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Role of women in contemporary Islam in the context of a multicultural society

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    Role of women in contemporary Islam in the context of a multicultural society

    This is an essay i wrote for my religion and pphilosophy coursework, if anyone has any suggestion or imporovements please tell me i have to hand it in onmonday


    An investigation and analysis of the role of women in contemporary Islam in the context of a multicultural society

    When a person thinks of a Muslim woman immediately the image that forms in your mind is one of veils, tent like garb and the word ‘oppression’ and comes to mind. This image of being suppressed and oppressed, being without any rights or social standing is a Western stereotypical view of Muslim women. To understand and appreciate the true essence of Islam it is important to carefully investigate the roles of both Muslim women and men in Islam and the religious authority for these. It is most important to consider what a Muslim woman’s rights and obligations are, and how they are lived out in daily life. Alongside this it is relevant to find out how a Muslim woman may be influenced by her family’s culture and the traditions and cultures of other peoples in this society. In a multicultural society such as Britain there are many people of different religious backgrounds. Britain today can be seen as a multicultural society or even a secular society, which is not governed by religious laws and certainly not by Shari’ah. Muslims living in Britain today come into day-to-day contact with many ideas, beliefs and practices, which are not part of Islam. Analyzing how Muslim women can stay true to their Islamic faith in such a society is an integral part of this essay.

    In Islam family life from many famous scholars is referred to as being the ‘corner-stone of society’ as it brings new generations into the world, therefore the parents have very important duties to play. They also have vital duties and obligations towards one-another. The duties of a husband and the wife towards each other are clearly stated in Islam (Qur’an 4:34). This makes the fulfillment of the purpose of marriage easy and removes confusion. The husband’s duties include providing food; clothing; accommodation as well as general welfare needs for his wife; she does not have to provide any of these herself from her own property or her earnings, unless she wishes and is able to help her husband. The husband also provides household help for his wife, or helps her himself, as well as giving help to her in training the children. He also must try to satisfy the sexual needs of his wife and treat her with kindness and honour as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
    “The best of you is the one who is best to his family, and I am best to my family”
    (Hadith: Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
    “The best of you is he who is best to his wife”.
    The wife, for her part is required to obey her husband as leader of the family so long as he does not try to make her disobey Allah. She must look after the home and children, bringing them up as good and righteous people – Allah will ask her about this duty (Hadith Al-Bukhari and Muslim). In her husband’s absence she must ensure that no one unapproved of by her husband is allowed into the home. She must also try to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs. You can see that the duties of the husband are the rights of the wife, whilst the duties of the wife are the rights of the husband. Allah says:
    “…The rights of the wives (with regards to their husbands) are equal to the rights of the husband with regard to them”. (Qur’an 2:228)
    The Qur’an states:
    “They (women) are your garments. And you (men) are their garments”.
    The words from the Holy Qur’an state precisely how men and women relate to one another – like a body and its garments. Without garments the body is meaningless and vice versa, this symbolizes the complimentary roles a husband and wife play and that they must got together, apart they would have little reason to exist.

    People in multi-cultural society may have noticed how a large number of Muslim women dress differently from one another, some from head to toe, others in more westernized but unrevealing clothing. This is mainly due to cultural impacts, for e.g. covering a woman’s body does not necessarily require her to wear a ‘jilbab’ (long dark coat-like dress), Islamically she is required to dress modestly in public. Places like Afghanistan’s political impacts mean women are forced in the way they are dressed, as they have no choice.
    “Say to believing men…and believing women, that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty..”(24:30-31)

    Living in a multicultural society poses many difficulties for Muslim parents or Muslim’s in general. This is because within the sphere of their homes the environment is Islamic and very sheltered. However outside the home Muslim’s come into contact with different ideas which can act as obstacles for them. This is because Britain allows what most Islamic societies would not allow for women for example involvement in pornography, modesty of dress, Muslim women do not walk around scantily dressed for example in a bikini. Abortion is not allowed except in exceptional circumstances in Islam whereas it is a common place in Britain. Also divorce is considered one of the worst acts in Islam but like abortion it is a commonplace as well as free mixing between the sexes. This shows that such things are taking place in Britain and that they oppose Islamic teachings.

    For a Muslim living in a multicultural society some of the issues that arise are usually the differences between secular law versus religious law (shari’ah). The fact that Muslim values are different to secular values and a Muslim lifestyle following such values makes more demands. These issues can cause problems for Muslims, especially the 2nd or third generation who seem to be becoming more and more secular. These youth can be seen to have adopted secular values in their pursuit of status, placing great value in cars, money and other material possessions more than religious values or practice. These remind parents of their native countries, so they arrange marriages for their children to people inn the native countries. What the parents don’t realise is these ‘native countries’ have become more secular too and that people there have become more westernized.

