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Women in Islam
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star_munir



Joined: 21 Apr 2003
Posts: 1664

PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2003 7:09 pm    Post subject: Women in Islam Reply with quote

Ya Ali Madad
I have to prepare a waez on status of women. Do any one know any Ginan regarding this?
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kmaherali



Joined: 27 Mar 2003
Posts: 16356

PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 25, 2007
Reconsideration


A Secret History

By CARLA POWER

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the stock image of an Islamic scholar
is a gray-bearded man. Women tend to be seen as the subjects of Islamic
law rather than its shapers. And while some opportunities for religious
education do exist for women, the prestigious Al-Azhar University in
Cairo has a women's college, for example, and there are girls' madrasas
and female study groups in mosques and private homes, cultural barriers
prevent most women in the Islamic world from pursuing such studies.
Recent findings by a scholar at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in
Britain, however, may help lower those barriers and challenge prevalent
notions of women's roles within Islamic society. Mohammad Akram Nadwi, a 43-year-old Sunni alim, or religious scholar, has rediscovered a
long-lost tradition of Muslim women teaching the Koran, transmitting
hadith (deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and even making
Islamic law as jurists.

Akram embarked eight years ago on a single-volume biographical
dictionary of female hadith scholars, a project that took him trawling
through biographical dictionaries, classical texts, madrasa chronicles
and letters for relevant citations. I thought I'd find maybe 20 or 30
women, he says. To date, he has found 8,000 of them, dating back 1,400
years, and his dictionary now fills 40 volumes. It's so long that his
usual publishers, in Damascus and Beirut, have balked at the project,
though an English translation of his preface itself almost 400 pages
long will come out in England this summer. (Akram has talked with
Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to the United
States, about the possibility of publishing the entire work through his
Riyadh-based foundation.)

The dictionary' diverse entries include a 10th-century Baghdad-born
jurist who traveled through Syria and Egypt, teaching other women; a
female scholar or muhaddithat in 12th-century Egypt whose male
students marveled at her mastery of a camel load of texts; and a
15th-century woman who taught hadith at the Prophet's grave in Medina,
one of the most important spots in Islam. One seventh-century Medina
woman who reached the academic rank of jurist issued key fatwas on hajj
rituals and commerce; another female jurist living in medieval Aleppo
not only issued fatwas but also advised her far more famous husband on
how to issue his.

Not all of these women scholars were previously unknown. Many Muslims
acknowledge that Islam has its learned women, particularly in the field
of hadith, starting with the Prophet's wife Aisha. And several Western
academics have written on women's religious education. About a century
ago, the Hungarian Orientalist Ignaz Goldziher estimated that about 15
percent of medieval hadith scholars were women. But Akram's dictionary
is groundbreaking in its scope.

Indeed, read today, when many Muslim women still don't dare pray in
mosques, let alone lecture leaders in them, Akram's entry for someone
like Umm al-Darda, a prominent jurist in seventh-century Damascus, is
startling. As a young woman, al-Darda used to sit with male scholars in
the mosque, talking shop. I've tried to worship Allah in every way, she wrote, but I've never found a better one than sitting around,
debating other scholars. She went on to teach hadith and fiqh, or law,
at the mosque, and even lectured in the men's section; her students
included the caliph of Damascus. She shocked her contemporaries by
praying shoulder to shoulder with men a nearly unknown practice, even
now and issuing a fatwa, still cited by modern scholars, that allowed
women to pray in the same position as men.

It's after the 16th century that citations of women scholars dwindle.
Some historians venture that this is because Islamic education grew more
formal, excluding women as it became increasingly oriented toward
establishing careers in the courts and mosques. (Strangely enough, Akram
found that this kind of exclusion also helped women become better
scholars. Because they didn't hold official posts, they had little
reason to invent or embellish prophetic traditions.)

Akram's work has led to accusations that he is championing free mixing
between men and women, but he says that is not so. He maintains that
women students should sit at a discreet distance from their male
classmates or co-worshipers, or be separated by a curtain. (The practice
has parallels in Orthodox Judaism.) The Muslim women who taught men are part of our history, he says. It doesn't mean you have to follow them.
It's up to people to decide.

Nevertheless, Akram says he hopes that uncovering past hadith scholars
could help reform present-day Islamic culture. Many Muslims see
historical precedents particularly when they date back to the golden
age of Muhammad as blueprints for sound modern societies and look to
scholars to evaluate and interpret those precedents. Muslim feminists
like the Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi and Kecia Ali, a professor at
Boston University

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/b/boston_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org,

have cast fresh light on women's roles in Islamic law and history, but
their worldview and their audiences are largely Western or
Westernized. Akram is a working alim, lecturing in mosques and
universities and dispensing fatwas on issues like inheritance and
divorce. Here you've got a guy who's coming from the tradition, who
knows the stuff and who's able to give us that level of detail which is
missing in the self-proclaimed progressive Muslim writers, says James
Piscatori, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/o/oxford_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org.


The erosion of women's religious education in recent times, Akram says,
reflects decline in every aspect of Islam. Flabby leadership and a
focus on politics rather than scholarship has left Muslims ignorant of
their own history. Islam's current cultural insecurity has been bad for
both its scholarship and its women, Akram says. Our traditions have
grown weak, and when people are weak, they grow cautious. When they are cautious, they don't give their women freedoms.

When Akram lectures, he dryly notes, women are more excited by this
history than men. To persuade reluctant Muslims to educate their girls,
Akram employs a potent debating strategy: he compares the status quo to
the age of al jahiliya, the Arabic term for the barbaric state of
pre-Islamic Arabia. (Osama Bin Laden
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/osama_bin_laden/in\
dex.html?inline=nyt-per>
and Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of modern Islamic extremism, have
employed the comparison to very different effect.) Barring Muslim women
from education and religious authority, Akram argues, is akin to the
pre-Islamic custom of burying girls alive. I tell people, God has
given girls qualities and potential, he says. If they aren't allowed
to develop them, if they aren't provided with opportunities to study and
learn, it's basically a live burial.

When I spoke with him, Akram invoked a favorite poem, Elegy Written in
a Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray's 18th-century lament for dead
English farmers. Gray said that villagers could have been like Milton,
if only they'd had the chance, Akram observes. Muslim women are in the
same situation. There could have been so many Miltons.

Carla Power is a London-based journalist who writes about Islamic issues.

Women Scholars in Africa

--- In Multiculturalism-PluralismGroup@yahoogroups.com, Muhammad Fatuhu Mustapha <m_fatuhu313@...> wrote:

I wrote a paper in 2004, during Bicentinnial Lecture on the Jihad of Usman Danfodio. The title of the paper is " The princesses of Central Sudan; and Neglect of History...." The history of Central Sudan now Northern Nigeria or Hausa Land is full of the history of such women. They were scholars of international refute, they gave alot of contrubution during their life time. They educated both men and Women. Some of them includes; Ruqayya Fallatiya who live in 17th century, she wrote the famous Ummul yatim ( a Poem), Nana Asma'u bint Fodio, she was the author of several books, poems, and lectures. She participated actively with her father Usman Danfodio, her uncle Abdullahi bin Fodio and her Brother Muhammad Bello as well as her Husban Gidado bin Laima, during the Jihad of 1804 or Sokoto Jihad. For more on this woman and her works, try to get Beverly Macks and Jean Boyds "The Caliphate Sister", and "One Woman Jihad " and also "Some collected Works of Nana Asma'u bin Fodio"

She is not alone, her sister Miriam bint al Sheikh also wrote some books, and her sister Fatima bint al Sheikh also. We also have Maimuna bint Qadhi Bazarin a great scholar of her time and a jurist, Hunwick listed her works in his "Arabic Writings of Central Sudan", a work he undertaken under the sponsorship of Congress Library and Arewa House Kaduna. There are still so many of such scholarly women in Kano.

> Your Muhammad Fatuhu Mustapher.
>
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kmaherali



Joined: 27 Mar 2003
Posts: 16356

PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some Misunderstandings About Women’s Status in Islam
Edited by Adil Salahi



Q. I read a Hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) describes women as deficient in faith and mental power. It also mentions that women will make up the majority of the dwellers of hell. Could you please explain this Hadith and whether it means that no matter how hard a woman tries, she cannot attain the same standard of faith as men?

Rabiya Farrukh

A. This Hadith is authentic, but it has often been quoted out of context. The effect has been that many Muslims came to consider women as inferior to men and to associate such a view with Islam. The world media has found in such a view a means to criticize Islam. The feminist trend jumped on the bandwagon, castigating Islam for its alleged unfairness to women. In the Muslim world, people who have little or scanty knowledge of Islam added fuel to the fire, saying that Islam is the root cause for the ill-treatment of women in the Muslim world.

Nothing can be further from the truth. In all its legislation, Islam makes men and women equal. All Islamic duties apply equally to men and women, and they all receive the same reward for fulfilling their duties and for any good action they voluntarily do. The Qur’anic address is of two types: one to men and women alike, and the other to women only. There is nothing that requires a special address to men alone.

There are a number of differences in Islamic legislation between men and women, but in all these, the advantage is always given to women. When we carefully examine any difference, even the ones that appear at first sight to give man an advantage, we find that the difference always work in the woman’s favor. This is only to be expected from a faith, which makes justice the central point in all its legislation. To give full explanation of this fact requires time and space that cannot be allocated under the ‘Discourse’ column. However, we have been carrying articles by the late Abd Al-Haleem Abu Shuqqah which show how Islam deals most fairly with both men and women. We will be continuing soon with these articles. In due course, he will give a full explanation of this Hadith. However, I will highlight certain points concerning this Hadith, so that the reader can be reassured.

When we consider the Hadith, we need to look also at the context in which it was said. The occasion was one of Eid, a joyous occasion when people feel happy. It is totally unlikely that the Prophet would mar such an occasion by telling half the community that they would be in hell and that they are deficient. That is totally contrary to his character. Therefore, we have to understand the context and the purpose of what the Prophet said. The Prophet went to address the women because he realized that they did not hear the sermon he gave after the Eid prayer. He told them: “Give generously for charity, because many of you could be in hell.” When they asked the reason, he said: “Because you grumble too much and you deny the goodness of your mates.”

The overall tone of the Hadith is light-hearted and educative. It gives a warning that many could find themselves in hell unless they act to avoid such a fate. This applies to all mankind. God says in the Qur’an: “However strongly you may desire it, most people will not believe.” (12: 103) In the case of women, the Prophet gave the reason as two characteristics that we often encounter with women: too many complaints and lack of appreciation of the good things done to them. Thus, the Prophet merely gave an admonition against these two qualities and pointed out the way to redress the balance and ensure a much better fate in the life to come. The way is to give to charity whatever one can.

The Prophet adds: “I have not seen any who are deficient in their reason and faith who can captivate the mind of a wise man better than you.” This is not a complaint or a form of chiding. It is said in a light-hearted manner, pointing out that a woman may be weaker than a man, yet she can easily control him if she applies her feminine powers to the task.

When they asked him about the deficiencies he mentioned, the Prophet said that the religious deficiency is that a woman does not offer her prayer when she is in the period, while the deficiency of her mental power is reflected in the fact that two women are required to give testimony in place of a man.

Yet these do not make women truly deficient, as a woman would not lose even an iota of her reward for prayer as a result of not praying during her period. Although she does not pray at that time, her reward for offering prayer on all her other days means that she has fulfilled what is required of her and God will reward her in the same way as a man who does not miss any prayer. Moreover, when she is a witness, she takes with her someone to remind her in case she forgets something of material importance. A man witness does not have that privilege.

To suggest that a woman cannot attain the same standard of faith as a man, no matter how hard she tries, is totally wrong. God says in the Qur’an: “The righteous women are devout, guarding the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded.” (4: 34) This is a statement by God that women are righteous, devout and attend to their duties. In another verse God says: “For all men and women who have submitted themselves to God, all believing men and believing women, all truly devout men and truly devout women, all men and women who are true to their word, all men and women who are patient in adversity, all men and women who humble themselves before God, all men and women who give in charity, all men and women who fast, all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who always remember God - for them all God has prepared forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.” (33: 35)

This verse makes it clear that there is no difference between men and women in the standard of faith they can attain, and they are rewarded in the same measure. We need to take the Hadith in its context, realizing that it is an admonition made in a light-hearted manner to encourage women to be charitable in order to offset certain mistakes they frequently make. It is by no means a judgment of doom.






With Kind Regards

Mohammad Usman

Jeddah

SAUDI ARABIA

IMPORTANT: Sheikh Adil Salahi can be reached at: islam@arabnews.com

Questions on religious matters may be sent to the following address which is being normally forwarded to the appropriate channel for reply and clarification:

Islam in Perspective Section, Arab News, P O Box: 10452, Jeddah-21433, SAUDI ARABIA
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kmaherali



Joined: 27 Mar 2003
Posts: 16356

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Women's Rights in Islam

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- In conservative societies, especially in women's circles, symptoms of a new disease have manifested. It takes on the form of raised voices that question the justice of Islamic legislation towards women when applied through the rules of Sunnah and Shariah, in addition to questioning the truth behind the superiority of men over women.
The repetition of some of the Hadith [the Prophetic traditions] without a sound understanding of their meaning and the distortion of others from their original purpose has contributed to the wave of 'non-religiosity' that has snaked its way into society to afflict a number of Arab Muslim women. The view that women are inferior is no longer reserved to Middle Eastern men only since it has started to affect the women's perception of themselves so that they can no longer regard themselves except through a phallocentric lens. It has reached the point where they have started to repeat these misconceptions themselves. Recently, a lecture on divorce was entitled, 'women are entrusted to men', in the sense that they are 'slaves', which disfigures the original concept of women being valuable members of society.

However, those analyzing the reasons behind this 'non-religious' trend are divided, some attest the responsibility of the judiciary system for issuing verdicts that favor men, while others uphold that the religious dialogue is comprised of biased fatwas that side with the men at the women's expense. There are a host of other causes that can be summed up as reinforcing the social heritage and lending it a religious legitimacy. When asked what her opinion was, one woman said that the time had come to 'shake the tree' and bring down all that contaminates Islam and its legislation, which has suffered under a masculine perspective that has warped it.

According to Islamic advocate Suhaila Zein al Abideen, social heritage, a number of judicial endeavors and ascribing Islamic legitimacy to various social customs and traditions are the main reasons to have contributed to shaking some of the religious convictions of Saudi girls who took them to be Islamic teachings.

Zein al Abideen said that the Islamic courts refuse to allow any sources other than the Quran and Sunnah when issuing Islamic verdicts at a time when some of these courts issue rulings that do not adhere to the Sunnah and Quran. She cites as an example the act of separating between husbands and wives based on 'irreconcilable differences', while disregarding the woman's opinion and relying on one side of the story and Fatma Bint Qais's faulty interpretation of Khul' divorce [whereby a couple can divorce against the husband's will if all the wife's financial rights are relinquished], have resulted in women demanding Khul' for the wrong reasons. Every woman discontent with her husband physically assaulting her, or being addicted to drugs or alcohol, and other similar complaints demands Khul' to rid herself of him without having to go through the divorce channels and the thorough examination into the matter of child custody that it entails.

Zein al Abideen pointed out that the decision to separate married couples for reasons of incompatibility in the manner that it is being practiced has shaken Saudi women to the core and made them wonder if such a practice stems from the same teachings of Islam that prohibited tribal fanaticism. Thus, Zein al Abideen calls for the necessity of rectifying the misconceptions regarding women in the male circles, which has resulted in women being perceived in a derogatory manner and treated with a superior attitude, such as women being treated as minors all their life. This entails imposing a guardian on a woman so that he would always accompany her, while Islam considers her to be legally and financially independent with the right to be her own guardian.

Zein al Abideen affirmed that the men in society cling to these conceptions and that it will remain to be the case, adding that those who consider saying anything to the contrary are ridiculed and viewed as departing from the 'rightful' Islam. She believes that the time has come to remedy the situation and rectify these misconceptions so as to avoid making it worse or deepening the chasm between women and Islamic teachings. She added that the responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the female preachers, religious scholars and the moderate thinkers who adopt reasonable approaches to amend these views through mass media and educational institutions.

Regarding the role of judicial rulings, which a group of women have blamed for favoring men, whether regarding Khul' divorce, child custody other matters relating to women, Judge Ziad as-Saadun, the chief justice of the courts in Saudi's al Jawf province defended the Islamic courts and the role they play. He said, "No woman should imagine that the Islamic legislation has been unfair to her because that would reflect unfairly on God." The senior judge pointed out that there were cases of women going thorough marital lawsuits, divorce and custody alike, wherein "they did not gain rights as a result of their inability to prove their cases, or by virtue of the existence of another party who had evidence of their incompetence as mothers," which leads the women into believing that they are demanding what is rightfully theirs and that the law treated her inequitably. As-Saadun pointed out that a big portion of the responsibility falls upon the woman herself, to be educated and knowledgeable about the court rulings, in addition to being aware of her religious rights so that she may be able to demand these rights from the courts. He stressed the importance of knowing how to prove her entitlement to these rights before the courts, or to hire an experienced attorney.

As-Saadoun urged women to be patient and not give up if they do not attain their rights for their lack of ability to plead their cases, and added that they will be compensated in the hereafter. He stressed that the teachings inherent in Islamic law are fair and befit all circumstances and that the legislation has been just to both men and women and that there is nothing within that legislation or in any Islamic judicial principle that can harm a woman's right, whether related to Khul' divorce or custody. He added that some non-Muslim women favor Islamic justice when seeking divorce by virtue of its "conspicuous fairness towards women in this regard," he said.

Burdening Islamic law with the notion that women are subjected to prejudice by the male community and that they are not granted their rights is a matter that lawyer and former judge, Abdulaziz al Qassim became aware of while performing his daily tasks in al Ahsa's association for girls in Saudi Arabia. Al Qassim said that it is a shared responsibility between the preachers in their discourse and the fatwas that are issued, which are biased to the men's advantage, exaggerating the women's duties while neglecting the men's obligations. He furthermore calls for the necessity of preparing preachers to have addresses that are geared towards the women rather than the present ones that are centered on males only.

Al Qassim demanded that a differentiation be made between the religious rulings that exist in the text and their further interpretations, which on many occasions have led to the oppression and degradation of women. He stressed the importance of establishing civil organizations to protect women against any harm that might befall them based on the consideration that the judicial system is an executive authority not a regulatory one. Al Qassim ruled out the requests to dispense with Shariah law as a result of some government authorities and institutions flouting some of the laws relating to women's rights, stressing that such acts do not 'denigrate Islam' as they do not derive from it. Although Islam stresses, as al Qassim upheld, that women are not inferior to men and that their rights must be equated, he also pointed out that there were discrepancies in terms of responsibilities between the sexes, such as the issue of a male 'guardian' which has resulted in a change in these rights - a matter that he demands must be understood by women. He called for a synchronization between the rights that religion grants men and a religious supervision to be achieved through various executive authorities to guarantee that husbands, fathers and brothers are not oppressive to women.

