Dower and Maintenance
DOWER AND MAINTENANCE - I
It is one of the most ancient traditions of the human family relations that at the time of marriage the man pays a dower (mahr) to the woman or to her father. In addition to that, he undertakes to bear the expenses of his wife and children during the entire period of his life.
What is the basis of this tradition? Why and how did it begin? Why should the husband be responsible for the maintenance of his wife? What is the spirit of dower? Are dower and maintenance still relevant, even if man and woman enjoy all human and natural rights, and the relations between them are based on justice and equity; or are they only the surviving remnants of the days when man owned woman? Does justice and the equality of rights, especially in the 20th century, demand that these outdated traditions should be abolished, a marriage should take place without a dower, woman should be responsible to bear her own expenses, and the children should be the joint responsibility of husband and wife?
We propose to answer these questions, and begin with the question of dower. Let us see how this tradition came into being, what its philosophy is and how the sociologists explain its origin.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF DOWER
It is said that during pre-historic times man lived a barbaric life, which had the tribal form. For unknown reasons marriage was prohibited between a male and a female of the same blood. Hence the young men of a tribe, who wanted to marry, were compelled to choose their wives from some other tribe. They often visited other tribes for this purpose. At that time man was not aware of his role in begetting children. He thought that the children belonged exclusively to their mother. Though he often found that the children closely resembled him, he did not know the cause of that resemblance. Naturally the children also thought that they belonged to their mother and not to their father. At that time ancestry was traced through the mothers. Men were considered to be barren and sterile. After marriage they stayed with their wife's tribe as a mere adjunct of it, because the wife required her husband's company. This period is known as the period of matriarchy.
It was not long before man discovered his role in procreation and came to believe that the children in reality belonged to him. From then onwards, he dominated over woman and assumed the role of the head of the family. Thus, the so called period of patriarchy began.
During this period also a marriage between the people having the same blood was prohibited. Man had to choose his wife from some other tribe, and bring her to his own tribe. As there was constant warfare among the tribes, the only way to get a wife was to kidnap a young girl from some other tribe.
Gradually peace took the place of warfare and the different tribes were able to achieve peaceful coexistence. During this period the custom of kidnapping the girls was abolished. In order to get the girl of his choice the man went to her tribe, became a hired worker of her father and worked for him for some time. In consideration of the services rendered by him the girl's father gave her hand to him and he took her to his own tribe.
When money became common, man discovered that instead of serving the bride's father for years, it was better to present a suitable gift to him and take the girl immediately. That was the origin of the dower (mahr).
According to this account, in the early days man lived as an adjunct of woman and served her. During this period woman ruled over man. In the next stage, when power passed into man's hands, he kidnapped women from some other tribe. During the third stage, in order to win a woman, man went to woman's father and served him for years. During the fourth stage man presented a sum of money to the woman's father. And that is how the custom of dower originated.
It is said that since the time man abolished the system of matriarchy and laid the foundation of patriarchy, he gave woman the status of a slave, or at the most, of an employee or a servant of his. He looked upon her as an economic tool, which, by the way, could satisfy his lust also. He did not give her social or economic independence. The fruits of woman's labour belonged either to her father or to her husband. She did not have the right to choose her husband, nor could she carry out any economic activity for her own sake. The money which man paid as dower and the expenses which he bore as maintenance (nafaqah) were in consideration of the economic gains which he derived from her during the period of conjugal relations.
DOWER IN THE ISLAMIC SYSTEM OF RIGHTS
There is a fifth stage also about which the sociologists and other commentators have observed silence. During this stage man gives a present to woman herself. Neither of her parents has any claim to it. Woman receives the present, but she preserves her social and economic independence. She chooses her husband of her own free will, not with the sanction of her father or brother. Furthermore, neither has her father nor her husband any right to enslave or exploit her. The proceeds of her work and labour belong exclusively to her. In financial matters she does not require anybody's supervision or patronage.
The husband has only one right. He can enjoy s*x with his wife. As long as the conjugal relations are intact, he is under obligation to meet all the legitimate requirements of his wife within his own financial limits.
This is the stage which is recognised by Islam and on which Islam has laid the foundation of matrimonial relations. Many passages of the Qur'an emphasise that the dower exclusively belongs to woman. Besides, the husband has to maintain her and meet her expenses. At the same time, whatever woman earns belongs to her and not to anybody else, not even to her father or husband.
