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HINDU WOMEN Vs MUSLIM WOMEN

A vast number of Muslim websites like WWW.Submission.Org and anti-hindu sites like www.dalistan.org claim that contrary to popular perception, Islam grants many rights to its women and its treatment of women are far superior to the way Hinduism treats women. According to them, the Quran, the true word of God, treat the women on equal basis with man and give them the rights that were not known in the civilized world until recently. This article is to challenge such propaganda. Apparently the authors of these webpages have not bothered to do any original research (for fear that by reading Kaffir scriptures they would get corrupted?) but have simply set down what they fondly think should be the Hindu religious laws in order to make themselves look superior.

Their claims are in the left-hand coloumn while counterclaims are in the righthand column.

The laws and rights of marriage and divorce (if at all) are undefined or varied for the Hindu Woman leaving her with none or very little advantage. Detailed descriptions of eight types of marriages are laid down in both ManuSamhita and other scriptures, as well as in the secular manual Arthashastra. In particular, the rights and duties of husbands and wives and how they should behave towards one another are given in great length in Arthashastra. About divorce both Manusamhita and Arthashastra say that, if the husband is impotent, a traitor, evil-liver, has become an ascetic or an outcast or is missing for a prescribed number of years, then the wife can leave him without blame and marry again. Arthashastra also declares that in other circumstances, divorce can take place only by mutual consent. Manu also discusses situations where the wife wishes to return to her first husband whether she has simply deserted him or had married another.

Incidentally while the Koran says that both men and women have the right to initiate divorce, the man enjoys greater advantage since it is enough for him to pronounce 'talaq' three times. After that, there is no turning back, according to the Koran itself, unless the woman marries another and consumnates the second marriage and then is divorced by the second husband. If the second husband refuses to divorce her, there will be no divorce. If the logic is to make the husbands think twice before pronouncing talaq, the law should have been made more stringent. No one knows how many marriages had been wrecked in a moment of rage. Also, here the husband who is the guilty party suffers far less than the wife. Indeed, the situation in the modern age is felt to be so intolerable that some of the more liberalised Muslim countires now forbid this kind of easy divorce, but they continue in other countries like India.

The same applies for property or inheritance rights. Males make and absorb all claims.

But Muslim woman can inherit and conduct her own business.

Again, Arthashastra and Manusamhita are excellent sources about the woman's right to property or ‘Stridhan’, (literally meaning, property of wife). It is of two types: maintenance (in money or land given by the husband), and anything else like ornaments given to her by her family, husband, in-laws and the friends of her husband. (Manu subdivides this into six types --- the property given by parents at marriage, given by the parental family when she is going to her husband’s house, given by her husband out of affection { not maintenance which the husband is bound to give}, and property given separately by brother, mother and father). Pre-nuptial contracts are also mentioned where the groom would agree to give a set amount of brideprice to both parents and the bride. Such property belonged to the wife alone and was not to be touched by the groom except in emergencies (in sickness, in famine, threated by robbers, or for performing holy deeds) or her parents. Daughters and sons inherited eqully their mother's property; but some scriptures insist that a mother's property belongs solely to the daughters, in order of preference: unmarried daughters, married but poor daughters, married and rich daughters. When a father died, unmarried daughters had to be given a share in their father’s property even if brothers were present, equal to one-fourth from every brother's share [since it is assumed that the married daughter had been given her share at marriage]; if there were no sons then daughters inherited the father's property, "As the son is born from one's body, so too is the daughter born. Therefore, in the presence of a daughter, no one else can inherit ".

Women were also allowed to earn money for themselves as agricultural workers, spinning, attendants, making alcohol, entertainers etc. : in fact, allowing housewives to hold jobs and earn money is a method recommended in ManuSamhita to keep them out of mischief! Therefore, the rhetorical question ‘Which other religion grants women these rights’ is answered.

Incidentally, while Muslim women can inherit, it is also laid down clearly that the male heir shall always inherit twice the share of the female. Even if a girl is the only daughter, she can inherit only half of her father's property.

