Fri. Oct 30th, 2020

Islamic perspectives of gender equality and their misinterpretation

Mir Azhar Ali Talpur

Islam is the religion where equality of the rights for both sexes can be observed but the misinterpretation of the people has stereotyped the religion. As a result, not only the non-Muslims but also the Muslims have drawn a bad sketch for Islam. This paper will reflect the Islamic perspective and the Muslim practices regarding the gender equality. Moreover, the impacts of misinterpretations will be addressed.

If we look into the first revelation of Islam, we will not find it biased and gendered. It is “Iqra”, which was revealed on the heart of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) by The Supreme Creator of the humans. Although the first word did not specify and focus towards a particular gender yet the society has made it gendered. Almighty Allah addresses the whole human beings that read with the name of your God, who has created you. The Glorifying Quran focuses on the word “you” that covers both sexes. Allah Almighty stressed the word for all human beings irrespective of creed, breed, caste, color, status and sex. However, the people interpreted it in a way that the education is reserved for males only not for females. Moreover, Islam’s first revelation was made in the context, where the darkness of ignorance was ruling over. The brutality was at its peak point. The Islamic teachings made the people aware of the term “education for all”. In the light of Islamic education, Prophet used to release all war-prisoners for only teaching a single word to the companions of Prophet. Furthermore, some of the Nikkahs were done only on the basis of educating each other whatever each of the spouses knew.

After the death of Prophet, the male dominant society again set some standards against women. In Islam, the public places are for public. Masjid is built for public where males and females both can offer prayer. However, this Islamic perspective was running only in the initial days of caliphate but soon after the interpreters of the time reserved Masjids for males’ only. The opinion varies from person to person, context to context and time to time. Some other misinterpretations are that the males are responsible for breadwinning so education should be provided to boys on priority basis rather than girls. The difference can be experienced in our daily life.

Some of the religious persons always argue that the girls should be sent only to school because after completing their schooling they will become able to get married. In addition, most

of the people say that If they do not get married, they will spoil the society and the sins of getting others seduced and attracted by the public not only will come into their account but also their parents will be accountable for their carelessness and responsibility for such misdeeds. In brief, it means that we have to raise the girls for providing them education till matric, make them stay at homes and get worried about their marriage. Why it is so, when Allah Almighty commands the humans without any specification in Quran to read. Then it is a human set biasedness towards a woman. It is just the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings.

Nowadays, the people look for an educated girl for getting their boy married to her but they do not let her do job. The society has set the public space for men and private space for women. Let us take an example of Prophet’s first wife Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her). She was a well-known entrepreneur and a businessperson. She offered Prophet a job in her business and the prophet accepted and worked. It is a role model example for the masculine Muslim society that working woman are acceptable in Islam because they contribute in the growth of economy of the state that leads to prosperity.

Moreover, the people of the male dominant society believe that a married woman is ready to serve not only her husband but also the family of her husband. If someone asks a family about their daughters-in-law, they let them introduce to them as housewives who do not work. However she works at the home like washing, cleaning, cooking, ironing etc. In addition, the society does not count such works which are known as unpaid jobs. By making such interpretations, society has created problems for them. This is injustice with the woman as well as with the man. In this system, woman totally relies on the earning of a man in the shape of a father, a brother, a husband or a son. On the other hand, the man is totally overburdened by the woman in the shape of a mother, a sister, a wife or a daughter.

If we look at the practices around the world in Muslim society, most of the women are getting education less than the men. Furthermore, if some women are getting higher education, they are supposed to be the masculine and people use stereotyped language for them. No one gets willing to offer her for a wedding proposal. Islam gives us the lesson that marriage should be made by the willingness of both partners and the proposal can be made by any one of them but here in Muslims’ world, wedding is made by the willingness of a boy and the willingness of the family of a girl. Why people have problematized it. Why they have set some standards for her. Islam does not give any lesson for inequality between men and women. Our prophet was

proposed by a noble lady Khadeeja (May Allah be pleased with her). The prophet considered the proposal, talked with his uncle and accepted it. This is the great example of Islam. If we think for a while that our sister or daughter expresses her willingness to marry with a person of her choice, our society gets worried and annoyed at her. They will surely blame her that she has already got some illegal engagements with him. In our context, this marriage is known as love marriage and mostly it is not acceptable. In some cases if the couple gets out of their homes and make a court marriage, the relatives of the couple follow them until the couple is ceased and killed as Karo-Kari. Afterwards the killers present themselves before police and feel proud of on such brutal act of assassination. The honor killing is mostly seen in Muslim world. It is a male dominant society where males have the right to choose, select, order, wish, annoy at, or get angry while the females have just a right to serve, cry, weep, obey or request.

