Women between the Tyranny of the Western System and The Mercy of
In the name of God, the Most Merciful,
the Bestower of Mercy
Praise be to God,
by whose grace all acts of goodness are performed!
May blessings and peace be upon our liegelord, Muhummad,
the unlettered prophet,
and upon all of his household and faithful Companions.
I ask God Almighty to inspire me with wisdom,
to honor me with the grace of pure-hearted devotion to Him alone,
and to render this effort of mine fruitful in this world
and acceptable to Him in the world to come.
God, for a certainty, is the One who hears and answers.
Islamic rulings relating to the woman are not the outgrowth of time-bound developments, human revolutions, or evolving customs; rather, they are as old as Islam itself. Even so, we heard no one criticize such rulings, in whole or in part, in the name of support for and defense of women, until the present era. What is the reason for this? Were previous generations less concerned about women and their interests? Were they less aware of the view being expressed by modern writers and researchers that Islam has been unfair to the woman with respect to the rights it has granted her and the duties it has imposed on her? The reason for this phenomenon lies neither here nor there. After all, those who lived before us were no less zealous in defense of the woman and her rights than we are today; nor is the present generation more adept than its predecessors at understanding Islamic law and detecting its flaws or shortcomings (and God forbid that it should be afflicted with either!).
Rather, the reason for this phenomenon is that in the past, the West was not in a position to plot harm against Islam, since it was still too preoccupied with the tasks of reforming itself, overcoming its own problems, and working on achieving inward unity. However, when it managed to get on its feet, as it were, and to awaken from its backwardness, it perceived Islam and Muslims as a threat to its newly-experienced renaissance. At the same time, the accumulated wealth which God had granted the Muslims acted as a lure which whetted Western nations' appetite for what the Muslim lands had to offer. Consequently, it became an overriding concern in the West to strive to penetrate, and indeed, to destroy the bastion which had served heretofore as the most powerful and significant protection for the Muslims against whatever danger may have surrounded them or threatened to infiltrate their ranks. This bastion was none other than Islam, including its well-established, precise teachings about life, human beings and the universe, and its rulings on conduct which had enabled Muslims to attain an advanced level of human civilization.
After examining the situation, Western leaders determined that the field of education would be the ideal arena in which to execute their scheme and bring it to its desired conclusion, and that women and issues relating to them were likely to be the most effective tool by which to impose their brand of education in place of the rightly guided Islamic education which was then in existence. In so saying, of course, we are not revealing anything new; on the contrary, this type of intrigue on the part of the West is such a well-recognized phenomenon that even the most naive and simple are aware of it. Henry Jessup, one of the most eager bearers of Western colonialism to Syria, once wrote candidly, "The girls' schools are the apple of my eye! I have always sensed that Syria's future lies in the education of its girls and women. Our girls' school in Beirut still lacks its own building, but despite this fact, it has aroused great interest on the part of the evangelistic societies."
But, how could this tool be put to use? It could be put to use by the West's inciting women against Islam and its codes of behavior on the pretext that Islam had not been fair to women, had not nurtured their humanity, and had not guaranteed them their full rights. Once they had achieved this aim, they could instill affection in such women's hearts for the Western system, thereby leading them to see this system as the only order in the world that would uphold their rights, safeguard their dignity, and affirm their equality with men in all areas of life.
By means of this process, the Muslim woman would be transformed into an element of resistance against Islam, a willing instrument in the hands of the West, and a herald on behalf of its principles and ideas. Moreover, in view of the fact that the woman is the primary source of her children's upbringing and education, the Muslim woman would now become the ideal inculcator of Western notions and behaviors in the nascent generation of Muslims. This, in turn, would cause Islam to lose its authority over Islamic society by dint of the direct efforts of the Muslims themselves.
This, then, is the reason that until quite recently, you have heard nothing of what is said or written today by Muslim or non-Muslim thinkers about Islam's neglect of women's rights. There is no doubt that the reality I have described is a disaster in the making. However, the greatest disaster lies neither in the fabrication of falsehoods about Islam, nor in the West's show of phony sympathy for the Muslim woman in Islamic society. Rather, the disaster lies in the attitude taken by some Muslims toward such fabrications and the hypocrisy concealed behind them.
