Those convinced of the superiority of modern values regard the social position of the Muslim woman as inferior on the basis of Islamic teachings concerning:
(1) guardianship in marriage.
(4) purdah or the strict segregation of the sexes.
Hence a growing reformist movement afoot in all Muslim countries to condemn what has been the foundation of Muslim society since its inception as “un-Islamic” and enforce laws in conformity with those prevailing in non-Muslims lands. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the inherent superiority of those Islamic teachings pertaining to women and why to tamper with them is mischief-making of the first magnitude.
Much pity is wasted by the exponents of modern feminism on the poor Muslim girl who does not have the opportunity of selecting her own spouse but must accept the husband her parent or guardian choose for her. She is invariably depicted as tyrannized by a domineering father and worthy of no personal rights at all.
An objection is often raised in regard to the Islamic system on the ground that the parents choose a husband for the girl who ought to be allowed to choose for herself. However, in all countries and among all peoples it would be agreed that a young girl who chose a husband of whom her parents disapproved would be courting disaster leading to the ruin of the family. On the other hand, no Muslim parent would ask his daughter to remain with a man whom she disliked. She would be taken home again.
In Turkey where the circle of the grown-up girl’s male acquaintances has been enlarged so as to include relations of a marriageable degree, the daughter of a friend of mine informed her father that she wished to marry Fulan (that) Boy. Her father said, “All right. But you clearly understand that if you violate one old custom, you break through all old customs which depend on it. If you marry Fulan Boy of whom I do not approve as a husband for you---remember I know something of men and you do not--you cannot come home to me in case of disagreement and divorce for I shall not receive you as I should be bound by law to do if an unhappy marriage had resulted from my choice for you. Take what I can give you with my blessing and go your way.” The girl gave in, deciding to be guided by her father’s knowledge and experience.
No Islamic institution has been more unfairly maligned than polygamy which is cited as irrefutable proof of the degradation of Muslim womanhood and interpreted as sensual license. At best our modernist reformers depreciate it as appropriate only for “backward” societies and should be tolerated only under the most exceptional circumstances. We must understand that this apologetic interpretation by our modernists has no basis either in the Quran or Hadith, but is entirely the result of mental slavery to the values of Western civilization. The horror with which the Western world regards polygamy is due to an exaggerated individualism which dominates modern society to the extent that adultery is regarded as far less abominable.
Those who demand a total ban on polygamy consciously or unconsciously want that whoever wants to marry a new wife should turn his first wife out of his house together with all her children. Otherwise they ought to have demanded that not only should polygamy be banned but divorce too should not be allowed in any case and men should be forced to live with their first wives whatever the circumstances. This is what Christianity prescribed before the advent of the modern age. How disastrous that provision proved to be is no secret.
It is a matter of shame and regret that the family laws are being mutilated in many Muslim countries so that the Holy Prophet, his Companions and our greatest divines, who nearly all married more than one wife, would be considered as “criminals” under contemporary legislation!
The Islamic laws pertaining to divorce have been almost as harshly condemned as polygamy. The permission granted by the Shariah for a man to divorce his wife in private is cited as cited as another proof of women’s inferior status under Islamic law. “Talaq” or unilateral repudiation is an unpardonable evil, they insist, because it allows a man to divorce his wife arbitrarily for the most trivial and flimsy reasons. Therefore “talaq” should be a punishable crime and only that divorce on such drastic grounds as adultery or incurable insanity should be recognized as valid by the court. While the Shariah provides a decent, honourable and dignified way for an unhappy couple, miserable in each other’s company, to part in peace, our modernist reformers insist that men and women of hopelessly incompatible temperaments be compelled by the law to remain in wedlock. And because no secular law can compel a man and woman to love each other if they do not, if they cannot find gratification together, they will be compelled to seek it elsewhere. The only alternative is to persuade the court, through lies and slander, to grant them a divorce, and create a public scandal, thus both ending as moral wrecks. Because a man who would divorce his wife without good reason would be of bad character, the woman is infinitely better off free to marry again. Yet our modernist reformers strive to enact legislation to compel him to keep her and abuse her more than ever.
Purdah/veil, or the strict segregation of the sexes, has been under no less heavy fire from our modern educated who are insisting upon the abolition of the veil as “un-Islamic” co-educational schools, female franchise, the utmost encouragement for women to seek employment outside the home and their full participation in public life. The acme of the “emancipation of women” is represented by state sponsored parades of unveiled girls in uniform marching through the streets of the capital waving banners and shouting nationalistic slogans, ladies casting their ballots at election time, public “beauty” contests where the seminude candidates are examined by the judges much as prize cattle at a fair or women dressed like men fighting in the army or working on a factory assembly-line. In modern civilization a woman is entitled to honour and respect only to the extent to which she succeeds in performing the functions of a man while at the same time exhibiting her maximum beauty and charm to the public. The result is that the role of the two sexes in contemporary society is thoroughly confused. Islamic teachings cannot tolerate such perverted cultural values. In Islam the role of the woman is not the ballot-box but maintenance of home and family. Her success as a person is judged according to her fidelity to her husband and the rearing of worthy children. A Muslim woman is expected to live in privacy. Purdah is the indispensable means to this end. While men are the actors on the stage of history, the function of the women is to be their helpers concealed from public gaze behind the scenes - a less exciting and more humble role perhaps, but no less essential for the preservation of our way of life.
 Islamic Culture, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, op. cit, pp. 147-148.
 “Polygamy from the Woman’s Point of View,” Anwar Ali Khan Soze, The Radiance Views weekly, New Delhi, January 8, 1967, pp. 13-14.
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