Letter To An Unknown Friend…

December 29, 2012 at 9:15 PMDec (Friends, Letter, Media, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Dear unknown friend,

When my mother would fall at my father’s feet and I thought that was the norm and hence normal, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When my mother would wait for my father to return home and have dinner only after he had and I believed there was nothing wrong in it, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When my parents would ask my sister to be back home before sunset and I thought they were right, I did not know somewhere I was being party to your murder. When my parents would tell me that my sister would not come to the temple on some of ‘those’ days, without telling me why, I accepted that in the name of God without knowing I was somewhere becoming party to your murder. When my parents bought a toy car for me and a playing kitchen set for my sister and I did not allow her to touch the car and asked her to play with the kitchen set ONLY, I did not know somewhere I was being party to your murder. When teacher, in class, while teaching basics of language construction taught from textbook the lessons that read “Ram plays cricket, Rama helps her mother in the kitchen,” and I did not find anything wrong in it, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When a relative made his daughter- my cousin- discontinue her studies after class 10 and I did not question his decision, I did not know I was being party to your murder. When I saw Urmila’s transparent dress in the song “tanha tanha” with jaws dropped and fancying her and beyond her clothes, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. While in teenage when with friends I discussed women’s bodies as though it was an object of desire, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When I laughed when some friends would refer to some girl as “maal,” “bomb,” “item,” “figure” or “pathaaka”, I did not know my silence was making me a party to your murder. When once I saw two men whack a girl’s ass as they drove next to her and I just smiled while the girl was screaming, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When market brought to us many products in containers in the shape of women’s body and I accepted it without questioning, I did not know I was actually becoming party to your murder. Once when a friend was upset with me and not speaking to me and I burst out in anger saying, “Why is she acting as though I raped her,” I did not know I was somewhere being a party to your murder. When after tough exams I declared “I am raped,” I did not know that somewhere I was being party to your murder . When I went with my cousin to “see” a girl for him and I did not raise objection to the so called custom of “seeing” the girl, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When Hindu fundamentalists or Muslim fundamentalists attacked “their girl” and “other boy” I thought it was only communalism and not gender, I did not know somewhere I was being party to your murder. When I used, without second thoughts, abuse words in Kannada equivalent to “mother fu****” or “Sister fu****” I did not know I was being party to your murder.

Years after all this, when my friends have helped me unburden myself, to a great extent, of patriarchy and misogyny, you have been brutally murdered. You were murdered because the world we inherited had murdered our sensibilities and our humanity to some extent and also because we passed on the world without correcting it, to those who arrived after us. While many of my friends, out of fear and disgust say, “It could have been me,” I must say that had I not met those beautiful friends and mentors who unburdened me, to a great extent, may be it could have been me, given the structure I was born into which saw women and girls as lesser humans. Though its not me, I know that I have been party to your murder and the murder of several other sisters who I do not know. I can see the blood in my hand and I know that not even all of the Neptune’s ocean can wash this hand clean.

No, I write this letter not to apologize. I know to say sorry is inadequate. Why do I write then? I dont know. I feel guilty hence I write though its not an act of sin cleansing. I write this also because I need to tell you that I see many of my unknown brothers, awakened after what happened with you, are unburdening themselves of patriarchy and misogyny. But it hurts as this cost your life and the life of other unknown sisters too. I know things will not change soon. It will take time. May be it will take many more lives too. But hope, someday…

An ashamed friend.


  1. Nagraj Prabhu said,

    Dear Blogger, Very well written. It just woke me up from my slumber. I will keep all these points in my mind when I think/converse/utter.

  2. zayan said,

    Man, m from pakistan, It brought tears in my eyes. Yes not only you WE were somewhere being party to her murder. 😥 RIP

  3. Sreenidhi.K.S said,

    Dear sir,
    The article is awesome.I am a girl and I know how much it breaks me when guys use such words at me and my friends.I do feel bad when customs and blind beliefs try to confine women and both men and women keep silence.
    It’s a nice article.

  4. isha said,

    Thanks for the article very well written. Hope some day soon, we all understand nd follow wat you meant in your article.

  5. Urbashi said,

    Thanks for this article. I was unable to make some of my friends understand these basics problem of our soceity. I will recommend them to read this one

  6. Ati Bosa Yobin said,

    This article has treated well the root causes of inhuman activities against women in the society. Yes, women are not lesser human than men. They need to be respected and cared as much as men do. Men folk in every society, culture, religion, caste, race, tribe, etc., must realize and understand that the life of a woman is dear to her as much as it is to a man. In addition, it is unthinkable of any society devoid of women in the world!!! Men and women are made for each other to live in harmony, not to brutalize each other in inhumanity!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Kajol Srinivasan said,

    Very well said. Writings like this bring me hope. In the last 2 weeks iv been so full of anger that has been directed towards all men. Which is so unfair. There are so many men who think like you.

  8. Cynthia said,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this tragedy and vital social issue world-wide. I am an American woman whose childhood (2-13) was spent in Pakistan and whose American father was born & raised in Bengal….therefore both India & Pakistan are close to our hearts.

    It takes courage to stand for justice and compassion when cultural traditions or a crowd of peers act otherwise. But each of us has the power to do so. And as each of us do so, change will come. Take heart in your grief over this woman’s brutal death. Let each of us be the change we want for our mothers, sisters, daughters, grandchildren and the men – fathers, brothers, husbands, sons they love.

  9. nitasha said,

    admire u thoughts n the courage to pen it down..hope tht u live by it n teach the same to ur relatives n friends ..thanks

  10. Sosha said,

    Thank you.

  11. An Indian Woman said,

    Very well written and touching indeed. While reading the first few lines I was reminded of some questions that used to pop up in my mind when certain words were mentioned.

    Pathi Parameshwar – do I need to say anything more, what hope has a woman who is to treat her husband as God. And what hope do we have from our serials and movies which introduced me to these words. Karwa Chauth – starve a day for ur husband’s well being. I was brought up in a matriarchal family – well actually my grand father and grand mother, who raised me, were equals. However she was the engine that kept the family running and he with 1 son and 4 daughters never made any of us women folk feel we are inferior. He never gave a single rupee in dowry when his daughters (my mom n aunts) were married off.Coming from this background, I have never understood why a husband should be put on a pedestal. Why starve for his well being? Not to mention how our movies have romanticized this.

