The Women had been subject to deplorable treatment from generations and was regarded as an object of beauty at some place and as inferior and children producing machines at the other. Oppression, exploitation were the daily stories of women across the world. Women were exploited in an unusual way to suit societies wishes and whims.
In China (6000 BCE), women were regarded as inferior creation. The Confucianism didn’t allow women even to cook meals for some days during a month. Confucius regarded women as impure and dirty. The Chinese, though champions of animal rights would frame laws for protection of animals, were arrogant with regard to enhancing the circle of rights and raising the status of women. The Indian society was not less harmful in the matter. A widow in Indian society was regarded as a misfortune and a devil. She could not wear new or colourful dress, oil and comb her hair and touch any child as her touch was regarded as a bad omen . She was forbidden to attend parties whether in neighbourhood or within his relationship. Under such circumstances, she would prefer to die once in funeral pyre than to die hundred times a day. She was practically forced to perform the custom known as sati where under she had to jump in to the funeral pyre and burn herself alive with her deceased husband. The custom was voluntary in theory but compulsive and barbaric in practice. There is not a single example where a male has been cited to have burnt himself alive with his deceased wife.
In Iran, a philosopher named Muzdak pleaded that wealth and women are the two ills that create conflict and trouble in society and therefore both need to be equally distributed. This equal distribution was regarded as the foundation stone of the progressive society. The king of Iran removed all restrictions in his harem khana and it was declared a common wealth and open for all . In other words a woman was declared like a river where any body can come and quench his thirst .
In Saudi Arabia, infanticide was practiced, infant girls were buried alive in the hot deserts to save honour of parents and the family . A girl child was regarded as a sign of disgrace ,insult and humiliation.
In some parts of Syria, women were kept on highways to welcome and entertain the travellers voluntarily. Here again word “voluntarily” was exploited and was a matter of compulsion. When Syria came under Roman Empire, things took an uglier turn. A concept of two angels, Lulu and Astaroth, was introduced. It was declared that humans had to bath the idols of the duo with the blood of young girls to avoid misfortunes and for bringing luck. Thus thousands of young girls had to be sacrificed for what they regarded as holy bath or way of salvation.
The Greece reputed for producing reputed philosophers in different fields had a female goddess in skies named Pandora. Pandora was regarded as a goddess of destruction with scattered hair on her shoulders. The Greeks ascribed all destructions and misfortune on the earth like floods, fire , earthquakes, droughts, wars, uprisings and spread of diseases to this goddess . “She would spread epidemics and plague, destroy crop, and bring all miseries to mankind” was their belief. In order to avenge her, the poor female folk was targeted, tortured, scolded, castigated and tongue- lashed .The females in Greece were punished to avenge Pandora.
In short, it was women who got sacrificed at the altar of superstitions.
It was Islam that worked for emancipation of women. But European powers, after seeing the impact of Islam, started to change the scenario. They, in reaction to Islamic impact, declared that they shall, in real sense , work for real emancipation of women. They declared that women have always been exploited and Islam too has imprisoned her within four walls, placed her under man’s domination, compelled her to be in veils, humiliated by encouraging polygamy and restricted her movement an disallowed her to enjoy freedom quite contrary to those of men. They created confusion among female folk by advocating “no baby policy” Thus the purpose of creation got disturbed.
Here, it is important to understand the purpose of creating human beings of opposite gender by Allah. There is a logic a logic to it, which will keep running this universe till eternity.
We use manufactured products in accordance with the directions in the given manual. We can’t wash or dry our clothes in refrigerator, nor can we preserve eatable in washing machine. Similarly, we can’t expect a human being either to perform like an angel or work as a beast. We must see what for the product has been manufactured. One has to see the purpose of creation or purpose of invention. Whether we buy an aeroplane or a car, a machine or any product; we see directions of the manufacturer in the manual before using it, keeping in view, the purpose of the product. Why don’t we ponder a bit over how and why men and women were created? Allah SWT created man on the earth . Allah SWT bestowed him with a partner. Former was entrusted with the duty of administrator and latter the Manager. Both were bestowed with a brain and a heart but with a difference. Men were made rational and women emotional purposefully. So, in men. brain took first command and heart the second, but it was vice versa in women where heart took the first command and the brain the second . Allah shaped them differently with differences in biology. Women were made biologically fit to give birth to children, bring them up and provide them comfort with their tender and soft hands. Heart took first command because of being made emotional. Had they not been made so emotional, how could they sacrifice their comfort for soothing their crying babies and how could they remain hungry till they see their children are properly fed . A mother , by nature, being emotional remains alert all over the day and night to comfort her children.
A man has a labour instinct prevailing. A man has to work outside to earn and it is mandatory for a man to earn and feed the family.
Rationally speaking it is heart that motivates for sacrifice and a brain always thinks about profit and loss. Whether to jump in the fire or not is something that comes from brain but heart or emotions says don’t think, but jump; as Dr. Iqbal said,
be-ḳhatar kuud paḌā ātish-e-namrūd meñ ishq aql hai mahv-e-tamāshā-e-lab-e-bām abhī (Love fearlessly jumped into the fire of Namrud Intellect is absorbed in the spectacle from roof‐top still)
When Prophet Abraham (AS) was ordered to jump in fire; the brain was put in a state of confusion and heart took the lead and made a decision. This sacrifice has been the result of feelings that come from heart and not from the head.
There are many stereotypes about how Muslim women are treated but it is actually the specific faulty cultural and political practices that are responsible for such acts.
