"Zerkalo Nedeli", September, 11-17th, 2010
A woman in hijab (canonic clothes of a Muslim woman which covers the whole body, except face, hands and feet) causes in the majority of Ukrainians or hostility, or the feeling of pity. Really, in the Post-Soviet countries, as well as in the West, Islam is considered as a symbol of rigid subordination of a woman to a man. Is such judgment fair?
The Muslim society was always patriarchal, as, however, Christian: men headed the states and were in the head of the family. Domination of a man over a woman was proved by principles of the practiced religion, both in Islam and in Christianity. Nevertheless, this domination should not mean infringement of rights and possibilities of a woman according to religious doctrines.
Position of women in the modern Muslim society is inconsistent enough: in the Arab countries there are some legislative and standard interdictions for women on the things accessible to men. Social roles and functions of women and men differ too much. Is it really so and if so, how proper is it from the point of view of Islam — one of three world religions?
Opinion of Slavic Muslim
Anna Vasylieva converted to Islam eight years ago when she was seventeen. The Ukrainian by origin, Anna was born in Kazakhstan. She lived there not for long, but she became interested in culture and religion of Muslims. During her study at the university (Anna is linguist) interest to Islam amplified as she learnt about this religion more and more, "At some instant I realized that Islam is what I do need, what I searched for my whole life".
Now Anna is happily married, she has a son and is expecting one more child. She lives, as she said, "in two countries" — in Ukraine and in the homeland of her husband - Egypt.
— I live in the Muslim environment and I see the true attitude to a woman: she is not restrained in any way in her rights and possibilities. There are some Arab countries where the law does not allow a woman, for example, to drive a car, - Anna tells. The phenomena, in her opinion, arise from wrong understanding of the religion. — After all, nowadays it is unfortunately impossible to tell that any country is the sample of the Islamic state: everywhere there are deviations from Shariat (the Muslim law), cultural differences.
Position of True Islam
To explain features of women's position in Islam agreed the Imam of the Islamic Social Cultural Centre of Kiev, the post-graduate student of Islamic sciences, the expert on Islamic theological questions Sheikh Imad Abu Al-Rubb.
— Sheikh Imad, how did the role of the woman in society with the arrival of Islam changed?
— Initially God created the man and the woman equal, they lived in mutual respect, gave birth to children. All prophets, still before Mohammed, respected women. But in the Ancient Greece, Rome, India and other states they were treated as slaves. In medieval Europe were conducted theological disputes whether a woman has a soul.
In the pre-Islamic times in the Arab countries the woman were treated respectfully, men were responsible for the family. But owing to features of that historical epoch, circumstances of that time (men were nomads, hunters, they spent not enough time at home) they did not want that in a family were born girls. Quite often girls were buried alive at the age of five years — very severe phenomenon. So it was before Islam. When the Prophet Mohammed came, he told that the murder of girls is a very big sin. There should not be difference between boys and girls.
— How did the Prophet Mohammed who is an example for all Muslims, treated women?
— The Prophet who grew without a mother (she died, when Mohammed was six years old), very respectfully treated his first wife Hadija and their children — they had three daughters. Their family was exemplary: together carried out housework and ran business. The Prophet Mohammed told golden words testifying to how it is necessary to respect women. He proclaimed that there is no any men better than the one who treats kindly his family. A woman, according to the Prophet, is as a glass which can be broken easily, therefore she should be treated very carefully. And the one who will give birth and will adequately bring up three daughters, according to the Quran, will enter Paradise.
— What is the legal status of a woman in the modern Islamic society?
— The woman in Islam takes the important place in relation to God and society as a whole. She is considered as a jewelry demanding care and solicitous attitude. A man and a woman, according to Islam, are equal that grants to all of them corresponding rights, such as protection of life, honor, property and advantage. These rights are inviolable; they are not restrained and not challenged. But Islam establishes certain distinctions between men and women in some rights and duties. The man is head and supporter of a family; he is responsible for its financial and material maintenance. The woman is the keeper of home, careful mother and wife.
— Whether a Muslim woman can work and choose for herself kind of activity?
