No room for violence in Islam

Being an Islamic state, our religion forbids all those acts that physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually may hurt or harm the other. Domestic violence, rape and incest are all violent and criminal abuses that are outside the bounds of what is permitted in Islam and there is absolutely no justification for it whatsoever. To fully understand this issue we need to examine what Islam teaches us about the value of human life.

Islam views human life as a sacred gift from God. The Qur’an repeatedly stresses the sanctity of life (hurmat al hayat). The life of every single individual regardless of gender, age, nationality or religion is worthy of respect. In verses referring to the sanctity of life, the term used is ‘nafs’ (soul, life); and there is no distinction made in that soul being young or old, male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim. Qur’anic teachings encompass every aspect of life; hence it does not limit the definition of life to the physical body only, but includes the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects as well.

Historically, Islam has addressed serious issues openly and sought to correct actions that constitute harm or ‘zulm’ to the dignity of humankind. Human life and respect for it has been stressed unstintingly, regardless of age or gender. As a general rule, Islam forbids all ‘zulm’, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. During the time of the Prophet (saw) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa’il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her.

They seized him and brought him to Allah’s messenger, who said to the woman, “Go away, for Allah has forgiven you,” but of the man who had raped her, he said, “Stone him to death.” And. During the time when Omar (raa) was the Khalifah, a woman accused his son Abu Shahmah of raping her; she brought the infant borne of this incident with her to the mosque and publicly spoke about what had happened. Omar (raa) asked his son who acknowledged committing the crime and was duly punished right there and then. There was no punishment given to the woman.

Islamic legal scholars interpret rape as a crime in the category of Hiraba. In ‘Fiqh-us-Sunnah’, hiraba is described as: ‘a single person or group of people causing public disruption, killing, forcibly taking property or money, attacking or raping women (hatk al ‘arad), killing cattle, or disrupting agriculture.’ The famous jurist, Ibn Hazm, had the widest definition of hiraba, defining a hiraba offender as: ‘One who puts people in fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces, in the palace of a caliph or a mosque, with or without accomplices, in the desert or in the village, in a large or small city, with one or more people… making people fear that they’ll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped (hatk al ‘arad)… whether the attackers are one or many.” Al-Dasuqi held that if a person forced a woman to have sex, his actions would be deemed as committing hiraba.

In addition, the Maliki judge Ibn ‘Arabi, relates a story in which a group was attacked and a woman in their party was raped. Responding to the argument that the crime did not constitute hiraba because no money was taken and no weapons used, Ibn ‘Arabi replied indignantly that “hiraba with the private parts” is much worse than hiraba involving the taking of money, and that anyone would rather be subjected to the latter than the former.

The crime of rape is classified not as a subcategory of ‘zina’ (consensual adultery), but rather as a separate crime of violence under hiraba. This classification is logical, as the “taking” is of the victim’s property (the rape victim’s sexual autonomy) by force. In Islam, sexual autonomy and pleasure is a fundamental right for both women and men (Ghazâlî); taking by force someone’s right to control the sexual activity of one’s body is thus a form of hiraba. Rape as hiraba is a violent crime that uses sexual intercourse as a weapon. The focus in a hiraba prosecution is the accused rapist and his intent and physical actions, and not second-guessing the consent of the rape victim. Hiraba does not require four witnesses to prove the offense, circumstantial evidence, medical data and expert testimony from the evidence used to prosecute such crimes.

Early Islam thus established that there should be no tolerance of the attitude that a woman’s sexual activity is something to be bartered, pawned, gossiped about, or owned by the men in her life. Personal responsibility of every human being for their own actions is a fundamental principle in Islamic thought. In Pakistan child molestation, rape, prostitution and abuse are issues we think do not exist. This assumption is not true. According to data compiled by a leading non-governmental organization working on child sexual abuse, most cases in Pakistan are executed by a trusted older figure such as uncle, cousin or friends of the parents.

It is shared with thorough regret that in the year 2010, a total of 2,252 children throughout Pakistan were sexually assaulted. An NGO, named SAHIL that works towards eliminating child abuse, showed that 73 percent of the children who were sexually assaulted girls and 27 percent were boys. The cruel reality is that these figures are based on reported incidents only, so the actual number of abuse cases would definitely be must higher! Moreover, according to the law, the police have to submit basic investigation details to the court within 14 days. However, the police normally submit a report in about six months. Consequently, the evidence expires and the case goes dead.

As child abuse is on the rise from last five years. Every news headline reporting rape case that mostly takes place in rural areas .While in cities most of the parents remain out for job and business and their children remain with maids or in neighbors who look after them, which result in child abuse, kidnapping and rape. Parents should be responsible towards their children. Victims of such mishaps definitely need protection, intervention and rehabilitation for which centers in provinces must be established. Awareness regarding this matter must be spread all around. Only then can children be safe from sex predators. The irony is that the people at the helm do not realize severity of the problem, particularly the agony and pain such an incident inflicts upon the victim and the family.

By Fouzia Miran