A Muslim reflects on the murder of Marie Mendy and Islam’s defence for women’s rights

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Ali Fatty, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana

Sometime last month, the shocking news of the gruesome and barbaric murder of Maria Mendy broke out. The news rocked the Gambia to its core. 

Marie Mendy was a Christian by faith and was a high school teenager, raped and murdered in her own home by an unknown person. 

The whole nation mourned her death. Many women took to posting the hashtag #BlameTheRapist on their WhatsApp and Facebook statuses. After going through some comments, I realised many women fear for their lives today more than ever before in the Gambia and the world at large.  They also feel to be potential or vulnerable targets of such crimes in societies, known through their #IFearForMyLife on social media.

This tragic news indeed touched everyone in the Gambia. Looking at the tragic incident, I could not help but send my condolences to the family. 

We mourn with them and I pray that God the Almighty enables them to show patience and forbearance.  May her soul rest in peace.

I do this because humanity comes first before everything and this is what Islam – the religion I believe in – preaches. In fact, once, the founder of Islam was sitting with his companions and the coffin of a dead person of a different religion was passing. Prophet Muhammadsa stood up to show respect to the dead. The Companionsra asked him why he stood up. He replied, “Was the person not a human?” 

This shows how tolerant and respectful the founder of Islam was even to the dead of the followers of other religions. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

To pursue equal opportunities, whether in the field of science, education or arts, is accepted in Islam for both genders. For instance, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said “It is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge”. (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah)

The suffering of women in the world is not something new. According to the United Nations, one-third of women and girls suffer physical or sexual abuse in their lives, usually by an intimate partner. 75% of the world’s human trafficking victims are women and girls and 75% of them are sexually mistreated. (www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday)

The perception about who a woman is and what role she can play in the larger society has taken a new dimension in the 21st century.

It was not until recently that many countries and organisations recognised the political, economic, marital and educational rights of women. For example, in the UK, women were given the right to divorce and partake in the inheritance of their family in the late 1800s.

It is also due to the violence and sexual harassment against women around the world that 24 November is celebrated as “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”. This was a day declared by the UN in 1999 to bring a halt to violence against women, and increase awareness of the acts of violence against women. Other days are also celebrated widely in the world like Mother’s Day and International Day of the Girl Child. However, women continue to suffer harassment and violence.

Before the UN declaration, many countries never recognised the rights of women and denied them their basic rights which were granted to them 1,500 years ago. Islam laid down the blueprint for the protection of women’s rights 1,500 years ago, at a time when women were severely abused and had no real standing in society.

Nevertheless, the good news for the women of Arabia and the world at large with the advent of Islam was that such notions were discarded and the status of women dramatically rose and the stereotype was abolished gradually in the most beautiful manner.

With the advent of Islam, such acts were not only abolished, but the status of women in society changed and they were given the right to marry their husband of choice and an institution of khula was established through which women could seek divorce themselves. 

With the teachings of Islam, women are given the right to marry their person of choice. 

Once, a girl complained to the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa that her parents made her marry a man whom she did not love. The Holy Prophetsa immediately summoned the parents and asked them to dissolve the marriage.

The birth of a girl was seen as a misfortune. Some people would heartlessly bury them alive. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa admonished his followers that the birth of a girl was a blessing and a source of honour for men. He said, “If a man has a daughter and he makes arrangements to have them educated and takes pains with their upbringing, God will save him from the torment of Hell”. (Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi)

Islam did not just establish women’s rights, but pursued justice for them as well. Once, a woman filed a case to the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa that a certain unscrupulous man raped her. The Holy Prophetsa punished the rapist and the woman was accorded justice. (Jami‘ al-TirmidhiKitab al-Hudud)

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas is believed to be the long-awaited Promised Messiah whose advent has been foretold by different religious scriptures of the world, that he would descend in the world in the Latter Days to reunite the relationship between man and God and between man and his fellow beings. In one of his writings, he writes:

“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 Prophetsa has said: ‘The best among you is he who is best towards his wife’.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, pp. 417-418)

This is how Islam has established the rights of women. In the Holy Quran, the examples of perfect believers have been linked to two great women for their great spiritual excellence, i.e. Mary, the daughter of Imran and the wife of Pharaoh. 

God states:

“And Allah sets forth for those who believe the example [of] the wife of Pharaoh when she said, ‘My Lord! build for me a house with Thee in the Garden; and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from the wrongdoing people;’ 

“And [the example of] Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity – so We breathed therein of Our Spirit – and she fulfilled [inher person] the words of her Lord and His Books and was one of the obedient.” (Surah al-Tahrim, Ch.66: V.12-13)

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said a Muslim could learn half of faith from Hazrat Aishara – his wife – which shows the educational eminence women had in Islam.

The Holy Prophetsa said:

“Your paradise lies under the feet of your mothers”. This shows that one way to earn paradise in the Hereafter is to show complete obedience and compassion for one’s mother. 

Once a man came to the Holy Prophetsa and asked, “Who should I show more respect to, my mother or my father? The Holy Prophetsa responded, “Your mother”. He asked, “Then who?” he repeated, “Your mother” the Prophetsa said and the fourth time he asked, the Holy Prophetsa said, “Your father”. 

Hazrat Umarra, who would later become the second Khalifa of Islam, would usually say how the status of women began to take new turns with the advent of Islam. Hazrat Umarra reflected:

“In Mecca, we despised women as lowly creatures. In Medina, the people accorded slight status to them, but when Islam arrived, we were made aware of the honour and status of women.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

In truth, if there is a religion that has unconditionally fulfilled and protected the rights of women in all situations and places, it is Islam. And the person who has always been a true champion of women’s rights is the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

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