Its the night of the 15th of Shabaan and Muslims all over the world are preparing for an eventful and pious Ramzan. Ramzan is not just a time to abstain from food but also a time to focus on what we have that others don’t and to make it available for them.
I would like to focus today on what Muslim men have that they do not use correctly or share: Agency.
Muslim men, being in a patriarchal world, have privilege and power to help their female counterparts. Yet, so many of them are either blind to what women go through, call it their “natural” role/destiny and do nothing about it, or actively make things worse for women. Does this come as a shock to you? Here is how you may be contributing:
Asking women to cover up in order to avoid rape and being looked at:
This is a particularly messy one because of our culture of Hijab, Niqab and other coverings for women. However, data has shown time and again that men who target women by making them uncomfortable or sexually violating them, do this regardless of what the woman was wearing. If you don’t believe me, check out this video of a man trying to grope an Egyptian woman who is fully covered in a burkha, including a headscarf.
Keeping your eyes off a woman and asking other men to do so is not just good manners but actually following the footsteps of the prophet.
“Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu): “Al-Fadl bin Abbas rode behind Allah’s Messenger (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) as his companion rider on the back portion of his she-camel on the day of Nahr (slaughtering of sacrifice, 10th Dhul-Hijja) and Al-Fadl was a handsome man. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) stopped to give the people verdicts (regarding their matters). In the meantime, a beautiful woman from the tribe of Khatham came, asking the verdict of Allah’s Messenger. Al-Fadl started looking at her as her beauty attracted him. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) looked behind while Al-Fadl was looking at her; so the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) held out his hand backwards and caught the chin of Al-Fadl and turned his face (to the other side) in order that he should not gaze at her. She said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! The obligation of performing Hajj enjoined by Allah on his worshippers has become due (compulsory) on my father who is an old man and who cannot sit firmly on the riding animal. Will it be sufficient that I perform Hajj on his behalf?’ He said, ‘Yes.'” [Sahih Bukhari]
This hadith gives several important rulings. One is that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) acted himself, and made other men act, on Allah’s orders to lower their gazes. [Quran 24: 27-29] We see in this hadith, that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) listened to the woman’s question and answered it while not looking at her. He also turned the face of his cousin to the side who had been staring at the woman’s beautiful face. He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) did not ask the woman to cover her face. “
If you find a man staring at a woman, muslim or otherwise, stare HIM down and ask him to behave, rather than moral policing the woman.
Not being active in domestic duties or child care:
Yet another thing the prophet was known for, was cooking his own meals, sewing clothes, taking care of the domestic animals and being generally active in the household. However, Muslim men of today sit on the sofa barking orders to the women in the house. Not only is this not following the prophet’s tradition, but going against his active dislike of people who mistreated others and abused power. Housework is not shameful and women are not lesser beings. Step up your game.
Not letting women have a voice or opinion:
Women are relegated to the kitchen and changing the babies diapers. However, it was the Prophet’s tradition to regularly consult his wives in the matter of household, finances, and even the trajectory of Islam and how to take it forward. He married a businesswoman who had her own identity independent of wife and mother. His last wife took his work forward after his death, so he clearly did not think less of women and neither should you.
Not letting women be financially independent, educated or aware:
My father and family believe in not letting me travel because I am single. I know how much I had to struggle to get my education and be a working woman. Muslim families still do not allow women to be intellectually and financially independent. They stop them at each step – be it traveling, choosing one’s husband or leaving a bad marriage. They are discouraged from growing their education and understanding, and having a say in matters, especially finance. This goes against not only how the prophet behaved with his wives but also Islam’s tradition of lifelong learning.
This Ramzan, vow to be a better man, a better human, and stop adding to systematic inequalities. For tips on parenting to raise muslim boys so that they become good muslim men who respect women and treat them well, click here.
P.S: I know that there are some problematic discourses within Islam but this post was purposely centered on using proofs from within Islam because these are some proofs/verses that everyone agrees with and so it helps to start getting believers to act more responsibly at home and around women.