In addition, Islam insists the person to pay to his spouse for breast feeding but no one pays. The compensation should be paid for a lady who does not work but she is entitled not to work. In Islam, stipend is given to them who are unemployed but we have considered only the males as unemployed. Islam shows equality in every walk of life but interpretations were made by males so they got biased and have made different standards for both sexes.

In the initial days of Islam, interestingly Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with her), the beloved wife of prophet used to teach Quran and Sunnah to the male companions of prophet. She was a great scholar and interpreter of Quran and Sunnah. However, the Muslim world will not find any other female scholar in the fourteen hundred years. This is an imbalance situation, in which total interpretations of the Holy Writs were made by males. Therefore, the interpretations were obviously gendered, in which the public spaces were utilized for males and the women were deliberately kept in the isolated private spaces.

Most of the Muslims misinterpret the Quran and Sunnah just as the Jews and Christians did before in their Holy Writs according to their self-interests. Before Islam rises, the infidels of Makkah believe a woman as a toy to get her used for some time when needed and then divorced her. Same is happening in Muslim practices. The people take women as sub ordinates, use them as a blank paper, write them and in the end throw them when another beautiful blank paper is available. Moreover, men threat to women in order to keep their superiority over them. The Judas did not use to keep company with their spouses when they had been in menstrual cycle. They believed that their women had been littered and rubbish. They left them and took other

females for their enjoyment. Moreover, the infidels of Makkah used to bury their daughters in order to remove their black spot from their head. It is Islam that brought change in the society, but the Muslims’ practices again reflect back to those brutal infidels’ acts now.

Prophet explained the society that women had the same needs whatever men had and both had the equal rights. Prophet gave the example referencing The Glorifying Quran that They are your garments and you are their garments. Adding to this point, he said both the man and the woman are the two halves of one body. Nevertheless, the Muslims blame her for so many reasons like what they will do after getting education. They are to stay at home. If they move outside then who will take care of home and herself.

In conclusion, the Islamic perspective shows the equality in both genders in terms of their spaces, jobs, access and control but the Muslim practices are different.

The contributor is enrolled in the M.Ed program at the Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development (IED).

4 thoughts on “Islamic perspectives of gender equality and their misinterpretation

  1. well.. the author seems to have an eye on Muslim society’s customs and habits.These misinterpretations are real.Most of our society is occupied by these practices..
    A very talk about topic is this and to speak about this one must have a deep study of subject,, I am impressed by the knowledge ,the author has.. some information was new to me..i.e “Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with her), the beloved wife of prophet used to teach Quran and Sunnah to the male companions of prophet.”
    over all this was at good effort.

  2. Dear Talpur! I really enjoyed the examples you have shared particularly about not letting women in the Mosques ( even no separate place for them). If namaz e bajamt can bless blessings to each namazi, then why women are deprived from that blessings?

    However, I have concerns with the point you have shared from the Holy Qur’an ( Iqra) but Qur’an has many commands and restrictions on women ( for example, the whole SuratunNisa is all about women).

    Finally, theoretically most of the Muslims accept the points you have raised, if all these are right then where is the knot? as Ghalib utters

    jab k tujh bin nahi koi maujud
    phir ye hangama, ai Khuda kya hai

  3. Dear Talpur! you have very honestly criticized the approach of our society towards gender disparity. it is clear from your writing that in Islam there is no gender disparity. Islam has given equal status to men and woman. there are some cultural practices which are linked with Islam which has stereotyped the universal religion, Islam. Before Islam in the Arab culture woman were treated inhuman manner. In some tribes woman were buried alive. we are observing the same culture in most of the Islamic countries, particularly in Arab countries, even after model example of hazrat Khadija as business woman and Hazrat Aisha as teacher still woman are imprisoned in their houses. they are even deprived of their very basic right, education.

  4. For many people across the globe Gender equality is a myth, and it still has a lot of misconceptions. But, if someone comes to know about Islamic perspective, he or she will surely come to know the intrinsic nature of Islam. It has solelly defined the rights of both genders in a way that each would enjoy the fact. I agree to the points you made here. And also If one see this verse of Quran “He that works evil will not be requited but by the like
    thereof: and he that works a righteous deed – whether man or woman – and
    is a Believer – such will enter the Garden (of Bliss): Therein will
    they have abundance without measure.” (40:40)”

    he will come to know the fact that when entering Bliss has same requirments for men and women, for other things Equality holds also.
    I found this article useful for further awarness :
    https://quranitopics.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/the-gender-equality-in-justice-system-of-allah-almighty/

    Regards
    Faizan

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