Women are not equal to men. But neither are men equal to women. Islam envisages their roles in society not as competing but as complimentary.
By Saleeqah Ashraf
Maryam Jameelah’s observations about contemporary feminism, based on her personal experience and knowledge, are deep and thought provoking. Jameelah, a prolific writer was named as one of only two women in the book ‘‘100 Great Muslim Leaders of the 20th century’’ (2005). She has channeled her passion and conviction into writing that has had a lasting and widespread influence in the Muslim world.
Jameelah writes that feminism is the most radical movement in the recent times which is revolutionizing the whole social structure and changing the entire basis of human relationships which is the popularly known as women’s liberation. She says that the ideals of this movement were already present since earlier times, like in his book Republic, Plato advocated abolition of family and social roles determined by gender, ideas which later spawned a movement in the early 17th century. She writes that the movement developed in different phases on different stages with increasing demands in every phase.
Broadly these phases are known as the first wave, second wave and third wave of feminism. According to Jammelah, the first wave feminism focused on women’s legal rights, like right to vote, right to education etc. In the second wave the movement was seeking equal rights and opportunities for women in the economic sphere, personal lives, and politics. She says with time more conservative feminists grew, college and university girls began to participate in political activities.
Jameelah claims this movement as a purposeless movement. She says that there arises the question of fidelity to one partner versus a diverse gender, preferring other relations than the primary relation is not just choosing one thing but is an escape from a problem and this way problem remain unsolved.
‘‘Feminism is an unnatural, artificial and abnormal product of contemporary social disintegration, which in turn is the inevitable result of the rejection of all transcendental, absolute moral and spiritual values. The student of anthropology and history can be certain of the abnormality of the feminist movement because all human cultures that we know of throughout prehistorically and historic times make a definite clear-cut distinction between ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ and pattern the social rules of men and women accordingly. The disintegration of the home and family, the loss of the authoritarian role of the father and sexual promiscuity have been directly responsible for the decline and fall of every nation in which these evils become prevalent.’’
According to Jameelah, today’s feminists are implacably opposed to any social roles being determined by gender, they deny that there is any inherent biological distinction between men and women on the basis of gender. They demand abolition of institutional marriage, home and family, complete freedom and that the child upbringing should be a public responsibility. They demand child-care centres. They demanded co-education, participation in every kind of sport. Jameelah says that feminists see traditional women as fearful and unable to imagine other ways of being and are afraid of making some choices.
She further observes that they promote lesbianism to make it socially acceptable, one of the branches of feminism is the homophile organization known as ‘the daughters of Bilitis’ the aim of which is to promote lesbianism. Succinctly they demanded equal share in society, in every field like marriage, housekeeping, child upbringing, earning, equal education to boys and girls, freedom of reading in co-educational institutes, girls should be allowed to participate in all kinds of fields etc. Jameelah compares this movement with the condition of moral depravity, self worship, and sensual indulgence. She says that a nation in which people are self-indulgent they think that it is at the peak of prosperity. But this is a sad conclusion.
The fact is that many modern American women, for example, are unhappy even though they can do virtually anything they please. They enjoy the highest standard of living in history; they are the best-dressed, best-groomed, best-fed, best-housed women anywhere with the least drudgery; they have the most freedom, the greatest variety of interesting social contacts, are unexcelled in the extent of their secular education and have the widest possible opportunity to enrich their self-indulgence and can do whatever they want, yet despite all these material advantages, too many American women are restless, dissatisfied and even neurotic.
For the Holy Prophet, the purpose of life was achievement—not enjoyment. Pleasure and happiness in Islam are but the natural by-products of emotional satisfaction in one’s duties being conscientiously performed for the pleasure of God to gain salvation in the life to come. In Islam, achievement is rated on accomplishing what is enduring and worthwhile through useful, benevolent and productive work and to refrain from wasting one’s time in empty self-gratification disgraced by sinful deeds. The Supreme achievement is to attain, through implicit obedience to Qur‘Énand Sunnah, eternal salvation in the world to come.
Jameelah says that family is the basic unit of society, the Muslim family is the miniature of the whole the Muslim society and its firm basis. She says that rebellion of Muslim women in certain quarters of Islamic society came when men themselves ceased to fulfill their religious function and lost their virile and patriarchal character, they caused the reaction of revolt among certain women who no longer felt the authority of religion upon themselves. She writes, from an Islamic point of view the question of the equality of men and women is meaningless. It is like discussing the equality of Rose and Jasmine. Each has its own perfume, colour, shape and beauty. Men and women are not same. Each has particular features and characteristics. Women are not equal to men. But neither are men equal to women. Islam envisages their roles in society not as competing but as complimentary.
Jameelah is of view that moral corruption and social decadence has menaced on a universal scale. Men and women have forgotten their identities and are trying to develop themselves into different beings. The conclusion of feminist ideals degrades humans lower than the animals. She says that feminists wish to abolish the very characteristics, which make man human and undermine the foundation of all his relationships and social ties. The result will be suicide not only of single nation as in the past, but of the entire human race.
—The author is post-graduate in Islamic Studies from University of Kashmir. She can be reaced at firstname.lastname@example.org