The third world women‚€™s specially women of Muslim countries always been inclusive of all our people and national liberation, not losing sight of the particular oppression women face in various forms of gender discriminations in today‚€™s world. At the same time we are also aware of our experience of sexism coming from our own male partners making us to say that without women‚€™s liberation national or human liberation cannot complete or fully meaningful for us. It makes us to be engaged in multiple struggles towards the realization of our goals, but we cannot afford the luxury of struggling with women‚€™s issue alone. With this complex perspective the feminist theologians come forward to encourage the women to articulate their concerns.
Why focus on the rights of Muslim women only? This question sometimes comes up when discussing Muslim women's issues. The reason women‚€™s rights in Islam need special concern is because women in Muslim countries are made to suffer disproportionately by the system. What adds insult to injury is the way they try to justify their oppression of women by calling it ‚€œIslam.‚€™ How could it be, when true Islam requires us to honor women? We have to make Women‚€™s rights a top priority if the society as a whole is ever going to be healed. .As Malcolm X said, the fate of a nation depends on how it treats it women.
Does Islam call for the oppression of Women? Non-Muslims point to the subjugation of women that occurs in many Muslim countries, especially those that claim to be ‚€œIslamic,‚€Ě While many Muslims read the Qur‚€™an in ways that seem to justify sexual oppression, inequality, and patriarchy.
An anthology of the Qur‚€™an, prepared by the English orientalist, Edward William Lane (1801-1876), was first published in London in book from 1843, It carried a forward by way of introduction to Islamic teaching, which, inter alia stated, ‚€œ the fatal point in Islam was the degradation of women. ‚€ĚSince then this remark has been regularly taken up as a stick with which to beat Islam. In fact, whenever Islamic affairs were mentioned, it became such a common observation, that not only the enemies of Islam, but also relatively fair-minded writers such as the historian, J .M. Roberts, who did justice to Islam in pointing out its virtues, mentioned it as if it were an established fact1
Because of a belief in a liberated, equitable and dignified position of women outlined in the Qur‚€™an, many Muslims, men and women alike, are calling for re evaluation of attitudes and practices that, although done in the nan1e of Islam, are actually contrary to the basic messages found in the primary sources. To question and possibly oppose entrenched positions that are based on archaic laws, weak Hadith, or cultural trends, requires courage and conviction on the part of religious leaders. But this is necessary and worth any risks in order to enable women to achieve liberation through Islam as originally intended.
In modem day societies that purport to prevail under Islamic codes and principles, the issue of women in society--their rights, responsibilities, roles and identities--is becoming of splintering concerns among human rights groups, gender and development groups, feminist groups, as well as Muslim women themselves (Ragab, 1995)2 The status of women in Islam is thus an effervescently popular issue particularly because most of the so-called Muslim nations and societies are developing ones. This i1nplies that the socio-economic and political make up of these societies are still ‚€œcolonially-structured‚€Ě (Euro-centric) and even in their post-colonial phases of development, harbor social, economic and political elitism or ‚€œenclavism‚€Ě (Shiva, 1991)3. Such structured societies tend to not only marginalize people based on class and race, but also on gender.
