Islam abhors stigmatisation of widows, NASFAT affirms
Setting mark of disgrace or infamy upon something or someone, which can be used to describe the term stigmatization is condemned by Islam, the Nasirul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society of Nigeria (NASFAT) declared in its last Friday sermon.
The weekly Friday sermon released by the group said Islamic tradition explicitly forbids the mistreatment of widows, reforming a seventh-century Arabian culture that had greatly valued virgin brides and had a poor track record of caring for widows and their children.
It stated: “The issue of widows was particularly important during the time the Quran was revealed because the Muslims’ war with Makkah resulted in the death of a lot of married men.
“It is instructive to note that the religion of Islam accords a special status to widows and stresses caring for them along with other vulnerable groups from pre-Islamic Arabia, such as orphans, the poor and female infants. In Islam, taking care of widows is considered a very high form of charity. According to book 73, number 36, of the Sahih Bukhari collection of Muhammad’s sayings, or hadith, the Prophet (SAW) once said: “The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah’s cause.”
“In many traditional communities of developing countries (especially on the Indian subcontinent and in Africa), widowhood represents a “social death” for women. It is not merely that they have lost their husbands, the main breadwinner and supporter of their children, but widowhood robs them of their status and consigns them to the very margins of society where they suffer the most extreme forms of discrimination and stigma.
“Widows in these regions are generally the poorest of the poor and least protected by the law because their lives are likely to be determined by local, patriarchal interpretations of tradition, custom, and religion. Unmarried women are the property and under the control of their fathers; married women belong to their husbands. Widows are in limbo and no longer have any protector.
“Across cultures they become outcasts and are often vulnerable to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. It is as if they are in some way responsible for their husband’s death and must be made to suffer for this calamity for the remainder of their lives. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a widow—especially in the context of the AIDS pandemic—to be accused of having murdered her husband, for example, by using witchcraft.
“The grief that many third world widows experience is not just the sadness of bereavement but the realization of the loss of their position in the family that, in many cases, results in their utter abandonment, destitution, and dishonor.
“In the Quran, widows often are grouped with orphans. The Quran is filled with commands to take care of the orphan and the widow — both in the early Makkan surahs and the later Madinan surahs. The Quran, in surah 4, verse 19, also explicitly forbids a common abuse in Muhammad’s time: a family “inheriting” a widow and forcing her to marry someone or do other things against her will.”
“O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should put constraint upon them that ye may take away a part of that which ye have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness. But consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good.
“Muhammad’s first marriage was to an older widow named Khadijah, who was also the first to believe in his message. After Khadijah’s death, Muhammad (SAW) married an even older widow named Sawda before marrying his youngest bride, Aisha and it should be mentioned that a vast majority of them were widows. Many of the marriages, in accordance with the time period, were to cement alliances and friendships, but Muhammad (SAW) also believed taking care of widows was a noble thing and married accordingly.
“The hadith of Sahih Bukhari, book 38, number 504, relates a story that exemplifies Muhammad’s attitude toward widows. A man named Jabir bin Abdullah is selling Muhammad (SAW) a camel, and eventually it is brought to light that Abdullah has married a widow. Muhammad (SAW) asks him why he has not married a virgin, as was culturally popular, and Abdullah replied that he preferred a mature woman to take care of his children. Muhammad (SAW) replied “well done.” For Abdullah’s wisdom and charity, Muhammad (SAW) ordered that the man be paid extra money in addition to the price of the camel.
“The main regulation placed on widows themselves is the waiting period between their husbands’ death and remarriage. According to surah 2, verse 234, of the Quran, a widow must wait four lunar months and 10 days after her husband’s death before re-marrying.
“Such of you as die and leave behind them wives, they (the wives) shall wait, keeping themselves apart, four months and ten days. And when they reach the term (prescribed for them) then there is no sin for you in aught that they may do with themselves in decency. Allah is informed of what ye do.” It stated.