Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|The Honour Of The Woman, by:Dr. Nazreen Nawaz|
|11/15/01 at 10:39:48|
The Honour Of The Woman
In this article, Dr Nazreen Nawaz, examines Western attitudes towards the honour of women, their dangerous effect in the Muslim World and the manner in which Islam secures the honour of women.
Every society embraces the particular values that it honours, respects, and protects. However, the subject that is given such honour varies according to the viewpoint that the society and the state are established upon. This attitude towards honour will then consequently spread to shape the opinions of the individuals within the society at large.
Within a capitalist state, empty rhetoric is often expressed regarding the honour, care and protection given to the wife, mother, daughter and career woman. However, behind such words, the reality is very clear: the only object worthy of honour, care and protection is money and the values of freedom and democracy. Hence, we observe a situation in Western societies where the use of pornography and images of naked women to sell products has become an acceptable means due to its ability to create massive revenue. Under the guise of personal freedom, that stipulates that an individual should live his life according to his own desires and under his own accountability, we see an epidemic of crimes against women ranging from sexual harassment and rape to domestic violence. Women are encouraged by the male-run fashion industries to wear as little clothing as possible to reveal their beauty to all. We also see that slanderous allegations against the reputation of women have become commonplace in the media and within society at large. It is clear that the view of the woman being an economic commodity for the man, or tool to simply fulfil the desires of man, affects all levels of the society from the politicians, police force, army and doctors, to the simple man on the street. Such is the result of the capitalist ideology.
The antithesis to this situation is the deen of Islam where the true preservation of the honour of the woman is viewed as a life and death matter to be given the utmost care and attention. This is exhibited by the society and state and at all stages within the Muslim woman’s life as a daughter, wife, and mother. The Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever dies protecting his honour dies shaheed.” The woman is one of those honours placed within the palm of the man as an amana (trust) from his Creator Allah (swt) to be protected at all times. This attitude within an Islamic State would also affect every level of the society from the ruler, army, Qadis and to the man on the street.
An international view that has been propagated as to how the woman can achieve respect and honour within the society is to adopt the Western lifestyle, dress and to become a successful career woman. Alongside this, women have been instructed to call for the values of liberation, freedom, and equality and to aid the transformation of the systems of ruling within their countries to become more in tune with the Democratic system of government that secures all freedoms of the capitalist West. In contrast, the image portrayed of Islam is that it dishonours the woman by forcing her to cover in the khimar and jilbab, by encouraging early marriage, by commanding obedience to the father as a daughter and to the husband as a wife and by allowing polygamy for the man. The Western media, as proofs for their claim, repeatedly cite the existent pseudo-Islamic states such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
The Western world calls for the Muslim woman to lock the Qur’an in the cupboard and disregard the rules and roles that emanate from Islam. It calls for her to uncover her beauty so she may be appreciated by men, to socialise freely with male friends and colleagues so as to elevate her status, to pursue her career at the expense of marriage and her marital duties and to call for further freedoms within her society.
Unfortunately, many of our dear sisters have taken this path, feeling that this will bring them the honour and protection that they desire as Muslim women within society. It is an attack that has been consistent over the past 150 years or so and this concept has corrupted the mentality of the rulers, scholars and intellectuals of this Ummah. Qasim Amin, an Egyptian judge in the 19th century, wrote a book entitled, Al Mara’at al Jadida (Modern Woman). In this, he rebukes Egyptians for glorifying their Islamic past and taking pride in their Islamic culture. He advises the Muslim woman to take the Western woman as her role model in order to elevate her status and the status of Egyptian society. He writes, “This is our real ailment which needs to be eradicated first of all. The first way to get rid of it is that we should make our younger generations acquainted more and more with Western civilisation and its conditions and circumstances ... We will realise the value and importance of Western civilisation and see for ourselves that no reform is possible unless it is based on modern Western knowledge ... For this very reason we project the people of the West as a symbol of perfection, insist on their veneration as an ideal, and appeal to our countrymen to study the position and status of the Western woman.”
With this in mind, it is important for us to examine the true reality of the status of the honour of the woman within the western capitalist states and the consequences of the call for ideas such as freedom and liberation. Has the achievement of a successful career, a free lifestyle, and a greater voice in the parliamentary process and democracy brought her the honour, status, protection and security that she desired?
