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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 23 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.



Total Comments (20)

  • 20 .
    Thank you Jamal Pasha, I really am humbled by your concern. But rest assured that I am not misguided by anyone.
    By Aiman Reyaz 02/02/2011 06:43:20
  • 19 .
    Aiman, do not be misguided by his suggestions. He is a munkir-e-Rasul and wants you to only follow the Quran and not hadith. He is giving you wrong messages --- to offer namaz whichever way you like. Do not bother about anybody. Stick to Quran and hadith and even take from one of the four imams if you do not find a solution in Quran and Hadith.
    By Jamal Pasha 01/02/2011 07:41:52
  • 18 .
    THank you all for helping me. May Allah shower mercy on all of you.
    By Aiman Reyaz 31/01/2011 06:56:25
  • 17 .
    Mr Haque, it is not true that criticizing or rejecting the Hadeeth undermines the position of the Prophet. His position is secure both as a Prophet and as a great leader of men. The point I make is that his prophetic message is eternal, whereas his teachings as a leader of men are time-bound and place-bound. I do not think he ever meant that we should not progress beyond 7th century Arabia. With the passage of centuries, man has become more rational, more questioning, more skeptical, less sheep-like, less bound by senseless rules and more perspicacious about similarities in basic concepts of different religions. I believe Islam is capable of absorbing all these trends and again be in the vanguard, as it was in the Prophet's time.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin 30/01/2011 13:54:58
  • 16 .

    For Mr. Aiaman Reyaz. Somehow I can’t appreciate the importance of the trifling. In my understanding, ‘abstract’ stands on a higher footing than ‘concrete’ in matters of mind –much higher rather. If one is disturbed in one’s belief, it could be because his belief is more focused on the concrete side. I for one never feel disturbed on the religious question because I believe that true religion lies more on the abstract side. Hence for me principles are more important than discrete facts and practices. 

    But I will not like to apply this principle as a standard practice because in principle (yet another principle) I don’t expect all human beings to have exactly similar frame of mine. If there are several categories, whatever we may try, some body or the other will belong to the farthest category.  Personally therefore I expect and accept the presence of such concrete-lovers in all ideological fields. So their existence does not irritate me, but I do feel sorry for them because such persons suffer from their own questions.

    Now that you have gone public with your questions it is clear that those matter to you from your faith point of view. But I can’t tell you how trifling they look to me from my faith point of view.

    Under this topic we have created a number of threads. I don’t know how your question is related to comments of Mr. Sanaullah Qasmi, because they seem to be a continuation of my reply whose essence you have completely missed and whose further continuation I was going to ignore (because sure enough you will find an answer to your questions since, as I understand, you are a young person). In fact Mr. Sanaullah Qasmi sb had responded to Janab Mohiyuddin sahib which thread also I had decided to discontinue, but since the issues have progressed, let me share that I am in agreement with Janab Qasmi sb and I do find the stance of Janab Mohiyuddin sb very often uncomfortable.

    If the central argument behind finding incongruities in the entire body of Hadiths is to undermine the position of the Prophet (PBUH), then I beg to submit that this would be a cardinal mistake from the viewpoint of any intelligent analysis, besides being potentially divisive.

    Anybody who has the slightest understanding of sociology and social history would know the role of personality and leadership in the affairs of mankind. The fact that our Prophet was able to dissociate ‘personality and leadership’ from divinity for the first time in history, only adds to his personality and does not undermine it.  Those who are trying to undermine his personality are as ignorant of his message as those who try to deify him, because clearly they have not understood the importance of his message.

     Indeed the greatest ‘muajza’ is the enhancement of leadership of man and yet divorcing it completely from divine powers, and that is why I have called the birth of the Prophet as a historical Singularity. (Please read it with Mr. Mohiuddin’s ‘exaltation of the Hadeeths may be a reflection of our unacknowledged impulse to worship the Prophet in spite of his repeated admonition to us not to do so’  which needs to be always kept in mind as a caution, but not to undermine his personality as the greatest human being, whose ‘muajza’ is now part of human history).

    This muajza is capable of lifting the spirit of man to an entirely different and majestic level where the highest human form is made to subordinate itself completely before Allah, establishing thereby monotheism in its entirety, and creating unlimited potential for the growth of mankind. This was never done before and this can never be repeated so completely,  if we see the current trend where we find so many small gods stampeding to occupy the life of man - the  worst being money (na baap bara na bhaiya,  sab se bara rupaiya).

    Now I come to the incongruities in Hadiths, even by the findings of the greatest of dissectors. What is the percentage 1%, 2%, 10%, 20%? What about the remaining 80%? Suppose those 80% are genuinely those which were spoken or done by the Prophet, don’t they carry any importance as precedence for the modern Muslims of common sense to apply  and advance their common sense further in the understanding of Quran?  Anyway this question itself is so naïve as to be looking addressed to a juvenile. Most Muslims of common sense know the answer to this.

    So I come to your question about moving of index fingers and saying of Ameen. I remember that as child I was so shy that I could not utter the word ‘Ameen’ loudly in a jamaat salah, even if I wanted to. Don’t you think such persons can be allowed to repeat the word without being loud? So both loud and un-loud can work, can’t they?

    About moving index figure, those who are not satisfied with one movement could try three. I know of a person who would go to wash his hand and he would just not be confident that he has washed his hand completely so he would go on and on. We had one word for him - ‘abnormal’. Some people think that in a ‘wudu’ doing every motion three times is a must. What is must is washing your hands and feet and face and visible orifices properly. It is expected that three times as a general rule will take care of the need to wash sufficiently. As a child I used to count, but now I don’t. I wash to my satisfaction but if I have to teach my grandson, I will tell him to count three.  Long back, I remember to have gone to a totally alien place in a remote village of Assam to attend a Friday prayer and I found significant difference in the method of praying. I simply followed the method of the Jamaat. 

    Recently I was attending a meeting in Lucknow in a five-star hotel (a God sent opportunity) on a Friday, where I had two more junior colleagues who were Muslims. We had given up on the chance of attending Juma Namaaz. Suddenly there was change in the program and we were left with some reprieve before the lunch. We decided to attend juma prayers and so we rushed out asking all and sundry to tell us where we could find the masjid. As we were rushing, it struck to me that we were in Lucknow. I told my colleagues, to which they all agreed seeing the contingency, that we are going to perform our namaz in the first masjid that we are going to hit and it could be a Shia masjid too. So we will perform namaz the way they do, although by chance I had never performed any namaz in a Shia masjid, because my preference would certainly be for Sunni masjid since the territory for me would not be unfamiliar. Luckily the masjid that we were able to reach was a Sunni masjid and I missed the chance of doing namaz with Shias.

    Anyway to cut things short, don’t you think applying common sense to such trifling matters would be the most appropriate way to begin with?

    By Manzurul Haque 30/01/2011 03:11:09