Criticism has been raised by a group of women and specialists in the field against the Daawa discourse [Islamic propagation], which they believe is influenced by social heritage which in turn dominates the discourse. In an interview with Asharq Al Awsat Egyptian preacher, Amr Khaled, who enjoys a huge popularity amongst his female supporters, admitted to disregarding this discourse for numerous years. He added that this intellectual dialogue relating to women and their issues has led to the marginalization of their causes by a discourse that doesn't get past prohibition and censure, while simultaneously omitting any discussion of the role of women and their place in Shariah and Islamic history. He called for a balance to be applied in the religious discourse in terms of citing the significance of women since the beginning of the call for Daawa and the establishment of the Ummah, the Islamic nation, moreover to present the directives and duties of Muslim women.

Khaled states that in addition to the lack of depth and strong evidence in the religious discourse directed at women, that the 'Orientalist campaign' plays a big role in scaring women of Islam and that some preachers further the propagation of false and negative images of the status of women in Islam. According to Khaled, it was a woman who was the first to prostrate herself following the Prophet's (pbuh) example, as it was a woman who was the first to protect the Prophet Mohammed and also the first to be martyred. Khaled added that Umar Ibn al Khattab's daughter, Hafssah, memorized the Quran and that Umar was the first caliph to grant a loan to a woman, Hind Bint Utaba, allocated for the establishment of a commercial project.

Amr Khaled called against the referencing of Hadith and Quranic verses without knowledge of their contexts or the occasions in which they were said. Regarding the problem of misunderstanding Islam and the impact that the cultural and social heritage and male dominance have had in reinforcing the stereotypes of women and their roles in society, Khaled acknowledged that women are oppressed in Middle Eastern and Arab societies. He called on the preachers and the religious figures to employ the same dialogue for men and women, one that heavily stresses the heroism of women throughout history and their good deeds in the propagation of Islam before starting to draw attention to slips and flaws suffered by women. He warns against slipping into the trap of oppressing women, which can only result in aggravating their anger and furthering their sense of injustice.

Although Khaled emphasized the development of the discourse directed at women over the past few years, still he said there remained a problem facing these Islamic advocates and preachers which is an apprehension to delve into the rights that Islam grants women because of the present circumstances and climate for fear of being labeled and accused of several allegations. However, Khaled stresses that it is the religious scholars and those specializing in hadith interpretation who must start to present society, and women especially, with clear explanations for all the ambiguous details relating to both genders with the purpose of clarifying the picture and also decreasing the discrepancy between hadith and the Quran, and by doing so, shed more light on the integral roles of men and women.

The absence of share'i (original) knowledge regarding what Muslim scholars have said about matters relating to custody, divorce and Khul' divorce, among other issues pertaining to women formulates the main reason, according to the Islamic advocate, Dr. Nawal al Eid, behind the women's sense of anger and resentment towards Islamic teachings. In her opinion, these teachings rely on a limited and superficial partial knowledge of the subject matter at hand. She called upon Saudi women to equip themselves with knowledge concerning the marital and custody matters which they seek via courts. Stressing the importance of that awareness, she pointed out that it can be presented to the judge with its supporting Shariah law, as "humans are not infallible," she said.
Furthermore, Al Eid believes that a means to remedy the situation, which must be presently addressed, is to issue a document for 'the rights of women in Islamic Shariah law' to be approved and implemented by all courts that follow Shariah. She added that a 'family' curriculum must be endorsed in schools wherein the rights for both genders towards one another are explained and highlighted in a manner that is in accordance with Shariah law. Al Eid pointed out that the misconceptions that appear now are a result of old accumulations that have come to manifest in recent times. She rejects the contribution of social heritage in reinforcing a negative image of women in society, or that society played any role in lending religious legitimacy to customs and traditions that are inconsistent with Islam.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Islam Without Muslims; Muslims Without Islam
Lubna Hussein, forlubna@...



"What happens if a woman goes to court here?" asked my father.

"What do you mean?" I counter questioned.

"What I mean is that if a woman goes to court is she treated as an individual or is her rights based on her gender?"

"Depends on the case, I guess," I said.

"Come on," he interjected sarcastically. "Don't start telling me that women are treated in the manner that has been commanded by God. According to His Law they should be treated as equals. You know that that's not the case here."

"You just have to look around at the horrific miscarriages of justice to know that that's definitely not the case," he emphasized. "My point is that as much as we try to find fault with the West, one thing is for sure: I would feel far more secure with their system of justice if I were a woman than I would with the one we have here."

"Yes, in a way you're right," I began, "but Islam did give women rights over 1,400 years ago that the so-called civilized world has only started to recognize recently."

"You're intelligent enough to know that having rights and not being entitled to them is just as good as not having them at all. In the Qur'an, when a man decides to divorce his wife, God Orders him to leave his wife on an equitable basis and is required to support her. Am I right?" he asked, quoting the verse and chapter.

"Of course," I agreed.

"So if we are really honest with ourselves, does the law here enforce that or even recognize it in part?"

"Not that I know of," I admitted.

"Alright. This means that a woman can quite literally be booted out of her house on to the street with nowhere to go; and if she tries to extract any right or entitlement from her husband, will the court support her in this? Have you ever heard of a Saudi man who is scared of the consequences of not paying his wife alimony or stealing her dowry because he might be taken to court?"

"No," I conceded thinking of all the women I knew who had had this scenario forced upon them without any hope of recourse.

"Exactly," he said, having won the argument. "It's disgusting to think that the courts can overlook the word of God when it comes to preserving and upholding the whole concept of male domination. Judges relish sentences that chastise women for petty matters. You see the way the outwardly pious love to stop women in the street to point out strands of hair that may have escaped their veils or question the identity of the men around them; but when it comes to guaranteeing them their God-given rights they miraculously disappear!"

"Yes," I said, reflecting upon what he said. "You're right."

"A woman cannot even gain custody of her children in a court of law. What sort of a mandate gives the automatic guardianship of little girls over to the hands of a father and stepmother even when a mother is perfectly capable of looking after them? You of all people should know what that feels like. What's more, the status and importance of a mother in Islam is such that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself said that paradise lies beneath the feet of one's mother and that a mother's value is three times greater than that of any other individual."

"Yes," I agreed.

It was this very conversation that played in my head when I read two articles printed side by side in the paper this week. One of them highlighted the fact that there are many single mothers and divorcees in society who are denied welfare due to trivial bureaucratic matters and thus forced to live below the poverty line. Imagine that. In Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, women are reduced to begging on the streets because the law does not recognize their needs. What kind of an interpretation of Islam is that when our faith is based on a spirit of egalitarianism? When verses upon verses of the Qur’an command us to look after the wretched of our society?

As if that was not bad enough, the adjacent piece highlighted the obstacles that Saudi women married to foreigners have to endure. Whereas a Saudi man may obtain citizenship for his wife and his children, a Saudi woman is not entitled to the same privilege if she marries a non-Saudi. Upon what spurious logic this decision is based upon I do not profess to know, but what I do know for sure is that it has nothing to do with religion.

The great Islamic scholar of the 19th century, Muhammad Abdo wrote that when he visited the West he found Islam but no Muslims and upon his return to the Arab world he countenanced many Muslims but no Islam.

I am beginning to see his point.




Author: Sister Lubna Hussain. She is a Saudi writer based in Riyadh.



With Kind Regards

Mohammad Usman

Jeddah

SAUDI ARABIA



IMPORTANT: All views expressed herein belong to the author concerned and do not in any way reflect that of the sender.
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kmaherali



Joined: 27 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gender Equity in Islam

Jamal A. Badawi, Ph.D.
World Assembly of Muslim Youth
WAMY Studies on Islam

I. Introduction & Methodology

When dealing with the Islamic perspective of any topic, there should be a clear distinction between the normative teachings of Islam and the diverse cultural practices among Muslims, which may or may not be consistent with them. The focus of this paper is the normative teachings of Islam as the criteria to judge.

Muslim practices and evaluate their compliance with Islam. In identifying what is "Islamic" it is necessary to make a distinction between the primary sources of Islam (the Qur'an and the Sunnah) and legal opinions of scholars on specific issues, which may vary and be influenced by their times, circumstances, and cultures. Such opinions and verdicts do not enjoy the infallibility accorded to the primary and revelatory sources. Furthermore, interpretation of the primary sources should consider, among other things:

(a) The context of any text in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This includes the general context of Islam, its teachings, its world view, and the context of the surah and section thereof.

(b) The occasion of the revelation, which may shed light on its meanings.
(c) The role of the Sunnah in explaining and defining the meaning of the Qur'anic text.

This paper is a brief review of the position and role of woman in society from an Islamic perspective. The topic is divided into spiritual, economic, social, and political aspects.

II. The Spiritual Aspect

1. According to the Qur'an, men and women have the same spiritual human nature:

O mankind: Reverence your Guardian Lord Who created you from a single person created of like nature his mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. (Qur'an 4:1)

It is He who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): "If You give us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful." (Qur'an 7:189)

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things.) (Qur'an 42:11)

2. Both genders are recipients of the "divine breath" since they are created with the same human and spiritual nature (nafsin-waahidah):

But He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks to you give (Qur'an 15:29)

3. Both genders are dignified and are trustees of Allah on earth.

We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation. (Qur'an 17:70)

Behold your Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?" He said: "I know what you do not." (Qur'an 2:30)

4. According to the Qur'an, woman is not blamed for the "fall of man." Pregnancy and childbirth are not seen as punishments for "eating from the forbidden tree." On the contrary, the Qur'an considers them to be grounds for love and respect due to mothers.

In narrating the story of Adam and Eve, the Qur'an frequently refers to both of them, never singling out Eve for the blame:

O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you [both] wish: but approach not this tree or you [both] run into harm and transgression. Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said "Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you [both] should become angels or such beings as live for ever." And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?" They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: if you forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy we shall certainly be lost." (Allah) said: "Get you [both] down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time." He said: "Therein shall you [both] live and therein shall you [both] die; and from it shall you [both] be taken out (at last)." O you children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you but the raiment of righteousness that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah that they may receive admonition! O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith. (Qur'an 7:19 27)

On the question of pregnancy and childbirth, the Qur'an states:

And We have enjoined on the person (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal. (Qur'an 31:14)

We have enjoined on the person kindness to his/her parents: in pain did his/her mother bear him/her and in pain did she give him/her birth. The carrying of the (child) to his/her weaning is ( a period of) thirty months. At length when he/she reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years he/she says "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my issue.Truly have I turned to You and truly do I bow (to You) in Islam [submission]." (Qur'an 46:15)

5. Men and women have the same religious and moral duties and responsibilities. They both face the consequences of their deeds:

And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you be they male or female: you are members of one another ..." (Qur'an 3:195)

If any do deeds of righteousness be they male or female and have faith they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them. (Qur'an 4:124)

For Muslim men and women and for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Qur'an 33:35)

One Day shall you see the believing men and the believing women how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (their greeting will be): "Good news for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein for ever! This is indeed the highest Achievement!" (Qur'an 57:12)

6. Nowhere does the Qur'an state that one gender is superior to the other. Some mistakenly translate "qiwamah" or responsibility for the family as superiority. The Qur'an makes it clear that the sole basis for superiority of any person over another is piety and righteousness not gender, color, or nationality:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Qur'an 49:13)


7. The absence of women as prophets or "Messengers of Allah" in prophetic history is due to the demands and physical suffering associated with the role of messengers and prophets and not because of any spiritual inferiority.

III. The Economic Aspect

1. The Islamic Shariiah recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. A married woman may keep her maiden name.

2. Greater financial security is assured for women. They are entitled to receive marital gifts, to keep present and future properties and income for their own security. No married woman is required to spend a penny from her property and income on the household. She is entitled to full financial support during
marriage and during the waiting period ('iddah) in case of divorce. She is also entitled to child support.
Generally, a Muslim woman is guaranteed support in all stages of her life, as a daughter, wife, mother, or sister. These additional advantages of women over men are somewhat balanced by the provisions of the inheritance which allow the male, in most cases, to inherit twice as much as the female. This means that the male inherits more but is responsible financially for other females: daughters, wives, mother, and sister, while the female (i.e., a wife) inherits less but can keep it all for investment and financial security without any legal obligation so spend any part of it even for her own sustenance (food, clothing, housing, medication, etc.).

IV. The Social Aspect

First: As a Daughter

1. The Qur'an effectively ended the cruel pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide (wa'd):

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed. (Qur'an 81 89)

2. The Qur'an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitudes among some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy:

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child) his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on! (Qur'an 16:58 59)

3. Parents are duty bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad said:

"Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into Paradise." [Ahmad]

"Whosoever supports two daughters til they mature, he and I will come on the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together)." [Ahmad]

4. Education is not only a right but also a responsibility of all males and females. Prophet Muhammad said:

"Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim ("Muslim" is used here in the generic meaning which includes both males and females).

Second: As a Wife

1. Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion, not just the satisfaction of man's needs:

And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may well in tranquillity with them and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Qur'an 30:21)

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Qur'an 42:11)

2. The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Her consent is prerequisite to the validity of the marital contract according to the Prophet's teaching. It follows that if by "arranged marriage" is meant marrying the girl without her consent, then such a marriage is nullifiable is she so wished.

"Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice ... (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it)." (Ahmad, Hadeeth no. 2469). In another version, the girl said: "Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them." [Ibn Majah]

3. The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection, and overall headship of the family (qiwamah) within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutual dependency and complementary of the roles of males and females does not mean "subservience" by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad helped in household chores in spite of his busy schedule.

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child nor father on account of his child. An heir shall be chargeable in the same way if they both decide on weaning by mutual consent and after due consultation there is no blame on them. If you decide on a foster mother for your offspring there is no blame on you provided you pay (the mother) what you offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what you do. (Qur'an 2:233)

The Qur'an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to heir wives even if they do not like them.

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good. (Qur'an 4:19)

Prophet Muhammad taught:

" I command you to be kind to women ..."

"The best of you is the best to his family (wife) ..."

Marital disputes are to be handled privately between the parties whenever possible, in steps (without excesses or cruelty). If disputes are not resolved then family mediation can be resorted to.

Divorce is seen as the last resort, which is permissible but not encouraged. Under no circumstances does the Qur'an encourage, allow or condone family violence or physical abuse and cruelty. The maximum allowed in extreme cases is a gentle tap that does not even leave a mark on the body while saving the marriage from collapsing.

5. Forms of marriage dissolution include mutual agreement, the husband's initiative, the wife's initiative (if part of her marital contract, court decision on the wife's initiative (for a cause), and the wife's initiative without a "cause" provided that she returns the marital gift to her husband (khul' [divestiture]).

6. Priority for custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later chooses between his mother and father (for custody purposes). Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and well being of the child

Question of Polygyny (Polygamy)

1. One of the common myths is to associate polygyny with Islam as if it were introduced by Islam or is the norm according to its teachings. While no text in the Qur'an or Sunnah states that either monogamy or polygyny is the norm, demographic data indicates that monogamy is the norm and polygyny is the
exception. In almost all countries and on the global level the numbers of men and women are almost even, with women's numbers slightly more than men.

As such, it is a practical impossibility to regard polygyny as the norm since it assumes a demographic structure of at least two thirds females, and one third males (or 80 percent females and 20 percent males if four wives per male is the norm!). No Islamic "norm" is based on an impossible assumption.

2. Like many peoples and religions, however, Islam did not outlaw polygyny but regulated it and restricted it. It is neither required nor encouraged, but simply permitted and not outlawed. Edward Westermarck gives numerous examples of the sanctioning of polygyny among Jews, Christians, and others.

3. The only passage in the Qur'an (4:3) which explicitly mentioned polygyny and restricted its practice in terms of the number of wives permitted and the requirement of justice between them was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which dozens of Muslims were martyred leaving behind widows and orphans. This seems to indicate that the intent of its continued permissibility is to deal with individual and collective contingencies that may arise from time to time (i.e., imbalances between the number of males and females created by wars). This provides a moral, practical, and humane solution to the problems of widows and orphans who are likely to be more vulnerable in the absence of a husband/father figure to look after their needs: financial, companions, proper rearing, and other needs.

If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans marry women of your choice two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one ... (Qur'an 4:3)

4. All parties involved have options: to reject marriage proposals as in the case of a proposed second wife or to seek divorce or khul' (divestiture) as in the case of a present wife who cannot accept to live with a polygynous husband.

While the Qur'an allowed polygyny, it did not allow polyandry (multiple husbands of the same woman). Anthropologically speaking, polyandry is quite rare. Its practice raises thorny problems related to the lineal identity of children, and incompatibility of polyandry with feminine nature.

Third: As a Mother

1. Kindness to parents (especially mothers) is next to worship of Allah:

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in you life say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honor. (Qur'an 17:23)

And We have enjoined on the human (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) destiny." (Qur'an 31:14)

2. Mothers are accorded a special place of honor in Hadeeth too:

A man came to the Prophet Muhammad asking: O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said, your mother. The man said then who is next: the Prophet said, Your mother. The man further asked, Then who is next? Only then did the Prophet say,
Your father. (al Bukhari)

Fourth: As a Sister in Faith (Generally)

1. According to the Prophet Muhammad's saying:

"Women are but sisters (or the other half) of men (shaqa'iq).

2. Prophet Muhammad taught kindness, care, and respect of women in general:

"I commend you to be kind to women"

Fifth: Issue of Modesty and Social Interaction

1. There exists, among Muslims a big gap between the ideal and the real. Cultural practices on both extremes do exist. Some Muslims emulate non Islamic cultures and adopt the modes of dress, unrestricted mixing [of the sexes] and behavior resulting in corrupting influences of Muslims and endangering the family's integrity
and strength. On the other hand, in some Muslim cultures undue and excessive restrictions; if not seclusion, are believed to be the ideal. Both extremes seem to contradict the normative teachings of Islam and are not consistent with the virtuous yet participative nature of the society at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

2. Parameters of proper modesty for males and females (dress and behavior) are based on revelatory sources (the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah) and as such are seen by believing men and women as divinely based guidelines with legitimate aims, and divine wisdom behind them. They are not male imposed or socially imposed restrictions.

3. The notion of near total seclusion of women is alien to the prophetic period. Interpretation problems in justifying seclusion reflect, in part, cultural influences and circumstances in different Muslim countries.

V. The Legal/Political Aspect

1. Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless.

