Feminism is a topic that is tweeted about a lot on Twitter, I didn’t hear about it that much until I joined and people are majorly divided over it. Whether pro feminism or completely anti feminism it seems to be a subject that is raging between the sexes and also the religious and non-religious. I’m not too interested in the subject but I wanted to find out a little more on it because it’s brought up so often, from people believing it’s harming society, harming the relationship between men and women, affecting the family and people saying how bad it is for women.
It was a movement for equality, justice and fairness and I’m told now its anti men pro matriarch anti patriarchy, Obscuring gender roles, diminishing women’s femininity because women are trying to be more like men (this is what they say) work roles and getting more radical.
As I said I’m not too interested in this topic but I did come across a lecture and found it to be very concise on its history as to why and how feminism came about. I’ve written some key points from the lecture.
The speaker is an Islamic scholar and teacher named Ali Al Tamimi of Iraqi American heritage. He is a knowledgeable and intelligent man who is very much ahead of his time and I believe this lecture, even though it was contextual to its time conducted in the 90s (I believe I’m not 100% sure) still applies today. He’s an Islamic scholar and teacher as well as a geneticist, at one point he was one of the top 25 in the world. He was studying cancer research using mathematical chaos theory to explain the random multiplication of cells in the body. The sheikh (scholar) is currently incarcerated for life in an American prison, I pray Allah hastens his release Ameen. His take on the current wave of feminism would be fascinating.
He begins the lecture by stating that he feels it’s quite important discussing the topic of feminism pertaining to Islam because there is a concerted movement throughout the world to try to reinterpret basic Islamic beliefs and practises in a feminist interpretation of the Quran (Muslims holy book) and Sunnah (practises of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him). From what I see this is still in full fledge today. A popular book regarding this has been written by a Moroccan woman named Fatima Mernissi – The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminists Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. A collation of poor scholarship according to the sheikh.
The notion of feminism is relatively new in terms of ideas, 3 to 4 centuries ago there was no such thing as feminism, you cannot find it in dictionaries, encyclopedias or in the historical books. It is a new school of thought that has appeared in the last 150 years, in particular since world war two in the west due to men being conscripted and the need for women in the workplace, when the men returned the women were effectively forced out.
How has this school of thought appeared in the west initially? How does the west look to women historically? This gives an idea to why feminism arises in the west.
The Wests culture is rooted in ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans traced to the Greek philosophers Socrates, Aristotle, Plato etc. The ancient Greeks did not conceive of women being full human beings rather the notion was they did not possess full humanity like men do. Women were mere objects to be bought and sold in markets. Then the west adopted the teachings of Christianity, not what Allah sent down to the prophet Eesa (Jesus) but a mix of Rabbinical Jews, a mix of pagan practises and ethical early Christians with some preserved truth that was not lost that was sent down with some falsehood available.
Rabbinical Jews regarding women – essays were written by apostle Paul originally Jew according to the New Testament, you find general degradation of women and a notion was that they were the cause for the fall of humanity. When Adam the first man to be created ate the forbidden fruit in heaven according to the Old Testament, it was Eve that succumb to the wishes of satan and she convinced Adam to transgress. The Jewish and Christian theology both say the sin and the fall of humanity from paradise is put squarely on the shoulders of the woman alone.
Major Christian authors throughout the middle ages refer to women as satan’s tool and the cause of all the suffering faced by humanity. This led to degraded views of women in the middle ages, western civilisation and Europe. There are no examples of women having share of political, intellectual or social life in societies. Only from the 14th century in England was it permissible for a woman to read the Bible, prior to this is was forbidden according to church law let alone having a copy. Islamic history states that the original copy of the Quran made during the time of Abu Bakr was placed with Umar then after his death with his daughter Hafsa the prophet’s wife.
Women not being considered full human beings and being degraded continued in the west and was part of society for a number of centuries. In the 18th and 19th century the industrial revolution took place mainly in England and as a result a lot of labour in the mines and factories was needed. There was a shortage of sufficient men so women and children were forced to work 12-16 hour shifts for relatively no pay if any at all. As a result a number of aristocratic women saw the plight of their sisters and called for equality and justice and for their rights to be given. The first book written on this was in the 18th century – A vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft. The book argues if the women are working 14 plus hours they should get paid like men and have a right to education and be able to participate in the culture and so forth, to raise their status in the western society. Feminism was not just a call to be treated fairly but for their essential humanity.
The sheikh states that amongst the non muslims and those muslims that do not adhere to the Quran and Sunnah, you find they go from one extreme to the other. The west had essentially stripped women of the quality of humanity with no rights, they could not own property, they weren’t allowed an education to then arguing women and men are the same and even neutral terms such as gender instead of sex were introduced. They stated that rolls can be assumed by both sexes and there wasn’t any difference between men and women and that any difference that did appear were the teachings of that culture and society.
The sheikh states that feminism is a school of thought and within that there are different types such as liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism, post modern feminism etc.
