English translation of Ulema Council’s declaration about women

Here’s a rush translation of the controversial declaration from Afghanistan’s Ulema Council, a religious advisory body comprised of the country’s leading clerics. The three-page declaration talks about an array of subjects under five bullet points, but the fifth and longest one is about women.

The Ulema first spell out the rights women enjoy under Islam and then explain the responsibilities of women. There is no official English translation (yet), and the translation here is my own work. It’s a controversial subject and translation work is extremely tricky, so I don’t claim this is a perfect work. In addition, the following disclaimer applies:

  • I have tried to stay loyal to the original text. And since the Dari text has florid language, you will see the same complex sentence structure in the translation. This is to give non-Dari speakers a flavor of the original text, which can be found on President Karzai’s website. In case you choose to use the translation for an article or a soundbite, you might want to paraphrase as you see fit.
  • Again, I don’t claim this translation is perfect; no translation is, for that matter. If you have suggestions to improve this translation, please feel free to add them in the comment section or email them to me.
Update (March 12): Portions of this translation have been quoted in the AfPak Channel/Foreign Policy Magazine, The Guardian, the Associated Press, RFE/RL, the Wall Street Journal and maybe more; I haven’t actively kept track.

Having said that, here’s the translation:


5.       Unlike other civilizations and societies of the present and the past, the sacred religion of Islam – in recognition of the fundamental role of women in nurturing the society – offers women many civil and social rights, and human dignity and honor.

In the centuries before Islam, and among human civilizations and nations, women were deprived of any kind of human and social rights. They were treated as cheap property and were even buried alive. But by the advent of the globe-illuminating sun [that was] the sacred religion of Islam, many rights were given to women according to nature, such as:

A.   The right to property, ownership and commerce

B.   The right to inheritance according to the principles of the sacred Shariah of Islam

C.   The right to mehr (very roughly, dower), which is exclusively the woman’s [property] and no one has the right to take it without her consent. All other practices known as toyana, shareeb, etc. do not have a basis in the Shariah.

D.   The right to choose a spouse according to her own will. Forcibly marrying an adult woman is not allowed, although consultation with the guardians – which is a religious rule – is practiced

E.   Women, like men, have dignity and are beings with freedom; therefore, exchanging a woman for someone’s blood (badal), or for [establishing] peace, or exchanging a woman for another’s dower are haram and prohibited under the Shariah.

F.   Women cannot be inherited. Similarly, there are many other rights, granted to a woman under the religion of Islam, which are observed. But, where a Muslim woman has many rights, [she also] has duties and obligations, such as:

    1. Adherence, in faith and action, to the orders and prohibitions of Islam’s sacred Shariah
    2. Complete adherence and observance of the hijab [according to the Shariah], which protects the dignity and personality of the woman
    3. Avoiding mingling with stranger men in various social situations, such as education, shopping, the office and other affairs of life
    4. In consideration of the clarity of verses 1 and 34 of Surah an-Nisa’ [of the Qur’an], men are fundamental and women are secondary; also, lineage is derived from the man. Therefore, the use of words and expressions that contradict the sacred verses must be strictly avoided.
    5. Respecting [the orders] about the multiplicity of wives (polygamy), which are in accordance with clear orders of the Qur’an
    6. Avoiding travel without a [Shariah-sanctioned] mahram (male companion)
    7. Adherence to the clear orders of Muhammad’s Shariah in case of divorce

It needs to be said that teasing, harassment and beating of women without a Shariah-compliant reason, as set forth clearly in the Glorious Qur’an, is prohibited. Afghanistan’s Ulema Council requests the judicial and law-enforcement organs of the country to punish, in accordance with Muhammad’s Shariah and national laws, the perpetrators of any kind of assault from persons against women.

A multitude of rights and responsibilities are set forth in the religious texts of Islam; they will be consulted as needed.

2 responses to “English translation of Ulema Council’s declaration about women

  1. Pingback: There you have it : “Women are secondary” | | Furious PurposeFurious Purpose

  2. Pingback: Afghan President: Beating wives is the "law of all Muslims and all Afghans" | California news

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