By Asra Aman
When I was six, I was told by my mother, “Girls should behave in a decent and appropriate manner instead of playing outside with brothers, because girls are supposed to play inside the kitchen with utensils and hearth (the ultimate goal of a girl is considered to become a mother in the other home)”.
Before I was ten, I was forced to help in doing dishes and sweeping the floor daily in our home, nobody cared if that was according to my wish or not. When I crossed my teen, I was told that nice ladies should not wear fashionable dresses but simple and decent one, as the society demands, because society expects a lot from women who belong to respectable families.
As time passed, I turned twenty-five, and I was told, “you have to marry before thirty because girls look good at their own homes (in-laws place). So, I got married to a man who was chosen by my family. At this juncture, I had to leave my parents’ home with a promise that I had to be a good wife and a good mother in any situation. I was, apparently, wrong to consider my parents’ home as mine.
Now, I am forty and I am asked still to look like thirty, and take good care of my daughter, husband, home and also focus on my job. My daughter who is growing up very quickly makes me rejoice, but I think about how to raise her to be able to live in accordance with her own wishes and rules.
Innumerable taboos have been developed by traditional societies against women, like they are emotional rather than rational, and they have the inferior physical strength, to quote just two.
As a woman, when I reflect on our roles and responsibilities in our society, I become quite disappointed. Because society is evasive and very biased in terms of women’s right while building rules, regulations and customs. Where women are usually discouraged to perform many activities according to their rights and wishes. It is a serious dilemma of our society that the basic rights of women are mitigated viciously which leads to many problems. For instance, gender biases, in the realm of our society, social gender discrimination can clearly be seen in every field. Other various dilemmas are harassment, searching balance amid work and private life, attaining higher education, proper health care and getting married, what people perceive (log kia kahengay), honour killing and rape etc. The reasons behind these circumstances may be lack of awareness about Islamic teachings, cultural indoctrination or sort of chauvinistic society that stop us to empower our women.
While reading to Asma Barlas’s “Believing Women in Islam” Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Quran, a sentence solely grabbed my attention: “If God by definition, cannot be a misogynist, then God’s speech also cannot by definition be misogynist or teach misogyny or injustice”.
An Iranian scholar Nesta Ramazani also argues that Islamic feminism helps Muslim women’s emancipation by allowing for a more nuanced critique of gender discrimination in Islam, without disregarding the importance of the faith. Further, a conversation on Muslim feminist’s view of the Quran can help to move the discussion about gender equality, helping to improve the status of women in Islamic countries. Muslim women who are considered to be suppressed, vailed and concealed in every era need to be changed now. Because Islam gives the distinct and strong position to women in all aspects of life. If we go through the Quran (a complete code of conduct) women are core characters and matters of arguments in numerous places. There are 177 Ayahs which refer to women and their issues. Why, then, are we still blurred about the rights of women? Why we are still obscure when it comes to treating a woman? It is because we have less knowledge of the Quran which is an ultimate source that provides true and lasting solutions regarding every aspect of life including woman’s rights.
One of the Ayahs of Surah an-Nisa, explain the position of women clearly. Allah says: “O mankind! Have fear of your Rabb, the One who created you from a single soul, from that soul He created its mate, and through them, He spread countless men and women”. These verses are crystal clear to prove equality in Islam that all human beings are at the same position and should have equal rights.
Nobody can ever ignore the importance of the role of a woman apparently, as a mother, sister, daughter and wife because, in the contemporary world, they contribute equally side by side with the men in all spheres of life. By truly empowering half population of us and alleviating the rigid and extreme mindsets we will surely be successful to overcome the conundrums in our lives. In addition to that, there is a crying need for the elimination of the male superiority and patriarchy. It should be ensured that men show flexibility to endure and respect woman and her opinions. Also, women need to be given equal opportunities for education and employment without any sense of discrimination. We need attitudinal change as well to provide legal and constitutional rights to the half population of the world.
The contributor is an educationist based in Karachi. She belongs to Chitral.