It is here that the question of dower and maintenance becomes a little puzzling. As long as the dower was paid to the father of the girl and she went to the husband'5 house just like a slave and the husband could economically exploit her, the question was easy to understand. The dower was then paid as a price of the girl and she had to be maintained like any other slave. But, if nothing is to be paid to the father of the girl, the husband is not allowed to exploit his wife; woman has complete economic independence, and as far as her rights are concerned, she does not require the supervision, control or patronage of anybody. Then what is the sense of a dower and maintenance allowance being paid?
A GLANCE AT HISTORY
To be able to grasp the philosophy of the dower and maintenance in the fifth stage, we should examine, a little critically, the theory of the four periods mentioned above. The fact is that all that is said about these periods is nothing more than a hypothesis based on presumptions and speculations. it neither constitutes a historical fact nor a scientific truth. We have no definite knowledge about the life of pre-historic man. All that is said about the matriarchal period, the sale of girls by their fathers and the economic exploitation of wives by their husbands, is not very credible. There are two things which strike one's mind about these presumptions and speculations. One is that the primitive man has been represented to be extraordinarily barbarous, violent and devoid of human sentiments. The second thing is that the wonderful planning of nature, to reach its universal goals has been ignored.
Such an interpretation of human nature can possibly be made by the people of the West and not by those of the East except by those of the East who are fond of following the West. For certain reasons, the European is not familiar with human sentiments. He cannot admit that they play a basic role in history. If he has an economic bent of mind, his attention remains confined to the problem of bread and butter. He looks at history as a machine, which does not move unless fed with fuel. If his trend is s*xual, he regards the entire humanity and human history, with all their cultural, artistic, moral and religious manifestations, as modified forms of s*x-play. If his views are political, then, according to him, the entire human history consists of a series of battles, bloodsheds and acts of cruelty.
The European was put to so much torture in the name of religion, during the Middle Ages, when people were often burnt alive, that he has become allergic to the name of God, religion and everything that religion stands for. That is why, in spite of all the evidence of the fact that nature has a goal and the system of the world is not working haphazardly, he would not dare to admit the existence of the "First Cause".
We do not ask the Western interpreters of history to admit the existence of the prophets, who have appeared throughout human history to proclaim the message of justice and humanity, and to fight corruption, which they successfully did. We only want them not to ignore the conscious role of nature at least.
No doubt in the history of man-woman relations there have been many cases of extreme cruelty, some of them the most atrocious ones, which have been narrated by the Qur'an also, but it cannot be said that the entire history has been replete with instances of cruelty and violence.
THE REAL PHILOSOPHY OF DOWER
According to our belief, the dower has come into being as the result of skilful arrangements, put into the very design of creation, to balance the relations between man and woman. The dower has come into being, because, by nature, the respective roles of man and woman are different from each other. According to the gnostics the law of love and attraction prevails everywhere in the Universe. As everything is designed to perform a definite function, its role is different from that of all other things.
While discussing the disparities between man and woman, we have already pointed out that their feelings and sentiments, with regard to each other, are not the same. The law of creation has ordained that woman should have the qualities of beauty, pride and indifference, whereas man should have those of courting and pursuit. That is how the physical weakness of woman, as compared to man, has been counterbalanced, and for this very reason it has always been man who has sought woman's hand and proposed to her. As we have already seen, according to the sociologists, during the periods of both matriarchy and patriarchy, it has been man who has sought after woman.
The scientists say that man is more lustful than woman. Certain Islamic traditions say that man is not more lustful. Actually the case is the reverse, but woman has a better sense of self-restraint. Practically, both the views come to the same thing. Anyway, it is certain that man has less self-control. This feature has enabled woman not to run after man, nor to submit to him easily. Man's instinct compels him to approach woman, and he takes steps to gain her favour. One of these steps is to present her with a gift.
Members of the male s*x have always vied with each other to win a female. They have even fought each other to achieve this end. But the members of the female s*x have never shown the same keenness to win a male. This is so, because the roles of the male and the female are not the same. The male always pursues a female whereas the female shows a sort of indifference to him.
The dower is closely related to woman's modesty and chastity. She knows by instinct that her self-respect demands that she should not submit herself freely.
That is how woman, in spite of her physical weakness, has been able to bring men to their knees, to compel them to vie with each other, and to make Romeos run after Juliets. When she agrees to marry a man, she receives a present from him as a sign of friendship, cordiality and goodwill.
