In Bangladesh a Muslim woman, Ayesha Siddiqua has been fighting a legal battle for being a Marriage Registrar since 2014. The Law Ministry rejected her application on the ground that she was a woman and the High Court upheld the decision of the Law Ministry on the same ground. This has sparked a debate on the issue in the country.
Ayesha studied in Phulbari Darul Sunnah Senior Siddiqia Madrasa and got a Fazil degree. In 2014, she applied for the license for Marriage Registrar for Ward No. 7,8 and 9 of Phulbari.
The local advisory committee sent the applications of three aspirants including Ayesha's to the Law Ministry. The Ministry rejected her application on the basis of her gender. She challenged the decision of the Law Ministry in the High Court. Her argument was that she fulfilled all the qualifications mentioned by the Law Ministry. The rules don't specifically say that a woman can not be a Marriage Registrar. Moreover, the Constitution guarantees equal rights to women.
However the High Court bench comprising Justice Zubair Rahman Choudhury and Qazi Zeenat Haque also pronounced its judgment against Ayesha in February 2020.
The judges in their judgment said that in the current scenario of Bangladesh, a woman could not be a Marriage Registrar. The reason was that in urban areas, due to lack of space, marriages are solemnised and registered in mosques. Since women can not enter a mosque due to some physical constraints on certain days, she wont be able to register the marriages on those days. That's why a woman cannot be a Marriage Registrar.
This judgment has again sparked protests and criticism against the court and the Law Ministry. Feminist organisations have termed the judgment as biased against women and a violation of women's rights.
Ayesha has not accepted defeat. She has decided to take her battle to the Supreme Court.
The High Court judges have not presented any arguments from the Quran and Hadith in favour of their opinion. They have formed their opinion only on the basis of "current scenario" of Bangladesh. They could have derived their conclusion from the verse of the Quran which prescribes two women witnesses in place of one male witness (2:282).
Since a Marriage Registrar is practically a witness to a Nikah, in case of issuing a license for Marriage Registrar to a woman, she may be asked to appoint a male or female assistant so that when she is not able to register a Nikah due to some physical or personal constraints, her assistant can do the job.
When the Constitution and the rules of the Law Ministry do not specifically bar a woman for being a Marriage Registrar, she can not be denied license for Marriage Registrar only on the ground of menstrual period when the ministry and the court have an option suggested by the Quran.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is one of the prolific scholars of Islam. He has published more than one hundred volumes on different aspects of Islam in vernacular Urdu. His works encompass all the aspects of Islam. His philosophy of non violence and inter faith dialogue has ruffled many feathers. Inspite of opposition he still continues to write about different aspects of Islam and its message of non violence. Some of his works have been translated in other languages too. The current book under review comprises some of his Urdu writings on Jihad, Peace, Non violence and Interfaith dialogue selected, edited and translated by Yoginder Sikand, a scholar of repute. In his Preface to this book, Sikand writes about his motive of undertaking the task, “I was of the firm belief that in today’s context, characterized both by heightened Islamophobia as well as extremist self styled jihadist groups that are playing no small role in contributing to Islamophobia by engaging in terrorist activities and spreading hatred for non muslims, it was crucial to bring to the notice of the wider, non Urdu knowing public some of the Maulana’s invaluable writings on the subject that have not as yet been rendered into English.” (P-viii)
Jihad, Peace, And Inter-Community Relations In Islam
Author: Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Translator: Yoginder Sikand
Publisher: Rupa & Co, New Delhi, India
Pages: 120 Price: Rs. 295
The Introduction provides the reader a glimpse of Maulana’s life and works. Maulana has been critical of the violence initiated and operated by the non state actors and same can be attested from this statement, “Today, the various violent movements in the name of jihad being engaged in by some Muslims are of two types: either guerrilla wars or proxy wars. Both sorts of war are completely illegal according to Islam. Guerrilla wars are unacceptable in Islam because they are led and conducted by non state actors, not by any established government. Likewise, proxy wars are unacceptable in Islam because the governments behind them do not issue a formal and open declaration of war.” (P-8). It is again reinforced by Maulana, “According to the Islamic Shariah, only an established government has the prerogative to declare war or physical jihad.” (P-12) But one thing Maulana seems to overlook is the fact that most Muslim governments are corrupt and history is a witness to the fact that for their own vested interests they have exploited the concept of Jihad. Furthermore the roots of modern Jihad go back to the Cold war when Jihad was granted an impetus by the imperialist ambitions of U.S.A. Maulana is aghast at the silence of muslim majority who do not condemn the terrorist acts committed by a minority of violent non state actors in the name of Islam.
