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Women - Sheikh M Moerat

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During the time of ignorance, before the advent of Islam the position of the woman was no better than that of chattel as if she were a piece of property. She had no rights and could be passed on from father to son as part of the inheritance. With the advent of Islam the status of the woman was uplifted and she was placed on an equal footing with the male, nay higher, because the Prophet (SAW) has said that "Paradise lies at the feet of thy mothers".

THE HOME AN INDEX OF STABILITY IN SOCIETY

Islam regards the home as the unit of society. The sum total of human happiness under ordinary circumstances is determined by the happiness which prevails in the home and the stability in the home is an index of the stability in society and its civilization.  As the male and female together make a home, it is on RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR POSITION AND RELATIONS that the happiness and

stability that the home depends.

 

 

BASIC NEEDS OF ANY HUMAN BEING

To facilitate the discussion on what this right understanding is, we should consider the basic nature of man and the needs that moti¬vate him. These needs or motives can be divided into two categories.

a) The lower or animal desires: these are bio¬logical needs i.e.

i) food,

ii) clothing

iii) security

b) The higher nobler desires

The desire for progress is an essential char¬acteristic of man and is not shared by the lower animals. True religion, good company and virtuous injunctions will transform man's natural inclinations into higher morals. The perfect guidance for mankind, the Holy Qur'an, first had to reclaim mankind from savagery and make them into good men , then teach them excellent morals and make them into good men, and finally to take them to the highest pinnacles of advancement and make them godly. The Holy Qur'an states: "And those who strive hard for Us, We shall certainly guide them in Our ways. And Allah is surely with the doers of  good" (29:69). A baby is born with a special quality. In order to become a full human being, to develop properly and attain nearness to Allah, this quality has to be developed. To help us in this respect Allah Almighty has implanted in us certain urges or desires.

These are:

i) The desire for achievement and artistic creation;

ii) The desire for knowledge;

iii) The desire for moral goodness; i.e. to imbue ourselves the attributes of Allah in all our deeds and relationships.

iv) The desire to search for an ideal

This search for an  ideal is the most impor¬tant motivating factor in our personality that determines whether we will become just a passive preacher or a creative Mu'meen. Every person yearns for a better world and adopting the means to achieve this goal is his ideal. Our ideal however is Allah whom we must Love, Obey and Serve in order to transform our personality. The liberation of our women requires the joint effort of husband and wife to form a living relationship with Allah. The develop¬ment of the man and the woman must be fostered on the basis of the four urges men¬tioned earlier on in an Islamic environment in the home.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THESE DESIRES ARE NOT MET BY THE HUSBAND

When a woman enters into marriage we find in most instances that these higher needs are not promoted by the husband. It becomes extremely difficult for the woman to carry out her duties imposed upon her by Islam. She will not develop her full potential as a human being who strives to attain the high¬er aims in life. Life becomes mere drudgery and she is unable or unwilling to seek the knowledge which is incumbent upon every male or female. This passivity is the result of continuous indoctrination and oppression over generations by men and certain igno¬rant leaders.

MISINTERPRETING QUR'ANIC VERSES AND AAYATS

"And women have rights similar to those against them in just manner, and men are a degree above them" (2:228) The words "and men are a degree above them" do riot nullify the rights of women. It merely means that the husband has been given this "degree" in order to manage the affairs in the home, assigned to him because the woman has been given to him as a trust from Allah(SWT). In Surah Un Nisaa, verse 3 Allah's meaning becomes clearer. "Men are the protectors and main¬tainers of women because Allah has given one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the right¬eous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husbands) absence what Allah would have there Women shoulder the burden of family duties, especially raising children, and there¬fore they should not have the additional obligation of providing the means of living. Obedience here refers to the wife's obedience to Allah. These verses cannot therefore be used as a basis for undermining the status or dignity of the women. The incorrect applica¬tion of these aayats lead to the exclusion and isolation of women, not so much physical iso¬lation but mental and spiritual enslavement. Women were even discouraged from attending the mosques ostensibly to prevent them from coming into contact with men. Uncontrolled intermingling of sexes are not encouraged but when it is for the sake of education or ibadat, and provided the women are dressed accordingly and con¬ducts herself in a dignified matter then there can surely be no evil in it. Preventing women from seeking knowledge and confining her to the home is worse than intermingling. Yet these same men allow their wives and daughters to go out shopping, to work and to the beach with bare legs and bare heads where they mix freely with strange men. Boredom and lack of purpose leaves such a great vacuum that it would lead to a life of pleasure-seeking with no desire to seek the higher aims in life, to give proper guidance and to be a model to children. Consequently amongst Muslims, the use of drugs and alco¬hol is increasing and permissiveness is on the rise.