— Yes, a woman chooses herself, should she work or not: after all her husband is obliged to provide her with all necessary, and she can be engaged in her favorite business for her own pleasure and personal development. But the role of mother and wife should be the most important for any woman. There are fields of activity which are inadmissible for her, such as man's kinds of works connected with physical activities, that is harmful to body, and work in places which may harm soul, such as casino. According to Islam, a woman is the person, instead of the goods. In the modern countries including European, we observe absolutely wrong perception of a woman which does not correspond to principles of any religion.
— Why Muslim women are obliged to wear hijab?
— First of all, hijab is the clothes not only of Muslims. Maria, mother of Jesus, also wore hijab (coverlet), the same concerns modern Christian nuns. Therefore it is surprising that about hijab are always asked only Muslims while it is initial tradition also of Judaism and Christianity. Secondly, according to Islam a woman is obliged by God to wear hijab. You ask, why a man was not told to wear hijab? The matter is that God created women more beautifully, than men. And a man when looks at a woman, should see not only her external beauty, but also beauty of her soul, character. So he should choose to himself a wife. Islam asserts that women are reputable, irrespective of appearance and age, but depending on their personal qualities, internal beauty.
— In what way differs the life of Muslims in Ukraine and in the Arab countries?
— Both in the Arab world and in the Ukrainian environment there are positive and negative phenomena. Certainly, it is easier for a Muslim to live, observing all instructions of his faith, in the Islamic society. But, on the other hand, in the Arab countries there is a big problem with observance of social rights of women: many parents, husbands consider that a woman should keep the house, without worrying about education and work. These are national traditions which are not related to Islam. Therefore Muslim women feel themselves better in the European countries (including Ukraine) where they can study and work for their own good. But also here there are things which can do much harm to women: it is accent on her appearance and material well-being, instead of intellectual and moral qualities. Europe speaks about gender equality, but I was very surprised that men do not give places to women in public transport. In the Islamic states even the most elderly man will give place to a young girl, it is an indicator of general culture. Besides, in the Arab countries the woman enjoys respect increasing with years, unlike Western, where youth and beautiful appearance is more appreciated.
— In several Muslim countries the law forbids the woman some things which are allowed to men. For example, in Saudi Arabia she cannot drive a car. Is it correct, according to Islam?
— As we already told, Islam confirms equality of men and women. But the matter is that among Muslims there are those who understand Islam and observe its laws (including valid attitude to a woman. — ed.), and those who deviated from Islam. Infringement of rights of women stems from wrong understanding of Islam.
— Than how do you explain that Islam approves polygamy (a Muslim may have up to four wives)?
— Before answering your question, I wish to notice that in the Muslim world less than ten percent of men have more than one wife. And the first wife herself decides, to allow her husband to take the second wife or not: if she does not agree with his decision to marry in the second time she can sue for divorce. Why Islam resolves polygamous marriages? There are some reasons. Female sexual and physiological features differ from male owing to what there can be certain problems in relations between representatives of two sexes in marriage. In the majority of the countries the quantity of the female population exceeds male — from this stem demographic problems, after all the part of the female population cannot simply establish a family. These are just some logic arguments in polygamy protection. But, as I already told, this phenomenon is not as widespread in the Islamic world as many imagine.
— What is the ideal of a Muslim woman?
— While practicing Islam, she should understand it correctly and observe all laws of the religion.
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"The problem consists in the fact that we are far from the true understanding based on primary sources of Islam — the Holy Quran and the pure Sunnah of the Prophet. Some books contain a lot of judgments which sometimes are out of the bounds of authentic and clinging for shaky and unreasonable, with an aim of substantiation of those points of view which suit their authors in a context of a certain epoch or a society, — writes Mustafa Muhammad At-Tahhan in his book "Woman on the Way of Call". — All it led to considerable deviations, both towards complication and towards simplification ordered by Islam".
If in a Muslim society there is wrong attitude of a man to a woman, it is a problem not of Islam, but of wrong understanding of Islam. It is necessary to remember it to those who size up their opinion on this religion and, certainly, to those who profess it.
The publication original on the site "Zerkalo Nedeli"
Related publications in Ukrainian media:
Muslim women navigate cultural, religious divides with beliefs intact (“Kyiv Post”)
Female Happiness According to Quran (“TIMER”)