Women in Islam:
Date: 11 Jun 2009
Women in Islam: The Tragic Tale of Afzal Khan’s 63 Wives
Thursday, 11 June 2009 18:54 Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari
Prophet Muhammad instituted polygamy and concubinage as a divine institution, degrading women's social standing for the eternity. His prohibition of remmarriage of his harem inmates, fearing that it would divulge his sexual impotence to others, also set in a legacy of many later tragdies for women. Here are a few examples.
Bijapur, the city of Monuments
Bijapur is a small city located in the northern part of the state of Karnataka, in Southern India . In mediaeval times, the city was once the capital of the famed Adil Shah dynasty (1489–1686). Its charm lies largely in the architectural legacy of those days. The building called the Gol Gumbaz (Circular Dome, built 1659)—the mausoleum of Sultan Adil Shah (1626-56), his two wives, his mistress, one of his daughters and a grandson—is the chief attraction of the city. Another tourist attraction is the edifice called Ibrahim Roza, a beautiful structure. It was constructed, at the height of Bijapur's prosperity, by Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1626) for his queen. The Jam-E-Masjid, constructed by Adil Shah (1557-80), is a building with graceful arches, a fine dome and a large inner courtyard containing fountains and a reservoir.
Amongst other attraction of Bijapur are: 1) Gagan Mahal, beautiful palace built by Adil Shah I to serve the dual purpose of royal residence and court; 2) Sat Manzil, a seven-storey palace of Mohammed Adil Shah, as well as his other palace, Jala Manzil; 3) Malik-E-Maidan, a giant cannon -- 4 meters long, almost 1 meter in diameter and 55 tones in weight --cast in 1549 by Mohammed-bin-Hasan Rumi, a Turkish officer; and
4) the Satth Kabar (Sixty Tombs) that carries a tragic memory in the history of women.
Afzal Slew his 63 Wives
Afzal Khan was the most powerful General in the court of the Bijapur Sultanate. He was responsible for many victories for the Adilshahi dynasty. In the year 1658, when Ali Adil Shah II of the Shahi dynasty of Bijapur was preparing to launch a military campaign against Shivaji, the indefatigable Maratha warrior and ruler. Under constant pressure from Emperor Auranzeb from one side and Shivaji from the other, Adil Shah depended on his generals to stall the enemies, and counted General Afzal Khan among his most trusted warriors.
Though Afzal Khan was a brave man, he had but one weakness: auguries and omens. Khan contacted astrologers who predicted doom – death at the hands of the Maratha soldiers. At that time, Afzal Khan had 63 wives in his harem. Fearing that his wives would remarry after his death, the anxious general chose to kill all of them. Some say they were pushed into a deep well, while others say that all the 63 unfortunate wives were slain by Afzal. The astrologers proved correct, for Khan did die at the hands of Shivaji at Pratap Garh.
However, his wives lie buried just 5 km from Bijapur at a place now bears titular testimony to the uxoricide – Satth Kabar (Sixty Graves). Ironically, the tomb built by the general for himself, who wanted to be close to his wives in life and in death, stands adjacent to the one-acre burial ground surrounded by jowar fields. The site has now been declared to be of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, and is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Today, the tombstones are scarred by graffiti and people often come to the shady spot for rest. “People need to hear the heartrending stories that cry out from these graves”, says the 65 year-old man who lives in a nearby house.
How Afzal Khan died
Afzal Khan was aware that Shivaji was on Pratap Garh, and he planned to lure and bring him down to the plateau of the Deccan , where he could destroy his forces. Khan's strength was his giant force. At that time, he took with him a force of 12,000 soldiers, many cannons, troops of elephants, horses, and camels etc—enough to overrun Shivaji's newly established 'Swarajya' (Self Rule). Shivaji's men were very few in numbers, which the Khan was aware, too. That's why he tried to bring Shivaji out into open battle, in which they could be easily destroyed.
Shivaji was a master of what is known as 'guerrilla war', where you surprise the enemy with a sudden attack causing heavy casualties, and retreat quickly. So, Shivaji tried his best to avoid a direct confrontation in the open. But to compel Shivaji to come down to the plains, Afzal Khan started demolishing the temples, including the prestigious temple of Bhavani Mata , although the original statue of Bhavani Mata, instructed by Shivaji, was removed and kept in a safe place. Afzal Khan thought that Shivaji would not tolerate such insult to his gods and goddesses, and would come out to fight in an open battle. But Shivaji did not take the bait.
Failing to lure Shivaji out to the plains, Afzal agreed to meet him at Pratap Garh, a fort near the town of Satara , a vantage point for Shivaji's infantry. For that arranged meeting, a large tent was set up at the foothills of Pratap Garh. It was agreed that the meeting would be unarmed, and each man was to bring ten personal bodyguards, standing one arrow-shot away. Both were prepared for treachery: Afzal hid a kataar, a small and sharp dagger, in his coat. Shivaji wore armour under his clothes, and carried a weapon called bagh nakh (tiger claws), consisting of an iron finger-grip with four razor claws, which he concealed within his clenched fist.