    Let’s be honest here, quite a few women too have been slaves to such backward thinking, never pausing to even think that she cannot be treated like a doormat. If a mother in law says enough is enough and stops her son’s wife from having to touch his feet, at some point it could have changed the tide. All these young girls, standing there holding placards, with anger and resentment, taking to the social media to voice your opinion, how many of them stand up and say no when the guy u r marrying wants money and gifts to marry you? Each moment of silence, each moment of compliance for decades as added up and resulted in today’s unequal society.

    Yes, a lot of Indian women too owe her an apology.

    • Chitra said,

      Very well put.. yes the change must begin with us women first.. we patronize our sons, tell them from the very beginning that they are special, our first priority, can we really blame them if they feel superior, I am really glad that you (our ashamed friend) has woken up to the real world, thank you.

  12. AbdulGafoor GK said,

    Though I don’t agree with many of your points, since the intention here is towards a better tomorrow, I support you for that intention. An ashamed friend here as well 😦

  13. Gowri Nair said,

    As soul-baring as it can be.

  14. Stephen said,

    Sir, this letter of yours deserves its place in the editorial columns of all leading News Papers. It is only after reading this article i realised that in one way or other i too was a party to her murder. Shame on me.

  15. Anitha Sriram said,

    Nice article with right intentions. Keeping that at mind let me add. Attraction towards opposite sex is natural. But how to express it without hurting others is what matters.

  16. sachin sharma said,

    i actualy bumped into ur article as i was surfing along.i was dumbstruk by the way u included EVRY POSIBL way in which we knwngly and unkwngly beame a part of her murder.well written,and touchin.to raise a sister who is in her early teens in this world where women is used only as instrments of pleasure is realy difficult and the delhi incident has been going in and out of my mind adding to the tension.his article has brought me hope.thank u sir.expecting to hear more frm u.

    • Suchitra said,

      U have missed the most significant point , when the girl’s parent have to give dowry and the Indian society thinks it is the custom that is more painful than the murder

      • Thinking On Both Sides said,

        Suchitra, Getting and giving dowry should be banned and marriage prenup should be introduced. Only then we will be able to ask women to stand up for themselves and not be dependent on any one

  17. Selvaraj Vaiyapuri said,

    Dear friend, I admire. But, there the girl likes to be governed, likes the man who initiates, likes to be safer in hands of her hero. All these, if i were to be a girl, i would say i am a party to (y)our murder.

    • Lion Girrl said,

      Maybe it would be better, Selvaraj, if you do not make assumptions about what a girl likes, because you are NOT a girl. Instead you are believing the media, your brothers and male peers, and all the brainwashing you have taught. ASK WOMEN what they want in a spirit of honesty rather than assume! And from a place of complete trust and honesty, not where the woman depends on you and will try to make your answer be right – because that is just more of the problem. We all need a shoulder to cry on or someone to feel safe with – but that is NOT only women! That is human! So please do not feed these sexist assumptions back in to the culture, in order to justify your own beliefs. Respectfully, you do not and cannot know what women think and feel.

  18. msgp said,

    Dear friend , you have clearly brought out all most all the steps where our entire society has gone wrong in treating women. Thanks for that. Lets change it together.
    Another ashamed man.

  19. Vegan said,

    While looking at the plight of girls and women in this country and world, please also look at the plight of female animals that are raped everyday without any “breaking news” to fulfill people’s desires to satisfy their tongue. Give up cow’s (or any other animal’s) milk, become a vegan and help people understand that crimes in which one is complicit will not lead to a better world for all of us. For more information, just google “vegan” and open your eyes to the torture inflicted upon billions of animals (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) every year by humans.

  20. Satish Dewan said,

    It is so true and correct.We have all to stand togather to ensure that women are treated at par with men if not better.

  21. vivek kumar said,

    firstly i salute u man for this awesome article…u have mentioned all the real truth going on through our society…it would be very thankful to u if it impacts a single bit as well on society…

  22. Ravi said,

    well said … its tym to re set our mental model

  23. Arijit said,


  24. Successlife said,

    U write reality . .

    Thank you to you !

  25. thardik said,

    It’s fashion now to write on things which shows differences between man n woman & injustice done towards woman… & if man oppose such writing its termed ‘male chauvinism’…. Sad but true…

    Why can’t ppl accept that there are man who want & treat woman equal b’coz they deserve to be & not b’coz they were treated differently by past & present generations.

    • zm said,

      men who respect women truly, are very few, and this article is not meant to hurt them. This article targets the rest of the men in this world, who treat women the way they shouldn’t be.

  26. Another Ashamed Men said,

    That is eye opener. Thanks for the article. Another ashamed men 😦

  27. vikas said,

    i realized things are not funny always.

  28. zm said,

    you said it right. Its the society where men take pride in using words that abuse their mothers and sisters. Ask a boy in his teenage, if he doesn’t abuse, he isn’t considered a grown up. Its time for all of us to wake up and change the way we treat women and think about them. And being a woman, I know every woman in this world must have been molested/assaulted or sexually harassed from her birth till her death, in one or the other way. And the worse is, that these incidents never get washed away from their memory. Only if men knew what it feels for a women to be sexually harassed or eyed as a sexual instrument.

    Thanks for giving words to our thoughts and feelings.

  29. Thoughts said,

    Very good reflections. However, such self-reflections need to arise in all of us by ourselves at some point to bring a permanent change and that will take time.

    Because—- When procreation is the number one driver for all human beings (by the way I am a woman), how do we educate all, so that there is the right balance, and everybody is respected first and least of all, hurt. We don’t create societies and cultures to justify our primal needs/behaviors. The main question we need to ask ourselves is, why we do what we do every day, that pertains in any manner to keep our specie alive, while still behaving morally and as a specie that has an evolved brain. That is why my earlier comment, that it will take time, if we want to see 100% of the society in that evolved state of existence. It is the change that each and every one has to drive, around the examples the writer has illustrated and many others that exist in our societies.

