We have talked in the first part of this article about some aspects of infringement on the lives of female sex in ancient Indian society, presenting how their rights had been violated in the name of religion, all in the light of authentic historical evidence from authorities of the Indian history. We will present in this part some other aspects related to this issue.
Birth of Daughter in India
Even, nowadays, we find that the boy is preferred to girls in India. Birth of a boy is celebrated with grand while the birth of a girl is received with sadness and grief. This is not something new or unknown in India.
“If a man is sonless, it is desirable that he should have a daughter, for her son stands in the place of a son to his grandfather, through whom the grandfather may obtain salvation. Between a son’s son and the son of a daughter there exists in this world no difference; for even the son of a daughter saves him who has no sons, in the next world, like the son’s son.”(1)
This reveals clearly that male is only desirable for Hindu parents not female. This and similar texts gave the male an exalted position in Hinduism while the female become a source of misfortune and calamity. This is unlike Islam that makes educating girls one of the reasons for entering the Paradise. (For more information on this subject, please, click here.)
In Western and Southern India when a girl or a woman salutes the elders and priests, they bless her with these words: “Mayst thou have eight sons, and may thy husband survive thee.”(2)
In the form of a blessing the deity is never invoked to grant daughters. Fathers very seldom wish to have daughters, for they are thought to be the property of somebody else; besides, a daughter is not supposed to be of any use to the parents in their old age.
Although it is necessary for the continuance of the race that some girls should be born into the world, it is desirable that their number by no means should exceed that of the boys. If unfortunately a wife happens to have all daughters and no son, Manu authorizes the husband of such a woman to supersede her with another in the eleventh year of their marriage.(3)
In no other country is the mother so laden with care and anxiety on the approach of child-birth as in India. In most cases her hope of winning her husband to herself hangs solely on her bearing sons.
Women of the poorest as well as of the richest families are almost invariably subjected to this trial. Many are the sad and heart-rending stories heard from the lips of unhappy women who have lost their husband’s favor by bringing forth daughters only, or by having no children at all.
Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati says in this regard:
“Never shall I forget a sorrowful scene that I witnessed in my childhood. When about thirteen years of age I accompanied my mother and sister to a royal harem where they had been invited to pay a visit. The Prince had four wives, three of whom were childless. The eldest having been blessed with two sons, was of course the favorite of her husband, and her face beamed with happiness.”(4)
If a girl is born after her brother’s death, or if, soon after her birth, a boy in the family dies, she is in either case regarded by her parents and neighbors as the cause of the boy’s death. She is then constantly addressed with some unpleasant name, slighted, beaten, cursed, persecuted and despised by all.
Perhaps, the description of the Glorious Qur’an for the sad man who was blessed with a girl applies accurately to a Hindu father when he hears about the birth of a girl in his home.
Merciless Killing of Daughters in Hindu Society
After considering how many girls could safely be allowed to live, the father took good care to defend himself from caste and clan tyranny by killing the extra girls at birth, which was as easily accomplished as destroying a mosquito or other annoying insect. Who can save a babe if the parents are determined to slay her, and eagerly watch for a suitable opportunity? Opium is generally used to keep the crying child quiet, and a small pill of this drug is sufficient to accomplish the cruel task; a skillful pressure upon the neck, which is known as the “Putting nail to the throat,” also answers the purpose. There are several other nameless methods that may be employed in sacrificing the innocents upon the unholy altar of the caste and clan system. Then there are not a few child-thieves who generally steal girls; even the wild animals are so intelligent and of such refined taste that they almost always steal girls to satisfy their hunger.
This Engraving, illustrates a custom which prevailed in the northern part of Bengal. When an infant declines in health, the mother imagines that it is under the influence of an evil spirit, to appease whose wrath, she places her child in a basket and suspends it from the branch of a tree in which evil spirits are supposed to reside. The infant is generally visited and fed by its mother for three days. If it be not devoured by ants or birds of prey, or die through exposure to the cold and the rain, it is afterwards taken home. In the district of Malda, an infant thus exposed fell from its basket and was immediately seized by a prowling jackal.(4)
How an innocent child was killed in this horrible way! Such illusions and myths have no place in Islam, in fact, Islam gives a great importance to human life that could not be destroyed under any pretext. Preserving human life is among the main five objectives of Islam.
Exalted Status of Daughter in Islam
This is the condition of girl in Hindu society, but Islam has eliminated such bad feelings and attitudes toward girl ensuring her life, dignity and rights through some strict principles. Girls in Islam have been considered as a good and auspicious individual. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to stand up from his seat for his daughter Fatimah Az-Zahra’ (may Allah be pleased with her) whenever she came to him in her honor. (Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi) Islam promised Paradise for every person who spends on girls and endeavors to bring them up. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He who brought up two girls properly till they grew up, he and I would come (together) (very closely) on the Day of Resurrection, and he interlaced his fingers (for explaining the point of nearness between him and that person). (Malik)
This is the greatness of Islam and these are the teachings of Islam regarding girls. No doubt, Islamic civilization in India influenced Hindu culture and many Hindus learned from Muslims how to honor their daughters and started to give them their proper place and due rights.
Age of Marriage for Hindu Girls
Among the violations of the rights of females is giving them in marriage at a very early age, and this is not something exceptional, rather, it a general rule in Hindu religion.
It is not easy to determine when the childhood of a Hindu girl ends and the married life begins. According to Manu, eight years is the minimum, and twelve years of age the maximum marriageable age for a high caste girl.
The earlier the act of giving the daughter in marriage, the greater is the merit, for thereby the parents are entitled to rich rewards in heaven.
Ramabai Sarasvati, (1858) says in this connection:
“A great many girls are given in marriage at the present day literally while they are still in their cradles; from five to eleven years is the usual period for their marriage among the Brahmans all over India.” (5) After marriage the girl becomes a property of the clan and his nearest relatives.
“For they (the ancient sages) declare that a bride is given to the family of her husband and not to the husband alone.” (6)
The girl now belongs to the husband’s clan; she is known by his family name; henceforth she is a kind of impersonal being. She can have no merit or quality of her own.
When we compare between Islam and Hinduism in the subject of child’s rights we find that Islam cares for a child, starting from selecting a good wife that would be mother of his child. Islam prohibits abortion whether it is male or female. A nursing mother has been permitted to leave the fasting of Ramadan if she fears of any harm to her child. Islam enjoins blood money on a person who causes abortion of a fetus.
It is among his/her rights to be celebrated his birth by his parents by `Aqiqah, and Adhan should be recited to him and his hair should be shaved and charity of gold or silver equal to his hair’s weight should be donated.
These rights are equal and same in Islam for the female and male. This clearly reveals the difference between the two religions in the preservation of child’s rights.
May Allah guide us all to the right and straight path.
(1) The Laws of Manu, translated by MAX MULLER, ix, p.354, Oxford University Press, Warehouse Amen Corner, E.G. , THE CLARENDON PRESS 1886. Vol.IX. p.139.
(2) Ramabai Sarasvati, The High-Caste Hindu Woman, New York, Revell, 1885, p. 42
(4)Caleb Wright, A. M. India and its inhabitants, Boston: Published by L. P. Crown & Co.1854, p. 78.
(5) Ramabai Sarasvati, The High-Caste Hindu Woman, p. 59
(6) Apastamba-sutra, translated by Bühler, Georg, (1837-1898), New York: Christian Literature Co.1898, vol.11, p.166, Prsana11, Patala 10, Khanda 27, part 59.
(7) Ramabai Sarasvati, The High-Caste Hindu Woman,p. 66.