Most references to testimony (witness) in the Qur'an do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and female.

And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife is she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (Qur'an 24:69)

One reference in the Qur'an distinguishes between the witness of a male and a female. It is useful to quote this reference and explain it in its own context and in the context of other references to testimony in the Qur'an.

O you who believe! When you deal with each other in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate but let him fear his Lord Allah and not diminish aught of what he owes. If the party liable is mentally deficient or weak or unable himself to dictate let his guardian dictate faithfully. And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men; then a man and two women such as you choose for witnesses so that if one of them errs the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period whether it be small or big: it is just in the sight of Allah more suitable as evidence and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves; but if it be a transaction which you carry out on the spot among yourselves there is no blame on you if you reduce it not to writing. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If you do (such harm) it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; for it is Allah that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. (Qur'an 2:282)

A few comments on this text are essential in order to prevent common misinterpretations:

a) It cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur'an that the worth of a female's witness is only half the male's. This presumed "rule" is voided by the earlier reference (24:69) which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders in the issue at hand.

b) The context of this passage (ayah) relates to the testimony on financial transactions which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make a blanket generalization which would otherwise contradict 24:69 cited earlier.

c) The reason for variations in the number of male and female witnesses required is given in the same passage. No reference was made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender's witness or the other's. The only reason given is to corroborate the female's witness and prevent unintended errors in the perception of the business deal. The Arabic term used in this passage (tadhilla) means literally "loses the way," "gets confused or errs." But are females the only gender that may err and need corroboration of their testimony. Definitely not, and this is why the general rule of testimony in Islamic law is to have two witnesses even if they are both males. This leaves us with only one reasonable interpretation that in an ideal Islamic society as envisioned by Islamic teachings the female members will give priority to their feminine functions as wives, mothers, and pioneers of charitable works. This emphasis, while making them more experienced in the inner function of the family and social life, may not give them enough exposure and experience to business transactions and terminology, as such a typical Muslim woman in a truly Islamic society will not normally be present when business dealings are negotiated and if present may not fully understand the dealings. In such a case, corroboration by two women witnesses helps them remind one another and as such give an accurate account of what happened.

d) It is useful to remember that it is the duty of a fair judge, in a particular case, to evaluate the credibility, knowledge and experience of any witness and the specific circumstances of the case at hand.

2. The general rule in social and political life is participation and collaboration of males and females in public affairs:

The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another; they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (Qur'an 9:71)

3. Now there is sufficient historical evidence of participation by Muslim women in the choice of rulers, in public issues, in lawmaking, in administrative positions, in scholarship and teaching, and even in the battlefield. Such involvement in social and political affairs was done without losing sight of the complementary priorities of both genders and without violating Islamic guidelines of modesty and virtue.

4. There is no text in the Qur'an or the Sunnah that precludes women from any position of leadership, except in leading prayer due to the format of prayer as explained earlier and the headship of state (based on the common and reasonable interpretation of Hadeeth).

The head of state in Islam is not a ceremonial head. He leads public prayers in some occasions, constantly travels and negotiates with officials of other states (who are mostly males). He may be involved in confidential meetings with them. Such heavy involvement and its necessary format may not be consistent
with Islamic guidelines related to the interaction between the genders and the priority of feminine functions and their value to society. Furthermore, the conceptual and philosophical background of the critics of this limited exclusion is that of individualism, ego satisfaction, and the rejection of the validity of divine guidance in favor of other man-made philosophies, values, or "ism." The ultimate objective of a Muslim man or woman is to selflessly serve Allah and the ummah in whatever appropriate capacity.

Conclusion:

1. Textual injunctions on gender equity and the prophetic model are sometimes disregarded by some if not most Muslims individually and collectively. Revision of practices (not divine injunctions) is needed. It is not the revelatory Qur'an and the Sunnah that need any editing or revision. What needs to be re-examined are fallible human interpretations and practices.

2. Diverse practice in Muslim countries often reflect cultural influences (local or foreign), more so than the letter or spirit of the Shariiah [Islamic law].

3. Fortunately, there is an emerging trend for the betterment of our understanding of gender equity, based on the Qur'an and Hadeeth, not on alien and imported un-Islamic or non-Islamic values and not on the basis of the existing oppressive and unjust status quo in many parts of the Muslim world.

Endnotes

1. The term equity is used instead of the common expression 'equality" which is sometimes mistakenly understood to mean absolute equality in each and every detailed item of comparison rather than the overall equality. Equity is used here to mean justice and overall equality of the totality of rights and responsibilities of both genders. It does allow for the possibility of variations in specific items within the overall balance and equality. It is analogous to two persons possessing diverse currencies amounting, for each person to the equivalence of US$1000. While each of the two persons may possess more of one currency than the other, the total value still comes to US$1000 in each case. It should be added that from an Islamic perspective, the roles of men and women are complementary and cooperative rather than competitive.

2. The Sunnah refers to the words, actions, and confirmations (consent) of the Prophet Muhammad in matters pertaining to the meaning and practice of Islam. Another common term which some authorities consider to be equivalent to the Sunnah is the Hadeeth (plural: Ahadeeth) which literally means "sayings."

3. In both Qur'anic references, 15:29 and 32:99, the Arabic terms used are basharan and al Insaun both mean a human being or a person. English translations do not usually convey this meaning and commonly use the terms "man" or the pronoun" him" to refer to "person" without a particular gender identification.
Equally erroneous is the common translation of Bani Adam into "sons of Adam" or "men" instead of a more accurate term "children of Adam."

4. The emphasis is ours. The explanatory "both"{ was added whenever the Our'anic Arabic text addresses Adam and Eve, like "lahoma, akala, akhrajahoma." This was done in order to avoid misinterpreting the English term "you" to mean an address to a singular person. For the Biblical version of the story and its implications, see The Holy Bible, RSV, American Bible Society, New York: 1952: Genesis, chapters 23, especially 3:6, 12, 1717; Levi ticus 12:17; 15:19 30; and Timothy 2:11 14.

5. A common question raised in the West is whether a Muslim woman can be ordained as a priest as more "liberal" churches do? It should be remembered that there is no "church" or "priesthood" in Islam. The question of "ordaining" does not arise. However, most of the common "priestly" functions such as religious education, spiritual and social counseling are not forbidden to Muslim women in a proper Islamic context. A woman, however, may not lead prayers since Muslim prayers involve prostrations and body contact. Since the prayer leader is supposed to stand in front of the congregation and may move forward in the middle of crowded rows, it would be both inappropriate and uncomfortable for a female to be in such a position and prostrate, hands, knees and forehead on the ground with rows of men behind her. A Muslim woman may be an Islamic scholar. In the early days of Islam, there were several examples of female scholars who taught both genders.

6. This contrast with the legal provisions in Europe which did not recognize the right until nearly 13 centuries after Islam. "By a series of acts starting with the Married Women's Property Act in 1879, amended in 1882 and 1997, married women achieved the right to own property and to enter into contracts on a par with spinsters, widows, and divorcees." See Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, vol. 23, p. 624.

7. This period is usually three months. If the wife is pregnant, it extends until childbirth.

8. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (compiler), Musnad Ibn Hanbal, Dar al Ma'arif, Cairo: 1950 and 1955, vols. 3 and 4. Hadith nos. 1957 and 2104.

9. Narrated in Al Bayhaqi and Ibn Majah, quoted in M. S. Aftfi, Al Martah wa Huququhafi al Islam (in Arabic), Maktabat al Nahdhah, Cairo: 1988, p. 71.

10. Ibn Majah (compiler), Sunan Ibn Majah, Dar Ihya' al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo: 1952, vol. 1, Hadith
#1873.

11. Matn al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 257.

12. Riyad al Saliheen, op. cit, pp. 140.

13. In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. If the problem relates to the wife's behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however where a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one. Following is the related Qur'anic text:

Men are the protectors and maintains of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Qur'an 4:34)

Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:

a) It must be seen as a rare exception to the repeated exhortation of mutual respect, kindness and good treatment discussed earlier. Based on the Qur'an and Hadeeth, this measure may be used in the case of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests
on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then other measures such as exhortation should be tried first.

b) As defined by the Hadeeth, it is not permissible to strike anyone's face, cause any bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadeeth qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih or light beating was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolical) use of the miswak (a small natural toothbrush).

They further qualified permissible "beating" as beating that leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen centuries old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from "abuse" in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort and "lesser of the two evils" measure that may save the marriage does not meet the definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence," of "wife battering" in the twentieth century laws in liberal democracies, where such extremes are commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.

c) Permissibility of such symbolical expression of the seriousness of continued refraction does not imply its desirability. In several Ahadeeth, Prophet Muhammad discouraged this measure. Among his sayings:
"Do not beat the female servants of Allah," "Some (women visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you," "[Is it not a shame that], one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her at the end of the day." See Riyad Al Saliheen, op cit., pp. 130 140. In another Hadeeth, the Prophet said:

"How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?" Shaheeh Al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 8, Hadeeth no. 68, pp. 42 43.

d) True following of the Sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad, who never resorted to that measure regardless of the circumstances.

e) Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, and cultures. Some measures may work in some cases, cultures, or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. By definition as "permissible" it is neither required encouraged, or forbidden. In fact, it may be better to spell out the extent of permissibility such as in the issue at hand, than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified or ignoring it all together. In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way lending to excesses and real abuse.

f) Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any "Muslim" can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an and Hadeeth). Such excesses and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself as it shows that he is paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and is failing to follow the true sunnah of the Prophet.

14. For more details on marriage dissolution and custody of children, see A. Abd al Ati, Family Structure in Islam, Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1977, pp. 217 49.

15. For more details on the issue of polygyny, see Jamal A. Badawi, Polygyny in Islamic Law, Plainfield, IN: American Trust Publications, also Islamic Teachings (audio series), Islamic Information Foundation,
1982, album IV.

16. See for example, Edward A. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, 4th ed. (London: Macmlllan, 1925), vol 3, pp. 42 43; also Encyclopedia BibRca, Rev. T. K. Cheyene and J. S. Black, eds.) (London: Macmillan, 1925), vol. 3, p 2946.

17. A. M. B. 1. Al Bukhari (compiler) Matn al Bukhari, Cairo: Dar Ihya al Kutub al Arabiyah, n.d., vol. 3 Kitab al Adab, p. 47. Translated by the author. For a similar English translation of this Hadeeth, see Sahih al Bukhari translated by M. M. Khan Maktabat al Riyadh al Hadeethah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, i982, colt 8, the Book of ai Adab, Hadeeth no. 2, p. 2.

18. Narrated by Aisha, collected by Ibn Asakir in Silsilat Kunaz al Sunnah 1, Al./ami Al Sagheer, Ist ed. 1410 AH. A computer program.

19. Riyadh al Saliheen, op. cit., p. 139.

Bibliography

I. The Qur'an and Hadeeth

1. The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary by A. Y. Ali, The American Trust Publication,
Plainfield, IN 1977.

2. Matn al Bukhari, Al Bukhari (compiler), Dar Ihya al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo, Egypt, n.d.

3. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hanbal (compiler), Dar Ihya' al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo Egypt, 1950
and 1955.

4. Riyadh al Saliheen, Al Nawawi, (compiler) New Delhi, India n.d.

5. Sahih Al Bukhari, M. Khan (translator), Maktabat Al Riaydh Al Hadeethah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
1982.

6. Silsilat Kunuz Al Sunnah: Al Jami al Sagheer, 1st ea., 1410 AH, a computer software.

7. Sunan Ibn Majah, Dar Ihya al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo: 1952.

II. Other References

1. Al Martah wa Huququha fi al Islam, M. S. Aftfi, Maktabat AlNadhhah, Cairo: 1988.

2. Holy Bible, RSV, American Bible Society, New York: 1952.

3. Encyclopedia Biblica, vol. 3, Rev. T. K. Cheyene and J. S. Black, editors, London: Machollan, 1925.

4. Encyclopedia Britanica, Vol. 23, 1968

5. The History of Human Marriage, vol. 3, Edward A. Westermarck, London: Macmillan, 1925
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Women’s Empowerment a Must’


JEDDAH, 20 March 2007 — Princess Adelah bint Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz and Lubna Al-Olayan expressed their concerns and worries at the first session of the Khadija bint Khuwailid Forum yesterday. Both stressed that without utilizing 100 percent of Saudi society’s talents and abilities, the country would never develop, compete internationally or witness any real national economic growth.

“The situation has resulted in more than SR60 billion leaving the Kingdom because of expatriates being employed,” said Al-Olayan. “I believe that we could save a third of this amount by increasing employment opportunities for women and then reinvesting the money to benefit our society.”

Princess Adelah estimated the Kingdom’s current work force to number 11.5 million and anticipated that the figure would rise to 21 million in 2020. “Women’s unemployment is estimated at between 25 and 28 percent,” she said. “We have to open the door for women in the fields of energy and transportation. Women have to be included in the decision-making process.”

Al-Olayan identified five major points which are vital to the success of businesswomen. They are: providing the education that is really needed; providing opportunities for training women equal to those available for men in banks and companies such as ARAMCO and SABIC; encouraging women to take the initiative and then rewarding them; ensuring continuous support and encouragement by family members and colleagues; having the same rights and benefits men have — equal legal rights, easy transportation, the freedom to reach official institutions and the freedom to benefit from the legal system and the law.

“We don’t live in this world alone. We don’t want to and we can’t live isolated from everyone else,” said Al-Olayan. “Even though we’re stepping forward, many countries who were once behind us are ahead of us now. It’s time that we stopped talking and started working to educate and train our Saudi sisters and daughters while preserving our Islamic identity.” The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender gap in four critical areas of inequality between men and women: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. According to the 2006 report, Saudi Arabia ranked last in a group of 115 countries in terms of economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment.

Souad Al-Hakeem, professor of philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at Lebanon University, tackled the problem of Muslim women being an international model. Her theme boiled down to one point: Islamic laws and Shariah do not stand in the way or hinder the process of advancement for women but traditions and customs do.

We have to stop accusing Islam of holding women back and saying that it is blocking the way for achieving an international role-model,” said Al-Hakeem. “Women are partners of men in life and in destiny and the Muslim woman in particular is the man’s partner in everything.”




With Kind Regards

Mohammad Usman

Jeddah

SAUDI ARABIA

IMPORTANT: This article is being circulated to inform our Muslim brothers and sisters as to the current affairs affecting the Muslims; circulation of this article should therefore not be misconstrued as anything but the sharing of such information.



IMPORTANT: All views expressed herein belong to the author concerned and do not in any way reflect that of the sender
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 3:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

German Judge Cites Koran, Stirring Up Cultural Storm
By MARK LANDLER

FRANKFURT, March 22 — A German judge has stirred a storm of protest by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman's request for a speedy divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.

In a ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, noted that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote in her decision, sanctions such physical abuse.

News of the ruling brought swift and sharp condemnation from politicians, legal experts and Muslim leaders in Germany, many of whom said they were confounded that a German judge would put seventh-century Islamic religious teaching ahead of German law in deciding a case of domestic violence.

The court in Frankfurt abruptly removed Judge Datz-Winter from the case on Wednesday, saying it could not justify her reasoning. The woman's lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, said she decided to publicize the ruling, which was issued in January, after the court refused her request for a new judge.

"It was terrible for my client," Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said. "This man beat her seriously from the beginning of their marriage. After they separated, he called her and threatened to kill her."

Muslim leaders agreed that Muslims living here must be judged by the German legal code. But they were just as offended by what they characterized as the judge's misinterpretation of a much-debated passage in the Koran.

While the verse cited by Judge Datz-Winter does say husbands may beat their wives for being disobedient — an interpretation embraced by fundamentalists— mainstream Muslims have long rejected wife-beating as a medieval relic.

"Our prophet never struck a woman, and he is our example," Ayyub Axel Köhler, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said in an interview.

While legal experts said the ruling was a judicial misstep rather than evidence of a broader trend, it comes at a time of rising tension in Europe as authorities in many fields struggle to reconcile Western values with growing Muslim minorities.

Last fall, for example, a Berlin opera house canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad. Stung by charges that it had surrendered its artistic freedom, the house staged the opera three months later without incident.

To some here, the judge's ruling reflected a similar compromising of basic values.

"A judge in Germany has to refer to the constitutional law, which says that human rights are not to be violated," said Günter Meyer, director of the Center for Research on the Arab World at the University of Mainz. "It's not her task to interpret the Koran. It was an attempt at multicultural understanding, but in completely the wrong context."

Reaction to the judge's decision has been almost as sulfurous as it was to the cancellation of the opera.

"When the Koran is put above the German Constitution, I can only say, 'Good night, Germany,' " Ronald Pofalla, general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union, said in the mass-market newspaper Bild.

The 26-year-old woman in this case was born in Germany to a Moroccan family and married in Morocco in 2001, according to her lawyer, Ms. Becker-Rojczyk. The couple settled in the Frankfurt area and had two children.

In May 2006, the police were summoned after a particularly violent incident. At that time, Judge Datz-Winter ordered the husband to move out and stay at least 55 yards away from the couple's home. In the months that followed, her lawyer said, the man threatened to kill his wife.

Terrified, the woman filed for divorce in October and requested that it be granted without the usual year of separation because her husband's threats and beatings constituted an "unreasonable hardship."

"We worried that he might think he had the right to kill her because she is still his wife," Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said.

A lawyer for the husband, Gisela Hammes, did not reply to an e-mail message and a telephone message left at her office in Mainz.

In January, the judge turned down the wife's request for a speedy divorce, saying her husband's behavior did not constitute unreasonable hardship because they are both Moroccan. "In this cultural background," she wrote, "it is not unusual that the husband uses physical punishment against the wife."

Ms. Becker-Rojczyk filed a request to remove the judge from the case, contending that she had not been neutral.

In a statement defending her ruling, Judge Datz-Winter noted that she had ordered the man to move out and put a restraining order on him. But she also cited the verse in the Koran that speaks of a husband's prerogatives in disciplining his wife. And she suggested that the wife's Western lifestyle would give her husband grounds to claim his honor had been compromised.

The woman, her lawyer said, does not wear a headscarf. She has been a German citizen for eight years.

Judge Datz-Winter declined to comment. But a spokesman for the court, Bernhard Olp, said she did not intend to suggest that violence in a marriage is acceptable or that the Koran supersedes German law. "The ruling is not justifiable, but the judge herself cannot explain it at this moment," he said.

Judge Datz-Winter herself narrowly avoided injury 10 years ago in a case involving a man and woman whose relationship had come apart. When the man shot up her courtroom, the judge escaped by diving under her desk.