    One question, which is in conflict with some of my above statements is— Is rape, or other atrocities or demeaning behaviors against women, the root of all these connected with only pro-creation or are there other elements at play?

  30. Qaisar said,


    Woman in Qur’an

    This article proposes to answer the question whether Islam regards woman equal to man as a human being, or regards her inferior to him.


    With regard to the rights of man and woman, Islam has a special philosophy of its own which differs from what happened 1400 years ago and what is happening now. It does not believe that in all cases man and woman have the same rights and obligations. In certain cases their rights and obligations are different, with the result that in certain cases their position in this respect is similar, and in certain others dissimilar.

    This is not because Islam, like some other schools of thought, looks at woman contemptuously or considers her to belong to an inferior sex. Islam differentiates between the two sexes for some other valid reasons.

    You might have heard that the followers of the Western systems refer to the Islamic rules of dower, maintenance, divorce, polygamy and the like in a way, as if they were insulting to woman and derogatory to her position. They mislead the people into the belief that these rules are unreasonable and clearly in favor of man.

    They say that during the entire period of history, prior to the 20th century, all laws and rules in the world were based on the presumption that man belonged to a superior sex and that woman was created for his benefit and enjoyment. The rights accorded by Islam also revolve round man’s interests, and are no exception to the general rule.

    They assert that Islam is the religion of the male sex. It does not recognize woman to be a full human being. That is why it has not accorded her equal rights. Had it recognized her as a full human being, it would not have allowed polygamy; it would not have given man the right of divorce; it would not have considered the evidence of two females equal to that of one male; it would not have fixed the share in inheritance of a female as half of the share of a male; it would not have ordered the naming of a price for woman under the name of dower, and would not have made woman dependent on man for maintenance, instead of making her economically and socially independent. The Islamic teachings in all these cases show that Islam looks at woman contemptuously. Islam claims to be a religion of equality but, at least in the case of family relations, no equality has been observed by it.

    They maintain that in the matter of rights, Islam gives a clear preference to man, and that is why it has given all these concessions to him.

    If we like we can put their argument into a logical form thus: Had Islam considered woman to be a full human being, it would have accorded her rights similar and equal to those of man; but as it has not done so, it does not consider her to be a full human being.


    This argument is based on the ground that human dignity being common to man and woman, they both must enjoy the same rights. In this connection, the point worth considering is whether on the basis of human dignity they both should have equal rights without any discrimination, or should have the same rights irrespective of their different roles in life. No doubt, human dignity being common to them, they both should have equal rights. But how about the similarity of their rights?

    If, instead of blindly following the Western ideas, we allow ourselves some independent thinking, the first question which comes to mind is whether equality of rights does really mean their similarity also. In fact, they are two different beings. Equality means a condition of being equal in degree and value, whereas similarity means uniformity. It is possible that a father may distribute his wealth among his three children equally, but not uniformly. Suppose his wealth consists of several items such as a commercial store, some agricultural land and some property, which has been leased out. He, taking into consideration their respective tastes and aptitudes, gives the store to one, the agricultural land to another and the leased property to the third. He takes care that what he gives to each of them should be of fair value, and at the same time should suit their aptitude. Thus he distributes his wealth equally, but not uniformly.

    Quantity is different from quality, and equality is different from uniformity. Islam does not believe in uniformity between man and woman. But at the same time it does not give preferential treatment to men, in the matter of rights. It has observed the principle of equality between man and woman, but it is opposed to the uniformity of their rights.

    Equality is a charming word, for it implies a sense of indiscrimination. A particular sanctity is attached to it. It evokes respect, especially when it is associated with rights.

    What a beautiful and sacred construction ‘equality of rights’ is! Any conscientious person is bound to succumb to its charm.

    But we cannot understand how things have got to this extent that others who have once been the standard bearers of science and philosophy want to impose their ideas about the similarity of rights between men and women on us.

    This is exactly as if a person sells boiled beets and gives to them the name of pears.

    No doubt, Islam has not in all cases accorded similar rights to man and woman. But it has not also prescribed similar duties and similar punishments for the two sexes. Anyway, the total value of the rights accorded to woman is not less than that of the rights accorded to man. We propose to prove this point.

    Here the question arises as to what is the reason that in certain cases dissimilar rights have been accorded to man and woman. Would it not have been better, had their rights been similar, as well as equal in all cases? To give full consideration to this point, we propose to discuss it under three headings:

    (i) The Islamic view of the position of woman from the angle of her nature.

    (ii) The effect of the physical disparity between man and woman. Does it make them dissimilar in the matter of rights also?

    (iii) What is the philosophy behind the Islamic rules, which are in some cases different in respect of man and woman? Is this philosophy still valid?


    The Qur’an is not merely a collection of laws. It is not a body of dry rules and laws without explanation of their ultimate aims. It contains laws, as well as history, religious exhortations, an explanation of the meaning of Creation, and thousands of other things. At certain places it sets forth a course of action in legal form, and at others it explains the meaning of existence. It unravels the mysteries of the earth, the heavens, the plants, the animals and the human beings. It gives out the secrets of life and death, honor and disgrace, rise and fall, wealth and poverty.

    The Qur’an is not a book of philosophy, but it has expounded, in very definite terms, its views on the three basic subjects of philosophy: the world, man and society. It does not teach its followers law alone, and does not indulge in mere exhortation and admonition, but, also by its interpretation of Creation, gives its followers a special outlook and a peculiar way of thinking. The basis of the Islamic regulations regarding social matters like ownership, government, family rights etc. are its very interpretation of Creation and various things.

    One of the subjects explained in the Qur’an is that of the creation of man and woman. The Qur’an has not observed silence in this respect. It has left no opportunity to the philosophical meddlers to invent their own philosophy for the rules concerning man and woman, and to describe them as being based on Islam’s contemptuous attitude towards the fair sex. Islam has itself given its views regarding woman.

