Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Focus on the rights of women in Islam

The Koran puts women on an equal footing with men but over the centuries the patriarchal culture distorted the “human rights and democracy of Islam” to suit their own needs giving the fairer sex an inferior status according to Azizah Y. al-Hibri, Professor of Law at the University of Richmond in the United States.

The changed conditions for the Muslim women in the Western societies were highlighted by the Lebanese-born US academician calling for interpreting the Koran with relevance to the new environs without forcing Islam to falsely conform to Western culture.

Speaking at a Brussels event chaired by Shada Islam, an eminent journalist, Professor al-Hibri called the Koran, a “seamless web of interconnected ideas” but warned that with the passage of time it has been distorted by culture.

Citing the Holy Book’s references, the learned speaker pointed the Koran said that men and women are created from the same nafs (soul), and the Prophet himself said that women are the split halves (i.e. the same) of men, with the same religious and ethnical duties.

The Prophet expected them to play a major role in both the family and the community, the speaker added. Stressing over and over again the equality of women and men in the eyes of Koran, the professor cited ancient jurists as recognising married Muslim women as fully independent legal and financial entities, entitled to the fruit of their labour, with the same financial thimmah (capacity) as men.

Throwing out the prevailing ideas of inequality, al- Hibri highlighted the recent initiative of Muslim jurists in Morocco with the revival of an ancient line of thinking about women’s personal status code - recognising that both men and women in marriage should draw up a financial agreement relating to how they dispose of their separate incomes, property allocations or joint investments.

Drawing a line of demarcation between culture and religion, the professor urged the Muslim women to adapt to the Western culture without sacrificing the religion.

Calling for adoption of a jurisprudence that is suitable to their culture, adding, “We do not have to invent the wheel,” she warned that Islam jurisprudence should not be distorted to conform to Western societies and cultures.

Citing the Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, al-Hibri reiterated that every human being is entitled to have his or her freedom of belief to be respected by the state as part of their human rights.

Reacting to a fallacious Western approach towards Islam of “false accommodation,” al-Hibri urged the Muslim women in the Western societies to borrow from the ancient Islamic tradition which gives women financial and legal independence. Al- Hibri expressed the opinion that these beliefs fit well with a Western culture that recognises the rights of women.

Commenting on the widespectrum of intra-Islamic sects, Professor al-Hibri said, “Everybody shares Koran but unfortunately there are difference in some parts of the Muslim world.”

Quoting from her personal experiences, al-Hibri discounted the role played by these.

Commenting on Ahmadias, al-Hibri said, “I know but I don’t know enough about Ahmadias,” but in the same vein, asked to comment on Wahhabism and Saudi Arabian influence, she said, “I do not want to comment. Instead of cursing the dark, I am going to light a candle.”

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