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9 things men can do for women in Muslim countries
by Abdul Malik Mujahid
Women's rights in Islam is not a "women's issue". It is a concern of all Muslims. Islam is a way of life, Muslims regularly explain, and this includes how women are treated.
This is why Muslim men are not the "enemy" in the fight for women's rights in Muslim countries. Rather, they are the brothers of Muslim women, who not only should but must stand up for justice and support women's rights within the framework of the Quran and Sunnah.
There are practical things you as a man can do living in a Muslim country. They do not take much time, but these small steps pave the way towards a society that is Insha Allah (God willing) just, not just for women, but everyone.
1. Examine your own attitudes
Start at home. How do you treat your mother? Or your younger sister? Is it like the family member you love and are Islamically required to care about? Be honest and critical.
2. Find out what the Quran and Sunnah say about women
Too often, we assume that if we are living in a Muslim society, that everything that is passed off as "Islamic" there really does fit the bill. That's not always true. Attitudes towards women are one very clear example of that.
Plan to read and find out more about women's rights in Islam. Make sure to consult reliable books and scholars. Make sure that if a scholar or book is saying something about women, they have proof from the Quran and Sunnah. As well, make sure the scholar you are consulting is someone well grounded in Islamic knowledge, has studied at a reputable Islamic institution, and he treats the women of his own family with respect and care. One book you can consult on women is Gender Equity in Islam by Dr. Jamal Badawi or Dr. Hasan Turabi's book: Women in Islam and Muslim Society.
3. Read about the female Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
Reading about the lives of Khadija, Aisha, Hafsa, Umm Salama, Sumayya, Nusayba, Rumaysa (may Allah be pleased with them all) and more will make you see how women were very much part of the struggle for Islam in the early days. You will gain a greater appreciation for how much women, like men, sacrificed and struggled for the sake of Allah.
4. Change your practices
Changing negative attitudes, habits and practices are difficult but not impossible. It takes conscious effort, on a daily basis. Make Dua (supplication) and keep trying to change the negative. Make it almost automatic. When you think or are about to say something which is not in line with the Quran and Sunnah's views on women stop yourself before continuing and ask yourself-am I right or is Allah right?
5. Speak out against anti-women "guy" talk
This is the hard part. Helping your male relatives and friends correct their own negative attitudes. When you find your buddies making incorrect statements about women or talking obscenely about them (which is not allowed in Islam anyway), speak up. It's hard, but using wisdom and beautiful preaching is key in this. The added advantage of this is that it will help reinforce your corrected views on women.
6. Support women's literacy and Islamicity
The rate of illiteracy amongst women in Muslim countries is not only unacceptable, it's unIslamic. Teaching women how to read and write will not encourage them to turn away from Islam (as sadly, some people still believe). Rather, a woman who knows how to read and write and is Islamically focused is a tremendous asset to her family and the Ummah.
Supporting women's literacy and Islamicity can be done in your own home simply by ensuring your female family members have access to female tutors and teachers and classes which teach reading and writing, as well as at least the basics of Islam (i.e. learning how to read the Quran, Seerah, everyday Fiqh, etc.). As well, make sure your home has a good library of books about Islam for the benefit of all family members.
7. Praise women
This is a small step but its results cannot be underestimated. In societies where women and their "traditional" household work are either ignored or under appreciated, praising women for what they do is a way to remind them that they are valuable members of a household and by extension of society. Their work is not for nothing and Insha Allah, they will be rewarded in this life and the next for it. This positivism needs to be regularly emphasized.
8. Treat your daughters like the Prophet did
Our blessed Prophet never hit his daughters, insulted them or put them down. They were his only surviving children and he had no sons who lived past infancy. This was in a time when people used to bury their baby daughters alive and scorned girls and women.
This is a profound example for fathers today. Act on it. It's hard not to favor sons over daughters when there is so much pressure to have someone carry on the family name, for instance. But just remember the Prophet's example, and remember that on the Day of Judgment, your family name will make no difference to Allah. It is only your belief and deeds He will care about.
9. Use your authority
If you are in some kind of position of authority, consider using your influence to challenge unIslamic attitudes towards women. Why not write letters to newspapers or articles about this topic? Why not hold seminars on women's rights in Islam in your workplace?
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------Some relevant resources:
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