    To know the views of Islam on woman, we should see what the Qur’an says about her innate character. Other religions also have referred to this question, but it is the Qur’an alone which in a number of verses expressly says that woman has been created of the species of man, and both man and woman have the same innate character. While referring to Adam it says: He (Allah) made all of you from one being, and from that being He made its mate. (Surah an-Nisa, 4 : 1)

    With regard to mankind in general, it says: He made your mate from among you. (Surah an-Nisa, Surah Ali Imran and Surah Rum).

    Unlike some other religious books, there is no mention in the Qur’an that woman has been created of some inferior material, or that she has any parasitic and leftist aspect. Islam does not support the notion of the people who suppose that the spouse of Adam was created of his left ribs. Islam has no contemptuous view of woman in regard to her nature and innate character.

    There is another contemptuous theory which was current in the past, and has left some undesirable traces in the world literature. According to it, woman is the cause of all sins. Her very existence stimulates evil. Woman is a little devil. It is said that woman has had a hand in every sin and every offence committed by man. Men themselves are free from sin; it is the women who drag them to it. It is also said that the Devil cannot have direct access to men. It is through women that he lures them. He prompts woman with wicked suggestions, and woman in turn prompts man. Adam was thrown out of Paradise because of a woman. The Devil misled Eve, and it was Eve who misled Adam.

    The Qur’an has narrated the story of Paradise, but it says nowhere that the Devil or the Serpent misled Eve and Eve misled Adam. It neither blames Eve nor exonerates her.

    The Qur’an says: We said to Adam: ‘Take residence in Paradise.’ both you and your Spouse, and eat the fruits thereof, freely wherever you wish and go not near that tree else you become wrongdoers. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:35). It puts the pro. nouns in the dual form. It also says: Then the Satan made a suggestion to them (both). Then he led them (both) on with guile. He swore to them (both): I am a sincere adviser to you (both). Surah al-A’raf, (7 : 20 – 21)

    Thus the Qur’an vehemently opposed the false notion which was current after the time of its revelation, and the echoes of which still resound in various parts of the world, It absolved woman from the charge that she was the prompter of sin, and herself a little devil.

    Another contemptuous theory which has existed concerns woman’s spiritual position. It was asserted that woman could not enter Paradise. She could not cover the spiritual and divine stages. She could not reach such a stage of proximity to God as man could. But the Qur’an, in a number of passages, has expressly said that the reward of the Hereafter and the proximity to Allah are not linked with sex. They depend on faith and deeds, and there is no difference between man and woman in this respect. In the Qur’an, side by side with every great and saintly man, a great and saintly woman has been mentioned. It has glorified the wives of Adam and Abraham and the mothers of Moses and Jesus. If it has mentioned the wives of Noah and Lot as unworthy of their husbands, it has not ignored the wife of the Pharaoh, and has mentioned her as a great woman who was in the hands of a wicked man. The Qur’an in its stories has maintained a sort of balance. Its heroes are both men and women.

    While referring to the mother of Moses, the Qur’an says:

    We made Our Will known to Musa’s mother saying.’ Put him in a box and throw it into the river. The waves shall cast him on to the bank. . . (Surah Taha, 20 : 39).

    About the mother of Jesus, it says that she had attained such a high spiritual position that the angels used to talk to her while she was worshipping in the Sanctuary. She used to receive eatables from supernatural sources. Her sublime spiritual position caused bewilderment even to Zachariah, the Prophet of that period.

    There have been many eminent and saintly women in the history of Islam. Few men can attain the high position of Khadija, the beloved wife of the Holy Prophet, and no man, except the Holy Prophet and Ali (P) can match with Zahra, the beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet. She holds a position superior to that of even her sons, who are Imams, and to that of the Prophets, other than the last one. Islam does not discriminate between man and woman in the matter of the ‘journey towards Allah’, but it regards man more suitable for shouldering the responsibility of Prophet hood, which can be described as a ‘return journey from Allah’ to the people.

    Another contemptuous theory that exists about woman is related to renunciation and celibacy. Certain religions regard sexual relations as a dirty thing. According to the belief of their followers, only those can attain higher levels of spiritual life who pass their whole life in celibacy. A well-known world religious leader says: “Cut down the tree of marriage with the axe of virginity.” Such religious leaders tolerate marriage only as a lesser evil. In other words, they maintain that as most of the people are unable to lead a life of celibacy, and there is an apprehension that they will be unable to control themselves, and so will become involved in illicit relations with a number of women, it is better that they marry so that they do not come into contact with more than one woman. These gentlemen advocate renunciation and celibacy because they look upon the fair sex with suspicion. They consider love for woman to be a great moral evil.

    Islam is severely opposed to this absurdity. It reckons marriage as sacred and celibacy as dirty. To like woman has been described by Islam as a part of a prophetic character. The Holy Prophet has said: “I am interested in three things: perfume, woman and prayer”.

    Bertrand Russell says: “All religions other than Islam look at sexual relations with a pinch of suspicion. Islam, with an eye to social interest, has regulated and restricted them, but has not regarded them as dirty”

    Another contemptuous theory with regard to woman, which has existed, is that woman has been created for the benefit of man.

    Islam does not say any such thing. It has stated the purpose of Creation in clear terms. It expressly says that the earth, the heavens, the air, the clouds, the plants and the animals, all have been created for the sake of mankind. It does not say that woman has been created for the sake of man. According to it, both man and woman have been created for the sake of each other. The Qur’an says: They (women) are raiment (comfort, embellishment and protection) for you, and you (men) are raiment for them. (Surah al-Baqarah: 2 : 187).

    Had the Qur’an stated that woman was a mere appendage of man, and was created for his sake, that view would certainly have been reflecte6 in the Islamic laws, but the Qur’an has expressed no such view. It does not explain Creation that way. It does not consider woman a mere appendage to man. That is why this view is not reflected in Islamic laws.

    Another contemptuous theory about woman, which previously existed, is that woman is an inescapable evil. In the olden days, many people held her in great contempt and looked upon her as a source of misfortune and all sorts of trouble. In contrast, the Qur’an has emphasized that woman is a blessing for man and a source of his comfort and relief.