German papers have suggested that that ordeal may have affected her judgment in this case, which the spokesman denied.

A new judge will be assigned, but Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said her client would probably wait until May for her divorce because the paperwork would take until then anyway.

For some, the greatest damage done by this episode is to other Muslim women suffering from domestic abuse. Many are already afraid of going to court against their spouses. There have been a string of so-called honor killings here, in which Turkish Muslim men have murdered women.

"For Muslim men, this is like putting oil on a fire, that a German judge thinks it is O.K. for them to hit their wives," said Michaela Sulaika Kaiser, the head of a group that counsels Muslim women.


Sarah Plass contributed reporting.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Woman re-interprets Qur'aan
Mike Ghouse | March 24, 2007
AA,

Sometimes, our faithfulness to our understanding of anything in life makes us eager to reject any other expression, and prevents us from enlightening ourselves. We assume that seeing a different point of view is being disloyal, it is not. Islam is consistent in advising us to learn, whether from Romans or going as far away as China, we have to learn and we have to be open to learning.

First of all, we welcome this new additional translation of Qur'aan. In the spirit of learning, and learning well, the alternatives available to us will simply open up our up minds to understand the concept of Justness in God's word in every aspect of life.

There was a time when most of the non-Arabic speaking Muslims (>75%) relied on translation in English or other languages, what was given to us, was all we knew. We did not know how close the translations reflected the values of Qur'aan, but that was the only source available to us one time. We also had translations where due to the inadequate comprehension of the audience, certain words were injected into the translations to explain the meaning of the terms. People have taken that literally and some people have been hurt with these unintended wrong translations. (Apology and Qur'aan translations power point presentations at http://www.worldmuslimcongress.com/ )

Indeed, when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made the knowledge available to every human through the Qur'aan, he meant for every one to read and understand it. It was common for Prophet SAW to ask the Sahaba to think a bit before he told them the actual meaning of anything. He sometimes used to initiate a conversation by asking a question "Do you know what xyz means?" It was simply a means of encouraging the Sahaba to think.

Thanks to the variations in translations, it shows us the limitations of human understanding, and challenges us to strive to grasp the whole truth. What was hitherto cut and dry is no more. May be it is Allah's hint to us to get closer to understanding the truth. The monopolies would be gone and focus would be on the essence rather than literal meaning. Presently the 14 translations are available at http://www.islamawakened.com/ and Insha Allah it will be at http://www.worldmuslimcongress.com/ soon.

Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar offers another meaning to the translation of the Arabic word "Idrib," traditionally translated as "beat," which has been mis-understood and abused over the centuries by men who would be abusive any way, whether they are Muslim or not. "Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away' - either one from the other, may be it meant separation as a process of re-evaluation.

Insha Allah, I am working on presenting a paper on the myth of "wife beating" to our scholars and Imams to review, and if it is consistent with the essence of Qur'aan and if they concur, it will be a relief to the Muslim women around the world consistent with God being a just God.

I am optimistic with this particular development and welcome this new translation, even if it has a few flaws, it would wash off by the 15 other translations, but will take us closer to the essence.

Jazak Allah Khair
Mike Ghouse

Woman re-interprets Koran with feminist view

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyid=2007-03-23T002513Z_01_N21290159_RTRUKOC_0_US-KORAN-FEMINIST.xml&src=rss&rpc=22

By Manuela Badawy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women.

The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women.

In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word "idrib," traditionally translated as "beat," which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women.

"Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away'," she writes in the introduction to the new book.

The passage is generally translated: "And as for those women whose ill will you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!"

Instead, Bakhtiar suggests "Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it -- go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God."

Some Muslims said the new interpretation strayed from the original. Omar Abu-Namous, imam at the New York Islamic Cultural Center Mosque, questioned Bakhtiar's interpretation.

"There is nothing to stop a woman from translating the Holy Koran. The translator should have good command of the Arabic language in order to convey it and translate it into other languages. I don't know if Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar has good command of Arabic," Imam Abu-Namous said.

"Maybe she is depending on other translations, not on the original," he said.

BAKHTIAR DEFENDS HER WORK

Bakhtiar defended her work, telling Reuters she translated from the Arabic text and that she "reads and knows classical Arabic."

The New York imam also said the passage she is challenging speaks of when a woman wants a divorce, and only allows a man to "hit his wife, according to the Prophet, with a 'miswak,'" or a twig of a pencil's length, on her hand.

Arabic Language Professor at the American University in Cairo Siham Serry said her interpretation of the word "idrib," was "to push away," similar but slightly different from Bakhtiar's "to go away."

She said she agrees with the imam that 'miswak' means twig and that the Koran does not encourage the harm of women. But she also said that men can interpret that passage to justify their own behavior.

"How can you hurt someone by hitting her with a very small, short and weak thing?" she asked by telephone from Cairo. "But sometimes the interpretation of the Koran is according to men, and sometimes they try to humiliate the woman."

Bakhtiar writes in the book that she found a lack of internal consistency in previous English translations, and found little attention given to the woman's point of view.

In other changes to the text, she cites the most accurate translation of the word traditionally translated to mean "infidel" as "ungrateful."

And she uses "God" instead of "Allah," saying that God is the universal English term.

Bakhtiar has been schooled in Sufism which includes both the Shia and Sunni points of view. As an adult, she lived nine years in a Shia community in Iran and has lived in a Sunni community in Chicago for the past 15 years.

"While I understand the positions of each group, I do not represent any specific one as I find living in America makes it difficult enough to be a Muslim, much less to choose to follow one sect or another," she writes.

The new text is published by Islamic specialty bookseller Kazi Publications, which has a store in Chicago and online

Please post your comments at:
http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2007/03/woman-re-interprets-quraan.html
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A recipe for social disaster

Andrea Mrozek
For The Calgary Herald


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


In China and India, among other countries, sex-selection abortion and female infanticide are growing problems. The ratio of boys to girls in some parts of the world is increasingly out of line -- China averages 120 boys for 100 girls, where the norm worldwide hovers around 105 boys for every 100 girls.

The concept of sex selection against females may well be out of line with Canadian norms, but not so for those representing Canada at the United Nations.

Last week, at the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, the United States and South Korea brought forward a UN resolution condemning sex-selection abortion and infanticide against girls. And Canada played an instrumental role in killing it.

The theme of the session was "the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child" and the resolution called for the elimination of one of the earliest forms of gender discrimination.

It recognized sex selection against girls as being the result of gender inequality, which, "may be linked to social, economic and political causes." It further called on states to "eliminate the harmful practices of prenatal sex selection and female infanticide," something only one country, South Korea, has had success in doing through a public education campaign.

The resolution called for advocacy and awareness, and developing programs to empower women in places where the right to live is threatened only for the fact that the fetuses are female.

This resolution that now lies dead on the cutting room floor would have acted as public education for those who are not aware of the gravity of the situation. Indeed, there is a link between sex selection and a host of other problems: a rise in violence against women that has already been noted in places where sex selection is common, an upswing in female trafficking, in kidnapped women and a higher demand for prostituted women and girls.

Of course, it has been known for quite some time that China and India show a rising gender imbalance. China now faces a staggering shortage of 50 million young women -- the corresponding number of young men will not find wives or settle down and raise a family.

What is less known is that many other nations are showing the same precarious irregularities: among them Singapore, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. The birth ratio irregularities extend to places such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia among others.

The trend is even noticeable in certain communities in Canada with high immigrant populations. In Surrey, B.C., for example, where a large Indo-Canadian community resides, in 2000 there were 111 boys for 100 girls. In Richmond, B.C., which has a large Chinese-Canadian population, that rate was 112 to 100 in 2003.

There are other repercussions associated with gender imbalance. There are studies on the aggression effect on

society of too many young, single men -- some say this is prejudice against men, others say it is merely a natural reflection of reality.

After all, violent crimes are committed more often by men. Female street gangs are rare. But when millions of young men cannot find spouses, the possibility, indeed, likelihood, of social unrest grows.

This is the thesis of a 2004 book called Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population. The authors write that gender imbalance "may very likely influence the course of national and perhaps even international politics in the 21st century."

Gender inequality in the West hinges largely around lifestyle, not life and death. When the West discusses gender parity, it is largely in the context of taking on more diverse responsibilities in the workforce or ensuring equal contributions to housework.

That is the luxury of living in North America. In China, for example, other forms of gender inequality prevail. Forced abortions, the result of the one-child policy, are still commonplace.

Nations like China and India are facing a catastrophe as the gender imbalance grows more and more skewed.

The Canadians at the United Nations took issue, inside sources say, with any number of aspects in the draft resolution and wanted to alter the text so substantially that the countries formerly supporting the resolution could no longer and withdrew it entirely.

Apparently, for some Canadian representatives at the UN, a statutory deference to women's abortion rights takes precedence to the right of women to live in the first place.

Sadly, for them, the fact that millions of women are missing was not enough to agree on a mere statement against female sex-selection abortion and infanticide.

Andrea Mrozek is manager of research and communications at Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (www.imfcanada.org)

© The Calgary Herald 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pelosi Nudges Saudi Arabia to Give Women a Role in Politics
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 6, 2007
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 5 (AP) —

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday visited Saudi Arabia’s unelected advisory council, the closest thing in the kingdom to a legislature, where she tried out her counterpart’s chair — a privilege not available to Saudi women because they cannot become legislators.

Ms. Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, said she raised the issue of the lack of women in Saudi politics with officials on the last stop of her Middle East tour, but she added that she refrained from criticizing the kingdom over it.

“It’s a nice view from here,” Ms. Pelosi said as she sat in the chair, facing the ornate chamber. She later sidestepped a question on how she felt about the absence of women on the Saudi council, saying: “I am very pleased that after 200-plus years in the U.S. we finally have a speaker. It took us a long time.”

The Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council, was expanded and given more powers in 1992 as a step toward forming a legislature. Its 150 members are chosen by the king and advise him, and the body has the power to propose laws for the government’s approval.

King Abdullah has spoken of reform, but change has been slow and limited. The kingdom, ruled according to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, held its first elections in 2005, choosing local councils. Women were barred from voting or running for office.

Ms. Pelosi and King Abdullah discussed at length the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel peace with Arab states if it withdraws from lands seized in 1967 and allows the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has said it will accept the proposal only if some changes are made.

“I explained to him that this can be a very important and historic proposal if he is prepared for a discussion and a dialogue and not a presentation on a take-it-or-leave-it basis,” said Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who is also part of the American delegation. “His reaction was very positive.”
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pelosi Nudges Saudi Arabia to Give Women a Role in Politics
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 6, 2007
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 5 (AP) —

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday visited Saudi Arabia’s unelected advisory council, the closest thing in the kingdom to a legislature, where she tried out her counterpart’s chair — a privilege not available to Saudi women because they cannot become legislators.

Ms. Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, said she raised the issue of the lack of women in Saudi politics with officials on the last stop of her Middle East tour, but she added that she refrained from criticizing the kingdom over it.

“It’s a nice view from here,” Ms. Pelosi said as she sat in the chair, facing the ornate chamber. She later sidestepped a question on how she felt about the absence of women on the Saudi council, saying: “I am very pleased that after 200-plus years in the U.S. we finally have a speaker. It took us a long time.”

The Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council, was expanded and given more powers in 1992 as a step toward forming a legislature. Its 150 members are chosen by the king and advise him, and the body has the power to propose laws for the government’s approval.

King Abdullah has spoken of reform, but change has been slow and limited. The kingdom, ruled according to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, held its first elections in 2005, choosing local councils. Women were barred from voting or running for office.

Ms. Pelosi and King Abdullah discussed at length the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel peace with Arab states if it withdraws from lands seized in 1967 and allows the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has said it will accept the proposal only if some changes are made.

“I explained to him that this can be a very important and historic proposal if he is prepared for a discussion and a dialogue and not a presentation on a take-it-or-leave-it basis,” said Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who is also part of the American delegation. “His reaction was very positive.”
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Women in Islamic Society:Sound Advice in Serious Situations
Dr. Abd Al-Haleem Abu Shuqqah



When the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were ordered to be screened, so that no man other than their immediate relatives could speak to them unless they were behind a screen, they could have been excused had they decided to keep to themselves and not to take any interest in the affairs of the community. They, however, did nothing of the sort. They continued to participate fully in the social and public affairs of their community. They considered their screening as a special ruling which they meticulously observed as it was expressly ordered by God in the Qur’an. They realized that they had a special position, providing a link between the Prophet in his private life at home and the Muslim community. Examples of such participation are numerous. We will cite a few to draw a picture of how this worked in practice.

At times, the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted to speak to people so as to draw their attention to a particular point. He would call out to them to gather and he would then address them. Lady Umm Salamah, one of his wives, reports: “I used to hear people speak about the Fountain of the hereafter but the Prophet did not mention it in my presence. One day I was at home, with my maid doing my hair when I heard the Prophet calling on people to gather. I told the maid to stop. She said: ‘He has called only on men to come to him, but he did not call the women.’ I said: ‘He called the people and I am one of the people.’ The Prophet said in his address: ‘I shall be ahead of you preparing things at the Fountain. Let no one of you be turned away when he tries to come forward to me. I would ask why he is turned away and I would be told: You do not know what they had perpetrated after you had gone.’ I would then say: ‘Away with them.’” (Related by Muslim.)

The point here is that Umm Salamah was keen to attend a public address by the Prophet, considering herself one of the people. She could have stayed at home and learned what the Prophet said to the people when he went to see her later that afternoon, as was his habit with all his wives, but she felt that she needed to be with the people, listening with them.

Another wife of the Prophet, Lady Zaynab bint Jahsh, was a model of generosity, taking care of the poor and helping those in need of any kind of help. Several reports confirm this quality of hers. In fact she excelled in handicraft, selling her artifacts and donating the proceeds to good causes. Lady Ayesha reports: “One or the other of the Prophet’s wives asked him who of them would be the first to die after him. He said: ‘The one with the longest hand.’ They took a stick to measure their hands, and concluded that Sawdah (who was a tall woman) had the longest hand. However, when Zaynab was the first of them to die after the Prophet, they realized that the Prophet’s expression, ‘the longest hand’, referred to the one who was the most charitable. Zaynab simply loved to give to charity.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.) In another Hadith, Ayesha says: “I never saw a woman who was more devout, God-fearing, truthful in what she says, kinder to relatives, or more dedicated to her work which she dedicated to charity than Zaynab.” (Related by Muslim.) Ibn Hajar quotes a Hadith related by Al-Hakim who collected an anthology of authentic Hadiths fulfilling the criteria set by Al-Bukhari and Muslim but missed out by both scholars. In this Hadith Ayesha says: “Zaynab was clever in handicraft: she used to tan and make leather articles, giving her profits to charity.”

The Prophet’s wives were ready to give advice whenever one was needed. While such an advice was appreciated by the person who received it, it is a special type of advice that could be given to the Prophet concerning a public affair. When the Prophet traveled with 1,400 of his companions, heading to Makkah to perform the Umrah when Makkah was still under the unbelievers, they were stopped by its people. Prolonged negotiations led to the Al-Hudaybiyah peace agreement which stipulated that the Prophet and his companions would go back without entering Makkah, while they would be allowed to visit the Kaaba and do the Umrah the following year, staying only three days. Since the Prophet and his companions were already in the state of consecration, or ihraam, they needed to release themselves by slaughtering their sacrifice and shaving their heads, or cutting their hair short. The Prophet told them to do so, and repeated his orders three times. They felt very sad and despondent, because they had eagerly looked forward to this visit to the Kaaba and realized that it was not to be. None of them did as the Prophet told them.

Depressed at this lack of compliance, the Prophet went into his tent and complained to his wife, Umm Salamah, telling her that they could incur a grave sin. She gave him a sound, practical advice. She said: “Messenger of God! Would you like this to be sorted out? Go out but do not speak to any of them until you have slaughtered your own sacrifice and got a man to shave your head.” The Prophet did exactly that. When his companions saw what he did, they all slaughtered their sacrifice and they shaved one another’s heads.

The point in this story is Umm Salamah’s participation in public events, being consulted and giving sound advice. The fact that she was to remain behind a screen did not prevent the Prophet from taking her with him on this trip or consulting her in such a serious public matter. Her advice averted a serious situation developing into a case of public disobedience that would have had far-reaching negative consequences.








With Kind Regards

Mohammad Usman

Jeddah

SAUDI ARABIA
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kmaherali



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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2007 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Status of Women
http://www.amaana.org/sultweb/message.htm


It was not for nothing that the Prophet's first convert was a woman.

H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan's message to lsmailia Women's Association, March 1953.

The Prophet of Islam (who has been so cruelly libeled in the Western world, by ignorance or malice) was wont to say that men can but follow in the footsteps of their mothers towards Paradise. And it was not for nothing, according to Muslim belief that his first convert was a woman.

Biologically the female is more important to the race than the male. While average women are capable of earning their own livelihood like men, they are the guardians of the life of the race, and only through their natural constitution are they able to bear the double burden. Experience shows the strong probability that the active influence of women on society, under free and equal conditions, is calculated not only to bring about practical improvement in the domestic realm, but also a higher and nobler idealism into the life of the state. Those who know Moslem society from within readily admit that its higher spiritual life owes a great debt to the example and influence of women. Today, as in the lifetime of the Prophet, probably the majority of devout and reverent followers of his teaching are women.

No progressive thinker of today will challenge the claim that the social advancement and general well-being of communities are greatest where women are least debarred, by artificial barriers and narrow prejudice, from taking their full position as citizens.

The progressive modernization which depends on co-operation and understanding will be impossible unless women are permitted to play their legitimate part in the great work of national regeneration on a basis of political equality.


Importance of Women

Clarion Call to Muslim Women

I do not think you realize yourselves and I am sorry to say, certainly the men of Pakistan, and a few other Muslim countries, do not realize the importance of women taking an equal rank with men in the welfare, in the Government and in the general activity and prosperity of the country. Only the other day, the Minister of Wakfs, one of the leading "ulemas' of Egypt responsible for religious affairs, was telling me that a country is like a human body, men and women are two lungs, if you reduce the power of women, you crush them with inhibitions and imaginary restrictions based ultimately on man's superior physical power, in a nation, it is exactly like a human being who has one lung perforated by tuberculosis and only one lung to work.

Equal Position

Ladies believe me, if Pakistan does not rise to the modern idea of the equal position of women, you will find not only Europe but all the other countries of Asia going ahead of you. I am heartbroken when I see how little so many of our men realize what it is, and how little the women contribute, compared to what they could contribute to the moral and material happiness and prosperity of the country.

