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‘Brides of Quran’: The horrifying and abusive practice in Pakistan that denies Muslim women the right to property

As per Pakistani law, Haq Bakshish is a banned practice. However, as per the social activists working in the field, it is not possible for the government to know about cases of Haq Bakshish as these matters are kept inside the family and tribe.

Haq Bakshish, which literally means giving away one’s rights, is a horrific practice popular among family members of the Sayyid or Syed caste, who consider themselves the descendants of the prophet Mohammad. The male members of these families marry off their girl child to Holy Quran in order to take control of the property that legally belongs to the girl and would get transferred to her after marriage.

The members of the Sayyid caste claim they are forbidden to marry outside their caste to preserve the ‘purity’ of their family blood. The male members of the family marry the girls to Holy Quran, alleging they could not find a suitable match in the tribe. They further allege letting the girl marry a person from ‘lower caste’ would not be possible as no one from the lower caste could match their status.

The family members do not ask if the girl wants to marry Holy Quran. It is decided by the male members. The girls are just informed that for the rest of their lives, they cannot think about getting married to someone else. The sons of the family get the right to control the property of the girls who got married to the Quran.

As per Pakistani law, Haq Bakshish is a banned practice. However, as per the social activists working in the field, it is not possible for the government to know about cases of Haq Bakshish as these matters are kept inside the family. According to a 2007 paper by Asharq Al-Awsat, there were at least 10,000 brides of the Quran in Sindh and other regions where the practice was popular.

DW published a video story of a bride of the Quran named Moomal (changed name) recently. She told DW there were no celebrations on the day she was declared a bride of the Quran. She was given a new dress to wear. “My father placed Quran in my hands and said, ‘we are marrying you with the Quran. Take an oath you will never think about anyone else or getting married again.

The report said her father did not marry her outside her tribe, but allegedly there were no suitable matches from inside the conservative Sayyid tribe. Most of the time, Moomal stays at home and do household chores. She said, “I never go out as I stay most of the time in ‘parda’. I do not know what is happening outside. I stay at home and do household chores. Even if a woman from outside comes to our home, I do not talk, I stay confined.”

According to rights activists, this practice, which has been deemed illegal by Pakistani law, is used to stop the redistribution of property and land among daughters and sisters. DW quoted a social worker Shazia Jahangir Abbasi saying, “The male members of the family know if the girl gets married outside the family, they have to give a share from the property that is lawfully hers. Thus they declare her ‘bibi’, which means married to the Quran. The woman accepts the fate to save the honour of the father, brothers and the family.”

In most cases, the women are just slaves of the family. They are kept confined, made to do household chores and serve the family without getting anything in return.

The New Humanitarian, in 2007, had published a story of one 25-year-old Fareeba who was married to the Quran. Her then-seven-year-old sister Zubaida told her story to the IRIN. She was confused to see all the typical functions of the wedding, the guests and other arrangements but there was no groom. Zubaida, who was 33 when she narrated the story, said, “It was extremely odd – and, of course, very tragic. Fareeba, who was a very pretty girl and was then around 25 years old, was dressed as a typical bride, with red, sequined clothes, jewellery and ‘mehndi’ [henna] patterns on her hands and feet – but overall, this she was draped in an enveloping dark ‘chador’ [veil]. There was music and lots of guests – but no groom.”

According to a documentary on the matter by Purisrar Dunya, the girl is not consulted before marrying her off to Quran. The family takes the decision, and the girl has to oblige. It does not matter how much she dislikes the practice, it becomes her fate for the rest of her life. The family members write a few verses of the Quran on paper and tie them to the waist of the girl. She is then told Quran is her husband. In a follow-up ceremony, the right to control her share of the property is transferred to her brothers.

Property rights under Islam in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the inheritance of the property is decided based on the sections and sub-sections of Islamic caste or tribe to which the family belongs, such as Cutchi Memon, Khoja, Sunni or Shia. In general, the share of a male relative is twice the share of a female relative. However, in the majority of the cases, the inheritance rights are not properly distributed. In a small number of cases, the women approach courts, but the snail speed of the legal system takes years and sometimes decades to solve the dispute.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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