May 31, 2016 by Suara Kebenaran
By Abdar Rahman Koya
There are doctors and PhDs, and then there is Dr Fathul Bari, Umno’s youthful high priest in charge of Islam.
This fatwa factory has dropped another ridiculous religious edict with his recent Facebook post that Mastura Yazid, the BN candidate in Kuala Kangsar, is prohibited from campaigning outside her home. Why? Well, according to Fathul, she is still in the period of “iddah” following her husband’s recent death and is forbidden from venturing out of her house during that period.
Really? One does not need to be an Islamic scholar to understand the absurdity of this statement from Fathul, whose Saudi-style Islam has been the order of the day in Umno in recent years. After all, this Malay party too has been inflicted with the disease now rampant among Muslims in this country: listening to young men in skullcaps waxing Quranic verses interspersed with sex and marital jokes.
Iddah is not about stopping a widow from going out of her house to meet friends or to shop or even to attend an event to hear Fathul and his ilk showing their ignorance about Islam.
And iddah is not even mourning. And this is particularly true for a religion that enjoins followers to move on almost immediately after the death of their loved ones. The funeral is fairly quick and simple, and a Muslim corpse is usually buried within 24 hours of death.
Iddah is just a rule to temporarily prevent a widow from remarrying, after which it is natural for her to have sexual intercourse with a new man, so that there is no way that the DNA of the child she gives birth to will be disputed to be that of her dead husband’s.
The four-month period seems to be a sensible one and scientifically sound, for there is no way a cute little sperm of her dead husband would wait four dull months inside her to spring into action the moment it sees a gush of new friends coming. Of course, even this rule can be changed with new scientific discoveries, but that would be another question under the topics of ijtihad and, yes, common sense, both enemies of the Wahhabis.
Now back to iddah and the four-month rule. It is applicable to a woman who is divorced or widowed. And that too if she is lucky (or unlucky) enough to meet a replacement for her dead husband just weeks after sobbing over his grave. But if she has given up the idea of remarrying, then iddah is irrelevant to her.
During this period, a widow is free to do whatever she wants to. Yes, including driving a car – that detestable, sexually provocative act banned by the Keeper of the Two Holy Places whose family members have been quite generous to a certain Malaysian citizen recently.
Over time, with the spread of Saudi petrodollars and consequently the literalist brand of Islam, the meaning of iddah has changed, inheriting with it beliefs alien to Islam and common sense. In extreme cases such as in rural India, there are Muslims who emulate the Hindu mourning style for widows, although Hindus themselves have slowly come out of such a restrictive ritual. Widowed women would not only confine themselves to their homes, but would also stop wearing colourful clothes or jewellery, just like their conservative Hindu counterparts, to show they are in grief.
The Quranic ruling on iddah (2:234) is clear and crisp, and there is never any restriction on a woman who lost her husband to travel and do all the things that a normal human being would do: “And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait for four months and ten days.”
God forbid that if I die today, our salaried guardians of faith would not allow my wife to get out of the house, when the truth is she would have all the more reason to do so. For how else is she going to put food on the table for our kids?
Or perhaps Fathul thinks that he is still living in the medieval period, when Muslim streets were awash with wealth, swept clean by the long and thick robes of women walking gracefully, their faces hidden from pious men lowering their gaze to their pointed leather sandals.
In fact, it is partly due to this fixation with the so-called golden age of the caliphate, or in current parlance the petrol-greased lifestyle of the Middle East, that some Muslims interpret the religion in rich man’s terms. And so we see such rulings to ensure women stay unemployed, enjoying the comforts of home with a couple of maids and that they sit only in the back seat of their cars.
If this type of Islam were introduced to the fishing folk in coastal India or the farming communities in Indonesia, all of whom are now Muslims, they would not have accepted Islam at all. For how else can a lady in Java step into the paddy field without lifting her skirt to reveal her knees?
One of the biggest problems that Muslims face today is the rise of literalist Islam. Those in this category would like to call themselves “Salafis”, the more polite name for “Wahhabis”, and they have wreaked much damage in the Muslim world, starting right from the birthplace of Islam.
This literalist Islam is marked by an allergy to deeper understanding of Quranic verses, and a rejection of various Quranic sciences used to interpret the revelations based on context and the human capability to think.
The Quranic declaration that the Book is “for people who think”, which means it is open to interpretation as well as to scientific and historical experiences, is lost on people like Fathul Bari.
To Datin Mastura, here’s an advice. Ignore the young man in the skullcap. Go out and campaign for your party, meet the voters, and give them whatever sarongs and T-shirts your leaders have provided.
And to Fathul’s wife: if you don’t kick the bucket before the hubby, make sure he leaves you with plenty of money, at least for four months, and a good broadband connection in case you are chosen as an election candidate.
Abdar Rahman Koya is a journalist.
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