    According to another contemptuous theory, little significance was attached to the role of woman in childbearing. Pre- Islamic Arabs and some other communities regarded woman just as a receptacle for keeping and developing the seed of man. The Qur’an in several of its passages has said, We have created you from a man and a woman. The same idea has been deduced from some other verses by the commentators of the Qur’an. Thus Islam has put an end to that wrong way of thinking.

    It is clear from the above that Islam holds no contemptuous view of woman.

    Now the time has come to see why there is dissimilarity between the rights of man and woman.


    We have already said that in respect of the family relations and the rights of man and woman, Islam has a special philosophy of its own which is quite different from what was the practice, 1,400 years ago as well as what is practiced today.

    We have also said that it is not a debatable point whether man and woman are equal or not, as human beings, and whether their family rights should or should not be of equal value. From the Islamic point of view they are both human beings and, as such, enjoy equal rights.

    The point which is worth considering is that man and woman, because of the sex difference, are dissimilar in many respects. Their very nature does not want them to be similar. This position demands that they should not be similar in respect of many rights, obligations, duties and retributions. In the West an attempt is being made at present to make their rights and obligations uniform, and to ignore their natural and innate differences. There lies the difference between the Islamic view and the Western system. In our country, the point at issue between the supporters of Islamic rights and the supporters of the Western system, is the question of uniformity and similarity of rights and not that of equality of rights between man and woman. Equality of rights is only a label which has been wrongly attached to this Western gift.

    The present writer, in his writings and speeches, has always refrained from using this false label and has never condescended to give the name of equality to what is actually the theory of similarity of rights. The pre-2Oth century Europe is a clear example of injustice to woman. Till the beginning of the 20th century the woman of Europe was deprived of human rights, both practically and legally. She had rights neither equal to, nor similar to, those of man. It is during the past decades that, as the result of a hasty movement, more or less similar rights have been granted to her, but she has not yet been able to secure equal rights in conformity with her natural position and physical and spiritual needs. If woman wants equality of rights and domestic happiness, she must discard the idea of similarity of rights. That is the only way of establishing cordiality between man and woman. In that case, man will not only accept her equality of rights, but will also be willing to give her, in some cases, more rights without any question of deceiving her.

    Similarly, we do not claim that in a Muslim society woman actually enjoys rights equal to those of man. We have often said that it is essential that the position of woman should be reviewed, and the abundant rights which Islam has granted her and which throughout history have been denied to her, should be restored to her. Anyhow, we must not blindly imitate the Western way of life, which has produced catastrophic results in the West itself. What we claim is that non-similarity of rights between man and woman, within such limits as are required by the disparity between their natures, is more in keeping with justice. It meets the requirement of natural rights better, ensures domestic happiness better and pushes society forward on the path of progress better.

    It may be remembered that we claim that natural justice demands that, in certain cases, there should be dissimilarity between the rights of man and those of woman. Being related to the philosophy of rights, this question has a hundred percent philosophical aspect. It is also connected with the principle of justice and equity, a cardinal principle of Islamic law and Islamic scholasticism. It is the principle of equity that has brought into existence the doctrine of conformity between reason and Divine law. According to the Islamic or at least the Shiah jurisprudence, if it is proved that equity demands that in a certain case the law should have a particular form, that very form will be the legal form irrespective of any other argument to the contrary, for according to the basic teachings of Islam the law must, in no case, infringe natural justice and basic rights. The Muslim scholars, by expounding the principle of equity, laid the foundation of the philosophy of rights, though following some unhappy historical events they could not continue the good work started by them. It was the Muslims who, for the first time, paid attention to the question of human rights and the principle of equity, and set them forth as original and self-existing principles unaffected by any contractual law. The Muslims were the pioneers in the field of the inherent natural rights.

    But it was so destined that they could not continue their work and ultimately, after eight centuries, it was further developed by European intellectuals and philosophers, who appropriated the credit for it. The Europeans brought social, political and economic philosophies into existence, and acquainted the individuals, societies and nations with the value of life and human rights.

    In our opinion, apart from historical reasons, there was a psychological and regional reason too, which prevented the Muslim-East from pursuing the question of inherent rights.

    It is one of the differences between the spirit of the East and that of the West. The East is enamored of morals and the West of rights. The man of the East is more sentimental and believes that he should be forgiving, chivalrous and philanthropic. But the man of the West thinks that as a human being he should know and defend his rights and must not allow others to violate them.

    Humanity needs morals as well as rights. Humanism is concerned with both rights and morals. Neither of them alone is the criterion of high human qualities.

    Islam has had and still has the big distinction of simultaneously paying attention to both the morals and the rights. In Islam sincerity, forgiveness and virtue are sacred moral qualities. At the same time consciousness of one’s rights and the preparedness to defend them, are also equally sacred and human.

    Nevertheless, the Eastern spirit has been dominant with the Muslims, and consequently, though in the beginning both morals and rights engaged their attention, gradually the field of their activity became confined to morals.

    Anyhow, at present we are concerned with the question of rights which may also be a philosophical question and needs to be dealt with at length. It is more closely related to the real meaning of justice and the true nature of rights – justice and rights which existed even when there was still no law in the world, and whose meanings cannot be changed by any law.

    Montesquieu says: “Before laws were made by man, just human relations were possible on the basis of the laws which governed the relations among all existing things. It was the existence of these relations which led to the framing of laws. To say that prior to the framing of laws by man no just or unjust order existed to regulate human relations is tantamount to saying that before a circle is actually drawn its radii are not equal”.

    Herbert Spencer says: “Justice is interwoven with something other than feelings, namely the natural rights of human beings. We must respect the natural rights so that justice may have a practical existence”.

    Most of the European intellectuals are of the view that all declarations of human rights have been derived from natural rights. In other words, the theory of natural rights has assumed the form of the declarations of rights.

    As we know, Montesquieu, Spencer etc. have said the same thing about justice as the scholastic philosophers of Islam have said about the rational basis of good and evil and the principle of equity. Among the Muslims there have been scholars who have denied the existence of inherent rights and maintained that justice was contractual. Similarly, among the Europeans also this belief has existed. The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes denied justice as a reality.


