Thursday, August 11, 2011

An easy way to heaven.

Recently I've been hearing a lot about how it's so easy for women to enter Paradise. This does not actually contradict the sayings that imply women naturally commit more sin, because the women referred to in this case are married, and not unmarried women, and I personally feel this is a nice example of positive psychology for men to get women to behave the way they want.

I found it incredibly contradictory that during a Muslim marriage preparation course, trainers emphasise the mutual love , respect and mercy that spouses should cultivate in a marriage. But once we got out into the real world, all kinds of people like to offer hadith as extra, unbalanced advice for the wife (and if you've read enough posts here you'll know I'm not a fan of Man's laws that add to God's laws).

"I'll permit you to walk around the block"
"Yes, thanks dear"
I'm not promoting the reverse, where husbands obey their wives, because I believe that both should obey only God. What's so difficult about both spouses respecting, understanding, embracing and encouraging each other? But let's get to the juicy stuff.

First one is written by Tirmidzi, who claims that Umm Salama attributed this saying to Prophet Muhammad:

"If a woman dies while her husband was pleased with her, 
she will enter Paradise"

I must have missed this when learning about the pillars and articles (core beliefs) of Islam. It looks almost like the word 'God' has been substituted for 'husband' here - elevating him to some sort of demigod! Personally, I think there is no guarantee of entering Paradise - whether we are Muslim or not - which is the point of us striving constantly to be good and hoping for God's mercy.

It would make more sense to me, if the cultivation of love and respect between spouses could help them to enter Paradise, because such a state could help each spouse to live a meaningful and useful life while being supported and encouraged in fulfilling religious duties.

Some say that this refers only to a righteous husband who will only be pleased at a righteous wife, but why does the wife have to fulfill two levels of righteousness (husband's and God's), and why is the husband assumed to do no wrong? Otherwise, just iron your husband's shirts, cook his favourite food and allow him to take on additional wives - it's not about you, it's about your husband as a gateway to Paradise.

Second one is written by Bukhari, from Abu Hurayra who claims to attribute this to Muhammad:

"A woman should not fast 
except with her husband's permission."

This is bizarre, where in the Quran does it say that one soul needs permission from another soul to carry out religious duties like praying, fasting, paying alms? Isn't everyone responsible for their own deeds? (16:93, 53:39) Unfortunately, these notions are prevalent: that a husband will be questioned about his wife's and children's sins, or parents will carry their children's sins, or wives will be questioned about their households.

Some say that this refers to the optional fasts and prayers, but once again, I believe each person is responsible for their own deeds. It implies difficulty for the married woman to do achieve spirituality and righteousnouss through supplementary acts of worship because she needs permission from her husband - to ensure that she will or will not be available to fulfill his 'rights'.

If she's doing an optional fast and her husband wants sexual intercourse in the middle of the day, will he nullify her fast or will have to wait till sunset? (and we're not even discussing the hadith related to a wife rejecting him!) If she's doing an optional prayer and her husband wants a cup of coffee, will he have to wait or God forbid, make it himself?

Not all prostitutes give good sex.

Third one is reported by Ahmad and Al-Tabarani through apparently thiqat or reliable/trustworthy narrators, again attributing this to the Prophet:

"If a woman prays her five daily prayers, fasts her month (of Ramadan), obeys her husband and guards her chastity, then it will be said to her: 'Enter Paradise by whichever of its gates you wish.'"

I personally had this one directed to me and it makes no sense because this practically puts obedience to the husband on par with one's obligatory duties, with no basis in the Quran. Some say that there is indeed a verse in the Quran that says women have to be obedient (4:34), but the word qanitat, which has traditionally been translated as 'devoutly obedient' and interpreted as 'obedience to the husband', is also used in other places in the Quran (2:116, 2:238; 3:17, 3:43; 16:120; 30:26; 33:31,35; 39:9; 66:5, 66:12) to refer to men and women who are 'devoted to God'.

Both men and women have to pray, fast, guard their chastity, and be 'devoutly obedient' to God. This saying gives wives a fantastic incentive to obey their husbands - poor husbands can't enjoy the same reward! Some also say that the domestic work a wife does for the husband and household is counted as ibadah or worship. But it's difficult to consider domestic work as giving the same psychological and spiritual benefits of acts of worship like praying, fasting, and dhikr - otherwise why aren't men rushing to do domestic work for its spiritual benefits as well?

I want a cute husband too.

Those who perpetuate this saying recreate the conditions for keeping women at home - saying that all kinds of prayers (in a mosque, Friday congregational, and Eid) are unnecessary for women. When I was growing up I constantly heard that women did not have to go for Eid prayers - it felt unfair because as a child I also wanted to witness a religious celebration - because their cooking for the family at home counted as an act of worship as well.

In the end, making it seem easy for wives to enter Paradise by promoting these sayings with no basis in the Quran only serves to ensure that wives do their domestic work without complaints. These sayings also take away a woman's agency to choose what she would like to do to gain God's favour and mercy (for e.g. working for a just cause), and leave her fate in the Hereafter at the mercy of their husband instead of rightfully, God. These sayings also indirectly blame women who may have unrighteous husbands for not choosing properly, and finally, are silent on how unmarried women are to attain Paradise!

Joy to the wife that has a compassionate and righteous husband, because she'll easily go to Paradise without having to do extra good deeds, and woe to her that has an unreasonable, hot-tempered and disbelieving husband - because she has to please and obey him anyway if she wants to go to Paradise.

3 comments:

diaryofamuslimfeminist said...

Great post! I was taught many of the same hadith during pre-marital instruction in East Africa. I agree with you that these lessons are designed to make women believe they have no choice but to be submissive to their husbands. What bothers me the most is that it is usually women who impart such lessons to one another.

segared said...

Interpreting ayat Of Qur'aan Shareef and Hadith Shareef are not for ignorants!

Sya said...

Would you like to correct these interpretations then? Oh wait.

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