The Capitalist Western States and the Dishonouring of the Woman
The greatest idol within the capitalist state is money. Consequently, the main question that plagues the minds of the individuals within the society is how to increase their material wealth. As a result, the woman is not viewed as a human being that has certain needs that require fulfilment, including the protection of her honour. Rather, she is viewed as an economic commodity to be exploited by whoever wishes to make money. In existence is a capitalist dominated world where the pornography industry generates $7 billion every year, a figure greater than the whole of the so-called “legitimate film and music industries” combined. In the US, pornography films gross $1 million every day, and in Britain 20 million copies of pornography magazines are sold every year, producing revenue of £500 million. It is therefore clear that men are encouraged to simply view women as objects to gratify their sexual desires. Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks from the adoption of the idea of freedom?
Could it be possible that the successful working woman is not seen in this light due to her material achievements and service within the society, such as the doctor, manager, engineer, secretary or teacher, and rather her male colleagues view her with respect and honour? It is naive to think that in a society that is drenched with the culture of personal freedom and opinion, that the work place or office would be a haven from such degrading mentality and behaviour. If we examine the issue of sexual harassment in the Western states, within those institutions that should theoretically exemplify morality, such as the governments that look after the affairs of the people and the police force and army, we see the true picture of the male view towards their female colleagues. In a survey conducted in the UK among the British Civil Service, 70% of the respondents claimed to have been sexually harassed at work. A survey in nine US states, examining a period of 5 years, stated that 60% of the female lawyers interviewed had been sexually harassed, a third by colleagues, 40% by clients, and 6% by judges. In the 1998 study by the Yale University School of Medical Researchers it was discovered that amongst the female soldiers of the American army serving in the Vietnam or Gulf war, 63% had experienced physical and sexual harassment during their military service, and 43% reported rape or attempted rape. If these are the professionals who claim to uphold the law, then what can be expected from the rest of the society? A successful career within the capitalist state has not given the woman the status that she dreamt of. Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks when she strives day and night to build her career and neglect her family, children, and other Islamic obligations?
Some may claim that Western women achieve harmony and honour in the home, if not in the public arena? This is a delusional idea. The BBC reported that nearly 25% of women in the UK face domestic violence at some stage in their life. Police are called to an incident of domestic violence every 60 seconds and receive 1,300 calls each day related to this. Domestic violence kills two women each week in the UK. Professor Betsy Stanke from University of London was quoted as saying, “What this shows is that men in Britain, like men around the world, also beat their wives.” Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks by adopting the Western lifestyle and culture and by forsaking the Islamic culture?
If we study the ultimate form of dishonour that a woman can experience, that of rape, we find shocking statistics illustrating the reality. In the US, a rape occurs every minute, and in the UK, one-third of women have been sexually abused by the age of 18. Also, there was a 500% increase in the reporting of rape between 1996 and 1997. In addition, the sentence for rape can be as low as 180 hours community service. The recent case of a middle-aged woman raped by a group of youths along a canal in West London clearly illustrates how low the honour of the woman has become within this society. She was raped by a 15 year old and 18 year old, while others watched and encouraged the episode, the youngest being 11 years old. Perhaps more shocking than this was that a girl actually held down the victim while her friends raped the woman. It appears that even women no longer value their honour. It is not surprising that the majority of women in the West do not feel safe on the streets at any time of the day. Is this really the honour that the Muslim woman seeks by calling for the Western capitalist system, democracy and freedom to be implemented over her?
The reason for this horrific reality is clear: the implementation of man-made law. Allah (swt) says:
“If the truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay we have sent them their admonition but they turn away from their admonition” [TMQ Al-Mu’minun: 71].
Allah (swt) also says:
“Whoever follows My Guidance shall neither go astray, nor fall into distress and misery. But whoever turns away from My Reminder (That is, neither believes in the Qur’an nor acts on its orders) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection” [TMQ Ta-Ha: 123-124].
The Current Reality of the Muslim World and the Dishonour of the Woman
However disgusting the statistics may prove, nothing can compare to the distress from understanding the reality of the Muslim world today. Our societies, if not mirroring the status of the Western picture, are rapidly approaching this. This is as a result of the domination of capitalism over our lands, the infiltration of the Western culture based upon freedom and democracy, and the absence of a true Islamic State, the Khilafah, to protect the honour of the Muslim woman.