It is said that among some barbaric tribes, when a girl had more than one suitor, she used to persuade them to fight a duel. Whoever won the duel or killed his rival was considered fit to secure the hand of the girl.
There was a newspaper report that a girl in Tehran persuaded two boys to fight a duel in her presence. From the point of view of those who think that power means only brute force and maintain that the history of man-woman relations contains nothing but cases of cruelty and exploitation, it is unbelievable that the fair and weaker s*x should be able to set on two members of the stronger s*x to attack each other. But for those who have some knowledge of the wonderful and mysterious power which nature has granted to woman there is nothing strange in this.
Woman has had much influence over man. Her influence over man has been greater than man's influence over her. Man is indebted to woman and to her chastity and charming modesty for his many achievements of art and feats of bravery. The credit for the building of many a personality and the developing of many a genius goes to her. Woman has built man and man has built the society. If woman loses her qualities of chastity, modesty and restraint, and tries to play the role of man, first she may be debased, then man may lose his manhood, and in the end the society may be ruined.
That faculty of woman, has enabled her to maintain her personality throughout history; to compel man to come to her door-step as a suitor; to lead man to rivalry and even to fight for her sake; to maintain her modesty and chastity as her hallmark; to keep her body hidden from the gaze of man; to inspire man to love to perform feats of bravery, as a sacred asset; to excel in intellectual and creative deeds; to sing amorous songs and to submit to the weaker s*x in humility. Hence this tendency has impelled bridegroom to offer his bride a present at the time of marriage as the dower.
The dower is a part of the natural law, which has been promulgated by nature itself.
THE DOWER IN THE QUR'AN
The form of the dower described above in connection with the fifth stage is not an invention of the Qur'an. All that the Qur'an did was to restore it to its natural and pristine form. The Qur'an in its incomparably elegant style says: "Give to the women a free gift of their marriage portions". (Surah an-Nisa, 4 : 4) This means that the dower belongs to women exclusively and it is a gift to be paid directly to them. It has nothing to do with their fathers or brothers.
In this short sentence the Holy Qur'an has referred to three basic points:
Firstly it has used for marriage portion or the dower the word, saduqatehinna meaning truthfulness and sincerity and not the word mehr. Thus, the dower is a symbol of the cordiality of the man paying it. This point has been expressly mentioned by a number of the commentators of the Holy Qur'an, such as Zamakhshari, the author of the well-known commentary, the Kashshaf Similarly, the famous philologist, Raghib Isfahani says in his lexicon of the Qur'an that the dower has been called saduqah because it is a symbol of the sincerity of faith. Secondly, it is clear from the above verse of the Qur'an that the dower is to be paid directly to the woman, and her parents have no claim to it. It is not a compensation for the efforts made by them to bring up their daughter. Thirdly, it is clear that the dower is nothing except a present and a gift.
THE QUALITY OF FEELINGS AMONG ANIMALS
The law of s*xuality is not confined to human beings. It prevails in the animal kingdom also. Though both the s*xes are in need of each other, the male feels a greater need for the female, and takes the initiative in gaining her favour. That is why the male does not misuse his superior strength, and assumes a meek attitude towards the female.
GIFTS IN ILLICIT RELATIONS
Even when a man and a woman want to enjoy s*x unlawfully and indulge in free love, it is man who presents gifts to woman. When they have coffee, tea or food together it is man who regards it his duty to pay the bill. Woman considers it insulting to her to spend money for the sake of man. Some may contend that a boy requires financial potentialities to indulge in debauchery, whereas for a girl it is a means of receiving gifts. These customs, which are common to both lawful and unlawful relations, may also emanate from the dissimilarity of the feelings of man and woman in relation to each other.
A EUROPEAN IS MORE NATURAL IN LOVE-MAKING THAN IN MARRIAGE
In the West where family rights have been perverted in the name of equality of human rights, and an attempt is being made to allot man and woman similar functions in domestic life, man still performs his natural role, as far as free love is concerned. In free love he still offers presents to woman and bears her expenses, whereas in the case of a European marriage, not only does the dower not exist, but woman also has to shoulder a heavy responsibility in connection with domestic expenses. This means that European love-making is more natural than European marriage.
The dower is an example, which indicates that man and woman have been created with dissimilar genius, and the law of creation has entitled them to dissimilar natural and innate rights.
