Muslim Marriage Contracts: Equality or PR Stunt?
The quest for a reformed Islam is a triumph of hope over experience. The experience is fourteen hundred years of violent conquest, killing of unbelievers, subjugation of women, slavery, and stagnation. The hope? Right now it's a British think tank called the Muslim Institute. From the Telegraph:
Muslim women are to be guaranteed equal rights in marriage under a new wedding contract negotiated by leading Islamic organizations and clerics in Britain.
Hailed as the biggest change in Sharia law in Britain for 100 years, a married Muslim couple will now have equal rights. A husband will have to waive his right to polygamy, allowed under Islamic law, in the new contract which has been described as "revolutionary."
The new Muslim marriage contract does not require a "marriage guardian" (wali) for the bride, and also makes delegation of the right of divorce to the wife (talaq-i-tafweeed) automatic.
This right does not affect the husband's right of talaq [divorce by repudiation] but enables the wife to initiate divorce and retain all her financial rights agreed in the marriage contract. These provisions reflect a recognition of changes in the Muslim world, including women's greater public roles, educational achievements, and financial autonomy.
Dr. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, director of the Muslim Institute and one of the authors of the contract, told the Daily Telegraph: "The document is a challenge to various Sharia councils who don't believe in gender equality but the world has changed and Islamic law has to be renegotiated."
The world has been changing for the last fourteen hundred years. Nobody has yet managed to "renegotiate" Islamic law, and many have lost their heads in the attempt. What would Mohammed say about "renegotiating" the Koran? This perhaps:
... and there is none to change the words of Allah (Koran 6:34) ...
And the word of your Lord has been accomplished truly and justly; there is none who can change His words, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (Koran 6:115)
Islam is not a management consultancy. It doesn't take kindly to "renegotiation" or other "innovative solutions":
Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell. (Hadith)
Mohammed, with his eleven wives -- including a nine-year-old girl -- and his many concubines, was not one for pushing the envelope on "gender equality" issues. And the Koran suggests that Allah's thinking was securely inside the box:
Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places, and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. (Koran 4:34)
Islam lags behind in diversity and product development, but when it comes to public relations, it has its ducks in a row. Islamic PR takes the form of taqiyya, a doctrine which states that deception is acceptable in order to further the cause of Islam. The proposed Muslim marriage contract is an exercise in taqiyya.
Taqiyya is needed because Muslims in Britain have a problem: they must obey our laws. The Muslim wedding ceremony or nikah is not legally binding, and any attendant marriage contract must conform to English law. Sharia has no legal force except purely incidentally: if something is not illegal under English law, then Muslims can, like anyone else, contract to do it. Many Muslims -- 40% at the last poll -- would like to see Sharia established, or at least a parallel legal system for Muslims. Currently this is unacceptable to non-Muslims because the gap between Sharia law and English law is plain to see. But if Sharia is made to look like English law, by the simple device of inserting equality clauses in contracts, the plain may be obscured and the gap -- temporarily -- bridged. Once Sharia is established, any un-Islamic equality clauses will have served their purpose and can be struck out. The Koran would demand nothing less.
These "woman-friendly" marriage contracts go against the letter of Islamic law. More importantly, they go against the spirit of English law. For example, under this contract the husband "waives his right to polygamy." In England there should be no question of him "waiving" such a right. He has no such right. Bigamy is a criminal offense. Am I allowed to "waive" my "right" to steal a car?
We should be very suspicious of these contracts. They give Muslim women no better rights than they already have under English law, but by making Sharia seem acceptable, they are dangerous in the long term. And in the short term they encourage Muslim women who might otherwise leave Islam to stay in it.
Sharia emphatically does not give women equal rights in marriage. Muslims know this. A contract purporting to do so is just a means to an end: market dominance. Call it a loss leader.