I always thought forced ‘marriage’ is an oxymoron, as marriage by definition cannot be forced. According to Islamic teachings, marriage is a contract; two parties enter into an agreement without coercion, and the element of consent is essential to forming a valid contract. However, unlike a business contract that only requires the consent of mind reflected in the terms of the agreement, the marital contract requires more, there should also be the unity of the hearts along with the unity of minds. Two parties should seek love and tranquility in marriage as per the Quranic advice. For sure, one cannot gain love through coercion.
The use of the word marriage, along with ‘forced marriage’ creates confusion and implies the latter has a semi-legal status, because of the word ‘marriage’ inherently carries a legal status. Similarly, it would be problematic if we started to use the term ‘forced rape’ along with ‘rape’ because that would imply ‘rape’ occurs with consent while forced ‘rape’ takes place without consent. Thus, instead of saying forced ‘marriage’ it would be better to use something along the line of forced union and others may come with something better than my suggestion. Such a forced union should be viewed as a crime, instead of calling it forced ‘marriage’ it should be classed as a legalised form of rape committed by the families that force the girl into an awful situation.
Logic dictates that if there is no marriage, then there can be no adultery committed by the parties that deserve stoning to death. This in turn is based on the assumption that one accepts this particular interpretation of Islamic law. Others view only lashing for married or unmarried couples. Consider the recent case in Afghanistan.
Rokhsana, a 19-year-old, beautiful young Afghan girl, and like any other girl had aspirations in life, which included marrying a young man of her choice. Her family, however, had other plans for her and tried to marry her off to a much older man. Families often do this for various reasons, such as financial gains, and the girl in question is treated as a commodity. Rokhsana refused and ran away to Iran. Her family brought her back and this time they married her off to another older man, a 55-year-old, almost three times her age. At the time, she was in love with another man, a 23-year-old, and wanted to marry him. Hence, this time she ran away with the man she loved. It sounds like a classic love story, but its ends in tragedy.
They were both caught by the Taliban and the local tribal leaders. It is unclear if there was any trial. Since Rokhasana was a married woman in their eyes and alleged to have committed adultery, she was stoned to death, and her young fiance was lashed 100 times, as he was unmarried. Rukhsana did not consider the forced union with a 55-year-old to be legally binding, and in her mind it was not valid according to Islam and the prevailing law of the land.
Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of Islamic law knows that the application of penal codes has stringent conditions, and one of them is certainty of evidence. Just because she ran away with her fiance that is not proof of adultery. Was there four witness verifying the sexual intercourse? That does not mean seeing them hugging or kissing or holding hands or enter a room. Did the four witnesses see the pen going into the ink? If not, then those witnesses should be flogged according to Islamic law.
Similarly back in 2012, a 15-year-old girl was flogged 101 times after she was accused of having sex with a local tailor, just because she was seen alone with him in his shop for a few minutes. They were seen alone, not seen making any physical contact, let alone sexual intercourse. Subsequentially, she was examined by a doctor and found to be a virgin. The girl was left permanently disabled from hip injuries caused by the lashes. The men who flogged her and those who brought the accusation were never punished. Now the part of Islamic law where it says, those who make false allegations should be lashed is conveniently forgotten!
This sort of mob rule and spontaneous violence perpetrated against women plagues the Afghan society. Earlier this year, a religious teacher named Farkhunda was lynched savagely by a mob, all based on a false allegation made by her adversaries, alleging that she burnt a copy of the Quran. Why would a devout Islamic religious teacher in Afghanistan do that? How do these people show such cruelty and savagery in the name of Islam? Those deeds are a clear violation of Islamic teachings. Only a judge (Qadi) can issue the verdict after the case has been tried in a court of law.
There seems to be this unhealthy obsession among these self-righteous Muslim men jumping on this bandwagon of condemning the women on the most trivial issues and rushing to apply the penal code, as evidence of their Islamic credential. As we see the events from Middle Easts and elsewhere, the ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban have reduced Islam to the application (misapplication) of penal codes.
Yamin Zakaria is the author of Suicide Bombings – Jihad or Terrorism?, published by AuthorHouse UK.