DOWER AND MAINTENANCE - II
In the preceding chapter we have described the philosophy and origin of dower. It was pointed out that the law of creation has fixed the relationship between the two s*xes and has allotted them separate roles in life. It was also pointed out that the custom of dower has originated from the gentle and affectionate feelings of man, and not from his sense of domination and harshness. The role played by woman in this connection has proceeded from her peculiar sense of self-restraint, and not from any weakness or helplessness on her part. The payment of dower is a device prescribed by the law of nature, to enhance the value of woman. It gives a personality to her. Its moral value is far higher than its material value.
PRE-ISLAMIC CUSTOMS ABOLISHED BY ISLAM
The Holy Qur'an abolished many pre- Islamic Arab customs connected with dower and restored it to its natural and deserving pristine form.
During the pre-Islamic period the parents thought that dower belonged to them exclusively as a recompense for the pains they took in rearing and bringing up the girl.
It is mentioned in the "Kashshaf" (a celebrated commentary on the Qur'an) etc. that when a girl was born and somebody wanted to congratulate her father, he did so by saying:
'May this musk-bag be beneficial to you'. What he meant was:
'May you give her in marriage and receive her dower'.
During the pre-Islamic period, the fathers and, in their absence, the brothers, as natural guardians of the girl, gave her in marriage according to their own will and not according to that of the girl herself. At the same time they regarded her dower as belonging to themselves. They sometimes exchanged their daughters. A man would give his daughter or sister in marriage to another, in consideration of the latter giving his daughter or sister in marriage to the former. In this form of marriage, which was called Shighar marriage, neither of the wives would get a dower. Islam abolished this custom. The Holy Prophet has said: 'There is no Shighar (exchange of daughters or sisters) in Islam".
According to the Islamic traditions not only a father has no claim to any part of the dower of his daughter, but it is also not permissible to include, in the marriage agreement, a condition that apart from dower anything additional would be paid to him. In other words, a father is not allowed to derive any financial gain out of the marriage of his daughter.
Islam also abolished the custom according to which a man worked for his prospective father-in-law when money had not yet become a medium of exchange. This custom did not come into existence simply because the fathers wanted to benefit through their daughters. There were other reasons also, which were characteristic of the age and were not necessarily unfair. Anyhow, there is no doubt about the existence of such a custom in the ancient world.
The story of Moses and Shu'aib, narrated by the Qur'an, indicates the existence of such a custom. When Moses, while escaping from Egypt, reached the well of Madyan he took pity on the daughters of Shu'aib, who were standing in a corner with their sheep and nobody was paying any attention to them. Moses drew water for them. The girls, on returning home, told the story to their father who sent one of them back to Moses and invited him to his house. Having been introduced to each other, Shu'aib said to Moses one day: "I would like to give one of my daughters to you in marriage on the condition that you work for me for eight years. If you like, you may work for two years more in all 10 years". Moses accepted the offer and became Shu'aib's son-in-law. Such a custom was current at that time The reason was two-fold. First, money did not exist then and the only service which a bridegroom could render to his wife or to his father-in-law was to work for them. The other reason was the existence of the custom of dowry. The sociologists believe that the custom of giving dowry by the father is one of the oldest traditions. To be able to provide a dowry to his daughter, the father either employed the bridegroom or took money from him. Practically what he took from his son-in-law was for the benefit of his daughter.
Anyhow, Islam has done away with this custom, and now the father of the woman has no claim to the dower, even if he wants it for spending it on his daughter. Only the woman herself has full rights to spend it as she likes.
During the pre-Islamic period there existed other customs also, which practically deprived the woman of her dower. One of them was the custom of inheriting conjugal rights. If a man died, his son or brother inherited his conjugal rights, in respect of his wife, in the same way as he inherited his property. The son or the brother of the deceased had a right, either to give the widow in marriage to another man and take her dower, or to declare her his own wife against dower already paid to her by the deceased.
The Holy Qur'an did away with this custom also. It says:
'0 you who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit women forcibly" (Surahan-Nisa,4 : 19)
In another verse, the holy Qur'an has totally banned a marriage with one's father's wife (stepmother) even if she be willing. It says: "Marry not those women whom your father married" (Surahan-Nisa,4 : 22).
The Holy Qur'an did away with every custom which deprived woman of her dower. One of such customs was that when a man lost interest in his wife, he harassed her with a view to making her agree to a divorce on the condition that she would return, wholely or partly, the dower which she had received. The Holy Qur'an says: "Nor should you put constraint on them (women) so that you take away part of what you have given '~ (Surahan-Nisa,4 : 19).
