Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:51 pm Post subject: Bride-Pricing and the Liberation of Women
Bride-Pricing and the Liberation of Women
By: Samir Noorali
A woman and a man are two parts of one being. They complete each other. To put women down is to create an unbalance in society which interferes with progress and modernity. Women are not property, and that is a fundamental notion that some men find very difficult to understand. No man can own a woman, nor can any woman own a man. Surely, there are contracts such as marriage which outline mutual responsibilities, but no man has a right to buy and sell women like a piece of property.
This comes to the topic of bride-pricing. One of the most degrading and dehumanizing acts of man, that spans almost every culture in the world, is to buy and sell women. The degrees in which men treat women vary from moderate to extreme, but in the end it is always the woman that suffers.
The bride-price is when money or property is given by the groom to the family of the bride, usually the father, upon marriage. In many instances marriage is considered void if the bride-price is not given. Some may see this as a protection for the woman in case of divorce, but in reality that is simply an excuse to control a woman.
Bride-pricing is evil in its very conception. Rather than liberating a woman, educating her, allowing her to work, providing laws to prevent men from physically harming her, a woman is treated like a piece of furniture that must be passive not assertive. One such scenario will put bride-pricing as the root of all acts of suppression against women.
As an example, if a boy were to see a girl whom he wishes to marry, he would first tell his parents who then would mediate on his behalf. He and his parents would setup a meeting with the girl’s parents to request her hand in marriage. The girl’s father would think that his daughter is much too valuable and would only agree to the marriage if the boy’s parents were to pay a certain amount of money to buy her.
Now the boy’s parents may be rich, which would make purchase easy, but here’s where the entire sickness of the bride-pricing turns into another dehumanizing act towards women. If the boy’s parents cannot afford the girl then it poses a dilemma. What can be even worse is if the boy and girl are in love but the money becomes a barrier to getting them together.
It is important to remember that sex is a powerful urge. When you place such a boy in a situation where he loves a girl and cannot have her because of money, his inner urges will begin to take root. He will do anything to have her. Not only that, but he will die before he sees her married off to another man because of his money. In such a tight situation a boy’s primitive instincts will take over and he will want the girl by any means. In cooperation with his family he’ll plan the ultimate act. To kidnap the girl.
With the help of a few friends, when the girl least expects it, the boy will kidnap her and take her to his house. There the family will be waiting with smiles on their face at the heroic and manly act their son has performed. To them it’s not a crime, but a show of strength and necessity to fulfill his bodily urges.
Next he will take the girl into a room, she screaming and pleading for help. Nobody will hear her cries, nobody will sympathise with her, and nobody will come to her rescue. Like an animal she’ll be taken into a room to face what will forever imprint itself into her psyche. She will be raped by force and with that she will be silenced and taken to be his forever.
She’ll emerge from the room silent and with dried tears. The family will take her and explain that the entire ordeal was for her own good, that she is already taken, and that nothing can reverse the situation. Her only choice is to submit to the will of her conqueror and accept the family as her own. A few more nights with the boy to seal the deal, and then they will plan to send a representative from their family to seek out the girl’s father.
The father, worried sick about his daughter’s disappearance, is afraid that the inevitable has happened to her. He soon meets the representative face to face and is told that his daughter has been taken and that she has already had sex with a boy from a good family. The representative will go further and explain that nothing can reverse the situation and that he should accept the terms and conditions of marriage as proposed by the family.
After much wailing and shouting the father is told to keep calm and silent. Without a choice he agrees to accept the bride-price in exchange for his daughter. After a few days the family brings the girl to the father’s house along with his future son in law. The bride-price is paid and the marriage takes place. The girl is taken back to her new home to live forever by her beloved master.
Now other men hear the story of this girl and pray that such a thing doesn’t happen to their daughters. No laws prevent this type of behaviour and therefore fathers are forced to make a decision. Either they let their daughters be free or they hide them in such as way so that no man may want them. The solution is the hijab – a veil which in some countries partially covers a woman to other countries which completely cover the woman.
This hijab is a cultural consequence of rape, which is a consequence of the bride-pricing. Nowhere has the Prophet Mohamed ever have allowed women to be covered up in such a demeaning manner. It is the culture which brought upon such laws and integrated it into Islam. Islam is a just religion. Its very tenants are to uphold women’s rights, not to bring them down. Allah created beauty not to cover it up, but to exemplify his art of creation. It is men who created laws to dehumanize women and then make God look like the enforcer. Allah never meant women to be unequal to men. But men took it upon themselves to control women because they are scared of losing them. They want the women to always love them and in such jealousy they created laws which ensure women are tightly controlled.
The dehumanizing of women is not the fault of Mohamed, or Allah, or Jesus, or Moses, or Ali. It is the fault of men in society who want to control women, who have no laws to prevent such injustices, and who accept such practices as being normal.
In the 1950’s, women in the western world seldom had their pants underneath the navel. Women were expected to stay at home and be good house wives. But that later evolved and western culture has given women the empowerment to lead their own lives. But there is a flip side to that freedom. The freedom has now become a licence to become promiscuous, and disloyal. The institution of marriage in the western world is under question. Men and women are less faithful in their marriages and the divorce rate is depressingly high.
Not all the events in bride-pricing occur exactly how it is described in this letter, but the point of it is to look at the root causes of why women are victims of dehumanizing laws. It’s not the fault of any god, but rather the fault of man himself. If you remove the bride-pricing, you remove the rape, you remove the hijab, you remove the control. In its place you liberate women by educating them, empowering them to have equal opportunities as men, to have a voice, to share the beauty of their bodies, and to fall in love or out of love with whomever they want.
The typical western woman of the 1950’s did not disappear overnight. It took years of evolution. Instead of mocking Islam and the faith, we should try to change the men who created such laws. If we change the men, we will be able to liberate women. It takes teaching men that women are to be respected and protect from such injustices. That women are equal to men and that they represent their mother, sister, wife, and daughter. That they should remove the hijab or veil completely and enact laws to prevent men from raping women.
Islam teaches right over wrong. We have been given the free will to decide what is acceptable and what is not. If orthodox views of Islam would give way to moderate views of Islam then entire world would benefit from such a faith. The western world is ready to accept Islam, but a moderate Islam. If the issue of women is not resolved then Islam will find it very difficult to be compatible with western culture.
It has been the tradition of the Prophet up till Hazar Imam to educate and empower women. Ismailis are not encouraged to weir the hijab, and are not required to practice bride-pricing – the buying and selling of women. Thanks to Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah, Ismaili women are not ashamed to show their bodies in a decent manner, they are exceptionally educated, and are at times more empowered than men. That sort of moderate Islam is far more acceptable in the western world than orthodox Islam.
Laws are of two extremes. Too much on one side can lead to either suppression of women or a licence to be promiscuous. Either she’s comfortable being a prostitute or a passive wife. Why not shoot for a balance which allows her to choose. Perhaps she wants to be both loyal to her husband or boyfriend and at the same time free to lead her own life.
There is nothing in this universe that Allah has created more beautiful than women. They are a work of art. Let us all respect that and celebrate it.
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