In February this year, Reuters reported the case of three former Bosnian Serb commanders convicted by the United Nations War Crimes Court for rape and sexual enslavement of dozens of Muslim women in the area of Foca, in Southeast Bosnia, during the Bosnian war. Prosecutors said the three men took women and girls as young as 12 to a variety of “rape houses” for brutal beatings and assaults. Many women were so forcibly abused that they suffered permanent harm. One woman, identified as “witness 75”, was raped for three hours by 15 men. One 15-year-old girl described a knife wielding man who threatened to gouge her with a crucifix and forced her to drink alcohol. He made her assume a Serb name as he raped her. She described the horrific experience of being raped, “I remember he was very forceful. He wanted to hurt me. But he could never hurt me as much as my soul was hurting me.”
Such realities are not few in number. Our sisters continue to suffer such humiliation worldwide from Kosovo, to Palestine to Kashmir, due to the absence of the protection of the Islamic State.
The infiltration of freedom into our lands has brought with it rape, domestic violence, sexual perversion and prostitution engaged in by Muslim men. In Pakistan, a woman is raped every two hours. In March 1998, a case came to the attention of the Pakistani courts of a 14 year old school girl named Naumana Tabbasum who was gang raped in a governmental building in Peshawar by the section officer of the local government department and three of his colleagues. They had threatened to kill her parents if she revealed the truth. Is it not the government that should be the protector of the people and not its enemy? There are numerous reports also of police in Pakistan stripping women naked and parading them in public.
In Bangladesh, prostitution has been legalised, and it is said that the rate of abortion there of girls between 15 and 49 is 28/1000, almost the level of that within the US. Domestic violence is also reaching epidemic levels in the Muslim world. In Pakistan, there is a shocking statistic of domestic violence. It is said that 70% of women are subjected to violence in their homes. A new style is used in the Asian sub-continent called, “stove burning” where the woman is set on fire for reasons ranging from not bearing sons to not having added enough salt to the food. Lahore newspapers report over four cases of women injured per week from such treatment, and two hospitals in Pakistan stated that 500 women had burned to death as a result of such incidents in the past three years.
The reason for such problems is clear: the idea of personal freedom where the man can fulfil his desires and behave in any way he pleases. The consequences on others within society, and the honour of women, are dire. It is evident then that a call for the Western way of life, the adoption of the Western culture and the capitalist system can bring nothing but humiliation, dishonour, and insecurity for the Muslim woman.
The Organisations that Bring the Dishonour of the Muslim Woman to the Muslim Lands
The infiltration of Western culture and the introduction of the capitalist laws within the Muslim lands are not chance events. Calculated moves are taken by the Western states to constantly redefine the Islamic social system and attack the identity of the Muslim woman. They stand guilty of having exported the degradation of the woman within their societies to the sisters of the Muslim countries. The styles used include the Western media, the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) functioning within Muslim lands and institutions such as the United Nations.
In June of last year, 188 nations from amongst Muslim and non-Muslim countries, and 1250 NGOs world-wide, gathered in New York for an International Women’s Conference entitled “Beijing + 5”. The objective was clear: to accelerate the standardisation of the relationship and roles of the men and women within society of all the nations of the world to be in line with the capitalist values. If we examine certain aims established through the discussions, this is openly apparent:
“Ensure that women of all ages can fully realize their sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, by developing legislation, disseminating information, and promoting accessible and affordable services.”
“Discourage, through media and other means, customary laws and practices, such as early marriage, polygamy ... ”
In Bangladesh, the NGOs aided the introduction of the legalisation of prostitution and continue to call for the freedom of the women within the society.
We should realise that the underhanded objectives behind such events is to drive the Muslim woman further away from her role and duties defined by Islam and to drive a wedge between her and the obedience to her Creator. Truly, we should understand the danger from taking our solutions from these institutions. It is a call for women to discard their honour and to lead them away from the beauties and rewards of Jannah. Allah (swt) warns us in the Qur’an:
“O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you...” [TMQ Ale-Imran: 118].
Allah (swt) also says:
“O you who believe! Follow not the footsteps of Shaytan. And whosoever follows the footsteps of Shaytan then verily he commands Al-Fahsha (indecency) and Al-Munkar (evil). And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure from sins” [TMQ An-Nur: 21].