Choice of partner in the case of a Hindu Woman is limited because she can only marry within her own caste; moreover her horoscope must match that of the intending bridegroom/family. All Hindu scriptures dealing with marriage laws mention ‘Anulome’ (when a man of high caste marries a woman of low caste) and ‘Pratilome’ (when a woman of high caste marries a man of low caste) marriages. Some lawgivers are against intercaste marriage, but they were sanctioned and took place. As for horoscopes, that practice flourished most from the middle ages. Nowhere is it mentioned that horoscope must match.
Dowry has to be paid to the bridegroom/family. This is a much later practice. In fact, many verses of ManuSamhita complain about brideprice saying it is nothing other than selling the daughter! When the husband was given anything, it depended entirely on the father's wishes.
If the husband dies, remarriage is a problem and she can be compelled to commit sati. According to all Hindu scriptures, a widow can remarry. The very term 'punurbhu' is defined as a woman, virgin or not-a-virgin, who has married again. Quite a few sages have gone into a tizzy, laying down her property rights in various such situations and the rights of her children from both her previous and later marriages. Again, not even the severest lawgiver demanded that she commit sati, though the later ones praised it as highly meritorous but some also said that it was simply suicide and therefore foolish. Sati is an entirely voluntary act; but in the 18th and 19th century some rich families did force widows to commit sati to get their property.

Another practice associated with Sati is the Jahar ceremony, when women of a city would burn themselves after it had fallen in war. Significantly, all known jahar ceremonies took place when the citadel was in the danger of falling into hands of Muslim invaders. Apparently, these Hindu women were too foolish to apprecitate the glorious rights Islam would have granted them.

The widow is considered to be a curse and not to be seen in public. She cannot wear colourful clothes or jewelry and is not even allowed to attend her children’s’ wedding. This takes place only among ignorant people who have not bothered to read scriptures. As for not wearing colourful clothes and jewelry, one should not be too influenced by what Hindi films portray which is mostly based on the plight of Bengali widows in former decades. Certainly in many places, widows do not dress colourfully or are thought of as unlucky, but in even more regions the widows move about freely wearing colourful clothes and jewellery.
Child and infant marriage is encouraged. In the earliest Scriptures, a girl is considered marriageable only when her menstruation starts. In the epics there is not a single instance of child-marriage. Child marriages came into vogue later, yet consumnation took place after the bride attained puberty. Again, childmarriage took off in a big way after Muslim invasion to protect family honour of the natal families.

Moreover, I am astonished that Muslims accuse Hindus of this, when their own prophet consummnated his marriage with 9 year old Ayesha. The only acceptable defence I have ever heard about this is that the ancient Arabs could not count properly and so 9 means something else. At least the person who made this defence knows that having sex with a child is wrong. The average Muslim simply becomes angry at having his prophet criticized. But if they accuse Hindus of being child-abusers, they better be prepared to apply the same standard to their own apostle.

A Hindu woman is brought up to be regard her husband as a god (Pati Parameshwar). It would have surprised our ancient lawgivers. Wives are only recommended to honour their husbands; if patriarchal systems later twisted this they cannot be blamed. Moreoever, in Manusamhita there is a whole chapter entitled 'Praise/Worship of Women' where men are commanded to keep women happy so that the gods will be happy. Again husbands are ordered to honour their wives, but if later men choose to ignore them, what can the scripture-writers do?

Also, as shown above women had the right to leave their husbands lawfully in certain circumstances.

