Not so long ago, I had a conversation with a man when I went to my hometown as I currently study out of the town. He was an interesting man and sounded really smart when he talked about lack of nationalism that many young Indonesians have. I remember it was a long trip as there was a very bad traffic (it usually only takes about two hours from Karawang to Jakarta, but it was taking more than four hours), as the result our conversation getting deeper and wider.
He shared a lot of his concerns about milenials and other things. In the first one hour, I really enjoy our conversation. However, he suddenly said something that shutted my mouth up. I remember he said;
“The reason why this country getting worse is because many women refuse to stay at home and do their job as wives. They do what they should not do and disobey their husband.”
Since that I noticed, eventhough we are currently living in 2018, many people still act and think like they are living a thousand years earlier.
I could not stop thinking about that and I kept questioning my self why does this happen? Why majority of people still repudiate the empowerment of women. I even realise that our religious leader rarely tell and motivate women in doing good things. I also feel dissapointed that sermons about women are always discussing why women should be a submissive and women will go to hell once they disobey their husband.
Those people who always shut the women up use the verses of Qur’an to support their personal interest. I would not lie that this make me furious even more. As I am a muslim and I am a woman, I know that those people hide the truth of Islam’s opinion about woman. That is why I decided to speak up to clear all the wrong mindset.
Muslim Woman in War
The first problem I always hear is that many people dismiss women from fighting on the street. I hate how people always describe women as a cheerleaders for men. People said that women should just stay at home and doing nothing for their country meanwhile the conception is not true.
In islamic assembly, I seldom hear story of Ummu Umarah r.a. been told. For you who do not know, Ummu Umarah was one of muslim army in Uhud war. She was a woman and bravely, Ummu Umarah along with her family joined the war with other men. Seeing Ummu Umarah joined the war, Rasululluah did not mad at her or sent her home back. Moreover, Ummu Umarah was become a part of a small group who killed Ibnu Qamiyah. She is the perfect example of the importance women power and how women is allowed to fight for their country. If Ummu Umarah could be in the army and fight for Rasulullah, why other women in this era could not do the same? Why we should stay and contribute nothing to our world?
“And We have certainly sent down to you distinct verses and examples from those who passed on you and an admonition for those who fear Allah.” [An-Noor (24) : 34] (https://quran.com/24/34)
In short there is no more excuse to said women should not have position. I, myself, feel happy that Indonesia has so many women in military and the police, but in the other country, women still have no chance to prove their ability. Even saddly, women sometimes do not have a right to opine.
Even in the parliaments, Inter-Parliamentary Union wrote that men are still highly dominant in most parlements. IPU also states, “while more women than ever are being elected to parliaments around the world, equality is still a long way off, and current progress is far too slow.” (https://www.ipu.org/our-work/gender-equality/women-in-parliament). World Bank also published a data of propotion of sears held by women in parliament, which you can access here (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS). Eventhough the number keep increasing in this past 27 years (1990-2017), it is still not enough.
According to House of Common Library, the total of women ever been elected in parliement (since 1919) is slightly exceed the number of men who is now sitting in the House Common. (https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN01250). Saddly, this issue has become a huge problem in other countries, especially in developing countries. In fact, women all over the world deserve better!
Women and Education
“As a woman, you should not be too smart,otherwise men will feel humbled and no one will marry you,” said people.
If you never heard that before, you are so lucky! My mother once told me that one of the reason why I keep being single is because I am too smart for some men. Well, I’m not trying to emphasize her thought about my intellegence. My point is how can men feel embarrassed when they date smarter women? That statement makes me think really hard and now I have a bunch of question. I am curious, why women should be the one who limit their desire of learning? Why women should stop and why men is not the one who feel motivated by that? In my opinion, men should be proud to have a smart women besides them as they will have someone to discuss a lot of things, as their women can be a good adviser to decide a problem.
Moreover, if you are not sold to my first reason, clearly, Allah states that education is very important and Allah will help everyone go to heaven if they get theirselves educated. This is a promise that Allah make to us and I do not know why people stop believing in this. We can even see that it is written in the Qur’an that Qur’an is only for those who give thought, e.g in Yunus (10:24) (https://quran.com/10/24) ;
“The example of (this) wordly life is but like rain which We have sent down from the sky that the plants of the earth absorb – (those) from which men and livestock ear – until, when the earth has taken on its adornment and is beautified and its people suppose that they hace capabality over it, there come to it Our command by night or by day, and We make it as a harvest, as if it had not flourished yesterday. Thus do We explain in detail the signs for a people who give thought.”
This means, we have to be educated and smart if we want to understand the Qur’an and understanding the Qur’an is a must for all muslims, whether they are men or women. I have never find a word in Qur’an or Hadist that is contradicted with this or states that women should not be educated. In fact, there is no single gender discrimination in Qur’an whether its about education or any other cases.