In the face of the West's deceitful pretense of virtue, Muslims find themselves in one of two groups. Those in the first group are merely nominal Muslims whose allegiance belongs in actual fact to the West, its order and its ways. Consequently, they remain in support of this hypocrisy, both as an overall approach and in its specific expressions. As for the second group, it is composed of individuals who are Muslims in a genuine, inward sense and who are convinced of the fairness of Islam's principles and precepts. However, the stance they take in the face of this hostile bigotry is that of a suspect cringing in the prisoner's dock! In other words, they find themselves on the defensive; not only so, but the manner in which they defend themselves, rather than appealing to people's reason, simply arouses their pity. Both these attitudes contribute to the same overall tragedy -- i.e., that of bringing Islam down from the lofty plane to which it belongs and where it radiates truth, draws people's souls and guides their minds -- whether by people's turning away from Islam, or by the demeaning way in which they advocate and defend it.
What makes this tragedy all the more bitter is that one concludes that the woman in those Western societies which shed crocodile tears over the state of Muslim women is happy with her life, enjoying her full rights and a sense of dignity. However, when you examine the facts more closely, you discover that her dignity has been crushed, she has been fed with illusions about her rights, and she has become -- knowingly or unknowingly -- a mere instrument of the man's pleasure and an outlet for his physical desires. For, in actual fact, those who lament the condition of Muslim women here are the very people who have drowned the Western woman in a sea of lostness, degradation, and deprivation in their own lands!
Indeed, this is what intensifies the pain and bitterness of the tragedy embodied in the nominal Muslims who have been dazzled by the West's systems and its hypocrisy toward the woman. This bitterness is further intensified when we read the insulting words which have been penned in defense of Islam and its stance toward women. Such lines have been written by individuals who, without a doubt, are laboring under the burden of their blind infatuation with the deceits of Western phenomena, customs and systems. As a consequence, not one of them has the strength -- however much he speaks and defends -- to remove himself from the "prisoner's dock."
Imagine what disaster it would be for a thief to pretend to be staging a revolution out of zeal for people's rights and property and out of sympathy for the weak and oppressed. However, such a disaster would be all the more overwhelming if we found that there were people who had been so taken in by the thief's charade and so moved by his clamorous expressions of pity that they were embarrassed to show contempt for hypocrisy and hypocrites and to point people to the truth with a sense of pride and confidence!
* * *
In light of the foregoing, I will deal in the chapters below with the status of the woman in Islam. However, I will not do so in the form of an obsequious defense made by some "prisoner at the bar", as it were; rather, the starting point for my discussion is one of concern for the fate the Western woman today and the search for a way to release her from the oppressive effects of the Western system.
As for the word "rights" -- which is bandied about with such ease in Western circles and which is dealt with so prolifically in Western writings and lectures -- we find that its content, which embodies the very spirit of humanity, has been lost and rent asunder in a raging sea of words, forgotten and abandoned in the darkness that lies concealed behind the jargon of diplomacy and the wiles of dissimulation. Therefore, we will deal with the content of the word "rights" without allowing ourselves to be held captive by the deceit of words or letting our sight be blinded by the luster of labels and terminology. Rather, our search will be for the facts alone, and our sole criterion for judging claims will be that of sound reasoning and justice.
In my discussion of women's status in Islam, my object will be to determine the value of the claim made by some that Islam has neglected women's place and negated many of their rights. Hence, we will not concern ourselves at the outset with the fact that a number of practices and customs which were prevalent in pre-Islamic times have continued to be followed in some Islamic societies and, in fact, have supplanted the order and rule of Islam. (This is especially true in numerous villages where the force of ignorance still holds sway to a great extent.) For it is not our concern, nor is it the concern of truth or those who cling to it, to allow our judgments on Islam to be colored by the offenses committed by those who either know nothing about true Islam or choose to turn away from it. Nevertheless, I have devoted the concluding chapter of this book to a treatment of such holdover practices from pre-Islamic days. In so doing, I make clear how senseless such practices are in reality and what a far cry they are from the sound guidance and principles of Islam. At the same time, I stress the necessity of being wary of such customs; in fact, I call upon those in positions of authority and administrative influence to work toward ridding our Islamic societies of these practices and their unwholesome consequences.
All of this is my intention if I live long enough, by God's grace, to carry this task to completion after having had the honor of communicating these same thoughts in the form of a series of talks aired on Arab Syrian Television as part of my weekly program entitled, "Lessons from the Qur'an."
O God, I ask You not to leave me to my own devices in what I think or write.
Deliver me from the temptation to be carried away by mere whims and desires,
be they my own or those of others.
And grant, O God, that in all I say and do,
my soul's most cherished desire would be
to please You alone.