To many people, Islam and feminism may be two sides of completely different coins. The narrative that Western media puts out about Islam often reduces the religion to nothing but a sensationalized headline. The reality however, is that Islam, feminism, justice, and peace, go hand in hand. Feminism, by its very definition, was a major belief system that was introduced by Islam almost 1400 years ago. In an attempt to introduce a system of justice and equality that fostered a healthier, safer, and more balanced way of life. Before the arrival of Islam to the Arab peninsula, the nations were busy in their pursuit of debased frivolities. Women were abused, female babies were buried alive, people were consumed by their addictions to alcohol, and carnal desires. Communities were at a stand still, and were slowly eroding from the inside out. This was their way of life, this was the way of their ancestors, so why change?
Feminism is attributed to a more recent movement. It was supposedly made palpable to the West by the suffragette movement in the late 19th
century. Islam however, granted women voting rights and more, 1400 years ago. This fact however, is constantly disregarded, and brushed under the rug by Western commentators.
So why does feminism go hand in hand with Islam?
For starters, feminism by definition is a sociopolitical movement that seeks to evoke equality among the sexes in all realms and spheres of life. Islam establishes that men and women are biologically, and psychologically created differently, and within those molds lie inherent and innate limitations. However, said limitations do not hinder the capabilities or qualities of either men or women. Islam is about the balance. Balance and an equilibrium that work together with the innate nature of us as human beings to create opportunities for growth, comfort, and knowledge acquisition.
In Islam, women are not subjugated or seen as subordinate to men. Yes, there are Muslim communities that subvert the order of true Islam. Yes, there are Muslim communities where domestic violence thrives and women are abused. These concerns are not unique to Muslim households alone. It is a universal, human problem. The problem is that we’ve become accustomed to putting religion and culture in the same boat. They are not the same thing and shouldn’t be seen as such. Islam is perfect, we as humans, are not. People will always exercise power and authority in their own ways. Drops of misogyny will always trickle down from centuries past to today. That doesn’t mean Islam is responsible for the way people stray.
Islam granted women rights before anyone else.
The holy Quran has an entire chapter named “The Women” and it goes through more than 170 lines explicitly telling men how to treat women with respect. It outlines the ways in which men must grant the women in their lives justice in terms of financial and social means. This chapter gave women rights way before the common western man decided women were human enough to cast a mere vote. Islam puts women on a very high pedestal. Mothers and sisters are given elevated statuses in the household. We are told as Muslims that "paradise lies at the feet of the mother." The mother is considered the most selfless, and is granted the utmost respect. In Arabic, the word for womb
" which shares its root letters with the word mercy, "rahmah,"
which comes from one of the names of God Himself, Ar-Rahman
, the Most Merciful. How beautiful is that?
Let’s not forget that one of the most significant, most powerful, and most respected people in the entire history of Islam is a woman. The wife of the beloved Prophet Muhammad. Khadija Bint Khuwaylid was a well renowned, respected, self sufficient and successful business woman at the time of the Prophet. She was an established entrepreneur and was the one who proposed to the Prophet herself. This remarkable and awe-inspiring woman is still to this day, seen as the epitome of success. She is the symbol of Islamic feminism.
Islam is riddled with inspiring stories of Muslim women who were always ahead of the curve, who inspire women today to be just as courageous, and strong. Islam encouraged women to take part in their community. Islam encouraged women to seek justice, education, a means to grow and succeed in life.
One of the first martyrs in Islam was a brave woman who was a hero to her community. One of the first teachers in Islam, was a woman. Women in Islam took part in battles, nursed soldiers who fought enemies and carried water during fights. Islam established familial rights and granted women the right to property and children. Islam granted women the right to separate income and the right to divorce. With the dawn of Islam, women were holding positions of responsibility and respect, something that was unseen before that time.
It’s easy for Muslim women today to feel as though they are not part of the narrative when it comes to themselves. We are constantly spoken for, spoken about and never spoken to. Our voices are relegated to fake news headlines and glamorized propaganda pieces.
Islam and feminism go hand in hand because Islam was what catalyzed feminism within its early communities. It was what gave women the courage to step out of the house and fulfill their potentials. Today, Islam may be given a bad rep but it is up to us, as Muslim women to take the narrative back into our own hands. We need to be be vocal about the way our faith empowers us and we have to celebrate the strong, female role models our faith was established by.
[Main image: via unsplash.com @haritsmustya]
[Supplementary images: via unsplash.com @qasimsadiq, @kidlazy18, @ahmedcarter]