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A story from Egyptian state-owned newspaper al-Arabiya, went live on April 25th, 2012. It contained a shocking revelation which has now circulated around the world and aroused considerable disgust, where even the most indefatigable Islamic supremacists seem embarrassed, many trying to explain it away.
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to [Egypt’s] Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper.
The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.
According to Egyptian columnist Amro Abdul Samea in al-Ahram, Talawi’s message included an appeal to parliament to avoid the controversial legislations that rid women of their rights of getting education and employment, under alleged religious interpretations.
“Talawi tried to underline in her message that marginalizing and undermining the status of women in future development plans would undoubtedly negatively affect the country’s human development, simply because women represent half the population,” Abdul Samea said in his article.
The controversy about a husband having sex with his dead wife came about after a Moroccan cleric, Zamzami Abdul Bari, spoke about the issue in May 2011.
Zamzami Abdul Bari said that marriage remains valid even after death adding that a woman also too had the same right to engage in sex with her dead husband.
Now, author Dan Murphy, of Christian Science Monitor has come to the aid of all who hope this is but an untruth, reassuring us all that the story is “utter hooey.” His evidence? Read on…
[The controversial story] was soon mentioned in an English language version of Al-Arabiya and immediately started zipping around social-networking sites. By the afternoon [of it's publication] it had set news sites and the rest of the Internet on fire. It has every thing: The yuck factor, “those creepy Muslims” factor, the lulz factor for those with a sick sense of humor. The non-fact-checked Daily Mail picked it up and reported it as fact. Then Andrew Sullivan, who has a highly influential blog but is frequently lax about fact-checking, gave it a boost with an uncritical take. TheHuffington Post went there, too.
There’s of course one problem: The chances of any such piece of legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament for a vote is zero. And the chance of it ever passing is less than that. In fact, color me highly skeptical that anyone is even trying to advance a piece of legislation like this through Egypt’s parliament. I’m willing to be proven wrong. It’s possible that there’s one or two lawmakers completely out of step with the rest of parliament. Maybe.
But extreme, not to mention inflammatory claims, need at minimum some evidence (and I’ve read my share of utter nonsense in Al Ahram over the years). The evidence right now? Zero.
There was a Moroccan cleric a few years back who apparently did issue a religious ruling saying that husbands remained married to their wives in the first six hours after death and, so, well, you know. But that guy is far, far out on the nutty fringe. How fringe? He also ruled that pregnant women can drink alcohol. Remember, alcohol is considered haram, forbidden, by the vast majority of the world’s Muslim scholars. Putting an unborn child at risk to get drunk? No, that’s just not what they do. Whatever the mainstream’s unpalatable beliefs (there are plenty from my perspective) this isn’t one of them.
Maybe the claim is indeed false, however, Dan Murphy here seems to be guilty of his own criticism: the story’s falsity can only be established by fact-checking also, not by wishful thinking, which is all that Murphy has to lean on. Personally, though, while it certainly is the type of story to make one pick up a newspaper and do a double-take whilst waiting for your morning coffee or taking the train home, the only facts about this whole exaggerated episode are:
- In May 2011, a Muslim cleric “raked the coals” as it were, by issuing a fatwa that because by Egyptian Islamic law a man remains married to a woman for six hours after she dies, then technically, he can have sex with her corpse legally. He went on to say that although it would be technically legal, necrophilia is a disgusting act that would be best avoided.
- So what was the point of his fatwa? Obviously to incite controversy, but to which end? It’s not Egyptian law yet, never has been law, but the cleric’s religious claims have done nothing but outraged Women’s rights groups, such as Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW), and the rest of the world.
- The NCW have appealed to the parliament not to recognise this religious “loophole” as law. Whether the parliament were already considering it or not, is speculation.
- Necrophilia is illegal under Egyptian law, despite sources on the internet who try to source secondary so-called “Islamic texts” that say necrophilia is allowed. I could not find a single mention of necrophilia in the Quran text, yet of course, islamophobes across the world seem to be having a field day with this, stating that Mohammed was a necrophiliac and that all Muslims have been taught it’s OK.
- Islam is very clear on the issue of matrimonial ties. With the death of a spouse the contract of marriage comes to an end. There is no difference in this regard among the scholars of all schools of thought.
To put this issue to bed (sorry, bad choice of words) once and for all, Sheila Musaji of The American Muslim wrote the following from the general Islamic holy perspective:
Thus the ruling of this so called Muslim cleric demonstrates the abuse of authority in the name of God. It shows a total disregard for common sense or even the basics of the Divine teachings. Furthermore, it shows how obsessed are some of the so called religious scholars with male sexuality. It is a shame that these people occupy any positions of authority in the Muslim community and that their views are accepted by anyone as a genuine interpretation of the Divine teachings. What is even worse is that Muslim scholars in general have chosen to be quiet on this issue. The opposition to Zamzami has come from secularists, and Muslim scholars, by and large, have preferred to ignore the issue.
What Zamzami decreed is a mockery of the divine teachings. The sura (chapter) two of the Quran in aya (verse) 79 described such people as those who frame the laws of the Shari’ah themselves and attribute them to God. The Quran describes them as worse than animals. The Quran further explains
“Worst of the creatures in the sight of Allah are those human beings who do not utilise the capabilities of hearing and speaking and refuse to understand (8:22).
The Quran goes even further consigning these people to a great torment while explaining “You will see many amongst both the Jinn and mankind who are destined for Jahannam for they have been given the faculties of thinking, seeing and hearing but they do not utilize them (to grasp the truth). They are just like brutes – and indeed worse than them. They remain un-heedful of the laws of Allah. (7:179)
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