Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Junaid Jamshed, Blasphemy and Misogyny

So Junaid Jamshed, the famous former-singer-turned-preacher from Pakistan is now in trouble. One short clip from one of his many lectures has now gone viral. Here, Jamshed recounts a story that happened to Aisha and her husband the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Aisha was the favourite of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and would always try to seek his attention. One day she decided to fake illness by wrapping a towel around her head.

“What happened, what happened?” inquired Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

“Ah, my head is bursting with pain!” she complained.

To which, he said, “Oh Aisha, if you were to pass away, the Prophet of God would personally offer your funeral prayers. How fortunate would you be!”

She stood up at once and raged, “This is what you ardently desire - that I die, so you could spend more time with your other wives!”

Jamshed goes on to say that the nature of women cannot be changed even by Prophet.
Now apparently this is a blasphemy as per Pakistani laws. A blasphemy against the character of Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful, may Allah be pleased with her.

First of all, I don't think the story is correct. I remember reading about this particular incident, and it happened during the last few days of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was sick, he was on his deathbed, and he entered the room of his beloved wife Aisha. She too had fallen sick, and she was complaining "My head! My head!". So then he told her, "Nay! It is I who has to cry my head! My head!"

And then Aisha complained, "Ah, my head is bursting with pain!”

To which, he replied with tenderness, “Oh Aisha, if you were to pass away, the Prophet of God would personally offer your funeral prayers. How fortunate would you be!”

And then she playfully gave the reply, "And that is what you want! After you bury me, you will return to the house and spend your time with another wife!"

The story completely changes here - rather than someone seeking attention and pretending to be sick, this is a story of a loving back-and-forth between a couple who are comfortable and romantic with each other. It's a beautiful story of love.

So Jamshed, in an attempt to portray the allegedly "frivolous and fragile nature of women that even the Prophet couldn't change", twisted this story around to make Aisha an attention seeking woman.

Second, even if we give Jamshed his version of the story (which is wrong), is it blasphemy? The people around the Prophet, such as members of his own family, were human after all. They all had human failings. Sauda, his second wife, once made a comment after the Battle of Badr that the Prophet corrected, as it was a comment of Jahiliyyah. There was an anti-Semitic comment directed once at his wife Safiyya bint Huyayy, who was of Jewish origin, by another wife - which he also corrected. It is not blasphemy to say the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sometimes made minor human mistakes for which they were forgiven by Allah, and which serve as examples for us.

And finally, are we so caught up on what Junaid Jamshed said about Aisha, that we completely ignore his sustained record of misogyny and disrespect towards women?

Now I first saw Junaid Jamshed when he came to Muslimfest in 2011.

He gave some speeches and talked about a few incidents from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), sang some nasheeds and closed of with Dil Dil Pakistan, which the crowd loved. He repeated the act every time he was invited to Muslimfest subsequently. One could be forgiven for thinking he is a scholar of the seerah or someone who has studied extensively on religion.

Here is an interview where he is telling men not to teach their wives driving. He is praising himself for not teaching his wife (coincidentally also named Aisha) driving, and he tells men that one good thing they will do is not let their wives drive. The interviewer then asks what if a woman has no one to drive her (her husband has died and she has no relatives to help her out or they are busy), is she to remain helpless and not drive. To which Jamshed of course has no answer but then says this is just a hypothetical situation and he doesn't answer hypotheticals.

Jamshed of course has done a lot of good and called a lot of people to Islam. We can take the good from him and ignore the bad. But let's call out the bad - the misogyny and the shaming of women. In the offending video, for which he is now charged with blasphemy, he goes on about the nature of women.

He is of course a product of his culture and Pakistani culture isn't one where a woman is empowered. But that is of course not Islamic culture, and today we have forgotten that. The average Muslim has outsourced the religion to these pseudo-scholars and ignored learning of their own religion and history. it used to be that Islamic scholars were experts in both science and religion, and were the smartest of the class. Today, it's usually the low achievers and failures of the class that are hustled into the madrassahs and religious schools. So when these scholars say something bogus (such as woman cannot drive), then the average (and now) ignorant Muslim doesn't have the knowledge to fact check this. And when these scholars are given to positions of power (a sign of the Last Days), they make laws to that effect. So religion, rather than becoming a solution, is now the problem.

Our religion and culture is one that produced Umm Salamah, who set out on a camel to travel alone from Makkah to Madinah. It has Nusaibah, a woman who took the oath of Aqabah and fought in the Battle of Uhud with a sword, and fought in subsequent battles after. Our history includes Khawla bint Thalabah, whose complaint against her husband was heard by Allah and is mentioned in Surah Mujadilah, and whom the Caliph Umar used to listen to respectfully as she lectured him on Islam.

Let us not use the hullaballoo over a stupid blasphemy law in Pakistan (which is used mostly to settle scores with minorities and make their lives miserable - a sad fact of history in Pakistan) to excuse the bigger problem at play - the misogyny in the culture that holds back half the population and forces on them a false understanding of male privilege in the guise of religion.


Nargis said...

So far the best overview of the situation. Thank you

Khanum said...

Thank you for writing on this and with detail, too. I didn't know he is against women driving. I personally don't understand few things about him and few others but as for my opinion on this issue, You know I try to avoid passing any judgement on anyone now because I am not sure where would I end up in this life or in the next. Especially in the matter of deen, its important we do not hurt anyone. So while people sided with Junaid and some cursed him, I hoped for something good and then I heard Nouman Ali Khan's response on this and that's what I agree with. Junaid did what he did. Allah can judge him better. What we should do as Muslims is to accept his apology with same fervor and zeal as we were quick to accept his offence.

mezba said...

@Nargis, thank you.

@Khanum, I loved what Brother Nouman Ali said. But we also have to think of others in Pakistan who are charged with blasphemy laws - why are they not given the chance to apologize (and if they are guilty in the first place). The blasphemy laws should be repealed.