The injustice of denying divorce to women who are suffering under the hands of cruel and vindictive husbands was the subject of discussion on the MBC channel last week. Popular talk show host Daoud Alshiryan hosted Dr. Suhaila Zain Alabideen, who is a distinguished member of the national society for human rights NSHR, a prominent judge, a lawyer and a divorced woman who was a victim of a greedy father and an elderly man. The divorced woman was married at 14 and suffered her husband’s cruelty, miserliness and foul behavior for years because the judge refused to grant her divorce until she paid the dowry money spent by her father.
Dr. Suhaila emphasized that judges have to understand the concept of “Khul3” or redemption that was applied in the case of the victim of a cruel husband. According to Shariah laws, redemption or Khul3 is only applied in cases of divorce, whereby the wife agrees to pay an amount of money to a non-abusive husband to buy her freedom. She explained that abused women living in miserable conditions have the right to ask for a divorce. Judges have to be reminded not to apply Khul3 unjustifiably. It is time to put an end to the distorted application of Khul3 that allows the husband to take advantage of his wife’s vulnerability and demand compensation for her release.
The popular program succeeded in addressing divorce cases due to cruelty, neglect, failure to provide, psychological abuse and violent behavior causing injuries and mental distress.
The panelists dicussed cases of women who suffer physical abuse and humiliation to report to a police station, produce medical evidence and get witnesses to testify in court. They also brought to light other cases when women are deprived of seeing their children. The husbands would threaten to harm the children or would be cruel to them to take revenge on the mothers seeking divorce.
The Shariah scholar reiterated that enforcing misinterpreted Shariah rulings is the reason behind the injustice toward women and children in our courts. Judges should not remain indifferent to the long sufferings of women at the hands of husbands who refuse to grant them divorce and are cruel to their children. Women have a right to ask for divorce and freedom to remarry hoping that the second marriage would bring happiness and a life of dignity.
The scholar brilliantly disputed discriminatory rulings against women in the name of Islam. Her eloquence and scholarly knowledge of Shariah gave her the authority to debate the controversial issues concerning the legal rights of women in Islam. She used examples from the Qur’an and the Sunnah and she identified misinterpretations or weak Hadiths that are not strongly authenticated but are often applied in divorce cases denying women justice and fair trial.
Dr. Suhaila was not alone in criticizing the discrimination against women and the cruelty of many men in Muslim countries. Young women nowadays have become intolerant to unjust rulings of our courts. They are on twitter and on Facebook criticizing the negligence in addressing grievances and injustices.
Today’s educated women continue demand for their God-given rights and are not satisfied until justice is served. Women’s confidence has to be ensured by implementing laws that enforce fair legal actions reflecting the true teachings of Islam. The NSHR member said during the discussion that ambiguities in the rulings of Ulamas must be addressed and that we need to influence the legal system for a more humane attitude toward women.
She said social injustice against women calls for effective, codified Shariah laws to make both men and women aware of women’s legal rights and violators should be held accountable for any mistreatment and abuse. Only when there is such a written code of Shariah laws can discrimination against women end.
The well-respected advocate of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia has often pointed out mistakes in religious discourses in several talk shows and television interviews. But she believes that there has been positive progress on human rights in Saudi Arabia. She said: “We are moving on the right path as a result of the growing acceptance and understanding of human rights here where every member of the family has a right to a good life based on Islamic values.”
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was published in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 18.