Friday, May 1, 2020

Quranic Discourse About Women Is Rights Based but This Privilege Has Been Snatched Away from Them Over the Centuries Due to The Patriarchal Interpretation of Islam

By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam
01 May 2020

Teri ZaatSey Hai SilsileySaarey (Each Relation Originates from Your Personality)
Compiler: Saleem Mansur Khalid
Publisher: Manshurat Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, India
Year of Publication: 2019
Pages: 219 Price: Rs 200

The discourse on women rights in Islam is a contested one. For traditionalists the scope of women’s activities is confined just to her home and hearth. Child rearing, raising them, taking care of home are the priorities. The economic activities of women and working outside her home are curtailed in this discourse. For this economic freedom, women have to surrender few rights and a narrative mired with patriarchy emerges. In the other discourse women are economic creatures who need to provide for themselves and families. Both these discourses emerged over the course of time and each one of them has its merits and flaws. In our contemporary era, the gender relations have witnessed a shift so has the family life.

Family is the basic unit of society and Islam also stresses strongly on maintaining family ties. Quran time and again emphasis on being good to ones parents. Related to it is the husband and wife relationship that Quran describes as the basis of every other relationship. But over the course of time, the husband-wife relationships have been rendered more legal and an undercurrent of power struggle has undermined the love and respect it is expected to command. Globalization, Liberalization and Crony capitalism has rendered each soul to struggle economically. Gone are the days when one family member will earn and feed whole family. The inflation, rising standard of living and keeping abreast with the changing fashion trends and technology has compelled every person to be an economic animal.

The present book under review is a compilation of various writings by different authors each revolving around women and their role in establishing a successful married and family life. These writings have been compiled by an important historian of Islamic orientation Prof. Salim Mansur Khalid. In his introduction, Prof. Salim emphasizes that the onus of responsibility for making and breaking a home lies with a woman. It can be a contested claim, but Islamic spirit certainly lays down huge responsibility on women, particularly as mothers. It also rewards them as mothers. Muslim children are supposed to obey their parents and never shriek them off, even if they reach a ripe age. The Quranic discourse about women is rights based and for men it is duty based, but this privilege has been snatched away from them over the centuries due to the patriarchal interpretation of Islam.

These discourses and narratives do not form the core argument of the book, but time and again women particularly as wives are espoused to bear with patience every hardship that she may encounter at her in laws home. She has to selflessly sacrifice for the greater good of the family, bear with the harsh temperament of her husband and take care of her children as it is a divine responsibility. The essays attempt to reengineer and rewire her to adjust in her new home, where father and mother in law are a reality and she certainly needs to win them over. The biggest sacrifice that women undertake is shifting to her husband’s home. It is something that has become so normal that the element of sacrifice is not being associated with it. So a daughter in law is supposed to cater to the needs of each family member not to win over her husband only. She can demand a new house from her husband but better is to live and exist with father and mother in law. Also pragmatically speaking it is quite difficulty for most husbands in south asia to provide a separate house for the wife. Also speaking ill about in laws is not encouraged and any difficulty has to be overcome patiently.

Turning ones back to the responsibilities after marriage is an important aspect of the book. In our current era no person is ready to shoulder responsibilities. The modern-day capitalistic economics has rendered people hedonistically ambitious. They have dreams, desires and destinations that they intend to realize. So, none is ready to sacrifice or devote time and energy for the other. A marriage demands it, surrendering few rights and demands for the other. In a strictly patriarchal society, a woman will never accept a husband whom earns less than her or is educationally not even with her. So this economic empowerment of women has given rise to other problems, leading to strife in marriages. On the other hand working women are facing numerous problems as many times it becomes difficult for them to balance between personal and professional demands.

Meanwhile the man, as a husband and son are also struggling to strike a balance and many times becomes victim between the antagonistic demands and expectations of wife and mother.  Further if the marriage is not leading to the birth of a child then it creates a ruckus among the couple and their families. But when the woman is pregnant, taking care of the child and taking care of its needs, is akin to be involved in Jihad (P-58). Then naming the child can become a bone of contention, so a consensus among both families should be reached. Then various constructive steps should be taken to raise the child in a free environment that will lead to his/her holistic development.

Also, women have a great role in helping their husbands become religious. They should also be attending to the chores at home as well as fulfilling their religious chores. Overall, the book is a nice read and delineates the responsibilities of a woman as enshrined in religion. But at the same time most essays overlook the responsibilities of man and particularly husband. The onus of all responsibility has been made around the woman, but a husband has been obliged to fulfil more duties and responsibilities towards the family and particularly the wife. This emphasis on the central role of husband should not be discounted, particularly when it comes to domestic chores and raising children because capitalism has now rendered both genders as economic creatures. So if a wife is earning, a husband too needs to attend to the responsibilities of home. Only then the disasters that we are witnessing happening to the institution of marriage will be curtailed, otherwise the family structure and its prospectus look quite bleak in future.

An occasional columnist for, M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir

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