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Religion and punishment
- A response
The Nation in its edition of September 6, 2009, carried a letter from one Libran
on ‘Religion and punishment’ seeking certain clarifications.
Many matters have been raised. Brief responses are difficult. I hope the Editor
of the esteemed weekly, conscious as I am, of space constraints would bear with
me. However, I am not claiming any expertise in attempting to clarify the issues
Libran begins by saying all laws should apply equally to males and females. The
Holy Quran and the Sunnahs (sayings and practices) of the Holy Prophet of Islam
support this position as a universal principle, recognising, however, the
biological and other inherent differences that do exist between the two sexes
which require distinctive treatment.
The universality of equality in Islam applies not only between males and females
but also amongst all males and amongst all females. This is underscored by
recognising only one single qualification for superiority, namely, virtue. A
virtuous person alone in the eyes of Almighty Allah gain superiority over all
others. That is why there is no priesthood in Islam or any need for females to
confess their ‘sins’ to male priests. There are no male priests to the exclusion
of female priests in Islam. Man and woman are equals in the eyes of Allah with
whom he or she can deal directly through five time prayers, fasting, performing
Prophets, who came as Messengers of Allah, were all virtuous personalities who
were exalted persons in the eyes of Allah. The Quran declares Mary or Maryam,
the respected and most pure mother of Prophet Jesus as an ‘exalted’ person (Holy
Quran 3:42). They were exalted because they were virtuous. They were virtuous
because they never indulged in dishonourable conduct. Excepting the virtuous,
all are equal before Allah. When the Almighty treats everyone as equals, man
cannot treat a woman as unequal or a woman cannot treat a man as an unequal,
except to the extent permitted biologically and inherently.
The Holy Quran in Sura 3:195 states, “And their Lord had heard them (and He
said): Lo! I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost. Ye
proceed from one another!” The translator of the Holy Quran into English Dr
Marmaduke Pickthall, commenting on the expression, ‘Ye proceed from one another’
states that, ‘This expression, which recurs in the Quran, is a reminder to men
that women are of the same human status as themselves!
Some try to argue for equal rights between man and woman in the absolute sense,
without recognising inherent differences. Does equal opportunity mean that a
woman should have the right to use jointly with any man the very same public
toilets used by men? Or for men to demand that they also be granted maternity
It is not merely equality that Islam talks of but also the dignity of persons.
You give women equal rights and dignity by giving her separate public toilets
with facilities more appropriate for women and those under monthly cycles.
Providing for separate public transport for single women, without compelling
them to, is to give them equal rights and to give them dignified atmosphere.
Advancing persons disadvantaged on account of sex, religion or ethnicity are
well known legally recognised principles, upon which Courts of Law grant
temporary advantages for the disadvantaged groups to equalise themselves with
Islam must be looked at as a complete way of life. You cannot take out some
aspects of it only, in isolation of this complete scheme and seek
Unfortunately, the exceptions to the general rule of equality are highlighted by
critics in isolation of this totality. Though both sexes are equal in the eyes
of the Almighty, men are more equal in certain respects and women are more equal
than men in certain other respects, within this overall scheme.
For instance, a wife has no obligation to earn and be employed for that purpose.
That is a major responsibility cast on the husband. She is on a higher status
than the man, in this respect. However, both are responsible for bringing up the
family. There are exceptions to these within the system. She is equally obliged
to fulfill her obligations in this world, so that she will be rewarded in the
Man is entitled to twice the inheritance of a female in certain circumstances,
inter-alia because it is his primary responsibility to earn and jointly care for
the family. For a God fearing man, there is a greater responsibility that he
needs to discharge, by inheriting twice that of the female.
There are many other exceptions to the general rule of equality that exist in
modern societies as well as in Islam. However, we can write pages on how women
are exploited and stand degraded in the name of freedom and equal rights in some
of the so called civilised societies, where hundreds of women, in the name of
freedom, stand in disgrace in street corners waiting to sell their bodies. This
is so even in rich and developed countries, where women have no choice but to
earn for themselves!
It is incorrect for Libran to state that Muslim women are subject to severe
obligations and restrictions according to Islamic law. Obligations and
restrictions under Islam apply not only to Muslim women but also to Muslim men.
It is not only Islam, but also all other religions that impose obligations and
restrictions, though often observed in the breach. In fact, every law passed by
Parliaments or by rulers the world over is invariably restrictive/impose
obligations, unlike perhaps in the world of animals. Dictators and kings, even
in Muslim countries are much more restrictive and authoritarian.