Another obnoxious custom was that a man would marry a woman and even pay her heavy dower, but after losing interest in her he would tarnish her image, accuse her of adultery and demand the dower back. This custom was also done away with by the Holy Qur'an.
ISLAM HAS ITS OWN SYSTEM OF DOWER
It is one of the indisputable principles of Islam that a man has no claim to the money or property of his wife, nor is he entitled to force her to do anything for him. The earnings of a working woman can in no way be appropriated by her husband without her consent. In this respect there is no difference between man and woman. Contrary to the custom prevailing in Christian Europe up to the beginning of the 20th century, woman, from the Islamic point of view, is not under the control of her husband in financial matters. She has full independence to deal with them herself. Though Islam has given complete economic independence to woman, and has allowed the husband no right in regard to her property, it has retained the system of dower. This shows that, from the Islamic point of view, dower is not paid to woman because the husband subsequently utilises her physical energy or exploits her economically. Islam has its own system of dower, which should not be confused with any other system. The objections, which are raised against other systems, are not valid in this case.
As stated in the preceding chapter, the Holy Qur'an describes the dower as a 'free gift'. According to the Qur'an, it is obligatory. The Qur'an has minutely taken into consideration all the characteristics of human nature and, to ensure that neither man nor woman forgets the respective role entrusted to him or her by nature, stresses the necessity of fixing a dower.
Woman's role is to respond to man's love. It is good if she loves a man but her love should be a reaction to the initiative taken by him. If she falls in love with a man who already does not want her, she would invariably be faced with failure and this will strike a blow to her personality. But if her love is in response to man's love, there is no question of her failure or a blow to her personality.
Is it true that woman is not faithful, that she is not consistent in love, and cannot be relied upon? It is true as well as false. It is true if the initiative comes from woman. If she is first to fall in love, such a love is not reliable. She will soon lose interest. But it is false if woman's love is in response to man's sincere love. In such a case it is unlikely to fade, unless man himself loses interest in her. Then, of course, it will wither. That is woman's natural love.
It is because of the cases of the first kind of love that woman is notorious for her infidelity, and it is because of the second kind of love that she is extolled for her faithfulness. If society wants firmness and stability of the conjugal bond, it has no alternative but to follow the Qur'an, which has prescribed distinct rules for man and woman. The law of dower is in conformity with nature, because it is a symbol that shows that love is initiated by man, and woman only responds to it. Man offers a gift as a symbol of his love and respect for woman. Hence, it is not appropriate to repeal this law which forms a section of the basic law formulated by nature itself.
As we have observed, the Holy Qur'an abolished many pre-Islamic customs and usages in connection with dower, though the people of that time were very much attached to them. What the Qur'an has prescribed is different from the custom prevalent in those days. Hence, it cannot be said that the Qur'an attaches no importance to the existence, or non-existence, of the dower. It could have abolished the dower totally, but it did not deem it fit to do so.
Now that we know the views of Islam on dower, let us take up the objections raised by those who criticise this Islamic law.
A critic says: "As one has to spend money for getting a garden, a house, a horse or a mule, similarly money has to be spent to purchase a woman. And as the price of a house, a garden or a horse depends upon its size, beauty and usefulness, similarly the price of a woman varies according to her beauty or ugliness and her wealth or poverty. That is the philosophy of dower. There can be no conjugality without spending money and paying the price of the purchase".
Had it been a Western custom, could it have been possible to fabricate such a malicious slander against it? If one person gives money to another person, does that mean that he wants to purchase him? Should the custom of offering a present or giving a gift be abolished? The Qur'an expressly says that dower is nothing but a free gift. Furthermore, Islam has organised its economic laws in such a way that they do not allow economic exploitation of a woman by a man.
You may say that many husbands in the East actually exploit their wives economically. We admit that, but it has nothing to do with dower. These husbands do not say that they paid a dower to them. Actually there are other reasons why, in many cases, men dominate over women. Why should the natural law be wrecked instead of reforming the men concerned? The underlying idea of all such arguments is that the people of the East should forget their own philosophy of life and their human standards, so that they may easily be devoured by aliens.
The same critic adds: "If complete economic equality between man and woman is established, there is no reason why man should be held responsible for maintaining his wife and providing her with food, clothing and dower. Such precautions and double assurances have never been considered necessary in the case of man".
