Friday, 27 June 2014

Child Brides

According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was nine years old. Since Muhammad is considered the role model in all areas of life, Islamic law permits marriage for young children with horrible medical and psychological consequences. The following articles explore various aspects of this contentious issue.

What is so bad about child brides?
Muhammad, Aisha, Islam, and Child Brides
Muhammad's Marriage to a Prepubescent Girl And Its Moral Implications
Child brides face health woes
Yemeni 12-year-old child-bride dies in labor
Special protection orders save nine-year-olds from forced marriages



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What is so bad about child brides?

By Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D.

It was a good thing that Aisha, the child bride of Mohammed, never became pregnant. She was engaged to him at 6 years old and the marriage was consummated when she was nine. It is rather strange that only one of Mohammed’s wives became pregnant. At any rate if Aisha had become pregnant at nine she could possibly have had a terrible time in delivery and may have possibly died. If she did not die she might have wished that death had overtaken her because of the possible consequences of a youthful pregnancy. Unfortunately Mohammed became the model of the Muslim man and marrying children has been a part of the influence of Mohammed. Untold numbers of girls have died because of Mohammed’s action. Other untold numbers have suffered a miserable life and probably wished they were dead because of being a child bride.

Consider the following:

 “You are a 14 year old girl. You’ve never been to school. You were married to a man in a neighboring village at age 13—before your first menstrual period and six months later, you became pregnant. Now you are in labor with your first child.

Labor has already lasted for three days, but still the baby has not come. You are exhausted. You have lost a lot of blood and are running a fever. You haven’t passed urine in over two days, and your genitals are horribly swollen and bruised from the constant pushing. Why won’t the baby come out? You wonder. You dread the long bony fingers of the old woman who is attending your birth. Nothing she does brings relief.

Soon the sun is rising on the morning of your fourth day of labor. At midday, with agony, you manage to pass the child from your body. The baby is stillborn. It has been dead for nearly three days and has started to decay. The softening of its tissues finally allowed it to pass through your vagina.

Thank God, you sigh, It’s finally over, but it is not.

On the morning of the fifth day, you pass more dead tissue. And then it starts. Urine is running out of your vagina, unto your thighs, onto the floor. What is going on? The urine does not stop. You find some rags and stuff them between your thighs.

There, that ought to take care of it, you think, but it doesn’t.

In an hour or two, the rags are soaked. In six hours you have run out of rags. In 12 hours you notice—to your horror—that feces are also coming out. No matter how much you try, no matter how much you wash, you cannot get rid of it.

The odor and wetness are constant. Your husband is disgusted. He cannot stand to have you around. Your presence is unendurable.

“What has happened to you? What did you do?” He demands. You were supposed to become a woman, the mother of his first-born son, but instead you have turned into a human cesspit. This all must be punishment for something you did. He turns you out of the house. Your family takes you back but you are not fit to live in their dwelling, so they put you in a shack on the edge of the family compound, where you sit day after day—alone, wretched, and stinking—until your family has had enough and cast you out.

You are 14. You are illiterate and have no money. You have no skills with which to learn a livelihood. You reek of urine and feces. And you want to die.

You don’t know that your condition has a name, all you know is that you are cursed for reasons you don’t understand. As far as you can tell, you are the only woman who has ever been afflicted in this way. You don’t know that 3 to 4 million other women currently share your fate of have a fistula. Neither do you know that tens of thousands more join this sisterhood of suffering every year. As the lonely months roll by, you understand that this condition will not go away, that your injury will not heal on its own, and that nothing you can do will change your condition.

Most importantly, perhaps, you do not know that fistulas are both curable and preventable.

Labor is an involuntary process. Once started, it continues until delivery is achieved or it ends in one of several catastrophic ways. The pregnant woman whose pelvis is too small for childbirth may be in hard labor for days, suffering severe, unrelenting uterine contractions without achieving delivery until—exhausted, weak from blood loss, and probably infected because of the long labor—she dies without ever delivering her child. Sometimes the uterus will rupture, killing both the woman and her baby in a sudden cataclysm in which the fetus and the afterbirth are thrown into her abdomen through the burst wall of her womb.