Maulana during his initial days was associated with Islamic Revivalist Movement, Jammat e Islami, but then he turned into a critique of its ideology writing few tomes about what he terms as the political interpretation of Islam. Maulana has very well described the predicament of Islamic Revivalist Movements as “The ideological perspective that the founders of the Ikhwan ul Muslimin and the Jamaat e Islami created themselves was against the Shariah as well as against nature. Unnatural ideologies such as this inevitably begin with violence and end in hypocrisy. As long as people are hypnotized by their own romantic ideas, they remain so zealous in the cause of their supposed ‘Revolution’ that they can even consider suicide-bombing as legitimate, wrongly giving it the name of martyrdom. But, when the hard rock of reality forces their zeal to cool off, they resort to sheer hypocrisy: that is, at the intellectual level they continue to cling to their ideology, but in practical terms, they fully adjust to reality in order to protect their own worldly interest.” P-27
The question of communalism for Maulana is deeply related to the lack of intellectual and social awareness and the only way to resolve the religious differences is to follow one belief system while respecting all faiths. Tolerance and acceptance of differences alone can ensure peace in a plural society. There is a dire need for Hindu-Muslim dialogue in India and Maulana is aware about its essence and the need to engage with them. For Maulana using the term like Kaafir for Hindus is far fetched creating ruckus between the two communities as it is a term reserved only for the disbelievers of Mecca who existed during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and even the Holy Prophet detested from using it.
Add to it the juristic terms that divide the world into the abode of Islam, War, and Disbelief and for Maulana these are not Quranic terms, “In other words, the use of the terms Dar Ul Islam, Dar Ul Harb and Dar ul Kufr, is not permissible. These terms represent a wrong innovation (Biddat), rather than being a Prophetic practice (Sunnat).” (P-57) To replace these terms Maulana coins the terms Darul Dawah or Darul Insan. Also the tussle as enshrined in Ghazwat ul Hind (War against India) too needs to be countered through an ideology.
Maulana has been a life long advocate of Ijtihad (use of critical thinking) and condemns blind imitation (Taqlid), and Ijtihad requires criticism and in its absence it certainly cannot emerge. So muslims have to make a choice between Ijtihadi and Taqlidi mindset. Maulana is critical of the medieval jurisprudence on various accounts as it developed and flourished when Muslims had political power so it has no understanding about how muslims can exist when out of power or being a minority. Plus the books of this period of jurisprudence have no conception of peaceful struggle (P-78). Also these works have no chapter about Dawah (calling others towards Islam). Even a scholar like Shah Waliullah Dehlavi is not spared from criticism as Maulana says that he was not aware about the advent of western democracy and was bound by contours of medieval Taqlid.
Overall these essays offer a fresh perspective about different issues, but the roots of modern Jihad, communalism and Interfaith dialogue need further exploration. Jihad and culture of violence among muslims has variegated roots. Political context, poverty, illiteracy and resistance to imperial ambitions alongwith exploitation by the clergy could have offered a nuanced view about the violence perpetuated by non state actors in which muslims mostly become the cannon fodder as well as victims.
M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir
Here are some quotations from a December 2, 2020 article by Justin Rowlatt entitled “Humans waging suicidal war on nature - UN chief Antonio Guterres”:
“Humanity is waging what he describes as a suicidal war on the natural world.
“Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury, he told a BBC special event on the environment.
“Mr Guterres wants to put tackling climate change at the heart of the UN's global mission.
“In a speech entitled State of the Planet, he announced that its central objective next year will be to build a global coalition around the need to reduce emissions to net zero.
“Net zero refers to cutting greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible and balancing any further releases by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.
“Mr Guterres said that every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for a transition to net zero emissions by 2050. In his view, they will also need to take decisive action now to put themselves on the path towards achieving this vision.
“The objective, said the UN secretary general, will be to cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels.
