Gambia: The Tragic Death of Marie Mendy and Islam Defending Women's Right

Somewhere last month, the shocking news of the gruesome barbaric murder of Maria Mendy broke out. The news rocked the nation to its core. Marie Mendy was a Christian by faith. She was a high school teenager, allegedly raped and murdered in her own home by an unknown murderer.

The whole nation mourns her death. Many women took to posting the hashtag #BlameTheRapist on their WhatsApp and Facebook statuses. After going through some comments, I realised that many women fear for their lives today than ever before, in the Gambia and the world at large. They also feel to be potential or vulnerable targets of such crimes in societies, known through their #IFearForMyLife on Social Media.

This tragic news indeed touched everyone in the Gambia. Looking at the tragic incident, I could not help but send my condolences to the family. We mourn with them and I pray that God the Almighty enables them to show patience and forbearance. May her soul rest in peace.

I do this because humanity is first before everything and this is what Islam - the religion I believe in - preaches. In fact, once, the founder of Islam was sitting with his companions and the coffin of a dead person of a different religion was passing. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) stood up to show respect to the dead. The companions asked him why he stood up. He said, "Is the person not a human?" This shows how tolerant and respectful the founder of Islam was even to the dead of the followers of other religions. Sahih bukhari al janazah 1229.

To pursue equal opportunity, whether in the field of science, education, arts is accepted in Islam for both genders. For instance, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said " It is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge". (Ibni Mājah)

The suffering of women in the world is not something new. According to the United Nations, one third of women and girls suffer physical or sexual violation in their lives, usually by an intimate partner. 75% of the world's human trafficking victims are women and girls, 75% of them are sexually mistreated,' United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday)

The perception about who a woman is and what role she can play in the larger society has taken a new dimension in the 21st century.

It was not until recently that many countries and organizations recognized the political, economic, marital, and educational rights of women. For example, in the UK, women were given the right to divorce and partake in the inheritance of her family in the late 1800's.

It is also due to the violence and sexual harassment against women around the world that 24th November is celebrated as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This was a day declared by UN in 1999 to bring a halt to the violence against women, and increase awareness of the acts of violence against women. Other days are also celebrated widely in the world like Mother's day, International Day of the Girl Child. However, women continue to suffer harassment and violence.

Before the UN declaration, many countries never recognized the rights of women and denied them their basic rights which were granted to them 1400 years ago. Islam has laid down the blueprint for the protection of women's rights fourteen hundred years ago, at a time that women were seen as worst of creatures. They had no purpose, were only means of men satisfying their sexuality, and regarded as the failure of societies and the curse of families.

Nevertheless, the good news for the women of Arabia and the world at large with the advent of Islam is that such notions were discarded and the status of women dramatically rose and the stereotype was abolished gradually in the most beautiful manner.

With the advent of Islam such acts were not only abolished but the status of women in society changed and they were given the right to marry to their husband of choice and an institution of Khula was established through which women could seek divorce if they are not interested in their marriage.

With the teachings of Islam, women are given the right to marry their person of choice .Once, a girl complained to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) that her parents made her marry a man that she did not love. The Holy Prophet (saw) immediately summoned the parents and asked them to dissolve the marriage.

The birth of a girl-child was seen as a misfortune. People would heartlessly burry them alive. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) admonished his followers that the birth of a girl-child was a blessing and a source of honor for men. He said, "If a man has a daughter and he makes arrangements to have them educated and takes pains with their upbringing, God will save him from the torment of Hell"(TirmidhiIbid ).

Islam did not just establish women's rights but pursued justice for them as well. Once a woman filed a case to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) that a certain unscrupulous man raped her. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) punished the rapist and the woman was accorded justice. . (Tirmidhi, Book: Punishments, Chapter: On woman who is raped. https://www.alislam.org/question/islam-require-female-rape-victim-four-witnesses/ ).

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) is believed to be the long awaited promised messiah whose advent has been foretold by different religious scriptures of the world and that he will descend in the world in the later days to reunite the relationship between man and God and between man and his fellow being. In one of his writings, he writes how women are perceived in the societies and what elaborates on the grandeur status of women.

He writes, "It is said of some people that they treat their wives like shoes and require them to perform the lowliest of services. They abuse them and despise them and enforce the injunction regarding the veil with such harshness, as to virtually bury them alive. The relationship between a husband and wife should be like two true and sincere friends. After all, it is the wife who is the primary witness of a man's high moral qualities and his relationship with God Almighty. If his relationship with his wife is not good, how can he be at peace with God? The Holy Prophet (saw) has said:

'The best among you is he who is best towards his wife'.

This is how Islam has established the rights of women. In the Holy Quran which is believed to be the divinely revealed book of the Muslims to its holy founder, the Holy Prophet (saw), the examples of perfect believers have been linked to two great women for their great spiritual excellence, i.e. Mary the daughter of Imran and the wife of Pharaoh.

God states,

"Allah set forth for those who believe the example of the wife of Pharaoh when she said, "My Lord! Build for me a house with Thee in the Garden; and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from the wrongdoing people.'

"And the example of Mary, the daughter of 'Imran who guarded her private parts ---so we breathed into her of Our spirit--and she fulfilled in her person the words of her Lord and His Books and was one of the obedient." (Chapter 66 Verse 12 to 13)

The Holy Prophet Muhammad said you could learn half of faith from Hazrat Aisha (ra), who shed light on the educational eminence women had in Islam.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "Your paradise lies under the feet of your mothers". This shows that one way for one to earn paradise in the hereafter is to show complete obedience and compassion for one's mother. (Sha an-Nisa'I3104 or 3106)

Once a man came to the Holy Prophet (saw) and asked, "Who should I show more respect to, my mother or my father? The Holy Prophet (saw) responded, "Your mother". He asked, "Then who?" He repeated, "Your mother" and the fourth time he asked, the Holy Prophet (saw) said "Your father". (Shan an-Nisa'I 3104 or 3106)

Hazrat Umar (ra), who would later become the second caliph of Islam, would usually say how the status of women began to take new turns with the advent of Islam. Hazrat Umar (ra) reflected "In Makkah, we despised women as lowly creatures. In Medina, the people accorded slight status to them, but when Islam arrived, we were made aware of the honor and status of women. "Bukhari, vol.1,p.869"

In true essence, if there is a religion that has since ever unconditionally fulfilled and protected the rights of women in all situation and places, then it is Islam. And the person who has always been a true champion of women's rights is the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw).

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