Islamic history is full of examples of early Muslim women asking for their rights, making complaints, bringing up their grievances and having their voices heard. Most if not all of these women were not rich or famous or from the aristocratic class. The first few Muslims were mainly from the poorer class who realised that Islamic system offered them not only security but also equality. In Islam every Muslim is equal.
So I was thinking today that Islam must have offered women from this poorer social class so much freedom and so many rights. But how much does the Islamic Feminism of today take into account the problems and plight of women from the poorer Muslim classes? This is not a rhetorical question. I am genuinely interested in knowing if Muslim feminists reach out to their poorer sisters.
Many Muslim feminists champion for the rights of their sisters who need help and have means of reaching out to the public for support – for example, Saudi women’s demand to drive or the gay girl in Damascus hoax stirred many Muslim feminists into action. But these are instances we know of because these people had the means to reach out for public support. What about those silent women who either don’t have the means to ask for help or don’t know how to ask for it. What are we doing for them? Would you like to share your experiences?
A friend goes to a different poor area of her town every week asking women if they have enough food or medicine or even clothes. She has set up a local charity with friends who contribute graciously and she was telling me that she is surprised how many women need help but have no means of asking for it. She met a woman who had chopped off her thumb in a kitchen accident but had no nearby clinic for medical attention. Another woman had miscarried and developed a fever because the fetus hadn’t been expelled completely but her mother-in-law forbade her from going to the doctor because she thought going to a male doctor is haraam. A third woman was beaten by her husband who was a cleric and had told her that enduring his beating would earn her heaven. There was another woman who was taught that to massage her adult son’s feet was her religious duty! The friend is busy helping such women through donations and also dispelling myths by hiring a female scholar who goes to such women and teaches them about *real* Islam and how many rights their religion gives them.
Here is the surprising part – this friend has never heard of Islamic Feminism! It made me wonder if the ‘Movement’ is exclusively a Western construct. What do you think? When I told her about my research she was completely surprised and asked me if I think she was a Muslim feminist.
I told her she is one of the best I know.