“Here's what Mr Guterres demanded the nations of the world do: 1) Put a price on carbon. 2) Phase out fossil fuel finance and end fossil fuel subsidies. 3) Shift the tax burden from income to carbon, and from tax payers to polluters
. 4) Integrate the goal of carbon neutrality (a similar concept to net zero) into all economic and fiscal policies and decisions. 5) Help those around the world who are already facing the dire impacts of climate change.
“It is an ambitious agenda, as Mr Guterres acknowledged, but he said that radical action is needed now.
“The science is clear, Mr Guterres told the BBC, unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6% every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse.
“Climate policies have yet to rise to the challenge, the UN chief said, adding that `without concerted action, we may be headed for a catastrophic three to five-degree temperature rise this century.
“The impact is already being felt around the world. Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are the new normal. Biodiversity is collapsing. Deserts are spreading. Oceans are choking with plastic waste.
“Mr Guterres said the nations of the world must bring ambitious commitments to cut emissions to the international climate conference the UK and Italy are hosting in Glasgow in November next year. As well as pressing for action on the climate crisis, he urged nations to tackle the extinction crisis that is destroying biodiversity and to step up efforts to reduce pollution. We face, he said, a moment of truth.
“But he does discern some glimmers of hope. `He acknowledged that the European Union, the US, China, Japan, South Korea and more than 110 other countries have committed to become carbon neutral by the middle of this century. He said he wants to see this momentum turned into a movement. Technology will help us to reach these targets, Mr Guterres said he believes. The coal business is going up in smoke' because it costs more to run most of today's coal plants than it does to build new renewable plants from scratch, he told the BBC.
“We must forge a safer, more sustainable and equitable path, the UN chief concluded. He said it is time for this war against the planet to end, adding: We must declare a permanent ceasefire and reconcile with nature.”
The Danger Of A Catastrophic Global Famine
As glaciers melt in the Himalayas, depriving India and China of summer water supplies; as sea levels rise, drowning the fertile rice fields of Vietnam and Bangladesh; as drought threatens the productivity of grain-producing regions of North America; and as the end of the fossil fuel era impacts modern high-yield agriculture, there is a threat of wide-spread famine involving billions rather than millions of people.
People threatened with famine will become refugees, desperately seeking entry into countries where food shortages are less acute. Wars, such as those currently waged in the Middle East, will add to the problem.
What can we do to avoid this crisis, or at least to reduce its severity? We must urgently address the problem of climate change; and we must shift money from military expenditure to the support of birth control programs and agricultural research. We must also replace the institution of war by a system of effective global governance and enforcible international laws.
Optimum Population In The Distant Future
What is the optimum population of the world? It is certainly not the maximum number that can be squeezed onto the globe by eradicating every species of plant and animal that cannot be eaten. The optimum global population is one that can be supported in comfort, equality and dignity - and with respect for the environment.
In 1848 (when there were just over one billion people in the world), John Stuart Mill described the optimal global population in the following words:
“The density of population necessary to enable mankind to obtain, in the greatest degree, all the advantages of cooperation and social intercourse, has, in the most populous countries, been attained. A population may be too crowded, although all be amply supplied with food and raiment.
“... Nor is there much satisfaction in contemplating the world with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature; with every rood of land brought into cultivation, which is capable of growing food for human beings; every flowery waste or natural pasture plowed up, all quadrupeds or birds which are not domesticated for man's use exterminated as his rivals for food, every hedgerow or superfluous tree rooted out, and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture. If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not better or happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.”
A new freely downloadable book
I would like to announce the publication of a new book, which discusses the exponentially increasing stress that humans are placeing on their natural environment. The book may be downloaded free of charge from the following link:
West and Southern African countries have become killing fields of ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups and they are getting stronger by the day. Though they are active in the region for about a decade, they have bocome more powerful after getting affiliated to the ISIS after 2014. They have carried out mass killings, mass abductions and arson. Their target are not only Christians but also sufi and moderate Muslims who do not approve of their jihadist ideology.
They claim that they want to establish a shariah based Islamic state or caliphate.
