I had the opportunity recently, while in Karachi to listen to a two hour commentary on Islamic punishment. Included in the talk were the Hudood laws. The talk was given by Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi a man who gained prominence during the time of General Zia and helped draft the much debated Hudood ordinance. Punishments included the chopping of hands, whipping and the stoning to death for adultery. I remained unconvinced as to the reasons for bringing back these punishments although, Dr. Ghazi came across as a learned and reasoned advocate. One thing that I was struck by was that among the 5 protections mentioned by Dr. Ghazi to justify these punishments was the protection of the Nasl. In other words the next generation. ( other protections included, protection of Deen and protection of Maal)
The institution of marriage was man’s vehicle to make sure that the highest and most exclusive priority was given to making sure that humans evolved into a better species and that this responsibility was given the greatest importance. This was in keeping with Allah’s design because He had made sure that the combination of hormones was such that men and women would die to mate and go through all the rituals that the animal world went into in order to select a suitable partner to procreate with.
The prohibition of Adultery and the severe punishment for it advocated in the Quran is a strong indicator that the institution of marriage requires fidelity and focus. Men must lower their gaze and women hide their beauty until they are ready to form a bond in marriage otherwise the result would be pregnancies outside of marriage as we are witnessing in the Society that we live in. The result is not just children outside of marriage but also children having children. It is a breakup of the institution of marriage and the environment of bringing up children within it which results in children being brought up as directionless orphans.
Our sacred duty is to bring forth the next generation. So much of our time and energy is devoted to this function. No one bears a greater burden of this than the female of the species. Less than a hundred years ago it was not uncommon for mothers to die young at childbirth. Now they survive and become champions of their off spring. No one pursues this with more energy and single mindedness then the female. No one deserves more respect and recognition for this than the woman.
The male is a hapless creature who struts around in all his glory unaware of the great conspiracy to steal his genes. He is seduced by the wiles of the female and then happlily or reluctantly submits himself to the responsibilities of fatherhood. In the grand design of Allah men have been more severely tested then women with the Fitnah of women. Allah has made women very desirable to men but has forbidden them to cast even a second glance at them.
Prophet Mohammed said,” I have left behind no Fitnah more harmful to men than women.” ( Bukhari and Muslim).
If one were to remove the restriction of adultery then men more than women will be happy consumers of it. A very large number of them would want all the pleasures of sex and none of the responsibilities of marriage. Sex becomes a Fitnah when you submit yourself to its desire not when you harness it as a means of achieving a higher purpose. You can either treat sex as a bodily function the same way as going to the bathroom to get rid of impurities or you can elevate it to the level of spirituality.
The responsibility of women in this respect should not be underestimated. They too have the Fitnah of making themselves appear attractive and desirable. A recent survey has revealed Almost three-quarters of South Korean male office workers feel uncomfortable when female colleagues show too much leg or cleavage in the workplace. A poll of 1,254 employees by the job portal site CareerNet found that 74 percent of men felt upset with the attire of their female co-workers. The Hijab is therefore not a symbol of the oppression of women as is thought in Western society but a sign of their respect for men.
Very few of us will become nation builders or great philosophers or inventors but every one of us will get a chance to be parents. Rich and poor, successful or unsuccessful, marriage and parenthood is within the grasp of each one of us and therefore it is the great common denominator. One of the measures of how we are all equal in the eyes of Allah is in the equal opportunity to form partnerships to bring forward the next generation. In this we may be satisfying our needs but we are also doing Allah’s work.
I want to emphasize that Marriage is built for creating a family unit not just for companionship. Companionship is essential to the stability of the union not just for its own sake. The faithfulness of the man to the woman and vice versa is also an essential feature of marriage. Infidelity and adultery distracts the focus of the marriage from being a family unit.
They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them. (2:187)
Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other's chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife's company and she in his. "The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." Islam does not consider woman "an instrument of the Devil", but rather the Qur'an calls her muhsana - a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of rectitude in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as a most virtuous act. He said: "When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion." He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: "Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower)." The Qur'an has given the raison d'être of marriage in the following words:
And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (30:21)
Here the Quran is focusing on the positives of marriage both for the man and the woman but there is also a need to focus on preserving the institution from temptations that both men and women can fall into and one of them is Adultery. So important was marriage to Society that the harshest punishment was prescribed for unfaithfulness. There can be nothing harsher than death and nothing more painful than being stoned to death.
I am not advocating here the revival of this punishment as Dr. Ghazi was and I can go into lengthy arguments as to why I am not advocating it but that is another subject for another time. What I am emphasizing is that if Society wants to promote the institution of Marriage then Society must insist on suitable laws for it. American Society is so focused on the rights of Individuals that it cannot be a champion of marriage. American Society is therefore already experiencing the breakup of the marital institution. That this poses a serious threat to its next generation is not adequately recognized.
The preservation of “Nasl” as a sacred duty does not stop at having children, its focus is on making an attempt to improve the next generation. For this it is not enough to think that a man and a woman trying their level best to form the best family unit and to give the best upbringing can bring about the desired result. Let us not forget the partnership with Allah. Let us not forget that Allah has His own plans for each individual and that we must submit to those plans. The conscious participation of Allah in the institution of Marriage is Islam’s unique contribution to mans thinking on this subject. Trying our best, as we know it, is part of our test but the results are not assured.
I have tried to explain today the background of the punishment for Adultery in Islam. In today’s world with all its complexities there may be problems in executing this punishment and at the same time ensuring that the poor are not singled out for this punishment while the rich continue to evade punishment and therefore practice adultery without fear of mans law. Punishments under Sharia were and are intended to deter and discourage certain types of undesirable activity. Would be adulterers are more likely to be discouraged if they thought that they would be stoned to death rather than incur the wrath of their spouse. I am conscious that I have not recommended a suitable punishment for adultery in the modern world except to say that it should be strict an exemplary but I hope that I have stressed that adultery is a crime against society and not a question of individual morality.
Sharia can be well implemented or poorly implemented. Sharia poorly implemented may be worse than sharia not implemented because it does not achieve its purpose and further gives a bad name to Islam. In Muslim countries the implementation of Sharia has been half hearted and done without much thought to how the existing systems may end up sabotaging it.
I have also tried to explain that Western Society while understanding the importance of marriage is far too focused on Individualism and protecting the rights of individuals. This has caused an irreconcilable conflict in which marriage has become the victim. The marital parties are more focused on their individual wishes and thus ill prepared to forming a healthy unit. They are also far too distracted by not imposing enough restrictions on themselves against adultery and the most common cause for the breakup of a marriage then becomes infidelity.
The overall loser in all of this then becomes the Nasl. We are witness today of a generation of next Americans who are not as well educated, obese and spoiled by the good life and most importantly less likely to be successful in their marriages. The divorce rate keeps climbing and in spite of their best efforts to care for his children and her children, the end result is a society where men and women are finding it very difficult to form lasting relationships. Muslim families have an opportunity to bring up children who can contribute to a healthy America if they hold on to the values emphasized by Islam.