Recent years have been absolutely ground-breaking when it comes to challenging patriarchal structures and established power formation in the society. Challenging by instigating discussions on existing discrepancies and discrimination, there are still many unaddressed avenues – one of them being the ‘Holy Brides’ of Pakistan.
Married to Quran, traditionally called as ‘Haq Bakshish’ is a continued evil practice that can be simply translated as literally giving up ones right to marry. In this aggressive and cruel form of patriarchy, women are treated as a less worthy human being since the beginning of their lives. The only change a woman existing in such structures can expect is after marriage – and this right is also taken from them by forcefully slapping the label of Holy Bride on their lives.
The reason for this ugliest picture of manipulation of religion is the worldly desires. The women are married to Quran (naozbillah) practice is adopted in Syed families in Sindh to keep the property with them. They are forced to lead their entire life in isolation to deprive the women of their religious right in property.
The reason why they are properly ‘married’ to the Holy Book rather than just keeping them unmarried is to celebrate it as a proper commitment. They are actually perceived to be married and are bound to carry on the commitment, has no right to revoke from it.
A few years back, a press report by Pakistan Press International (PPI) said that Zubaida Ali witnessed the ceremony herself when her cousin Fareeba fell prey to this selfish and abusive custom in her ancestral village in Sindh. Her cousin looked beautiful with her henna and jewellery. Everything was perfect – except that there was no groom.
“Seven years ago, Zubaida Ali witnessed a bizarre ceremony in her ancestral village in Sindh where her cousin Fareeba was married to the Holy Quran. It was extremely odd and, of course, very tragic. Fareeba, who is a very pretty girl and was then around 25 years old, was dressed as a typical bride, with red, sequined clothes, jewellery and mehndi patterns on her hands and feet but over all this, she was draped in an enveloping dark chaadar. There was music and lots of guests but no groom’’– Zubaida, 33, was quoted as saying by IRIN, the UN information unit in a report.
‘’Families use Haq Bakshish to prevent property leaving the family when a girl weds someone who is not a relative. Fareeba, who can now never wed a man, spends most of her time studying the Holy Quran or stitching. She is a `Hafiza”, or one who knows the Holy Quran by heart.” – reads the press report.
The question is – till when? Under Pakistan’s law, the Haq Bakshish tradition is punishable by a seven-year prison sentence, but who cares? Our insensitivity and lack of activity to denounce the practice is giving it enough room to propagate further. While the authorities are silent on this despicable misuse of authority and religion, we as a society must review our denial as well.
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