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The Islam Women were Promised


By Musa Furber for The Washington Post. See original post here.


The horrific and heartbreaking news from India is tragic enough on its own: two alleged victims of gang rape have died, one a 23-year-old woman who succumbed to her wounds and a 17-year-old girl who took her own life after being pressured to marry one of her alleged attackers.

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These stories are awful enough on their own, but sadly they also bring to mind other similar cases we saw during 2012.

These cases include the 16-year-old Moroccan girl who took her life after being ordered by the court to marry the man who allegedly raped her, and similar cases in Jordan involving 14 and 15 year-old-girls. In these and other cases, the societies involved – and their legal systems – advocated pardoning rapists if a deal could be struck for them to marry their victim. Morocco has its clause 457 (the origins of which go back to French law and is said to be intended only for cases of consensual premarital sex), and Jordan has its article 308. Similar laws exist in other countries where, apparently, the honor of a woman reflects on her family in a perverse way where, where the stigma of rape outweighs the sanctity of that woman’s life and dignity.

When I read of these cases I am always left baffled at how Muslims can support allowing a rapist to obtain a pardon by marrying his victim, often by pressuring their victims and their families to cooperate. As a specialist in Islamic law, I know that these cases are egregious violations of what Islam teaches on the rights of victims, the definition of justice and the meaning of marriage.

The Islamic worldview is clear concerning the rights and obligations of self-defense and defending others from attacks against person and dignity. This is especially the case for sexual assault, where a woman is obligated to fend off her attacker and bystanders are obligated to come to her assistance (see note at end). Some scholars advocate that a woman’s self-defense extends even to the after-effects of an attack, including restoring their feeling of security, treating the emotional trauma, and aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape. Advocates of this position argue that this is consistent with the noble purposes of the sacred law that place protection of the life and the intellect of the woman above protection of lineage, property, and reputation. The sacred law is also clear that marriage is a relationship based on affection, mutual respect, intimacy, trust, kindness, and a refuge from uncontrolled carnal lust.

Compelling a rape victim to marry her rapist (alleged or convicted) denies her the opportunity to defend herself and exposes her to additional attacks against her person, intellect and dignity. It also forces her to live in a relationship that is based upon hatred, alienation, violation and abuse, and it rewards her attacker for his violence.

Exhortations to mercy are ingrained in Islam. Pardoning rapists who agree to marry their victim and compelling their victims to do so are mercy’s antithesis.

We have already seen that compelling victims to marry their rapists has the potential to lead to suicide. Forcing victims to marry in such a way places family dignity above her own life, intellect, and dignity – which is opposite the order of priorities assigned by the sacred law. How can one reconcile this inversion of priorities with the Islamic worldview which views spreading corruption and the wrongful taking of a single life each as akin to slaying mankind in its entirety, and the saving of a single life akin to saving mankind in its entirety (Q5:32 )?

Some advocates do so on the grounds that it is cultural and falls within Islam’s flexibility towards local culture and custom, and that local culture places such a great shame on rape (whether alleged or proven) that the victim is better off married to her rapist (alleged or convicted). While it is true that the sacred law does include a degree of flexibility regarding local culture and custom, it is limited to those that do not contradict the sacred law or subvert its noble purposes. In short, the sacred law affirms practices that agree but rejects practices that contract or subvert it.

Other advocates suggest that the laws are intended to apply only in cases of consensual sex, such as when couples do so in hopes of forcing their families to allow them to marry, and that when reported, the act is recorded as rape. Using this term to somehow protect society from the shame of admitting that women engage in consensual premarital sex opens a life-destroying door of forcing women who were already wronged to an even greater wrong, sometimes leading them to take their own life out of anguish and desperation.

There is something deeply wrong when a Muslim society views the shame of a single rape to outweigh facilitating the spread of corruption and the wrongful taking of life.

The earliest generation of Muslims took pride in their compliance to the Koran’s injunction to abandon female infanticide, an act that was often done to prevent shame to the family. Thus for centuries, Muslims have taken pride in their contributions to the rising status of women. But what pride is there in abandoning burying one’s young daughters in the sand only for them to grow to adulthood wishing that they had been? These tragically frequent stories of women violated over and over again can only be described as the perversion of Islam, unfortunately, by Muslims themselves.


