This battle’s already won


Mercy, Oh Allah! Forgive us all our sins! Indian Muslims must be guilty of committing the gravest of them for why else would You…
Mercy, Oh Allah! Forgive us all our sins! Indian Muslims must be guilty of committing the gravest of them for why else would You, the Most Benevolent and the Most Merciful, punish us so: saddling us with such Ulema-e-Karaam (Respected Scholars) who embarrass, bring disgrace upon the entire ummah and subject Islam to ridicule every time they open their mouth? They are at it again.

What do I tell my 14-year-old son, Jibran,who asks, Dad, why are your beardos such weirdos? My beardos, my weirdos! He leaves me speechless since both reason and logic are on his side. How can these maulanas applaud my mom as a mujahid (jihadi) fighting for justice and yet insist that Muslim women must stay locked up in their home? Isnt this hypocrisy, double-standard?”

What can one say in defence of our Respected Ulema for whom the President of India, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the leader of the Congress (the party is in power thanks to her) could not belong to sharif gharana (respectable families) as they dont stay quietly at home?

Since remaining silent is no option, I start by telling my son to look east and west in our immediate neighbourhood. In the national elections held in Bangladesh and Pakistan around two years ago, the ulema parties received a resounding no from an overwhelmingly Muslim electorate. For years, in election after election, the only two contenders for the top political job in Bangladesh have both been women: Sheikh Hasina Wajed and Begum Khaleda Zia. Had she not been assassinated just before the polls, Benazir Bhutto would most likely have been at the helm, for the third time, in Pakistan.

A Muslim womans place is in her home, not the House of the People, the maulanas say. Well rather send you home, seems to be the repeated response of Muslim women and men from both Bangladesh and Pakistan. Our own seekers of the Muslim vote bank havent figured it out yet, but a little reflection will show that when it comes to the vote, Indian Muslims too couldnt care less about what the maulana sahebs say.

Not just South Asia and Indonesia (Remember President Megawati Sukarnoputri?). The times, they are a changin in the Arab world too. By regional standards its happening fast, and guess what, even some prominent clerics are beginning to chant, “Hello change!”

Do I hear you growling, Respected Ulema, protesting that you are concerned with the true message of Islam, not with what wretched Muslims do? Lets talk Islam then. In the very first moment of Islams birth was the Divine Injunction,  Iqra (read). Though I have a long way to go, I have read up a bit. So perhaps we can begin with a simple question.

Muslims believe that in case of Prophet Mohammed the proposition should read: My life is His (Allahs) message. Right?

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, the daughter of a very successful businessman, not only inherited the fathers vast fortune but proved to be a very successful businesswoman herself. A person of impeccable character she also earned for herself the titles, Ameerat-Quraish (Princess of Quraish), al-Tahira (the Pure One), Khadija Al-Kubra (Khadija the great). Which man would not dream of marrying such a woman? But for Bibi Khadijah (then 40 years old) none but the best man would do. So she waited. Right?

“The highly accomplished Hazrat Khadija was his (The Prophet’s) sole soul-mate,intellectual partner and emotional sheet anchor during the most turbulent years of his life.”

Enter Muhammad ibn Abdullah in her life. Prophethood would come to him 15 years later. But at age 25 he too had earned honorifics for himself: Al-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Amin (the trustworthy). What began as an employer-employee relationship soon developed into a relationship of mutual respect and love. The one to propose was the very confident, eminent, woman achiever. By all accounts it was a very happy, long-lasting, monogamous relationship that lasted till the death of Hazrat Khadijah 24 years later. Right?

Fifteen years into the marriage, when the Messenger received the first Divine Message in a cave, he was badly shaken, deeply disturbed, not knowing what was happening to him. He reached home trembling and in turmoil, to find Hazrat Khadija stand by him like a rock, greeting him with comforting words, Joyful tidings dost thou bring! Allah will not suffer thee to fall to shame. Hast thou not been loving to thy kins folk, kind to thy neighbours, charitable to the poor, hospitable to the stranger, faithful to thy word, and ever a defender of the truth? The worlds first Muslim to declare faith in Prophet Mohammed even as he himself struggled to decipher the meaning of his first encounter with Archangel Gabriel was a woman. Right?

Years later, the Prophets third wife, Hazrat Aisha, once asked him if Khadijah had been the only woman worthy of his love. His reply: She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand. (Ibn Kathir).  No reference to her cooking, sweeping, stitching. Right?

In short, the Prophets first and only wife for 24 years was not some woman who stayed home and looked after her husband and children. The highly accomplished Hazrat Khadija was his sole soul-mate, intellectual partner and emotional sheet anchor during the most turbulent years of his life. The Traditions of the Prophet (Hadith) also report instances from his later life when at critical moments he sought and acted on the good advice of his other wives. If in the life and example of the Prophet, Allahs Message is embedded, from where did you get the idea that Islam wants women to stay locked up in their homes, Respected Ulema?

While you grapple with this one, here is some more food for thought. Do you know that Mumbais Urdu Inquilab (third highest circulation among Urdu dailies in the country) had a front page editorial by its owner Tariq Ansari on March 11,whole-heartedly supporting the Womens Reservation Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha? Or that,all four editions of the Urdu daily Sahafat on March 13 had a front page edit by its editor, Hasan Kamaal, ridiculing all your objections?

Why is it that its mostly Muslim men like you and the Yadav trio who are unhappy with the bill? Why is it that some Muslim women and men I know are even thinking of an all-India delegation to meet Sonia Gandhi, Brinda Karat and Sushma Swaraj with garlands? Gender solidarity, maybe?

(This article was also published in The Indian Express on March 16, 2010)





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