Today is international women's day...if you didn't already know.
While we constantly hear that women in Islam are oppressed shocking statistics are emerging in respect to the abuse of women in the west.
It seems that according to a recent survey violence against women is "an extensive human rights abuse" across Europe with one in three women reporting some form of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15 and 8% suffering abuse in the last 12 months. Abuses against women are also among the most under reported crimes, so the real numbers are probably much higher.
You can read more in this Guardian article on the subject:
Another shocking statistic to emerge is what is be dubbed gendercide. The socking imbalance in baby girls being born especially in some third world countries where a simple and relatively cheap scan can allow families who want a boy to have a female child aborted.
It seem South Korean has managed to reverse the trend by improving womens education and position in society to make having only boys look rather old fashioned.
The Economist has an excellent article on this topic:
The Prophet Mohammed had to deal with a very similar dire situation, and an even more brutal one, in pagan Arabia, where it was a widely practiced custom to take one's daughter into the dessert and bury her alive!
This was mostly out of fear of poverty, and women seem to be the least useful members of society where much depended on a tribes ability to muster men to fight. There was also the fear of women being taken as captives of war and the dishonour associated with that.
The Quran mentions the common attitude to the birth of a female:
"And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief. He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide."
Surah An Nahl 16:58-9
The way that Prophet Mohammed dealt with this injustice was all tied to a comprehensive and far reaching change in the way people think about life, it's purpose and goals.
The reality that what one does, everything that one does, will be accounted for. God is the one who provides for all, and life in the end is a test: Will one believe and be good, or take a path of ease and disobedience? Women were firmly placed on the same footing as men, with equitable rights under the law and both equally responsible as spiritual beings to worship God, to seek knowledge and participate in the running of the community. Some of the greatest and most respected figures among the early Muslims where women. Respect and honour of one's mother was made one of the greatest duties of a believer, and kind treatment of one's wife a sign of true piety. Those who raised daughters in Islam where promised a special honour of closeness to the Prophet Mohammed himself on the day of judgment, protection from its horrors and entry to paradise:
It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever has three daughters or three sisters, or two daughters or two sisters, and takes good care of them and fears Allah with regard to them, will enter Paradise.”*
(Narrated by Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh, 2/190)*
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever takes care of two girls until they reach adulthood, he and I will come like this on the Day of Resurrection,” and he held his fingers together.
Narrated by Muslim, 2631.*
Ibn Maajah (3669) narrated that ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “Whoever has three daughters and is patient towards them, and feeds them, gives them to drink and clothes them from his riches, they will be a shield for him from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.”
Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah
Sadly in the Muslim world today there is a return to the ways of ignorance. The noble teachings of the Prophet and the guidance of Allah has been abandoned, or perhaps never even practiced by some in the first place. Some look for solutions in the western modle of feminism, but as the statistics above seem to show, the modle has not really succeeded at all. In fact we find increased sexualisation and exploitation of women, and as the survey which I linked to above, shocking levels of physical and sexual abuse. At the same time society has managed to make men feel increasing emasculated. One wonders if there might be a causal link between the two.
Many of us who have been involved in the problems of the Muslims here in the west have heard stories of educated western Muslim women being married off too often poorly educated cousins from "back home". The result is sometimes (of course not always) being very unfortunate, with these men physically abusing their wives. Of course, this is all far from the teachings of Islam on kindness and gentleness to one's wife, but the explanation that is often given is that this is the only way these men can seem to find to express their masculinity. Is this perhaps what is being played out on a wider scale in Western society as the the very natural and ultimatly biological roles for which men have been made are increasingly shown not to be their preserve at all as women confidently assert the ability to perform just as well if not better than men in many fields?
Although many of the aims and objectives of the femininst movement have noble and praiseworthy objectives as Muslims we cannot accept that the solution lies in this direction. Rather the real answers are in practicing Islam properly and fully, in letter and in spirit. Considering that the one thing most people in UK know abut Islam is that is oppresses women it seems paradoxically many Western women are finding the liberation they seek in submission to the will on the One true God, by following the religion of Islam. Islam seeks a balance and haromny in the male / female interaction, that demands sacrifice and contstraint by both for a noble and common cause and goal, rather than the confilict model that seems to often to dominate the discourse at this time.
Perhaps it is time to rethink why the message of Islam is so powerful for women in the world today and understand how Islam truly liberates women.
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