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Five Misconceptions about Muslim women

I am a Muslim woman. I grew up in an Islamic country. I went to segregated schools, sports clubs, swimming pools, friendly parties and wedding parties. Then I chose Media as my career. I worked in different journals, made films and traveled to various cities and countries, with or without my family.

As a Muslim who believes in modesty and follows the rules of Islam, my Islamic country is an outstanding place. However, I did not realize that, until I had to leave my country. I lived in Europe for several years. I had heard that west is where the dreams of freedom come true. But after a short while, I found myself imprisoned in Europe.

I am a table tennis trainer, a good swimmer, a good basketballer, and relatively professional in many sports. In my Islamic country, I used to go to women’s sports clubs or women’s swimming pools after school since childhood. But years ago in Europe, I could not find any sports clubs that were segregated from men, so I could wear my comfortable sports set and play my favorite sports. Because there were men everywhere, and I wanted to keep my modesty, besides my Hijab.

Then a few Muslims came together and decided to rent a sports club for a few hours over the weekend. It sounded awesome, but when we went to that sports club that we had hired for women only, I realized that European Muslims who were born and raised in European countries were mostly very weak in sports. Basically because since childhood they did not have access to segregated sports clubs to learn and practice any sports. And of course, my problem was that I could not find anyone to play professionally with and enjoy playing! Therefore for as long as I lived in Europe I felt imprisoned. And when I returned to my Islamic country I was so thankful that I had sports clubs (where we have our athletic competitions), gyms, swimming pools, spas, and even women-only parks! where we could enjoy running without a scarf or taking a sunbath, and not worrying that we are doing anything against God’s will or orders. 

Talking too much about my memories of a Muslim woman was all for the goal to discuss a few misconceptions about being a Muslim woman and deprived of social rights.

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1. Muslim women cannot educate!

Well! What should I say? This article is being written by an educated practicing Muslim woman who is now educating other Muslim and non-Muslim women.

We have narrations from our beloved prophet (PBUH) that encourage us to learn until death; “Gain knowledge traveling” [1] or “Gain knowledge even if it is in China.” [2], which emphasizes the importance of gaining knowledge during one’s life time, even if one has to travel far distances and learn the knowledge from non-Muslims.

Also in another narration, our prophet (PBUH) makes it an obligation to learn, and not only an obligatory for men, but he emphasizes that it is also lifetime and necessary for women to be knowledgeable; “Gaining knowledge is an obligation upon all Muslim men and women” [3].

We also read in the history that prophet’s (PBUH) daughter and granddaughters were excellent teachers and used to teach women of their era.

The only issue that is raised about women’s education is being in mixed classes and groups with male students. In such situations, it is not women’s education that is forbidden (Haram), but like any other situation of mixed gatherings (men and women), people should be wary of their relationships. Women should avoid flirting and chatting about different issues with men if it is not necessary. The relationship between students of opposite sex is lawful (Halal) as long as there is no intention for pleasure. [4]

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"Dalia Mogahed was the US’ first Muslim woman in the White House back in 2009 and one of Barack Obama’s ‘closest advisors’"

2.They cannot be engaged in political activities!

In Islam some duties that are obligatory for men, such as defending the borders of their country if it is attacked, or working outside the house to earn money for a living. But making it compulsory for men, never means that it is forbidden for women.

“Islam views women as masters of the family and emphasizes that the family environment must become a safe, dignified and tranquil one for women so that they could do their best in fulfilling their main task which is to care for the family .” That is the reason for which there is no force on women to work and bring money for the family. [5]. And that, in fact, is the most important social activity in itself. However, if a woman would like to participate in different social and political activities, besides her role as a wife or a mother, there are no objections towards it. Muslim women have no essential duties in their homes such as cooking or cleaning or sewing, etc. unless they wish to do it themselves. Otherwise the husband could hire a servant to do the house works.

Nevertheless, the fact that women are less active in political activities, comes down to their feminine nature. Imam Ali (AS) says: “woman is like a fragrant flower, and not a champion” [6], which means she should not be expected to do tasks that are beyond her capabilities. But it does not mean that she cannot choose to do things that may naturally be against her nature.

Also, some women may not choose to do manly tasks. However, at some point, they have no choice but to do so. For example, it is narrated that at the time of Imam Ali (AS), Lady Fatima (AS) went to the mosque and performed speeches. Or after the event of Ashura, Lady Zainab (AS) took on her shoulders the responsibility that was even hard for a few strong men and performed political speeches in different places.

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3. They cannot drive!!!

There are plenty of issues that are forbidden in Islamic countries, either for men or women, which are not related to the Islamic law but go back to the old cultures and traditions of those nations. For example, wearing a veil for Muslim women, or preventing women from education, etc. are all amongst those old cultures. However, many of them have been mixed up with the Islamic law, and people regard them as religious matters instead of social conventions. But we have to be clever enough, to distinguish between the Islamic law and old traditions of different nations. The same way that Muslims do not relate mistakes of “so-called” Christians to the religion of Christianity.

Driving is forbidden for women in very few countries, and there is no firm Islamic ruling to support it.

In fact driving in today’s world, makes traveling safer for women and there is no rational opinion against it.

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4. They cannot play sports!

There are many narrations from our Prophet (PBUH) that encourage people to do sports which are common in their time such as swimming, horse riding, and archery, and in those narrations, women were never excluded. In fact, no reference shows sports to be forbidden (Haram) for Muslim women. But in this case, again it is the issue of modesty and Hijab that should be observed.

Regarding sports that are forbidden (Haram), there is no difference between men and women. Sports that are connected to gambling or may harm the player are forbidden (Haram) for both men and women.

5. They cannot have fun!

There is no problem for women having fun if they do not commit a sinful act; and again, there is no difference in this between men and women. The only point for women is that they should consider to keep their hijab and modesty (Haya) and do not join activities that may harm their chastity. You can read about forbidden (Haram) and lawful (Halal) fun in Islam in related articles.

Reference

[1] Wasa’el al-Shi’a, vol. 27, p. 27

[2] Dailami, Irshad al-Quloub ila- al-sawa, vol. 1, p. 165

[3] Amali Al-Sadouq, p. 419.

 [4] http://farsi.khamenei.ir/treatise-content?id=119#4285

[5] http://www.leader.ir/en/content/8101/Western-attitude-towards-women-must-be-challenged

[6] Ghurar al-Hikam & Durar al-Kalem, p. 759

 

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