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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 Jan 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Zakir Naik's Peace TV on women as fitna (trouble)


A community whose leadership is given to women is destined to doom


By Manzoorul Haque,

Earlier this month (03.01.2011) night, in a Peace TV program, a questioner asked one Maulana (not Dr. Zakir Naik but a traditional Maulana without a suit) this question: “In view of a Hadith (quoted verbatim by him) describing woman as fitna, how far was it right for the Muslim woman to become MLA or MP?” The Maulana replied that it was un-Islamic for a woman to become MLA or MP especially in view of other Hadith (again quoted) in which it has been told that a ‘qaum’ (community) whose leadership is given to women is destined to doom.

Now I pick up this example from thousands of similar episodes where our Maulanas are found not equal to the task of answering questions on Islam and yet they claim that they have the absolute right to be the spokespersons by virtue of their ability to quote things in Arabic and the various anecdotes relating to Islam and history of Muslims, which they keep cramming and whose artistic/demagogic presentations they keep practicing.  The idea to bring out this is to let our educated Muslim brethren know about their (Maulanas’) limitations on matters of Islamic discourse vis-à-vis the rest of the world. They may be good to pontificate us Muslims with their prolific quotations of ‘mantras’, but their other limitations are serious.

Fact of the matter is that the questioner was seeking an answer to a legitimate social question which is quite pertinent to the Muslim societies.  Even the Maulana who attempted to answer the question was somewhere around the Islamic truth, but not exactly. His disability arose from his lack of understanding of the contemporary world and it rather pained me to see how fast he was making himself redundant to the society which matters to him (if not for anything, for his bread and butter or dal and roti, whatever). His lack of understanding renders him unfit to communicate on the subject with resulting double jeopardy. The questioner goes dissatisfied, though silently, because he is still under the burden of belief (which leads to another question – how long mere blind belief will support this edifice?) but worse, Islam is presented in such an incapacitated image.

To my mind the right answer would be this:  We cannot answer this question based on citation of one Hadith. We have to take a comprehensive look of the Islamic schemata arising from Quran and Sunna to come to an answer for any of these unsettled questions.

Even the understanding of the Hadith describing woman as fitna is not fully understood, so how can this instrument be used to answer another complex question? Therefore, let us first understand what this Hadith may mean, presuming that that the Hadith has been correctly quoted. Woman as fitna does not describe woman in its totality. Sure enough everyone knows that a mother is a woman. Sure enough everyone knows the place of mother in Islam (thanks to Peace TV which has given her, and rightly so, all the three medals). So how can a mother be a fitna?

But, yes, there is a context in which one can say that woman is a fitna. But there is an equivalent definition of a man also, in a similar context (which just incidentally the Prophet might have missed stating, and so it is possible that there is no such Hadith). If woman is fitna (so true), man is a ‘bheria’, (wolf) derogatively meaning a predator (so true, again)! See how?  Woman is a fitna in the mind of a man - being a source of fitna in his head. On seeing a lonely woman duly exposed or inviting (may be or may be not), he, the man, will leave aside all his important work and start prowling on her. He will seduce her, allure her (may be pay off too) and finally force himself upon her to violate her and may be in the process get caught by other men, who in sheer jealousy, will bloody well stone him to death.  See what a fitna!

 In the same context, don’t you see man emerging as a ‘bheria’ in the mind of the lonely woman who was perhaps fully chaste or maybe (as a worst case scenario) out of sheer necessity of life, wanted some cash or kind in lieu of what she could offer gracefully, but see how this ‘bheria’ made a mess of it all. To cut the story short, this Hadith had no relevance to the question and the questioner needed to be politely told so, provided further that the Maualna himself did not feel elated at the reiteration of the woman being labelled as a fitna (sure enough, while answering this, he was remembering his wretched wife back home who made him to forget his mother, since he is unlikely to have many ex-bewafa beloveds).

A qaum’ whose leadership is given to women is destined to doom

But the Maulana hit the nail on the head when he stated another Hadith which says that a ‘qaum’ whose leadership is given to women is destined to doom. This statement is generic and not specific. It contains a principle which can be interpreted comprehensively to give shape to a society as a whole.  This is the correct sociological statement of Islam. Islam does give primacy to men to run the affairs of the society. Let me speak a rustic tongue. It is either man or woman (the position of eminence). Why not man? Why should I give the reins to a woman, even if she is my mother? I will bow to her feet out of respect and love, but why should I jeopardize the whole family including her, by giving her the reins. If she is adamant to have the reins, will I beat her? No way, but I will squeeze her in my arms to keep her away from reins; she is my mother (because God has given me the physical strength to do so). But I will not allow her the reins of the buggy we are travelling in.  Will I never allow her even to touch the reins? Well this is not my position. As my companion on the rath (chariot),  I can even share the reins with her over patches of journey which are not of the rough-ride kind, where the dangers to the rath are minimal, but it is obvious that the choice of the occasions will lie with me as much as the mastery over the rein. Therefore the Islamic statement on the subject is rational, pragmatic and valid.

The Muslim women can become MLA, MP or whatever as long as the position of the Muslim men in holding the reins of the muashra (society) is not jeopardized. But if the community is facing a rough ride, as in India or in any country where Muslims are in  minority, and are not in a position to set the social agenda by repelling the anti-Islamic social and family practices, Muslim men are in principle right in curtailing the space available to the women in matters of control.  Those forces that fight against the Muslim men on behalf of the Muslim women can clearly be labelled as anti-Islamic in the core.

A regular commentator on, Manzoorul Haque is a writer and lawyer based in Patna, Bihar.