Muslim men and women observe certain obligations and restrictions because they
believe it will help them to lead a good, dignified and contended life, so that
they would be good models for their children and society and earn a happy life
in the hereafter. How do those restrictions affect others? Do not those
restrictions benefit others as well? We know there are many well meaning persons
in every society. I am sure they could spend their spare time caring for the
needy and the suffering who are in abundance in every society.
Observance of most these obligations and restrictions are voluntary because the
Quran in verse 2:256 states, “there is no compulsion in religion”, in 2:272
Allah tells the Holy Prophet of Islam “the guiding of them is not thy duty (O’
Muhammed), but Allah guideth whom He will”, in 3:20 “If they surrender, then
truly they are rightly guided, and if they turn away, then it is thy duty only
to convey the message (unto them)”. In 36:17: “And our duty is but plain
conveyance (of the Message).” It is best that the above verses are read several
times to be best understood.
When the Holy Prophet had been restrained from going beyond conveying the
message and the Prophet is clearly told that Allah will guideth whom He will and
that is ‘not your duty’, every Muslim is obliged to convey the message and
acceptance by others, including one’s own family is a voluntary act. Those who
accept will be rewarded and those who reject will face punishment in the world
hereafter. The voluntary nature of acceptance of the message of Islam remains
until he/she volunteers to accept Islam and become a member thereof and to be
bound thereafter by all the obligations and restrictions imposed by Islam.
The Quran no doubt provides for crime and punishment in a duly constituted
Islamic state but no one need to look to Somalia, Malaysia or any other state as
Libran has brought out, as none of them could claim true status of an Islamic
state though some of them are perfectly good countries. There are, of course,
many Muslim countries which use ‘Islam’ to control and rule over the freedoms
that their citizens are entitled to in Islam. Some of these rulers are
themselves poor examples of Islam.
Allah the Almighty had advised the most exalted Prophet Mohammed (On Whom Be
Peace) on how to convey the message and there is no room for lesser mortals
including kings and presidents to compel anyone beyond conveying the message.
It must not be misunderstood that the obligation of a Muslim is over with the
conveyance of the message. The point that is being made here is that no one can
compel another to accept the message. Even when the message is accepted, no one
can compel by the use of force, to observe the religion, which according to the
Quran is a voluntary act. However, the Quran identifies punishments for certain
crimes and obliges punishment in this world, while most of the punishments are
reserved for the hereafter. Good attire and good social conduct must be
voluntarily encouraged and are not treated as crimes which are clearly
identified in the Holy Quran.
For the same reason, it is not possible for a Muslim to induce anyone else to
convert to Islam by corruptive means such as offering jobs or rewards. A convert
must accept Islam only on its merits and if only he is sincerely convinced.
Libran has asked whether a Muslim can change his religion.
The Holy Quran in verse 4:115 says
“He that opposes the Apostle after the Guidance has been made to him most clear
And follows other than the faithful’s way, we’ll let him on his chosen road to
steer, and let him end in Hell, A homecoming most evil!”
In verse 3:90
“But those who disbelieve after believing, And plunge deeper into non-faith,
From them repentance shall not be accepted, They’ve gone too far away from
In verse 3:91
“If it were possible to take a ransom, And if any of those who disbelieved and
died in disbelief, would offer The whole earth filled with gold, it would indeed
be not accepted, they shall have to suffer a woeful torment, and no helper would
ever come to them.”
In verse 4:137
“Never will God forgive the people who embrace the Faith and then renounce it,
and again embrace their faith, but once again renounce it, then increase in
disbelief nor does He show them any Guidance.”
M.M.Zuhair (The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recently I was waiting for a Colombo bound bus at a Avissawella bus halt. A
Colombo bound bus from Badulla with a semi-luxury board pulled up followed by a
Colombo bound air-conditioned bus.
The bus conductor of the semi-luxury bus shouted “Come Come”, “Normal Normal”. I
boarded the bus along with some other passengers. I was charged one and half the
normal fare. I kept mum. Strange thing happened at Pannipitiya. Two men in grey
uniform got into the bus and they wanted to check our bus tickets.
I overheard them inquiring from the conductor whether the fare he charged was
normal, luxury or semi-luxury. To which he replied normal fare in low voice.
