It was a blessing of Islam to all mankind in general, and the Hindu girl, especially, that Islam kept her life and salvaged her from certain death. Every country where Islam entered called its people to abolition of the tradition of killing girls, inviting parents to show mercy and compassion for their daughters. Islam warned them of the punishment of Allah in the Hereafter if they violate the rules and regulations regarding their girl’s rights. History says that Islam remained the main source and honest guard for the life of girls through its unique rules, strict laws and practical examples.
Its good impact was that the heinous tradition of killing innocent girls was wiped out from the human society and people became aware of the ugliness of this practice.
The Arabs in ignorance used to bury their daughters alive mercilessly as the birth of a girl was considered as ominous and a sort of insult in the society. They never felt any shame or guilt of this brutal act and terrible crime, rather, it was a common practice in many parts of the world; it was a widespread custom in the human societies including India,as we will talk in this article. In fact, their mind was unable even to perceive the cruelty of this act and no one was to condemn this inhumane practice until the light of Islam illuminated on the horizon of the world and the divine revelation was sent down on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that announced an open war on these bad practices. The clear and precise verses of the Glorious Qur’an awakened awareness and consciousness of good and evil and drew their attention to the horror of these crimes. The divine verses were a light in the darkness of the ignorance and misguidance.
Read the following verses, perhaps, it will guide your heart to believe that the Glorious Qur’an is a true revelation from Allah the Almighty, as no one has perceived such humanistic principles during those days, instead, the whole humanity remained wandering in the jungle of such barbaric acts centuries after centuries, until the guidance of Allah came in the form of the Glorious Qur’an, Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked. For what sin she was killed?(At-Takwir81:8-9)
This verse drew the attention of the people to the heinousness of this act warning that the killer would be accountable in front of Allah the Almighty on the Day of judgment, and would be questioned why the girl has been buried alive?
Allah (Glory be to Him) described the bad feelings of a person when he was informed of the birth of a female in his house and said:
And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief.He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide. (An-Nahl16:58-59)
Now we would like to present some examples that verify that the rights of Indian girls were breached in every walk of life.
Sacrifice of Girls in Ancient India
We find in the books talk about Indian civilization many examples of human sacrifice in general and sacrifice of children in particular.
Wright, Caleb, (d. 1869) says: “About one hundred miles south-west of Cuttack is the country of the Kunds. They worship a goddess called Bhuenee. To secure her blessing upon the soil they cultivate, they deem it important at certain times to offer human sacrifices upon her altars.”(1)
The victims, who must be in the freshness and bloom of youth, are brought by stealing children from distant villages and rearing them until they become large enough to be acceptable to the goddess. At the time of sacrifice, the victim is tied to a post; the sacrificer, with an axe in his hand, slowly advances towards him, chanting to the goddess.
Among the Jerejas, fierce and warlike tribes, who live in the north-west part of India, great numbers of female infants are put to death immediately after birth. In one village, in which were twenty-two boys, not one girl was to be found. The villagers confessed that they had all been murdered. In another village were found fifty-eight boys and only four girls; in another, forty-four boys and four girls; and, in many other villages, the number of boys exceeded that of the girls in nearly the same proportion.(2)
Furthermore, Chapman, Priscilla says in this regard:
“And there is many a touching scene when the knife is laid upon the favorite kid as a sacrificial offering.”(3)
This is unlike Islam and its principles as Islam has honored women and gave them their due and full rights.A Surah of the Glorious Qur’an has been named “An-Nisa’” (The Women) to honor them and exalt their position. It is the influence of Islamic teachings that Muslims in most Islamic countries honor their daughters, love them and treat them with equality; there is no discrimination in treatment between male and female.It is the impact of Islam on the Hindus that many of them gave up this bad practice, as is evident from comparing the conditions of Hindus in the past and the present.
