By Nilofar Ahmed
THE feudal structure of our society follows its own barbaric rules in order to perpetrate the inhuman and unjust system for the benefit of the few at the top rung of the hierarchical ladder. No matter which name they go by, the number of atrocities committed in the name of honour run into hundreds every year.
The despicable custom has filtered down to all the social classes, urban and rural. The heinous crime is committed in the name of honour to cover up property disputes, to avenge an old and festering enmity; or, if a woman asks for divorce from an abusing husband; or, to defend a murderer who has killed a man and tries to cover it up by killing an innocent woman, accusing the victims of being karo kari, and like cases. The term implies adultery, an extra-marital affair or sex outside of marriage, or obscenity, especially in the case of minors.
A double murder is also committed if a man and a woman decide to marry of their own choice. In many cases the woman victim might be the murderer’s sister, ex-wife or some other relative. Since the murderer also pretends to be the aggrieved party, he can twist the case in his own favour by pleading that his honour was soiled, and that he had no other recourse but to kill the offender! He often manages to get off with a light sentence, if any at all. Close relatives of the slain are also known to forgive the killer.
If, today, a husband finds his wife committing adultery with a man, it is considered acceptable in many Muslim countries for the husband to kill both the partners in the act, and most certainly the wife. But the Quran has a completely different story to tell. In li’an,the procedure adopted when a husband accuses his wife of adultery, but cannot produce four witnesses, he is supposed to go to the authorities and has to swear four times that what he is saying is the truth. SurahAl-Nur says: “Those who accuse their wives of adultery and cannot produce four witnesses, except for themselves, they should swear an oath by God four times that they are telling the truth. And swear a fifth oath invoking the curse of God if he is telling a lie. The punishment can be removed from the wife if she swears an oath four times by God that the husband is lying. And a fifth oath that the curse of God should be upon her if he, (the husband), is telling the truth.” (24: 6-9).
If she confesses or remains silent, she will be given the punishment fixed for adultery. If she chooses to swear that she is innocent, her word will be upheld against that of the husband, and they can undergo a divorce.
Based on the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH), the child born thereafter will be called the child of the mother, and will not in any way be connected with the father. If after this anyone calls the woman an adulterer, or the child an illegitimate issue, that person can be given the punishment of 80 stripes due to a slanderer, who will never be treated as a reliable witness again (see 24: 4). Unless a person can produce four witnesses, he should not bring up such a charge in the first place. Traditionally, the woman killed for karo kari is not given a proper burial, nor is she buried in the community graveyard. No one is supposed to visit the grave even later. Here it would benefit us to look at a hadith of the Prophet. Once a woman confessed to having committed adultery. The Prophet sent her back four times trying to avert the punishment, but she was persistent. At last she was given the punishment. After that the Prophet asked that her funeral prayer be said and she be buried in the same manner in which any other Muslim is buried.
The problem will persist until concrete steps are taken to eliminate honour killing. It is imperative that we include, train and re-orient the police and the religious leaders such as the pesh imams and the qaris in the scheme for reform. The religious leaders must be convinced that this practice goes against the Quran and should be asked to teach people in their sermons and the children in madressahs what an unjust act and a heinous sin and crime this brutal murder is. If we start now we can hope that at least our next generation will become more humane in the matter.