Women’s Rights in Islam : Separation is Better

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If it is true, as life experience suggests (and the advocates of woman’s rights in Europe and America are never tired of declaring that women’s interests are separate from those of men) that women are really happier among themselves in daily life, and are capable of progress as a sex rather than in close subservience to men, then the Islamic rule which makes the woman the mistress in her sphere does not discord with human nature. While every provision is made for the continuation of the human race, and while the relation of a

woman to her husband and near kinsfolk is just as tender and as intimate as in the West, the social life of women is among themselves. There is no ’mixed bathing,’ no mixed dancing, no promiscuous flirtation, no publicity. But according to the proper teachings of Islam, there ought to be no bounds to woman’s opportunities for self development and progress in her own sphere. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent women from becoming doctors, lawyers, professors, preachers, merchants,.etc, but they should graduate in women’s colleges and practice on behalf of women. (Pickthall)

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Separation between men and women has been recognized to be of great benefit for women. As a matter of fact, this principle was adapted by The Pentagon as a solution to many problems including sexual harassment, without giving credit to Islam as the system of life that is propagating this practice to maintain morality and social peace and security. Nevertheless, Prince Charles has emphasized the great contributions Islam can provide the non-Muslim societies to overcome their most serious moral and social problems, during a number of his speeches on Islam and the West.

William Cohen, American Secretary of Defense, announced the first phase of a comprehensive plan to maintain a reasonable level of morality among male and female soldiers. The plan stressed the importance of constructing permanent partitions to separate male and female soldiers in the current mixed buildings. This is only a temporary solution until newly separate buildings are constructed. The Navy also issued a number of strict instructions that prohibit the presence of female and male navy officers behind closed doors. These instructions were presented as rules that should be respected by all soldiers, especially on board Navy ships. The Defense Secretary emphasized that the rationale behind such measures was to provide a reasonable level of privacy and security for members of the different sectors of Defense. Among these new regulations, the restriction of sleeping while wearing underwear or naked and those doors should be tightly locked during sleeping hours. They also forbid watching pornographic films in the presence of female soldiers, and imposed clearly detailed regulations regarding the type of clothes to be worn when swimming or when sun bathing. (The Family)

The question that we raise here is this: why are such regulations (that many would look at as radical and antimodernization) imposed by the most modern country in the world? The answer is very simple: sexual harassment has reached an unbelievably alarming level and has become a threat to national security and morality. Thousands of complaints of sexual harassment by female employees rang an alarming bell. The American and other lawmakers around the world should think seriously about imposing similar regulations at all governmental offices, including the White House, especially in the aftermath of the Clinton-Monica affair.

McGrayre, addressed the fact that separation in education is for the benefit of female students who experience unbearable harassment and pain at the hands of boys. Eight out of the nine female scientists who were awarded Nobel Prize were graduates of female only high schools.

The New York Times published, in May 1993, a report which was entitled Separation Is Better. (The Family) The report was written by Susan Ostrich who herself was a graduate of one of the few women’s colleges in the U.S. It was a shock to most Americans to find that girls in female colleges achieve better academically than their counterparts at mixed colleges. She supported her claim with the following statistics:

  1. Eighty percent of girls at female only colleges study science and math for four years, in comparison to two years of study in the mixed colleges.
  1. Female school students achieve higher GPA than the girls in mixed schools. This leads a higher number of female students to be admitted to universities. In fact, more Ph.Ds were acquired by such female students.
  1. According to Fortune Magazine one third of the female members in the boards of trustees in the largest 1000 American companies are graduates of female only colleges. To realize the significance of this number,we need to know that graduates of female only colleges make only 4% of the number of female college students graduating every year.
  1. 43% of female professors with Ph.Ds in math and 50% of female professors with Ph.Ds in engineering were graduates of female only colleges.

This is another evidence from the Western world itself that lends support to the validity and applicability of Islamic principles as universal laws guiding or regulating human behavior. The Indian politician and reporter, Kofhi Laljapa, concluded: No other religion but Islam has the ability to solve the problems of modern life. Islam is indeed unique for that. (Emad Khalil)

Only Islam has the workable solutions to these complicated problems of immorality and destroyed family values. It provides a complete system of life, which grants dignity and happiness to all members of society by taking human needs into consideration and satisfying them in the most honorable and respectable way. This complete system is not subject to man’s manipulation in order to satisfy his temporal interest, but rather Divinely proposed to take into account human nature. In so doing, Islam sets clearly and strictly defined rules and rights for all members of the society, regardless of their race, sex and religion, based on a just system of mutual responsibilities and authority. Nevertheless, Islam is avoided and even looked at with suspicion because of a number of reasons:

(a) the Jewish controlled media has great interest in picturing Islam as a savage religion that was not even good for the middle ages. Jihad in America and The Siege are only specimens of what the movie industry does to distort the image of Islam in the minds of people who have no true knowledge about Islam. Experts in Middle Eastern studies like the orientalists Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes and Judith Miller played an irresponsible role in inducing wrong attitudes about the genuine message of Islam in the minds of people who are in great need of its way of life. Nevertheless, many intellectuals were not deceived by this propaganda and were able to find their way to the truth, after a long search and after overcoming many hurdles. Jeffrey Lang (Professor of Mathematics at Kansas University) and M. Hoffman (the German Ambassador to Morocco) are good examples.

(b) A minority of Muslims enhances the already distorted image of Islam by their un-Islamic malpractices, which is greatly exaggerated and generalized by the already biased media.

(c) The inability of concerned Muslims to present Islam in an attractive manner to the world and to clarify misconceptions and misunderstandings about its universal teachings.

Women of the West have had to agitate for themselves in recent years for simple legal rights, such as that of married women to own property, which has always been secured for women in Islam. They have had to wage a bitter fight to bring to the intelligence of Western men the fact that women’s interests are not identical with those of men (a fact for which the Sacred Law makes full allowance.) Women in the West have had to agitate in order to obtain recognition of their legal and civil existence, which was always recognized in Islam. Their men secured the rights of women in Islam, and men will champion and secure what further rights they may require today in order to fulfil the spirit of the Shari’ah. In this emancipation, there will be no strife between the sexes. Therefore there is really no analogy with the case of women in the West.

Author : Abdallah H. Al-Kahtany

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