When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi happened to break his otherwise long silence on various issues in our country and chose to raise his voice against oppressed Muslim women, I was compelled to ponder over his concerns. A quick comparative study made me feel that being a Muslim woman, I am the most pampered of all. I am a pampered daughter, an endeared sister, an adored wife and an honored mother. Most of all I am respected for what I am.
Hijab-clad Muslim women in Gujarat staging protest against Uniform Civil Code
A glance around my beloved city, Mangaluru, shows me the participation of Muslim women everywhere along with their counterparts from other communities. Their presence is seen in the educational institutions, medical field, journalism, social work, community issues, philanthropist activities, business etc. Even when it comes to enjoying life I can see them in the forefront. In the luxurious malls, restaurants, outlets of jewelry, garments, footwear etc, I always find Muslim women thronging around with more purchase power. She definitely contributes a lion’s share to all the business in the city thereby contributing to its development. I can also see lots of Muslim women behind the wheels proudly driving their cars in the streets of my city. And the main point to be noted is that you would rarely see a Muslim woman in an old age home!
I lived in Kuwait for about 18 years and found the same scenario. In fact women are seen happier, full of energy and enjoying their lives to the fullest there. In 2015 the Global Gender Gap Report showed that 53% of Kuwaiti women participated in the country’s work force. I also learnt that Kuwaiti women played a large role in resisting the Iraqi invasion in 1990. They mobilized the dissent, started an underground resistance paper called “al-Kuwaitiya”, passed weapons through Iraqi checkpoints, collected and distributed food and medicine, and ran shelters for the sick and disabled. Thanks to the precise law of inheritance that Islam has laid, 40% of the total property in Arab countries belongs to their women.
All this would not happen if this religion did not have a clear, profound, comprehensive and practical set of laws regarding its women folk. The scenario cannot be the same if this section of society is mistreated as it is always portrayed and forced to believe. While women were treated as objects, Islam raised them from their disgraceful reality to a respectable life. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emancipated them, at several occasions reiterated the obligation of maintaining their honored position and warned men about the dire consequences of depriving women of their rights. Even in his farewell sermon he addressed the men saying “it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they too have rights over you”.
Women in the United States were not given the power to vote until 1920. While, this right for Muslim women is as old as the Prophet’s era itself. Women were given several political and societal responsibilities. They were even allowed to participate in managing important state affairs, like Shifabint Abdullah, who was appointed to the position of controller of the market during the Prophet's time. May be due to this incredible example of women empowerment during his time that the modern world has witnessed politically active Muslim women. They held the position of president/prime minister in the largest Muslim country - Indonesia, in the second largest Muslim country - Pakistan, in the third largest Muslim country - Bangladesh, and in the fourth largest Muslim country - Turkey. While the most developed super power of the world has yet to see one!
Today when Islam is blamed for some un-Islamic act of the Taliban shooting a girl for attending school, the reality is that Prophet (pbuh) has said “gaining knowledge is obligatory upon all Muslims - men and women”. Today when Islam is maligned for the Saudi Arabia’s policy of not allowing its women to drive, the fact remains that Muslim women during the Prophet’s time rode horses and camels on the same land. Apart from this policy of Saudi Arabia, which has nothing to do with Islam, their women are active in all the other walks of life. When Indian PM visited Saudi Arabia their women came out to welcome him chanting pro-India slogans. Recently, Sameera Aziz, a noted Saudi media figure has been selected as the new director of the International Mathematical Union. She is recognized as a first Saudi female Bollywood director, producer and writer.
The Prime Minister’s move of giving women their lawful rights is certainly commendable. But let him not drag a religion here to meet his own interest. I am amazed at the audacity of making ‘Muslim Women’ an election issue. Women are deprived of rights everywhere and at every time. We are living in a society that is male dominant and has a misogynist approach most of the time. The height of oppression is when a woman is made to believe that the scantier her dress is, the more independent she will be, thereby making it easier for the male chauvinist to turn her into tools they could operate. Why does this developed society still use the term ‘wine, WOMAN and music’ when it comes to enjoyment? I wonder if it is liberation or deception! The Islamic dress code that puts women in a respectable position is eyed as a sign of regression. How can a certain dress code hamper someone’s freedom and development? Not letting women to wear what they want is in fact oppression and regression. Kindly secure the rights of Muslim women by letting her wear what she wants to.
The Prime Minister should certainly make a move to secure the rights of women. Let him prohibit alcohol, the greatest evil in the society that has deprived women of love, protection and support she deserves. Ban the movies that portray women as item girls wherein they are reduced to a mere object of seducing affluent and powerful men. Stop the ads of cosmetics that bring down the morale of women while showing her that she can be successful only when her skin is fair. Eliminate the red light areas, emancipate women from sex slavery and rehabilitate her. There was a time when Shweta Basu of ‘Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii’ fame was caught in a sex racket along with noted businessmen of Mumbai. While Shweta’s name was swayed everywhere, the noted Mumbai businessmen are still unknown!
Islam as a way of life has given a practical approach for marriage laws. As a very natural phenomenon when either of the couple finds it difficult to move on in the relationship, they are given a right to terminate the marriage. Why has this right being used to meet evil ends? While men have right to terminate the marriage women too have it. In fact Islam has given its woman another special right called ‘Fasq’ wherein she can declare the termination of her marriage if her husband has estranged her for a long time. Our Prime Minister should know that so many estranged wives in our country would have really benefitted out of this exemplary law!
The problem is that women aren't aware of their rights. The so called emancipators should initiate a campaign to educate women of their lawful rights. Nothing can be gained by crying foul about the rights of women in a particular community alone. Instead, a survey should be conducted to ascertain the number of abrupt and unlawful divorces, child marriages and polygamy being practiced by different communities in our country. This will help the elevation of the status of woman. Otherwise everything is clearly seen as selfish motives of the opportunists of our time.
Now when there is an outcry about the Muslim Personal Law and our biased media is demonizing the Islamic laws they miserably fail to show that every day Muslim women in different parts of India are coming out in thousands to demonstrate against the Uniform Civil Code, favouring the Islamic Shariah. An extensive signature campaign is carried out by Muslim women and memorandums are submitted regarding the same.
The status of women in Islam is very high. Islam has given them rights that beautifully compliment their duties. There does exist a gap between the rights of women defined in the Qur'an, and that which is prevalent in the Muslim world. However, portraying Muslim women as ignorant, oppressed, regressive and submissive are stereotypical and do no justice to the large number of Muslim women who have firm conviction to the Islamic concepts which ensures their sense of self-fulfillment.