To begin with, the women here, to my horror, are forbidden in taking part in the religious life of the country. In practically every Muslim country the women are allowed to go to mosques for Friday prayers and there are proper wings divided by 'purdahs' from the men where they conduct Friday prayers. Perhaps the greatest blot in Pakistan is the neglect of Friday prayers by Muslims generally but above all, not giving women occasions for participating in these most important prayers. If you are forbidden even prayer what can you expect! The first thing to agitate for, is to get your right for your prayers, which women enjoy in practically every Muslim country. In Cairo, there are special mosques, like the Mohammedali Mosque, where galleries are reserved for women. In North Africa, in the Paris mosque and the London mosque at Woking, in Iran and in Turkey, women have their own special place for Friday prayers. When you do not allow the women to pray, how can you expect them to do any lay service for the country.

Right to Prayers

First of all you must win the right to prayers, then win your right to equality in production, industrial service and in office work. I am an old man and I can expect very little in this world but my message to you women is: organize yourselves, resist and fight for your rights.

One last word, some of our champions of inhibitions fear that liberty will lead to sexual immorality. Believe me, when women from childhood and adolescence have seen men, then there is very little likelihood of that, except in naturally bad characters who will be bad always under any conditions, either of freedom or restrictions.

I have lived in most European and American countries, and I have no hesitation in saying that only one out of 1,000 families is broken up by sexual misdemeanor and the other 999 go through happy life bringing up children, living perfectly moral lives in which little thought is given to sexual relations and the whole life is taken up for service to the children, to the family, to the husband and to the country.

Horrible Instincts

My dear Muslim sisters. One result of this is that some of your men who lock up their women, when they go to Paris, rush to indulge in their horrible instincts and for that go to places where (like in every great city, even in Muslim countries) there are prostitutes and shows for encouraging sexual depravity. But that is not the life of the people. The overwhelming life of the people is happy family relations and far more devotion to children than you can possibly get out of "purdah nashin."

Oh my sisters, agitate. Leave no peace to the men till they give you religious freedom by opening mosques for prayers not side by side with men but in reserved quarters attached to all the mosques, so that the habit of praying in public and self respect and self-confidence becomes general amongst women. On that foundation of religious equality, you can then build social, economic, patriotic and political equality with men.

I pray Allah Almighty to open the eyes of our benighted men and some of our still more benighted women.

http://www.amaana.org/sultweb/message.htm
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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The Prophet of Islam (who has been so cruelly libeled in the Western world, by ignorance or malice) was wont to say that men can but follow in the footsteps of their mothers towards Paradise. And it was not for nothing, according to Muslim belief that his first convert was a woman." (AgakhanIII)

Mom's Faithfulness Until the End

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/217/story_21759.html

A woman refuses to stop praying for the soul of her husband, who has been estranged from the church and from his own family.

By Lydia Klika

"Dad," I fumed one day, perturbed at his stubbornness. "I've spent most of my life without you, and I refuse to spend all of eternity without you, too!"

At the time, my father lay dying from cancer. Though raised in a culturally Catholic home, he had been away from the Church for many years. He had a number of axes to grind with the Church and, it seemed, with God. Despite his stubborn resistance to the Faith, my mother never gave up on him. She truly believed that her prayers and dedication would bear fruit in his life and that he would return to God's grace. She truly was a warrior for his soul, and fought for him until the end.

My mother was born into a Catholic family, but it wasn't until later in life that she experienced a deep conversion of heart. Shortly after I was born, Mom received a visit from Fr. Lawrence who had come with an invitation to live "the devout life." Sensing the "Hound of Heaven" calling her, she responded by living a life of intense Catholic devotion. That invitation and her "fiat" undoubtedly changed the course of our family's history—not only for my siblings and me, but for our children's children as well. Mom taught me catechism and handed on a great love of the Faith.

Unfortunately, my father hated the change he saw in her. After a series of very serious family issues, my mother's pastor counseled her to separate from my father in the best interest of the children—my brother, sister, and me. Although it was extremely difficult for her, she obeyed. For the next thirty-two years, my parents lived 250 miles apart, but remained on friendly speaking terms. They eventually divorced and got an annulment, leaving them both free to marry, though neither ever did. Mom felt a profound obligation to Dad. She may have known, as God did, that they would eventually become close friends. I now believe that God kept them both single because this would orchestrate the future circumstances of my father's return to the Church.

Every day Mom went to Mass and we prayed the Rosary together. Mom and I would pray for Dad constantly, that his heart would be opened to God. As a child I remember one time waiting for him to leave so we could hide brown and green scapulars in his mattress, hoping their proximity to his heart would melt the hardness there.

Mom reminded me of an army general pondering the next strategic move, always looking for chinks in Dad's armor. She employed hidden 'weapons'—hit-and-run tactics (share the Gospel in small doses, but change the subject before arousing anger), going up the chain of command (invoking saints and Our Lady), and Chinese water torture (unceasing prayer). She was in it for the long haul and Dad knew he had a formidable "opponent." He respected her.

This went on for decades—Mom trying to bring Dad back to the Church while Dad resisted. I sometimes got discouraged, but Mom would say, "I know Our Lord will see to it that he saves his soul." Then Dad got liver cancer. He lived alone and had to have a temporary colostomy after his first surgery. He was in bad shape. She drove five hours and stayed with him for two weeks to care for his personal needs, including all of his hygiene needs. She took care of him round the clock. She was careful to go to the earliest Mass while he slept so she would be back to care for him.

He often said that he would have died had it not been for my mother. I saw his eyes light up when he spoke to her. Whereas before he seemed equally glad to see me, afterwards I could see his love for her. It was beautiful. He couldn't really understand why she was so good to him. I explained that it was the love of Christ within her that he experienced. "She touches you with the hands of Jesus," I told him. "No one can love like that on her own."

As Christmas of 1999 approached, we figured it would be his last. We wanted him with us, but Dad said he was too tired to come for Christmas. We were prepared to drive down and get him, but he called and asked if he could come a few days early. He drove five hours and was so spent that he didn't have enough energy to get out of the car. The angels must have been guiding him as he drove.


Mom set up a hospital bed in her room for him, and after thirty years, they were together again. In his weakened state, he knew he was there to stay. My brother, Phil, drove him back to his apartment one last time to collect important papers and put his affairs in order. Dad brought the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa (as she is known in Poland) which hung over his bed. We hung it over his hospital bed, just as it had been at home. We didn't understand why Dad would resist God so strongly, yet have a picture of Our Lady over his bed, but we entrusted him into her hands.

Dad would shake his head in amazement that Mom took care of him after he had refused to return to the family. He was overwhelmed at the kindness and care he received. He knew that Mom technically had no legal or moral obligation to him, yet she showered spiritual and corporal works of mercy on him. There was nothing she could have done for him that she didn't do.

To put this all in perspective, my dad had let us grow up without a father. This had placed a tremendous burden on Mom to raise us virtually alone, and he had never apologized. By the world's standards, he owed us big time, and Mom owed him nothing. He had mistreated my brother and sister, but through the sacrificial example of Mom, they were there, loving him. Phil was there, washing him, changing his diapers. My sister, Julie, came and helped when she could.

I knew Dad had softened somewhat over the years concerning God. He even sprinkled a "God bless you" in his conversations sometimes. But still, Dad didn't have long to live, and it looked like this one was going to come down to the wire.

At Mom's prompting, I asked my pastor in early January to speak to Dad about confession. Fr. Jim said he would only come when my Dad agreed to confess. I was overcome with grief at the thought of Dad in hell, and poured out my concerns to my good friend, Sue. She said that her family and her brother's family would begin St. Faustina's Divine Mercy Novena for my Dad right away. (During an apparition to St. Faustina Kowalska, Jesus dictated a set of prayers now known as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. He promised to shower His abundant mercy upon those who recite it reverently.) I was relieved, and our family started the novena as well. On the third day of the novena—after forty years without going to confession—Dad agreed to confess!

Fr. Jim came to visit Dad. In my mind's eye, I imagined a huge reservoir of graces being held back by a huge dam. These were the graces amassed by my mother's faithful prayers, day after day, year after year, without wavering. I added my inconsistent and small contributions, made smaller by my lack of faith at ever seeing him change. Suddenly, the dam burst open as Jesus poured out torrents of His tender and infinite Mercy.

Emotionally spent, I heard the bedroom door open, and Fr. Jim came out smiling and waving us in. Mom had been in the living room, faithfully praying. We went in to see Dad, and he was transformed! He had a glow about his face, and he spoke with the innocence of a child. A fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace, and it was this peace we saw radiating from my father. After receiving last rites, Dad slept for four solid hours, the longest he'd slept since he'd come to stay with us.

For the first time in my life, my father had truly become my brother in Christ! His soul was at peace. Dad received His Lord in Holy Communion several times before he died. Mom would prepare him by reading prayers beforehand, and Dad would respond with an "Amen" or a simple grunt, all he could muster towards the end of his life.

The day before he died, Mom saw Dad (who had become increasingly less responsive) sit straight up in bed and look upward with wide-open eyes. He smiled and tried to raise his arm up toward the ceiling. Afterwards, he fell back into his comatose state. Mom thinks it might have been his Mother, Mary, his Lady of Czestochowa, who came to prepare him. Three weeks after my father's confession, I was urgently summoned to his bedside. It was January 24th, the feast of St. Francis de Sales. I joined my mother at Dad's side, and together we prayed, sang, cried, and rejoiced. As we shared in his last moments on earth, I did something I hadn't done since I was a little girl—I pulled out my father's hairbrush and began brushing his hair. I reflected on all the time I had missed with my father. Yet I rejoiced in the opportunity at spending eternity with him. I realized that both my mothers—the Blessed Mother and my own flesh-and-blood Mother—had remained faithful to him until the end.
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following is an obituary of the mother of Mowlana HazarImam. As we reflect on the 50 years of Imamat, her life is a striking example of the role of women in shaping important socio-economic aspects of our community.

OBITUARIES - JOAN LADY CAMROSE

Joan Lady Camrose, mother of the Aga Khan, died on April 25 aged 89. She was born on April 22, 1908.

A RENOWNED beauty of her day, Joan Lady Camrose was to play host to a circle of socialites, intellectuals, politicians and diplomats in London.
Her list of acquaintances was as eclectic as it was sophisticated, including
as it did such figures as Evelyn Waugh, Randolph Churchill, Margot Fonteyn, Nancy Mitford, Lord Birkenhead, Malcolm Muggeridge, Freya Stark, Harold Acton, Edward Heath and Cecil Beaton &shy; she was instrumental in launching the photographic career of the last. Her choice of companions reflected her own wide range of interests.

Joan Barbara Yarde-Buller was the eldest daughter of Lord and Lady
Churston. Her mother, who later remarried to become the Duchess of Leinster, was a talented musician. One of her sisters, Primrose, married the Earl of Cadogan. Another, Lydia, became the Duchess of Bedford. She herself married three times.

The first marriage was to Thomas Loel Guinness, of the banking family. A son, Patrick, was born but died in a car accident in the 1960s. The second was to Prince Aly Khan, son of Sir Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III, renowned as Imam of 15 million Ismaili Muslims, twice president of the League of Nations and five times winner of the Epsom Derby.

Prince Aly and Joan married in Paris in 1936 and had two sons, Karim and Amyn. When war broke out in 1940, Prince Aly joined the French cavalry and served throughout the Middle East while Joan based herself at the Anglo-French Hospital in Cairo after setting up home for her two boys in Kenya. It was during this period that she got to know and admire her father-in-law, Aga Khan III. It was he who used her knowledge of hospitals and nursing to the benefit of his followers. In 1944 he appointed her health and education commissioner in East Africa and she helped introduce his plans for the management of Ismaili schools and clinics.

The marriage, however, did not survive the stress of the five-year
hostilities of the Second World War. Princess Joan moved to a new home in Eaton Square, London, and opened her doors to a glittering array of
diplomats, politicians, ambassadors, writers, musicians and journalists.

Meanwhile, her two sons were growing up rapidly. The old Aga's regard for her had not been affected by the divorce and it was entirely on his advice that her sons were educated at Le Rosey in Switzerland and at Harvard in America, thus by-passing the conventional British upper-class equivalents of Eton or Harrow and Oxbridge. But in 1957 Aga III died and surprised the world by selecting in his will his 20-year old elder grandson, Karim, rather than either of his sons, Aly and Sadruddin, to succeed him as Imam or Spiritual Leader of the Ismaili Muslims scattered through 22 countries all over the globe.

Karim, still a junior at Harvard, had now to undertake a world tour when he would be formally installed as the Ismaili's 49th Imam. Princess Joan found herself caught up in a whirl of preparations for a long and
complicated journey, the first stage of which was to the three territories
of East Africa (still very much under the British colonial wing). They
involved meetings with the Ismaili leaders from the region and making
arrangements for the entire family including Prince Aly himself (who bore
any eventual disappointment with remarkable fortitude and whose loyalty to his son was exemplary).


Without once stepping on her son's toes, Princess Joan helped smooth his path with the media, accompanied him to Buckingham Palace where the Queen passed on the title of "High Highness" originally bestowed on his grandfather by Queen Victoria.

The arrangement of the "Takht-nashinis", or accession ceremonies which followed in Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, Kampala, Karachi and Bombay were her next task. But whether the young Aga Khan was meeting the Kabaka of Uganda or Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi, Princess Joan was always discreetly at hand. Once the tour was completed, however, and as her son became more closely involved with Ismaili affairs, she largely withdrew.

Even so, along with other members of the family, she accompanied him on several overseas visits well into her 70s. Most often she joined the family holidays with innumerable grandchildren at the Aga Khan's villa in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Meanwhile she was free to indulge her other interests at the opera and ballet at Covent Garden, in health and hospitals and in archaeology. She played a leading role in stimulating interest in the former Hellenic sites on the southern coast of Turkey, most particularly in raising funds for the restoration of the ancient city of Aphrodisias.

In 1986 she married again, late in life, to her long term companion, the
late Seymour Thomas Berry, Viscount Lord Camrose, former chairman and then director of The Daily Telegraph. She was to preside with as much grace and skill over his family home in Hackwood as she had done over Prince Aly's house at Maison Lafitte in Paris. Above all she was able to enjoy her other passion in life; landscape gardening. She researched the original plans and completely transformed the glorious woods and grounds at Hackwood, personally supervising its opening to the public.
Her third husband predeceased her. She is survived by her two sons.
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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 3:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Algerian experience of the integration of women in mainstream socio/economic/political life as alluded to in the following article can serve as a model for other Arab countries to follow. It is also interesting to note that Algeria with it's strong mystical/esoteric undercurrents provided the fertile soil in which the seeds of the Fatimid empire germinated. Esoteric inclined traditions are more versatile and adaptive to change.

There is an illustrative multimedia in connection with the essay linked at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/world/africa/26algeria.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&th&emc=th

May 26, 2007
A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN

ALGIERS, May 25 — In this tradition-bound nation scarred by a brutal Islamist-led civil war that killed more than 100,000, a quiet revolution is under way: women are emerging as an economic and political force unheard of in the rest of the Arab world.

Women make up 70 percent of Algeria 's lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.

Although men still hold all of the formal levers of power and women still make up only 20 percent of the work force, that is more than twice their share a generation ago, and they seem to be taking over the machinery of state as well.

"If such a trend continues," said Daho Djerbal, editor and publisher of Naqd, a magazine of social criticism and analysis, "we will see a new phenomenon where our public administration will also be controlled by women."

The change seems to have sneaked up on Algerians, who for years have focused more on the struggle between a governing party trying to stay in power and Islamists trying to take that power.

Those who study the region say they are taken aback by the data but suggest that an explanation may lie in the educational system and the labor market.

University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.

But for women, he added, university studies get them out of the house and allow them to position themselves better in society. "The dividend may be social rather than in terms of career," he said.

This generation of Algerian women has navigated a path between the secular state and the pull of extremist Islam, the two poles of the national crisis of recent years.

The women are more religious than previous generations, and more modern, sociologists here said. Women cover their heads and drape their bodies with traditional Islamic coverings. They pray. They go to the mosque — and they work, often alongside men, once considered taboo.

Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

"They never criticize me, especially when they see I am wearing the hijab," said Denni Fatiha, 44, the first woman to drive a large city bus through the narrow, winding roads of Algiers.

The impact has been far-reaching and profound.

In some neighborhoods, for example, birthrates appear to have fallen and class sizes in elementary schools have dropped by nearly half. It appears that women are delaying marriage to complete their studies, though delayed marriage is also a function of high unemployment. In the past, women typically married at 17 or 18 but now marry on average at 29, sociologists said.

And when they marry, it is often to men who are far less educated, creating an awkward social reality for many women.

Khalida Rahman is a lawyer. She is 33 and has been married to a night watchman for five months. Her husband was a friend of her brothers who showed up one day and proposed. She immediately said yes, she recalled.

She describes her life now this way: "Whenever I leave him it is just as if I am a man. But when I get home I become a woman."

Fatima Oussedik, a sociologist, said, "We in the '60s, we were progressive, but we did not achieve what is being achieved by this generation today." Ms. Oussedik, who works for the Research Center for Applied Economics and Development in Algiers, does not wear the hijab and prefers to speak in French.

Researchers here say the change is not driven by demographics; women make up only a bit more than half of the population. They said it is driven by desire and opportunity.

Algeria's young men reject school and try to earn money as traders in the informal sector, selling goods on the street, or they focus their efforts on leaving the country or just hanging out. There is a whole class of young men referred to as hittistes — the word is a combination of French and Arabic for people who hold up walls.

Increasingly, the people here have lost faith in their government, which draws its legitimacy from a revolution now more than five decades old, many political and social analysts said. In recent parliamentary elections, turnout was low and there were 970,000 protest votes — cast by people who intentionally destroyed their ballots — nearly as many as the 1.3 million votes cast in support of the governing party.

There are regular protests, and riots, all over the country, with people complaining about corruption, lack of services and economic disparities. There are violent attacks, too: bombings aimed at the police, officials and foreigners. A triple suicide bombing on April 11 against the prime minister's office and the police left more than 30 people dead.

In that context, women may have emerged as Algeria's most potent force for social change, with their presence in the bureaucracy and on the street having a potentially moderating and modernizing influence on society, sociologists said.

"Women, and the women's movement, could be leading us to modernity," said Abdel Nasser Djabi, a professor of sociology at the University of Algiers.

Not everyone is happy with those dynamics. Some political and social analysts say the recent resurgence in radical Islamist activity, including bombings, is driven partly by a desire to slow the social change the country is experiencing, especially regarding women's role in society.

Others complain that the growing participation of women in society is a direct violation of the faith.

"I am against this," said Esmail Ben Ibrahim, an imam at a neighborhood mosque near the center of the city. "It is all wrong from a religious point of view. Society has embarked on the wrong path."