    The benefits for Muslims in a multicultural society like Britain is the access to education, there is a greater chance of Muslims obtaining education in this country compared to their ‘slim to none’ chances back in their native countries. There is an opportunity to be involved in public life occupation wise. As the government in Britain is not ruled by a specific religion, people are allowed to practice their religion openly, whereas in Turkey a woman is not permitted to wear a headscarf to college, school, or university. Also in communist countries people did not have the right to proclaim what they believed in.

    Many Muslims in Great Britain are often asked whether they are British or Muslim first. There is a difference of opinion to this answer between the older and younger generations. The younger people tend to say they are British and Muslim whereas the older generation hesitate and reply they are Muslim first. The majority of older generations also tend to say they are either Pakistani Muslim, Yemeni Muslim, and Arab Muslim etc, this is because they want their nationality to remain as a part of them, and it is as important to them as their religion. They also feel this way as they do not feel completely comfortable in this secular society, due to the environment that is completely different to what they would be living in back in their native countries. What we should ask ourselves is how come it is only the Muslims this question is posed to? Why not the Christians or the Jews? These kinds of questions are asked for example during the Gulf War or since the incident on September 11th. The Muslims are expected to be on the defensive, as if there is going to be a conflict with being a Muslim and British at the same time. This is the way of thinking for the majority of Non-Muslim British people; it shows their lack of understanding of Islam and their deeply rooted misconceptions concerning the religion. This is also a result of lack of integration between people.

    The Muslim women that wear veils, head scarves and long flowing clothing are often seen as ‘oppressed’ or ‘suppressed’ by the majority of Non-Muslims in British society. They see these women as being ‘dominated’ by men. In reality the majority of these women wearing veils or such articles of clothing do so voluntarily, the main aim is protection and not oppression.

    “Prophet, enjoin in your wives, your daughters and the wives of true believers to draw their veils close around them. That is more proper, so that they may be recognized (as virtuous women) and not molested. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful”. (33:59)

    Many modern day feminists have argued against Islam that as it is a man’s compulsory duty to maintain a woman, a woman is therefore seen as incapable and dependant therefore is treated as unequal. This is not so, the woman is not seen as an incapable being unable to think or fend for herself, maybe fourteen hundred years ago when the Qur’an was first revealed women needed the protection of men as they were seen and treated as ‘second-rate citizens’. However, in contemporary Islam it is acceptable that the woman works and provide for herself her own living, as long as she is working in an Islamically acceptable environment, and her family or husband are at ease with her working too.

    Thirty years ago in this country Muslim women would not know how to speak the English language, they would have been confined to their homes due to the language barriers as well as the fact that they’re families would have disagreed with them to work. The women would have been uneducated and unaccustomed to the Western way of life. However, there is a great contrast with the women in Britain thirty years ago and the women today. Through the decades the women were educated, this broke down the barriers of language, they then progressed to further education and learning to adapt to the Western lifestyle. Today the majority of the Muslim women are acquainted with the English language, they dress in an adapted way that is acceptable by both the society as well as they’re families. This helps them to communicate more easily with the people they make day-to-day contact with outside of the home. Many Muslims refuse permission for women in their families to work, this is not a result of religious influence but of cultural impact. In some cultures and traditions it is believed that the women remain dependant on the man, it was so in the Hindu culture and was adapted to by the Pakistani culture. Though Islam allows women to work if the environment as well as her intention to work is Islamically acceptable by the Shari’ah (Islamic law) it would still be unacceptable culturally and therefore ‘frowned upon’. However, it is also seen to be vice versa, sometimes culture approves of certain things which religion disapproves or forbids completely. An example of this is free mixing between the sexes, though Islam forbids it completely it was culturally acceptable by the Hindus, the Hindu culture was adapted by Pakistanis making free mixing acceptable to them, so though it was forbidden by religion if it was culturally acceptable many people still approved of it.
    In contemporary Islam many Muslim women are permitted to do many things that weren’t done by the women ten or fifty years ago, many of the older generation of Muslims believe that it is wrong and a misguided way of thinking, however what they don’t realize is that there are many things today that didn’t exist fourteen hundred years ago when the Qur’an was first revealed. The scholars today have to give many ‘fatwas’ (lectures) on many topics that were not touched upon in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

    It is mistaken to believe that Islam encourages the oppression of women. On the contrary, Islam elevates women in an all-round manner. Islam regards women and men as equals; they both have the same religious duties and get equal rewards. Allah says:
    “I will not allow the good deeds of any of you, male or female, to be lost. You (male and female) come from one-another…” (Qur’an 3:195; 4:124)
    Islam stopped the female infanticide (81:8; 6:151) and promises the reward of paradise to parents who look after their daughters. Muslim women like men are encouraged to acquire education from the cradle to the grave.
    A Muslim woman retains her legal identity after marriage and can keep her family name. She may seek and obtain divorce if she needs it. She is free to move around in society (with her husbands consent), provided she is modestly dressed and straightforward to avoid molestation by evil men. (Qur’an 33:22-59)
    As a mother, the greatest respect is paid to her on account of her sacrifices on behalf of her children. (Qur’an 31:13; 46:15)
    “Paradise lies at the feet of the mothers”.

