Monday, August 1, 2011

Are Muslim women inferior to men as per Shariah and Islamic Tradition?

Are Muslim women inferior to men as per Shariah and Islamic Tradition?
By Dr. Kausar Fatima
Translated from Urdu by Arman Neyazi,
When I was a student of Aalim, Faazil (religious degrees given by madrasas) I had lots of complaints from my God. I could not understand why He created us women with deficient intellect and poor religious understanding, Naquis ul Aqul wad deen? Why did he eternally ban us from going out of our houses with “W Quarn a fi Boutekunna”? I also had a complaint of ‘the men being appointed a supervisor on us, the women’. Why was every man given a higher position than us with “Al Rejalu Alaihinna Darjah” even if he is a moral deviant? Why were we given less share in property and why our evidence is taken as half of that of a man?
When I completed my Maulvi Degree, I had a book ‘Quran e Rejali Tafawwuq” which stated that in fact this world is created for the men and us women had a marginal role here. (Nauzo Billah). Litaskunu Alaiha. Had my education stopped there, for the rest of my life I would have taken Quran as a charter of patriarchal society.
When I made ‘Muslim Women’ my topic of research at Aligarh Muslim University in Ph. D, I got an opportunity of research and detailed study of all the Aayats (Quranic verses) and Rewayaats (traditions, Hadith) connected to women.
I was surprised to note that the Quran which is interpreted by the traditional scholars as having called women as possessed of deficient intellect and poor religious understanding (Naquis ul Aqul wad Deen) has in fact made women as the role models in the form of Aasia and Maryam for all the Believing (Momin) men and women. If woman is created with distorted intellect by nature, what does Messrs Men following them mean? Let us take it in another way. If “Al Rejalu Alaihinna Darjah” is taken as it is being taken commonly, my question to all the great scholars of Deen is: can a man consider himself being higher than Hazrat Aayesha (RA) or Hazrat Umme Salma (RA)? Do our scholars really think that being a woman Hazrat Aayesha (RA) is Naquis ul Aqul wad Deen? When Prophet (SAW) was taking advice of Hazrat Umme Salma (RA) in Hudaibiya, was he knowingly not paying attention to the fact that she is Naquis ul Aqul wad Deen? I was happily surprised to know that I was not the only person to take Quran as a patriarchal charter rather centuries before me Ummul Momineen Hazrat Umme Salma (RA) also had expressed some complaints like this in Sidr-e-Awwal.
One day she asked Prophet (pbuh), O’ Prophet, God always addresses men! Islamic commentators say, In reply to this, this Ayat was revealed: Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam) men and women, the believing men and women (who believe in Islamic Monotheism), the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which Allah has ordered and in abstaining from all that Allah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast) (the obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the optional Nawafil fasting), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, lying, etc. for more than 300 times extra over the remembrance of Allah during the five compulsory congregational prayers) or praying extra additional Nawafil prayers of night in the last part of night, etc.) Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).” (Al Ahzaab: 35)
Only then I came to know that not only in Quran rather in Islam as such, we, women have equal rights. When I reached this Ayat, “For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned,” all my doubts vanished. All my complaints from my God ended as now I know Quran is not a charter for men but it is a book of equality and humanity. I came to know that the rights of women were snatched in the name of the same book because of which women have got their personality back. Men tried to prove themselves higher through contrived meanings and malicious narrations (Rewayaat). They did not even bother that this handiwork of theirs affects Aasia (RA), Maryam, Khadija (RA), Aayesha (RA) and Umme Salma (RA) as well. And not only has this but even the revealed message of Islam come under threat because of this.
Hafiz Zehni has written in “Meezan e Etedaal”: For the wrong narrations of Hadith innumerable men stand responsible and not a single woman. Poor women could not have done this out of God’s fear, hence they lagged behind. Resultantly whatever Shariah had bestowed upon them was snatched cunningly by the men. As a result half of our population today is almost handicapped and under the supervision of men.
India, where Muslims have to live in a plural society, marginalisation of women has proved more fatal. Our so called Ulama’s orders have been creating more confusion in women’s minds. You would have heard of the Fatwa which says, Muslim women working is not only anti-Shariah but also Haraam. God knows why our scholars never go through the whole Ayat. The order of W Quarn a fi Boutekunna” is especially for the women of the prophet’s family. The reason behind this is given: “There, in the houses, instructions of God are revealed and the Prophet of the time imparts Hikmat and knowledge.” If even today there is a house where Ayats are revealed, and the company of the Prophet is available, I would say, not only women but men too should sit forever, till the day of judgement.
But, today when women are kept within the boundaries of kitchen and in their leisure time watch ‘Saas Bahu’ serials, I do not see any Taqwa. In fact we are a confused people. On one side we want our women to be a captive in their houses and on the other we wish them to be treated by lady doctors. Now, they should be asked if you are obeyed where from the Muslim lady doctors and teachers would come. And today if I am advocating the case of the daughters of Ummah, how it would have become possible without my getting educated?
God ordered jilbab (a long and loose-fit coat or garment worn by Arab women) and we turned that into Burqa (a tent like veil concealing the entire personality of a woman including her face). I am not ready to take ‘face’ and ‘hands’ in the category of ‘satr’ (private parts) but for the fear of the society or our men, women are deprived of the Shariah order of keeping their faces open. Although they know that during the Haj where there are lakhs of people it is necessary to keep their faces open. Till the time they had their faces open they were in a position to reproach even a highly illustrious Caliph like Hazrat Umar (RA). Narrators write the woman who had upbraided the Caliph had a flattened nose.
Who does not know Sakina bint Hussain, a woman of exemplary beauty, but no one dared to call ‘ghat, ghat’ as today the Saudi policemen from Amr bil Maaroof do when they see any noble woman with open face. Had women not been active in the society, they would not have been engaged in politics and war and participated in conversations as the woman had done with Hazrat Umar (RTA). We will be in denial of our own glorious history by depriving women of their rights.
Imam Ghazali has written in Ahya ul Uloom that the man who will obey the advice of women will be pushed into Hell upside down. With reference to Hazrat Umar (RTA) he has written another ‘tradition’: “Take advice from your women but do just the opposite of what they say as this brings progress and development.” if only he had known that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) acted on the advice of Hazrat Umme Salama (RA) when the advice of all important men had failed. Even then it is being demanded from the women to not to take part in administration.
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi writes about a “pious” Lucknow woman who used to take meals for her husband to a prostitute’s dwellings where he used to spend most of his time. This is cited as the story of a woman is considered an example of Deeni role model. According to Mr Thanvi the obedience of this “pious” woman was the talk of the town and everybody approved. No reform of men is possible till we have such “pious” women. We will have to silently tell them in their ears that Assalehato Quanetaat means to obey God and not their husbands.
I think the work of reforming the men will have to be performed by the women themselves. Lots of male exhortations have already been heard including their commands to cover faces. Now it is time for Ghuzo Basr. To bring Taqwa (righteousness, piety) in the society the Taqwa of women alone will not work. Men too will have to take the route of Taqwa. Only then we will be able to say with confidence, The believers, men and women, are Auliya' (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another”. (Tauba 71)

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