Sudan: In support of women's rights - Turabi

Sudan Tribune
In a lecture entitled "The Role of Women in Just Governance" which was delivered by the leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party, Hassen Al Turabi made many assertions in support of women's rights and caused controversy as a result.
Turabi described the teachings that a Muslim woman should not marry a Christian or Jew as misguided teachings intended to confuse and keep women behind. He explained that the practice has its origins in war times which were used against those fighting with Muslims, but which ceased once hostilities were over.
He also said that Al Hujab (the Islamic veil) —women face and head cover— was meant for women to cover their breasts as one of good practices and was not intended to be generalised to wrap up all the woman body according to the Quranic verses given by Allah for this particular purpose. It was worn as sign of respect and as a curtain to separate Prophet Wives and his guests.

Regarding the right of women to lead in prayers at the front, Turabi said that women can lead at the front if they are more knowledgeable in Qur'an and Hadith than anyone in the congregation. He gave two examples: First, that Prophet Muhammed once gave permission to a women Muslim scholar to lead members of her family in regular prayers including men. Second, that one of the Prophet’s wives, Aaehisha was more versed in Quaraan than many men at the time and hence was often allowed to lead in prayers at the front.

Turabi also sanctioned mixed prayers between men and women on condition that men and women should not sit too close or rub against each other in order to avoid arousing sexual feelings that could distract attention from prayers and devotion.

He also denounced the perceived superiority of man over women saying that the fact that men dominate business and trade life does not mean that they are superior to women. It is only a question of specialisation as opposed to superiority, adding that some women can far outperform men in certain activities or trades.

Regarding women witness in the courts, Turabi said that a woman witness is as valid as that of a man, if not more reliable in some instances. He denounced the belief that the witness of two women in court is equivalent to that of one man. He said that all such beliefs and teachings have nothing to do with Islam. That they were meant to confuse, mislead, and imprison the minds while keeping Muslims in darkness! He challenged anyone who can come up with Islamic verses to prove such teachings.

On women's rights, Turabi said that Islam accords full rights for women even better than how Western cultures treated western women in the past.

He called for women to play greater role in the creation of a just society. Women should be allowed to enter all fields of activities including politics, art, sport, culture and creative thought, and sport. He described the current government as corrupt, unjust, undemocratic, and lacks transparency. He called for the rights of women to participate in the coming elections to be upheld by the constitution so that women can take part in the running of the country on equal footing with men.

Regarding alcohol, Turabi said drinking alcohol is not a crime unless it turned into a hostile act. Turabi also casted doubt on the correctness of using the term "martyrs" to describe [Northern Sudanese] killed in the war in South Sudan!

Turabi raised huge reactions among Islamic scholars in Sudan. Some of them proposed to try him as an apostate.

Thursday 13 April 2006