If we minutely analyse this argument, it simply means that during the period when woman had no right of holding property, and had no economic independence, the dower and maintenance were justified to a certain extent, but in the cases where woman has been given economic independence, as Islam has already given her, there is no justification for providing her maintenance and dower.
The critic appears to be under the false impression that dower is paid simply to compensate woman for her being deprived of her economic rights. The fact is otherwise. If reference to the Qur'an is made, the real philosophy of the dower can easily be ascertained.
Another critic writes: "As man and woman have been created equal, the payment of any price or wages by one to the other does not stand to reason. Just as man needs woman, woman needs man. In this respect both of them are on an equal footing. Hence it would be unfair to enjoin upon either of them to bear the expenses of the other. But as man had the right of divorce and woman had no guarantee of the continuity of a joint life with him, she was given a right to demand a sort of security from him".
He adds: "In case man does not have an absolute right of divorce, no justification is left for the continuation of the custom of dower.
It is clear from what we have said that these arguments are baseless. A dower is neither a price nor wages. No doubt man and woman need each other, but their position is not the same. Nature has placed them into two different positions.
It is still more baseless to describe dower as a financial security against the right of divorce. On top of that, to claim that this is the reason why Islam has prescribed it, is the height of absurdity. We would like to ask such people why, in the first instance, did Islam give the right of divorce to man. Had this right not been given, there would have been no need of any security? Furthermore, this statement means that when the Holy Prophet fixed the dower of his own wives, he provided them with a security against himself. Similarly, when he fixed the dower of Lady Fatimah at the time of her marriage with Imam Ali, he did so because he wanted to provide the former with a security against the latter.
If, for the sake of argument, we admit that dower is a form of security, then the question arises as to why the Holy Prophet counselled the women to consent formally to surrender their dower to their husbands as a gesture of goodwill. Why did he describe such an act as meritorious and rewarding? Why did he advise that, as far as possible, the amount of dower should not be large? Does not all this show that the Prophet considered dower to be a gift and regarded its voluntary surrender as a means of strengthening and consolidating love between a husband and a wife?
If Islam looked upon dower as a security, why did the Qur'an say: "Give the women their dower as a free gift'; and why did it not say: "Give the women their dower as a security?"
Furthermore, it appears that the critic is under the impression that, in the early days of Islam, dower had the same form as it has today. At present, the common practice is that the husband, at the time of marriage, undertakes to pay a certain amount, but usually the wife does not demand its actual payment, except in the cases where a dispute develops between the two. This type of dower may assume the form of a security. But, during the early Islamic period, the usual practice was to make a prompt payment of the amount promised. In these circumstances, it cannot be said that dower is a form of security.
History shows that the Holy Prophet was never willing to give any woman in marriage without fixing her dower. In this connection the following story has been mentioned in the books of both the Shiah and the Sunnis, with slight variations:
A woman came to the Prophet and said: "0 Messenger of Allah! Accept me to be your wife". The Holy Prophet kept quiet and said nothing. The woman sat down.
One of the companions of the Prophet rose and said:
"O Messenger of Allah! If you are not inclined, I am prepared to marry her". The Holy Prophet asked: "What dower will you give9" "I have nothing". "That won't do. Go to your house. Maybe you will find something to give this woman as dower".
The man went to his house. Soon he came back and said:
"I could find nothing in my house". The Prophet said: "Go again and search. Even an iron ring will do".
The man went again. He came back and said that he could not find even an iron ring. He said that he was willing to give the clothes he was wearing to the woman.
One of the companions of the Prophet, who knew the man well, said that he was aware that the man had no other clothes. So he asked the Prophet to assign only that of his clothes as dower to the woman.
The Prophet said: "If half of his clothes is assigned as dower, who will wear it? Whichever of these two will wear it' the other will go unclothed. That's not possible".
The suitor was sitting in his place. The woman was also waiting for the final decision. In the meantime, the Prophet and his other companions were busy talking about some other subject. When a long time had elapsed, the man rose to go away. The Holy Prophet called him saying: "Come here". He came. The Prophet asked him: "Do you remember the Qur'an?" "Yes, 0 Messenger of Allah! I remember such and such Surah". "Can you recite it from memory?" "Yes, I can". "Very good. That's right. I give this woman in marriage to you and her dower is that you teach the Qur'an to her".
The man grasped the hand of the woman and both of them took their leave.
There are some other points also connected with the question of dower, but we leave them for the present.
