Islam is all about feminism. Feminism, if taken as a movement toward gender egalitarianism, had been spearheaded by Islam long before the idea was known to the Western world, where it is a recent phenomenon. In the West, it developed in the eighteenth century when people sought in what is now known as the ‘first wave’ of the very rudimentary rights and liberties the European women were hitherto deprived of. It expanded to such basic issues as deprivation of fundamental human rights, reproductive matters and economic emancipation, and mostly centred on decriminalizing the narrative that “Women are humans,” something already acknowledged and upheld by Islam centuries ago. Islam’s benign feminism is in fact positive in aims and objectives, as well as methodology as compared to the current feminist discourse which has raised a big hullabaloo in every nook and cranny of the globe with its playing into the hands of those self-styled protagonists of women rights who are bent upon de-womanizing women.
It is very unfortunate that the real spirit of the Quranic precepts of unification, and subsequent emancipation of humankind from which springs up gender equality, have been either fogged or falsified by both the Muslim obscurantists and the biased Western academia alike. Ignorant of the dynamic essence of the Quranic texts, the orthodox clerics have buttressed the projection of Islam as a creed utterly antithetical to women. Needless to say, the true reading of the holy text is going to be an albatross around the neck of opportunists, for it will demolish the castles of patriarchy they have erected over the years in the name of Islam.
No surprise, such concocted interpretations, while supplanting the real ones, lent the most potent value to the reinforcement of Islam as a religion with a marginal room for women in its socioeconomic and political programme. In the process of the crystallization of falsity into the verity, another equally important factor is the conflation of “Islam the real,” and “the Muslim culture”. Islam is not identical to the Muslim culture(s) existing in the varied atmospheres. While most, if not all, Muslim cultures have spawned in themselves a sexist tendency a great deal, should it be Islam to be apportioned the blame? No mortal with a sense of justice is going to take Christianity to task if the American Christians commit adultery. Indisputably, Islam is way different from the individual Muslim countries.
Debunking the Claims of Modern Feminism
The version of modern feminism feeds upon hate and the demonization of one gender to the detriment of the other, egging women on to adopt the role, an unruly role that is no better than that of a villain. It visualizes a woman wholly de-womanized, and envisions a society based on the war of sexes. Hardly can someone having had a time in the circle of feminists disagree to the fact that freelancing women in terms of indiscriminate sex and sexual independence from their spouse is part and parcel of the ideology.
As put by Gabby Aossey, if we want our women to be respected as human beings and taken seriously in all walks of life, there is a need for us to look to a new source, and that is Islam. It is feminism, the modern feminism, which demeans women while ostensibly claiming to protect the same. For decades on and on, feminists have banged on about condemning men for all plight caused to women in the society on the pretext of the oft-repeated mantra “patriarchy”. Not to condone the ill-treatment meted out to women by some of the men, should all the men be doomed to an eternal condemnation?
1. The first of the assaults of feminists stigmatizes the very crown women are graced with i.e. motherhood. It theorizes that the root cause of all the ills women are plagued with is their role as a wife and a mother. The housewives and mothers are looked down upon with disdain. Hardly can it be contested that the feminist contempt has planted deep roots in the consciousness of women, the consequence of which is that today to be a wife and a mother only is held in scorn to be a matter of big shame.
2. Feminism has worked against repudiating the institution of family. The countries wherein this creed has been espoused most passionately have witnessed an eye-opening rate of divorces, and have the highest number of fatherless children — children born out of wedlock. As a matter of fact, the Western family system is now bordering on the serious crises to the extent of total collapse. While turning down the laws of the nature, feminism has divested women of their womanhood to reduce them to a coarse, rough creature caught up in the tug of war.
Islam: The Flag-bearer of Gender Egalitarianism
The theoretical core ideal of the Islamic feminism is grounded in the Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Islamic feminism now is an important constituent of the movement of progressive Islam. It conceptualizes a holistic view of Ummah in which equality honeycombs all aspects of life. What is now termed “Islamic Feminism” emphasizes on the notion of gender equality as the part and parcel of the comprehensive idea of equality of all human beings given in the Quran. They are treated on an equal footing in terms of rewards and duties.
Allah says in the Quran:
“And their Lord responded to them, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another….”— (Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:195)
A dispassionate perusal of the holy texts reveals that Islam is the biggest advocate for a culture of women empowerment. Men and women are mentioned as equals with the same rights and duties bestowed upon them. Both are equally blessed with the glad tidings in the life in the hereafter.
According to the Quran:
On the Day you see the believing men and believing women, their light proceeding before them and on their right, [it will be said], “Your good tidings today are [of] gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein you will abide eternally.” That is what is the great attainment. — (Surah Al-Hadid 57:12)
It may be stated here that nowhere does the Quran elevate one gender to the throat of the other in terms of superiority or inferiority. Quran categorically makes it clear that the only standard whereby superiority of any person will be judged is piety and righteousness, and not sex or other trivial grounds.
Allah Almighty declares:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted..” — (Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13)
The prophetic inspiration was sent down on men because of the demands and physical sufferings entailed in the role of a messenger. That is never to be indicative of any spiritual inferiority of the other gender. Islam brought with itself an inclusive system of life which, while shaking the status quo, came directly in conflict with the traditional practices seated deep within the structure of the Arabian Peninsula. The human equality which it went about establishing included the gender equality as an inseparable contour. Islam set out to debunk the patriarchal institutions glossed and perpetuated as naturalized. However, it did not sit well with the patriarchal culture of the Arabs. However, with great pains, Islam reformed the uncouth people of the desert, and laid down the foundation of a new order.
Hazrat Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her), Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, was the first woman convert to Islam. She was a businesswoman and possessed land of her own and had those of the rights and privileges in the society of Arabia even unimagined by the women in the West. Islam not just respected and upheld this, but also expanded the horizon of the role of women in the public sphere so much so that women even participated in the warfare. The case, especially in the West, pertaining to the so-called women freelancing is pleaded exactly contrary to the very spirit of women’s dignity as a human being.
The sexual commodification is the ornament of the modern age. Islam comes scathingly out in the severest condemnation of any objectification of women. The modern commercial activities thrive hugely on the inhuman commoditization of women portraying their bodies as something to be vied for. In fact, they have sexism in action. To be commodified is not being seen as a human being worthy of any dignity anymore. A woman is reduced to a commodity to be sold and purchased on penny. The ideal women are showcased as imaginary creatures fashioned out of perfection with all the physical allures, a curvy body almost naked, luscious hair and tempting postures. But it is Islam that takes an offence to it. It has self-liberation for them. It prompts them into questioning: is my body to be ogled at? They do not need to expose their nude bodies to get in the mainstream. They are living beings worthy of grabbing attention as much as men.
Women are galvanized into seeking to realize their potential. They are encouraged to gain scholarship. In fact, the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) particularly ordained for educating the women. Hijab has never been foisted upon them in Islam; it is a choice. The Quran is vividly clear on this and whoever propagates otherwise is starkly in the wrong or has his own axe to grind. Yes, Islam supports feminism, but of the kind West seems to take even another century to appreciate.