Sunday 2 December 2018

Surah of Quran Exclusively Revealed to Redress Grievance of a Pleading Woman

Women often ask why there is no mention of women in the Holy Qur'an and why all commandments are directly addressed to men. In fact all verses of the Holy Qur'an are addressed both to men and women, for message of the Holy Qur'an is for all people of all gender unless specifically specified. There are a number of women who are mentioned by name in the Holy Qur'an, a detail of which is already given in one of our earlier posts, beside exclusive posts on some of the revered and praiseworthy women.

But there is also one surah of the Holy Qur'an which was revealed exclusively to redress the grievance of a woman, who being victim of the pre-Islamic days tradition of Zihar considered it to be unfair to woman and petitioned Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), as ruler and judge in Medina, to revoke the divorce, using moral and legal arguments. Sūrat al-Mujādilah, the 58th surah of the Holy Qur'an, is that surah in which Allah the Almighty has Himself answered the question the woman victim of the tradition of Zihar, and through this surah all doubts regarding the notorious tradition of Zihar were brought to an end. Please refer to our exclusive post on Sūrat al-Mujādilah for details of the Divine revelation and other social issues discussed in the surah.

Among the Arabs it often so happened that during a family quarrel, the husband in the heat of the moment would say to his wife: "Anti alayya ka-zahri ammi" which literally means: "You are for me as the back of my mother." This is called zihar. But its real meaning is: To have sexual relations with you would be like having sexual relations with my mother.

Zahr in Arabic is metaphorically used for riding and mounting. Thus, the conveyance is called zahr, because man rides on its back. As this word was employed in order to make the wife unlawful, it was termed zihar. In the pre-Islamic days this was looked upon as tantamount to the pronouncement of divorce, even of greater effect than that, for they took it to mean that the husband was not only severing his marital relations with his wife but was also declaring her to be unlawful for himself like his mother. On this very basis, the Arabs thought reunion could be possible after a divorce but it was impossible after zihar.

It may be added here that Surah At-Talaq, though placed at chapter number 65 due to its size, but actually stands at number 12 as per the order of revelation had already ;aid down clear cut procedure for divorce under Islamic law in detail. But some Muslims continued to give divorce as per old tradition of Az Zihar. And the Arabs thought reunion could be possible after a divorce but it was impossible after zihar.

Now coming over the woman who came pleading to have her grievance redressed and how was she respected after the revelation of Sūrat al-Mujādilah.

The Divine answer which was revealed in Sūrat al-Mujādilah was to redress the grievance of one Khaulah bint-Thalabah of the Khazraj tribe, wife of Aus bin Samit Ansari who was brother of Ubadah bin Samit, the chief of the Aus tribe. It so happened that her husband expressed words that were tantamount to Zihar. So she came to the Prophet of Allah and Allah heard her grievance and the matter was resolved.

Why she was later respected after the revelation of Sūrat al-Mujādilah is that fact that her complaint had been heard by Allah Almighty and the coming down of the divine command immediately to redress her grievance was an event that earned her a place of honor and esteem among the companions. 

Ibn Abi Hatim and Baihaqi have related that once Umar bin Abdel Khatab, a revered companion of the Prophet of Allah wh also rose to be the second caliph of Islam, was on his way out with some companions. On the way he came across a woman, who stopped him; he immediately stopped and listened to what she had to say patiently with his head bent down, and did not move till she had finished. One of the companions said: O commander of the faithful, you held back the Quraish chiefs for so long for the sake of this old woman! Umar said: Do you know who she is? She is Khaulah bint- Thalabah, the woman whose complaint was heard at the seventh heaven. By God, even if she had kept me standing till the night, I would have kept standing. I would only have excused myself at the prayer times. 

Ibn Abdul Barr has related in Al-Istiab this tradition from Qatadah: When Umar came across this lady, on the way, he greeted her. After answering his greeting, she said: O Umar, there was a time when I saw you at the Ukaz festival. Then you were called Umair. You tended goats with the shepherd’s staff in your hand. Then, not very long after this, you began to be called Umar. Then a time came when the people began addressing you as commander of the faithful. So, fear Allah with regard to your subjects, and remember that the one who fears Allah’s punishment, for him the stranger also is like a close kinsman, and the one who fears death, may well lose that very thing which he wants to save. At this Jarud Abdi, who was accompanying Umar, said: O woman, you have talked insolently to the commander of the faithful. Thereupon Umar said: Let her say whatever she has to say. Do you know who she is? She was heard at the seventh heaven. So, she deserves to be heard longer and with greater attention by Umar. Imam Bukhari has also related briefly a story resembling to this.

So Muslim women should take pride from the fact that not only many revered women, beside a few condemned too, have been mentioned by name in the Holy Qur'an, but Sūrat al-Mujādilah was revealed concerning women in resolution of their matrimonial matters. Besides in Holy Qur'an there are explicit instructions for giving women the share as lawful heirs of their fathers and husbands, something about which there were was no concept with Jews and Christians. In fact it was much later that women were finally allowed this social status given to Muslim women by Islam in the 7th century.

So rejoice for being granted a blessed status as Muslims and share your rights with your non Muslim friends who often claim Islam chains women. In fact Islam gives more respect, honour and dignity to Muslim women by safeguarding their rights that no other religion has given to their women, nor even their societies and social system.

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