The quest for identity is a constant undercurrent in much of the Middle East. But it is arguably the most complicated question in Algeria, a nation whose borders were drawn by France and whose people speak Berber, Arabic and French.

After a bitter experience with French occupation and a seven-year revolutionary war that brought independence in 1962 at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, the leaders here chose to adopt Islam and Arab identity as the force to unify the country. Arabic replaced French as the language of education, and the French secular curriculum was replaced with a curriculum heavy on religion.

At the same time, girls were encouraged to go to school.

Now, more than four decades later, Algeria's youth — 70 percent of the population is under 30, researchers said — have grown up with Arabic and an orientation toward Middle Eastern issues. Arabic-language television networks like Al Jazeera have become the popular reference point, more so than French television, observers here said.

In the 1990s radical Islamist ideas gained popular support, and terrorism was widely accepted as a means to win power. More than 100,000 people died in years of civil conflict. Today most people say the experience has forced them to reject the most radical ideas. So although Algerians are more religious now than they were during the bloody 1990s, they are more likely to embrace modernity — a partial explanation for the emergence of women as a societal force, some analysts said.

That is not the case in more rural mountainous areas, where women continue to live by the code of tradition. But for the time being, most people say that for now the community's collective consciousness is simply too raw from the years of civil war for Islamist terrorists or radical Islamic ideas to gain popular support.

There is a sense that the new room given to women may at least partly be a reflection of that general feeling. The population has largely rejected the most radical interpretation of Islam and has begun to return to the more North African, almost mystical, interpretation of the faith, sociologists and religious leaders said.

Whatever the underlying reason, women in the streets of the city are brimming with enthusiasm.

"I don't think any of this contradicts Islam," said Wahiba Nabti, 36, as she walked through the center of the city one day recently. "On the contrary, Islam gives freedom to work. Anyway, it is between you and God."

Ms. Nabti wore a black scarf covering her head and a long black gown that hid the shape of her body. "I hope one day I can drive a crane, so I can really be financially independent," she said. "You cannot always rely on a man."
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PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2007 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hopefully with the increased participation of women in Saudi society as alluded to in the following artcile, there will hopefully be a more progressive and humane interpretation of faith to bring it in line with modernity - a hopeful sign for the Arab World and Islam.

One-Third of Government Jobs for Women: Sultan
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News



JEDDAH, 27 May 2007 — Crown Prince Sultan yesterday announced plans to allocate one third of government jobs to Saudi women and to create additional job opportunities for them. “The government depends on women for one third of its jobs,” the prince said. Prince Sultan underscored the government’s efforts to provide advanced education to Saudi women. “Saudi leaders have given women the right to education and employment within the Kingdom’s basic principles,” he explained.

The government has established hundreds of schools and colleges for girls in different parts of the Kingdom. Last year a women’s university was established in Riyadh. Women graduates currently outnumber their male counterparts, constituting 56.5 percent of the total.

Women’s employment has previously been limited primarily to education and health. A Cabinet decision issued some three years ago expanded job opportunities for women.

The Kingdom’s 8th Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2009) aims at increasing the percentage of women in the Saudi work force from 5.4 percent to 14.2 percent.

According to the latest study by the General Statistics Department, there are nearly 470,000 unemployed Saudi men and women, accounting for 12 percent of the total Saudi work force. “The number of unemployed men is 292,905 or 9.1 percent of the total number of Saudi working men while the number of jobless women is 176,113 or 26.3 percent of the total number of working women,” said the study conducted last year.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) says that the lack of optimum employment of human resources, including women, has led to an increased reliance on foreign manpower. The number of non-Saudi workers in the Kingdom is estimated at 8,024,885 including 6,780,550 men and 1,244,335 women. Of the 3,900,589 in the Saudi work force, 3,230,201 are men and 670,388 were women, the study said.

Prince Sultan also spoke about the Kingdom’s requirement of skilled and experienced foreign labor to carry out various development projects and run new companies and industries. However, he pointed out that the employment of foreign labor would not be at the expense of Saudis. There are over eight million expatriates in the Kingdom and the majority of them work in the private sector.

He said the Kingdom’s universities and institutes of higher learning would focus on science and technology in the coming years in order to meet job market requirements. Efforts are under way to establish a university of science and technology (named after King Abdullah) north of Jeddah.

The crown prince reiterated the government’s plan to establish new welfare projects in various parts of the Kingdom. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah recently visited the northern regions and launched a large number of educational, health and infrastructure projects at a cost of billions of riyals.

The crown prince also disclosed plans to purchase more dates from farmers and distribute them among Arab, Islamic and other friendly countries as gifts. He commended the Saudi security forces for their success in the campaign against terrorists. He also called upon Saudis and expatriates to use water prudently, without wasting the valuable resource. “Excessive use of water for agriculture will endanger the Kingdom’s water security,” he added.






With Kind Regards

Mohammad Usman

Jeddah

SAUDI ARABIA
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following article illustrates the extremes in the Islamic World on the issue of hijab. Whereas Iran is enforcing hijab, Tunisia is persecuting women wearing the hijab. The key is to make it a personal choice and not to enforce it either way. Tunisia is also a country where the Fatimids took root before they flourished across North Africa.

By Yvonne Ridley
Date: 2007-05-29

Why do journalists choose to ignore the Amnesty International report which outlines in clinical detail how the Tunisian authorities have increased their "harassment of women who wear the hijab"?I have a bee in my bonnet – or hijab to be more precise.

On an almost daily basis there are horrific stories pouring out of Tunisia about how the state police are ripping off the hijabs of women living there.
Some of these women, who are merely fulfilling their religious obligation to wear a hijab, have been assaulted, sexually abused and even locked up in prison by the authorities.

Unbelievable when you consider western tourists are topless sunbathing on the coastal resorts, soaking up the Tunisian sun.

So it is okay to get your kit off if you are a western tourist who pays handsomely for sun, sand, sex and sangria …but try wearing a hijab and see what happens in this so-called liberal, Muslim country.

At the moment I am in Tehran where Iranian police are occasionally stopping women in the streets to remind them of their religious obligations by wearing a full hijab.

There's been an outcry in the Western media about how the Iranian authorities are fining women who fail to wear their hijabs correctly in public.

I call these women the half-jabis – you know the ones, they balance their designer scarfs precariously on the back of their heads and spend the rest of the day adjusting and picking their scarfs from the nape of their necks.

It might have endeared Princess Diana to half the Muslim world when she 'covered' in Muslim countries, but most women who try and emulate the Di style just look plain stupid.

But what a pity those same journalists don't travel to Tunisia and write about a real story like the human rights abuses against women in down town Tunis instead of focusing on Tehran.

Why do journalists choose to ignore the Amnesty International report which outlines in clinical detail how the Tunisian authorities have increased their "harassment of women who wear the hijab"?

Is it because the Tunisian government is a craven devotee of the Bush Administration whereas Iran was identified as the now infamous Axis of Evil?

Surely the media is not that fickle? (Rhetorical question merely for the benefit of the mentally challenged).

The actions of the Tunisian regime make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government look like a group of Tupperware party planners.

For instance, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Interior and the Secretary-General of Tunisia's ruling political party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, have stated they are so concerned about rise in the use of the hijab by women and girls and beards and the qamis (knee-level shirts) by men, that they have called for a strict implementation of decree 108 of 1985 of the Ministry of Education banning the hijab at educational institutions and when working in government.

Police have ordered women to remove the head scarfs before being allowed into schools, universities or work places and others have been made to remove them in the street.

According to Amnesty's report, some women were arrested and taken to police stations where they were forced to sign written commitment to stop wearing the hijab.

Amnesty International states quite clearly it believes that individuals have the right to choose whether or not to wear a headscarf or other religious covering, consistent with their right to freedom of expression.

They have called on the Tunisian government to "respect the country's obligations under both national law and international human rights law and standards, and to end the severe restrictions which continue to be used to prevent exercise of fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly".

They have even kindly asked President Ben Ali's government to "end the harassment and attempted intimidation of human rights defenders".
I would like to be more forthright with Mr Ben Ali and remind him of his Islamic obligations as a Muslim.

I doubt if Zine Alabidin Ben Ali would take much notice. The man is clearly an arrogant fool and somewhere in Tunisia there is a village which is missing its idiot (Hamman-Sousse in the Sahel, actually).


This is the man who once said the hijab was something foreign and not part of Tunisian culture. Hmm, he obviously has not seen pictures taken before he came to power, clearly show Tunisian women going about their business fully covered.

He has a history of despising the French colonialists who occupied his country, but at least under the French, the Tunisian people had more freedom than they do now.

And since I have no family, friends or connections in Tunisia I write this without fear or favour.

Also, there is no rank in Islam so I care nothing for his title nor do I have any respect for him as a man. I would certainly never doff my cap to this particular President of Tunisia and would happily spit in his face if he told me to remove my hijab.

Perhaps those Muslim women in Tehran might like to consider the plight of their sisters in Tunisia before trying to balance their hijabs on the backs of their heads. And I would ask them to read the harrowing report below before bellyaching to more journalists about their rights to parade around like Diana-look-a-likes.

It was written by an imam from Tunisia who had it smuggled out and given to me because he wants the world to know exactly what is happening to the women in his country.

Here is a snippet: "The police will randomly make their way into markets and rip the hijabs from women's heads as well as take away any fabrics being sold to make hijabs.

"They will also go into factories where women are working and rip the hijabs off women's heads. This is the least of what they have done.
"I will give you just one example of what these dogs with Arab faces but the hearts of devils, have done to our sisters. They have, at one time ordered a public bus to halt in the middle of the road while two plain clothes detectives went inside. The buses are similar to the ones in the west except they will usually have three times more people inside it.
"They grabbed one women wearing hijab and took her outside of the bus. This was a sister who they had warned before. They brought her into the side of the street and began slapping her across her face and cursing at her with the worst language you could think of.

"They took her hijab off and the main policeman said, "When are you going to stop wearing this ****. She said she would never stop and she was crying. The men took her around the corner by a public bathroom.

"They ripped her clothes off. They grabbed a soda bottle, these bottles are made of glass, and they raped her with it. They were laughing and they were many people around but no one did anything. When they were done they made her wear a short skirt and a sleeveless shirt and made her walk home to her husband like this. I swear by Allah that this is true".
The time is fast approaching when sisters across the world have to unite and come together in defence of the hijab and in defence of the Muslim sisterhood.

My appeal goes out to feminists of all faiths and no faith but please don't think Muslim women are weak because the reality is that Islamic feminism can be just as radical as western feminism.

Our parameters and values are slightly different as Muslims but that does not make us any better or lesser human beings than western feminists. There is certainly no room for sectarianism in the Muslim sisterhood and we have no time for petty squabbles, divisions, cultural or tribal affiliations.

The bottom line is that we need to show solidarity with our sisters in Tunisia … it is a very small country which makes it easy for the army to control the people and brutally squash any signs of resistance.
Even those Tunisians living abroad have a fear in their eyes because while they may be safe, members of their families left behind are often held to account for any actions overseas regarded as subversive.
The brutality of the regime, combined with the happy clappy clerics and their narcotic-style preachings in praise of the Sufi-style government have also collectively subdued parts of the Tunisian population.
No wonder the Muslim youth no longer clamour to get into masjids on Fridays to listen to these khateebs who spend half the khutbah praising the President and his followers.

Which is why I salute the bravery of those sisters in Tunisia who are fighting for the right to fulfill their religious obligation as Muslim women, to wear the hijab.

If you want to help, then copy and paste this article and send it to the nearest Tunisian Embassy demanding that Muslim womens' rights to wear the hijab are respected.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is an interesting multimedia linked at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/22/world/europe/22veil.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

June 22, 2007
Muslims' Veils Test Limits of Britain's Tolerance
By JANE PERLEZ

LONDON, June 16 — Increasingly, Muslim women in Britain take their children to school and run errands covered head to toe in flowing black gowns that allow only a slit for their eyes. On a Sunday afternoon in Hyde Park, groups of black-clad Muslim women relaxed on the green baize lawn among the in-line skaters and badminton players.

Their appearance, like little else, has unnerved other Britons, testing the limits of tolerance here and fueling the debate over the role of Muslims in British life.

Many veiled women say they are targets of abuse. Meanwhile, there are growing efforts to place legal curbs on the full-face Muslim veil, known as the niqab.

There have been numerous examples in the past year. A lawyer dressed in a niqab was told by an immigration judge that she could not represent a client because, he said, he could not hear her. A teacher wearing a niqab was dismissed from her school. A student who was barred from wearing a niqab took her case to the courts, and lost. In reaction, the British educational authorities are proposing a ban on the niqab in schools altogether.

A leading Labor Party politician, Jack Straw , scolded women last year for coming to see him in his district office in the niqab. Prime Minister Tony Blair has called the niqab a "mark of separation."

David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote recently that the niqab was an affront and that Britain had been "too deferential."

"It says that all men are such brutes that if exposed to any more normally clothed women, they cannot be trusted to behave — and that all women who dress any more scantily like that are indecent," Mr. Sexton wrote. "It's abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms."

Although the number of women wearing the niqab has increased in the past several years, only a tiny percentage of women among Britain's two million Muslims cover themselves completely. It is impossible to say how many exactly.

Some who wear the niqab, particularly younger women who have taken it up recently, concede that it is a frontal expression of Islamic identity, which they have embraced since Sept. 11, 2001, as a form of rebellion against the policies of the Blair government in Iraq, and at home.

"For me it is not just a piece of clothing, it's an act of faith, it's solidarity," said a 24-year-old program scheduler at a broadcasting company in London, who would allow only her last name, al-Shaikh, to be printed, saying she wanted to protect her privacy. "9/11 was a wake-up call for young Muslims," she said.

At times she receives rude comments, including, Ms. Shaikh said, from a woman at her workplace who told her she had no right to be there. Ms. Shaikh says she plans to file a complaint.

When she is on the street, she often answers back. "A few weeks ago, a lady said, 'I think you look crazy.' I said, 'How dare you go around telling people how to dress,' and walked off. Sometimes I feel I have to reply. Islam does teach you that you must defend your religion."

She started experimenting with the niqab at Brunel University in West London, a campus of intense Islamic activism. She hesitated at first because her mother saw it as a "form of extremism, which is understandable," she said, adding that her mother has since come around.

Other Muslims find the practice objectionable, a step backward for a group that is under pressure after the terrorist attack on London's transit system in July 2005.

"After the July 7 attacks, this is not the time to be antagonizing Britain by presenting Muslims as something sinister," said Imran Ahmad, the author of "Unimagined," an autobiography about growing up Muslim in Britain, and the leader of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. "The veil is so steeped in subjugation, I find it so offensive someone would want to create such barriers. It's retrograde."

Since South Asians started coming to Britain in large numbers in the 1960s, a small group of usually older, undereducated women have worn the niqab. It was most often seen as a sign of subjugation.

Many more Muslim women wear the head scarf, called the hijab, covering all or some of their hair. Unlike in France, Turkey and Tunisia, where students in state schools and civil servants are banned from covering their hair, in Britain, Muslim women can wear the head scarf, and indeed the niqab, almost anywhere, for now.

But that tolerance is slowly eroding. Even some who wear the niqab, like Faatema Mayata, a 24-year-old psychology and religious studies teacher, agreed there were limits.

"How can you teach when you are covering your face?" she said, sitting with a cup of tea in her living room in Blackburn, a northern English town, her niqab tucked away because she was within the confines of her home.

She has worn the niqab since she was 12, when she was sent by her parents to an all-girl boarding school. The niqab was not, as many Britons seemed to think, a sign of extremism, she said.

She condemned Britain's involvement in Iraq, and she described the departure of Mr. Blair at the end of this month as "good riddance of bad rubbish." But, she added, "there are many Muslims like this sitting at home having tea, and not taking any interest in jihad."

The niqab, to her, is about identity. "If I dressed in a Western way I could be a Hindu, I could be anything," she said. "This way I feel comfortable in my identity as a Muslim woman."

No one else in her family wears the niqab. Her husband, Ibrahim Boodi, a social worker, was indifferent, she said. "If I took it off today, he wouldn't care."

She drives her old Alfa Romeo to the supermarket, and other drivers take no exception, she said. But when she is walking she is often stopped, she said. "People ask, 'Why do you wear that?' A lot of people assume I'm oppressed, that I don't speak English. I don't care. I've got a brain."

Some British commentators have complained that mosques encourage women to wear the niqab, a practice they have said should be stopped.

At the East London Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the capital, the chief imam, Abdul Qayyum, studied in Saudi Arabia and is trained in the Wahhabi school of Islam. The community relations officer at the mosque, Ehsan Abdullah Hannan, said the imam's daughter wore the niqab.

At Friday Prayer recently, the women were crowded into a small windowless room upstairs, away from the main hall for the men.

A handful of young women wore the niqab, and they spoke effusively about their reasons. "Wearing the niqab means you will get a good grade and go to paradise," said Hodo Muse, 19, a Somali woman. "Every day people are giving me dirty looks for wearing it, but when you wear something for God you get a boost."

One woman, Sajida Khaton, 24, interviewed as she sat discreetly in a Pizza Hut, said she did not wear the veil on the subway, a precaution her husband encourages for safety reasons. Sometimes, she said, she gets a kick out of the mocking.

" 'All right gorgeous,' " she said she had heard men say as she walked along the street. "I feel empowered," she said. "They'd like to see, and they can't."

She often comes to the neighborhood restaurant along busy Whitechapel Road in East London for a slice or two, a habit, she said, that shows that even veiled women are well integrated into Britain's daily life.

"I'm in Pizza Hut with my son," said Ms. Khaton, nodding at her 4-year-old and speaking in a soft East London accent that bore no hint of her Bangladeshi heritage. "I was born here, I've never been to Bangladesh. I certainly don't feel Bangladeshi. So when they say, 'Go back home,' where should I go?"
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Women in Islamic Society — 23: Important Role of Mosques
Dr. Abd Al-Haleem Abu Shuqqah



The mosque is the most important institution in Islamic society. It is the center of worship, education as well as social and political activity. It is also the place where public meetings take place, and it serves as a sports arena when necessary. Therefore, during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him), women were welcome in the mosque whenever they wished to come. As women frequented the Prophet’s mosque, they were able to directly participate in public life, in addition to taking part in worship, listening to the Qur’an as it was recited in prayer, attending lectures and classes and taking interest in the Muslim community’s social or political concerns. Moreover, women met in the mosque and were thus able to strengthen their ties of friendship. What this means is that during the Prophet’s lifetime, the mosque was a very active center of worship, cultural and social activities for men and women alike. Therefore, no one may deprive women of their right to frequent the mosque. To force women to pray at home, claiming that this is preferable constitutes a sinful practice, since it means disobeying the Prophet who ordered us not to prevent women from visiting the mosque. When a woman goes to the mosque for worship, or to listen to words of wisdom, attend a public activity, meet other Muslim women to strengthen ties with them, or help in some good thing, then that benefit will be hers. Her good action may be obligatory or recommended. The Prophet says: “Whoever comes to the mosque for a particular purpose will have the benefit of that purpose.”