The feminist approach to religion in the west is two types, firstly apologetic Christians and Jews that try to reconcile to achieve reinterpretation of the Hebrew texts and New Testament and that is a minority view.
Secondly the radical feminist thought – they consider in essence its nature is against religion, so no religion irrespective of which they reject and that religion is not positive at all for women and they have to be free from religion as a whole. He cites this is the majority view.
The book by Leila Ahmed – Women and Gender in Islam states that men have misinterpreted Islam to enforce the male cause.
Basic Notions in Islam Regarding Men and Women
The Quranic texts and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) say that men and women are fully sharing in humanity, it doesn’t teach that women are less of a human being then men. The major thrust of teachings to submit to Allah and worship are addressed to men and women alike. The basic pillars such as Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), Zakat (giving a percentage of money from wealth to the poor), prayer, belief in the oneness of God, men and women are addressed equally and they will receive the benefits and rewards of their actions and good deeds equally.
The Quran does not suggest the sin was of Eve alone and that Adam was duped. In Surah (chapter) Al Ar’af the Dua (prayer/invocation) of Adam is plural ‘we’. In Surah Taha it states that ‘Adam disobeyed so he went astray’, the sin fell on him, Muslims didn’t believe the woman to be the cause of evil.
Islam recognises that men and women are different. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better but a sign of Allah is that he created duality, night and day, sky and earth, moon and sun male and female. Neither of the two can be considered better or the same. The major difference between contemporary thought and Islamic belief is that the west went from the extreme of denying women’s humanity and that they’re full humans to now arguing men and women are the same and the only reason they act a certain way as men and women is due to the society and culture that teaches them that.
They try to deny that physiology has any effect on the psychological mental disposition of the sexes. Scientific literature cites male physiology and male hormones leads to different ways of acting and reacting in part of the personality compared to females. In Allah’s wisdom he created this order. The distinction in the sexes means there has been given different obligations to the sexes, obligations which will fit each sex best according to the way we are created for the purpose that Allah wanted of it. When a sex has obligations put upon it then entails it has greater rights.
It’s important to understand at the same time that throughout the Muslim world one does not find the teachings of Islam in regards to women applied and it’s undeniable that you find women in a bad state. Why? In the Islamic world all the rights are not observed, whether it’s the rights of Allah, fellow Muslims one to another, plants and animals etc. If society does not check tyranny and injustice and uphold decency the strong end up devouring the weak whether it be, women, children, the elderly, the poor which are the weakest members. This is not unique to women but Muslims as a society.
Proof that Islam is Better to Women
The sheikh cites that the greatest evidence is history itself, what has Islam brought to women compared to what other civilizations brought. Historians will tell you that humanity has seen 15 to 20 civilizations, in all of them you do not see women having any role in the development of that civilization per se. Examples cited – the American revolution and the founding fathers. The French revolutions – Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. The ancient Greeks had male philosophers, the ancient Chinese/ Japanese/ Hindus you don’t find women having any role in it. Books recorded in the last 5000 years of history you don’t see women being written about until the last 150 years playing a role in the society becoming doctors, office election roles etc.. It means nothing really was affected by women and they were passive in these civilizations.
In Islam it’s completely different, firstly it is not man-made but revelation sent down by Allah to his prophet Muhammad pbuh. In the beginning of his mission the most important person was his wife Khadijah pbuh. Had it not been for her support morally and materially his message could not have continued in Makkah. After Islam spread and after his death the knowledge transmitted by one of his wives Aisha pbuh. Out of the 7 major narrators of Hadith (books describing the prophet’s words, actions, habits)whereby 70% of Hadith is transmitted Aisha pbuh is amongst the major 2 or 3. The Fatwas (legal pronouncement interpreted from the Quran and Sunnah) Zarkashi wrote books on how she corrected Fatwa of the other male Sahabah (companions of the prophet pbuh) she participated in the society and was a major scholar.
Islamic history until the last 2 to 3 centuries, most major scholars had among their teachers a woman. 8th century Islamic history shows that 3 to 4 of Ibn Taymiyyah’s pbuh teachers were women from the number of people he learned from. The number of books show roles of women that transmitted Islamic knowledge.
In the West/Hindu/ Chinese civilizations they lack biographies of women personalities, you don’t know much about them, contemporary women we do have biographies. At the time of the prophet pbuh out of 9000 companions of the prophet there is a whole section on women, Ibn Hajar pbuh gathered biographies of the prophets pbuh companions.
The sheikh concludes the lecture by stating that we should not approach this topic in an apologetic manner to the reason to why feminism occurred and that they want to wipe out any difference between men and women in the west as a reaction to the extreme treatment they had before when they weren’t considered full humans.
What’s interesting is the number of books the sheikhs cites, as i stated the lecture was conducted a number of years ago so keep in mind the context to that point. I’ve included the link to the lecture, It’s in 6 parts with a short q&a at the end, the audio is poor due to it being old but as i stated earlier he was a ahead of his time on topics that are relevant today. Allah protect and preserve him.
Click here for the full lecture – Understand Feminism