Collab Part I: By Saadia Haq
Education is crucial for human development and no one can deny its importance in today’s times. The realm of education not only helps communities to realise their full citizenship in a democratic set up but also acts as a root source for their evolution as free human beings capable of making informed choices.
Sadly Muslim countries lag behind due to the negligence and religious notions attached with attaining the so called westernised secular base education. Muslim women particularly suffer under the complex societal standards under the guide of religious teachings. In current times, millions of Muslim students receive some or almost all of their formal education inside madrasas or religious schools. Typically these informal institutions provide young Muslims with the religious foundation in Qur’anic recitation and Islamic values that supersedes the needs of modern times. Lack of state attention and widespread poverty forces large number of Muslim students to make do with the religious based education.
Though there is nothing wrong with going to a madrasa but if we talk about the Muslim girl child education, families consider that their daughters ‘only’ require the Madarasa based education and have the strangest of notions that Muslim women do not need any other education.
As a Muslim feminist who fights daily on the importance of modern education for children and youth I get frustrated with the backward thinking of my own community. So when sister Papatia Feauxzar floated the idea to write on this topic, it felt like a heaven sent opportunity to raise our collective voices for the betterment of the Muslim women rights.
The need for power and control over Muslim women continues with misinterpretations of Islam and its teachings. So when volunteers like ourselves speak out we are berated for spreading anti Islamic agenda and disrespecting the male dominated religious leadership. This cultural norm of speaking over our heads, by that I mean Muslim girls and women heads helps maintain male dominance on most aspects of lives especially education.
Frankly, we see little use in serving the ‘deen’ by agreeing to community leadership and family elders mindsets set against secular and formal education for the Muslim girl child. I cannot emphasise enough the need for us to understand and address the existing religious bullying and manipulation. I am fully aware that we have to protect the most vulnerable in our community and moreover we are losing talented and vibrant sections of our community whose role is particularly important for our future and progress.
I also need to voice that Muslim women, both those born inside the faith and converts as well as little children suffer the most from this annoying “stop disrespecting scholars” argument. There is no denying the wide spread violence against women in Islamic countries, particularly situations like married women forced to stay in abusive marriages, youth oppressed to quietly accept parental abuse under the guise of “reverencing the wombs that bore you” and any interest towards formal education and learning being labelled as the “imitation of the kuffaar” nonsense.
In case of Muslim women converts and my on-going conversations with many I have observed how they have felt let down due by the very faith they choose to embrace due to their abusive experiences. They are also perplexed right so as how violence against women is in many ways condoned and supported by the Muslim communities.
Attitudes On Girl Child Education Among Muslim Communities
There are many issues that act as obstacles in way of girls and women education in the Muslim world. I come from Pakistan, where the Taliban had shot a teenager going to her school and today I feel proud of fellow citizen Malala Yousafzai for heading the world wide debate on Muslim girls education.
There are many unknown Malalas and other stories in our communities. Families due to poverty feel that spending on girls education is useless because after-all they have to grow up and get married. Muslim parents think that they wont get any lucrative benefit by educating their girls.
Community religious leadership also spins the wheel that if girls get educated they will become disobedient and westernised, refuse to do house work and accept decisions made by elders for their future.
Secondly, the frustrating notions of honour in the bodies of Muslim girls and women makes them responsible to maintain family dignity and respect so any idea of education might make them become influenced by boys.
This is interlinked with the fact that the religious schools maintain segregation and deemed as safer environment for girls; parents willingly will send their girls that are at longer distances in their misguided belief on women safety and chastity maintenance. Don’t get me started on the child abuse issue inside the madrasas, that one is for anther time.
Ideas such as Islam emphasises religious or Deeni Taleem for women, therefore worldy education has always to be avoided. Child marriage is also another virus that halts girls getting education in our community.
Young girls are forced to learn household work rather than going to school because they are to be married at young ages and parents worry that if their daughter gets a good educated, they wont be able to find a groom for her. Muslim parents of boys are shamelessly open that they require young bride and have a tendency to refuse educated girls as prospective daughter in laws.
All in all such a recipe for maximum disaster has forced Muslim women to be kept behind the shadows of religion and priesthood. Unfortunately, many Muslims are caught in a sort of time warp, ridiculously some are cherishing the desire to lead lives some fourteen hundred years backward in time whereas others are going about promoting distorted visions of Islam in the quest to maintain power and control.
With passing time, thousands of Muslim women in Asia, Europe, Africa and other places have challenged these notions because we understand what our community, our parents and teachers are telling has little to do with Islam and more to do with shame culture. There is a wave of bad-ass Muslim feminists across the globe that have studied Islam and began using the scripture as a mechanism to get back the rights to education.
We have already come out of the shadows and this change is happening right here, right now sending clear message that we the Muslim women know our rights and can debate our freedom of choices.
