After 20 years of ceaseless war and famine, the women of Afghanistan must heal themselves, and ultimately their nation, by rediscovering their identity as empowered, dignified Muslim women.
To many, such an assertion seems like an exact reversal of the truth. After so much suffering, some think, the last thing these women need is more of what apparently caused it. However, a brief look at history and women's rights through a correct understanding of Islam paints quite a different picture.
It was Islam, in the 7th century, that established women's spiritual and intellectual equality with men. Muslim women were granted the right to vote, own property, inherit, receive a higher education and even run a business in which men were subordinates.
These teachings were immediately put into practice, where 1,400 years ago women played an active political role, not only voting for their leader, but also advising him. The Prophet Mohammed's wife, Khadijah, was one of the most successful businesswomen in Mecca, employing many men, including at one point the Prophet himself. Aisha, whom the Prophet married some years after the death of Khadijah, became a scholar of Islam. A man of the time described her by saying, "I have not seen a greater scholar than Aisha in the learning of the Koran, shares of inheritance, lawful and unlawful matters, poetry, literature, Arab history and genealogy." It was not surprising, then, when the world's first institution of higher education -- Al-Azhar Islamic University, founded in Cairo in 969 A.D. -- was named after a woman, Fatima al-Zahraa.
In fact, Islam gave women rights centuries ago not enjoyed by them in our country today. For example, a Muslim woman is a totally separate entity from her husband, not only keeping her family name as well as all property she owned before marriage, but also maintaining total ownership of any money or property she acquires after marriage. In contrast, the general law in most states considers any wealth a woman obtains during marriage as jointly owned by her and her husband.
Since Afghanis are predominantly Muslim, one would expect their customs to already reflect Islam's reverence of women. However, 20 years of war has created a culture of force, where the physically weaker sex is abused and seen as inferior, and where Islamic teachings are superseded by tribal traditions.
The suppression of women's rights in Muslim countries is, of course, not unique to Afghanistan, and neither are the reasons for it. Women's oppression in many parts of the Muslim world is actually just one symptom of a widespread decay of Islamic ideals and the subsequent regression to pre-Islamic tribal culture.
This spiritual cancer has also resulted in the rise of corrupt tyrannical rulers, the proliferation of usury in Muslim economies, the growing gap between rich and poor and the emergence of nationalism.
Due to this misrepresentation of Islam, some have dismissed it as a solution to the problems of women in Afghanistan. Instead, they argue that this country is a hundred years overdue for a healthy helping of Western feminism. Many are under the impression that women's liberation was a 20th-century Western development, and that gains in women's status in other parts of the world are primarily as a result of Western influence.
Certainly no one can deny the progress Western women have made since the days of the English Common Law, which regarded a woman as the legal property of her husband, barring her from owning property, entering into contracts or even keeping her name. After centuries of struggle, American women gained the right to vote in 1920 and British married women gained the right to own property in 1935. Laws for equal access to education and the workplace followed.
This relatively recent change in laws makes it quite clear that far from being the pioneer of women's liberation, the West was actually a thousand-years-late newcomer to this Islamic movement. What's more, when laws in the West were finally corrected to give women their equality, society was late to follow. It took generations to alter people's beliefs about the status of women and affect true social change.
In contrast, Islam changed society almost overnight through the power of deep belief in God and the resulting desire to submit to His will. Afghanistan needs such an immediate and radical cultural transformation.
Western feminism simply cannot bring this about because it lacks the ideological strength to quickly penetrate hearts and minds. Even with the help of the greatest propaganda machine, Western feminism fails to answer the most basic question: Why should women be regarded as equals now after being seen as inferior for years of civil war? "Because America said so" will not hold much weight with most people.
Islam, on the other hand, teaches women's equality as a divinely ordained principle. It elevates the status of women by revealing their God-given rights, which no one has the right to take away and which no devout believer dares question. If the Afghanis rediscover the true teachings of their faith, women's liberation will emerge naturally.
Fundamental societal change in Afghanistan requires the power of deep religious conviction. Only this will elevate women to their proper station -- servants to God alone whose rights are a sacred covenant.
Dalia Mogahed, a writer living in Mt. Lebanon, is a contributor to Al-Jumuah, an English-language Islamic magazine. She is an MBA student at the Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As long as the Americans or any foreigners are in Afghanistan any progressive action would be considered as an attack on the Afghan style of life. There is a catch of 22 with these Western military invasions. Change must come from within the Afghan society. I don't see that coming very soon, though. Modernization of all the infrastructure must be initiated along with a thorough education. The American system won't work in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact it won't work almost no place outside of USA. The Afghanis should be helped by Saudis or/and Iranians to rebuild their society, or any progressive Muslim cultures in the Middle East. Al-Azhar University could take such a project very successfully. But then how would American companies profit?
Anyway, professor, would lecture us all on Islam on this site, since we seem to be really ignorant of our religion and you are so learned and wise? I would really be very curious how you enterprete Islam and from what point of view. .. Oh, professor, how come that both Americas are predominantly Christian? Was it done through love and compassion? Illuminate us on this matter!
