Muslim women demands unconditional apology from their spiritual leader

published on October 28, 2008

Muslim scholar’s ‘unclean’ theory on polygamy irks women

Pioneer News Service | Kozhikode

Why Muslim men are allowed to marry more than once and up to four? Is it because women are not fit for conjugal acts once in a month due to menstruation? This justification offered by a conservative Muslim scholar for polygamy has led to a standoff between male-oriented Muslim forums and Muslim women’s organisations.

Reacting to the Kerala High Court’s suggestion on Thursday that central and regional committees should be formed to control divorces and remarriages in the Muslim community, Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musliar, spiritual leader of a Sunni sect, said polygamy among Muslims was a necessity as there was a seven to 15-day period for women when men could not approach them for conjugal acts.

Muslim women’s organisations have objected strongly to the statement saying this was utter disregard to the very concept of feminine personality and its integrity and an example of total ignorance of the basic principles of Islam. They have demanded an unconditional apology from Kanthapuram. Muslim women’s outfits even took out demonstrations in protest against the scholar, who was also the all-India general secretary of Sunni Jam Iyat’ul Ulema.

Progressive sects among Kerala Muslims also objected to Kanthapuram’s statement. Aboobacker Karakkunnu, former State president of Itihadu’ssabanul Mujahiddeen, the youth wing of the Mujahid outfit of Kerala Nadvatul Mujahiddeen, said Kanthapuram’s statement was a typical example of ignorance about the basic edicts of Qur’an and Islam. He said the Sunni leader should have avoided making the controversial statement.

Kanthapuram had said that women biologically had a seven-to-fifteen-day period of ‘lack of cleanliness’ in a month during which period they remained untouchable as far as conjugal acts were concerned. According to the teachings of Islam, bodily relations for men with women were prohibited during that period, he said. Polygamy was allowed in Islam for satisfying the bodily needs of the male during such periods, he argued.

The Kerala High Court, while considering a petition from a Muslim woman against the second marriage of her husband on Thursday said that there were controls over divorces and remarriages in Muslim community even in Islamic countries. Therefore committees should be formed for controlling repeated marriages by Muslim women which put women in hardships. The court also said that the Government should think of formulating legislation in this regard.

Opposing the court’s suggestions, Kanthapuram also said that setting up of committees to supervise marriages and divorces would be of no benefit. According to him, these were issues to be handled by religious scholars and not by governments or courts.

Karakkunnu said the court’s observation was something to be seriously discussed among the various Muslims bodies and with the Government. “Polygamy indeed is not to be promoted. We can’t promote it and we don’t. And what Kantahpuram said as justification for the practice was not at all appropriate. The women’s wing of Mujahids has already started campaigns on those lines,” he said.

The Mujahid Girls’ and Women’s Movement held a demonstration in Kozhikode in protest against the statement made by Kanthapuram. Nisa, another women’s group, also has come out strongly against the Sunni scholar. Nisa president VP Suhra said Kanthapuram was repeating the wrong male interpretation of relations with the female.

She said divorces among Muslims were unilateral actions adopted by men by interpreting the Qur’an wrongly to suit their need of perpetuating male hegemony. She added that the Government should implement the court’s observations despite the very possible opposition from religious leaders.

O Abdurahman, Editor-in-chief of Jama’at-e-Islami-run Madhyamam newspaper, and his brother and columnist O Abdullah said the Government should formulate legislation to control Muslim men who take boundless freedom for marrying women at will. They said a law alone could guarantee justice to Muslim women. Linguist, scholar and columnist MN Karassery agreed with the journalist on the issue.

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