By Dr. Ali Shariati
27 January 2017
In our society, women change rapidly; the tyranny of our times and the influences of institutions take her from what she is. All her traditional characteristics and values are taken away from her until they make her into a creature they want, they build, and we see that they have built. This is why the most important and relevant question for the awakened woman at this time is, ‘Who am I?’ knowing full well that she cannot remain what she is.
She does not want to accept modern masks to replace the traditional ones. She wants to decide for herself. Her contemporaries choose for themselves. They consciously decorate their personalities with awareness and independence. They thoroughly ornament themselves. They manifest a design. They reflect a sketch, but they do not know how. They do not know the design of the real human aspect of their personality, which is neither a reflection of their heritage nor their artificially imposed imitative masks. Which of these do they identify with?
The second question that arises from amidst this stems from the following reasoning; we are Muslims, women of a society who wish to make decisions through reason and choice and relate them to a history, culture, religion and society which received its spirit and origins from Islam.
A woman who is in this society wants to be herself. She wants to build herself, by herself. She wants to be reborn and in this re-birth, she wants to be her own midwife. She neither wants to be a product of her heritage nor have a superficial facade. She cannot remain heedless of Islam and she cannot remain indifferent to it.
Thus, it is natural that this question should arise for the Muslim woman. Our people continue to speak about Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). She is the youngest daughter of a household to which no sons survived. She is a girl born into a society where both the father and the family place special value upon a son.
The social order of the Arabs had passed beyond the Age of the Matriarch centuries before Islam. During the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyah), prior to the mission of the Prophet, the Arabs had established the Age of the Patriarch. Their gods had become masculine whereas their idols and their angels were feminine (that is, daughters of the great god, al-lah). The tribes were governed by ‘white beards’ and the grandfathers ruled the family. Essentially, their religion was a kind of ancestor worship as they adhered to whatever beliefs and practices their fathers had had.
The Prophets bring a revolutionary message and Prophet Muhammad is no exception to this rule. Chapter 108 of the Holy Quran is dedicated to the daughter of the Prophet:
“We gave you Kawthar, oh Muhammad For your Creator, establish the prayer and sacrifice a camel. It is he, that very hated enemy of yours who is cut-off.”
‘We gave you Kawthar, - Fatima.’ It is in this way that revolution appears in the depths of the conscience of time. Fatima, a girl, replaces a son as the inheritor of the glory of her family, maintaining the honourable values of their ancestors and continuing the family tree and credibility.
Listen to an excerpt from the poem of Ali ibn Abi Talib for his wife, Fatima the daughter of Muhammed, which he wrote on her passing.
In a society that believes the birth of a daughter to be a disgrace, which only burying her alive can purify, Prophet Muhammad knows what fate has done to him and Fatima knows who she is. This is why history looks in amazement at the way Prophet Muhammad behaved towards his young daughter; from the way he spoke with her to the way he praised her.
In some of the historic documents, it is recorded that the Prophet would kiss the face and hands of Fatima. This sort of behaviour is more than just the relationship of a kind father and his daughter. A father kissing the hands of his daughter; such behaviour in that particular environment strikes a revolutionary blow to the families and inhumane relationships of that environment. Such a relationship opens the eyes of all people, and so they gathered around the Prophet in amazement, and only some began to understand the greatness of Fatima.
This sort of behaviour on the part of the Prophet of Islam teaches humanity and mankind to come and to release themselves from the habits and the fantasies of history and traditions. It teaches man to come down from the Pharaoh like throne, to put aside his pride and rough oppression and to bow his head when confronted by a woman. It teaches a woman to reach towards the glory and beauty of humanity and to put aside her old and new feelings of inferiority, humility and baseness.