As the two men entered the tent fixed for meeting, Khan pretended to greet Shivaji with a hug, and stabbed Shivaji in the back with his kataar. However Shivaji, due to the armour under his coat, was saved. Shivaji opened his fist and disemboweled Khan with his bagh nakh. Afzal managed to hold his gushing entrails and hurtled outside, faint and bleeding, and threw himself into his palanquin. But Khan was decapitated by one of Shivaji's bodyguards shortly down the slope. Sambhaji Kawaji and Jiva Mahala, two of Shivaji's bodyguards, were instrumental in protecting their king from Afzal's bodyguards. According to another version, on reaching the tent, Shivaji requested Afzal Khan to send his bodyguard Sayyad out of the place. As per the agreement, no one was to be present when Shivaji met Afzal Khan.
When Shivaji penetrated the tiger claws into Afzal Khan's abdomen, injuring him fatally, Sayyad Khan entered the tent, running to his mater's rescue. Just when Sayyad Khan was about to kill Shivaji, Jiva Mahal, a body guard of Shivaji, slashed Sayyad Khan, saving the life of his master.
Shivaji sped towards the fortress as his lieutenants ordered a bugle to be sounded. It was a pre-determined signal, in case of treachery, to his infantry, which had been strategically placed in the densely covered valley. All of Shivaji's generals, including his Senapati ("Army chief") Netaji Palkar launched a surprise attack, and routed Afzal Khan's army. Afzal Khan's son managed to escape with help from Maratha generals including Khandaji Khopade, another blunder committed by the Hindus.
The severed head of Afzal Khan was sent to Rajgarh to be shown to Jijabai, Shivaji's mother. She wanted vengeance for the murder of Shahaji, Shivaji's father, in Afzal Khan’s captivity, as well as, for the death of her elder son, Sambhaji, killed by Afzal Khan.
Sultan Ibrahim Drowned his 280 Wives
Ibrahim I was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1640 to 1648. He was born in Istanbul , the son of Sultan Ahmed I, and was unofficially called ‘Ibrahim the Mad’ (Deli Ibrahim in Turkish) due to his unstable mental condition. However, Ibrahim was one of the most famous Ottoman Sultans, succeeded his brother Murad IV in 1640. Murad had ordered his three other brothers executed. Ibrahim I was allowed to live because he was too mad to be a threat. Ibrahim is known to have had an obsession with obese women, urging his agents to find the fattest woman possible. A candidate was tracked down in Georgia or Armenia, who weighed over weighed around 330 pounds (137.4 Kg), and was given the pet name Sheker Pare ("Sugar Cube"). Ibrahim was so pleased with her that he gave her a government pension, and, allegedly, a governorship.
Ibrahim had 280 wives and concubines in his harem. But when he heard a rumor that his concubines were compromised by another man, he decided to kill them en masse. Ultimately, all the 280 members of his harem were drowned in the Bosporus Sea . Eventually, Ibrahim was deposed in a coup led by the Grand Mufti. There is an apocryphal story to the effect that the Grand Mufti acted in response to Ibrahim's decision to drown all 280 women of his harem. But there is other evidence to suggest that at least two of Ibrahim's concubines survived the mass murder. Ibrahim was ultimately strangled to death in Istanbul .
Idi Amin of Uganda
Idi Amin Dada Oumee, commonly known as Idi Amin, was a Ugandan military dictator and the president of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles, in 1946, and advanced to the rank of Major General and Commander of the Ugandan Army. He took power in a military coup in January 1971, deposing Milton Obote. His rule was characterized by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings and the expulsion of Asians from Uganda . The number of people killed by him is unknown. But an estimate from international observers and human rights groups ranges from 100,000 to 500,000. After the fall of his regime in 1979, Amin fled to Libya , and finally took political asylum in Saudi Arabia in 1981, where he died in 2003.
Idi Amin officially had 5 wives (many believe that the actual figure was much higher), one of which he had killed and dismembered to show her children what happens to someone who does not obey him. He is said to have over 34 concubines and many mistresses in his harem. Many believe that he was suffering from STDs, syphilis being one of them. He also had over 20 children.
More importantly, Idi Amin used to refresh his harem regularly by executing the old and condemned wives, and inducting new and younger ones. Many of us might have seen the heartrending reports in newspapers in 1970s, how the security guards led the wailing victims to the place of execution through thousands of onlookers. But the government of Saudi Arabia , by providing asylum to such a cruel killer, has made the world understand that, Idi Amin had not committed any serious crime or insulted Islam by killing his wives. At that time, some journalists reported that Idi Amin was a cannibal, and he used to taste the flesh of his executed wives…
Above examples simply represent a tragic legacy for women set forth by the Prophet of Islam. It is obviously that the status of women in the Muslim world is worse than domestic animals. In Arabia , during the Prophet’s times, an Arab could confine his wife in a room and kill her slowly by refusing food and water to her. Even the authors of the Arab Human Development Report 2002, have categorically mentioned that women are not considered as full citizens in the Islamic world, and that this oppression of the women was one of the major reasons for the backwardness of the Muslim world.