Thursday, June 12, 2008

Feminism & Islam


From the American Heritage Dictionary:
fem·i·nism
n.
  1. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
  2. The movement organized around this belief.

I've read a lot of interesting perspectives on feminism in Islam over the last few months. Some of them highlighting the freedoms and rights that Islam gives, and some mocking them as inadequate. Strangely enough, both of these perspectives have been coming from Muslim women.

Before I accepted Islam, I can admit I knew nothing about the rights it gives to women. As an outsider I had the same misconceptions that most people have. Women are oppressed, beaten down and 2nd class citizens. Once I started to learn about Islam, all of these things melted away. As my knowledge grew, so did my respect for a religion that offers so many rights to women.

One of the things that really struck me as amazing was the story of Adam and Hawa (Eve). In Christianity God prohibited both of them from eating the fruits of the forbidden tree. Eve was seduced by the serpent to eat from it, and in turn seduced Adam to do the same. When God asked Adam about what he did, he put all the blame on Eve, "The woman you put here with me --she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it." For this sin, they both were told they must leave the Garden of Eden. Childbirth would be painful for Eve, and she would be ruled by her husband. For him, the ground would not yield crops easily and he would have to toil for his food.

As you can see, in Christianity, Eve is the one to blame. In the Quran it says:

"O Adam dwell with your wife in the Garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or you run into harm and transgression. Then Satan whispered to them in order to reveal to them their shame that was hidden from them and he said: 'Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.' And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought them to their fall: when they tasted the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: 'Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was your avowed enemy?' They said: 'Our Lord we have wronged our own souls and if You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost' " (7:19:23).

The Quran places blame with neither of them. The pain of childbirth is not a punishment and they are both forgiven for their sin.

Islam gives women true rights. Rights that we should be grateful for. I think the problem happens when some 'feminist sisters' try to compare the 'rights' of modern western women to those of the rights given to us by Allah Subhannah wa Ta'Allah. Who is to say that those rights of modern women are really any better than those given to us by Allah?

I find that most sisters that call themselves feminist are doing a disservice to Islam. Instead of embracing the rights that women are given and sharing it with others, they spend time finding news and articles of how women are being oppressed. What good does it do, to point out things that have nothing to do with Islam as practice of Muslims?

Islam is a perfect religion. We don't need to alter it, reject parts of it or interpret it so that it fits any modern standard.

4 comments:

Amy said...

As-salaamu alaikum!
Yes, yes, yes! I agree with you. Islam is perfect--and doesn't the Creator know what He created? That is why Shari'ah is perfect to ensure the rights of women are protected.

I used to think of myself as something of a feminist, before Islam and even for a while after. I had the idea that I as a woman could be fulfilled by a career, could be just as good an engineer or pilot as any man. And I still believe that--I don't think women have less intelligence or that women are less capable of intellectual pursuits.

But I can't say that I believe men and women are equal. Because I believe there are things that women can do much better than men. Raising children. It's not possible for a man to be to a child what its mother is. The compassion of a mother, how she is uniquely tuned to the emotions of her children, this is something special. And I really think that the "feminist" movement in fact demeans women, because it marginalizes and discredits the value that a mother is to her children, that a wife is to her husband.

A woman's purpose in life, however, is the same as a man's--and that is to worship Allah. And once again I'll say, doesn't the Creator know what He created?

So it seems to me that feminism just does more harm than good. Not that it's bad for women to be able to flourish intellectually and socially, but to rob husbands of their wives, and children of their mothers, it is the theif called feminism which takes from women their femininity.

Jamilah said...

Amy

I like what you've written, it makes me think even more about how I feel about feminism.

Allah does know his creation better than anyone, and men and woman ARE different. We were created to fulfill certain roles.. it was meant to be a partnership, with strengths on both sides. Thats not to say that a woman can't have a great career and a man can't raise his children, but ideally we have been designed in a way to work as a unit... a family.

Hannah said...

asalamu alaikum

you are so right that Islam is perfect, and women have all the rights that they need. There is no need to improve them or alter them to fit a society....this would imply an imperfection in Islam.

Anonymous said...

Salaam,

Great blog couldn't agree more with both you and Amy. People would save themselves the headache and heartaches if they would just practice Islam and follow the Quran and Sunnah instead of trying to be so 'modern' or 'moderate' with their "views".

WaSalaam,
M