Another education issue that women faces is the limited opporunities. This issue tend to happen in the country where muslim population is the majority, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others. In Pakistan for example, many parents did not support their daughter’s education as women is not expected to make more money. Indeed, UN Women Asia and The Pasific (http://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/countries/pakistan) reports that Pakistan’s ranking for gender equality remains one of the lowest in the world. Shahid Javed Burki, a Pakistani a professional economist also wrote in tribune.com.pk (September 25, 2017 https://tribune.com.pk/story/1515421/treatment-women-pakistan/);
“In Pakistan, parents appear to invest less on their daughter’s education because they expect higher labour market rewards from their sons — this is due to the expected parental dependence on their sons during old age. This creates discriminatory practices and accounts for lower school enrollment rates for girls.”
At first this problem occur because the society believes that women’s main role in the house is to clean and take care the house. That is also why having a son is considered a gift while having a daughter is just okay. Moreover, eventhough, the muslim population is biggest in Pakistan, the mindset of women’s role is adapted from the old lifestyle in Middle Eastern even before Rasullullah was born. Barki added and I quoted;
“Girls’ day is filled with activities that are not required of boys. In the households with many children, older girls are required to care for their younger siblings. With their time thus crowded, girls are unable to attend schools. The problem becomes more acute for women in the workforce as they are still expected to continue with their gender-related and culturally-defined domestic roles. Lower rates of fertility reduce the size of households and cuts down on the demand on girls for attending to young children. This is one of the many virtuous cycles that appear all over the demographic field.”
Of course I am not dragging all Pakistani about this. I have read many articles about empowering women movement in Pakistan, which gaining supports. I, myself, have a male friend who really supports women on getting education. This problem occur in some part of Pakistan where the people are not educated enough and not open-minded in the first place. In fact, this problem is not only happened in Pakistan, obviously. In Indonesia, there are still many parents who do not support their daughters’ education too.
In conclusion, prohibit women from school is a cultural issue, not an order from God. God repeatedly tells us that Qur’an is only for people who understand it. What would we do to understand Qur’an if it was not learning? That is why women should learn as much as the men and the men should learn as much as women. None of us should stop learning.
Women and Work
Besides feeling embarrassed when seeing smarter women, men also feel insecured when their women have bigger salary than them. Unfortunately, this thing happens a lot and everywhere. However, the funny thing is several bad comments even comes from women too.
Recently, my friend told me a story about a marriage couple which the woman had a bigger salary than her husband, almost twice than him. Many people gave their comment, said that one day the woman will stop listening to her husband and disobey him because she has a bigger economy power than him. As the result, the woman gave her job up and finally the family income is only about 3 millions rupiah, whereas they used to have about 8 millions a month. The woman desicion made them face a new problem which is an economy problem. Now, they can not eat any food they want as they used to just because people think women should not have bigger salary than men.
Khadijah, Rasulullah’s first wife, was a very success bussiness woman, Rasulullah even worked for her and that was when they met. I know no single words ever told women to not work or have less salary than men and the story of Khadijah is the best response to break this unbelievable mindset. We can also see Fatimah Al Fihri, a founder of the oldest existing and the continuing The University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fes, Morroco in 859 CE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatima_al-Fihri).
Zaynab Al Shahda also one of many women who have a great works in fiqh (Islamic law and hadist). In addition, she was also a teacher of Yaqut, a calligrapher and secretary of the last Abbasid Caliphate. (http://www.1001inventions.com/womensday). Zaynab, herself, was a calligrapher in Musa Palace. Moreover, there are many articles and essays in the internet about Muslim Women who has a great works and education. You can find some of the story linked down below.
They were all strong and remember they lived years ago. Why you, a modern man, think we do not deserve an opportunity?
Finally, let me end this with a message; our midset is the one that make us modern, not our lifestyle. No matter how many modern things you have in your house, if you keep thinking like people from Jahiliyah era, your mind still stuck. And stop using Qur’an verse to defeat women’s dream because the more I read Qur’an, the more I realise how valuable women are.
Indeed, Allah gives other group better skill or ability based on their responsibility. Somehow, I believe men are better than women and on the contrary women are better than men in another occasion. None of this make men are better than women in general.
By writing this, I do not want to push my opinion to anybody or humiliate one or a group of people or anybody. I believe my writing may cause disagreement which is okay because you have your rights and your own opinion. All I want to do is just sharing my concern and my finding concerning the problem so we can be more open to this discussion in the future. I also want to show my support to all the girls who is facing this current issue. Do not let those men stop you from dreaming. You deserve to know the truth.
I really wish my writing can help you to understand the true point of view of Islam about women. Lastly, if you are a muslim and you are a women, please do not stop dreaming and doing many good things. In truth, Allah always support you and want you to contribute in society too!