Women who do not succumb eventually pass a stillborn infant who is asphyxiated during the long birth process. After death, the entrapped baby starts to decay, eventually macerating and sliding out of the mother’s body.

And if this were not terrible enough, the worst is yet to come. A few days later, the base of the woman’s bladder sloughs away due to her injuries, and a torrent of urine floods through her vagina. In obstructed labor, the woman’s bladder is trapped between the fetal skull and her pelvic bones. The skull is forced relentlessly downward by the contractions, but the unyielding bones of her pelvis refuse to let it pass. As her pelvis’s soft tissues are crushed, they die and slough away, forming a fistula. Once this happens, the fistula will not heal without a surgical operation.”

 (The good news is that surgery is almost like a miracle and may cost only a few hundred dollars. A fistula is a break in the wall of an organ allowing fluid to flow from one place to another.)

Because surgery is so scare in this part of the world—Africa—most of these women never receive help.”

(This material has been excerpted from: Jesus and the Unclean Woman, by L. Lewis Wall, professor of obstetrics/gynecology in the School of Medicine and professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. The article was published in the January 2010 issue of Christianity Today, pp. 48-52)

The focus of the article I have quoted deals primarily with Africa. It is equally valid for the child brides of the Muslim world. Many regard Mohammed’s action to be imitated concerning a child bride. Fortunately for Aisha she did not become pregnant but that is not the case for many child brides in Islam. Imams around the Muslim world should warn men against the outrageous idea of taking a child bride. It is not in the man’s best interest of having a healthy wife and mother of his children, nor in the best interest of the child who has not matured enough for a healthy pregnancy. Children continue to grow until about the age of 18 and this is particularly important for females to mature to the point of their bodies being ready for conception. Each time a man imitates Mohammed in taking a child bride he is risking the life of both the mother and the child.

The site is seeking to help these women where possible.

Further sources

Muhammad, Aisha, Islam, and Child Brides
Child brides face health woes
Yemeni 12-year-old child-bride dies in labor
CHILD BRIDES (link list)



Saturday, 7 June 2014

The impossibility of the revelation of the Qur’an

Bassam Khoury

The Qur’an presents the concept of Allah in a way which makes the Qur’an’s revelation itself impossible. To understand this, let us have a closer look at one Qur’anic verse:
“… nothing is like him, he is the All-hearing, the All-seeing” (Q. 42:11).

To begin with, if we consider the characteristics of Allah that the Qur’an displays and the way Muslims have dealt with them, we find that they are meaningless words. The author of Nahj Al-Balagha, defining Allah’s characteristics, says:

The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognises His like, and who recognises His like regards Him two; and who regards Him two recognises parts for Him; and who recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and who mistook Him pointed at Him; and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him. Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained; and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else. He is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence. (Source)

Ibn Ishaq Al Kindy
1 says: “Allah, may he be blessed and exalted, is absolutely one, and does not allow any multiplicity or composition. He is beyond description, and can not be described by any category. (The magazine of the University of Umm-Al-Qura, Vol. 6, p. 123)

This makes all talk of Allah meaningless, not to mention that it gives rise to self-reference paradoxes like: Allah, who cannot be described by any category, is in the category of that which is not composite. Or, Allah is in a category all his own, namely, the category of that which cannot be categorized. Or, Allah may be described as that being which cannot be described.

Muslims may say that those who have such views are not the people of the Sunnah. But the views of Sunni Muslims hardly represent an improvement upon the views just mentioned. The doctrine of Sunni Islam relating to the names and characteristics of Allah states: “The names of Allah –may he be exalted– depend on the Qur’an and Sunnah, without addition or subtraction; and because reason cannot comprehend the names which Allah is worthy of, it is unavoidable to solely depend on the text. (Al-Majla Sharh Al-Akeeda Al-Muthla– Ibn Otheimeen 1:8)

At this point the Sunni Muslims would tell us that they are confirming what pertains to Allah according to the Book and the Sunnah. But this does not explain anything; we had already admitted that those characteristics are there. The problem is that by viewing them in the light of the Muslims’ doctrines they are mere empty words. The text of Sura 42:11 tells us that, “
He is the All-seeing, the All-hearing.” But what do those words mean according to the belief of Sunni Muslims? The reason for considering only the Sunni belief is the fact that others2 have exempted us from this discussion by their own admission, as the Shia, for example, put it: “the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes,” and in fact, “He cannot be described by any category.”