DOWER AND MAINTENANCE - III
We have mentioned the Islamic point of view regarding dower and its philosophy. Now let us take up the question of maintenance.
It should be kept in mind that like dower, maintenance also has a peculiar form in the Islamic law, and it should not be confused with the practice in the non-Muslim world.
Had Islam allowed man to engage woman to work for him and to appropriate her earnings, the reason why a husband has to maintain his wife would have been evident, for it is clear that if a man exploits another man (or an animal) economically he has to bear his (or its) expenses of life. If a coachman does not give fodder and barley to his horse, it will not carry a load for him.
But Islam has not allowed man to exploit woman. On the other hand, woman has a right to own property and to earn money, and a husband has no right to lay his hands on what belongs to his wife. At the same time, it is incumbent on him to meet the expenses of the family. He has to maintain his wife and children and to bear the expenses in connection with servants, the household etc. For what reason?
Unfortunately, people with a Westernised mentality are not prepared in the least to think over such things. They often repeat the same adverse remarks, in the context of Islamic law, which the Europeans justifiably make against their own legal system.
It is perfectly right to say that the maintenance of a wife in the West, up to the beginning of the 19th century, was a sign of the slavery of woman, because there the woman was bound to run the household of her husband gratis, without having any right of owning anything. Obviously in this case whatever food, clothing etc. was given to her was not different from the daily ration of a prisoner or the portion of fodder given to a beast of burden.
However, the case of Islam is quite different. It is a unique system in the world which absolves woman from administering the domestic life of man, gives her complete economic independence, and at the same time exempts her from making any contribution to the family budget. Here we have a different philosophy, which of course, requires our special consideration.
LAYING THE EUROPEAN WOMAN UNDER AN INTERDICTION UP TO THE SECOND HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY
Dr. Shayagan says: "The economic independence of woman which has been recognised by the Shiah law from the very beginning, did not exist in Greece, Roman, and Japan till recently in most of the countries. She, like a minor and a lunatic, was interdicted from entering into any transaction in respect of her property. In England, where formerly the personality of woman was completely merged with that of her husband, two laws were enacted, one in 1870 and the other in 1882 which removed the ban. In Italy a law, passed in 1919, removed the restrictions imposed on woman. The German Civil law of 1900 and the Swiss Civil law of 1907 gave woman the same rights as her husband had.
"However, the Portuguese and the French laws still impose a restriction on a married woman though the French law of 1938 has modified her position to a certain extent".
As you may observe, a century has still not passed since the first laws of woman's economic independence vis-a-vis her husband were enacted in England in 1882, and the so-called ban on married woman was removed.
WHY EUROPE SUDDENLY GAVE ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE TO WOMAN?
Now let us see how it happened that a century ago such an important event took place? Was the human conscience of the European suddenly awakened and they thus realised the injustice of their ways?
Will Durant in his book, 'Pleasures of Philosophy' answers this question. There we come across a shocking truth. We come to know that the European woman should in fact be thankful for her emancipation and for acquiring proprietary rights by her to the machines and not to any man. She should bow her head in reverence for the enactment and gratitude of the law of economic independence by the British Parliament, and not to the industrialists, who wanted to earn more profits and pay less wages.
Will Durant says: "The quick changes in the habits and customs, older than the history of Christianity, are explained only by the abundance and diversity of machines. The emancipation of woman is a by-product of the industrial revolution.
A century ago, it was very difficult for men in England to find jobs. But advertisements wanted them to send their wives and children to the factories. The employers were interested only in their profits and shares and did not bother themselves with ethics and morals. It was the patriotic industrialists of the 19th century who unconsciously conspired to disrupt the domestic life of people.
The first step towards the emancipation of our grandmothers was the law of 1882. According to it, the women of Great Britain became able to enjoy an unprecedented privilege. They were given the right to keep the money they earned with themselves. This law, representing high Christian and moral values, was enacted by the mill-owners in the House of Commons. Since that year the women have been liberated from the drudgery of household work, and have instead become involved in the drudgery of the stores and factories".
As you may observe, it was the industrialists and mill-owners of England, who, for the sake of their own material gains, took this step for the benefit of woman.
THE QUR'AN AND THE ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE OF WOMAN
Islam, 1400 years ago, laid down the following law:
"Men have a portion of what they have earned and women have a portion of what they have earned" (Surah an-Nisa, 4: 32).
In this verse the Holy Qur'an has recognised the title of both men and women to the fruits of their labour.
