MMDA reform: Women will not bow to injustice | Sunday Observer

MMDA reform: Women will not bow to injustice

19 August, 2018

On and off we come across articles in the newspapers on the above topic and any comments have been entertained by the authorities. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) has become a controversial issue these days, and I present this article with a view of enlightening the public, on the pros and cons with regard to the subject.

Being a devout Muslim, bred in a religious background, I do not want to criticise the principles in Islam, the Quran or the Sharia Law about all of which my knowledge is very scant, being a lay person, but here I hope to pen certain ideas that will be an eye opener, with regard to the conduct of unscrupulous men who take advantage of Islamic marriage and divorce rules and distort them to suit their lust, while causing grievance to their wives and children.

First, let us look at Islamic history. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be unto him) was born approximately one thousand five hundred years ago. This is called ‘Jahiliya’ era in Arabic, a period when pandemonium reigned in Arabia. Corruption was bountiful.

Girls born to a family were considered an ill omen, and were buried alive at birth. Those girls allowed to survive were the lucky ones for the family, according to astronomy.

Idolatry prevailed and men stooped to vice like gambling, drinking, pornography and womanising. In a male dominant society women had no voice. There was no hard and fast rule, to reform the wrongdoers.

The world’s first profession, “Prostitution’ was rampant. If a woman bore a child the mother named a father out of the hundreds of men she had sexual relations with.

This man had to bear the responsibility of becoming the father of the child, possibly another man’s child.

People were divided into clans and rivalry existed among them, one clan never gave into another and fought and killed each other. There was no rule of law. Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die.

Prophet Mohamed, (Peace be unto him) Gods messenger, was born into such an era of turmoil. He alighted here to reform the ignorant masses who were in the dark.

He lead a successful, happy married life of twenty five years with his wife Kadeeje (Raliyallahu anha), gave all his daughters in marriage and performed his duties towards his family. He never deserted his family for a subsequent marriage.

It was only after Kadeeja’s demise that he had twelve wives, thirteen in all, in keeping with the custom prevalent at that time, but he had no offspring by them. He married them for certain valid reasons as mentioned below.

During the time of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) there had been conflicts between Islamists and Kafirs, the non believers of God. The men were slayed in battle ‘Jihad’. In the male dominant society women did not go out to work. These women faced poverty, with no one to support them. In order to uplift the living standards of these widows, he married them. Fearing that his disciples will follow his example of taking thirteen wives, a rule was laid down that a Muslim man can have four wives.

History speaks of Chinese Emperors having hundreds of wives, at the rate of more than two wives a day. At the demise of the Emperor, all the wives had to dress ceremoniously, walk in procession and jump into a pit to end their lives.

The Kings in India and the Middle East had harems.

In Sri Lanka the kings had one ‘Aga Bisawa’ and several ‘Parivara Sthree’, in their harems called ‘Anthakhpuraya’. This was possible with the immense wealth they possessed.

These customs are a thing of the past and don’t suit the modern age. We have stepped into the twenty first century where women are given equal rights as men.

Islam laid down certain rules with regard to polygamy, thus:

A man can have four wives but they should be given equal love and care by the husband

A man can have dozens of children by the four wives but all the children should be brought up without any disparity

In the modern era can a man afford to maintain four wives and children sired by him..? How many men will nod their heads for a ‘Yes’.

Most of these men are unable to maintain even one wife and children with, the high cost of living. Men always seek employed women as partners in life to stabilise their income.

Certain suggestions in the amendment of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act can be brought forward here.

These are not to be considered stipulated orders for anyone to follow. The motive here is not to lay down rules but to enlighten the readers. Readers are welcome to express their views for and against the suggestions.

Before a subsequent marriage a man should have written consent from his first wife. Both, husband and wife should go before the Quazi (Judge) and the wife must give her consent for the husband to contract a second marriage.

Only the first marriage should be registered in the registry of marriages in Sri Lanka and subsequent marriages, a ‘Nikah’ ceremony.

During the Prophet’s time there was no system of registering of marriages. In a Nikah ceremony, which is the Islamic marriage procedure, the father, if not living, a brother or uncle of the bride hands over the bride to the groom who accepts her hand as a pledge of marriage.

The man should be mentally and physically fit to maintain more than one family. In most cases of polygamy the man is found to be mentally unsound.

All immovable property should be written in the name of the first wife and children.

Now let us consider the consequences that crop up as a result of polygamy.

We have heard of cases where a man woos another woman by chucking out the first wife and children onto the streets. Or else he keeps both wives and children under one roof, leading to misery.

Frequently, when the father abandons the first wife and children for another family, the children have to grow up in a single parent or broken family. The wife strives hard to keep the home fires burning. How can we expect children from such families to succeed in life..?

According to psychologists children from broken families tend to be juvenile delinquents and criminals in later life. Case studies on criminals have revealed they had an unhappy childhood with no parent or single parent, especially without a mother.

When boisterous unruly children in schools are questioned on their behaviour, these children come out with the fact that the father has deserted them for another family and the mother is in the Middle East working as a house maid, to support the family. ‘Father’ for them is just nominal. Can we expect such children to be good citizens of Sri Lanka..? The root of all this is unhappy childhood.

The men who stoop to polygamy speak only of their rights and not their duties.

To have four wives is the man’s right but maintaining his family is not his duty.

The woman is always at the receiving end. To cover up the man’s folly, the first wife is blamed as immoral, indecent, disobedient and unsupportive towards the husband.

On the other hand, the man is religious and obeying God’s will by taking four wives. When men play frolic it pays heavily on the children.

Let us give thought to this.

In this scientifically advanced modern world women’s rights should also be considered and not downtrodden. Unlike in the past Muslim women in Sri Lanka are marching forward fighting for their rights. They are educated, socialised and will not bow down to injustice.