Something I wrote in 2000, before kids and responsibilities. I feel it is still relevant 13 years later, as I face the same challenges…
2000 AD holds no benchmark for me – a Muslim woman born in the latter half of this century, and when I look back I do so with a sad twinge.
Islam when and how it was first practiced some 1400 years ago bestowed unto women rights, privileges and protection to lead righteous, healthy and independent lives if they chose to do so. This was in stark contrast to the theory of other religions, where the woman, namely Eve, was considered to be the root cause of man’s descent from heaven and she was then punished by suffering, as in childbirth.
Women in Islam have been given the right to own property, the right to enter into political decisions, the right to inherit, the right to own and participate in their own business, the right to make decisions regarding marriage, etc. These are just a few privileges accorded us as Muslim women at the advent of Islam, a woman then was a truly free woman.
When I reflect on my situation now, I feel we have been plummeted into the age of ignorance. Women have no more choices, any freedom Islam granted us has been compromised by cultural dogma. An educated woman now feels it necessary to further her career, she cannot if she wants stay at home as she is seen to be wasting her education, hence her life. As women we are given a unique opportunity to shape the next generation, we are the first teachers and we are the first examples, yet we do not see this to be as valuable as ’utilizing’ our education.
We as ’liberated’ women do not look to assess the pros and cons of feminist thought we only proceed to emulate it to the best of our ability. We feel we deserve equality – yet marriage is a partnership. More than our belief I believe our cultural attitude must change radically. We must evaluate our lives and make choices – make the choice to move ’backward’ from – ’everything modern must be good, to some of my parents’ values might be better’.
We should look to adopt the positive that our heritage has to offer us and not dismiss it as ’old-fashioned’. For example, Islam teaches us that education is incumbent on every Muslim, man, woman and child. The Jewish law states that women are exempt from the study of the Torah. Christianity says: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35). I am positive this is no longer practiced, but it is present in the scripture!
Muslim women invoke a certain amount of respect from their colleagues, friends etc. We dress not to please anyone but ourselves, we are taught to say the truth, and we are not expected to face any agony or joy without the excellent moral support structure of family and friends. Our spouses grant us all the freedom we can wish for yet they are there to protect us from any harm, mental or physical if we should require it. We in essence reap the best of all worlds, if only we are not bigoted by our individual cultural views. We as the twenty and thirty somethings need to empower ourselves with thought that will allow us the most choices. This way we can lead totally fulfilling lives.
I for one do not want to second-guess any choice I make; I should be accepted for who and what I am, not for what I do. What will happen to our future if we do not stop and make the choice to move toward our heritage, instead of blindly imitating modern, civilized cultural norms.
My identity is my own, unlike the tradition where a woman was the property of her husband or father, I am my husband’s partner in life and my father’s daughter. I do not need to struggle to maintain my thought, my life or my choices. I would like to see all Muslim women likely empowered to shape the tomorrow of the world. We must start thinking and stop emulating, we will Insha’Allah herald a new age. For a ’…people without history are a people without glory..’ and hence we need to delve into our history to be the glory of the millennium.
Khalil Gibran, one of my favorites, I read The Prophet and feel he knows my thoughts. I am still at a crossroads, waiting to reach that milestone I set out for myself, I now realize the journey is where I must dwell and reap.