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‘No Such Thing As Halaala In The Holy Quran’
Tuesday marked Day 2 of the Understanding Islam week-long online seminar by the Muslim Women’s Forum, housed in the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. The second day was dedicated to the status of women in Islam, and former member of the Women’s Commission, Sayeeda Hameed, returned to the Holy Quran to clarify doubts.
The word ‘halal’, meaning pure, features in the Quran, Sayeeda Hameed explained, expressing her disgust at the notion of ‘halaala’ that is bandied about as a form of marriage that is part of the Islamic tradition – it is widely believed that if a man and woman divorce under Islamic law, and then decide later that they wish to re-marry each other, the only way they can do so is if the woman marries another man, consummates that new marriage and then gets divorced from her new husband to her old one.
“This is just one way to defame Islam,” Sayeeda Hameed explained, adding that such a practice has no place in the Quran, which does not even contain the word ‘halaala’.
Participants at the seminar were taken through the history of the early Muslim women – Prophet Mohammad’s wife Khadija, the first Muslim, was the first to see him after the revelation was made to him when he was about 40 years old.
He was in a fright, and she comforted him and took him to a relative, an elderly Christian priest, who explained that the revelation was significant, and foretold that life would be hard, given the truth that was revealed to Muhammad. The Christian priest mentioned also that he did not have much longer to live, so would not be of much support in the work of Prophet Mohammad.
After the battle of Karbala, it was Zainab, daughter of Prophet Mohammad’s daughter Fatima, who would spread the word and evoke support for the martyred Husain. Women had a significant role to play in early Islam, and not just as spouses.
Sayeeda Hameed outlined the need to understand matters within the social context – she explained that the Quran does indeed provide that a man can marry four times – but it enjoins upon the man that he must treat each of his wives with equal respect and love, and given that no man can be impartial, it lays down that it would be preferable for a man to have just one wife.
The pre-Islamic tribes of the Arab peninsula allowed several marriages, and this was revolutionary in its time, though if we a focus on the four wives, without an understanding of the social context, it might seem like a few wives too many, she said.
Sayeeda Hameed also explained that for the first time, women were granted property rights – this was a cause of huge consternation, and plans were made to kill the Prophet because he allowed women too a share in parental property. Previously, women were treated worse than cattle, and could be inherited, like camels. This too was a revolutionary change, one that earned the Prophet several enemies.
The week-long examination of the Holy Quran under the leadership of the former member of the National Women’s Commission will continue until October 31. On Wednesday, the session will focus on Dalits and Muslims.
(The writer is a freelance journalist based in Pune)