Habib Ali speaks out on mistreatment of and violence against women

Habib Ali passionately talks about the compulsion placed on Muslims in ensuring that the treatment of women within the community is done in a just manner. He outlines the Prophetic tradition on how the measure of goodness is tied to the goodness to women.

[Representative from Henna Foundation requesting donations from audience members.]

Shereen (paraphrased): “Before I go there is something—Habib Ali spoke about change and we need change in our community. One of the things that we do at our foundation [Henna Foundation] is support Muslim families. Last week, we had a call from a Muslim sister who was kicked out of her house by her husband while she was two months pregnant, along with her nine-month-old baby. … That baby is now born and is approximately three months old. She is not entitled to any public funding because of her immigration status.

This is not happening in a third-world country. This is happening at your footstep. We have Muslims and non-Muslims suffering and it is our duty to help them.”

[Fundraising begins. Habib Ali requests to speak.]

Habib Ali: “I can’t leave without remarking on what I’ve just heard.

As for the sister—under the Sharia, it is a communal obligation to look after her, considering her condition. [If none of us do it, then we are all sinning.] And it is not a favor to her—it is an obligation for us. And it is not because we pity her, not because we owe her something—it is her right.

That is not the only issue. We have to work seriously to end problems like this. We have to treat this problem. We shouldn’t start talking about the future of Muslim society and our rights, how the government was good to us in this way and oppressed us in this way, our problems with racists and conservatives, etc. This talk about building a Muslim society—this all beings to sound like (and I hope you will forgive me for say ing so) bullshit. This is bullshit. This is pointless.

All of that [talk]—building the nation, building the community, the rights of Muslims, rousing the nation, performing dawah—this all becomes bullshit, it’s all pointless speech. If we do not take seriously if we do not raise awareness and do something to stop the injustices being done against the mothers in our societies.

Oh tribe of men—especially those who are religious. For those who are wearing a turban like my turban. For those who have a beard like my beard. Those who talk about helping Islam—look to right and left—before looking, look at yourself. What is the condition of your woman? How do you look at women?

Your standing in prayer vigils at night. Your fasting through the day. Your memorization and recitation of the Qur’an. The money you spend in charity. Your pilgrimage to the Sacred Mosque. Your knowledge and your education. Everything you do—your struggling in the sake of God. Everything you do—won’t get you to a point of being summoned before God, if you don’t let all of that pass through the gateway of your benevolence towards women.

This is not the words of contemporary human rights activists. It is not for me to beat the drum. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “The best of you, is the best of you to his family. And I am the best to my family.”

So the Prophet made the measure of goodness in this life tied to goodness towards women. Has my message reached you?

There are people who still teach things as part of Islam that are falsehoods that they brought here with them from their own cultures—where they treat a woman like she is just a commodity. We have to stop running away from the reality of our problems. There are Muslim women being raped inside Muslim houses. There are Muslim women being raped by their relatives. And it looks like the mistreatment is changing from isolated cases to a phenomenon. Is this true or not?

[Shereen: yeah]

Is it true or not?

[Shereen: yes]

Our communities try to evade these problems. They bury their heads in the sand. And when a woman speaks out to demand her rights, she is silenced. When the shaykh in the mosque is unable to remedy her situation and she thinks to go to court, and the community sees her as a traitor. Right?

[Shereen: yes]

And so the victim becomes a criminal. And the person who gives the stamp of approval is a shaykh of faith? Why then would you find it strange after all of this that a generation would come out that would leave the faith altogether? Why do you find it strange when a Muslim woman in this country goes to get her rights from the [human] rights organizations outside of her community?

You haven’t offered her protection! You haven’t offered her dignity! You haven’t offered her respect! And you want her to continue to accept this?! And the greater crime is that you justify this by saying that it is the command of God?!

If the Muslim community does not start taking serious steps—starting from the mosque before anywhere else—in executing God’s command and the advice of the Prophet [PBUH], with regards to giving women their rights—if that is neglected and overlooked, if people do not want to acknowledge it and treat this malady, people will stand in God’s presence on Judgment Day and God will judge them not just for themselves, but He will judge them for the generation that has lost faith because of them.

Enough of this talk in defense of Islam—that it was Islam who gave women their rights and freed women. Yes, Islam did that. But the question is not really whether Islam did that or not—the question that should be asked is why are we not implementing Islam in that regard. Why do we just leave it to sermons or as a point of ‘self-defense’ in the media against those who criticize us from [human] rights organizations?

Oh shaykh, put yourself in the shoes of the girl who is abused. When she comes running to you, she hears your talk in defense of Islam and rights of women. But when she goes to the [human] rights organizations, she finds that they are defending her. So who do you think she’ll turn to?

I am sorry for the long sermon, but after what I heard from our daughter, Shereen, I cannot be quiet about this.

The wound has become septic—it needs to be opened up and cleaned. And we want you, the women, to start with that.

I want to see women’s rights activists who are Islamic jurists, and who understand Islamic law. They will stand and they will take their rights, with the command of God and of His Prophet [PBUH].”
Habib Ali Zain al-`Abideen al-Jifri is an Islamic scholar residing in Yemen of the Shafi’i school of Fiqh, and the Ashari school of Aqida. In 2009, Al-Jifri was listed 37th in the world’s 500 most influential Muslims by Georgetown University.

(Photo Credit: University of Doha)

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