More often than not, these days I keep coming across comments like:
“Islam does not give women any rights.”
“Muslim women are oppressed beings. Their hijab does not let them progress in life.”
“Religion blocks the road to development.”
Now I am not a very practising Muslim therefore I will not claim that I represent this wonderful religion which is complete in every sense of the word. But I am a staunch believer. My belief in my religion was further strengthened by none other than the critics whose baseless and harsh comments about Islam encouraged me to study more about it. I found out many things, was able to clear many misunderstandings I had about Islam. The most important thing that I realised was that Islam is not at all a regressive religion, as many claim it is. There is a lot of emphasis laid on the importance of education of both, men and women and not only that of religious teachings but to delve in the fields of science, arts, economics, culture etc. and extract as much knowledge as your mind can hold. If one calls himself a true Muslim, his mind should be open to different opinions and he should be on a quest to quench his thirst for knowledge and wisdom instead of trying to show other people (and faiths) down. As I continue to find out more about the faith I follow, the belief that Islam is not what the extremists present to the world, instead it truly is a religion of love, peace and harmony which gives rights to everyone, even animals, grows stronger.
Anyway, here I am not going to discuss the values and teachings of Islam because a) I am not qualified enough and b) the teachings of Islam cannot all be covered in one blog post alone. What I want to discuss here is something that has been bothering me a lot lately: the position of women in Islam. According to popular opinion the teachings of Islam hinder women from progressing. So-called liberals accuse that hijab in Islam is a way of demeaning women. What I don’t understand is, how does dressing up decently stop you from moving ahead in life? How does it hinder your way to success or your educational process etc.? Firstly, if women weren’t allowed to leave their houses God would never have ordered them to observe hijab. Second, the fact that Muslim women are told to observe hijab is proof that God has not only allowed them, but ordered them to stand up and protect themselves against anyone who has any intentions of inflicting harm. The purpose of hijab is to deflect people from treating women as sexual objects instead of respecting them as a person. Observing hijab or pardah does not mean to make yourself unrecognisable by covering every inch of skin, however. A woman must be recognised as a woman. Islam does not order you to suffocate yourself completely because that is just unreasonable. A woman should cover her head, wear loose clothes, cover her arms so only her hands are visible and cover her legs such that her ankles are not visible. From what I have understood, no where does God tells a woman to hide herself and deny her identity.
Being modest is not being weak. A true Muslim woman would have a strong personality of her own, she would not allow a man, or even a woman for that matter, to define her and a true Muslim man would never try to over-shadow her as he will understand that his duty is to protect not to dominate. I will not discuss the delicacies of hijab, in a nutshell, hijab, from what I have understood, is being modest and modesty is not only for women. Men are supposed to be modest as well. In the Holy Quran, God has ordered the ‘people of the faith’, not men alone or women alone, to be modest and decent. Moreover, men are addressed before women, i.e., they are ordered to be decent before women are told to observe hijab:
“Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands…” (Qur’an 24:30-31)
Here I blame the ‘Islamists’ for presenting Islam as such a rigid and conservative religion. The monarchs of Islam’s tragic history manipulated Islamic teachings as they pleased and while allowing men to be as vile as they wished to be, they imposed unreasonable restrictions on women under the banner of religious teachings. Most of these are not at all in accordance with Islam but unfortunately, the women of the faith did not question these restrictions and accepted them instead of doing some research on religion themselves. Therefore, today women are not given share in property as per the teachings of Islam and they are discouraged from demanding their rights by none other than the religious authorities themselves. Girls are denied education when the Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) has made it obligatory on all men and women to seek education no matter what obstacles they might face. Girls are forced into marriage when according to Islam, forced marriages are illegal. In fact, if a girl is not ready for marriage the nikkah (marriage contract) is not binding. But all this is blatantly disregarded, in the name of Islam.
The true purpose of writing this blog was to highlight a few of the countless exemplary women of Islam. There personalities are the true embodiment of what Muslim women actually should be like; brave, strong, educated and refined. However, in my enthusiasm, the points I merely intended to scrape through have taken up the space. I would therefore, write what I was really going to write in the second part of this post 🙂