Mixed marriage is encouraged in Islam as a means to avoid racism creeping in. Marriage can take place only among the faithful. Believing men and women are forbidden to infidels. At most, the Muslim man can marry women from the People of the book. But the Muslim woman cannot do this. Any non-Muslim who wants to marry a Muslim woman must become a Muslim. Therefore, definition of mixed marriage is a narrow one. It allows religious bigotry to creep in.
A Muslim mother is honoured. Every religion orders men to honour their mothers; there is nothing special about such a command. ‘Janani, janmobhumischa swargadapi garioshi’ --- mother and motherland are more glorious than heaven. Even the most misogynist scriptures agree that "Mother is heavier than the earth" and "The debt owed to a mother can never be repaid". Moreoever, it is specifically stated again and again, "The mother is a thousand times holier than the father". Where is the Muslim scripture that gives such primacy to the mother over the father?
Stress has been laid on how Allah said, "I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you MALE OR FEMALE, YOU ARE EQUAL TO ONE ANOTHER..." So what? Our gods do not distinguish between male and female either.

However Quran also makes sure that on earth at least women shall be inferior: "women shall with justice have rights similar to those exercised against them, ALTHOUGH MEN HAVE A STATUS ABOVE WOMEN" (Al Baquar -- The Cow); "MEN HAVE AUTHORITY OVER WOMEN BECAUSE ALLAH HAS MADE THE ONE SUPERIOR TO THE OTHER…" (Al NISA -- Women)

 

Recently a Muslim woman attacked the worship of shiva-lingam on the grounds that since women have to kneel in front of the idol, it proves Hindu women have a low status! Yet, the lingam is not lingam alone but yoni also: both male and female principles are included. Moreover both its lower symbolism --- fertility --- and higher meaning --- the energy of creation --- is evident to any who apply their brains.

I also note with interest that several Hindu customs that discriminate against women have been left alone, because the Muslims also practice them according to the Koran and therefore they see no wrong in them.

(i) Some Hindu lawgivers have said that a disobedient wife, if she cannot be controlled in any other way, might be struck three times on the back only and only with a bamboo cane. This was an excellent stick with which to beat Hindus for abuse of women. Why don't the Muslims do this? Because, the Koran advocates beating of disobedient wives! Since in Hinduism the sacred lawbooks (Dharmashastras) can be criticised, wifebeating is now punishable without any Hindu feeling his religious rights had been violated. But to the Muslims, the Koran cannot be subjected to criticism, and so they accept beating of the wife by husband as entirely proper.

(ii) Similarly Hindu scriptures sanction polygamy. Polygamy is unfair to women, if they are not prepared to share their husbands. But nothing is said of this, because of course, Muhammad himself had 9 wives and the Koran permits four wives. Also, in Hinduism casual polygamy was not permitted. "If the wife is barren then in the 8th year, if she produces only dead sons then in the 10th year, if she produces only daughters then in the 11th year the man will take another wife [to get a son] but if she is quarrelsome then timelimit need not apply", but in all cases the first wife has to be given maintainance and liquid funds. To violate any of the above rules invited monetary and even corporeal punishment. Today we know that such beliefs that a woman is responsible for the sex of the child or of stillbirth are unscientific, so Hindus have discarded this practice. Similarly if a husband wishes to marry another wife merely out of desire, he is ordered to "satisfy the first wife with as much money as she desires" [she retains her right to live on in the husband's house as his wife however] --- we call that divorce with alimony today! All the Koran says on the other hand is that a man must be equitable to all his wives --- but that is left to the husband alone to decide. So a Muslim can and does marry again and again. The permission of the first wife is supposed to be sought, but who is there to help her if her husband remarries over her objections, particularly when he can divorce her without her consent? Yet polygamy is actually defended and actively practiced by Muslims, so Hindu polygamy is not criticized.

