By Fatima Barkatulla
Women would come from far and wide to learn from the Prophet Muhammad and they were always welcome to come and ask him questions. They never felt shy to come to him for justice. For example, one young lady was forced by her father to marry a man. She went to the Prophet Muhammad and told him what her father had done. The Prophet Muhammad told her she could have the marriage annulled. She said that she came to him so that fathers would know that they are not allowed to force their daughters in to marriage.
Just look at how confident the women were that if they came to Muhammad, they would get justice, he would stand up for them.
So Who Are You Submitting to?
Each and every human being submits to someone or something. Sometimes it’s subconscious. We’re so used to conforming to subtle external expectations that we don’t even realize we are conforming.
We submit to peer pressure – pressure from our friends or from the media. We submit to societal pressures or to the fashion or music industries or to our desires…that feeling of ‘I want this’ and ‘I want that’. It’s easy for a human being to allow their desires to lead them in life and it inevitably leads to destruction or a lack of fulfillment.
What Islam did for me was to give me a chance to break away from those pressures. I realized that my Creator is the one I must submit to because He knows what is good for me and what is bad for me because He created me! Before that I had many masters – trying to control me, affecting my behavior – sometimes really subtly. By submitting to God I became free. And I strive to continue to submit to him – it is an ongoing journey – but now I have a clear roadmap to follow.
God tells us in the Quran, that we have to submit, to surrender to the will of God – the one who created all of us men and women and who knows us best. That is the only way we will attain peace.
Men & Women – Equal But Not the Same
Islam recognizes that men and women are physiologically and psychologically different. Men are on the whole physically stronger than women. That’s why you’ll never find Roger Federer playing tennis against Serena Williams! Nor will you find men racing against women at the Olympics.
Our bodies are designed differently. That’s why it is still not acceptable on the streets of London for a woman to walk around topless but it would be for a man to – right?
So we know that we are different and therefore Islam tells us that our roles in society are different too. We as women give birth to children and nurture them with the milk of humanity.
Men cannot do that. God tells men that their role is to take leadership and nurture their families, to provide for them and to take full financial responsibility for their wives and children.
And women are the most powerful force in society, our role as mothers, as the first school of humanity is honored and supported in Islam.
We don’t have to contribute one penny to the upkeep of the family. We may work and earn money and that money is ours to do as we wish with. But we don’t have to work because God deems us irreplaceable as the homemaker and nurturer of the next generation.
More Precious than Jewels
So to go back to the question I started with: When I as a Muslim woman cover myself, I’m not doing it because a man told me to or my Imam told us to.
No! I do it because my Creator commanded us to cover ourselves in a certain way when we are in the presence of men who are not closely related to us.
When I’m at home or in the company of women and children I dress as I please – yes, I even go to the hairdressers and wear the latest fashions and jewelry, but I just cover it up when I’m going to be in the presence of men. God knows the nature of men and women.
And God tells us in the Quran to cover ourselves when we go outside, with outer garments and head coverings so that we may be recognized and respected and not molested in any way.
We would never walk around with our PIN number on display would we? How about our cash or our most precious jewels? Precious things are kept carefully – that’s what women are in Islam – precious; not to be flaunted cheaply, but preserved under our robes for people whom we choose to share our beauty with.
And we all know that when we are dressed in a more modest way, men show us more respect. Have you ever seen a man whistling at a nun or a Muslim woman who is dressed in Hijab?
When we dress as God tells us to, people appreciate what we have to say and what our talents are instead of judging us for the way we look.
One Big Family
Islam teaches us that we –all human beings– came from one father and one mother –Adam and his wife Eve- and that it was not due to Eve’s temptation that Adam and Eve were taken out of Paradise and put on earth. Both of them were led astray by Satan.
So unlike in Christianity, childbirth and menstruation are not punishments from God. They are part of our experience of womanhood and have wisdom behind them.
God teaches us that we as women are much more than just our bodies or our vital statistics. Our purpose in life is much more than just to be a play thing for men or a commodity for market forces to exploit. We are spiritual beings. Our actions and our intentions will be acknowledged by God when He judges us and we will be rewarded equally to men.
Islam teaches us that to use a woman’s body as a commodity is wrong. To exploit her and tell her to cavort in public for the pleasure of men – might please men – but it is degrades her and lowers her status in society.
Unfortunately today, although we think that we are liberated, women are used more now as sex objects then they ever have been in history. Our sexuality is a beautiful and sacred gift from God that we should share with a man who has committed to us through marriage – who won’t use and abuse us or love and leave us. Islam raises our status as women and frees us from the pressures of society to conform to a particular image or body shape or to be a superwoman who works from 9-5 and then comes home and does the housework too – a double shift! I’ve found that it allows us to be true to our nature and at peace with it.
When you submit to God, you cease to be forced to go against your true nature. That is true liberation. I invite you to look into Islam further and take a fresh look at womanhood and I hope that you too one day can experience the sweetness that submitting to our Creator brings.