Singapore Women's Council
352-A, Tanjong Katong Road,
The Singapore Council of Women has studied the unhappy situation in Chinese and Malay homes and has arrived at the conclusion that the introduction of a Monogamous Marriage Bill and the tightening of Divorce Laws will remove much of the misery, disunity and immorality prevalent in this Colony.
Some people argue that Monogamy is against the teachings of Islam; but we have studied the Qoran and are quoting herewith the relevant passage, "And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them) then (marry) only one or what your right hand possesses (i.e. females taken as prisoners of war) this is more proper that you shall not deviate from the right course." Our contention is that the condition laid down about doing "justice between them" makes polygamy impossible. Justice does not consist of giving them equal share of the material wealth of a man, but equal share of the affection also. Is such a thing possible that a man can show the same degree of affection to more than one woman? And if he cannot, then where is the justice between them? The other alternative, therefore, in order to please God is monogamy, "this is more proper that you may not deviate from the right course."
And for those who argue that man cannot prohibit what God has permitted, should remember that God permitted polygamy (did not enjoin it) only under the above mentioned impossible conditions. But God has enjoined the whipping of adulterers to death, why do not the Malays practice that? God is opposed to drinking, gambling, dancing and music, why do the Malays indulge in them? Is the Book of God to be quoted only to suit man's purpose?
You must have read in the papers that there were 2676 marriages performed in 1952 in Singapore and out of that 1471 ended in divorce. In 1953, there were 2197 marriages and 1297 divorces among the Malays. Thus statistics show that the rate of divorce in Singapore is the highest in the world. These divorces take place among the Muslims, who are followers of a Prophet who said, "Of all things permitted to men, divorce is the most hated by Allah.' The procedure adopted in this country for divorce is also contrary to the teachings of Islam. The Prophet said, "And if you fear a breach between the two, then appoint a judge from his people and a judge from her people: if they both desire agreement Allah will effect harmony between them; surely Allah is knowing aware." How many of these divorces were conducted as is laid down in the Qoran? What misery has been caused to Malay women is well known to the Singapore Council of Women, and so we feel that all these injustices must be removed.
The greatness of a nation is often measured by the caliber of its women. What greatness can we expect of this country where in every home, the women live in a state of constant fear of being deprived of a roof over her head, security and everything that goes to make a happy home.
Among the Malays there is a political awakening and a desire for independence, but it does not occur to them that half or more of the population of this country consists of women who have been suppressed, and have not been allowed to practice the [1/2] rights their own religion has granted to them.
The women must be given the right and facilities to higher education and the opportunity to enter professions, also the right to a happy and enduring married life, where the husband and wife are both faithful to each other, and dedicate their lives to the upbringing of a family which contributes to the greatness of Malaya.
Are these demands in any way contrary to the teachings of Islam? The cup of misery of the Malay women is full to the brim, and however dumb and forbearing these women may be yet their sighs are reaching God, and He does not like unjust people. Let not lust for pleasure becloud our sanity to the extent that one is blinded to all sense of justice and generosity even to one's own kith and kin -- the wife, daughters and sisters.
It should be the duty of every Muslim to study the Qoran: then he will realize that what he is practicing has no bearing with Islam. He will then instead of trying to lower the prestige of his religion in public esteem try to be a true Muslim, and be in the vanguard of all progressive movements which add luster and glory to the Malay community. Thus they will re-establish their Faith on the high pedestal of spiritual culture and civilization to which it had been originally destined.
We need your co-operation in this effort and are confident of your support.
God bless you
(Mrs) Shirin Fozdar
Hon. Gen. Secretary
Government of the Colony of Singapore
Office of the COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, SINGAPORE
29th. January 1954.
Mrs. Shirin Fozdar
Hon. Gen. Secretary
Singapore Women's Council
352-A Tanjong Katong Road
Dear Mrs. Fozdar,
It is my duty to advise you and your Council that distribution of leaflets to the Muslim community in furtherance of the campaign which you are reported to be organising in order to bring about changes in the Marriage Laws, might invite ill-feeling resulting breaches of the peace.
I would therefore strongly advise you and your Council not to take and such action and I suggest that you consider most carefully the implications of any activity of this nature which might be interpreted as unwarranted interference in the orthodox religious affairs of a section of the community by a person or a persons who do not subscribe strictly to the same religion.
Commissioner of Police, Singapore
Last modified: 25 April 2001