Did Pakistan Lose its Face by Winning an Oscar for Saving Face?
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA


As many in Pakistan celebrate the winning of the Oscar Award for the best documentary “Saving Face” by the documentary film maker of Pakistani origin, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, some argue that she has played in the hands of Pakistan bashers by giving prominence to an insignificant evil practice in Pakistani society perpetrated by a few mindless people. They also argue that it is an attempt to divert the attention of the people from the real problems which Pakistan faces on every front.

It is futile to go into the statistics of this scourge; even a single person suffering the brutality of defacement by acid for any reason is a victim of a barbaric act and one too many. For this practice to have been going on in an Islamic country and to attract so much attention is unconscionable.

The face is the most sacred part of the body. It is not just the index of the soul but also the identity of ones being. Prophet SA has forbidden slapping on face. To burn it by throwing acid and to deface it has no Islamic sanction. The hurt suffered by a person, specially a women who has to undergo this torture, is beyond imagination and expression.

Nabi SA has stated, "Ith-thakhoo Da’wathil Muzloom. Laisa bainahoo wa bain- Allahi Hijab (Au Kama Khal)." (Be wary of the supplications of the aggrieved and the oppressed before God for there is no barrier between the oppressed and Allah.) When a person places his or her face on the ground in prostration during prayers in a gesture of submission of his being before the Being of Allah, he or she becomes closest to Allah (Ch 96 V 19). When these suffering women of faith prostrate before Allah, Allah will surely notice the scars on their faces. He must be overwhelmed with his anger at the defacement of the face which He had created so beautiful.  The only way to avoid the wrath of Allah swt is to repent sincerely for this and all the other excesses we are committing on our fellow beings. We should be grateful to the plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawwad who is trying his best to restore the faces, lives and confidence of some of these victims and thus lessening the wrath of Allah on us.

More than fourteen hundred years back when the Arabs were burying their daughters alive, Prophet SA stopped this heinous practice through education and persuasion (Qur’an Chapter 81). Subsequently, Fathima (daughter of Prophet SA) became the most beloved person of the entire ummah and is hailed as the leader of the women of paradise.  A great many Muslim girls keep Fathima as a part of their name.

At a time when women were considered as properties with no souls, or were worshipped in form of deities personifying power (Durga) and prosperity (Laxmi), it was Muhammad SA who gave them their natural position as companions and comforters (Ch 30 V 21). This was an epoch- making change in gender relations that resulted in the advancement of human civilization from the Dark Age to Modern Age.

At a time when the institution of marriage was not well defined and the rich and powerful were holding many women in their custody without fulfilling their rights, it was Muhammad SA who enunciated the rules of marriage and divorce clearly to protect the rights of women both in marriage and after divorce. After giving some of these rules of marital relations Allah swt gives this warning: There were many people who were taken into serious account and given severe punishment for dereliction in observing the command of Allah and His messenger (Ch.65 V 8). Those who are aware of history know and know it well that many monarchs and dictators of the past and present were destroyed by neglecting to implement these rules of God for healthy gender relations in their own lives and in the lives of their people. We are having our own suffering because of this failing but we find it convenient to absolve ourselves of our responsibility by attributing it to something else.

Prophet Muhammad SA who was concerned about the fate of his people even in the painful moment of his death must be suffering great hurt when he gets the report of our dismal treatment of women in his grave.

Second Khalifa Umar RA has said that if you meet a person who shows you your shortcomings, make him your neighbor and you will become a better person. Unfortunately, we have the tradition of torturing and crucifying our Messiahs. Lack of good social media is the cause of the social evils that bedevil our societies. By abandoning visual media as a tool of healthy entertainment, enlightenment and social development we outsourced this job to others. The result is that our societies are living on the values preached by them. It is high time that we bring people like Ms Chinoy back to Pakistan and encourage others to create a social media that highlights the shortcomings in our society objectively without becoming a tool of misleading propaganda or unnecessary diversion. Government should exercise due control over the media to prevent its turning into a powerful force for the propagation of evil. 



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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