Many perspectives in our lives are incomplete if we do not inculcate the basics of Tawheed in them. A Muslim ought to believe in Allah (swt), as there is none other worthy of complete submission and worship than Him. The guidance revealed by Allah (swt) is complete in wisdom and applies to all eras regardless of any cultural, socio-political or religious movements. For both, women and men, Allah (swt) is All-Hearing, All-Seeing, All-Knowing and All-Aware.
Feminism is a current day movement, which has affected the lives of women worldwide, including the Muslim women. Feminists in Islam are divided into two groups:
In line with western feminist ideals. One group of women, aspiring for equality and justice between men and women, question some divine laws and transform them as per the cultural crisis that is prevalent. For example, a Muslim woman tweeted that menstruating women should have equal right to pray Salah and fast in Ramadan. Furthermore, women from this group are not satisfied with the inheritance laws and witness division mentioned in Surah An-Nisa. They struggle for equality with men but their concerns often question what is authentically proved by Quran and Sunnah.
Some Muslim feminists in this group feel that the Islamic code of Hijab takes away their freedom to be themselves, while others take a further stance on gender freedom issues, calling for the rights of same-sex marriages. Another major debate that overwhelms them is the concept of the main breadwinner, protector and maintainer of the house – Qawwam. They fight for their equal representation in earning, working and supporting the family. Provided the injustice hurled on women under patriarchy, the concerns of these feminists are significant; however, the path they take for solving these deep-rooted cultural immoralities is often ineffective. It is traumatic that women are undermined, humiliated and devalued for their gender, but that is largely because of the evil that exists in the society, not because of Islam.
In line with Islamic ideals. This group of Muslim feminists understands and is driven by the fact that Islamic laws do not cage a woman within her faith. Allah (swt) revealed a Book and sent a Messenger (sa) with teachings that definitely fix the socio-cultural maladies in every age, as Allah (swt) is Ahsan-ul-Khaliqeen (the Best of Creators) and Khair-ul-Hakimeen (the Best of Planners). Allah (swt) has put all the skills and potential in humankind to follow Islam with full submission. Hence, this second group of Islamic feminists claims that patriarchy is not in Islam; it is in culture – for ages, the maltreatment of women has been a part of an unjust culture dominated by men who do not fully understand and follow their responsibilities and are rather arrogant about their Deen. Within the same culture, women are sadly unaware of the rights, privileges and responsibilities outlined for them by Islam.
Islamic feminism is on the rise, particularly in South Asian communities, as this is where patriarchy exists in its ugliest forms. The first group of Islamic Feminists may be driven by their genuine concerns to safeguard women but end up in modern cultural manipulation of Islamic teachings, thus disagreeing with the divine laws. They believe that since historically Islamic scholars have mostly been men, they have interpreted the Quran and the Sunnah through a male-dominated and thus biased lens. However, with this, they undermine the entire scholarship of Islam, including the female scholars, who have never raised such objections to well-established interpretations of the scriptures.
If we delve into the psychological scene of feminists standing against the teachings of Islam, we often find them struggling with contradictions. Cognitive dissonance is a term that is used to describe the holding of two conflicting beliefs or desires. Internal conflicts lead to guilt, shame and rebellion. For instance, a Muslim feminist may have consciously shunned the oppressive female beauty standards created by men but due to feeling dull, she puts on a lot of makeup for a positive self-image and confidence when she socializes in gatherings or at work. In defiance of the standard set by men over decades, she stays away from dressing up but feels unattractive inside and is depressed. The conflict of beliefs results in an emotional upheaval. Looking at this situation from an Islamic perspective, the desire to beautify is natural in women, but they do not have to do it for pleasing every man out there. Even though in public a Muslim woman must appear modest, dressing up to please her husband after marriage or beautifying herself for a females-only gathering is encouraged and liked in Islam. So if the foundations of Tawheed are strong, the Muslim woman will know why she is acting a certain way – she is seeking reward and recognition of the Creator, not of the creation. A Muslim woman does not have to follow the fads of the time; rather, she has to please her Creator, Sustainer, Cherisher and Provider.
Pondering over the following Quranic verses will further help us understand the feminism debate and thus rejuvenate our beliefs.
In Surah An-Nahl, verse 24, Allah (swt) mentions people who are asked about what has been revealed to them, to which they reply: tales of the old. This verse demonstrates the bias that exists even today. There are Muslims who consider some Islamic teachings as outdated, obsolete, and old-fashioned. They do not fully submit to Allah’s (swt) will, because they fail to find wisdom and relevance in it. However, Allah (swt) is complete in His knowledge and attributes, and it is only humans who are imperfect in knowledge and understanding.
In Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 2, Allah (swt) states that this Book is without any doubt. But we see Muslims, who are confused and doubtful. Muslim women mistakenly struggle with men, who oppress and devalue them based on their own doubts, weaknesses and confusion, instead of looking to understand the wisdom of “the Book, whereof there is no doubt”.
In Surah Hadid, verse 20, Allah (swt) warns humankind that the life of this world a deceiving enjoyment: play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting, and rivalry in respect to wealth and children. If we look at the struggles of feminists, we will be able to discern this sense of rivalry with men as a driving force. Allah (swt) has not intended for such competition to be there, as for both men and women the only point of reference should be the pleasure of the Creator.
May Allah (swt) protect all men and women from the fear of creation over the Creator! O Allah, (swt), enable us to understand the truth and inspire us to follow it. Ameen.