By Samar Fatany
28 March, 2015
On March 21, many countries in the Arab and Muslim world celebrated Mother’s Day with special TV shows, radio programs, newspaper articles and public events that highlighted the sacred role of the mother and her continued sacrifice for and dedication to her children.
It was very heartening to listen to special songs written in gratitude to every mother who has ever spent sleepless nights and endured hardships to provide comfort and love to her children.
Hopefully, this media campaign will raise public awareness about the sacred role of the mother. The media can certainly play a bigger role in influencing change and addressing the negative mindset toward women in Muslim societies.
“Heaven lies under the feet of the mother,” is a well-known saying in Islamic tradition. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) stressed the importance of duty and respect for mothers.
Many verses of the Holy Qur’an forbid any reproach against mothers in particular. Yet many Muslims today continue to pay lip service to the divine teachings that urge them to show kindness and appreciation toward women who are the mothers of every generation.
Muslim mothers continue to suffer due to the lack of a consensus on the legal rights of women and the marginalization of their role in Muslim communities.
The conflict between the hardline imams and progressive Muslim scholars is the reason why many Muslim communities continue to discriminate against women.
Hardline scholars refuse to integrate Islamic teachings with universal human rights and the modern role of men and women today.
The present laws that govern the lives of women in Muslim communities do not accurately reflect the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.
In Saudi Arabia the social debate about the role and status of women continues among religious scholars and reformers.
Current political and civil laws that are applied to govern the lives of women can no longer be justified in our present age.
The existing laws and regulations openly discriminate against women. The imposed guardianship rule keeps women under the control of the men in a family.
A woman is expected to be totally obedient and subservient to the male guardian who makes all of her decisions for her.
She is treated as a minor and has no power to take decisions that can affect her life and the future of her children.
Sadly many people in our society are influenced by distorted interpretations of Islamic teachings that view women as unwise individuals who need constant guidance and advice.
Women are labeled as intellectually, physically and morally inferior. Society remains male dominated; men are given absolute power and they form the basic framework for thought and action.
This situation is unacceptable to the modern, well-educated Saudi woman who is intelligent, capable and financially independent.
Accordingly, many have refused to accept any abuse or maltreatment by domineering men. Today our society suffers from a very high rate of divorce and the average Saudi family is deprived of a healthy environment which is very detrimental to the progress of society.
We live in the 21st century and technological and industrial advancements have revolutionized our way of life. There are many challenges facing the average Saudi family.
Economic necessities and social responsibilities dictate the need for many mothers to work in order to be able to provide a life of dignity and comfort for their children.
Economists affirm that investment in women is the most effective way to eliminate poverty. Women need more job opportunities and better wages to be able to survive and support themselves and their families.
When women suffer, the entire family suffers. It is time we catered to the welfare of Saudi families and created a less stressful environment in all homes.
Women members of the Shoura Council were expected to push for the elimination of the guardianship rule and amend the laws that discriminate against women.
Sadly, social injustice against women continues in the absence of appropriate and effective codified Shariah laws so that women can be aware of their legal rights.
How long do we have to wait for decision makers to implement the true teachings of Islam and influence change within Saudi society? We cannot afford to waste more time in ending the discrimination against women.
Muslim scholars are called upon to publicly reclaim Islam’s spirit of justice and respect for women who are mothers and to remember that God has placed Heaven under their feet.
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer