“Our women, our World” – Part II
“And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish and do not approach this tree, for then you will be of the unjust. (Q.2:35-36)
Ironically, there are some Muslim brothers who treat their wives as their personal estates. They remind you of the Jahiliyyah period in Arabia. Under the customary tribal law existing in Arabia at the advent of Islam, as a general rule, women had virtually no legal status. The tribe acted as the main functional unit of Arabian society and was composed of people with connections to a common relative. These tribes were patriarchal and inheritance was passed through the male lines; women could not inherit property. The tribal leader enforced the tribe’s spoken rules, which generally limited the rights of the women. Women were often considered property to be inherited or seized in a tribal conflict. There were patterns of homicidal abuse of women and girls, including instances of killing female infants largely considered to liabilities. The Quran mentions that the Arabs in Jahiliyyah (the period of ignorance or pre-Islamic period) used to bury their daughters alive. The motives were twofold: the fear that an increase in female offspring would result in economic burden, and the fear of the humiliation frequently caused when girls were captured by a hostile tribe and subsequently preferring their captors to their parents and brothers.
Thus when the French warrior, Napolean Bonaparte, said that “nature intended women to be our slaves; they are our property”, he was actually calling attention to men who treat their women like their estates; he was reminding us of the unwholesome history of the oppression of women across civilizations; the oppression of in the so-called modern period. Or how else might we explain the decision of a brother in Afghanistan or Maiduguri who says education is “haram” for his wife and daughters? How do we explain the insistence of my brother that his wife should have no financial independence even when the Almighty expressly says: And covet not what the Almighty has endowed one over the other; unto men part of what they earn and unto women part of what they earn…(Q4:32)
Living in a postmodern society of the 21st century, a society on its constant migration, in line with Tayyib Salih, to the North, to the West, a society in which women are harassed and oppressed on a daily basis, one might be forgiven to suggest that some of the evils women are suffering today are self-inflicted ones. In other words, some women in our society nowadays have adopted such Western values as nudity, single parenthood, and excessive material pursuits as their Quran and Bible. When women give preference to their bodies not their brain, when women call attention to their bodies through immodest dressing styles, the international day of women becomes an hollow ritual, devoid of any useful essence. It is this scenario that probably led Germaine Greer to say: “The most popular image of the female despite the exigencies of the clothing trade is all boobs and buttocks, a hallucinating sequence of parabolae and bulges”. While describing the dressing of a woman in New York, Woody Allen says: “She wore a short skirt and a tight sweater and her figure described a set of parabolas that could cause cardiac arrest in a yak”.
Besides, out world today is that in which women are getting tired quickly of their femininity. Women now seek an escape from their bodies. In other words, where there are millions of women out there who worship their bodies, who consider themselves as sexual tools, women who sexually objectify themselves, there are others who yearn and lust after the male gender; there are millions nowadays who want to be men. Such women are referred to as transgender, queer etc. To make their earthly journey from one sex to the other easy and possible, they now enjoy huge backing and support from the United States where the current administration is said to have introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that seek to abolish difference, not discrimination, based on gender. The US desires a world where men would be women and vice versa.
Prophet Muhammad envisioned a holistic personality for the woman. He, therefore, emphasized the Quranic ordinances on the above. He forbade Muslim women from immodesty in speech and conduct and instituted the culture of hijab. He taught that when women call attention to their bodies they invariably veil off the more important endowment granted unto them by Allah: their intellectuality and self-dignity.
But I am humbled by the reality that women who focus on their bodies are probably responding to the force of demand and supply. Somebody once said: “The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think”!
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts,
University of Ibadan,
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