Workshop on awareness and capacity-building of Muslim Women

Bangalore: A two-day workshop was held here during 9-10 April on awareness and capacity-building of Muslim Women organized by the Indian Social Institute, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and the Talent Promotion Trust. Dr. K. M. George, Director, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore inaugurated the workshop. He said the situation of Muslim women was miserable as they were neither opinion-makers nor decision-makers.

Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer delivered the keynote address in which he said that the Holy Qur’an has two types of verses: 1. Normative and 2. Transcendental. Arab society was not culturally monolithic when the Prophet began to address and reform it. Makkah was religiously and commercially important centre and the Quraysh tribe was the custodian of the Holy Haram and the Kaaba, the pivot of sanctity. There was tussle between migrants and natives. The Bedouins used to earn their living either by grazing animals or by raiding and looting commercial caravans. Status and position of women varied between tribes and communities. Women’s status was bad due to patriarchy (dominance of men). The Prophet was tasked with transforming a society from tribal culture to a family based system. The main purpose of the religion was to change and reform the society. The Qur’an was pragmatic in the process of reform. It did not implement reforms in a haphazard way. So, although, the slavery was not abolished with one stroke, but enough indication was given that it was undesirable by asking the followers of Islam to set free slaves as a way of penance. Media today looks upon Muslim society, not the real Islam. So they malign Islam. Qur’an has extended equal rights to men and women both. The Holy Qur’an has not prohibited women from anything. Our ulama say that women should not work outside their homes. This is a cultural statement, not the religious one. Women can participate in even as combatants in the battle. Holy companion Umme Ammara shielded the Holy prophet saw when a contingent of the Makkans surrounded him in the battle of Uhud and took the direct hits on her body. The Qur’an does not say anything about assigning the role of cooking, washing and upbringing of children to women. Marriage is a social contract in Islam (meethaqan ghaleeza). You can place terms and conditions with your husbands, except that it should not be un-Islamic. In matters of divorce, custody of children, lactation, meher, Islam ensures women get a more than a fair deal. It will be women’s and children’s prerogative to decide with whom they would like to stay upon divorce. In matters of nursing of infants, it will be women who decide who should feed the child, the mother or a privately hired nurse. Meher is absolute right of wife.

The second speaker was M. A. K. Tayab IAS (Retd), former Secretary, Govt. of India, who said that Talaq was a liberative piece of social engineering. But the way it is interpreted by the Hanafi school of ulema, it may come as a shock to know that it is unknown to the Qur’an. Much of this owes itself to male- centric and patriarchal reading of the Qur’an.

The third lecturer was Kaneez Fatima who said that the Mecca Masjid blast in 2007 woke us up when we found that despite Muslims being the victims, were being accused of triggering the mayhem. Hundreds of innocent Muslim youth were picked up from Old city parts and detained without filing FIRs and were tortured. It was then that we, a group of few women formed a group called Nisa Resource and Research Centre for Women. We began to document such cases, helped the families overcome the trauma, presented such family people before the media and trained them in expressing their woes. We launched the advocacy sessions to teach the simple folk about their civil rights and how to build up pressure on the government to either launch trials or release the youth. The released youth were rehabilitated in various occupations and were even provided monetary assistance to set up businesses. Nisa has recently launched its magazine Nisa Quarterly Research magazine.

The fourth speaker was A. Faizur Rahman who said that both words Iman and Islam have connotations of peace. Aman is derived from Iman while Salam is derived from Islam. Religion of Islam ensures peace in every sector of life and development. A Muslim is supposed to get peace from his marital life. It is why all the Qur’anic rights and duties have the element of peace embedded in them.

The fifth speaker was journalist Maqbool Ahmed Siraj who said that most of our underprivileged families are caught in indebtedness, deep psychological tensions and often enmeshed in family discords. In more than 95 per cent cases, the students needing help, approach us in company of mothers, not fathers. Family’s ailments generally owe themselves to economically irresponsible fathers who are alcoholics and spendthrifts...
MG News Desk

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2011 on page no. 8

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