(iii) Very orthodox high-caste Hindu families often practice keeping their women in seclusion and make them hide their faces in presence of stranger males. This limits their human freedom, but no Muslim would criticise that, since the veil to them is actually an instrument of liberation! According to them, the veil hides a woman's feminine charms and so enables her to be respected as a intelligent human being. Good. Astonishingly, it never occurs to Muslim men to percieve the image it paints of ordinary human male, including themselves --- they are (including the most devout Muslims) ravening beasts, who are unable to control their impulses even if they only see a woman's face! That is the claim such defence of the veil makes --- at all times, the human male is no better than an animal in rut. How terrible for a woman to walk down the road and know that only a bit of cloth stands between her and gang-rape! No doubt Muslims would be angry and say that I am twisting the meaning of the veil, and undoubtedly many Muslim women are comfortable with the veil, without thinking of the implications. She is safe amidst her own male kindred, but even her father, brother and husband cannot be trusted with strange women. But this is the only conclusion such a defence --- a veil is needed automatically to protect a woman's modesty from all strange men --- can lead to. I have heard it said that the full veil is not truly Islamic; indeed in the Koran I agree, nothing specifically is said about the full veil [that law comes from the Hadiths] and only a covering for the head is ordered. In that case, rather than trying to rescue Hindu women from bondage, will these websites try to rectify the situation in Islamic theorcracies where women have to wear the full veil or have acid thrown into their faces?

Since the Muslims see fit to criticise Hindu treatment of women, let me ask what do they think of the Koranic treatment of slave-women?

It is not lawful for you (to marry other) women after this, nor to change them for other wives even though their beauty attracts you, except those whom your right hand possesses [meaning slaves and women captured in war]. And Allah is Ever a Watcher over all things.” Surah 33:52

“Except from their wives or that their right hands possess,--for then, they are free from blame;” Surah 23:6

“Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you…..” Surah 4:24

In other words, if you are unlucky enough to be a slavegirl in a Muslim society or be captured in war by a Muslim, you are not a human being --- you can be raped by your master as many times as he pleased --- this practice is sanctioned by Allah. This is true even if the girl is a Muslim: merely being a female and a slave is enough to make her fair game. There is no limit on such concubinage and she has no legal rights either; to protest is to be unislamic. There is one faint chance for her --- her master might free her and marry her, or that if she bears a child, then after her master's death she would be free (always provided she had not been sold off to another). This applies even to captive women taken in war --- the fact that you have been married before does not matter; whomever the govt/chief had distributed you to as booty is now your master. However, such marriage can take place only if the slave is a muslim; if you are a Hindu or American Indian who prefers to cling on to her ancestral beliefs, why then you are simply an object and no atrocities committed on your flesh by your Muslim slave-owner is a sin, no more than going to the lavaratory is a sin! Also notice, nowhere does the Koran forbid slavery --- all it says that slaves must be treated humanely and freeing them is good, but again that only applies to believing slaves. If the Muslims want to attack Hindu caste system and treatment of women, then let them first answer why Koran does not forbid slavery and indeed states that a slave girl is nothing more than a piece of meat for the man's pleasure.

Finally, since there is such talk of the rights granted to Muslim women, let me ask, where are the Muslim female Imams and mullahs? In the modern age Christianity and Hinduism has began the practice of having women priests, --- well where the Muslim women priests?

SO, before attacking Hindu treatment of women, let the Muslims put their house in order. Or perhaps they attack Hinduism so that they can distract attention of the ordinary Muslim from the beam in their own eyes!

 

I trust that this webpage deeply offends every zealot Muslim who is fired up with hatred for infidels and conviction of the righteousness of his cause.

For those Muslims who can think for themselves, I advocate application of reason. Let them ask themselves --- why shall they have the right to criticize Hinduism on grounds of human rights and feminism, but deny that their own religion must also be scrutinized under the same scanner? If they do not believe that the Koran says such things, then learn Arabic and study the original manuscripts. If the only answer is Islam is the Truth, then that is no answer either on rational or humanistic grounds.

As a Hindu female therefore I judged and found that it is infinitely preferable to be a Hindu than a Muslim woman.

If anyone has any comment to add you can send them directly to hinduwoman@hindunet.com However, if it is only to abuse me for 'distorting' the message of Islam or declaring that as a superstitious Hindu I cannot understand Islam's superiority, then don't bother. Only concrete proofs that I have misinterpreted the Koranic injunctions will be entertained.


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