By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam
06 October 2016
A Muslim woman is not allowed today to work outside her home .So it is banned for her to seek a job in a company office, organization, school or so. Fatwas issued by Islamic seminaries in India brazenly suggest this sexist view of our clergy. More agonizing is the fact that our muftis most of the times, give these Fatwas without any consideration to consequences they may create in the given situation, where the state is not a welfare one and when the Muslim community itself is not caring much for its poor , down trodden and needy sections such as divorcees, orphans and handicapped people. Likewise our muftis say that travel of a Muslim woman without any Mahram محرم is prohibited in Islam. While Ahadees like that have their particular geographical context, their intent was never meant in absolute terms, so there should be a new reading of such texts, yet our clergy are not ready to do this due job, they simply read all such texts literally and thus do repress all Muslim women.
In his eye opening article titled “Shahida at home, Shyamoli at work” published in Deccan Chronicle (18 September 2007) Sosenjit Guha has depicted the picture of umpteen Muslim girls and women’s wretched conditions in Kolkata. It aptly details their sad, poor and miserable life. Which they are compelled to live, in which more often, they are needed to even change their name and identity to earn a livelihood to sustain them and their poor families. And it is not a particular case with Kolkata only. Same is the case of most of Muslim women of rural India, especially in poor and lover middle class families. Now contrast this ugly and sorrowful state of affairs with the above said Fatwas, if these women abide by them, then what options they would have?
The argument for this open encroachment of a woman’s rights goes like that: ‘’home is the natural place for a woman, so she is required by Sharia law that she keep herself in curtains, serving her husband ,rearing children and looking after her day to day household affaires’’. Even she is generally not allowed to visit mosques and pray there, which is a clear violation of a Hadis, entitling her to visit mosques. Yes, they allow her to go to school with the condition that she should cover herself from head to toe. This custom is prevalent in traditional Islamic households wherein Muslim women are supposed to abide by this religious ruling as perceived by the clergy. It seems that there is no room for the women to have interests in outside world, no space for them to think in socio-economic issues and to participate in intellectual or political activities and thus they are supposed to be out of all kind of struggle for quest of justice, equality and equity for human being. This attitude is generally substantiated by citing some verses from the holy Quran and by bringing in some Ahadith which are read literally and often are taken out of their true context.
Another pretext is given citing the current position of women in the West, where ,they say, she has been made a mere sex object and is being exploited more and more by men .And where family life is totally in ruin etc.
Now the outcome of this medieval mindset is that either Muslim woman, prefer under the pressure of the society, to be behind the curtains, or be dubbed less practicing and less regarding to religion when they venture to go out and dare to do something cherished by their hearts yet not sanctioned by the religious policemen.
The question is that could it be a normal practice of Islam? God made this world only for men? What was the actual position in prophetic era? How can you justify that God is a biased one for His own female children?
When to find an answer to these questions we refill the pages of our history we find that no doubt Islam brought to women their dignity, freedom, justice and equality. It infused in them a sense of self confidence and a seeking sprite of truth and hunger for knowledge. That is why in early Islam a woman is seen participating in all the vibrant social activates, say, learning knowledge, propagating it even teaching men for that matter, participating even in war zone and political arena. In prophetic era Hazrat Ayesha as first lady of Islam not only was a great Aalima having deep knowledge of Quran and Hadith, but was enjoying an expertise in areas of Arabic poetry, medicine teaching and jurisprudence. Among other prominent women figures of that time include the names of Umme Salma, Safia, Umme Hani, Khaola, Umme Darda et al, who were but a few names to be mentioned in this regard.
One observes when one studies Sirah (prophetic biography) and history literature that Muslim women from prophetic era to at least 10th century (Hijra) were engaged in all the walks of life and especially they were contributing to the fields of Hadith and Fiqh and other Islamic sciences. An Oxford scholar Dr. M Akram Nadwi worked on the project Muhaddisat (محدثات) which is still going on. During his deep research he found more than ten thousand women scholars, writers and great teachers of Hadith and Fiqh etc. Women were teachers of great imams, jurists and prominent hadith scholars specifically in Egypt and Syria and in other parts of Muslim world too. After tenth century the situation was totally changed, due to partly Ghazali’s immense impact on latter Muslim mind, and partly due to Greek logic and philosophy being taken over all other subjects that were once commonly taught in Islamic madrasas all over the Muslim world. Here it is to be noted that Ghazali was having a negative approach towards women.
The first lady of Islam, the great Aisha even led the army in Jamal battle to take a revenge of Hazrat Usman, the third caliph of Islam who was butchered in cold blood by insurgents. A lady Fatima Al-Fehria built a university in Qairawan (Africa). Zubaida the wife of Harun Al-Rashid built the famous Zubaida River from Baghdad to Makka. There were Muslim princesses throughout Muslim history who accomplished great achievements in building, in arts and in literature.
Muslims in south East Asia generally follow the Hanafi school of Fiqh. There is a famous book of Hanafi jurisprudence which is still taught in all the madrasas of sub continent, namely Badaeus Sanaie (بدائع الصنائع).It is written by a great Hanafi jurist Imam Alauddin Al-kasani. There is a very interesting story how this book was penned down. In fact Kasani was a disciple of Abul Lais Samaqansi, a great jurist of his time, whose daughter Fatima Al-Samarqanidia was a very beautiful young lady. Along with that she was a brilliant, intelligent as well as a bright scholar of Fiqh too. Kasani fell in love with her. Once he came to her father and proposed her to be his wife. The teacher said, ‘’Ok but she was more capable than you ,so you have first do something which entitle you to be her husband” Kasani promised to do so, then he started writing the above said book, the Badaie; which was written to win a great and vibrant lady scholar of jurisprudence.
To sum up the available material in this regards we can say with full confidence that it is not Islam per se, which degraded women. Rather it is we Muslims, who are still living under a tremendous socio-political and religious pressure of our ignorant clergy, who did this sin and continue to do so without any shame.
An occasional contributor to NewAgeIslam.com, Dr. Mohammd Ghitreef is the director of Foundation for Islamic Studies, New Delhi
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