The Prophet says: “Prayer offered in congregation in the mosque is rewarded 25 times more than the same prayer offered at home or in the market place.” Commenting on the Hadith, Ibn Daqeeq Al-Eid says: “When a person performs ablution well at home and goes out to the mosque, for no purpose other than offering prayer, for every step he makes he is given a credit and one of his sins is erased. When he prays, the angels will pray for him throughout his prayer, saying: ‘Our Lord, bless him, forgive him and bestow mercy on him.’ While waiting for the prayer to be called, he is deemed to be in prayer. We need to look at the qualities mentioned in the Hadith to be sure of its applicability. Although the Hadith speaks of a man going to the mosque, but since women are also encouraged to go to the mosque, the Hadith applies equally to them. No sex discrimination is valid with regard to the reward attached to good actions.”

During the Prophet’s lifetime, women did not only attend the Prophet’s mosque, they also attended mosques in other areas and outside Madinah, as clearly appear from the following reports: Abdullah ibn Umar says: “When people were offering the Fajr prayer at Quba’s mosque, someone told them: ‘The Prophet received Qur’anic revelations tonight commanding him to turn his face to the Kaaba in Makkah. So, turn toward it. They were facing Jerusalem, and therefore, they turned their face toward Makkah.” (Related by Al-Bukhari). In his commentary on this Hadith, Ibn Hajar writes: “The way this took place is explained in a Hadith related by Thuwaylah bint Aslam in which she says: ‘Women moved to take the place of men and men moved into the women’s place. We offered the two remaining prostrations facing the Sacred Mosque in Makkah.’”

The Prophet emphasized women’s right to attend the mosque, making it absolutely clear that no one should deprive them of this right. Abdullah ibn Umar quotes the Prophet as saying: “If your women request your leave at night to attend the mosque, grant them their request.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Abdullah ibn Umar reports: “A wife of Umar used to attend the Fajr and Isha prayers with the congregation in the mosque. People said to her: ‘Why do you go out at night when you know that Umar does not like that?’ She said: ‘What prevents him from telling me?’ They said: ‘The fact that the Prophet ordered not to prevent women from attending mosques.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Women’s right to attend the mosque continued to be fully respected even after a woman was raped when she was walking toward the mosque to attend Fajr prayer.

Since the mosque was, as we have described, a very active center bustling with worship, cultural and social activities, women naturally attended it for no less than 12 different purposes, some of which were recommended, and some obligatory. We will begin today discussing the first purpose, which is prayer, and will continue this discussion over the next few weeks.

Lady Ayesha reports: “Women believers used to attend Fajr prayer with the Prophet covering themselves with their shawls. They would return home when the prayer was over. They could not be recognized because of the darkness.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ibn Hajar explains that the reference in this report is to leading figures among Muslim women.

Ibn Abbas reports that his mother said to him after hearing him reciting Surah 77, Al-Mursalat: “Son, your recitation has reminded me that it was the last I heard the Prophet reciting and that was in Maghrib prayer.” Another version of this Hadith adds: “He did not lead us in prayer after that until he passed away.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Ayesha reports: “One night the Prophet was late for Isha prayer, until Umar called out to him saying: ‘Women and children are overcome by sleep.’ The Prophet went to the mosque to lead the prayer. He said: ‘No one on the face of the earth is waiting for this prayer other than you.’ At the time, Madinah was the only place where people prayed. They used to offer this prayer between the disappearance of the bright horizon and the end of the first third of the night.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Jabir ibn Abdullah reports: “We were with the Prophet during Friday prayers when a caravan laden with food arrived. People went to it and only 12 people were left with the Prophet. God then revealed the verse that says: ‘When people become aware of (an occasion for) worldly gain or a passing delight, they rush headlong toward it, and leave you standing.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ibn Hajar quotes Al-Tabari adding: “The Prophet asked the ones who remained how many were they. They counted themselves and were 12 men and women.”

Amrah bint Abd Al-Rahman quotes her sister as saying: “I learned the surah starting with ‘Qaf. By the glorious Qur’an,’ from the Prophet as he used to read it on the pulpit every Friday.” (Related by Muslim.)

These reports mention women attending prayers in the mosque at various times, for Fajr which is offered at dawn, Maghrib offered after sunset, Isha offered well into the night, and Friday prayer offered at noon on Fridays.

With Kind Regards

Mohammad Usman

Jeddah

SAUDI ARABIA
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indian lawmakers elect first woman president

CanWest News Service


Sunday, July 22, 2007


Lawmakers elected India's first female president, officials announced Saturday, in a vote seen as a step forward for the millions of Indian women and girls who face bitter discrimination in everyday life.

The position is largely ceremonial, but observers said the selection of Pratibha Patil, 72, in a vote by the national parliament and state politicians will widen the role of women in the country's often male-dominated political scene.

"This is a victory of the principles which the Indian people uphold," said Patil, wearing her signature oversized glasses and a red and gold celebratory sari, as she waved a V-for-victory sign on television.

Patil had been expected to win because of her support from the governing Congress party, and her deep political ties and friendship with Sonia Gandhi, leader of the party and the powerful Gandhi dynasty. Patil is a steadfast loyalist of the Gandhi family, which has a long, strong hold over Indian politics.

Patil took in nearly two-thirds of the votes, defeating Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party.

Over four decades, Patil has held various political offices.

© The Calgary Herald 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2007 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Muslim Women from Around the World Join a Leadership Program in Washington

By Mohamed Elshinnawi
Washington
23 July 2007

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A group of Muslim women from around the world is participating in a summer leadership program at the U.S Congress and George Washington University. The program is designed to educate the participants about legal issues and conflict resolution techniques with the aim of empowering Muslim women to promote peaceful change in their communities. Mohamed Elshinnawi has more.

At the opening of the program, 25 Muslim women from various countries listened to presentations about how Islamic law provides for principles such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to own property regardless of gender.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr -- a renowned scholar of Islam at George Washington University -- told the audience that violations of women's rights in many Muslim countries should not be blamed on Islamic law, but on undemocratic governments.

But he also said there needs to be a new conceptualization of the role of women in Islamic countries. "What we need is a kind of Islamic feminine movement, not feminist, to clarify, first of all, what are the Koranic and Hadith rights of Muslim women. Secondly, how Islam sees the function of women. They do not have to be like in the West. Nobody said that American women are very happy to be superwomen, doing ten things at the same time."

He says when women in Iran were forced to remove their veils, there was a backlash decades later that forced every woman to be veiled. Nasr went on to call on the West not to make the same mistake by making the way Muslim women dress a major issue.


Aziza Al-Hibri
Aziza Al-Hibri, law professor at the University of Richmond, is the founder and President of Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. She says the leadership program is designed to educate Muslim women about legal issues of importance to them. "We teach them not only Islamic law because some of them do not know it as they should, but also we teach them leadership skills that allows them to go back to their communities and converse positively towards change."

The training program focuses on traditional Islamic jurisprudence and how Muslim women around the world can deal with issues such as domestic violence and other abuses against women.


Nadia Mohamed
Nadia Mohamed is a second-generation Muslim American participant in the program. "I think it is very important, especially in this day and age, where you hear a lot in the news about abuses of human rights in Muslim countries, abuses of human rights in this country, to be able to understand that from an Islamic perspective and what the Islamic views are on that."

Other participants have similar goals. Anissa Auhanoaf, a second-generation Muslim immigrant to Belgium, hopes the leadership program will equip her with a comparative perspective on human rights in Islam. "I need to know more just to compare with human rights as I know them from my knowledge because of my Masters degree in political sciences, but next to that I would like to know more to apply in my responses in debates and dialogues."

Ghada Ghazal, a member of the Islamic Studies Center in Damascus, Syria finds an added value to the leadership program. "We have a lot of misconception on both sides and this is due to many factors, one of them is the media. So I think meeting person to person will give many solutions to many problems."

Sponsors of the program are hopeful that these Muslim women will eventually be able to articulate and defend Muslim women's rights within their own cultural and institutional contexts.

http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-07-23-voa37.cfm
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Husband accused of forcing female abortions

JEREMYPAGE
TIMES OF LONDON DELHI

The wife of a millionaire industrialist has shocked Indian high society by accusing her husband of forcing her to abort two baby girls after taking illegal tests to determine their gender.

Pooja Salotia even accused her husband, Chirag, of trying to force her to have sex with his two brothers to conceive a male heir for the family machinery business hi the state of Gu-jarat. Police arrested her husband, his two brothers and seven other relatives after Mrs Salotia, 32, filed an official complaint in the city of Ahmedabad on Saturday.

Her allegations against 18 people have sent shockwaves across India by breaking a strict code of silence on such matters and exposing the extent of female feticide among the urban middle and upper classes.

"This is a common thing even in rich families — a lot of them get their women to abort girls," Salotia told The Times from Gujarat, where she has gone into hiding after the release on bail of everyone except her husband. "In our culture, girls are not important. But I can't tolerate it any more because it's insulting."

The killing of newborn girls has been common ii rural India, where a daughter is seen as a financial burden because her family has to pay a hefty dowry when she is married.

But since the advent of ultrasound technology, abortion of female fetuses has become increasingly prevalent, not just in rural communities but also among the urban middle classes.

An international team of researchers estimated last year that 10 million girls had been aborted hi India over the past two decades, while the Indian Medical Association says five million are aborted annually.

The result is an increasingly severe gender unbalance, with only 927 women for every 1,000 men in India, according to the 2001 census, down from 945 women a decade earlier.

The worst unbalance, however, is in Indian cities where those with money have ready access to private doctors, who take bribes to skirt a 1994 ban on ultrasound gender tests.

A recent survey indicated that there were only 882 women for every 1,000 men in Defence Colony, one of Delhi's upmarket districts.

Pratibha Patil, India's first woman president, called for an end to female feticide at her inauguration on Wednesday, two days after police found 30 female fetuses dumped in a well in the state of Orissa. However, Salotia is the first woman from Indian high society to publicly admit to the forced abortion of a girl.

Calgary Herald, 29/07/2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Need to rethink laws, attitudes

Elizabeth Hudson
For the Calgary Herald


Saturday, July 28, 2007


When I do a presentation on the street sex trade, the majority of listeners are surprised to learn prostitution is legal in Canada.

What is illegal is for either the sex-trade worker or the client to speak of it. This seems to be a unique and most Canadian way to deal with this social problem. Yes, do it, but don't dare speak of it.

I am tired of silence and I am speaking of it. The mounting deaths of sex-trade workers began in the early 1980s when the communicating law was enacted. John Lowman, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, discovered the death rate in British Columbia alone climbed a staggering 500 per cent in the year after the law was passed.

Its effect in Alberta has been no less grim with the murders of dozens of women in Edmonton and the appalling regularity of newspaper headlines marking the deaths of sex trade workers all across our province. Each death is a red flag that something is terribly wrong with our system.

Courageous MP Libby Davies spearheaded action to raise awareness and to help reduce the harm, and the horrific slaughter on our streets.

I had the honour of presenting to her parliamentary committee. I felt for the first time there might be hope for some positive re-thinking of our laws and how they impact this largely voiceless segment of society.

Unfortunately, there have been no new laws to protect or shelter those involved in the sex trade. In Alberta, there is just another punitive law. Since police now have the authority to seize johns' cars, it should not come as a surprise that sex-trade workers have disappeared into trick rooms. There, we cannot even offer outreach programs. Unseen, they become even more vulnerable to attack and abuse.

If you wish to approach harm reduction in another way, it must be noted in Calgary there is a critical lack of treatment beds. For those seeking a way out of the sex trade, there are even fewer agencies than treatment beds working with this population.

If one is over the age of 29, there is only one agency with a long wait list that might consider them. When I was involved in the sex trade, I thought escape was impossible. With inadequate resources, underfunding to outreach agencies, lack of easy accessibility to treatment facilities, and hobbled by the communicating law, I believe I would think the same today.

If prostitution is legal in Canada, then we must begin discourse and move towards harm reduction for those seeking escape and those still engaged in the sex trade.

We need to begin by looking at our laws and their unforeseen negative impacts on this population. To do this successfully, we must also examine our own attitudes that perpetuate marginalization, degradation, deprivation and stigma towards those in the sex trade, and we must remember that sex-trade workers have paid with their lives for our silence and our inaction.

Elizabeth Hudson is the author of Snowbodies: One Woman's Life of the Streets. She has been published in Maclean's and Avenue Magazines. She is a public speaker and activist.

© The Calgary Herald 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

THE QUEST FOR GENDER JUSTICE

Who is to say if the key that unlocks the cage might not lie hidden inside the cage? If justice and fairness are inherent in Islam – as fuqaha claim and all Muslims believe – should they not be reflected in laws regulating relations between men and women and their respective rights? Why have women been treated as second-class citizens in the fiqh books that came to define the terms of the Shari‘a?

These are the questions that I came to confront in 1979, when my personal and intellectual life was transformed by the victory of Islamism –

that is the use of Islam of a political ideology - in my own country. Like most Iranian women, I strongly supported the 1979 Revolution and believed in the justice of Islam. But I soon found out that in an Islamic state - committed to the application of the Shari‘a – the backbone of the Islamist project – I was a second-class citizen. This brought the realization that the justice of Islam in modern times cannot be achieved

wi thout the ‘modernizat ion’ and ‘democratization’ of its legal vision.

For this, Islamic discourses and Islamists must come to terms with the issue of rights – especially those of women. The justice of Islam is no longer reflected in the laws that some Islamists are intent on enforcing in the name of the Shari‘a.

A Painful Choice to Make

This takes us to the vexed relationship between Islam and feminism, and the complex relation between demands for equal rights for women and the anti-colonial and nationalist movements of the first part of the twentieth century.

At a time when feminism, both as a consciousness and as a movement, was being shaped and making its impact in Europe and North America, as Leila Ahmed and others have shown, it also “functioned to morally justify the attacks on native [Muslim] societies and to support the notion of the comprehensive superiority of Europe.”

With the rise of anti-colonialist and nationalist movements, Muslims were thrown on the defensive in relation to traditional gender relations.

Muslim women who acquired a feminist consciousness and advocated equal rights for women were under pressure to conform to anticolonialist

or nationalist priorities.Western feminists could criticize patriarchal elements of their own cultures and religions in the name of modernity, liberalism and democracy, but Muslim women were unable to draw either on these external ideologies or on internal political ideologies (i.e. nationalism and anticolonialism) in their fight for gender justice. For most modernists and liberals, ‘Islam’ was a patriarchal religion that must be rejected. For nationalists and anti-colonialists, ‘feminism’ – the advocacy of women’s rights – was a colonial project and must be resisted. Muslim women, in other words, were faced with a painful choice.

They had to choose between their Muslim identity – their faith – and their new gender awareness.

A Paradoxical Outcome Produced

But as the twentieth century drew to a close,this dilemma disappeared. One neglected and paradoxical consequence of the rise of political Islam is that it has helped to create a space, an arena, within which Muslim women can reconcile their faith and identity with their struggle for gender equality. This did not happen, I must stress, because the Islamists were offering an egalitarian vision of gender relations. Rather, their very project – ‘return to the Shari‘a’ – and their attempt to translate the patriarchal notions inherent in orthodox interpretations of Islamic law into policy, provoked increasing criticism of these notions among many women, and become a spur to greater activism. A growing number of women have come to see no inherent or logical link between patriarchy and Islamic ideals, and no contradiction between Islam and feminism, and to free themselves from the straitjacket of earlier anti-colonial and nationalist discourses.

A New Gender Discourse is Born

By the late 1980s, there were clear signs of the emergence of a new consciousness, a new way of thinking, a gender discourse that is ‘feminist’ in its aspiration and demands, yet is ‘Islamic’ in its language and sources of legitimacy. Some versions of this new discourse have been labelled ‘Islamic Feminism’, a term that continues to be contested by both the majority of Islamists and some feminists, who see it as antithetical to their respective positions and ideologies, according to which the notion of ‘Islamic feminism’ is a contradiction in terms.

What, then, is ‘Islamic feminism’? How does it differ from other feminisms?

In my view, any definition of ‘Islamic feminism’, rather than clarifying, may cloud our understanding of a phenomenon that, in Margot Badran’s words, “transcends and destroys old binaries that have been constructed.

These included polarities between religious and secular and between ‘East’ and ‘West’.”

To understand a discourse that is still in formation, we might start by considering how its opponents depict it. Opponents of the feminist project in Islam fall into three broad categories: Muslim traditionalists, Islamic fundamentalists and ‘secular fundamentalists’. The Muslim traditionalists resist any changes in what they hold to be eternally valid ways, sanctioned by an unchanging Shari‘a. Islamic fundamentalists - a very broad category - are those who seek to change current practices by a return to an earlier, ‘purer’ version of the Shari‘a. Secular fundamentalists – who can be just as dogmatic and as ideological as religious fundamentalists – deny that any Shari‘abased law or social practice can be just or equal.

Though adhering to very different positions and scholarly traditions and following very different agendas, all these opponents of the feminist project in Islam share one thing in common: an essentialist and non-historical understanding of Islamic law and gender. They fail to recognize

that assumptions and laws about gender in Islam – as in any other religion – are socially constructed, and thus open to negotiation and historically changing. Selective in their arguments and illustrations, the three kinds of opponents resort to the same kinds of sophistry, for example seeking to close discussion by producing Qur’anic verses or hadiths, taken out of context. Muslim traditionalists and fundamentalists

do this as a means of silencing other internal voices, and abuse the authority of the text for authoritarian purposes. Secular fundamentalists

do the same, but in the name of progress and science and as means of showing the misogyny of Islamic texts, while ignoring both the similar attitudes to women in other religious scriptures, and the contexts of the texts, as well as the existence of alternative texts. What is often missing in these narratives is a recognition that gender inequality in the Old World was assumed, and that perceptions of women in Christian and Jewish texts are not that different from those of Islamic texts. What transformed women’s situation in the Christian West were new social conditions that were shaped by and in turn shaped new political and socio-economic discourses – and new understandings of religion .It is against this backdrop that activities of the so-called ‘Islamic feminists’ should be reviewed. By both uncovering a hidden history and rereading textual sources, they are proving that the inequalities embedded in Islamic law are neither manifestations of divine will, nor cornerstones of an irredeemably backward social system, but human constructions. They are also showing how such unequal constructions go contrary to the very essence of divine justice as revealed in the Koran, and how Islam’s sacred texts have been tainted by the ideology of their interpreters.