    It is ridiculous to say that as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equality of rights between man and woman, has been ratified officially by the Parliament of a particular country, men and women of that country are supposed to have equal rights.

    After all, it is not within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of any country to ratify or reject the text of the Declaration, for its contents, not being of such contractual nature, do not fall within its legislative authority.

    The Universal Declaration deals with the inherent, inalienable and indefeasible rights of the human beings and, as claimed by the Declaration itself, these rights are an integral part of human dignity and have been determined by the powerful hand of nature itself. In other words, these rights have been granted to human beings by the same source which gave them intellect, will and dignity.

    If it is so, the nature of the contents of the Declaration is such that a human authority can neither lay them down nor do away with them. Then how can the question of their ratification by a legislative body arise?

    In fact, the Declaration of Human Rights is a philosophy and not a law. As such, it should be ratified by the philosophers and not by the legislators. No Parliament can, by debating and voting, lay down a philosophy. Otherwise, why should a bill enunciating Einstein’s theory of relativity or the theory of the existence of life on some other planets not be introduced in some Parliament and passed by that august body? In reality, a natural law cannot be passed or rejected like a contractual law. To pass a natural law will be tantamount to the passing of a law to the effect that the grafting of a pear-tree on an apple-tree will be successful, but on a mulberry-tree it will not be successful.

    Whenever any declaration of rights is issued by a group of philosophers, every nation should refer it to its own thinkers and philosophers, and if it is approved by them only then all members of that nation are bound to abide by its provisions as extra legal facts. The legislative authority will also be bound not to enact any law which is inconsistent with them.

    But other nations will not be bound to observe them as long as it is not proved, according to their own view, that such a right exists in nature. Further, as this question is not subject to test and trial, it does not require any such equipment or laboratory etc. as may be available to the Europeans only. It is a question of philosophy whose tools are the brain, reason and an argumentative power.

    Even if some other nations are compelled to follow the majority of other nations in the matter of logic and philosophy and do not feel that they are competent enough to do any philosophical thinking themselves we Muslims must not follow their example. We have shown in the past that we are highly capable of dealing with logical and philosophical questions. Why should we follow others today?

    It is amazing that while the Muslim intellectuals attach so much importance to the principle of justice and inherent rights and accept as religious law, without any hesitation and without any further argument, all that stands to reason, today things have deteriorated to such extent that we want the members of a legislative body to ratify the acknowledgement of human rights!


    More ridiculous than this is to try to decide the question of human rights by arranging the opinion polls of young boys and girls. Is it sensible to print coupons and ask young boys and girls to fill them, to find out what the nature of human rights is and whether they are of one or two kinds?

    Anyhow, we want to study the question of woman’s rights in a systematic and philosophical way, and in the light of inherent human rights. We would like to see whether the principles, which demand that all mankind should enjoy inherent and God-given rights, make it necessary or not that man and woman should have the same position in respect of their rights. We request the intellectuals, the thinkers and the lawyers of our country, who may be the only competent authority to express an opinion on such questions and to look into our arguments with a critical eye. We shall be highly obliged if they make authoritative comments in their favor or against them.

    To deal with this question, it is necessary first to discuss the basis of human rights. The rights of man and woman will be discussed subsequently. In this context, it will not be out of place to refer briefly to the liberal movements of the past few centuries, which have led to the idea of equality between the rights of man and woman.


    The talk of human rights began in the 17th century. The writers and thinkers of the 17th and the 18th centuries, with great perseverance, gave publicity to their ideas about natural and indefeasible rights. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu belong to this group of thinkers and writers. The first practical result of the spread of their ideas was a long-drawn struggle between the rulers and the people of England. In 1688 the English people succeeded in making the King agree to grant them certain political and social rights advanced by them in the Charter, known as the Bill of Rights.

    Another outstanding result of the spread of these ideas was the American War of Independence against England. Thirteen English colonies in North America revolted, following the imposition of heavy taxes, and eventually gained their independence. In 1776 a conference was held in Philadelphia which issued the Declaration of Independence. Its preamble said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their justice power from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness”.

    As regards what is known as the Declaration of Human Rights, it was issued after the French Revolution. It contains certain universal principles which are considered to be an integral part of the French Constitution. The Declaration consists of a preamble and 17 clauses. The first clause says that all human beings are born free and remain free throughout their life. They are equal to one another in the matter of rights.

    In the 19th century new developments took place and new ideas emerged in the field of human rights in economic, social and political matters. These resulted in the emergence of socialism, participation of the workers in the profits, and the shifting of the government from the hands of the capitalists to the labor.

    Up to the beginning of the 20th century all discussions on human rights were centered upon the rights of the people versus the governments, or the rights of the laboring classes as against the employers and the landlords.

    In the 20th century, the question of the rights of woman vis-a-vis those of man cropped up. It was only in the beginning of the 20th century that Britain, which is known as the oldest democracy, recognized the equality of rights between man and woman. Though the United States had, in general terms, recognized human rights in the 18th century in the course of the Declaration of Independence, yet universal suffrage was granted only in 1920. France also extended suffrage to woman only from the 20th century.

    Somehow or the other in the 20th century large sections of people throughout the world came to support a deep change in the relations between man and woman, from the viewpoint of rights and obligations. According to them the purpose of social justice could not be achieved by change in the relation between the nations and between the workers and the employers and capitalists so long as the relations of man and woman with regard to their rights were not considered.

    That is why the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, issued by the United Nations in 1948, says:

    “Whereas the people’s dignity of individual and equality of rights between man and woman….”

    The crisis caused by the development of machines in the 19th and the 20th centuries, and the consequent pitiable condition of the workers, especially the female workers, focused the attention on the plight of woman and that is why attention was paid to the question of their rights. A historian says: “As long as the governments did not pay attention to the plight of the workers and the behavior of their employers, the capitalists did whatever they liked. The mill-owners used to employ women and children at very meagre wages and, as their working hours were too long, most of them suffered from various diseases and died at a young age”.