Then I protested to the checkers that the conductor charged me not normal but
one and half the fare, to which the so called checkers wanted the bus conductor
to return the excess fare. Apparently the checking men finished their job and
left. Thus ended the funny episode.
I wish to know from the Transport Commission why these long distance buses are
allowed to display semi-luxury boards and charge one and half the normal fare.
These buses are neither luxury nor semi-luxury. They are like any other normal
bus overloaded except for some window curtains.
Dr N. G. D. Karandana
Resume Indo-Lanka ferry service
Indo-Lanka ferry service was suspended about 16 years ago due to communal
disturbances. It was the worst period of LTTE threats and attacks. After 30
years, LTTE terrorism has been completely suppressed and defeated, now the
government should restore normalcy of public life.
Today a good opportunity has arisen to resume the Indo-Lanka ferry service again
as a silky way to the peace process.
Early days this Talaimannar and Rameshwaram ferry service was started in order
to repatriate the Indian estate workers. Subsequently it boosted tourism and
transportation too. By this ferry service both countries earned a sizable
In the past, while our low income Tamil workers used this service to visit their
relatives in India, Sri Lankan Buddhists devotees went on pilgrimage in the same
vessel to see Buddhist religious places.
The Minister of Tourism must draw his attention to restart this Rameshwaram
ferry service as a means to built friendship and solidarity between the two
countries and to promote tourism.
C. M. Kamburawala
Energy saving or energy wasting
When I was passing a showroom displaying a range of CFL bulbs located down
Jetawana Road, Colombo 14 around 11.00am last Poya day, I noticed that the
showroom was closed but the all the lights on display were on. This company also
markets a well known brand of car and the office is somewhat opposite the
showroom. It is ironical that whilst promoting energy serving lights, the
company is wasting quite a lot of electricity in keeping all the lights on at
daytime even during holidays. When I inquired from a person attached to this
showroom recently, he informed me that the lights are on from early morning
until late into the night everyday. Hope, the management of the company which
wants to promote energy saving bulbs will switch off all the lights during
holidays at daytime or keep only a very few bulbs lit, to save on electricity.
Abdul Majeed Mohamed Rajabdeen 1909-2009
Held in high esteem amongst merchant
Mohamed Rajabdeen was born into a middle class family whose father Abdul Majeed
hailed from Mattakkuliya and mother Mariam was from Panendam Kanthoori Qotar of
Being the only child who lost his mother when he was hardly two-months-old, he
was cared for by his paternal aunt Mathugan Natchiya and later by his maternal
uncle Abdul Majeed of Grandpass.
His childhood days were spent in the loving care of his uncles and aunts and as
a youth ventured out to Negombo and was employed by his uncle in Negombo in the
medicinal shop of Aliya Marikar and Sons for a short period of time. Being
adventurous and enterprising he was employed in a hardware store in the Pettah
by a leading trader, Abdur Rahman of 3rd Cross Street, Pettah.
In the year 1935 with a minimum capital and an abundance of goodwill he embarked
on to start a small-time hardware store in Pettah. He was helped immensely by
the leading merchants of that time based on his enthusiasm, integrity and his
dedication. He built up a wide customer network and gradually expanded into the
estate supply sector in which he was immensely successful. The war years boosted
his fortunes still further and in 1940 expanded further by adding another shop
at 72, Third Cross Street which served as a godown at that time and later became
his head office.
In the year of 1936 he married Noor Nizara, daughter of Abdul Hameed and Ummu
Habeeba of Temple Road, Maradana and settled down in Dematagoda where he was
born. Allah not only blessed him with a large family but showered him with
greater wealth thereafter. He was, by the end of the war years, a leading
merchant and a landed proprietor. Of the many children he was blessed with, some
are now resident abroad and those that are presently in Colombo have their
offspring domiciled overseas.
He was actively engaged in the Zaviya Movement in Colombo as his father and
grandfather before him were leading members of the Shazuliya Tareeka. Being a
very devout and practising Mussalman he was often seen trudging for his daily
prayers to the Mosque at Dematagoda. The Thakkiya at Dematagoda too was his
favourite place of prayer and being desirous to live beside the mosque he
purchased a property adjoining the mosque which is now proposed to be given to a
Madrasa run by the mosque.
