By Alagie Manneh
A number of Gambian scholars including leading imams have criticised the appointment last week of female cadis, describing it as “un-Islamic”.
They said while Prophet Muhammad championed women’s rights and Islam recognises women’s unique contributions to family and society, it is not permissible to appoint a woman as a judge or cadi.
“Islam doesn’t appoint women as cadis,” Imam Chebo Cham of Tallinding Islamic Institute, said. “The characteristics that make up a man are entirely different from those of a woman. So many things make a woman’s mind to wander, and tricking a woman is easier as they are more emotional than men. Truth be told, I have never seen anywhere where they appointed a woman as a cadi.”
He said women and men have clearly defined designated roles in society. “So, this type of a role was never for them. That is why of all the prophets that came, none of them was a woman. Why didn’t Allah put a woman there? That is why people should be careful,” he cautioned.
“Allah did not give this post to a woman. Allah knows that a woman cannot handle such a position and that is why He never gave it to them,” he said, describing the appointments as an appeasement to the 50-50 equality campaign.
“In a hadith we should all hearken to, the prophet said that a people will not prosper whose affairs are in the hands of women. He said those people will not prosper,” Imam Cham stated.
Speaking along the same lines, Dr Alhagie Ndure of Al Hikmah University, Tallinding said: “Allah said in the Qur’an, in Sûrah an-Nisâ that ‘men are the protectors and maintainers of women’. That simply means that in some sensitive positions, men should be the ones who should run things and women must be under them. For that reason, it is not allowed in Islam for females to be appointed as judges.”
Some commentators have argued that women should be appointed as judges especially if they have the academic pedigree, however, Dr Ndure said in Islam, considerations are not always about qualifications.
“The issue is not just about education. Women are not like men in their fitness, in their mentality and other things. So, for that reason, for example, if a female judge is appointed, there will be some period she cannot attend court due to certain conditions like the monthly menstruation, and also during childbirth. In short, because of all these things, it is not allowed in Islam for a female to be appointed as a judge,” he said.
‘Yes, they can’
But Omar Jammeh, the imam ratib of Bakau, argued that there is no single verse in the Qur’an prohibiting the appointment of female judges.
“There is no issue with it,” he told The Standard. “Let them tell us what a man knows that a woman doesn’t know in this deen. Aisha was a woman. A greater part of Islamic lore was sourced from this woman. If a woman has the education, she can make it work. Yes, Islam allows it.”
He asked why Islam would allow a woman to study and learn Islamic jurisprudence when she cannot adjudicate. “This is in fact a good thing, so that women will see that the divide between them and men is narrowing and that the 50-50 that they have been calling for is attainable. But I must add that absolute 50-50 cannot apply in all spheres.”