It is clear that the Qur‚€™anic view of women is no different than that of men. They, both, are God‚€™s creatures ,whose sublime goal on earth is to worship their Lord, do righteous deeds, and avoid evil and they, both, will be assessed accordingly. The Qur‚€™an never mentions that the woman is the devil's gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. The Qur‚€™an, also, never mentions that man is God‚€™s image; all men and all women are his creatures that arc all. According to the Qur‚€™an, a woman's role on earth is not limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as 1nany good deeds as any other man is required to do. The Qur‚€™an never says that no upright women have ever existed. To the contrary, the Qur‚€™an has instructed all the believers, women as well as men, to follow the example of those ideal women such as the Virgin Mary and the Pharaoh's wife:
Now, to be fair, we should ask: is the Qur‚€™anic position any different? One short story narrated in the Qur‚€™an sums its position up concisely. Khawlah was a Muslim woman whose husband Aws pronounced this statement at a moment of anger;‚€Ě You are to me as the back of my mother.‚€Ě
This was held by pagan Arabs to be a statement of divorce, which freed the husband from any conjugal responsibility but did not leave the wife free to leave the husband's home or to marry another man. Having heard these , words from her husband, Khawlah was in a miserable situation. She went straight to the Prophet of Islam to plead her case. The Prophet was of the opinion that she should be patient since there seemed to be no way out. Khawla kept arguing with the Prophet in an attempt to save her suspended marriage. Shortly, the Qur‚€™an intervened; Khawla‚€™s plea was accepted. The divine verdict abolished this iniquitous custom. One full chapter (Chapter 58) of the Qur‚€™an ,whose title is ‚€œAlmujadilah‚€Ěor ‚€œ The woman who is arguing‚€Ě was named after this incident:
Allah has beard and accepted the statement of the woman who Pleads with you (the Prophet) concerning her husband and carries her complaint to Allah, and Allah hears the arguments between both you for Allah hears and sees all thing ‚€¶.3
A woman in the Qur‚€™anic conception has the right to argue even with the Prophet of Islam himself. No one has the right to instruct her to be silent. She is under no obligation to consider her husband the one and only reference in matters of law and religion. The Qur‚€™an, on the other hand, never considers any woman to be the possession of any man. The Qur‚€™an eloquently describes the relationship between the spouses by saying:
And among His signs is that He treated for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them and he has put love and merry between your hearts: verily in that are sign for those who reflect. 4
This is the Qur‚€™anic conception of marriage: love, mercy, and tranquility, not possession and double standards.
Why did Muslim .societies deviate from the ideals Islam? There is no easy .answer. A penetrating explanation of the reasons why Muslims have not adhered to the Qur‚€™anic guidance with respect to women would be beyond the scope of this study. It has to be made clear, however, that Muslim -societies have deviated from the Islamic precepts concerning .so many aspects of their lives for -so long. There is a wide gap between what Muslims -are supposed to believe in -and what they actually practice. This gap is not a recent phenomenon. It has been there for centuries and has been widening day after day. This ever-widening gap has had disastrous consequences on the Muslim world manifested in almost ail aspects of life: political tyranny and fragmentation, economic backwardness, social injustice, .scientific bankruptcy, intellectual .stagnation, etc. The non-Islamic status of women in the Muslim world today is merely a symptom of a deeper malady Any reform in the current status of Muslim women is not expected to be fruitful if not accompanied with more comprehensive reforms of the Muslim .societies‚€™ whole way of life. The Muslim world is in need for a renaissance that will bring it closer to the ideals of Islam and not further from them. To sum up, the notion that the poor status of Muslim women today is because of Islam is an Utter misconception. The problems of Muslims in general are not due to too much attachment to Islam, they are the culmination of a long .and deep detachment from it.
Furthermore, we must have the courage to confront our past and reject outright the traditions and customs of our forefathers whenever they contravene the precepts of Islam. Did the Qur‚€™an not severely criticize the pagan Arabs for blindly following the traditions of their ancestors? On the other hand, we have to develop a critical attitude towards whatever we receive from the West or from any other culture. Interaction with and learning from other cultures is an invaluable experience. The Qur‚€™an has succinctly considered this interaction .as one of the purposes of creation:
O mankind We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and Made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other 5.
It goes without saying, however, that blind imitation of others is .a .sure sign of an utter lack of self-esteem Islam should be viewed .as a religion that had immensely improved the status of women and had granted them many rights that the modem world has recognized only this century. Islam still has so much to offer today‚€™s woman: dignity, respect, and protection in ail aspects and ail stages of her life from birth until death in addition to the recognition, the balance, and means for the fulfillment of ail her .spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional needs. No wonder most of those who choose to become Muslims in a country like Britain are women. In the U.S. women converts to Islam outnumber male converts 4 to 1.6
The reason d‚€™√™tre of this study is, to return to the nucleus of the Islamic legislature, the Qur‚€™anic Injunctions and the Prophetic Traditions and to help overcome the dividing line existing between the various sections of the Muslim community. The study will examine the discrepancies, which exist between Qur‚€™anic ideals and Muslim practice with regards to women and women-related issues.