    In Great Britain Islam is a minority religion; it is not the way of life for the majority in this multicultural society. Britain is arguably not religious; therefore it can be seen as a secular society. Its laws do not reflect any particular religions beliefs, however in the past Christianity played a major role in the appointed laws. The society is still influenced by religious values, there are laws protecting what most religions consider sacred or valuable, an example of this is the value religions hold for life. There are laws introduced for the sole purpose of preventing death or injury like how a driver and passengers in a car must wear seat belts. The laws in Britain also evolve around individual religions, for example the law in Britain for people riding a motorcycle is that it is compulsory to wear a crash helmet. In the 1980’s the Sikh community complained that it was impossible to do so if they were wearing turbans, the government then made a clause in the law for Sikhs who wore turbans, that when riding a motorbike it wasn’t compulsory for them to wear a crash helmet.

    There are also many problems for Muslims who live in small individual communities that do not integrate with one another. This division often causes misunderstandings between them which results in conflict mostly between the youth of the communities. An incident of this occurred not very long ago in Oldham, between the Pakistani community and the white community. Oldham is one of the most segregated cities in Britain. The white and Pakistani communities have many riots, this is mainly due to lack of integration. To correct this situation faith leaders of the communities should hold regular meetings to discuss and promote interfaith relationships. This encourages less hostile attitudes between the people like in Leicester. The majority of Asians came from Africa where they were used to British people, when they came to Britain they could relate to the people more easily than the Asians from Oldham. Another major barrier between people is language and dress. If people cannot communicate with one another it is impossible for interfaith relationships. It is also quite common for people from different racial backgrounds to stereotype Muslims by the way the women dress. As they find it foreign they cannot form a relationship with them, this results in people perceiving Muslims with hostility.

    In conclusion to this essay I believe there should be more interfaith relationships and language barriers should be broken down, this way people from different cultural and racial backgrounds can relate to one-another and not stereotype or generalize. There should be more integration especially in schools, also there shouldn’t be segregated communities, people from different nationalities should live together. There already is an increase in women choosing there marriage partners, and women having children later on in life so they can actively partake in more career based roles. Due to the education in this country it is estimated that after a couple of generations language barriers would be broken down completely, that more Westernized dress would be adapted to in a way that seems Islamic and women would take up more prominent roles in the Islamic and in wider communities. This could be an advantage as well as a disadvantage, there could be spokeswomen who is highly educated in the fields of politics and other high profile careers, this way they could be interviewed by the media and as a result the general Non-Muslim public would be more aware of Islamic teachings and see it in a more acceptable and not so negative light. This is the possible future for Muslim women in a secular British multicultural society. Contemporary Islam does not change its laws to suit the time and place, many issues need to be discussed today that could not have been discussed fifty or fourteen hundred years ago, this shows that though Muslims women might adapt themselves to the society they live in they would have to do so by the Islamic Shari’ahs boundaries. Islam is submission to God’s will and Muslims recognize this.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY:

    1. Qur’an

    2. Saheeh Bukhari

    3. Ibn-Majah

    4. www.uh.edu/campus

    5.Television program:

    “Culture Clash”

    6. “Islam and Women Today in A Multicultural Society”

    7. “Islam” by Victor W. Watton

    3. “Islam : A way of life” by Maududi




    [This message has been edited by Xara (edited April 16, 2002).]

    #2
    It was very interesting reading, it is very well written, and I can see that you have put a lot of thought and reseach into it. You have certainly done an excellant job(I see an A in your future) My question is, how do you feel about that? It sounds like Islam has some of the same restrictions for women as Christianity. Do you really plan on one day, getting married, and then obeying your husband?

    I was raised in a Christian church, but as I got older, and started to see that much of it, didn't make logical sense, I stopped going. I can only speak about the religious book, I have read, and that is the Christian bible. It always struck me as very interesting, how this book was writen by men, and it is so for the benifit of men. Yes, it has been argued that this book was inspired by God, but the bottom line, the authour was a human, or more to the point the authours were men. There is no way that anyone will ever get me to believe, that God intended women to be second class citizens to men!!!

    My religious beliefs are very simple. If I treat people, how I would like to be treated, and God knows that my heart, and soul are pure towards other people I have nothing to worry about.