In another passage the Qur'an says: "The men have a portion of what (their) parents and the kin left and the women have a portion of what (their) parents and the kin left." (Surah an-Nisa,4 :7)
This verse confirms the title of woman to her inheritance, which was not recognised by the pre- Islamic Arabs.
The Holy Qur'an granted economic independence to woman thirteen centuries earlier than Europe, with the difference that:
(1) The considerations which motivated Islam were purely human, moral and divine. There did not exist any such motives as the greed of the mill-owners of England who, to fill their own bellies, passed a law and then proclaimed loudly through-out the world that they had officially recognised the rights of woman, and had established equality between man and woman formally.
(2) Islam gave equal rights to woman, but did not disrupt the basis of her domestic life, nor did it instigate the wives and daughters to revolt against their husbands and fathers. Islam brought about a great revolution, but did so calmly and safely.
(3) According to Will Durant all that the Western world did was to save woman from the drudgery of household work and to foist on her the drudgery in stores and factories. In other words, Europe opened one shackle and bound her hands and feet with another. Islam delivered woman from the slavery of man, in the house as well as in the field, and took off from her shoulders every obligation to meet her own or her family expenses. According to the Islamic point of view, she has every right to earn money, to keep it safe and to develop her wealth, but at the same time she should not be put under the pressure of the compulsions of life, which may ruin her beauty and vanity, which always go hand-in-hand with mental satisfaction.
But alas! The eyes and ears of some of our writers are so closed and blocked that they are unable to perceive the most obvious historical facts and philosophical truths.
CRITICISM AND ANSWER
A lady, criticising the law of maintenance, says that it requires a husband to provide food, clothing and shelter to his wife in the same way as an owner of a horse or a mule is required to provide fodder and shelter for his animal.
May we ask the critic how she has come to the conclusion that a husband owns his wife or that ownership is the reason why her maintenance has been made obligatory on him. What sort of ownership is this that the master cannot even ask his bondsmaid to give him a glass of water? What sort of ownership is this that whatever the bondsmaid earns belongs to her and not to her master? What sort of ownership is this that the bondsmaid can, if she likes, ask for wages for the slightest service done by her to her master? What sort of ownership is this that the master has no right to force his bondsmaid even to suckle his child, who is by the way her child also?
Secondly, is it a fact that a person whose expenses are borne by another person becomes a slave of the latter? According to the law of every country in the world, it is the responsibility of the father, or the father and mother both, to bear the expenses of the children. Can it be said that the children are owned by their parents? Islam has made it obligatory on the children to support their parents, if they are in need of pecuniary help. Does this mean that, according to Islam, the parents are owned by their children?
THREE KINDS OF MAINTENANCE
Islam recognises three kinds of maintenance:
(1) The person who owns animals has to maintain them. The basis of this kind of maintenance is ownership.
(2) Man has to bear the expenses of his children, if they are minors or if they are poor. Similarly, one has to maintain one's parents if they are poor. The basis of this kind of maintenance is not ownership. It is based on natural rights. The children have a natural claim on their parents, because they have brought them into this world. Similarly, the parents have a claim on their children, whom they begot. This kind of maintenance is conditional on need.
(3) A husband has to maintain his wife. The basis of this kind of maintenance is neither ownership nor any natural right in the above mentioned sense. Nor is it conditional on any need, pecuniary or otherwise.
Even if the wife happens to be a millionairess, having a very vast income, and her husband happens to be comparatively poor, it is still the duty of the husband to meet the family expenses, including the personal expenses of his wife. Another distinctive feature of this kind of maintenance is that, unlike the first two kinds, it is judicially enforceable. What is the basis of this kind of maintenance? We shall discuss this point in the next chapter.
DOES THE MODERN WOMAN NOT WANT DOWER AND MAINTENANCE?
We have already stated that, from the Islamic point of view, it is the responsibility of man to meet the expenses of the whole family, including the personal expenses of his wife, who has no similar responsibility. Even if the wealth of woman is several times that of man, she is not bound to make any contribution to the family budget. Her contribution, if any, will be voluntary.
On the other hand, man is bound to meet the personal expenses of his wife, but he is not allowed by Islam to exploit her economically or to force her to work for him. In this respect the maintenance of wife is similar to that of parents, which is also obligatory in certain circumstances. But a son has no right to engage his parents to work for him out of consideration for meeting their expenses, which is his duty.