Women and Islam

My curiosity about Islam mainly focussed on a woman’s place in the Islamic world.  The way a Muslim woman dressed was something I wanted to understand more about.  To me I felt as though women were being controlled and oppressed because they did not have the freedom like I do to wear whatever they like.  However on reflection I realize that this was quite an ignorant view to have.  There is nothing wrong with ignorant occasionally as you still have the capacity to learn, which I did.

On a visit to a Mosque I was given some literature to read by my guide and by now good friend Mohamed. He asked me to read them and not throw them away as they are religious books and you should keep them out of respect. Perhaps this gift of knowledge was also to put an end to many of my questions, which were always answered kindly and sometimes with a I can’t believe she just asked me that look on his face.  For example, me ” Mohamed, are Muslim women encouraged to work and have careers?” met with a look that said seriously? and responded with  “Of course they can some of my friends wives even have better jobs than their husbands”,  me “Oh”.

One of the brochures named ‘ Secrets of A Muslim Woman’  certainly stood out for me as I found myself  looking at my original view. In the introduction the author made a statement regarding what people may be thinking when they cross paths with a Muslim woman.

Burkah clad victims who hide their bodies away out of shame, forced marriages and honor killings, suppression and oppression of women, things that Islam totally condemns but some crazy Muslims are guilty of.

This piece of literature was written by a Muslim women who is a busy mother of four and Journalist  based in London and felt it was about time that we herd a Muslim women’s perspective from a Muslim women.  I really liked the passionate way in which she talked about Islam and the influence it had on her life and as a women.  It was well written and honest even to the point to acknowledge that yes there are some crazy Muslims who do things that contradict the teachings of Islam.  Like many other religions there are always some crazy people who take their faith to a dark place by extreme actions.  Google a religion and the word extremist and you will find that each one has it own dark story of violence against women.  It is so important to understand that the actions of a minority do not define the majority.

The covering up and loose fitting dresses for women is about modesty and similar rules also apply to men. It was interesting to learn that not all Muslim women cover their hair or cover themselves completely, it’s a choice.  Perhaps a choice that is not widely accepted in all Muslims societies but it is still a choice for some and the same choice I have about what I want to wear. Just because the choice is different to mine or yours doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just different.

Another piece of literature named Women and Islam was given to me that day and had a different effect on me.  It talked about peace and equality amongst men and women and shared verses from the Qur’an to support these teachings which was great. However what left me disappointed was the way the author chose to strengthen his message about peace and equality by comparing Islam to Judaism and Christianity.  My religion is better than your religion because… is the tone he took and unfortunately is how arguments tend to start.  The previous day I had visited the Egyptian Museum and came across an exhibition about religious tolerance in Egypt named ‘One God, Three Religions’.  On display was a document of the Prophet Mohamed’s deed explaining how to deal with people from other religious faiths through applying the principle of religious tolerance.  It would seem that the author of Women and Islam had missed that completely.

I have found that taking the time learn about something completely new like Islam has helped me to have more respect and understanding for the different religions that people embrace.    I may not surrender to any particular faith as I go through life but appreciate and I am thankful for lessons and experiences of other faiths that people have shared with me.

To be continued…….

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Covering up is also required for men

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