Collab Part II: By Papatia Feauxzar
In part I, my co-author spoke to length about the miseducation of the Muslim woman when education has always been an Islamic right for both men and women. Any subject that is mainly taught in secular schools these days have deep roots in the Muslim world. The faith element has simply been ripped out of it like it has been done with Rumi’s poetry. And guess what, it became popular; it’s bittersweet.
Now, if you don’t believe me let me cite the names of such Muslim scholars who have shaped the world as we know it.
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah was a doctor and a teacher during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu aleihi wassalam). She presented ruqayah to Rasool (sallallahu aleihi wassalam). and sought his permission to continue to practice it after she accepted Islam. She was educated and during the time of the Calif Umar (radiallahu anhu), she was in charge of the finances of the Islamic state.
Mariam Al-Ijiliya also known as Mariam Al-Astrolabi was a chief astrolabe from a reputable family of engineer and Muslim scientists.
Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a rich Muslim merchant created the first University in the whole wild world.
Last and not least, Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi whose name has been used to coin the word algorithm made unprecedented contributions to mathematics, geography, astronomy and cartography. His works even extend to algebra and trigonometry.
Among many Muslim men, these exceptional women cited above weren’t denied education as we commonly see today. If you see that men fear educated women, it’s because they know that an educated woman is not a fool and will not accept a lousy and abusive husband. If a man is confident that he depicts the qualities of a Muslim man like the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) he won’t opposed education because he has nothing to fear. People demand more if their plight is not to the standard. People only demand change when they believe that they have been oppressed or when they believed they are receiving less than par in equal treatment.
This is Muslim Legacy. This is Islamic Legacy. So why is this knowledge kept away from many Muslim girls and women in this world that is sadly dominated by patriarchs? It boils down to insecurity and control.
In order to continue to make my point, I will explain what spiritual abuse is. All the issues mentioned by Saadia Haq in part I are simply and plainly examples of spiritual abuse and I will explain why.
Spiritual abuse is the act of using coercion techniques whether veiled or covert to gain control of someone. In other words, the abuser gets away with murder by manipulating the intended target. Spiritually abusive leaders use a number of ways to achieve such a result.
First, you will notice that they have a misleading view of respect. They demand total allegiance and loyalty. For them, women must never raise their voices at their husbands. Women must always respect their husbands otherwise, they will go to hell. They brainwash women’s minds daily with that nonsense. They use religion for their own hidden agendas to control women. Now, when a woman runs away from such a marriage, can you blame her? Of course we can’t, she wasn’t taught the real and merciful Islam. She was only given a one-sided view of the faith. One day, Caliph Umar (radiallahu anhu) received a visit from a man. He found the caliph arguing with his wife so he decided to leave. The caliph (radiallahu anhu) stopped and inquired why the visitor was leaving. The visitor replied something along the lines of, “I came here to ask advice on how to treat my wife, and I come here to see that you can’t even control yours.” The caliph (radiallahu anhu) also replied with something similar to this, “She cleans up after me and does all the work around the house. Why shouldn’t I put up with her arguments?”
See, many Muslim men think that Muslim women need to be silent at all times. They think that women should have no backbones and should be only doormats. Here is a clear example that women are allowed to speak their mind and that respect is earned and not granted because you’re from the privileged gender!
Spiritual abusers are also obsessed with madhabs. If you don’t follow their particular madhab or sheikhs, you have been led astray. They LOOOOVE TO BE EXCLUSIVE. If your friends and people you know are not in that circle, drop them. They will make you lose your special exclusivity.
Spiritual abusive leaders or Muslim spouse will threaten and shame you, too. If they don’t call you a bad mother, you’re a bad woman. If you are not those, you are most likely a really bad Muslim. In many cases, you’re all that; a bad mom, a bad wife, a bad Muslim. And if you challenge their fatwas and their skewed aqeedah, you have become really bad and will burn in hell. They declare you a kafir!
Another thing you will notice with spiritual abusers is that they are narcissistic. The world revolves around them. They talk smack about you openly and covertly. If you want to defend yourself, they will turn anyone who will listen against you. They love dependence and fear independent and strong minded people. They hate thinkers who will challenge their views and pick flaws in their views and ideas. They are also greedy; ISIS for instance. If your brand of Islam is not right, you must be corrupt, do as I say but not what I’m doing. They fear abandonment. Why fear abandonment if you truly believe? A true believer knows only to rely on Allah alone that’s why.
‘The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff’ is a copyrighted collaborative feature series highlighting issues of and within the global Muslim communities. A joint initiative by two Muslimah writers, Papatia Feuxzar of Djarabi Kitabs Publishing and Saadia Haq of The Human Lens. We appreciate your support and feedback, do write us here or drop an email at email@example.com. Copyrights @2015 – 2019.
Bio: Papatia Feauxzar is an American author of West African descent and an accountant by profession. She is the force behind two blogs, Between Sisters, SVP! or A Ducktrinor Mom!
Bio: Saadia Haq holds a Masters in Business Administration, is a human rights journalist and trainer and fiery feminist of this blog!