    This was the brief history of the Movement for Human Rights in Europe. As we know, all those clauses of the Declaration of Human Rights, which are new to the Europeans, had been visualized by Islam 14 centuries ago, and some Arab and Iranian intellectuals in their books have made a comparative study of the teachings of Islam and the provisions of these declarations. There still exists some difference between certain parts of these declarations and what Islam has taught. This is an interesting subject. For example, Islam accepts equality between the rights of man and woman, but it does not accept similarity or uniformity of their rights.


    “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity, and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

    “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and wants has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”.

    “Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

    “Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations”.

    “Whereas the people of the United Nations have in the Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women, and have determined to promote social progress and a better standard of life in larger freedom”.

    “Whereas … The General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping the Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the people of member states themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction…”.

    As we have observed earlier, every word and every sentence of this Declaration is well-calculated. It is a manifestation of the ideas of the world’s liberal-minded philosophers and legists of several centuries.


    This Declaration consists of 30 articles, though certain articles are superfluous and some points have been repeated in several articles.

    The important points of the preamble are as under:-

    (i) All human beings enjoy inherent dignity and inalienable rights.

    (ii) Human dignity and human rights are universal and indivisible. They pervade all human beings irrespective of race, color and sex. All human beings are members of a family, and hence none is superior to anyone else.

    (iii) Full recognition of human dignity and inalienable human rights is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace.

    The contents of the Declaration imply that the source of all the troubles, wars, acts of tyranny and barbarous acts committed by the individuals and the people against each other, is the non-recognition of human dignity and human rights. This non-recognition compels some to revolt against some others, and thus endangers peace and security.

    (iv) The highest aspiration, for the materialization of which all must strive, is the emergence of a world in which freedom of belief, security and material welfare may be ensured and freedom from suppression, fear and poverty may be guaranteed. The 30-article Declaration has been framed to achieve this purpose.

    (v) Belief in human dignity and respect for inalienable human rights must be inculcated gradually in the minds of all, through teaching and education.


    As the Declaration of Human Rights has been framed on the basis of respect for humanity, liberty and equality with a view to reviving human rights, it should be respected by every conscientious person. We, the people of the East have been believing in human dignity and respect for humanity for a long time. Islam attaches great importance to human dignity and respects human rights, liberty and equality. Those who have really inspired them, deserve our appreciation. Anyhow, it is a philosophical text written by human hands, and not by angels. Hence, every philosopher has a right to analyze it and to point out its weak points.

    The Declaration of Human Rights definitely has its weak points, but at present we have no intention to lay our finger on them. Instead; we point out its strong points.

    The basis of this Declaration is the inherent human dignity, because of which man is entitled to certain rights which are not enjoyed by other living beings, for they lack that dignity. This is the strong point of the Declaration.


    Here we are again faced with an old philosophical question:

    What is the nature of the human dignity which distinguishes man from a horse, a cow and a pigeon?

    It is here that the contradiction between the basis of the Declaration of Human Rights and the Western evaluation of man becomes evident.

    The Western philosophy has since long depreciated man. The source of all that used to be said previously about man and his distinguished position was in the East. Now most of the European systems of philosophy ridicule all that.

    Man, from the Western point of view, has come down to the position of a machine. The existence of a soul and the magnanimous origin of man have been denied. The belief that nature has an ultimate goal is considered to be a reactionary idea.

    Now nobody in the West can talk of man as the crown of the creation. According to the current European theory, such a belief was only an offshoot of the now obsolete Ptolemaic astronomy, according to which the earth was believed to be the centre of the Universe and all the stars were believed to be revolving round it. Now that theory has gone, and, with its disappearance, no room is left for man to claim that he is the crown of the Universe. According to the Europeans, even in the past it was only because of his selfishness that man made this claim. Now man is a modest creature. He does not consider himself to be superior to other living beings. His life is only physical. After a man dies, his body is decomposed and there the matter ends.

    The European does not believe that soul has any independent existence. In this respect he does not consider himself to be in any way different from a plant or an animal. According to him, there is no essential difference between the nature of man’s intellectual and spiritual capabilities and other properties of matter such as heat, emanating from coal. All these are various manifestations of energy and matter.

    Life for all living beings, including man, means a constant struggle for existence. This is the basic principle of life. Man has always been striving to be victorious in this struggle, and to save his position he has invented such moral rules as justice, virtue, co-operation, sincerity etc.

    From the standpoint of certain powerful Western schools of thought, man is just a machine which is actuated only by the motives of economic gains. Religion, morality, philosophy, science, literature and the arts are all superstructures. Their infrastructure is the mode of production and distribution of wealth which determines all aspects of human life.

    Not only that, some western thinkers are of the view that sexual factors are the real motivating force behind all human activities. Morality, philosophy, science, religion and the arts are all modified and rarefied forms of sex.

    We wonder how we can talk of human dignity and inalienable rights and how we can make them the basis of all our actions, if we deny that nature has any ultimate aim, if we think that the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest are the only laws which govern life, if we believe that man is only a machine just like any machine made with human hands, if we maintain that the soul has no existence and all that is attributed to it is mere spiritual exaggeration, if we hold that either the economic or the sexual factors are the motivating force behind all human activities, if we assert that good and evil are only relative conceptions, if we are of the opinion that natural and intuitive inspirations are absurd and if we say that man is a slave of his desires and passions and can submit to force only.

    Western views about man are contradictory to his dignity and have lowered his position from every angle – from the angle of the causes which have brought him into existence, from the angle of the purpose for which he has been created, his structure, his motives and his conscience.

    Having done all this, the Western countries have proclaimed a high-sounding Declaration about human dignity and position and inalienable and sacred rights and have called upon mankind to enforce it.

    The West, before issuing a high-sounding Declaration about sacred and natural human rights, should have revised its interpretation regarding man.

    We admit that all Western philosophers do not hold the same views. Many of them think in this respect on the same lines as we do in the East. We have in view that way of thinking which has gripped most of the people in the West and which is now influencing the people all over the world.

