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Protecting a woman

By: Tammy Swofford

To face punishment in this life to avoid punishment in the next is the Islamic model. There is an innate fear regarding the Day of Judgement

The human male is designed with greater physical strength for the protection of the weaker female of the species. But it is strength of character that protects a woman from public accusation. Any man can protect a woman. But it takes a gentleman to protect a woman’s honour.

The Pericope Adulterae (woman taken in adultery) is taken from the Gospel of John. The English idiomatic “cast the first stone” is the cultural resonance that comes from a classic story of the art of the deal. The charge was adultery. But the woman in the story is not named. She has already been dehumanised by being stripped of the name given by her father. She is presented as “this woman” to the angry crowd. Her life is in imminent danger. All that remains is for a terrified heart to feel the last beat and for the lungs to take a final breath. A rock is already curled into every male hand. The local women are hiding in the background. Like frightened gazelles they will listen silently to what is hidden from their line of vision.

But then Jesus comes on the scene. Everything changes, with Jesus.

The accusation of adultery was brought by scholars of the religious community. As is true in many cases, a scholar can be ‘book smart’ but lacking in common sense. I always consider the obvious: where was the man caught in adultery? Was he clipping his fingernails and whistling a tune? The passage states the woman was caught in adultery. Two were caught in the net. The stronger of the species was allowed to escape. The religious community quickly assumed the role of judge, jury and executioner. Fortunately, the pro bono lawyer for the defence was uniquely gifted to understand the human frame. The negotiation for the woman’s life came down to one sentence:

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Fast forward to a time when Islamic governance was still in a state of political flux. It was in Sha’aban of the fifth year Hijra that an accusation of adultery was brought against a Muslim woman. The politically motivated rumour had the potential to divide a community. The man who brought the accusation was named Abdullah Ibn Ubai. Maligning the character of a young Muslim wife brought the community to a standstill. There had been an earlier year of grief. There was now a month of silence. Out of silence, came a simple ayat: “Those who brought forth the lie are a body among yourselves; think it not to be an evil to you; on the contrary it is good for you: to every man among them (will come the punishment) of the sin that he earned, and to him who took on himself the lead among them, will be a penalty grievous” – (Surah An-Nûr, 24:11, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

Several years ago I asked a scholar about the issue of an absent mother because of an act of stoning. Here is the response:

“Children become the responsibility of near relatives. If there are no such relatives to take care of them, they become the responsibility of the Islamic state. The details about the court system are open for the Islamic experts to decide. This is the matter of ijtihad meaning analogical deduction to suit to a given time and situation. It is, therefore, obvious that an Islamic state may have various levels of courts and a supreme court for the final determination whether a given decision meets the Islamic criterion or violates it” – Dr M Amir Ali, PhD, Institute of Islamic Information and Education (June 27, 2004).

In a more recent discussion with a colleague the comment was that the Islamic state would have to function to perfection. Society must be completely ordered for a legally sanctioned stoning to be carried out.

Is there ever a perfect time to stone a woman? And is the encircling warmth of a slightly soiled mother better for a child than the cold and distant fingers of a religious state? In the end, it always comes down to the children. It is always about preservation of lineage through generationally-directed state policy.

The act of abortion changes the womb from an aquatic pasture to a shark pond. I am firmly opposed to abortion. But I am violently opposed to stoning women. Killing the one uniquely gifted with the aquatic pasture changes a community in imperceptible ways. The long term impact on societal health must be examined.

What happens when a widower is left with the care of his children? What happens when children are deprived of a mother? What happens in the homes of the men who cast the stones? Does love die and fear reign? My sons have been taught to never make a fist in the presence of a woman. They have been told that I will be gunning for them if they ever strike a woman. Fair enough?

Does Allah love women? I cannot answer that question because I am not part of the ummah. Let me pose a quiet question. Gentleness can present as a shout.

How much do you love your women? Not just the pious women. How much do you love your slightly soiled women? To face punishment in this life to avoid punishment in the next is the Islamic model. There is an innate fear regarding the Day of Judgement. Were we naughty or were we nice? But adultery has built-in punishment in this life. It is a difficult and painful situation, which can lead to the divorce of injured parties. Adultery involves two individuals. But when bad news of this nature surfaces, the whole family tree learns of the offence. The individual is forced to walk through the gauntlet of family opinion.

Abiding love covers and does not expose the shame of the other. Reconciliation is such a beautiful word. The easier part is to pick up that rock.

Source: Daily Times