Peace to the world!
Per your quote: "And Muslims can't force anyone else to become Muslim. See Qur'an 2: 256"
I think someone forgot to tell the leaders of Sudan,Indonesia and the Kashmir.
IF U WANT TO KNOW IN ISLAM.ANYTHING.
JIHAD FOR EXAMPLE.
PLZ. FIND OUT HOW IT WAS DONE BY THE LAST PROPHET TO MANKIND MUHAMMAD (PBUH).
OR IN QURAN (WORDS OF YOUR CREATOR).
YOU WILL CERTAINLY FIND TRUTH, INSHALLAH.
You wrote that Afghan women can heal themselves "by rediscovering their identity as empowered, dignified Muslim women." Once again, a writer uses the plight of Afghan women to make a political point. Supposedly Afghan women are caught between Western feminism and the Islam of the Prophet Muhammed (sawa) which is hard to see in the world today. If it's feminist working in Afghanistan it's only because Muslims are not and can't step up to the plate.
Afghan women don't need to rediscover their identity as Muslims. There are men who remind them every day that they have limited rights and due to massive illiteracy, women can't fight against this. The only way women in Afghanistan can regain their basic Islamic rights, their basic human rights, is if men rediscover that they are supposed to protect and maintain women, not oppress them in the name of religion.
The worst of these mujahideen and Taliban oppressors came from the halls of Al Azhar and other Islamic institution. Under their command, men were kidnapped, raped and killed. Until these so called Islamic institutions make the issue of men's treatment toward women a priority, we will always see men in positions of power abuse our religion. So long as the mullahs and sheikhs teach that women are a natural fitneh and sexual beings that need to be controlled, women cannot have any dignity. If they address women's equality, it is only lip service. I'm sorry sister but this was a very naive article.
I am in the 12th grade and am doing women's studies and agree with this article. My Women Studies teacher only looks at the history of women's liberation with a Western perspective. she admitted that at times she could be a little eurocentric in her thinking but she continually contradicts herself. she only uses the bible to show that religion is oppressing women and I have to keep correcting her it's very frustrating. There is only one boy in our class but all my class mates say that they are really learning about Islam and are realising that Islam is not the distorted image that they have been led to believe. the other women studies teacher has asked me to talk to her class about whatit is like being a young muslim women, hopefully I will be able to show some more people the true image of Islam and mulims.
Wa alaykum u salaam
May Allah lighten your load. May peace and blessing be upon you and upon all those who are dear to you. Ameen.
May Allah subhana wa taala increase you in taqwa and deen.
The greatest threat to Muslim women is not Jihad. It's the view that social practices that ALLAH warned us not to indulge ourselves in are modern and admirable.
As for Jihad, your post reveals your ignorance. Tell me something, how did Christianity spread from the Middle East? Did the people in Europe or Mexico practice Christianity from the birth of the religion? NO! Christians conquered land and enslaved many people, sent in their missionaries to lure people into their religion. So to say that Islam spread by the sword is to deny what history has already proven. And Muslims can't force anyone else to become Muslim. See Qur'an 2: 256: Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
And there is no such thing as Islamic apologists. We will not apologize for anything we did not commit. We will not be held responsible for other's actions. The ones you call "Islamic apologists" are those who try to explain to people like you who have their fingers stuffed in their ears about Jihad and other Islamic beliefs. You refuse to listen or accept anything good about Islam.
I agree with this article. Islam has given women every human right possible. But muslims need to step up in practicing these rights. It is our actions that will speak for itself. If muslims follow the teachings of Quran, a lot of things will be easier now. Instead of blaming the West for everything, We need to practice what we preach, both men and women. God will guide us.
I think that we muslims must give them the resouces to eduacate them properly.
The best way i know is by opening seminar scools where they would go learn things mostly tru lectures and hands on training but at the same time we must not forget the virtuse of marrige where we must incoperate both husband and wife.
so they know what is going on and have a better undertsanding of how to interact with each other.
Such things like shops for husband and wife would be very feasible since they would be both learning the things those couples need the most.
There are a million questions and a billion answers but we must make sure that each question is treamlined depending on the couples conditions.
Plus on top of that we should help them by having volunteers advocate for them in court,goverment,help them pay thier bills and etc.
we also need to have advocates for consumers as well as blue collar and white collar workers.
The salary in afghanistan is way too low yet the rent is simply outrages.
for example rent is about 500 dollars yet rent in kabul and yet sallary of blue collar worker is only between 5000 to 10,000 afghanie.
we must come together and provide them with resoucres such as public printers,computers,libraries,faxmachines and etc.
we need to have an institue called islamic institutions for human rights,ilsamic institution for women rights,islamic institution for mens rights,islamic institution for children rights and islamic institution for the virtues of humanity(afghanistan).
If you are intrested you can contact me at my email at [email protected]
my name is nasir i would love to hear any suggestions,feedbacks,proposals or any idea would be taken with great respect and dignity.