Being the founder of A. M. M. Rajabdeen, a sole proprietorship at that time he
made his business, now a partnership together with his three sons under the name
and style of A. M. M. Rajabdeen & Sons. Today it is upon this solid foundation
that Rajabdeen & Sons Ltd stands which is now based at 192, Nawala Road,
He inculcated the need to be honest, hardworking, dedicated and honourable in
the trade and in our daily life. Amongst the merchant fraternity he was held in
high esteem as a man of his word and having thus established his integrity and
the leading banks of the day, Mercantile Bank Ltd., and National Bank of India
spontaneously offered him facilities which he was graciously turned down due to
the riba factor and often said that he could manage with his own finances. This
religious outlook was the primary thing which resulted in the Blessings of Allah
and the attendant success.
With all his fortunes earned single handedly he was of the utmost simplicity and
never let conceit or haughtiness reside within him. He was the same person
towards the end of his life as he was upon the beginning. He often quoted from
various religious discourses “the trust of those under you, the orphans and
young are inviolable”, “never to look down at the man who is walking when you
are on horseback, for tomorrow the position may be reversed”, “Pay the workmen
before the sweat from his brow dries up”, Success built upon trust will always
stand the test of time and pride precedes a fall. How very true!
By example he taught us to care for the aged and elderly, righteousness, piety,
simplicity and love for the relatives of both sides of the family, in this he
was assisted in no small measure by his wife who was an epitome of grace, love,
simplicity and a wonderfully devoted person to whom all her relatives were an
integral part of her life and never ever differentiated between the rich or the
As a father he was selflessly devoted to his children, being an only child he
found love and comfort with all his children. Upon his advent to Mecca for Haj
in the year 1960 he bequeathed the business to his sons without exception on an
equal footing. Thus was his life manifested in the dispensation of the laws of
Allah in the equal treatment of his sons. Never envious of the good fortune of
others he wished for the children of others whatever he wished for his own.
Lessons that have left an indelible impression on us all.
On January 14, 1970, he was laid to rest at the Maligawatte Muslim burial
grounds amidst a large and diverse gathering, as a mark of respect the members
of the Ceylon Hardware Merchants Association of which he was a founder member
closed their establishments on this day.
May Allah in his infinite mercy grant him the highest abode in Jenna.
His lectures were spellbinding
It is really
saddening to imagine that ‘Dr Brek’ is no longer among the living. He
represented many things and stood for many others but most of all was so
approachable. A sort of ‘Pillar’ that was there, to comply with the many needs
of his colleagues, friends and student population, be it a testimonial,
certificate, some advice academic or otherwise or even just a few words of
appreciation or encouragement. He never knew how to put on airs or make himself
look pompous or important and remained his wonderful self right to the end.
Way back in 1968, when Dr Brek returned from Canada ‘Fresh & Crisp’ with his
PhD, we were 2nd year undergrads in Peradeniya who were simply thrilled with his
casual mannerisms and scholastic yet ‘boyish’ appearance. The manner in which he
conducted himself through his lectures, kept us spellbound while all the animals
he spoke of especially the Brittle stars and the tapeworms seemed to dance about
in front of us.
Gradually we got to know him better and his subtle sense of humour and witty
remarks were always a source of encouragement and gave us new vistas to the
scientific world. I had the good fortune of working with him during my student
days as well as later as we collaborated in a research paper on the nervous
system of the ‘Common Garden Snail’. Those memories would run into pages!
However, I was privileged to get a closer glimpse of a person with such simple
and kindly ways, one who had a colossus of knowledge not only of his subject
Zoology, but also in art, culture, music, drama and literature. He knew to
appreciate the beauty of the universe, and wipe off the dust of unkindness and
injustice without a ruffle.
As Dr Brek bows out of the world, would the curtain fall on an era of ‘Versatile
University Dons’ I wonder. After retirement from the University of Peradeniya as
Prof. and Head of Department of Zoology, he had a short stint as Principal,
Trinity College, Kandy, his much loved Alma Mater.
As he spent the final lap of his life up, high up near the peak of Hantana,
listening to the rustle of the hill tops in the light breeze and the songs of
happy and carefree birds in the company of his wife, children, family and close
friends he would have reminisced perhaps of all the blessings he received in
different guises, and understood that life is ultimately nothing but loving,
smiling and sharing.
Shall wind up with the following quote.....
“Life is eternal, and love is immortal. Yet death is only a horizon and a
horizon is nothing but the limit of our sight.” - Rossiles Worthington
May his soul rest in peace!
Mrs. Delicia Tillekeratne