By Dr. Fawziya Al-Bakr
January 30, 2015
Perhaps the first female role model that comes to my mind is Khadija Bint Khuwaylid (may Allah be pleased with her), the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
She was a pioneer businesswoman, a leader and a housewife. It is regrettable that her role as a strong woman who defended Islam with her heart and soul has not been emphasized enough by Muslim scholars.
This is perhaps because they do not want to shed light on her strong role and paint a negative image about women in general.
Today’s statistics indicate that more and more young women enroll in educational institutions just like men.
I am talking about women in the Arab and Muslim world. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in our country, the percentage of boys and girls who enrolled in elementary schools in 2012 reached 97.3 percent.
This means the government’s investment in the education sector has paid off and almost all children can now read and write.
The percentage of young women enrolling at college has also increased and in some cases exceeded that of young men in countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Lebanon.
In the United Arab Emirates, three times more women enroll in college than men.
These women will become a gigantic economic force that will change the Muslim world and make their presence felt.
They will eradicate the traditional perception of women. When more and more women graduate and join the workforce, social changes are bound to occur.
The role of a mother and a father will not be affected because, at the end of the day, the family is the basis of any society structure.
However, the traditional relationship between a husband and a wife will definitely change and become more logical and reasonable and less male-dominated.
Women who work will be more independent and will make the suitable decisions for themselves and their families.
How can we take advantage of these changes to build a better society?
There should be regulations, bylaws and laws that require employers to provide women, especially those with children, with proper working environments.
That is to say, there should be nurseries at workplaces. There should rules and policies to prevent women from being harassed in the workplace, at supermarkets and in the streets etc.
There should also be laws protecting the rights of divorced women. Such laws should determine the property rights between husbands and wives in cases of divorce.
It is not fair that a divorced woman, who has spent most of her life with her husband, does not receive any property and cannot find a place to stay.
The social tradition that expects a divorced woman to live at her father’s house does not seem acceptable anymore, especially in light of the fact that women have become self-independent.
Homes and other properties should be divided between couples when they divorce, as is the case in other parts of the world.
The same is the case when it comes to child custody. The more suitable parent should get custody rights.
In other words, it is the suitability of the parent that should determine rights, not prevalent social and cultural traditions.
Of course, the male guardian law needs to be revised because it discriminates against women and makes them seem like slaves to men.
This law will not work with our future female generation. Muslim women all over the Muslim World are forging ahead slowly but surely and they will continue to move forward.
It is better for our societies to change and adapt instead of wasting time on discussing obsolete issues such as whether women should drive, and whether they should be allowed passports without their male guardians etc.