International Women’s Day Lecture on Is Islam Fair to Women at the Islamic Cultural Centre?

Dr. Mozammel Haque

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March every year. Now the question is when, where and how it started. This Day marked the plight and achievements of women for more than a century. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights. The first observance of a Women’s Day was held on 28 February, 1909 in New Work but March 8 was suggested by the 1910 International Woman’s Conference to become an International Woman’s Day. Since then it has developed into a formally recognised day by the UN and is celebrated around the world.


There are lots of questions asked about the status of woman in Islam. These are all questions actually raised about Islam and about the practice of Muslim community. There is something which are related with Islam as a religion and there is something which are related with Muslim practice. So, there is something we must know; there is something which we have questions about and about which we must ask questions sometimes. There is something which we are going to discuss. The question is: Is Islam fair to women? This question is always discussed about and what we said in the circles, in the media, to the community you will find lot of articles, books, speeches, talks about this: those who will say Islam is fair to woman and those who will say no. Islam is unfair with woman for many things, because of traditions etc. etc.


Is Islam Fair to Woman

Because of this dichotomy, a lecture was held by the Islamic Circle at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London in December 2017. Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, was invited to give a lecture on: Is Islam Fair to Women? Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan said, “Now we are going to discuss this objectively.  You have to think objectively; “You will go back to really real Islamic principles and sources. You don’t just pick up what anybody or one person says; go back to the sources. This is very very important as a principle.  In my talk, I always talk about to go back to the authority; go back to the sources; we always like to remember that we have the Qur’an, Alhamdulillah as it is untouched; unchanged; as it was left by Prophet (peace be upon him); Alhamdulillah. This is unchanged; we have the Qur’an unchanged. Everywhere you go you will find the same Qur’an everywhere; we make difference on the basis of how we understand the verses. That’s normal.”


He said, if there is difference it is because of the understanding of the verses which is quite normal but as regards the text itself nobody says this is missing or there is something or there are other meaning for special people, not for everybody. This is not all correct at all.


Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned, “If you find some radical ideas with some Sheikhs of Islam; some times they say like that; but it is not; because Allah the Almighty wants one religion for all people, for all mankind, men or women. It is simple logic. It is quite impossible that Allah wants to send this for all people and at the same time HE keeps some of it hidden; not reachable to somebody. This is contradictory to the principle itself. We say religion is for all mankind even it is clear in front of us; nothing special for certain people; everything is for everybody. That is the principle of Islam.”


Go back to the sources –

The Qur’an and The Hadith

Dr. Al-Dubayan always advised people if there is something confusing, go back to the sources – The Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said, “I always say to you that if you hear something; go back to the sources - The Qur’an the first one source; the second source is the tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him); provided we make sure that the Hadith is correct; Sahih; it is not faked Hadith. Because lots of Hadith are going around specially now after the social media; everybody says Kala Rasullullah the Prophet says. I have to put question mark here: Is this Hadith authentic? What is the reference? It is very important. I have seen lots of Hadiths talking about certain hours of the day, certain days, certain times, even some people say about certain rituals which are not actual; they are all fake Hadiths or weak which Muslims should not follow. They are very weak.”


Objectives of Islam

Dr. al-Dubayan then started mentioning the objectives of Islam. He said, “I would start by mentioning objectives of Islam. This is something you have to keep always in your mind. This is very very important. The objectives of Shari’ah, Maqasid al-Shari’ah; why there is law in the Islamic religion? Islam as religion is guidance; for worship etc. Also it talks about lots of rules relating to our lives; related to the society; related to ourselves; related to between man and woman; related to many things. Even for buying and selling and loans etc.”


Protection of Religion itself

Now what are the objectives of Shari’ah? Shari’ah has usually five objectives. We have to keep these five objectives of Shari’ah always in our mind. This is very important. Talking about these five objectives of Shari’ah, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “The first objective of Shari’ah is to protect the religion. Religion is something special; something very important. Allah the Almighty wanted to make it sure so that everybody follows it and the religion can stay all the days for this generation; the next generation; the other generation. So if anything you add or change anything, this is against Islam; because Islam does not want to change. That is very important. So one objective is: always protection of religion itself. That’s why the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself warns us many times about adding or removing from the Sunnah or the Qur’an. That’s the first one.”


