisations in Yemen.
4.                  To organise a protest in front of the parliament building. For this, we will invite the International Organisations to attend the event. This will involve the participation of legal figures, religious leaders and parliament members in addition to women who experienced this harmful practice.
5.                   To requesting the international Organisations to invite the Yemeni government to observe the relevant international treaties.
 
The budget
 
We will secure the financial resources through:
1.                  Membership fees and donations.
2.                  Donations from supporters.
3.                  Financial assistance from the supportive International Organisations.
 
At the end of our activities, an evaluation will be undertaken in order to achieve our long-term objective: 
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Press Statement on Child Marriage
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Sisters in Islam expresses its deep concerns over the decision by the Malacca Islamic Religious Council to relax the conditions for Muslim girls under the age of 16 and Muslim boys under the age of 18 to marry with the permission of the Syariah court, and to encourage parents to allow their minor children to marry.

We strongly urge the Council to reconsider its decision. Research conducted by UN agencies and women’s groups around the world point to the negative impact of child marriages on the wellbeing of minors and their educational and economic opportunities. Instead of encouraging child marriages, the State government should support the establishment of sexuality education and awareness-raising for students to empower them to make choices based on knowledge of their rights and mutual respect.

Sisters in Islam reiterates its position that in the Qur’an, marriageable age is linked to “sound judgment” and “maturity of mind” (Surah An-Nisa, verse 6). Puberty alone is not sufficient.

Furthermore, the decision by the Malacca Islamic Religious Council contradicts the letter and spirit of Child Act 2001, as well as human rights treaties ratified by Malaysia. Article 16(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) prohibits child marriage. Child marriages also violate the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which affirms that a child has an inherent right to life, health and education.

While we welcome the statement by Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil condemning child marriages as “morally and socially unacceptable”, we urge the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to work together with the Malaccan state government to sensitise policy makers and religious officials on the impact of child marriages.

We further urge the Malaysian Federal Government to amend civil and Islamic family laws to set the absolute minimum age to marry at 18 years.

Prof. Norani Othman

On behalf of Board of Directors

Sisters in Islam

Prophet Muhammad's wife A'isha: How Old was She at the Time of her Marriage?
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Summary by Muhammad Khalid Masud

With reference to questions about marriageable age, minor age marriages are justified quoting the precedent of A’isha marrying Prophet at the age of nine. In his book, Tahqiq Umar A’isha al-Siddiqa [(Truth about the age of A’isha the Truthful), Karachi: Mashkur Academy, No date of publication mentioned], Hakim Niyaz Ahmad, a scholar from Pakistan has examined all the report in almost all collections of Hadith and has come to the conclusion that A’isha married the Prophet when she was 19 years old.

His main findings are as follows:

1. The Hadith report about A'isha’s marriage at the age of nine is not reliable because:

a. All Hadith collections report this Hadith on the solitary authority of Hisham

b. Urwa. b. Hisham is generally accepted as a reliable person, but in his old age he had lost this prestige among the scholars in Medina. They do not accept his Hadith narrated in this period. Hisham narrated this story in around 145 AH when he was 84 years old. A’isha’s marriage took place in 2 AH, more than 140 years ago. It was the time when most of those who could verify the facts of his narration had died.

c. A’isha’s marriage was not an ordinary event that only one person would narrate it.

2. Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d, and other historical accounts of the life of the Prophet never fail to mention A’isha among the first group of people who embraced Islam. If A’isha were nine years old in 2 AH/624 AC she would be five years old in 610 AC, when Muhammad announced his Prohethood. It is rather more reasonable to assume that she was adult at that time, which means that she was certainly more than nine years old in the year she migrated to Medina.

3. Mishkat al-Masabih, Al-Bidaya wa’lNihaya, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, and al-Isti’ab, among the more well known sources clearly mention that A’isha was 10 years younger than her sister Asma.

4. Most sources, particularly Abu Na’im al-Isfahani suggests that Asma was 27 years old at the time of migration. It means A’isha was at least 17 years old at that time. The author disagrees with Isfahani, and calls it a miscalculation.  This calculation is based on the assumption that Asma is usually reported to have died at the age of 100 years in 73 AH.

Calculating backward and subtracting the period of 13 years of Meccan (100-73-13) she would be 14 years when she accepted Islam. That would mean that A’isha was only four years old when she embraced Islam. It is so unreasonable. Both Aisha and Asma must be old enough to qualify for accepting Islam. Therefore, we have to believe either that Asma was older than 100 years at the time of her death, or that there was not difference in their ages. This is plausible because they were born of different mothers.

5. Asma gave birth to Abdullah b. Zubayr who was the first child born among Muslims at the time of Hijra. The event was celebrated with much happiness. The Prophet suggested A’isha to take the Kunya of Umm Abdullah (Abdullah’s mother). It would be odd for a minor girl to have that Kunya. It suggests that she was old enough to have that Kunya.

6. When the Prophet proposed, A’isha was already engaged to Jubayr b. Mut’am, whose father was the leader of the Quraysh. Jubayr’s family was not happy when A’isha’s family embraced Islam. Both families found it difficult to terminate that engagement. A’isha’s father Abu Bakr had to negotiate for divorce. He requested Jubayr’s family to conclude the marriage contract and take A’isha to Jubayr’s home, as was the custom.