Islam: Securing the Honour of the Woman
Having established that the call for the adoption of the Western woman’s dress, lifestyle, goals and systems will bring nothing but humiliation to the Muslim woman and her society, it is crucial that we understand that Islam is the only way of life, and that the Khilafah is the only ruling system that brings the woman honour, protection and elevation in society. We can observe how Islam brings the honour, dignity and tranquillity to the woman in three ways: having a correct aim in life, honouring the Muslim woman in society and securing her honour under the Khilafah.
1. Having the Correct Aim in Life
There is no doubt that the greatest honour in life is to be a Muslim. The greatest honour that can be bestowed upon the human being is to be a servant of Allah (swt) and to gain the pleasure and blessings of the Creator with every action performed in accordance with His command. Allah (swt) says:
“But honour belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and to the believers but the hypocrites know not” [TMQ Al-Munafiqun: 8].
Success is ensuring that not one minute passes without securing the rewards of the Hereafter by the pursuance of the fulfilment of the obligations to Allah (swt) in every area of life. Whether in ibadat, as a wife, a mother, daughter, fulfilling the contract of a job, covering her awrah with the khimar and jilbab in the public arena, segregating from the men or carrying the da’wa to make Allah’s (swt) word the highest by the work for the re-establishment of the Khilafah. Allah (swt) says:
“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and a great reward” [TMQ Al-Ahzab: 35].
The greatest tranquillity is in the knowledge of the promise of Allah (swt) of the rewards of Jannah (paradise) for those men and women who restrict themselves to His limits and fulfil all of His obligations in life without discrimination. Truly, this is the greatest honour and success of all, to be in the company of the Prophets, the pure companions, and Insha’Allah to spend eternity in nearness to Allah (swt). Allah (swt) promises:
“The righteous (will be) amid gardens and fountains (of clear-flowing water). (Their greeting will be): ‘Enter ye here in peace and security.’ And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury: (They will be) brothers (joyfully) facing each other on thrones (of dignity). There no sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they (ever) be asked to leave” [TMQ Al-Hijr: 45-48].
We see then, for a Muslim woman, to fulfil the duties of wife and mother in Islam is a great honour. For her to obey her husband, or to serve him meals, or bring comfort to his life is not oppressive but an honour; for, she receives the pleasure and rewards of her Creator. The same can be said for the man fulfilling his role as a husband of providing for the family, consulting with the wife over affairs and being constantly observant over her physical and emotional welfare. The Prophet (saw) said, “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a 1000 martyrs...”
For the mother to nurture her children physically, emotionally and with the Islamic culture, by feeding them, bathing them, playing with them and smiling at them, is a great honour. The Prophet (saw) has said, “When a woman breast feeds, for every gulp of milk she will receive a reward as if she had granted life to a being, and when she weans her child, the angels pat her on the back saying, ‘Congratulations! All your past sins have been forgiven, now start all over again’” [Riyadh al Salihin]. He (saw) also said, “During pregnancy until the time of childbirth, and until the end of the suckling period, a woman earns reward similar to that of the person who is guarding the borders of Islam” [Al-Tabarani].
2. The Honour of the Muslim Woman in Society
Allah (swt) has commanded the man to view the woman as an honour to be protected at all times, whether it is his mother, wife, daughter or any woman within society. The Prophet (saw) once told Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra), “Shall I not inform you about the best treasure a man can hoard? It is a virtuous wife who pleases him whenever he looks towards her, and who guards herself when he is absent from her.” On another occasion, he (saw) said, “The world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman.” In his last sermon to the Muslims, he reminded them, “O People, it is true that you have certain rights, with regards to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
He (saw) has also said, “Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, God will enter him into paradise.”
A man at the time of the Prophet (saw) came to him and asked, “I have carried my mother single handed around the Ka’ba seven times, does this repay the kindness she showed me as a child?” The Prophet replied, “It does not even repay one contraction of the womb.”
This is the way that Allah (swt) has described the honour of the woman. Within an Islamic society, such an understanding will affect the men within the society at large, who will view the woman as an honour, regardless of whether she has a career or not. They will not belittle the position of the wife and mother but regard it with the highest of esteem.