[Sheikh Musa Furber is a research fellow at the Tabah Foundation and a qualified issuer of legal edicts (fatwas). He received his license to deliver legal edicts from senior scholars at the Egyptian House of Edicts including the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Follow him on Twitter: @musafurber]

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  1. Fulan Fulani

    January 19, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Wallahi, this is an important article highlighting the nauseating acts that occur in some parts of the world! May Allah (swt) help us to protect our women, to protect each other from Zulm! Ameen!

  2. muslima

    January 19, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    What is disturbing about these” marry your rapist” laws, is the underlying idea that somehow you( the rape victim) asked for it. How can a unmarried 14 or 15 yr old understand how an evil man can think?
    Plus rape is an act of violence.
    You marrying a man who you know can hurt you, It is not
    a good start.


    January 19, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Jazakallah ul khair for this post. Maybe it’s just me, but I always found it more common for both Muslims and non Muslims to be aware of the Islamic punishments for crimes like stealing, murder, and adultery/fornication for example, than for the crime of rape. I feel like the fact that rape and its punishment is not often addressed by Muslims at large, that this contributes to all the misunderstandings and gross injustices towards victims that we come across. I also believe that a lot of unnecessary shame and blame is attached to rape, so that any victim (whether Muslim or non Muslim, male or female, young or old) becomes extremely reluctant to come out and seek justice. That and the fact that law enforcement is oftentimes very uncooperative (and this is not just apparent in developing countries, even developed nations have authorities harboring this indifferent attitude towards rape victims).


    January 19, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    I just want to mention one more thing, and that is that rape is one of those crimes where a lot of victim blaming occurs and I feel that Muslims should refrain from doing this too. Even if a victim engages in questionable behavior that leads to her getting raped (assaulted while drunk, wearing revealing clothing, flirtatious behavior) she still doesn’t deserve to get raped. Unfortunately some Muslim men harbor this attitude, that if a women doesn’t behave like a “proper” Muslim woman (or if she’s not Muslim) she “deserves” to be assaulted, and that’s a terrible thing to do. As a Muslim, shouldn’t you exhibit the best behavior, even if you feel “tempted” not to? Wouldn’t you want someone to be attracted to Islam because they see Muslims not behaving like men typically would in such situations? Shukran for addressing this issue brother

    • Anon

      February 15, 2013 at 2:29 AM

      While rape is never justifiable, there is a fine line between victim-blaming and being cognizant of reality. If I sleep with all my house doors and windows open at night, and a criminal robs/murders me, can I say I had absolutely no part in what happened?

      The criminal is blameworthy for the crime, and should be punished, but would it not be wise for me to do all in my power to prevent it from occurring, and leave that which is beyond my control to Allah?

      A similar type of logic can be applied to rape, and any crime for that matter. The criminal is always to blame, but the victim, should try and take as much precaution as possible. Calling this type of thinking “victim blaming” is absolving people of their responsibility to recognize reality and act accordingly.

      This is without even getting to what the correct dress and behaviour for women according to Islam is. That’s a whole other topic, and shouldn’t really be mixed up with this.

      • RCHOUDH

        February 16, 2013 at 5:18 PM


        You’re right and I do agree that some women get into these unfortunate situations through their own mistakes. At the same time however I think the problem of rape and sexual harassment has become very widespread, to the point where even if a woman behaves “properly” she is still in danger of getting raped/harassed. That’s why it’s important to make men aware of how not to treat women as objects, despite what peers/the media/overall society might expect them to treat women. And like you mention, women should also be taught how not to treat men as sexual objects too, so that they don’t behave in ways that attract attention to themselves from the opposite sex, because along with that will come a lot of scary, unwanted attention too.

      • Hareem

        February 28, 2014 at 8:03 PM

        no justice system would blame the victim of robbery or murderer even if they were sleeping outside wearing all their gold right on them. because stealing and murder is wrong, whether the victim is in plain sight, whether someone asked you to do it, whatever. we are not animals — we know the difference between right and wrong. the rapist is always wrong. never the victim.

      • Bobby

        November 24, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        If I forgot to lock my home or even if I left the door or windows unlocked, that doesn’t make my home to be qualify to be robbed. Robbing is crime and no one should justify it. You did it….what a small thinking Anon.

  5. Greg Abdul

    January 19, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    al hamdulillah and may Allah reward you with good.