    Maybe to some it is a small point, but there is no way, I would agree to obey a husband. If a man can not accept me as an equal in every way, then I would have no time for him. My father hardly expected my mother to obey him. They talked about issues, and then the two of them, would decide the best course of action. They thought of each other as complete equals in every way. They had 45 happy years of marriage, until my father passed away two years ago. If my father had suggested to my mother, that she should obey him, she would have laughed in his face!!! Not that he would have ever suggested anything like that!!! Also don't think this notion of a woman obeying her husband is unique to Islam, because the Christian religion pushes it too.

    Also to the issue, that the husband is meant to supply all of his wife's needs. I can't agree with that ethier. I think that women are just as capable as men, and to teach this to girls is just wrong. I have always taught my daughters to never depend on anyone, to depend on themselves. Maybe this works in some societies, but it just doesn't work where I come from.

    Not to mention the idea of men protecting women, is almost laughable. If it weren't for men, women wouldn't need protection. We hardly run around hurting each other!!!

    I am sorry to sound so angry, but after 45 years of having one religion or the other, tell me that I should obey another human being simply because of the sex organs he came with, is really getting on my last nerve!!!

    Also please do not take this personally, I am not meaning this as an attack on you or your post, I just do not understand how a young woman, can go along with the idea of women obeying men, but you have the right to believe what you believe. And again you have done an excellant job with your paper, I just can not understand the believes that are exprised in it. Just had to put my two cents worth in!!!

    I am sorry but I was taught to question, everything. I was told that is why God, gave me a brain, to use it ,and think, not just blindly accept what other people tell me is truth.

    Brenda

    ------------------
    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!!!

    [This message has been edited by bcsm57 (edited April 16, 2002).]

    [This message has been edited by bcsm57 (edited April 16, 2002).]

    Comment


      #3


      Brenda
      To tell the truth i used to believe in some of the femanist views and some of them still interest me. the fact i sent this crswrk in was to see if ive missed some views out, and yes i wouldnt 'obey' my husband, trust me my characters no where near that , yup i would laugh in the face of some1 if they said that to me
      i probly phrased it wrong, but in islam when they have a discussion its not fact of women oberying men, its sounds alittle tyrranical if u ask me but the thing is they have to come to a point where ppl need to compromise
      agreeing with your husband would in no way make u lower than him or lesser than him as an equal, in any way, the point islam is emphasising is that when ppl compromise there are fewer arguments, less hatred and misunderstandings

      "My father hardly expected my mother to obey him. They talked about issues, and then the two of them, would decide the best course of action."
      thats really nice, im sorryabout your father. He seemed like a really wonderful person, that he was thoughtful and sensitive to your mothers wishes is even better, that is the kind of role men are supposed to play in Islam as well, however there were certain exceptions,

      as for men supplying to womens needs and them being totally, completely and wholly dependant on them. no that wasnt the point, the point was women can work and be independant in islam, its encouraged women be independant but when men provide for women its not showing that men r their benefactors/superiors/wiser or higher than them its showing that it is compulsory for men to aid women, if the woman doesnt want his money, fine she doesnt need it but in some cases (esp the ones 1400 yrs ago when the Qur'an was revealed) during the battles there were many widows and when men used to marry more than one wife they were providnig for the women who had lost their husbands, who in that time was the 'breadwinner' of the family. it might not be acceptable tday for more than 1 wife but it made sense 1400 yrs ago abt men providing for women.

      abt men protecting women, again this was revealed 1400 yrs ago, when it was more dangerous for women to roam around alone, admit it brenda women are physically different from men and im sure you wouldnt want your daughters going out alone at night
      the point is that u cant pick some average male to protect u its usually ure brother or father, hubby whatever some1 u can trust unless ure going with some ppl like friends etc yup i didnt agree with that either, the whole reason i used to go to karate lessons to try and prove it but u have to look more deeply into this and not take such a rigid stance to the 'women are 100% same and capable as men', tell me brenda do u see women on the frontlines of the battlefields? even in contemporary society i havent seen that,
      ure making it seem as if in islam women are treated as misguided kids, sorry to sound abit touchy abt this but i found this alot more so in christianity that islam, where women are seen to be the curse on men, in islam they are seen as a blessing and as equals in no way are they seen lower or to lack any respect from men

      i understand completely where ure coming from as a 'young woman' in this society, u just have to try and figure it out in ure heart
      God never intended women to be second class citizens, maybe in other religions, but NEVER in islam there are reasons for eveything u just have to look closely and around u to understand i cannot explain everything bcos like u im only human,
      dont be sorry abt being angry bcos i probly think along the same lines as ureself, and though i wasnt taught to question everything its my second nature, i think that if uve seen many different religions u should try and meet up with the ppl then try and understand them, dont let ure stance influence ure way of thinking over them, try and answer the questions u have in ure mind,

      i could advise u not to generalize or stereotype ppl its usually culture that also influences ppl of certain religions

      personally my logic is theres a reason for almost everything u just have to look in the right places to find it

      xara

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