Womanhood was Regarded as a Curse in Hinduism
The phenomenon of insulting women and demeaning them and making them a source of bad luck and omen led some Hindu women to hate themselves for being a female.This was noted by a female Hindu writer, Ramabai Sarasvati who says:“In less than six weeks a school was opened in Bombay with two pupils, one of whom had thrice attempted suicide, restrained only by the fear of being born again a woman.”(4)
According to Hindu tradition women are incapable of exercising any degree of mental capacity, for the men are accustomed to treat them as merely created for their enjoyment or for their service, and really do not esteem them to be of the same order of beings.(5)
Prohibition of Marriage of Widows in Hinduism
Debate on the issue of the second marriage of widow continued between Muslim scholars and Hindu religious leaders in the past century.Undoubtedly, second marriage is permissible in Islam for man and woman if she was divorced by her husband or was separated by the death of her husband. However, some Hindu leaders believed that it is contrary to the Hindu religion and regarded Neyog as a solution to some social and marital problems. The debates with Muslims led some Hindu spiritual leaders to be lenient in this issue. And some of them tried to find evidences in Hindu scriptures that permit second marriage for Hindu widows.
However, the injunctions of the sacred books of the Hindus are unequivocally and positively against their marriage. Thus, widows become a burden on their own families, and are yet debarred from entering anew into the married state, and becoming the centre of a new domestic circle, who are denied the ordinary enjoyments of life, and who can taste no pleasures which are not illegal. This system is utterly incompatible with the general welfare of society.
This custom of marrying girls in their early childhood and as soon as possible, though common to all castes, is most strictly observed by the Brahmins. Once a girl has passed the marriageable age, it is very difficult for her to find a husband.
When the poor girl becomes a widow before she has even become a full woman, and as by the custom of her caste she may not marry again, she is oftentimes tempted to lead an immoral life, thereby reflecting discredit on the whole caste. Everybody recognizes these abuses, but the idea of remedying them, by allowing a young widow to break through the stern rule of custom and marry again, would never even enter the head of a Hindu, more especially of a Brahmin.(6)
In fact, the second marriage for the widow as was prescribed in Islam is a solution to all these social problems.
The grand source of misery in a native house is the degradation attaching to widowhood, and the prohibition of the perhaps yet infant widow to marry again. It is not simply the violation of all the dictates of nature which gives rise to almost universal demoralization, but widows of riper age are too frequently wholly destitute of provision, and in their fall from comparative ease to the worst state of dependence, they become a ready sacrifice to the horrors of vice.(7)
The Practice of Sati in Hinduism
One of the negatives of the Hindu society is the ugly tradition, known as Sati, that has been practiced in the Hindu society up to the past century but the debates with Muslims awakened in some Hindus awareness of the brutally of this crime against humanity and the practice of Sati disappeared these days, but the austerity and isolation of life by Hindu widows is still continued to this day.
Chapman, Priscillaalso noted this phenomenon in India and said: “The Orthodox Hindu still uphold the right of Sati; no less than eight of the wives of the late Rana of Udaipur, the highest family in India, have been burnt to death on his funeral pile.”(8)
On the contrary, we find that Islam forbids suicide and Sati is not but a kind of suicide, the Glorious Qur’an and the blessed Sunnah are full of texts that prohibits killing oneself. Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.(An-Nisa’4:29)
In addition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Whoever kills himself with an iron instrument will be carrying it forever in hell. Whoever takes poison and kills himself will forever keep sipping that poison in hell. Whoever jumps off a mountain and kills himself will forever keep falling down in the depths of hell.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
When we compare Islam with Hinduism in the provisions related to the female gender we find Islamic rulings more coinciding with the logic, wisdom and practice. Islam never orders to do anything that contradicts human nature or harms him.
(1) CALEB WRIGHT, A. M. INDIA AND ITS INHABITANTS,BOSTON: PUBLISHED BY L. P. CROWN & CO.1854, p.6.
(3) Chapman, Priscilla, Hindoo Female Education, L. and G. Seeley, Thames Dittom, Surrey, 1839, p.14.
(4) RamabaiSarasvati, 1858- The High-Caste Hindu Woman,New York, Revell, p.18.
(5) Chapman, Priscilla, Hindoo Female Education, L. and G. Seeley, Thames Dittom, Surrey, 1839, p.24.
(6) Dubois, J. A. (Jean Antoine)(1765-1848), Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies,Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1906. p.213.
(7) Chapman, Priscilla, Hindoo Female Education, L. and G. Seeley, Thames Dittom, Surrey, 1839, p.34.