In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
This article is explicitly from an Islamic perspective, nonetheless, people of other faiths are still welcomed aboard to have a glimpse of the dilemma of Muslims with regards to the Feminist movement.
In broad terms, Feminism is the belief that women should be allowed equal rights, power and opportunity as men are accustomed to. It seeks to eliminate discrimination in the society. It is an ideology that aims at promoting the inclusion of women in political, cultural and economic decisions.
Societies have been structured in such a way that men are the presiding and dominant forces, and with their physicality compared to their female counterparts, you expect no less. Due to this quality, men are to be the protectors of women, to care for them, and to provide for them, but the reverse has been the case many at times, with women long being the subject of oppression, abuse, violence, double standards, and other forms of social injustice across different parts of the world at the hands of their ‘superior’ partners. Her physical features offer little in a bid to fight back, so she’s been left to suffer in silence throughout time. This narrative is quickly changing however, with women gathering up the courage to set themselves free of this monstrosity. They are doing this through the concept of Feminism.
Feminism has become a complex theory however, its clarification depends on one’s perspective and struggles. This brings me to the dilemma of the ‘Muslim feminist’.
Feminism is not a movement that originated from Islam, therefore one does not expect it to be within the confines of Islamic fundamentals. Islam is the principle of life to us Muslims, which makes every aspect of our lives regulated around its teachings and laws. One must ask then, why do some Muslims champion an ideology which roots do not stem from Islam? Simple, it fights for a cause they identify with.
Islam has given equal rights and duties to all Muslims. There are areas of life however, that Islam assigns different roles for both genders to play, which if we are being honest, Allah in His Infinite Wisdom and Knowledge about His creations, limits a woman from engaging in major aspects of public life, a cause which Feminism advocates for. This is why majority of Muslims frown at the concept of the feminist thought.
Leadership is an area tailored for men in Islam. It is forbidden for a woman to rule over a state, or be a Chief Judge. She can hold certain positions in government according to some scholars however, and to some she cannot. Feminism on the other hand fights for women to be allowed in such positions, this cannot work on the framework of Islam.
One thing the Muslim feminist must understand is that different women fight for different causes because of differences in culture and or society. What works for one, may not be suitable for another, and as Muslims this is why we need to thread with caution, as feminism, gender equality and human rights, all fight for certain things that cross the boundaries of Islam, a popular one being that of homosexuality.
On the other hand, there are misogynist Muslims out there who intentionally bring up these points to condemn feminism only as a guise for them to perpetrate things Allah has forbidden. What happened to the injustice and unfairness she fights against? What happened to the double standards she faces? What about the literacy and employment she wants for her sisters? or the domestic and sexual violence she suffers? Are they all permitted in Islam?
You find a case where both genders engage in adultery, but the society points only at the woman as one without morals. When he beats her up, we ask what she did to provoke him. Are we implying that adultery is only forbidden for women, or Islam permits men to oppress their wives?
A single woman of a certain age is labelled with all sorts of derogatory and ill-mannered vocabulary, ‘she’s an expired product and will attract no suitors’. She did not cover up her body hence the rapist has justification for his crime. Yes men could have more sexual desire, but is that a reason and excuse not to possess discipline? What happened to lowering his gaze which he was commanded to observe by Allah the same way women were commanded to cover up? Islam provides for fair hearing and just trial, the same way it commands lowering of gaze and stipulates same penalty for rapists and adulterers, irrespective of gender.
Moreover, it enjoys respect, caring and compassion towards women. However, a woman’s opinions on life are quick to be rubbished off, how dare a woman possess knowledge? Forgetting women like Umm Salma, the wife of the Prophet (S.A.W), who advised him on a strategy he used during the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. Little effort has been made in fulfilling the rights of a woman as commanded by Islam, hence why Feminism caught her attention.
Where does this then leave the Muslim feminist? How does she find solace? Does she embrace Feminism and identify as one despite it advocating for matters that are against the Shariah? Must she come up with another crusade that doesn’t break Islamic barriers? Will she get the support? Or should she just accept defeat and persevere till The Day of Recompense? I will leave that solution to our noble scholars of Islam, who are an embodiment of knowledge, because I cannot categorically give an answer to that. One thing I can say however, is that when she comes out fighting under the umbrella of Feminism on rights that are accorded to her in Islam, the least we can do is lend her a voice, rather than subdue.