    The Declaration of Human Rights should have been issued by those, who consider man to be higher than a robot, who thinks that his motives are not limited to his personal and animal instincts and who have faith in human conscience. The Declaration of Human Rights should have been issued by the people of the East who believe man to be the vicegerent of God on the earth. The Holy Qur’an says: Surely I am appointing a vicegerent on the earth. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2 : 30) Only those who believe that man has a goal and a destination can talk of human rights. 0 men! Surely you have to labor and labor toward your Lord, and then you shall meet Him. (Surah al-Inshiqaq, 84 : 6)

    The Declaration of Human Rights befits those systems which believe that man has a natural leaning towards virtue. By the soul and Him who perfected it and inspired it with knowledge of evil and piety. (Surah as-Shams, 91 : 7 – 8)

    The Declaration of Human Rights should be issued by those who are optimistic about the nature of man. Surely we have made man in the best proportion. (Surah at-Teen, 95 : 4)

    The Declaration of Human Rights does not befit the Western way of thinking. What befits it is only the practical behavior of those Western people who kill all human sentiments, play with human characteristics, give preference to money over man, worship machinery, regard wealth as almighty and exploit other human beings. Capitalism has acquired such an unlimited power that if by chance a millionaire bequeaths his wealth to his dear dog, it is respected more than human beings, and several men serve it as its secretaries and clerks and show utmost respect to it.

    Today’s most important social question, in the words of the Holy Qur’an, is: Has man forgotten himself? He has not only forgotten himself, but has forgotten his God also. He has confined his attention to the material world and has totally ignored introspection. He thinks that he has lost his soul. This way of thinking is most disastrous, and may completely ruin humanity. Modern civilization can produce everything of the highest grade, but it cannot produce a real man.

    Gandhi says that the European deserves to be called the lord of the earth. He possesses all earthly resources and can do things which other nations believe only God can do. But there is only one thing which a European cannot do and that is introspection. That alone is enough to prove the futility of the glitter of the modern civilization.

    If Western civilization has plagued the European with liquor and sex, it is because instead of seeking himself he is after forgetting and wasting himself. His practical ability to discover, to invent and to produce war material is due to his self-escape and not due to his exceptional self-control.

    His fear of loneliness, his reticence and his pursuit of money have made him unable to listen to his internal voice. His inability to rule himself is his incentive to conquer the world. That is why the European spreads confusion and chaos wherever he goes. If one loses his own soul, it is no use conquering the world. Those who have been taught by the Gospel to be the missionaries of truth, love and peace, roam about in search of gold and slaves. Instead of seeking forgiveness and justice in the Kingdom of God, as the Gospel teaches, they use their religion only to absolve themselves from their sins. Instead of preaching the Divine message, they drop bombs on the innocent people.

    That is the reason why the Declaration of Human Rights is being violated by the West. The philosophy which is followed by the people of the West in their practical life makes the failure of the Declaration inevitable.

    • American said,

      “Adam was thrown out of Paradise because of a woman. The Devil misled Eve, and it was Eve who misled Adam.” Umm no. God had given Adam authority over the land. Adam was made watchman and Adam allowed the serpent into the garden to speak to Eve. If Adam had done his job, he would have rebuked the serpent. This is what is of genesis….not that I really care, js.

  31. Sudesh Kumar said,

    The letter may as well be to be from an unknown to a known friend, with names concealed. Let us spare Almighty in our justification for our conduct.

  32. Apeksha Harihar said,

    This letter has put forward the deep rooted Indian mentality in the most simple yet effective way. I hope for the change too one day. As a girl I relateto every single line of this letter.

  33. Igirit said,

    Found the link through HumanFirst.
    This is an honest and poignant article which captures the reality of our society today- how every little form of harassment which women face and put up with today eventually adds up in a million little ways to create inhumane incidents like that cruel heinous rape.
    Keep writing and outraging!

  34. Lara said,

    I am a woman and my heart aches as I read this! What loss we as humans have created. This hurts women, yes we can see this, and it HURTS men. I have a son and as a mother I love him and I am helping him grow up so he can be in TRUE partnership with a woman and experience love.

    Thank you for taking responisbility…and some day I hope the guilt will be released for you. I have known this guilt being white and the priviledges that has given me even as a woman.

    Bless you

  35. lamia said,

    her brutal murder left me speechless, and i trembled in my body for days. is it only a matter of indian traditions and customs? the condition of women of my country are no different from that of indian women. funny how each sentence resonates in me though i was born and raised in another culture. reading your article has given me hope and relief (for the first time after her death) that at least there is one more man out there hearing our silent scream. women are changing, so are the men. the womanhood we have to take on is XS for us, and many men both in the east and in the west are aware that the manhood they have to assume is XL for them… we do not fit in the roles we are stuck in, all we need to do is to let go of the traditions and customs that have blinded us for centuries.. we need new role models, we need a brave new world, and i hear it coming.. thank you bro for every crumb of empathy you showed.

  36. Natalie Samson-O'neil said,

    We need to stop and think and be mindful of how we treat everyone and allow ourselves to be treated, won’t change overnight but we must be positive and treat people the way we feel we should be treated, a lot of interesting issues

  37. kv said,

    i am tired of it everyone feels bad of course.social norms are not the cause for rapes and murders, i was asked not to beat up my sister when i was a young boy for the same reason that i should be a ‘gentleman’ who respects women.

  38. Sudhanva said,


  39. Lion Girrl said,

    Social norms are not the cause? Social brainwashing – which is mostly unconscious – sets our standards for behavior internally, adjusts what others will urge and expect form us, make sure how we act is rewarded or punished by society… YES SOCIAL NORMS ARE THE PROBLEM.

  40. Mary said,

    Dear friend, she died on the day you wrote this letter. That was my birthday…another sister…a sister in Christ. My dear friend do not burden yourself wit guilt…we are all sinners and though Neptune may not be able to wash away guilt…one thing can…the blood of Jesus Christ…
    I write in all seriousness. if interested pl do contact me at cheeryleesa@rediffmail.com
    in love for Christ,

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