The declined women in Islamic society

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Shazia Dar


(Shazia Dar)

Before the advent of Islam (Jahiliyyah), the plight was miserable in the barren desert of Arabia; they were either in subjugation to their kinsmen or they were taken as captives during the continual war in those days. They were usually treated by the enemy as bondmaids and were held in contempt. In this anarchical era, Islam brought the ray of hope for this poor creature by introducing the ideas of equal status and respect for women. In one stroke, Islam ensures that a woman has an independent personality that cannot be subjugated. It too banished the stigma that a woman is man’s eternal seducer and tempter. In the Holy Quran, both men and women are addressed in the same way, for example, Al Insan, Al Momin etc. Most importantly, Islam provided public, financial, political and legal rights to women. In addition, Islam gave inheritance right to women from movable as well as immovable property (Omar, 2011).

Unfortunately, over a period of time, this aspect of equality has been replaced with gender discrimination and inequality, even degrading to severe form of violence, which is rampant in Pakistan. The prevalence of customary laws became more visible as Islam travelled far and wide. Therefore, the true essence of the religion has been compromised, as is evident in the very case of Pakistan.

But here a question comes to my mind i.e. what are the causes of this deline???  Or how and why did the status of women declined in the Islamic society?

The answer to this question dated back to the medieval cultural practices somehow. It was in this period that India’s contact with the new religion of Islam began. The contacts began late in the 7th century through the Arab traders.

As most of the early jurists came from 7th century urban Arab society and culture and accordingly, the Arab customary laws became part of the Sharia’h. Unfortunately, because of a lack of proper knowledge and understanding, Qura’anic injunctions on gender justice were diluted. Secondly, the fabrication of ahadith also caused discrimination. The Qura’anic injunctions in respect of women were not acceptable in a patriarchal culture, as it challenged the authority of men and made women equal. Therefore, one can say that the problem is more cultural rather religious. But unfortunately religious zealots try to justify prevalent cultural and social misdeeds on the basis of Islam.

Regrettably, at the individual level, women themselves are also not aware of the rights enshrined to them in Islam. Islam considers both men and women equally human and grants them equal human rights. Both have similar duties to perform, for instance prayer, rituals, fasting etc. According to Islam & Holy Quran, personal superiority is only based on piety and not gender. There is no religious restriction on women attaining education or working outside their home.

But in reality, women are more conversant with the concocted version, as preached by religious leaders with a certain bent of mind. Severe case of ignorance or may be lihaaz (respect) that is engrained in their psyche by family and surroundings cause such passive identity. This docility is definitely visible in Pakistan, as female try to reconcile with violence and the sense of guilt is very strong within them.

A poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011 found that Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women. Pakistan being an Islamic Republic; every rule and regulation in the country is based on Islamic law. But, at the same time, there are some customs and traditions against Islamic laws which are commonly practiced (UN, 2011: 20). Cultural patterns in Pakistan do not let women enjoy their legal and religious rights protected by the law and provided by Islam. Pakistan is an Islamic state but in women’s rights, it derives its interpretation from customs and cultural norms. The existence of parallel justice system like Jirga and Panchayat are generally apathetic to women and their grievances and therefore, the existence of both legal and religious safeguards and measures do not percolate into the social structure. The fear factor also prevents women from asserting their rights. These bodies unlawfully impose punishments on those who assert their individual rights against the prescribed norms of the tribe or the community. Thus, malevolence of parochial culture overshadows the Religion of peace and equality-Islam.