The most ruthless group in the region is Boko Haram. It is based in Nigeria but also conducts terrorist attacks in bordering Niger. It opposes elections through voting, wearing trousers and shirts and secular or modern education. It has declared the Nigerian state a government of non-believers. It is important to note that Nigeria has 50-50 population of Muslims and Christians and in 12 of the 36 states of the country where Muslims are in majority, Shariah law has been recognised by the federal government.
Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, on March 18, 2015. Emmanuel Braun/Reuters
The Boko Haram's main activity is mass abductions for ransom. During the last six years it has carried out 15 mass abductions. Three mass abductions of school students were carried out in 2014, 2018 and 2020. In 2014, they abducted 276 school girls from a science school in Chibok and released them after 'negotiations' with the government. Still some of the girls were not released and are still untraced. In 2018, ISWAP (Islamic State of West African Province), a breakaway group of Boko Haram abducted 110 girls from a school in Dapchi on 19 February. It released them after a 'deal' with the government in March. But a Christian girl Leah Sharibu was not released because she did not agree to renounce Christianity. She is still in their custody as a slave.
In December 2020, the Boko Haram abducted more than 300 students from a boys school. They were released after a week following a negotian between them and the government.
It is obvious that mass abductions are a source of income for Boko Haram. The government is weak and cannot control or reign in these terrorist organisations. The army and security forces are ill equipped and have a low morale. This is the reason, Boko Haram carries out mass abductions so easily. The government pays ransom to secure the release of hostages. The government denies this but a report of the UN has revealed that it pays ransom to the terrorists to secure release of histages.
The report submitted to the Security Council revealed that the Nigerian goverrnment paid ransom to secure the release of Dapchi girls. This has emboldened the Boko Haram to carry out more mass abductions.
The most unfortunate part of these deals are that even after getting their demands fulfilled, they don't release all the captives and the government is so helpless that it can't do anything. Some girls abducted from Chibok are still in their captivity and are being treated as slaves.
Aparr from abductions, these terrorist organisations carry out mass killings of Christians and moderate Muslims opposing their ideology. Since 2009, they have killed more than 32000 people in Nigeria. In 2020 alone, 11500 Christians have been killed by Boko Haram. They destroyed and burned churches, houses and schools.
Mozambique is another African country where the terrorist outfits, mainly Al Shabab is active against the Majority Christians. In Mozambique, the majority Christian population is 57% while the Muslims account for 19% of the population. The Muslims form a majority in Cabo Delgado province. It is in this province that the terrorists are active. Christians are more aften targetted by them. On November 10, last year, the militants killed more than 50 Christians. The insurgency has intensified in this country since 2017. More than 3000 people have been killed during the last three years. In 2020 alone, they carried out more than 300 attacks in northern Mozambique. Due to this, hundreds of thousands of people had to flee the region. 40 people drowned in Ibo river while fleeing.
Though the country is rich in gas and minerals, there is a largescale resentment against the government because the people of the mineral rich region feel that the benefit of development does not reach them. Poverty and unemployment are used by the militant outfits to recruit the youth. They promise them that once the Shariah ruled state is established, their misery and unemployment will be removed.
Niger bordering Nigeria also reels under the terrorist violence unleashed by the Boko Haram and other militant groups affiliated to the ISIS. The country is predominantly Muslim but the militant organisations want to establish their version of Shariah there. Hence the violence and killing.
On December 14, 2020 the Boko Haram militants killed 34 Christians in Diffa town.
The rise of ISIS after 2014 has provided a shot in the arm of the militant organisations in the African Muslim majoritg countries. These militant outfits that thrived on human trafficking, drug smuggling and aductions for ranson joined rhe ISIS to justify their un-Islamic activities. By joining the ISIS they at once became a part of an international organisation. They are supported by the ISIS whenever they need it and also they present themselves as flagbearers of Caliphate movement.
The hardline and conservative religious teachings in madrasas in these countries and sermons in mosques by the hardline ulema have also contributed to the jihadi mindset of Muslims. The majority of clerics of African countries are educated and trained in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar and therefore have a conservative and fundamental approach to Islam as compared to the sufi and moderate outlook of Sufi stream of Islam of Swahili areas.
While Al Qaida thrived on anti-America rhetoric, the ISIS thrives on Caliphate rhetoric. Until the myth of caliphate is removed from the Muslim psyche, the terrorist groups will continue to grow and succeed in their plans.