Taliban Takeover, Sharia and Afghan Women

  • IASbaba
  • August 20, 2021
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  • GS-2: Policies and politics of developed and developing countries 

Taliban Takeover, Sharia and Afghan Women

In news: Recently, The Taliban have pledged that women in Afghanistan will have rights “within the bounds of Islamic law,” or Shariah, under their newly established rule. But it is not clear what that will mean.

  • The Taliban have been known for their strict interpretation of Sharia, including punishments such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers.

What is Sharia?

  • Sharia is Islam’s legal system. 
  • It is derived from the Quran, Islam’s holy book, as well as the Sunnah and Hadith – the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. 
  • Where an answer cannot be derived directly from these, religious scholars may give rulings as guidance on a particular topic or question.
  • In Arabic, Sharia literally means “the clear, well-trodden path to water”.
  • Sharia acts as a code for living that all Muslims should adhere to, including prayers, fasting and donations to the poor.
  • It aims to help Muslims understand how they should lead every aspect of their lives according to God’s wishes.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Sharia can inform every aspect of daily life for a Muslim. 
  • For example, a Muslim wondering what to do if their colleagues invite them to the pub after work may turn to a Sharia scholar for advice to ensure they act within the legal framework of their religion.
  • Other areas of daily life where Muslims may turn to Sharia for guidance include family law, finance and business.

How are rulings made?

  • Like any legal system, Sharia is complex and its practice is entirely reliant on the quality and training of experts.
  • Islamic jurists issue guidance and rulings. Guidance that is considered a formal legal ruling is called a fatwa.
  • There are five different schools of Islamic law. There are four Sunni schools: Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanafi, and one Shia school, Jaafari.
  • The five schools differ in how literally they interpret the texts from which Sharia law is derived.
  • Interpretation of Islamic law is also nuanced according to local culture and customs, which means Sharia may look quite different in different places.

What are some of the tough punishments?

  • Islamic scholars says Sharia is mainly a code of ethical conduct and about worship and charity but a part of it deals with crime. 
  • Sharia law divides offences into two general categories: “hadd” offences, which are serious crimes with set penalties, and “tazir” crimes, where the punishment is left to the discretion of the judge.
  • Hadd offences include theft, which under the strictest interpretations of Sharia, can be punishable by amputating the offender’s hand.
  • There are many safeguards and a high burden of proof in the application of hadd penalties.
  • Some countries where Islamic law is applied adopt or enforce such punishments for hadd offences, and surveys have suggested attitudes of Muslims to harsh penalties for such offences vary widely.

What is the concern now?

  • When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they banned television and most musical instruments. 
  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the past, they imposed a strict one, barring women from working outside the home or leaving the house without a male guardian, eliminating schooling for girls, and publicly flogging people who violated the group’s morality code.
  • Restrictions on behavior, dress and movement were enforced by morality police officers, who drove around in pickup trucks, publicly humiliating and whipping women who did not adhere to their rules. 
    • In 1996, a woman in Kabul, Afghanistan, had the end of her thumb cut off for wearing nail polish, according to Amnesty International.
    • Women accused of adultery were stoned to death
    • Shariah law for them meant lack of access to education, restricted access to health services, no access to justice, no shelter, no food security, no employment, literally nothing,
  • Presently, when the Taliban say they are instituting Shariah law, that does not mean they are doing so in ways that Islamic scholars or other Islamic authorities would agree with.
  • The insurgents have not yet said how they intend to apply it now. 
  • With Taliban taking over Afghanistan,millions of Afghan women fear a return to the past ways.

Connecting the dots:

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