Sincerly Yours a striving muslim trying to bring back a better world a world filled with justice and dignity.
ignorance about Afghanistan, especially when she calls them
'afghanis'. Hopefully someone will let her know that people
from Afghanistan call themselves Afghans.
Islam view women as equal to men with respect to RIGHTS. In fact, for women, the advent of Islam is a special blessing. (Quran 49.13, 4:1, 4:7, 3:195, 9:71-72, 66:10-12) In additions, there are many Hadiths to that effect.
FOR MUSLIMS IN NAME ONLY:
Obviously, the sad state of affairs in many homes and countries is because of not following the Quranic injunction and Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) of Islam - the greatest single benefactor of womenfolk.
"West" granted women equal rights, or the fact
that true Islamic law gives women equality
with men. What matters is what goes on
NOW in so many of these countries. It's hard
to defend the point that true Islam is not about
repression and abuse of women when so
many of these countries that have "Islamic
Law" in place are the countries that have the
worst track records with regard to treatment of
women. It can't be just a coincidence that
democratic nations don't have this problem to
the extreme extent that Islamic countries do.
Therefore, stop making excuses. It's what
happening NOW that matters and now women
are treated worse than animals in many (but
not all ) cases. Muslim men who live in the
free world are not doing enough to speak out
against the abuse and exploitation of women
in these countries. The men in power in these
governments have corrupted Islam and
twisted it to justify this abuse. The shameful
and barbaric treatment that women receive in
these desparately poor nations is a big part of
the perception that Western countries have of
Islam, which is that it is backward, cruel and
ignorant, and not to be respected. Not true of
course, but it's because it's hard to find an
Islamic ruled nation where women are equal
by law to men. If that changes, than perhaps
the way the rest of the world views us will
Your article is worth reading. Good job.
I would like to make a suggestion,
You know the noun afghani is for the Afghanistan's currency. You should use Afghan instead of Afghani its the proper noun.
Thanks and may allah bless and guide us...ameen
Praise to Allah only,
No one with one atom of reasonableness denies women rights. But one must remember with rights go obligations. And Muslim women obligations (as well as men) consist of obeying Allah and his Messenger, without any other alternative.
The writer refered to oummou el-Mou'minine Aicha (RAA), I think nowadays Muslim women should read what she said about and to the women in general when their character was gradually changing after the death of our beloved Prophet (SAWS).
Praise to Allah only,
No one with one atom of reasonableness denies women rights. But one must remember with rights go obligations. And muslim women obligations (as well as men) consist of obeing Allah and his Messenger, without any other alternative.
The writer refered to oummou el-Mou'minine Aicha (RAA). I think nowadays muslim women should read what she said about and to the women in general when their caracter was gradually changing after the death of our beloved Prophet (SAWS).
At the End:They keep there bush God and we will keep ours
Excellant, Superb article. First muslims need learnfromthe Quran and Hadith about the rights of women in Islam. Then we will realize that Islam has lifted the honour of a woman.
Islam gave many rights 1400 years ago what the western freedom and democracy has failed to even realize what rights they are taking away from women.
If western democracy think wearing clothes which shows cleavages and skin, mixing with men and women in way that creates more chances of adultrous relationship n destroys society, using the body of women to sell products & services, creating laws that encourages illegal relationship among married couples and so on then I think that is not the freedom to women but oppressing women to serve the needs capitalist and industrialist.
Let me say that i am not agaist feeedom and economic and technological development but yes it should give all the rights that Islam gave to women.
So first the muslims around the world need to go to books the quran n sunnah learn what it says about the rights of men n women, then practice it and convey and spread to every human being and nations on earth.
Remember the advise of beloved prophet of all (pbuh) said the best amonst you is the who treat
his wife the best.
Then the actual freedom and respect for human rights will be on the march Isnaallh. (god willing)
Also, the Prophet (PBUH) more than 1400 years ago said that Paradise lies beneath the feet of your mother. This is the status to which Islam elevates women. We do not need the West for this, where women are seen as sex objects. Just turn on the TV or look at advertising boards if you don't believe me.
The Muslims who oppress Women do it through ignorance of their religion and they will surely be answerable to Allah (SWT) on the day of Judgement for their actions.
By the way, there are no Islamic States or Countries in the World. The tyrannical rulers (not leaders) of the "Muslim Lands" have been installed by the West. Yes, even Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.
But, Oh Muslims rejoice, for Islam is on the rise, and more and more people are coming to Islam because it is the only truth and truth destroys falsehood however much the enemies of Islam and the Muslim may hate it.
Our deep belief in Allah and respect for his Laws, are what stopped our ancestors and other Muslims before us from transgressing limits and bounds. This is why Islamic principles and moral characteristics of maintaining khulooq (good character) and adaab (good etiquette) should be re-established as important parts of our lives. If this is done, then civil behaviour among Muslims flourish wonderfully in the way that is used to. If not, we only have ourselves to blame for this.
Naudzubillah, Hasbun'Allahu wa ne'mal Wakil.