Abu Bakr knew that Jubayr’s family would not agree to the contract and that then he could negotiate for divorce or disengagement. It was after her divorce that she could be engaged to the Prophet. The author argues that the fact Abu Bakr could negotiate for the conclusion of the contract or divorce is an evidence that A’isha was adult and of marriageable age.

7. The author concludes that Aisha was 19 years old at the time of marriage. There is a textual error 19 (tis’at ashar) was misread as nine (tis’ah). He gives several examples of such errors in the reporting in Hadith books.
دراسة تدعو لمواجهة الزواج المبكر في مصر
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القاهرة-أحمد عطية-إسلام أون لاين في الوقت الذي تتزايد فيه مطالبة النشطين في مجال العمل الأهلي والاجتماعي في مصر بتدعيم اتجاهات الشباب نحو الزواج المبكر في مصر حلا لمشكلة انحراف الشباب، وممارسة الجنس قبل الزواج ما زالت الجهات الحكومية ومراكز الأبحاث شبه الرسمية تواصل برامجها التي تهدف إلى محاربة هذا النوع من الزواج.
وفي ذلك الإطار فقد دعت دراسة علمية أخيرة حول الزواج المبكر أعدتها الدكتورة إقبال الأمير السمالوطي الحكومة المصرية إلى وضع استراتيجية لمواجهة ظاهرة لزواج المبكر في المجتمع المصري، مشيرة إلى أن الزواج المبكر من الظواهر الاجتماعية التي تنتشر في مصر خاصة في المناطق الشعبية والريفية.
واستندت الدراسة إلى إحصاءات رسمية تشير إلى أن نسبة 18.2% من الفتيات  في الفترة من 1980 وحتى 1984  تزوجن في سن مبكرة في حين بلغت النسبة 40.3% في الفترة من 1960 وحتى 1964 وقالت إن نسبة الزواج المبكر في الحضر تصل إلى 9.5% في حين تمثل في الريف 26.3% وتصل النسبة في الوجه القبلي إلى 28.9% بينما تصل 16.9% في الوجه البحري.
ودعت الباحثة إلى ضرورة أن تراعي استراتيجية المواجهة طبيعة وخصوصية المجتمع المصري وزيادة الوعي لدى المواطنين بالآثار السلبية للزواج المبكر، والاهتمام بالتوعية الدينية للفتيات المقبلات على الزواج وتعريفهن بحقوقهن الشرعية والقانونية لاختيار الزوج المناسب، وتعقيد الإجراءات الخاصة بالزواج المبكر، وتغليظ عقوبات التلاعب في عقود الزواج.
ومضت الدراسة في تعديد أضرار الزواج المبكر مشيرة إلى أنه قد يؤدي إلى ارتفاع حالات الطلاق نتيجة لعدم التوافق الزواجي، وحرمان الفتيات من حقوقهن في اختيار أزواجهن، ووضع الفتاة في موقف المسئولية الاجتماعية قبل بلوغ مرحلة النضج، كما يؤدي إلى متاعب صحية للأم نتيجة الحمل والولادة المتكررة.
وقالت الدراسة أن هذا الزواج يعتبر سمة من سمات المجتمعات الريفية إذ أن 36% من إجمالي عدد الزوجات في الأسر الريفية تزوجن في سن أقل من 16 سنة في حين تبلغ نسبة الإناث اللاتي تزوجن دون السن القانونية في الحضر 9.1%، وترجع الباحثة تزايد النسبة في الريف إلى رغبة الريفيين في الإكثار من الأولاد وقصر الفاصل الزمني بين الآباء والأبناء والخوف على الشرف والعرض ودعم الروابط الأسرية ورغبة الأباء في تزويج أولادهم مبكرا لإثبات الرجولة وتأكيد السيطرة.
وقالت الدراسة أيضا إن العوامل الدينية تعد من أهم العوامل في شيوع الزواج المبكر في البلاد العربية والإسلامية، هذا بجانب أن بعض الأسر تزوج فتياتها الصغيرات اللاتي لم يبلغن السن القانونية من أزواج أثرياء مصريين أو عرب لديهم القدرة على تلبية الشروط التي تضعها أسرة الفتاة على الزوج وتخلص الباحثة إلى القول: إنه رغم السلبيات فإن الزواج المبكر يؤدي إلى تدعيم الروابط والعلاقات الأسرية وسيادة روح التكافل خاصة في المجتمعات الريفية، حيث يترتب على هذا الزواج نشأة حقوق وواجبات بين ذوي القربى، وتعاون في المجالات المختلفة من خلال علاقة المصاهرة.
وفي مقابل وجهة النظر السابقة التي سجلتها الدراسة التي تأخذ بها المؤسسات الرسمية المصرية فإن هناك باحثين ونشطين في مجال العمل الأهلي والاجتماعي يعددون عددا من الآثار الضارة للزواج المتأخر في عصر شهد ثورة جنسية عن طريق الأطباق الفضائية والإنترنت بما تحويه هذه الوسائل من ثقافة جنسية غير منضبطة وبصورة متاحة للجميع، وهي العوامل التي أدت إلى انخفاض سن ممارسة الزواج في البلاد العربية وتورط العديد من الشباب في البلاد العربية في ممارسة الجنس قبل الزواج، ويقول هؤلاء إن الحد من الزواج المبكر لا يمكن أن تكون دعوة صحيحة في وقت تعاني فيه أعداد كبيرة من الفتيات العربيات من العنوسة لأسباب اقتصادية أو اجتماعية
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