Woman's Value: Is Man the Standard?
These last few years witnessed some revolutionary changes concerning the nature, position and function of women. Many international conferences, agreements and laws came about all in one direction; changing the current situation of women and altering their God-given motherly feminine nature. Some of them got obsessed by the idea of imitating men in every aspect that they led men and women side by side in (Jum`ah) Friday Prayer.
Women think they took a huge step towards being more like men. But, did we come closer to actualizing our God given liberation? I Don't think so.
Almighty Allah praised women in the Glorious Qur'an saying,
(And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise.) (At-Tawbah9:71)
And when Almighty Allah gave an example for the believers, He chose two women,
(And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: "O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong"; And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants).) (At-Tahrim66:11,12)
What we so often forget is that Allah has honored woman by giving her value in relation to Him not in relation to men. But as western feminism erases God from the scene, there are no standard left but men. As a result the western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to man. And in so doing she has accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that man is the standard, and thus woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man - the standard.
When man has his hair cut short, woman wants to have her hair cut short too. When he joins the army, she wants to join the army too. She wants these things for no other reason than because the 'standard' has them. What she does not recognize was that Allah dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness—not their sameness.
For 1400 years there has been a consensus among the scholars that men are to lead prayer. As a Muslim woman, why does this matter? The one who leads prayer is not spiritually superior in any way. Something is not better just because a man does it. And leading prayer is not better, just because he's leading. Had it been the role of women or had it been more divine, why wouldn't the Prophet have asked Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), or Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her), the greatest women of all time, to lead?
These women were promised heaven and yet they had never led prayer (in the congregation of men), but only in the congregation of women.
But now for the first time in 1400 years, we look at a man leading prayer and we think, 'That's not fair.' We think so although Allah has given no special privilege to the one who leads. The imam (of Jama`ah) is no higher in the eyes of God than the one who prays behind.
Why Men Cannot be Mothers?
On the other hand, only woman can be a mother. And Almighty Allah has given special privilege to the mother. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that Heaven lies at the feet of mothers when he said,“Be at your mother’s feet and there is the Paradise” (Ibn Majah). But no matter what a man does he can never be a mother. So why is not that unfair?
When asked who is the most deserving of our kind treatment? The Prophet replied 'your mother' three times before saying 'your father' only once.
Isn't that favouring? No matter what a man does he will never be able to have the status of a mother. Almighty Allah says,(…In travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in two years was his weaning…) (Luqman 31:14)
And yet even when Almighty Allah honors us with something uniquely feminine, we are too busy trying to find our worth in reference to men, to value it or even to notice it. We too have accepted men as the standard; so anything uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a mother, a degradation.
In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and self-less compassion (considered feminine), rationality reigns top.
As soon as we accept that everything a man has and does is better, all that follows is just a knee jerk reaction: if men have it, we want to have it too. If men pray in the front rows, we assume this is better, so we want to pray in the front rows too. If men lead prayer, we assume the imam is closer to Allah, so we want to lead prayer too. Somewhere along the line we've accepted the notion that having a position of Worldly leadership is some indication of one's position with Allah.
A Muslim woman does not need to degrade herself in this way. She has Allah as a standard. She has Allah to give her value; not man.
In fact, in our crusade to follow men, we, as women, have never even stopped to examine the possibility that what we have is better for us. In some cases we even give up what is higher only to be like men.
Fifty years ago, society told us that men were superior because they left the home to work in factories. We were mothers. And yet, we were told that it was women's liberation to abandon the raising of other human beings in order to work on a machine. We accepted that working in a factory was superior to raising the foundation of society, just because a man did it.
Then after getting into the work field, we were expected to be superhuman - the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect home-maker - and have the perfect career. While there is nothing wrong, by definition, with a woman having a career, we soon came to realize how much we had sacrificed by blindly mimicking men. We watched as our children became strangers and soon recognized the privilege we'd given up.
And so only now - given the choice - women in the West are choosing to stay home to raise their children.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only 31 percent of mothers with babies, and 18 percent of mothers with two or more children, are working full-time. And of those working mothers, a survey conducted by Parenting Magazine in 2000, found that 93% say they would rather be home with their kids, but are compelled to work due to 'financial obligations'. These 'obligations' are imposed on women by the gender sameness of the modern West, and removed from women by the gender distinctiveness of Islam.
It took women in the West almost a century of experimentation to realize a privilege given to Muslim women 1400 years ago.
Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something I'm not -- and in all honesty -- don't want to be: a man. As women, we will never reach true liberation until we stop trying to mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given distinctiveness.
If given the choice between stoic justice and compassion, I'd choose compassion. And if given a choice between worldly leadership and Heaven at my feet (as a mother) – I'd choose Heaven.
received her B.Sc. in Psychology and her Masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison,USA. She worked as a teacher in Granada Islamic School and Salam Islamic School in Santa Clara, CA. She is the Sister's Youth Director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee (ISM). She has recently completed her book chapter: "The Remaking of Islam in the Post-911 Era". She is a staff columnist for InFocus
newspaper, a public speaker in Islamic conventions and a freelance writer.