Protection of mind

“The second one is the protection of mind. It is very important for you as a person as a society to protect your mind. That’s why wine is not allowed. It is haram in Islam; because if someone drinks he will lose his mind, he will not be the normal person, who can work or take care of his life; who can take care of his family or wife or whatever. So for this reason the protection of mind is very important, “said Dr. Al-Dubayan.


Protection of life

Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned the other two objectives of Shari’ah. He said, “Protection of life; this is the third one. Life is something very valuable and precious in Islam. You are not allowed to play with it. That’s why in Islam killing is not allowed or it is haram or very deeply haram to kill anybody. It is also haram to kill yourself for any reason. Why? Because Islam wants to protect your life; even when sometimes one is depressed, don’t know what to do, for example, they have problems in their families; problems with their jobs. In the darkest time of your life, you must not touch your life; insecure your life, because it is the right of Allah the Almighty; not in your hands. The moment you decide to finish it you are taking the right from Allah Subhanahu wa Taala. So protection of life is very very important.”


Protection of money and property

The fourth objective of Shari'ah is protection of money of everybody and the fifth objective of Sharia’ah is the protection of property, not only money, any property of anybody. Talking about this objective, Dr. Al-Dubayan explained, “Protection of property is another objective of Shari’ah. That’s why, stealing is haram in Islam; because you are taking the property of another person. That’s why; destroying public things is haram in Islam. Suppose somebody is angry with any one for something; then he goes on the street and destroys something on the street, because it is owned by the government; it is not belonged to me. In Islam it is also haram; because it is actually public property; for everybody. You are not allowed to destroy it. This is very important. You will find many many verses in the Qur’an and Hadith talking about do not attack anybody, not steal, do not take anything that does not belong to you. This is very very important.”


Protection of Environment

After mentioning five objectives of Shari’ah, Dr. al-Dubayan said we can add to this five another one in this modern time. He said, “We can add to them based on the verses of the Qur’an: protection of environment. This is also a kind of property. You cannot play with the natural resources; for example, you cannot burn forests; you cannot waste things actually wherever water itself; you cannot because Allah subhanahu wa Taala and the Prophet (peace be upon him) warn us from this. Don’t waste water even if you live on the bank of a river. Don’t waste water.”


Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned another one – the Protection of ethics; protection of the society – all these are important. Usually the scholars talk about the first five; I am adding the other three; because on the basis of the modern lives what we have to have. This is very very important, said Dr. Al-Dubayan.


Islam as a Faith and Muslim Practice

Dr. al-Dubayan wanted to distinguish between Islam as a faith and Muslim practice. He said, “Another important thing which I want to talk before I talk about woman. “We have always to distinguish between Islam itself as a faith and rules and sometimes Muslims practice something which came from their traditions; they are not Islam. Some people see them and around them in the society and they think this is part of the religion.”


“When can I know this is a part of the faith or not?  I have to go back again to the authority - to the Qur’an and the Sunnah. See how the companions themselves did into this. If you don’t find there, then there is something you practice is not part of the faith itself. But in any kind of society, anywhere in the world, they have their own traditions; local traditions, no problems; local traditions or folklores. It is okay, it is respected; as long as it is not contradict with faith itself; and as long as you did not give it the colour of the faith. But the moment you take it as a holy thing; and then you say it is something very very touchy; it is really Islam. It is not Islam. This is something we use to do in the society, but it is not part of the faith. This is very very important” explained Dr. al-Dubayan.


Forcing girls to be married

Talking about Muslim practice, traditions in the society and Islam as a faith itself, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned some of his practical experiences. He said, “I have actually seen around us in the society many things; they create problems; that does not come from Islam; that came from traditions. I will give an example - forcing girls to be married. This is not Islamic at all. You are the father, you have the right to agree but you don’t have the right to force; there is a difference between this. You have, of course, a word to say, yes or no about your daughter or about your sister or about your mother, if she is a widow or something. I am going to explain why Islam did this. Even if you agree and she refuses, her word will be higher than yours. It is more important, you cannot force. This is her mind. This is very very important. This is practiced in many Muslim societies throughout the world and some people think I am practising my right; it is in Islam. It is not Islamic. This is an example.”