    Sometimes we Muslims are backwards about things. I want to say we all have our faults, but some things we do collectively are borderline crazy. You cite one example here. I am African American (obsessed with other’s prejudice) and the amount of prejudice I see coming from all Muslims, with our African American, Pakistani and Arab masjids, where we don’t even welcome people who don’t look like us, unless we are trying to impress white or hispanic visitors, is another example. The Prophet tells us we are equal in his last sermon and we treat blacks as less and as this article shows, despite clear Islamic teachings, we let our cultural prejudices against women rule our actions and we pretend these prejudices are ordered by Islam when the opposite is true. This is why the world is confused about Islam. Most of us as Muslims are bad spokesman and we are failing in our duty to convey what Islam truly is. A non Muslim woman or non Muslim black person will tell you in two seconds who prejudiced we are and one day we will have to answer to Allah when the non Muslims wails at being denied Jannah, we will be accused of blocking the truth (kafr) because we wanted to show the world how we were better than someone because we are men or because of where we were born and we are denying people the truth about Islam when we do this. May Allah save us.

  6. muslima

    January 19, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Prejudice is something we all have to work on. We all judge people the first second we see them and it is definitely not part of Islam. Only Allah knows what is in the heart.
    As Muslims grow more diverse this hopefully will change.

  7. Abubakar sadiq_dass

    January 22, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    Jazakallah kheir for this post. We pray that may Almighty Allah protect our muslim women.

  8. Abu Dumbledore

    January 23, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    I thought MM had a policy to not have pictures on their websites of the faces of women.

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      January 23, 2013 at 11:34 PM


      Where did you read this policy? We do try not to have photos of women without hijaab or men with their awrah uncovered unless it relates to the article on hand.


  9. Wael Abdelgawad

    January 25, 2013 at 3:07 AM

    It is indeed outrageous that such laws exist and that such things occur. It’s utterly contrary to Islamic teachings and the spirit of Islam to force a woman to marry a man who attacked her; and it’s contrary to fundamental human dignity.

    I’m really astounded sometimes at the things Muslims do, whether blowing up each other’s masjids as occurs in Pakistan and Iraq, murdering women and children as we see today in Syria, performing torture (as we see in every Muslim country)… It’s baffles me. I can’t fathom how people who call themselves Muslim can do such things.

  10. Infidelicious

    January 26, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    Mistreatment of women happens where men don’t learn to respect them. Nothing to do with religion. Every man should treat every woman as an equal in every respect, not because this and that scripture says so, but because it is the decent and human thing to do.

  11. Tausif

    February 7, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    Great article, Jazak” Allah Kahiran. I remember once Omar Sulieman said most things that happen in Islamic countries are unislamic. This is so true.

    May Allah (swt) gives us knowledge to understand where we are going wrong.

  12. mike

    February 15, 2013 at 3:28 AM

    in some muslim countries rape victims have to produce four male witnesses to prove it…is that proper islamic law?


      February 16, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      No that is wrong, the four witnesses should be called forth by anyone who accuses a woman of committing adultery/fornication. If they are unable to produce such witnesses (which would be very difficult to do since not just any one can qualify as a witness in such cases) then the accuser will be punished for slandering the woman’s reputation.

    • fahim

      February 18, 2013 at 12:56 AM

      that law is implemented in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It protects rapists..stupid law.

  13. Ebru

    February 25, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    If a family forced their daughter to marry her rapist, how can they even sit and eat at the same table with this man? Her brothers do nothing (if she had brothers)? What kind of stupidity, insanity, inhumanity is this? The family will never be happy even if their so called honor is intact. No mercy either way. I hate it when people stop thinking and just act upon what other people say, what their culture say without questioning even if they know it’s wrong, not just feel that it’s wrong..

  14. LiveIslam

    July 7, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    I’m disgusted and shocked to a point where I have no clue how to express myself. May Allah guide us, we are so far from Islam. To all the victims who took their own life as a way to escape being chained to their rapists, may your souls rest in peace Insha’Allah. May Allah shift the blame of suicide from their hands and onto the hands of the law/people who enforced such law upon you, may he forgive all their sins and bestow his mercy upon them. May he grant them Jannah in the day of judgment Insha’Allah. And me he guide us to the straight path so that we don’t become the cause of our sisters/brothers unnecessary suffering in this life. Amen. It literally breaks my heart to read/hear of such things ='[

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