Women in Islam - POLITICS Print E-mail
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It has been suggested that Islam does not permit women to become involved in politics nor to have any political authority. We find, however, that there is no verse in the Quran which is comparable to the following verse from the Bible although it is accepted that taking one verse out of context does not for a moment suggest that Chrisitanity does not permit women to be politically active or have authority over men. The Bibilical verse is simply included for the purposes of comparison when assessing the validity of the claims made against Islam.

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man: she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 1 Timothy 2:11-15

In fact the Quran states the opposite.

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. (Quran 9:71)

According to the Quran men and women are both responsible for the good of society and clearly it is implicit in this that they both participate in the political arena. To “enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil” entails all aspects of government from the making of laws to their implementation.

The above verse shows that Islam does not prohibit women from becoming involved in politics. A look at history also shows that Muslim women have been politically active from the time of Aisha , a wife of the Prophet Muhammad, to the present day with women having assumed leadership in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey. Iran, for example, despite the impression the West may have of it, has a larger proportion of women actively involved in politics than does England.

CONCLUSION The above overview of women in Islam may give the impression that all is wonderful in the world of the Muslim. Nothing could be further from the truth. The above is essentially the theory but the practise leaves much to be desired. The fact is that many women are suffering in so-called Muslim countries but sadly for various reasons, not all of which are innocent, we are often led to believe that they are suffering because of their religion. No allowance is made for the economic difficulties faced by many of these countries. No comparison is made for example between the life of a Muslim woman in Pakistan and a Christian woman in India. Such a comparison would reveal that more often than not these women share the same concerns and same problems such as poverty, lack of education and lack of opportunity for self-development. The role played by religion in their suffering is often marginal. It is beyond doubt that women in the world today still suffer. From Hindu women in India to atheist women in the West, there is much room for improvement in the way women are treated. We have already seen how many rights afforded to women in the area of family law in England only came about in the last half a century. Yet we are reminded of the freedoms that such women enjoy in the West as if they always possessed such rights. Furthermore, too little questioning takes place of the West’s obsession with the female body, from its abuse in the thriving pornography industry to its unlimited use by the advertising industry to sell products. One cannot open a magazine or turn on a television channel without being bombarded with images of the perfect female form. This in turn has consequences with young girls constantly being under pressure to “look good” as if their self-worth was entirely dependant on their appearance, leading to problems from the dietary to involvement with unscrupulous men willing to guarantee fame and fortune, at a price. Muslims need to remember, however, that no amount of criticism of the “West” should deflect them from their own deficiencies. The media may concentrate on the treatment of women by the Taliban but Muslims know of the treatment of women in other countries, often with religion used as the excuse. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are not allowed to drive cars, remain fully veiled and are hardly given the opportunity for political participation. The fact that emphasising this does not suit the agenda of many in the West does not mean that there is no problem for Muslims to address. The Islamic spirit of upholding the rights of women is evident from Quranic verses such as 24:4 which stipulate the punishment for those who falsely accuse women of sexual misconduct. If there is punishment for mere false allegations then how much graver is the crime of actual ill-treatment? Sadly this Islamic spirit is often buried under the rubble of narrow and rigid interpretations of Islam often from centuries ago. Such reliance on the interpretations carried out by scholars in the past is a complete abdication of our responsibilities to think about God’s Word, and one for which we will be held accountable. The hope is that this article clarifies that as far as Islam is concerned the Quran spoke of the rights of women centuries before this became a concept familiar to the West. The problem lies not in the existence of rights for women but in the implementation of such rights. Both the spirit and law of Islam are entirely consistent with equality for women, protection for women and the opportunity for women to strive to seek the nearness to God which should be the goal of all human beings. BIBLIOGRAPHY The Holy Quran , Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version Bromley’s Family Law, 7th edition A History of God , Karen Armstrong