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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The Ugly Status Quo
Muslim women the gatekeepers of our own oppression
By Hadayai Majeed

We plan and Allah plans. Some times we say this ; however do we really understand what we are saying. I feel collectively we don't. We often try to use Allah as the cover for some very unislamic actions. "If Allah did not permit it." Well, did Allah permit it or did Allah just step out of the way of rebellious folk who were not listening in the first place?

Muslim women are fighting a battle that we have already won. We have scripture that specifically states what our role is and how we are to maintain that role. Our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the first and true liberator of women commissioned by Allah. However, many of us don't get it! We cry and whine to Imams and other leaders. We lift people up to make them our Lord (although many will not admit to this). We make Imams kings of the masaajid. "Well, the Imam said," if he is right by Quran or not. We manipulate leadership to hurt other sisters who do not fit our criterion of Muslimahhood (whatever we have decided that is supposed to be).

Muslim women are fighting a battle that we have already won. We have scripture that specifically states what our role is and how we are to maintain that role. Our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the first and true liberator of women commissioned by Allah. However, many of us don't get it! We cry and whine to Imams and other leaders. We lift people up to make them our Lord (although many will not admit to this). We make Imams kings of the masaajid. "Well, the Imam said," if he is right by Quran or not. We manipulate leadership to hurt other sisters who do not fit our criterion of Muslimahhood (whatever we have decided that is supposed to be).

Then we say there is no justice in the Islamic community for women. In some cases this is true but who can we blame when we do not follow Quran and Sunnah ourselves? How can we sit and continue to complain especially in the West when we can come and go in most communities as we please? We do not have to pay Zakat at any particular masaajid to please Allah. We do not have to attend Salatul Jumuah;it is not a requirement on us. However, if we choose we can and we should not be prevented from doing so by anyone. We can raise our voices on some subjects without any hesitancy.

One such subject is polygamy. However when sisters are abused, neglected and alienated we sometimes and often times join with unjust men to literally crucify them. "They shouldn't allow themselves to get that way," etc. Well, if she just been a better wife may be the brother would not have to be so strict."

We do not support any causes in great number that call for the nurturing and uplifting of women in general. We do not support shelters for homeless women and children, we do not protest to our leaders in any significant number about women being denied access to masaajid if they are ejected from their homes or abused in anyway. We do not support most events that are held to promote the education of women unless men are at the helm.

If we do support an event organized by a sister or sisters it better be a party or fashion show or forget it, most of us won't be there. Then we sit and philosophize and pretend to be so concerned about whatever. We leave these events and it is business as usual. Then if the local leadership shows any support or invites the sister we don't like to speak or be a part of any activity as an equal to them for whatever reason,we start to plot and create fitna hoping that she is not invited again or not shown any favor or support of the men.

In some cases we will go as far as to provoke an argument or fight with the person, then have our friends slander the person by lying and accusing them of starting the incident and being cruel. We will make sure all in the world knows via telephone so this sister can be pointed out as a "Monster." This will surely keep her quiet for a while or stop her altogether we hope. We will point out all of her faults and make sure that some leader will admonish her in ways that he would not admonish or treat a brother. We remain silent when we know brothers mistreat sisters and they are members of Shura Councils or Imams of communities. However, if a sister marries a brother we feel is too young for her, we will make her appear (to those who will listen to us) as though she is a wanton woman. This has been used to keep sisters out of leadership positions. We forget that Lady Khadijah was 15 years the prophet's senior; we forget that the prophet maintained a plural household after her death. We forget that Allah permits polygamy, divorce and whatever Allah has chosen to permit. 

If we were studying more, working in our communities more and trying to be more just ourselves we would know this and do all we can to improve ourselves to accept what Allah has permitted. We would be so busy serving Allah we would not have time to maintain anything other than what Allah has commanded us to maintain in the Quran and follow the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad (pbuh). We would be trying to emulate Lady Khadijah and Lady Aisha more. They would be our examples of womanhood and not the movie stars in the soap operas (with the roles they play of conniving, envious and vicious vixens) or the fashion models on the runways (showing all Allah has given them to keep private) or some of our female elected officials who you never know where they truly stand or if they are truly female in spirit and or actions. 

We will blast any sister who consents to marrying a brother as his other wife. We do not care if the family is not disturbed by the decision made by the brother. We forget what Allah says about the practice. We just don't care! If we don't like it, well it must be wrong! So off with all the heads of all who do anything we don't like! Again, it is not about Allah or the Quran. It is not about the example of our prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is about our feelings real or imagined. Just about our pitiful insecurities and licking real or imaginary wounds. 

We must stop hurting ourselves as individuals first if we expect others to respect us and not hurt us as a collective body. We must stop defying Allah by causing fitna in communities over small things as sisters speaking in public, leading organizations, positions on Shura Councils and Committee Chairships. We must stop trying to assassinate women who are in leadership because we just don't like them for whatever reason. "She does not dress modest enough for me," She was seen at the peace rally with those kufars," she wears red or whatever color we have decided is not holy. 

We shouldn't do this to anyone. However sisters are most vulnerable to attacks on their character, being maligned and targeted by those who have submitted to the Shaytan out of self-righteousness, jealousy and envy. This behavior is accepted from women by men and in many cases encouraged by men. Why? It keeps us from being the civilizing force that Allah has created us to be in society and challenging lazy and unjust men. It keeps us out of their way. It keeps us from asking the embarrassing questions at meetings. It keeps us from challenging them to be better before Allah. It keeps us from the meetings so we can't ask the questions. 

It keeps us from asking brothers why are some of the prayers at the masaajid not made by anyone? Why do we not have a place for women and children to go if they are in trouble and without a home? Why don't we have a recreation center for our youth. Why don't we have any clubs or social outlets in our communities for our elderly or anyone else? Why don't you help raise money to educate more Muslim children in our city? Why is it that most Muslim children are in public schools or non-Muslim private schools instead of Islamic schools? Why are we paying Jews, Christians and others thousands of dollars to celebrate Eids for short periods of time in dirty, cold buildings? Why are women put outside in tents to celebrate Eid or Iftars and the men are inside where it is warm and dry? Why don't we have an Islamic bank or credit union? 

Well, sisters how long will Muslim women collectively continue to be the Gatekeepers and maintain the ugly status quo and oppression of women. How long?
Hadayai Majeed is a freelance writer, and community, political, human and women's rights activist based in Conley, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, USA.
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