Un-reading Patriarchy in Sacred Texts

The ideals of Islam call for freedom, justice and equality, Muslim social norms and structures in the formative years of Islamic law impeded their realization. Instead, these social norms were assimilated into Islamic jurisprudence through a set of theological, legal and social theories and assumptions. Salient among them were propositions such as: “women are created of men and for men”, “women are inferior to men”, “women need to be protected”, “men are guardians and protectors of women”, “marriage is a contract of exchange”, and “male and female sexuality differ and the latter is dangerous to the social order.” These assumptions and theories are nowhere more evident than in the rules that define the formation and termination of marriage, through which gender inequalities are sustained in present-day Muslim societies.

Such an approach to religious texts can in time open the way for radical and positive changes in Islamic law to accommodate concepts such as gender equality and human rights. Whether this will ever happen, and whether these concepts will ever be reflected in state legislation, depends on the balance of power between Traditionalists and Reformists in each Muslim country, and on women’s ability to organize and participate in the political process, and to engage with the advocates of each discourse.

But it is important to remember three things. First, Islamic law – like any other system of law – is reactive, in the sense that it reacts to social practices and people’s experiences. Secondly, Islamic law is still the monopoly of male scholars. This monopoly must be broken; this can be done only when Muslim women participate in the production of knowledge, when they are able asks new and daring questions.

Finally, there is a theoretical concord between the egalitarian spirit of Islam and the feminist quest for justice and a just world.



* Ziba Mir-Hosseini(PhD) –Research Associate- Centre for Islamic & African Studies- University of London –UK. She is also the Visiting Professor in the Hause Global Law program, New York University, Spring 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/world/middleeast/28drive.html?th&emc=th

September 28, 2007
Saudis Rethink Taboo on Women Behind the Wheel
By HASSAN M. FATTAH

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 27 — In a recent episode of Saudi Arabia’s most popular television show, broadcast during Ramadan this month, a Saudi man of the future is seen sitting in his house as his daughter pulls into the driveway, her children piled into the back of the car.

“Where have you been?” the father asks.

“The kids were bored, so I took them to the movies,” she replies, matter-of-factly, as she gets out of the driver’s seat.

The scene may appear mundane, but in Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden to drive — and, by the way, where there are no movie theaters, either — the skit portends something of a revolution. From a taboo about which there could be no open discussion, a woman’s right to drive is becoming a topic of growing and lively debate in Saudi Arabia.

Coming after other recent changes — women may now travel abroad without male accompaniment (though male permission is still required), seek divorce and own their own companies — the driving discussion is noteworthy. Whether it signals that women will actually be driving soon or merely talking about it openly remains to be seen.

“We are telling everyone this is coming, whether today or tomorrow,” said Abdallah al-Sadhan, producer, writer and host of “Tash Ma Tash” (“No Big Deal”), a variety comedy show that is broadcast during Ramadan and tackles controversial social issues in Saudi Arabia. Other episodes have also shown women driving in what Mr. Sadhan says is a deliberate message. “There will be a time we will accept it, so now is the time to get prepared for that.”

In another popular Saudi show, “Amsha Bint Amash” (“Amsha, Daughter of Amash”), a woman who loses her father is forced to move to the city, where she masquerades as a man to become a taxi driver.

Saudi newspapers have begun writing about the implications and acceptability of having women drive. The Saudi National Human Rights Association has begun researching the effect of women’s driving on families and Saudi society, activists said.

A group of Saudi women have led a petition drive asking the king to repeal the ban on driving by women, placing the issue at the heart of a discussion about modernity and Saudi Arabia’s place in the world. And the government, which was hostile toward the last such petition in 1990, now seems mildly receptive.

“You get the feeling that they are preparing the population for this issue,” said Wajeha al- Huwaider, 45, one of the organizers. “It is just like the decision to allow women education. They resisted it, but now it’s a reality.”

On Sunday, Ms. Huwaider and some 1,100 other women sent the petition to King Abdullah.

Some Saudi officials and religious men agree with the women that Islam does not forbid women to drive. In the past, Saudi women were able to move freely on camel and horseback, and Bedouin women in the desert openly drive pickup trucks far from the public eye.

Clerics and religious conservatives maintain that allowing women to drive would open Saudi society to untold corruption. Women alone in a car, they say, would be more open to abuse, to going wayward, and to getting into trouble if they had an accident or were stopped by the police. The net result would be an erosion of social mores, they say.

In 1990, a group of prominent Saudi women seized on the presence of Western news media covering the first Persian Gulf war, boarded cars and drove through a Riyadh boulevard. Several of the women were jailed briefly; many lost high positions in schools and universities, and others were forced to leave the country for some time.

This time, however, the women are being given wide latitude to make their case, Ms. Huwaider said. She believes that this is because the case is being made in pragmatic social and economic terms, not purely as a matter of women’s rights.

Because of the rising cost of living in Saudi Arabia, women have been entering the work force in large numbers. That in turn has given them new economic clout in the family and greater leverage.

Ebtihal Mubarak, another organizer of the petition drive, who is an editor at Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper, said the cost of a driver had begun to impinge on Saudi families. “Most middle-class people can’t afford drivers anymore,” she said.

Saudi women say the seeming momentum behind the issue is fueled in part by what they can now see and read about the freedoms of women abroad on satellite television and the Internet. They also feel they have become more sophisticated in dealing with the Saudi system.

“This is more organized and is a real campaign,” said Khalid Al-Dakhil, professor of political sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh. “They have been on the Net, sending out e-mails.”

Still, few expect any change to come soon. Ms. Huwaider said the group had so far received no reply from the palace to the petition. Even women’s rights advocates said lifting ban would mean much preparation and public education, for women and men.

“Fifty years ago, we rejected the mail and then we advanced,” said Mr. Sadhan, the television producer. “We refused radio, only to accept it, and then rejected TV, and only to accept that, too. We will accept women driving some day all the same, and the environment has to be prepared for it.”

Rasheed Abou-Alsamh contributed reporting from Jidda, Saudi Arabia.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Printed from
The Times of India -Breaking news, views. reviews, cricket from across India

Pakistani woman astronaut gears up for spaceflight
21 Oct 2007, 1530 hrs IST,PTI

SMS NEWS to 58888 for latest updates

Namira Salim is poised to become the first Pakistani woman astronaut (Agencies Photo)

ISLAMABAD: Namira Salim is poised to become the first Pakistani woman astronaut, having successfully completed her space flight training at a facility in the US ahead of blasting off into space in the world's first commercial space liner in 2009.

Salim, 35, made her name as a sculptor, musician, designer and poet before she was chosen in March 2006 by entrepreneur Richard Branson from among 44,000 candidates to be one of the first 100 space tourists for flights to be offered by his firm Virgin Galactic.

She was trained in the STS-400 simulator, the world's most advanced high performance centrifuge, under the supervision of Virgin Galactic after clearing medical tests. The training assessed Salim's ability to tolerate and adapt to gravitational forces and motion sickness during a sub-orbital spaceflight.

"I am very happy. These are unforgettable moments," Namira said from the US on completing her training.

"I am not only proud to be the first Pakistani, but particularly proud to be the first female from Pakistan to have had such a phenomenal experience."

Salim has said that she hoped her achievement would break "new ground for Muslim and Pakistani women" to enter fields that were hitherto closed to them.

She has encouraged others, particularly women, to open their minds to the vast potential and opportunities the world offers and excel in all spheres of lives.

"It was an unforgettable experience and makes one very excited for the actual space flight now that I know that I am qualified to fly to sub-orbital space," she said.

Women in Pakistan, especially in rural and tribal areas, are victims of discrimination and violence. Pakistan's former tourism minister Nilofar Bakhtiar had to resign in May after hardline clerics accused her of obscenity for hugging an instructor after making a charity parachute jump in France. She was also sacked as head of the women's wing of the ruling PML-Q party.

"There is no limit to positive accomplishment and if one heads in that direction, one would only conquer the stars," Salim said.

Salim was born in the port city of Karachi but now lives in Dubai and France. Her father hails from Pakistan's Punjab province while her mother was born in Allahabad and brought up in Delhi.

Her fascination with space began at the age of 14 when she got her first telescope. Two years later, she became the first female member of Amastro Pak "Pakistan's first astronomy society" and maintained an interest in space through her university years.

She moved to the US, initially to study international business at Hofstra University in New York and then international relations at Columbia University. While in the US, she also learnt to fly.

Salim's multi-dimensional mixed media art has been exhibited at summits of the UN, UNESCO and SAARC and she will publish her first book of English poetry this year.

During her recent training in the US, Salim was exposed to the gravitational forces and weightlessness she will experience during the launch and re-entry of the Virgin Galactic space liner designed by legendary aviator Burt Rutan.

She was exposed to the same gravitational forces that are experienced by astronauts who have been launched into space.

"The complete spaceflight experience, along with the full visual simulation of the space environment, was a taste of what it's like to launch into space, be weightless in zero gravity and re-enter into the earth's atmosphere safely," she said
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 27, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Today’s Hidden Slave Trade
By BOB HERBERT

The woman testifying in federal court in Lower Manhattan could hardly have seemed more insignificant.

She was an immigrant from South Korea and a prostitute, who spoke little or no English. She worked, she said, in brothels in New York, Philadelphia, Georgia, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

She did not offer a portrait of the good life. Speaking through an interpreter, she told about the time in D.C. when a guy came in who looked “like a mental patient, a psycho.” Weirded out, she wanted nothing to do with him. But she said the woman who ran the brothel assured her everything would be fine.

It was fine if you consider wrestling with Hannibal Lecter fine. The john clawed at this woman, gouging her flesh, peeling the skin from her back and other parts of her body. She was badly injured.

According to the government, the woman was caught up in a prostitution and trafficking network that ruthlessly exploited young Korean women, some of whom “were smuggled into the country illegally.”

In prior eras, the slave trade was conducted openly, with ads prominently posted and the slaves paraded and inspected like animals, often at public auctions. Today’s sex traffickers, the heirs to that tradition, try to keep their activities hidden, although the rest of the sex trade, the sale of the women’s services, is advertised on a scale that can only be characterized as colossal.

As a society, we’re repelled by the slavery of old. But the wholesale transport of women and girls across international borders and around the U.S. — to serve as prostitutes under conditions that in most cases are coercive at best — stirs very little outrage.

Leaf through the Yellow Pages in some American cities and you’ll find pages upon pages of ads: “Korean Girl, 18 — Affordable.” “Korean and Japanese Dolls — Full Service.” “Barely Legal China Doll — Pretty and Petite.”

The Internet and magazines have staggering numbers of similar ads. Thousands upon thousands of women have been brought here from Asia and elsewhere and funneled into the sex trade, joining those who are already here and in the business but unable to keep up with the ferocious demand.

This human merchandise — whether imported or domestic — is still paraded, inspected and treated like animals.

What’s important to keep in mind is the great extent to which the sex trade involves real slavery (kidnapping and rape), widespread physical abuse, indentured servitude, exploitation of minors and many other forms of coercion. This modern-day variation on the ancient theme of bondage flourishes largely because of the indifference of the rest of us, and the misogyny that holds fast to the view of women — all women — as sexual commodities.

The case in Manhattan federal court involves a ring that, according to prosecutors, used massage parlors and spas as fronts for prostitution. Some of the women were in the U.S. legally. Others, according to the government, were brought in by brokers (more accurately, traffickers or dealers in flesh), who provided false passports, visas and other documents.

Elie Honig, an assistant United States attorney, said women brought in illegally were pushed into prostitution to earn money “to pay back the tens of thousands of dollars that the brokers charged the women as quote, unquote, fees for bringing them into the United States.”

He told the jury: “We are talking about a regional network of businesses throughout the Northeast United States and beyond involved in transporting and selling women.”

A jury will decide whether the five defendants in this case — all Korean women, and accused of running a prostitution enterprise — are guilty. But the activities alleged by the government mirror the sexual trafficking and organized prostitution that is carried out on a vast scale here in the U.S. and around the world.

There is nothing benign about these activities. Upwards of 18,000 foreign nationals are believed to be trafficked into the U.S. each year. According to the State Department, 80 percent of trafficked people are women and children, an overwhelming majority of whom are trafficked for sexual purposes.

Those who think that most of the women in prostitution want to be there are deluded. Surveys consistently show that a majority wants very much to leave. Apologists love to spread the fantasy of the happy hooker. But the world of the prostitute is typically filled with pimps, sadists, psychopaths, drug addicts, violent criminals and disease.

Jody Williams is a former prostitute who runs a support group called Sex Workers Anonymous. Few women want to become prostitutes, she told me, and nearly all would like to get out.

“They want to quit for the obvious reasons,” she said. “The danger. The physical and emotional distress. The toll that it takes. The shame.”

Gail Collins is off today.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why British Women are turning to Islaam
THE SPREAD OF A WORLD CREED
The Times (London) - Tuesday, 9th November 1993 -Home-news Page
Lucy Berrington finds the Muslim Faith is winning Western admirers despite hostile media coverage

Unprecedented numbers of British people, nearly all of them women, are converting to Islam at a time of deep divisions within the Anglican and Catholic churches.

The rate of conversions has prompted predictions that Islam will rapidly become an important religious force in this country.[1] "Within the next 20 years the number of British converts will equal or overtake the immigrant Muslim community that brought the faith here", says Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher at a Hull comprehensive and the author of a textbook guide to the Koran. She says: "Islam is as much a world faith as is Roman Catholicism. No one nationality claims it as its own". Islam is also spreading fast on the continent and in America.

The surge in conversions to Islam has taken place despite the negative image of the faith in the Western press. Indeed, the pace of conversions has accelerated since publicity over the Salman Rushdie affair, the Gulf War[2] and the plight of the Muslims in Bosnia. It is even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the widespread view in the west that Islam treats women poorly. In the United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts, forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million. Many of Britain's "New Muslims" are from middle-class backgrounds. They include Matthew Wilkinson, a former head boy of Eton who went on to Cambridge, and a son and daughter of Lord Justice Scott, the judge heading the arms-to-Iraq enquiry.

A small-scale survey by the Islamic Foundation in Leicester suggests that most converts are aged 30 to 50. Younger Muslims point to many conversions among students and highlight the intellectual thrust of Islam. "Muhammad" said, "The light of Islam will rise in the West" and I think that is what is happening in our day" says Aliya Haeri, an American-born psychologist who converted 15 years ago. She is a consultant to the Zahra Trust, a charity publishing spiritual literature and is one of Britain's prominent Islamic speakers. She adds: "Western converts are coming to Islam with fresh eyes, without all the habits of the East, avoiding much of what is culturally wrong. The purest tradition is finding itself strongest in the West."[3]

Some say the conversions are prompted by the rise of comparative religious education. The British media, offering what Muslims describe as a relentless bad press on all things Islamic, is also said to have helped. Westerners despairing of their own society - rising in crime, family breakdown, drugs and alcoholism [4] - have come to admire the discipline and security of Islam. Many converts are former Christians disillusioned by the uncertainty of the church and unhappy with the concept of the Trinity and deification of Jesus.

Quest of the Convert - Why Change?

Other converts describe a search for a religious identity. Many had previously been practising Christians but found intellectual satisfaction in Islam. "I was a theology student and it was the academic argument that led to my conversion." Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher and author, said she objected to the concept of the original sin: "Under Islam, the sins of the fathers aren't visited on the sons. The idea that God is not always forgiving is blasphemous to Muslims.

Maimuna, 39, was raised as a High Anglican and confirmed at 15 at the peak of her religious devotion. "I was entranced by the ritual of the High Church and thought about taking the veil." Her crisis came when a prayer was not answered. She slammed the door on visiting vicars but travelled to convents for discussions with nuns. "My belief came back stronger, but not for the Church, the institution or the dogma." She researched every Christian denomination, plus Judaism, Buddhism and Krishna Consciousness, before turning to Islam.

Many converts from Christianity reject the ecclesiastical hierarchy emphasising Muslims' direct relationship with God. They sense a lack of leadership in the Church of England and are suspicious of its apparent flexibility. "Muslims don't keep shifting their goal-posts," says Huda Khattab, 28, author of The Muslim Woman's Handbook, published this year by Ta-Ha. She converted ten years ago while studying Arabic at university. "Christianity changes, like the way some have said pre-marital sex is okay if its with the person you're going to marry. It seems so wishy-washy. Islam was constant about sex, about praying five times a day. The prayer makes you conscious of God all the time. You're continually touching base.

Footnotes

1 This is one of the reasons why there is an onslaught of bad press against Islam and the Muslims. Whoever considers Islam carefully with its principle belief Tawheed (the Uniqueness of Allaah, His and His sole right to subservience, worship and legislation), the sum total of its injunctions, formulated by Allaah (which are harmonic and define the true nature, position, rights and responsibilities of both sexes), and its justice in every sphere of life (social, economical and political) for all categories of people - wives, husbands, children, orphans, women, the poor and indigent, the poverty-stricken - will realise why it poses a threat to the leading elite of the western civilisations (i.e. those who benefit most from the unfair and unjust forms by which the people are governed). It is in the hands of such people that the control of peoples beliefs and ideas lie (via television, Magazines, Films, Education) and naturally this advantage is used to maintain the existing status quo. Muslims are not governed by and enslaved the false beliefs and ideas of humans, they are enslaved to and governed by Allaah alone. This is the essence of Islam - That enslavement is to none but to Allaah alone and everything besides Him is undeserving of worship and subservience.

2 It is now an established fact that around 5,000 of the US Troops who were stationed in Saudi Arabia became Muslims during and shortly after the Gulf War.

3 Much of the alleged oppression of women is due to localised culture which is based on a superstition that is more akin to Hinduism. It is, however, portrayed as being Islamic in origin which in turn seriously affects the 'independence of thought' of those who do not bother to pursue the matter in an objective manner - which includes most people.

4 One of the biggest industries in the West is that of entertainment and amusement. This is essential to maintain the false idea of progress, that what comes next is better and worth enduring for. Peoples minds are preoccupied with their own pleasures and other pursuits while others are being murdered, slaughtered, women raped, innocent babies and children butchered with axes and knives, innocent by-standers in robberies and muggings killed, the aged battered to death by adolescents, thousands dying of drug abuse, thousands of innocent lives destroyed by the consumption of alcohol, drunkards beating their women and children... the list is endless. The entertainment industry is one of the effective tools in the 'normalisation of the thought process', the 'desensitisation of the humanistic concern', and the intensification of the 'my pleasure and gratification is what is most important' syndrome.
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