As for the Sunnis, they confirm the characteristics, but they say the fundamental belief of the Sunnis is that Allah is to be described by what he described himself or by what the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) described him without any comparison or likening, or interpretation and nullification.

The confirmation of this characteristic of Allah and other characteristics does not necessitate any attempt to liken them to the characteristics of humans. In fact they are not similar to the characteristics of human beings but rather characteristics that befit his majesty and glory: “
nothing is like him, he is the All-hearing, the All-seeing” (42:11).

In order to understand a certain thing we need to know what is the meaning of the terms used.

Likening: to believe that any of Allah’s characteristics is
like the characteristics of human beings.
Analogy: to believe that Allah’s characteristics are analogous to human characteristics.
Nullification: to deny Allah’s characteristics or attribute completely.
Interpretation: it means to try to understand the words in another way than the obvious meaning, like to say "hand" means power or "eye" means care or any thing of that sort.

Under these definitions it is impossible to understand any word whatsoever. Suppose we ask about the meaning of “the All-hearing, the All-seeing”. The answer should be, ‘they mean “the All-hearing , the All-seeing”’. However this meaning - according to Muslims - should not be associated with any picture perceived by human reason. Their scholars stressed this to the extent to say: “
it is impossible that Allah -glory and power to him- would have in himself and his characteristics anything imagined or perceived by humans, because Allah is different from anything you could think of.” (The Explanation of the Tahawi’s belief– Saleh Al Al-Sheikh – a lecture on Saturday 13 Thee Al Kaadeh, 1417 H - quoted from the Comprehensive Encyclopaedia; source, page (1/168))

But if such words cannot be defined, then what is the difference between saying that Allah is “the all-hearing” and Allah is “the all-seeing”? On such an approach, all such “characteristics” of Allah collapse into one meaningless “characteristic”.

Even when the characteristics of Allah agree in wording with the characteristics of creatures, they do not mean the same thing according to Muslims. Thus they say: “
it is not permissible for a man to say: Allah is knowing and I am knowing, Allah is existing and I am existing, Allah is living and I am living, Allah is capable and I am capable. I should not say this in a free manner but rather specifying that Allah’s knowledge, capacity, existence and life are different from our knowledge, capacity, existence and life.” (The Essence of Explaining the Islamic belief - the subject of Allah’s characteristics; source, 3rd point: The un-likeness to creation)

If we consider the above discussion logically we would find out that the Islamic doctrine makes the revelation of the Qur’an impossible.

- The Qur’an says about Allah “nothing is like him”.
- This means that Allah is other than anything that comes to your mind about him.
- Muslims believe in the doctrine of "Mukhalaft
مخالفة" ‘unlikeness’, which means there is no likeness whatsoever between Allah, and his characteristics, on one hand and all that pertains to creatures on the other.
- The Qur’an is Allah’s word which is not like human words. (
Arabic source for the fourth point.)

The above demonstrates that it is impossible to use human language to talk about Allah. That means if the Qur’an is credible in what it tells about Allah’s nature and characteristics, then it cannot be a revelation from that Allah. In other words, if it is false, it is false; if it is true, it is also false; therefore, it is false.

This teaching of the Qur'an leads to the impossibility of using human language to define Allah.

Therefore, since the Qur’an is written with human language, it can not be an expression of Allah, it cannot be a revelation from him, nor can it be his word.

That is to say if the Qur’an is true about who Allah is, it cannot be true about what the Qur’an is, and vice versa.

The only way, for Muslims to solve this dilemma is by considering that all words of the Qur’an are other than facts and that they are not equivalent to any human concept even if the wordings of both agree. Expressed differently, those words actually mean nothing; they are in fact only empty words.

Thus, the Muslims’ teaching that Allah is other than what comes to our minds logically means that if we have understood what the Qur’an said about Allah, He is other than what the Qur’an has said about him.

1 Ibn Ishaq Al Kindy was not a Shiite. He was a Muslim philosopher influenced by Mutazilite theology. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on Al-Kindi.
2 I.e. various other sects of Islam, the Mutazilites being the most prominent group besides the Shia.