Zainah Anwar’s arguments in her column SHARING THE NATION  (Sunday Star 5 July 2009) are so logical and reasonable they are hard to refute:

…When Islam is used as a source of law and public policy, then everyone has the right to talk about the subject. Public law, public policy must by necessity be opened to public debate, and pass the test of public reason…

She goes on to say:

Women’s groups demanding for equality and justice in Islam are not questioning the religion as revealed by God, but questioning the decision by those in authority, be it religious, political or social, who adopt a position that discriminates against women, and then proclaim that their position is the one true Islam.


…Within the context of a democratic state such as Malaysia, can this process of law-making be the sole preserve of the ulama? Within the context of the changing realities of our lives today from the time the classical texts were written, shouldn’t the law-making process be conducted in democratic engagement, especially with those who are affected by these laws and policies?

In conclusion she asserts:

…We want a respectful and productive engagement so that the justice, mercy and compassion of Islam become core values in our process of law-making and law-enforcement and in our daily lives.

Indeed, whether we understand them from a universal secular or religious perspective; a universal Islamic perspective or the narrower Muslim men’s or women’s perspective; or even the oft thin-lined defence of  the Malaysian Muslim  ulamas  and other “men of God”,  Zainah’s case for a more rational interpretation of the notions of  justice and equality in Islam cannot be easily brushed aside. 

In my search for answers from religious teachers and Islamic scholars (local and international) to secure my faith and belief, not one has been able to provide me with an all-encompassing exposition of  the concepts in Islam that I choose to explore.

If, like me, you acknowledge the unequal human condition that God has bestowed upon the world and the inequalities it perpetuates, you will come to believe that what God really means is that true equality lies not in this life but in the next!   

However, this does not mean I’m prepared to go (to the next world that is) without a fight and without giving my male compatriots a run for their life (so to speak). Especially when they flout their responsibilities or flaunt their chauvinism so squarely in my face!

Take the case of  the law of inheritance in Islam faraid which is quite clearly male-biased as  in AN – NISA (7 -12) :

…CONCERNING [the inheritance of] your children, God enjoins [this] upon you: The male shall have the equal of two females’ share; but if there are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what [their parents] leave behind; and if there is only one, she shall have one-half thereof…

But in (34 -36) men are reminded that the God-given honour comes with responsibility:

MEN SHALL take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions…

Therefore, in the distribution of inheritance managed by the Syariah Court,  Amanah Raya or any other Islamic agency what must be rightly emphasised is this very responsibilty, and an oath-taking that it will be observed.

What must be clear in the Syariah interpretation whether at the State or Federal level is that there is recourse for reconsideration and appeal should the male waris flout his responsibility. This will prevent Muslim men from thinking that their right to inheritance is unshakeable even if they have not been the most loving or caring of persons to their younger female siblings; even when they have not been cooperative and respectful to their older female siblings!

I’m all for justice and equality in God’s definition of it, not in the half-baked interpretation of chauvinistic Muslim men!


5 Responses to “”

  1. July 6, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Well articulated.

    I am not well versed in Islam to comment directly but my heart tells me that both men and women have an equally divine reason to co-exist in this world and both are actually responsible for one another. The boundaries of religion may dictate some difference between men and women but I am sure it is God’s intention that we practice fair play and respect towards each role so that the strength of the ummah as a whole is assured.

    The problem perhaps lies in the predominantly chauvinistic male dominated world where the interpretation is misconstrued. Humans often fail the religion and not vice versa.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    July 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Well said Rizal! The last line is especially poignant!

  3. 3 ninitalk
    July 7, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I must add that most people fight shy of commenting on religious matters because they say their have no authority or that their knowledge is limited! How can this be when religion affects each of us in so many public and private ways? Surely we have the right to at least give an opinion!

    Surprisingly these same people have a lot to say about politics even when they know so little! Then they think they speak with authority!

  4. 4 Eddy Lehrer
    August 5, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I am developing a website for a client (she’s a lawyer). She very much likes the Justice graphic and would like it included in her website. Do you own the rights to the image? Would it be ok to include the image in her website?

  5. 5 ninitalk
    August 5, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Hi Eddy! No – I don’t have the rights to the Justice image and many of the images I’ve downloaded by just googling them!

    I’m really not sure of copyrights matters on the internet so I may be in for big trouble!

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