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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Women and Islam by Fatema Mernissi- A Brief Review

Posted by
Venu K.M


“ Fatema Mernissi has done an epoch making and scholarly exploration of the Suras (original Quranic verses) and the Hadits (accounts by the Companions of the Prophet about how the Messenger of God responded to challenging moments in the lives of first generation of believers,methodically cross checked and compiled by religious scholars who lived in the first two centuries of Islam) along with the interpretations since then. The major findings of the author are the following:
1. The Prophet undoubtedly wanted no separation between the public and private realms of life.
2. His vision of a monotheistic universal faith is absolutely egalitarian and that is a world in which women could shoulder equal roles with that of men in political, social and economic realms with a view to creating a new world that would assure peace and happiness to all humans.
3. While Islam would not sanction the practice of slavery among the believers, continuation of that institution for several centuries was possible in the actual Islamic regimes thanks to the denial of option (to the new religion )to the prisoners of wars, who were mostly women from the pre Islamic kingdoms. However,their children were considered free persons. These women were treated as slaves and they were traded off or exchanged as booty.
4.The descend of Hijab,the physical as well as the symbolic separation of private and public spaces happened as a response to the grave crisis in the Medina period,which corresponded to the later phase in the life of the Prophet. Years between Hejra 3-8 (AD 625- 628) were critical periods of crisis characterized by severe losses and uncertainty both on the side of military expeditions and on the socio-economic life of people.
5. Even while the Prophet together with his wives and many of the articulate women in the Medinese city continued adherence to the principle of equality( between men and women) , they encountered lot of social abuses on account of this.
6. The prominent of the male Companions led by his son in law Umer continuously pressed on the Prophet to impose restrictions for women. They persisted on the view that solution to the above crisis of credibility and above all the insecurity, was in the separation of the Muslim space into two- public space was to be preserved as exclusive domain of men, and the private space as the secluded space for women- both these spaces to be separated by a Hijab-
7. The Hijab ultimately descended from the Heaven as revealed to the Prophet during the night of a wedding dinner in connection with his first night with Zainab in the year Hejra 5 (AD 627). The immediate provocation of the incident, according to a Hadith, was boorish behaviour of three men who continued to linger there chatting, sitting in the room without leaving the place even after the dinner; Prophet was eagerly waiting to be left alone in the company of Zainab, his new bride sitting in the same room. ”

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always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values  

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