The Taliban: Believers or Enemies?

by Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Barrister and Senior Crown Prosecutor at the Norfolk Criminal Courts. She is also the Assistant Secretary of the West Norfolk Islamic Association, King’s Lynn, England.

In September 1996, the Taliban took control of Kabul and a large portion of Afghanistan. They immediately sent women back to their homes, closed all educational establishments for women, banned them from working, ejected them (old, sick and infirm) from hospitals, and forced them to be covered from head to foot when outside the home. At any moment, if not already in place, women will also need the written consent of the nearest male relative to travel anywhere. This revolution has the stamp of those other repressive regimes all over it - Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. It is what ... the Muslim Brotherhood, and all other organizations of a like nature want - the complete subjugation of women and the complete denial not only of their human rights, but their rights as women of Islam given to them by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w) 1400 years ago.

From all the usual Human Rights orientated Western Governments has come what? A deafening silence. Where are the modern Islamic writers ready to condemn, the Western (and Muslim) feminist writers banging the drums for women's rights, the United Nations? The total silence merely confirms this thought - that a human right is what the local dictator says it is going to be!

In every upheaval throughout history, women and female children are the first to suffer. In any war, women are seen as fair game by men, there to be raped, tortured and humiliated for male gratification. Has anyone stopped to think how sick and perverted such an attitude is - how it makes the perpetrators "non-men," and tarnishes all decent, loving men?

In Pakistan, women are routinely raped by anyone who has a grudge against their families, and the humiliation of their women-folk strikes at the honor of that family. Women who have been raped are punished, flogged, and imprisoned. Despite the fact that there was a female prime minister, the men got off scot-free. Often the women are then killed by their own families, because of their dishonor.

In Iran, after the Ayatollah Khomeni's revolution, more than 20,000 young virgin girls of the opposition were raped by their prison guards before they were executed, in order to prevent them going to Paradise! What perverted view of the Prophet's teachings was responsible for that decision? This is not Islam, neither is what the Taliban are doing. This is about power, and the misuse of such power to subjugate half of a population.

The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w) said it was the duty of every Muslim, male and female, to be educated. He did not say females could only learn to read the Qur’an, and then stop at the age of eight years. The Qur’an tells women: "Draw your head coverings across your necks and bosoms." There is nothing about covering from head to foot. The chador and veil originate from pre-Islamic Persia, and was a sign of the status of upper class women. Slave girls did not cover themselves in this way, neither did any other female servant. Indeed, in the Hajj, no woman is permitted to wear any sort of veil.

As Islam expanded, the veil / chador was absorbed as part of the culture. However, it is not, and never has been, part of the Islamic teaching. Clothing of both men and women is meant to be modest and loose fitting, so that the detailed outlines of the body are not on show. How often though, do we hear of men being told to dress modestly and Islamically (they have to be covered from waist to knee in loose garments), yet they are seen in very tight jeans and trousers. This is un-Islamic, but they are more concerned that women should dress to the standards men set.

Only the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w) were secluded, and that happened later on in the Prophet’s life to symbolize their special place in Islam. His first wife Khadijah never veiled, and was never secluded. She ran an import and export company sending caravans across the East, employed men including the Prophet, and managed the finances. Seclusion was never intended for any other women, which is made quite clear in the Qur'an and the Hadith - women did work in the Prophet's time. They went into battle and some fought alongside the Prophet, others were battlefield nurses, skilled in the patching up of wounds and the use of herbal remedies. Yet others ran their own businesses, such as leather-making. Contrast this with women under the Taliban’s rule, who are denied vital medical treatment. If they do not want women to be seen by strange men, then the answer is women doctors and surgeons and all female clinics and hospitals, not preventing women from receiving treatment, and thus further denying them a basic human right.

In the Prophet's time and indeed in moderate forward thinking Muslim countries today, women are respected and honored. To turn a sick woman out of her hospital bed is against all the teachings of Islam, which again and again requires believers to show compassion to those who are sick in any way. Mothers particularly are revered In Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w) said that paradise lies at the feet of mothers, and upon being asked by a new male Muslim to whom he should show respect, the Prophet replied: "First your mother, second your mother, third your mother, and fourth your father." Where is that respect now in Afghanistan and elsewhere?

Female children are looked upon as second best, and Muslim women have been punished for producing girl children; the husband forgetting that it is the male who decides the sex and not the female. Girl children were frequently taken out and abandoned to die at birth, a practice condemned by the Prophet 1400 years ago, although it still goes on in less enlightened countries. Men forget that without women, they would not be here. Every child needs a human womb in which to grow. The Prophet himself had daughters (his male children dying in infancy), and he loved them dearly, particularly his beloved Fatimah, about whom he said: "Whoever hurts her, hurts me."

Do the Taliban and all the other regimes dedicated to the oppression of women put themselves above the teaching of the Prophet, and God's Holy Book, the Qur’an? It would seem so. They are the unbelievers, the un-Islamic, the oppressors, and the blasphemers. The Shari`ah law is also a compassionate law, in that for any offence it prescribes no less than four witnesses, who are unbiased and of good standing, and who have no axe to grind. Offenders are to be given the opportunity to repent their crimes, before any punishment takes place. Only as a last resort is the full penalty exacted. The Taliban and those regimes like them should read what the Shari`ah says and act upon it correctly, not superimpose their own interpretation. The level of ignorance of Islam displayed by these people is overwhelming.

Editorial: "Not everyone keeps silent. We in the UIA and "The Message" have, for decades, been campaigning vigorously for the restoration of females’ Islamic rights. So have others, including Muslim feminists, in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, we are in the minority, and what we have to say does not make the news."

"The statistics on Iran were taken by the writer from the book "Price of Honor," by Jan Goodwin, which quoted from an Amnesty International Report in 1986. Some of the other facts were taken from "Nine Parts of Desire," by Geraldine Brooks – Editor."

[Webmaster's note: We were unable to independently confirm the statistics cited in this article. However, we feel that the overall essence of the message should be heard.]

Posted November 6, 1998. This article was printed in the April-June 1998 issue of "The Message," a United Islamic Association (UIA) publication, London, England.