By Huzaima Bukhari
November 17, 2018
“Woman is a delicate creature with strong emotions who has been created by the Almighty God to shoulder responsibility for educating society and moving towards perfection. God created woman as symbol of His own beauty and to give solace to her partner and her family”-Hazrat Imam Ali (AS)
A prominent television anchor during an informal tête-à-tête, in a bid to establish superiority of males, callously remarked that the status of women is so low that even in the view of their Creator they were never considered a suitable species for taking on the great responsibility of a prophet or apostle, who were always men. In a misogynist society, this is perhaps not surprising since the mental attitude of the majority is to abuse and demean the very womb that gave them birth otherwise they would not have been living to pour out offensive volley of words against the fairer sex. One could retort that despite not being ‘honored’ by the Almighty with the designation of an apostle, woman was found more deserving to be endowed with a divine characteristic of creation for which men were deemed weak and the fact that prophets are given birth by women, speaks volumes about their real stature in the eyes of God.
Over time immemorial, women have been worshipped as gods, they have also been tormented in the worst possible ways one can imagine leading to centuries of struggle before they have apparently attained some notches of justice and fair play for themselves in what is understood as a ‘man’s world.’ Many deliberations have ensued as to who is superior but the truth is that these debates are quite meaningless since both genders have a significance which is peculiar to each and to my mind it is an insult to the entire mankind when one tries to subdue the other. One needs to understand that life would cease the day one sex is completely eradicated and where something is indispensable, it should be taken seriously.
The world of poetry and prose is full of praises of the female form be it a mother or beloved. Literary artists have inked pages upon pages, painters have featured them on their canvasses, sculptors have modeled clay to elaborate her countenance, stories are woven around her virtues and vices, and yet she never fails to mystify her admirers. No matter how much her persona is demonized or her repute defamed she emerges as the most sought after ‘commodity’ for men of all ages. Historians have traced women’s position with respect to their rise and fall in time in a number of treatises and one thing is seen to remain consistent-their struggle to maintain a respectable identity. Consequently a movement, better known as feminism began to take shape that has inspired a wealth of literature and in practical terms has greatly helped to unify women around the world in an effort to redeem their rights to equality and standing vis-à-vis those men, who following colonial tendency have always tried to undermine their attributes in order to keep them suppressed. It is in this context that François Poulain de la Barre said: “Everything that has been written by men about women should be viewed with suspicion, because they are both judge and party”.
Under these circumstances a few words of appreciation, kind comments and well-deserved compliments are welcomed as breath of fresh air. There is no dearth of male feminists who have stood side by side with the emancipated women, actively involved in pursuit of their rights. Their work is full of support for women and in more recent years championing the cause of liberated men who want to break the shackles of gender roles making it acceptable for men to be open about their emotions and weariness with their rigid role as the breadwinner of the nuclear family.
However, nothing can beat these beautiful words expressed by Hazrat Imam Ali (AS) while paying tribute to women. It has been acknowledged that even though women may be physically weak, they are emotionally very strong. There is heaps of evidence where women have shown fortitude in the face of multiple crises where men suffer heart attacks or strokes in just one. Due to this ability women have managed to go through the most difficult periods in life whether it relates to being a single mother, a widow, an abandoned daughter or sister. More so, according to the noble Imam, the responsibility to educate society is on women and those who oppose female education need to revisit their mindset. The mere fact that the great Imam has emphasised importance of female education reflects the true ideology of Islam introduced more than fourteen hundred years ago. After a lapse of many centuries, the West began recognizing this important reality. The same idea appears to be floated by Napoleon Bonaparte who is quoted as saying: “Give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilized, educated nation”.
The latter part of Imam Ali’s quote is perhaps the jewel in the crown where he describes woman as created by God as a symbol of His own ‘beauty’ which of course signifies the aesthetic characteristics of the Almighty, in the absence of His physical form. These traits are there so that she can be a source of consolation for her partner and her family. A deeper probe would reveal that the status of a woman in Imam Ali’s wisdom is far more important than is perceived by the world. It appears to be like the solar system, with her being depicted as the life-supporting sun around which her family revolves. Highlighting this aspect, one can deduce that with her multi-dimensional qualities, a woman has the capability of fighting on many fronts and if well-armed with weapons of education and good grooming, she can be sure to win all these battles.
There are many cases of families breaking-up or ending up in long drawn animosities, where women are given a back-seat in vital decisions. Women are essentially forgiving and the fact that they are attached with an umbilical cord to mankind makes them more sensitive to fraternal feelings which help to unite rather than create differences. On a closing note, the term ‘feminism’ may have been invented today but its foundations were laid hundreds of years back.
Huzaima Bukhari, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)