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Gender relations

By Amin Valliani

Man and woman are the two wheels of human civilisation. They both spring from the same root and draw their life support from the same source.

One cannot survive without the other; the welfare of one is the welfare of the other. Their mutual indispensability requires reciprocal feelings and sentiments for each other.

In fact, nature has devised a system in which their role is closely interlinked in the social set-up of society. They support each other in procreation, sustainability and in the development of future generations. Thus, their interplay is crucial to the whole scheme of nature.

However, in most societies, the woman is considered to be weaker and a victim of social injustice, perhaps more so in Muslim societies. Some prejudiced forces erroneously link the unequal status of women in Muslim countries to Islamic teachings.
But Islam accords due importance, dignity, respect and honour to women. Even during its early years it remained supportive of elevating women’s social status and challenged many spurious and anti-women traditions of pre-Islamic Arab society.

The Holy Quran often abhors the disgusting attitude of the Arab tribes, especially towards women. For example, in Surah 16, verses 58-59 it is mentioned that when a female baby is born and the news is received by the [father], his face turns dark and the heart is filled with inward grief; he hides himself from society and being sad, thinks continuously of evilness. He ponders whether he should keep the baby girl alive with disgrace or bury her in the earth. The Quran equates the latter decision with evilness.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) worked hard to change their mindset, transform society and raise the status of women in society. He got a little over 22 years for his mission to reform Arab society — a society which was deep in the ocean of ignorance. He transformed the highly male-dominated patriarchal society into a humane one where men and women worked together.

They were made equal partners and women in particular were given rights to own property. Besides, they were given a share in inheritance from the father’s property, a choice to refuse marriage against their will, and a right to demand dower and maintenance allowance from the husband etc. These were the revolutionary changes introduced by the Prophet in seventh-century Arab society.

The reason for victimisation of women in most societies, including Pakistan, is machismo. Frequent mistreatment of women in certain areas of the country through outdated cultural practices like swara, vani, watta satta and ‘marriage’ with the Quran, etc is causing much harm to Pakistan.

In some areas of Pakistan, women are not allowed to cast their vote, while their economic activities are not counted in the national index. They are barred from getting an education and in the matter of marriage, they are forced to accept what is offered rather than to choose. In some areas, they are considered a saleable commodity and our media very frequently reports crimes against women in society.

The Quran makes it clear that both the male and female are created from a single soul (4:1) and declares them equal as far as their spiritual obligations are concerned. They are equally accountable in the hereafter for whatever they do in their material existence, but there is a promise of a good life for doing good deeds (16:97). They have been equally awarded the spiritual and intellectual potential to develop. However, biologically they have a different make-up with different functions. In society, they are to fulfil their respective roles and responsibilities.

Islam is a natural religion and encourages us to think of nature and its systems. Every individual (male and female) is indebted to a woman for his or her existence in the material world. It is the woman who conceives, holds and embraces every child and nurses him or her immediately after birth. Almost every child grows under the supervision of a woman who also provides company through thick and thin.

Keeping in view a woman’s crucial role in the building of future society, it is absolutely necessary that the nation must give priority to female health and education and elevate the social status of women. If a woman is healthy, then society will be healthy and the nation will reap the benefits of her good health. Similarly, if a woman is educated, the whole nation will subsequently benefit from her education.
In order to improve and elevate the status of women in our society, it is necessary that school curricula must be updated. All material believed to promote gender discrimination should be replaced with chapters about creating harmony between males and females.