The most radical movement in recent times which is revolutionising the whole social structure and changing the entire basis of human relationships is the Feminist Movement; the drive for Women’s Liberation.
I identify myself as feminist who proudly associates with the “f-word” along with being a practicing Muslim. Is it possible to be a Muslim and a Feminist? Well, of course. Islam and Feminism does not contradict in terms and can work hand-in-hand.
Most of the conflicts between Islam and modern women’s rights attributes to culture rather than the actual religion. Much of what is followed today is the interpretation of a group of scholars dating back hundreds of years, rather than the literal teachings of Allah. The Qur’an is a complex and dense book so that even the act of translation involves interpretation. Reinterpretation of the text is a controversial issue, but there are some interesting attempts by female scholars to challenge accepted wisdom not by deviating from the Qur’an, but by returning to it. This is a religion which unleashed tolerance and equality at a time where girls were being buried alive simply for their gender. A time when slavery was an accepted reality, Islam evoked the freeing of a slave among the best actions a human could take. So at a time when equal rights between tribes are/was unthinkable, let alone between men and women, the Qur’an would constantly reinforce this notion of equality.
Yet gender discrimination is one of the most ill-founded allegations used to discredit Islam. There are several popular myths which perpetuate this gross stereotype.
“Islam practices Female Genital Mutilation.”
There is no evidence to corroborate this from within Islam.
According to UNICEF, Ethiopia and Nigeria total 43.7 million out of 125 million FGM cases in the 29 countries studied. That is two of the oldest Christian states already counting for 35% of victims. FGM is evidently rooted in central African culture. It is a regional practice, not a religious one.
“Muslim women are not allowed to receive an education.”
Islam encourages education and the pursuit of knowledge.
“And say: My Lord increase me in knowledge.” [20:114]
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim.” Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74
In fact, this notion of education is so strong in Islam that Muslims are required to question the Qur’an itself. “(They) may ponder over its Verses, and that those of understanding would be reminded.” [38:29]
It is desirable for women seek answers that honor their faith, gender and maintaining their dignity whilst excelling in helping society and those around them.
“A wife at home has no right to any property, financial security, or to work. if she asks for a divorce, she must return her dowry and has no rights.”
Islam respects a woman’s right to financial security. 1,300 years ago, Islam clarified a woman’s right to own property, work, and further material entitlements for the sake of independence. Women are entitled to a limitless personal dowry upon marriage, irrevocable in divorce or disagreement. This is in contrast to many Asian cultures where men receive the dowry. A woman also has the right to keep her last name, property she owned prior to marriage, and any income earned during marriage. Her property is recognized as hers alone rather than for the household or for the man. The Prophet’s first wife and the first woman to accept Islam, Khadijah RA, was a businesswoman who was one of the wealthiest in Arabia. If a divorcee has children, she is entitled to child support. “When you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits)…” [2:231]
“Women are overlooked. They have no say nor importance in Islam. If they dare to interject, they will be criminalized.”
To disregard a woman in Islam is to disregard the consideration given to them through Islam. More than half of Islam comes from a woman. Aisha (RA) narrated over two thousand Hadith which consists the major source of guidance for Muslims and is noted for teaching eminent scholars. No other major religion ordains a female as an authority used to cite religious virtues. To say women should not “dare to interject”, when 1.5 billion Muslims across the world look to a woman’s work in guidance of their faith, is neither logical nor sane.
“Showing disrespect to a woman is fine as a man’s status is higher than her.”
The Qur’an explicitly refutes this countless times.
[3:195] Their Lord responded to them: I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one another.”
[4:124] As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female, while believing, they enter Paradise; without the slightest injustice.”
“[49:13] O’ People, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another.”
So by saying that “Islam and feminism cannot co-exist”, you are handing a victory to that conservative faction. People need to rethink this idea of Islamic Feminism as an oxymoron. It is only through establishing that identity and stability that self-respect can be achieved and a more healthy climate for both Muslim men and Muslim women will emerge.
While world religions squabbled over vilifying women for the “Original Sin,” Islam stepped in and said both man and woman were responsible, they were both forgiven, and they are both equal. Therefore, instead of a religion which oppresses women in material matters, Islam seeks to safeguard and empower them. This, in the end, is what Islamic Feminism is about.