I’ve been thinking about this particular subject quite a bit lately… women’s rights, especially Muslim women’s rights, is a big thing now. People like Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and Amina Wadud are all aplauded by the Western media because they ‘dare’ to ‘speak out against discrimination of women in Islam’. People call them ‘heroines’, ‘examples of strong Muslim women’, etc. And why? Because under the guise of ‘reforming Islam’, they are trying to destroy it. They accuse the Qur’an and Sunnah of being ‘misogynistic’, of being discriminatory against women, of treating women as ‘second-class citizens’. And what’s worse is, many Muslims actually support them, too.
Reading about people like them makes me cringe. But sometimes I can also sort of understand where they’re coming from. In their calls for ‘reform’ they cite examples of things in the Muslim world that DO discriminate against women. But the thing is, those things are cultural practices, not accepted by Islam. Like honour killings, or forcing girls into marriage, or the ‘blood-on-marriage-sheet’ virginity test… all of these things are CULTURAL PRACTICES, not Islamic ones – even if people use the name of Islam to justify those practices. Yet it is because of these things that people the likes of whom I mentioned above get away with saying what they say and doing what they do.
And this raises a very important question: what are we going to do about it? By ‘we’ I refer to the Muslim Ummah in general, and Muslim women specifically.
There are two things that we must do: First, fully acknowledge that we DO have these problems. Many people refuse to believe that these things are happening, and others just turn a blind eye to it because, well, it’s one of those cultural taboo issues.
The second thing we need to do is, after raising awareness of these isssues, we have to sit down and think about how to solve these issues, ISLAMICALLY. Then we stop talking and actually DO SOMETHING.
So: how do we solve these issues? We need people from the different cultures – Arab, Pakistani/Indian, African, etc. – to come forward, really learn about Islam and what it has to say on the different topics, and then go back out there and start teaching the people of their culture that many of the things they’re doing are Islamically incorrect. Forget about Da’wah to the non-Muslims; it is Muslims themselves who are in dire need of it. We need people who speak the language, know the culture, and know how to communicate with their people. We need both men and women to do this job, because both men and women play a role in carrying out these cultural traditions.
Furthermore, we need to establish Islamic support groups, so that those people – especially girls – who feel that their family or whoever is trying to impose unIslamic things on them have others to turn to, people who will sympathize with them, try to help them, improve their situation, and at the very least, will show true Islamic love for them, thus strengthening the bonds of Islamic brother- and sister-hood.
Also, I think that Muslim women – REAL Muslim women, who really practice Islam and wear proper hijaab (as in, not just a flimsy little piece of cloth paired with tight pants and shirts and faces caked with makeup) – need to start getting really active in their local Muslim communities. We need more women studying Islam (as in, actually going to Islamic universities) and providing strong foundations for their Muslim communities, especially in working with fellow
Muslimah women and teenagers, who have a LOT of problems that need to be addressed and dealt with. Women whose role models are the Ummahaat al-Mu’mineen (Mothers of the Believers, used to refer to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), the Sahaabiyyaat (female Companions of the Prophet), Maryam Umm-‘Eesa (Mary, mother of Jesus), and Aasiyah the wife of Fir’aun (the Pharoah mentioned in the story of Moses): these are the women whom the Ummah is in desperate need of. Stop taking Oprah, J. Lo, and Tyra Banks as your role models, and start taking the great Muslim women of the past as your role models!
O Muslim women, where are you? Why do you not aspire to be like those women whom God has said were the best women in the world? Aasiyah, Maryam, Khadijah, Fatima… chosen by God and purified and raised in status above all other women!
Where are the Aasiyahs, the Maryams, the Khadijahs, the Fatimas, of today? You want to know why Muslim women are viewed as poor, oppressed, brainwashed slaves? It’s because we, the Muslim women of this Ummah, have strayed from the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is because WE have stopped aspiring to be like the great women of Islam in the past. It is because WE have been content with seeking the material things of the Dunyah, of this world, that will be of no use to us when we die. It is because WE have stopped seeking that which will lead us to Paradise. It is because WE have allowed others to take advantage of us; because WE have not educated ourselves regarding our roles, our rights, our responsibilites, in Islam.
If we are to blame anyone, we must blame ourselves. No one is responsible for our situation but ourselves. So now, let us stop complaining about our situation, and do something about it. Let us educate ourselves about our religion, and let us go out and do as the Ummahaat al-Mu’mineen did, as the Sahaabiyyaat did. Go out there, and educate others. Work with your fellow sisters in Islam, teach them their religion, help solve their problems, provide support, and strengthen the bonds of sisterhood in Islam. And in this way, we will improve ourselves, and the Ummah, and THEN we can expect our sad situation to change for the better – insha’Allah. After all, God helps those who help themselves.
May Allah help us all become better Muslims, and help us help make the world a better place, and improve our situation as an Ummah, and make us successful in this world and in the Hereafter… Ameen!