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Rights of orphans, widows and divorced women

Summary of Friday Sermon

delivered by the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

November 16th, 2007

NOTE: Alislam Team takes full responsibility for any errors or miscommunication in this Synopsis of the Friday Sermon

Huzur cited three Quranic verses:

“And they ask thee concerning the orphans. Say, 'Promotion of their welfare is an act of great goodness. And if you intermix with them, they are your brethren. And Allah knows him who seeks to make mischief apart from him who seeks to promote the welfare of the orphans. And if Allah had so willed, He would have put you to hardship. Surely, Allah is Mighty and Wise.” 2:221

“And those of you who die and leave behind wives shall bequeath to their wives provision for a year without their being turned out. But if they themselves go out, then there shall be no blame upon you in regard to any proper thing which they do concerning themselves. And Allah is Mighty and Wise.” 2:241

“And the divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day; and their husbands have the greater right to take them back during that period, provided they desire reconciliation. And they (the women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in equity; but men have a degree of advantage above them. And Allah is Mighty and Wise.” 2:229

and gave a discourse on the rights of three vulnerable groups of society, orphans, widows and divorced women. Huzur said the believers are given an awareness of their obligations towards these vulnerable groups to ensure that these groups do not develop a sense of isolation and susceptibility and for this reason each of the above verse ends on the Divine attributes of Al Aziz (The Mighty) and Al Hakeem (The Wise). This is to inculcate the feeling among the vulnerable that if those who are in power are unfair to them, there is a Mighty and Wise God over them Who seizes and chastises those who transgress, that He is the fountainhead of all power and that He will censure those who transgress.

Those who believe in the Qur’an have thus been admonished that not paying the dues of the vulnerable after claiming to have faith is censurable. Therefore those who are responsible to orchestrate societal harmony but fail to deliver are culpable of any restlessness or negative response coming from the vulnerable groups in society. Those who usurp or do not pay their dues are addressed in the above verses to be ever mindful that there is a Might Wise God watching over everything.

The first of the three verses is about the orphans. The Qur’an carries many commandments relating to the rights of the orphans and enjoinment of compassion towards them. It likens them to one’s brothers thus stressing the significance of looking after them. Indeed one is most caring towards the physical, moral and spiritual well-being of one’s brother; one is most restless if one’s brother is ill, similarly Allah states that the orphans are like one’s brothers their sound up-bringing should always be on one’s mind and one should strive to make them a dynamic part of the society. The Islamic teaching is that of love but firmness when required, betterment and corrective aspect is always the intent. Orphan brothers should be given the same treatment just as one treats one’s next of kin. Citing verse 10 of Surah Al Nisa (4:10) Huzur said take care of the orphans so that Allah protects you and your offspring from every grief. Care in particular for the children of those who give their lives for the cause of faith and are martyrs so that the offspring of the martyrs develop a sense of pride, such children should always be made to feel that they are as one with the whole Community and are taken care of just as a brother takes care of a brother, they should have the sense of fulfilment that the Community has brought them up on sound moral values.

Parents of some orphans leave property behind, their next of kin are enjoined not to have designs over this property. Citing part of verse 7 of Surah Al Nisa (4:7) Huzur said some times relatives do not even hand over the property of the orphans upon their reaching of the age. Allah dislikes this immensely. The up-bringing of the orphans should be with pure intentions, if this is not the case then while the orphan’s wealth/property is used in his/her upbringing it is also being used by the carer. When the orphan is made aware of this upon reaching an age of maturity there is discord and conflict between close relatives, matters reach the courts. At times the dispute is brought to the Community, some people, who wish to settle privately, write their desperate affairs to Huzur. Indeed as the first verse cited states, if Allah had willed He could have placed people in hardship in terms of bringing up orphans, but if there is a need, their property/wealth may be used in their up-bringing, however none of it for the personal use of the carer.

Indeed as verse 11 of Surah Al Nisa (4:11) states that those who consume the property of orphans swallow fire in their bellies.

It is vital to make the orphans an active, useful part of the society. The use of the Divine attributes of The Mighty and The Wise at the end of the verse (2:221) indicates that although orphans are vulnerable and weak but the society should be mindful of the Mighty and Wise God Who has His caring hand on them.

The second verse cited at the beginning of the sermon was 2:241 and mentions another vulnerable group of society; the widow. Societies in the developing world do not usually look after this vulnerable group, even the educated among them are unfair. Muslims are particularly enjoined about the rights of women as the Qur’an expounded these rights 1,400 years ago whereas these people have woken up to women’s rights now. Referring to the verse cited at the beginning (2:241) Huzur said indeed Islam gives the widow the right to stay in the house of her deceased husband for a year if she so wishes, this is in addition to the prescribed period of four months and ten days after the death of her husband. The idea is that a widow should be given as much facility as possible in cases, for example where the house of the deceased is bequeathed to someone other than the widow, that person is enjoined to wait patiently for a year and not harass the widow in any way. However, if the widow wishes to leave the house off her own accord she may do so. This is the commandment of The Mighty and Wise God and if it is not put in practice then one is censurable. Another indication in this verse is that if the widow leaves the house due to re-marriage then it is her fair and proper decision. Some sections of society do not like the widow to re-marry although marriage of a widow is a favourable practice. Huzur explained that Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih I (may Allah be pleased with him) said that in some societies, like the Indian sub-continent, marriage of a widow is considered as a discredit and against honour, however, in this verse Allah reminds us that His name is Al Aziz and He has the greatest honour and He states that a widow should re-marry; therein is a reminder for those who collide with His commandment.

The third verse cited at the bringing is about the divorced women. In case of divorce Islam enjoins a prescribed period for women after which they are free to re-marry. Elsewhere in the Qur’an it is stated that no hurdle should be placed in their re-marriage, that they are capable of making their own decision. If after divorce a woman realises that she is with child then she should let her ex-husband know. It is possible that the man feels compassionate in such an instance and wishes to reconcile. The close relatives are commanded not to interfere and prevent reconciliation, as it sometimes happens. Huzur said sometimes it is the family of the girl who create impediments in reconciliation against the wishes of the girl. He said he receives letters from girls saying that their families are driven by a false sense of pride and in the process are destroying their marriages. Huzur said this particular verse states that men and women have equal rights over each other. On the basis of a relationship that is formed on a promise and a pledge both the husband and wife are enjoined to fulfil the rights of each other. It were Islamic commandments such as this that revolutionised society as no other religion had given women their rights in this manner.

Huzur said these days divorce is getting very common. Men should make their decisions after much reflection and pondering. Staid and clam reflection over these matters can transform households into cradles of peace, love and harmony. Huzur said this verse also explains that in some matters men have an advantage, a precedence over women due to their obligations and responsibilities, therefore women should allow them a margin. Huzur said men are made guardians over women however with this they have the responsibility to look after their family which is a commandment from The Mighty and Wise God. It is Him Who established the rights of men and women and by asserting that He is The Mighty and Wise He has made it clear that any unwarrantable advantage should not be taken from the precedence that men are given over women for The Mighty God watches over them. They should employ their precedence over women only as much as required while fulfilling their obligations. If they do so only then would they gain from the wisdom of The Wise God. This is the commandment of The Mighty God, a commandment that disseminates good and if it is not put in practice the societal peace is destroyed and those who are culpable are liable of chastisement of The Mighty God.

Huzur prayed that may we all be enabled to understand this sagacious teaching.

Next Huzur requested prayers for Pakistan. He said the situation there is clear to all, the government, the politicians and the so-called religious leaders all seem bent on destroying the country. May Allah protect this country, a country that was attained with many sacrifices. The Ahmadiyya Community also made many sacrifices for the creation of Pakistan. Huzur said it is the requisite of the love of the homeland for all the Pakistanis settled abroad to pray for it. The country is being steered towards complete devastation, may Allah give those who are doing this sense and if it is not in their destiny then may people who have compassion for the masses come to power.