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EDUCATION

Nabi Mogammad (SAW) said: "The search for knowledge is the duty for every male of female". In the past many women became famous religious scholars, writers, doctors and teachers in their own right. Two such examples are Sayyidah Ayesha (RA) who reported more than 1000 Ahadith. Shaighah Shughdah lectured publicly in one of the principal mosques of Baghdad to large audiences on literature, rhetoric and poetry. Contrast this with the position of women today who make very little contribution to society. Modern education nowadays emphasizes the importance of informal education and stress the value of a good model in the home and outside. Yet we know that 1400 years ago Islam brought its vision of education which can be summarized by the sayings of Shawkey Bay: "Al ummu madrassatun" -The mother is the school! He underlines the fact that the upliftment of the children, the family and the nation is conditional upon the right and proper education of the woman and mother. The task of educating our women is an issue which must be fully addressed by the Islamic Council and the community. Although Muslim women are better educated today, the mainspring of this education has its sources outside of Islam and is not directed at the overall needs of the Muslim Community.

POLYGAMY

A limited polygamy has been permitted by the Holy Qur'an under exceptional circum stances but this practice is being abused. It was intended as a remedial measure when wars were forced upon Muslims resulting in the killing of men leaving widows and orphans. Islam provided this solution so these women and children may be provided for otherwise these women would have been forced onto the streets. Thus it was more for the sake of protecting the women and chil¬dren because the men "were not inclined to marry them (widowed women)" (4:127). Today men would rather marry single women with no children thus shirking their responsibility to the first wife and his chil¬dren. In most cases they totally abandon the first family thereby creating the very prob¬lem that polygamy was to remedy. These abandoned women are forced into the work place to maintain themselves and their chil¬dren because the husbands did not provide adequately.

MARRIAGE

Although in Islam the basis of marriage is Mutual respect, co-operation and love, none of these principles are upheld in many mar¬riages today. Most husbands feel that com¬panionship and affection towards the wife is unimportant as long as they provide a house, food and clothing. Children grow up with the attitude that the most desirable woman is one who is attractive and caters for the husband's needs only. The Holy Qur'an came to liberate women from regard¬ing themselves and being treated as sex objects. The modern West amply demon¬strates that once the dignity of women is undermined, the whole fabric of society degenerates.

CHILD REARING

The Qur'an says that child-rearing is so vital that every effort must be made to help the mother, to the extent that the burden of earning money has been taken away from women and shifted to men. The man is reminded that the woman is given to him as a trust and he must guard and develop that trust. It is fairly certain that child-rearing will remain secondary to other careers in the minds of our girls it no affection and help is given to the wife.

DIVORCE

Islam came to limit the exercise of divorce by the male and granted the same right to the female. Marriage is a holy bond, a con¬tract between two equal parties with equal rights in the marriage and their functions clearly defined. All forces that can under¬mine the security of the family e.g. adultery, prostitution and family abuse are stamped out. In our society men all to readily take more than one wife and all thoughts of jus¬tice and fairness is furthest from his mind. Treating both wives equally is not done resulting in one wife being left without help or recourse to justice. Counseling and moral Support is non-existent in our Muslim communities. Added to this is the alarming practice of divorces being granted to men without con¬sultation with their wives for no other rea¬son that the man suddenly wants to take another woman. The wife and children's rights are not protected because the sunnah of divorce are not adhered to.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion it is clear that the low position of our women is not so much due to the west, but rather to the ignorance and mis¬conduct of Muslims themselves. If we ele¬vate the woman, we elevate the nation; keep the women down and the nation goes down. We must strive to bring about a fundamen¬tal change in our society. Here I request our women to take the initiative by changing our perception of ourselves and our roles in society. We must clearly define our role according to Islam and not according to Western Concepts. Finally, having become better equipped, we should strive to change conditions in the home with mutual consultation and respect and not in the spirit of confrontation.

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