Now let me try to see criticism of Islam with regard to status of women and justify Islamic view point :
Islam Doesn’t Order Polygamy
Islam is primarily criticized for verdict of polygamy; keeping four wives at a time which is widely opposed especially by the so-called open-minded people.” How can a man with more than one wife maintain justice among his life partners?” remains a common question that keeps the tongues wagging. The justification for allowing such marriages which is know as polygamy are : a) Islam does not order for polygamy but only permits it. Order is something that is obligatory but permission only allows and does not command. Had it there been a command then every Muslim male would have married likewise. Whether each male Muslim would have married or not, it was definite that every preacher and every Mullah would have at least compulsorily opted for four wives, which is not the reality. b) Polygamy in Islam is allowed in the interest of society because there arise demands for polygamy. Firstly girls attain the age of maturity earlier than boys/ Even when boys attain desirable age for marriage, they wait till they become earners to get financial security. Thus when a good number of girls are awaiting marriage, boys seem yet not ready to marry. This waiting of boys for becoming worthful spouse adds to the number of unmarried girls. Secondly male face more accidents in factories, mines and even in battles and wars, which adds to the number of widows, some of whom may be too young to spent long years unmarried. In some societies particularly those stemming from Africa, a polygamous marriage is something greatly desired. Here this practice provides security to the widowed women. c) If a man is already having one wife , why a girl or a widow gives her consent to marry him. It is not act of compulsion in Islam but it depends on the free will of females. Polygamy is not recommended as a pleasure but it is rather about responsibility in a society.
Islam Does Not Restrict Women
Islam is also opposed for keeping the women restricted within the four chores of house. It is a misconception. Islam does not restrict females from coming out of their home if it is urgent or useful but restricts them to mix up with males only to safeguard their piety and chastity. Secondly more the mothers remain out of homes, more the children will suffer . If girls become habitual of remaining out of their homes, they would fail to deliver as good mothers. Islam orders parents to educate their daughters which rejects the misconception.
Islam’s Viel For Women Is To Again Islam is publicly criticized for advocating the veil system which does not allow a woman even to breathe in air freely. Actually, Islam considers women as pious, honourable and dignified and desires her to be safe from the lustful eyes. Logically speaking, precious things are always kept under security. Once a European asked a Muslim why they can’t handshake females and why they remain in veil. The Muslim reacted,” Where is the president/prime minister of your country ? “The European told that he , being most honourable personality of the country, remains within the Government Palace . The Muslim enquired whether he comes out of his palace and goes to the market or playground. Do you anyway get chance to handshake him? The answer was in negative. The Muslim said like your president or Prime Minister, our women are most honourable and dignified so they remain dignified always.
We Muslim consider Quran and Kaaba as sacred and honourable and therefore both are veiled. You consider women as a novel and hence remain on sale even on footpaths. Quran directs women not to display their beauty except to their husbands only to protect them from the lustful eyes.
Talaq A Necessary Evil
Talaq (divorce) is yet another bad tag associated with Islam. There is no concept of Talaq in Hinduism because they consider marriage as Janum Janum ka sath (In each and every birth), though they can do it through legal methods. There is no idea of talaq in Europe though now they have substituted another term “divorce“ for Talaq to get separation from their spouse . Islam opts for talaq in abnormal circumstances. It is apt to point out that Islam considers it a necessary evil and dislikes it . Prophet Muhammad (saw) has shown his displeasure for this act which reflected that such act is to be performed in unavoidable circumstances only. In Islam, marriage is based on memorandum of understanding (MOU) which is in sharia called Nikah. If girls wish to add any condition in Nikah for their safety or even for seeking power to divorce, there can be no objection to it . She can even divorce if she lays such condition in Nikah. Besides Islam makes her more powerful at the time of Nikah. Had there been the provision of Talaq in other societies, we would have been able to decrease killings and murders. Why a bahu (daughter-in- law) has to become a target of accident by in-laws.
Another misconception related to Islam is that it doesn’t give freedom to girls to marry according to their free will. With authenticity it is said that Islam forbids parents to bind their daughters or sisters in matrimonial relations according to their (parents) choice. In fact it is otherwise, it is mandatory for parents and guardian’s to settle the relation in accordance with the willingness of girl children subject to parents approval. This approval if misused by parents or guardians is punishable in the court of Allah.
Why is approval needed?
As already pointed out and explained women by nature are emotional and parents being much older have had the experiences of world and life, so their recommendations is important for the welfare of their child.
Thus, a marriage in Islam is based on willingness of girl child as well as experience and maturity of parents which makes it charming. In Islam a girl’s one “no” can make the bridegroom go back even in the last minute of the wedding. Is there any such provisions in any society elsewhere.?
Islam Offers Inheritance To Women
Islam is the religion which grant’s inheritance rights to women from parental property. She is eligible to get half share and male is entitled to get one share. The inheritance laws are undergoing changes to make them friendly with women in other societies, but Islam is the religion that has allowed a woman to become master of her share.
To conclude I think that our women folk should see how they were ill-treated and how Islam raised their status, but it is unfortunate that we don’t ponder over it but are busy in futile and facile arguments. Had Islam not changed the world scenario, there would have been all darkness in our lives. Who remembers the blessings of Sun in the sunlight? Similarly, we have neglected every blessing that came to us with Islam.
Let us pray before Almighty to bless the mankind with his blessings so that we understand the creation and work in accordance the with the orders of Allah SWT.
About Author: Mr Ashaq Hussain is the Jammu Kashmir (state) award winning teacher currently working as Principal Sir Syed Memorial Educational Institute Doru Anantnag.