This can be illustrated by an example at the time of the Khilafah of Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) when a Jew was found killed. Umar asked the people if they knew about the matter, whereupon a Muslim called Bak’r in Shad’dakh appeared before him and said, “I have killed him.” Umar (ra) was astonished and asked him for the reason. The man explained that a Muslim brother had gone on Jihad and consigned his family members to him to look over in his absence. When he arrived at the house of the brother, he had found the Jew inside reciting poetry slandering the reputation of the brother’s wife by implying that he had spent the night with her in his absence. As a result, he killed him to protect the honour of the woman who had been placed under his protection. On hearing all the details, Umar (ra) exempted him from paying any ransom.
3. Honour of the Muslim Woman Secured by the Khilafah.
Having understood the command of Allah (swt) to ensure the honour and security of the Muslim woman within the society, we should ask ourselves why such a reality is not present today. The examples of how the woman faces shame and humiliation from pornography, to rape, to domestic violence every day in the Muslim lands and societies has already been detailed. The reason is clear, it is due to the absence of the Khilafah system. The question that now needs to be addressed is “How can this reality of the honour of the woman be secured once again within a society?” The answer is simple; it can only be through the re-establishment of the Khilafah. Then, we will have the ability to propagate the correct viewpoint to the individuals within the society through the education system and the media, and we will have the authority to enforce the appropriate punishments upon those who dishonour women. Let us examine two examples to illustrate how the honour of the Muslim woman was protected under the Khilafah of the past, compared to the reality of the world today.
The first example is that of slander against the reputation of an individual. Today, this is not seen as a severe crime, but Islam views this as a serious issue and has prescribed lashings as the punishment for such an action. During the Khilafah of Umar (ra), a slave girl complained to him, in his capacity as the Khalifah, against her master by saying, “My master has accused me of adultery and punished me by forcing me to sit on fire. Thus my private part is burnt.” Umar (ra) asked, “Has your master seen you committing adultery?” She replied in the negative. Umar (ra) asked, “Have you made any confession before him?” She answered “No.” Thereafter, Umar (ra) called that man and asked, “Do you punish like the punishment of Allah?” He said, “I had developed suspicion about the slave girl.” Umar (ra) asked, “Have you seen her committing adultery?” The master denied to have seen her doing so. Umar (ra) asked, “Has she confessed about doing so?” The master again said “No!” Upon this, Umar (ra) said, “I swear by the one who holds my life that had I not heard the Holy Prophet (saw) saying that a slave cannot take ransom from his master and a child from his father, I would have certainly taken revenge on you.” Afterwards, Umar (ra) gave the master 100 lashes and freed the slave girl. Such is how the honour of the woman is protected under the Khilafah through its authority, which ensures the implementation of the hudud of Allah (swt).
The second example is also cited during the Khalifah of Umar (ra). While he was visiting Syria, a Jew came to him and complained that a Muslim had beaten him badly. Umar (ra) asked one of the companions, Suhaib (ra), to find out who was guilty of the action. The accused was Auf bin Malik Ashjai (ra) who was brought in front of Umar (ra) and asked to explain his actions. He replied, “Let it be known to you that the plaintiff was driving away a Muslim lady on his ass and on the way he gave her a jerk so that she would fall from the ass, but when she did not fall he pushed her. When she fell down, he mounted on the lady and lay with his face downward.” The father and husband of the woman confirmed his story. Umar (ra) ordered for the Jew to be killed.
It can be seen clearly from such examples that in order to establish the rule of Allah (swt) in protecting the honour of the Muslims within the society, it requires the presence of the structures of the Khilafah. During the time when the earth was blessed with the cool breeze of the Islamic State, harmony was brought to societies and tranquillity to individuals in turmoil. Women felt secure in their homes and on the street.
It is not a successful career in itself, financial independence or the fewer clothes that are worn, that brings a woman honour and success, but the abiding of the commands of her Creator and the establishment of the Islamic State over her.
The Islamic State brought true honour to the woman who had, for so many years, been viewed simply as a commodity and object to satisfy the desires of men. For 1400 years the woman remained protected, safe and valued. With the loss of her shield, the Khilafah, she has once again become an economic commodity in the palm of the capitalist and an object of desire within the capitalist way of life.
The protection of the honour of the Muslim in the society is not an option but an obligation. The responsibility then is for the believing man and woman to work with all their efforts to re-install the body that will achieve the fulfilment of this obligation within the society: the Khilafah.
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Source: Khilafah Magazine November 2001 Edition
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