Pakistan’s premier body of religious jurisprudence, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) is notorious for its repressive fatwas. In the past, the body has recommended that DNA be rejected as evidence in cases of rape. They have opposed the Women Protection Bill. They have also suggested discourse on the status of Ahmadi Muslims (declared non-Muslim in Pakistan), i.e. whether Ahmadis are infidels or apostates (in which case they would be worthy of death).
Recently, they issued another list of rulings. One of these was a fatwa that permits husbands to ‘lightly beat’ their wives. This has led to much discourse on this issue. To add flavor to the ongoing discourse, I present a few relevant writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Let us see how he understood Islam and its teachings on the treatment of wives.
1. A man who stands up against a woman is a coward: “The Holy Prophet (pbuh) is the perfect example for us in every aspect of life. Study his life and see how he conducted himself in relation to women. In my esteem, a man who stands up against a woman is a coward and not a man. If you study the life of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), you will find that he was so gracious that, despite his station of dignity, he would stop even for an old woman and would not move on until she permitted him to do so.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 4, p. 44]
2. Cruelty to women is contrary to Islam: “There are those who treat women with such severity and harshness… They are treated so cruelly, that it has a become a proverb in the Punjab that a woman is like a pair of shoes which may be thrown away and replaced at will. Such attitude is extremely dangerous and contrary to Islam.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 4]
3. It is unacceptable to even be furious, let alone hit one’s wife: “Our perfect guide, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has said: ‘The best among you is he who is best towards his wife.” How can one claim to be pious when he does not behave well towards his wife…. It is unacceptable to get furious or hit one’s wife on the slightest pretense. This is why God Almighty has said concerning them: “Consort with them in kindness.”—Al-Nisa’, 4:20 [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 3, p. 147]
4. Displeasing your wife earns displeasure of God. “As for me, I once addressed my wife in a loud voice and I felt that my tone was indicative of displeasure though I had uttered no harsh words. Yet thereafter I sought forgiveness from God for a long time and offered supererogatory prayers with great humility and also gave alms because I felt that my harshness towards my wife might have been occasioned by some unconscious weakness in my obedience to God Almighty.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 2, p. 2]
5. Treat your wives with kindness and courtesy “…treat your wives with kindness and courtesy. Your wives are not your slaves. In point of fact, marriage is a covenant between man and woman. Try therefore not to break this covenant. God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “Lead a life of kindness and equity with your wives.” And it is mentioned in a Hadith: “The best among you is he who is best towards his wife.” Therefore, be good to your wives both spiritually and physically. Keep praying for them and avoid divorce. A person who is hasty in divorce is sinful in the eyes of God.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Tohfah-e-Golarhviyyah , Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 17, p. 75]
6. Men have been made servants of women: “Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: ‘The husband is responsible for providing all the needs of the wife in respect of food and clothing.’ This shows that man is his wife’s guardian and benefactor and is responsible for her well-being… Man has been blessed with stronger natural powers than a woman.. The Holy Qur’an enjoins that if man has given his wife a mountain of gold as a gesture of his affection and kindness, he is not supposed to take it back in case of divorce. This shows the respect and honor Islam gives to a woman; in fact, men are in certain respects like their servants. They have been commanded in the Holy Qur’an: “Consort with them in kindness.”—Al-Nisa’, 4:20.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)]
7. Your wife should be your best friend, not servant: No other religion has safeguarded the rights of women as Islam has done. It lays down the injunction so succinctly: “Just as men have rights upon women, so do women have rights upon men.” It is said of some people that they treat their wives like shoes and require them to perform the lowliest of services. They abuse them and despise them and enforce the injunction regarding the veil with such harshness, as to virtually bury them alive. The relationship between a husband and wife should be like two true and sincere friends. After all, it is the wife who is the primary witness of a man’s high moral qualities and his relationship with God Almighty. If his relationship with his wife is not good, how can he be at peace with God? The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said: ‘The best among you is he who is best towards his wife.’ [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 5, pp. 417-418]
8. Compassion to wife requisite to spirituality: Once, mention was made of a person who was very harsh and strict with his wife. The Promised Messiah (as) was very displeased on hearing this and said, “Our companions should not behave in this way.” (Sīrat Hadrat Masīh Mau`ūdas, pg. 14). Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) was so particular about this issue, he declared: “A person who is not compassionate and benevolent in the treatment of his wife and her relatives does not belong to my Jamā`at (the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community).”
9. Extreme attitudes towards the veil: “People have adopted extreme attitudes in respect of the veil. Europe has gone to one extreme in abolishing it altogether and now some naturalists too wish to follow suit, whereas it is patent that this licentiousness has flung open the gates of vice in Europe. On the other hand, some Muslims go to the other extreme and do not let their women step out of their homes at all, even though it is often necessary for them to travel or to go out on account of some other need. We believe that both these types are in error.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 6, p.322]
10. With greater strength comes greater responsibility: “I find it shameful that a man should fight a woman. God has made us men, which is the consummation of His grace upon us, and we should express our gratitude for this great bounty by treating women with kindness and compassion.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 1, p. 307]
There are many excerpts, but these ten should suffice for the purpose of getting the message across. I personally feel it is a shame that these beautiful teachings of Islam are banned in Pakistan, while those of the Mullah enjoy official sanction of the State. Like on most other issues of Islamic jurisprudence, the Council of Islamic Ideology is wrong on their recent fatwa again. The rule as mentioned in the Quran is clear: “And consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good.” (4:19)