Women: In politics - a general outlook

Q684 :Women: In politics - a general outlook

A684 : When we consider the life and needs of any family, it is easy to identify two main tasks which must be properly undertaken and fulfilled. These are the satisfaction of the immediate needs of the members of the family, including the provision of food, water, clothes and accommodation. The other aim is to ensure the continuity of the family which entails the upbringing of the young generation. It is very difficult to try to state with absolute accuracy that the one task is more important than the other. If we look at the life of a family as a continuing process, not limiting its concern to the immediate but also looking forward to the future, then the needs of tomorrow are just as important as those of today. It may be argued that if we cannot survive today, then tomorrow is of no importance. That is a narrow vision because it seeks to isolate one phase of a continuous process, making the end of this phase an end to the whole process. The point is that if we survive today, then tomorrow is with us before we can realize it. Unless we are prepared for it, we could not know how to use it. Moreover, the needs of today take precedence only in as far as they are more immediate. That does not mean that they are more important, but they are needed earlier. In a family set up, it is important to assign different tasks to different members, according to their talents and skills. This is the sort of logic which is applied in all walks of life. There is no reason why it should not apply to family life. When we study the nature and temperament, as well as physical strength, susceptibilities and leanings of men and women, we are bound to come to the conclusion that each of them is naturally equipped to fulfil one of the afore-mentioned tasks. The man can more easily look after the family home and the young generation which ensures the continuity of the family. It is not surprising, therefore, that in all human societies, past and present, men have tended to look after the immediate needs of the family, and provide for its present generation while women look after the young, provide them with care and love which they undoubtedly need. It cannot be said, as some philosophers have tried to argue , that man has been able to subdue the woman with his physical strength and compel her to do the less important tasks which he was unwilling to do. The fact that this has been the chosen order since time immemorial and across continents and civilizations confirms that it is the natural order. Any change would involve reversal of roles. Any society which will attempt that reversal will find out soon enough that it causes itself many more problems than it can cope with. If we look at life on earth and in the universe, we soon come to the conclusion that there is hardly any redundancy in the system of creation. Every creature and every species has a different role to play. None is created in vain. No two species have exactly the same qualities or tasks. Moreover, in every species the female plays a different role to that of the male. The two roles are usually complementary. All creations have accepted this system and abided by it. None tries to break its smooth, natural working. Only human beings try to advocate that from time to time. Yet the system implies that the roles of men and women are different because they have different characteristics. Otherwise, they would have had to be created in the same mould. Having said that, I should add that the differences between man and woman are not absolute. Neither are their tasks absolutely clear-cut with inviolable lines of demarcation. Indeed, the tasks are mutually complementary with certain areas in each of them stretching deep into the area of the other. Allah's design is perfect and His creation complete. In life, there are many occasions when either partner is called upon to do partly or wholly the task of the other for a short or long period. There is period of sickness or absence, short or prolonged, and there is premature death of either partner. In any of these cases, one partner may have to fulfil the duties of the other in addition to those of his or her own. Many a young woman faces the prospect of bringing up her family on her own after the death of her husband. In His perfect design of creation, Allah has given us the possibility of tapping additional resources which in the normal course of events we hardly ever use. When we add this inherent flexibility to the fact that Allah has made every individual different from the rest of mankind, we understand the secret of the richness of human life and the great variety of talents, capabilities, skills and characteristics which we exhibit. It is not surprising, therefore, that some women come close to men in their characters, while some men have a good measure of tenderness which characterizes the womenfolk. All the foregoing support the conclusion that men and women have different roles to play in this life, but these are also made flexible enough to be able to understand each other's role when the need arises. For this reason, Islam stresses the complementarity between the roles of men and women and allows each of them to undertake some of the responsibilities of the other when the need arises. As far as politics and government are concerned, these relate to meeting the immediate needs of the society. In other words, they are part of looking after the present generation, although by doing so we make it easier for the future generation to fulfil its own needs. Therefore, these are parts of the domain of men. But that does not prevent any woman from taking part in politics. Nor does Islam require Muslim women not to take an active interest in the political affairs of society. Indeed, to care for the affairs of society is required of all Muslims, men and women. Islam considers women equal to men and assigns to them all the rights and privileges which they should enjoy on an equal footing with men. Long before modern societies spoke of the equality between man and woman, Islam established this equality on a sound basis. It allows a woman to own any property and to invest her money in the way she likes and to conduct her business independently of man and to dispense with what she has in the way she thinks fit. It does not stand in her way if she wants to play an active role in the social life of the community, nor does it prevent women from being involved in politics. It does not approve, however, of a woman taking the leadership of government. In other words, Islam does not allow women to be heads of state, but it allows them to take up any other post in government. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the lady who has contested the elections for a seat in the council, nor is speaking up on politics denied to women. I do not wish to pass any judgements on those women politicians in Bangladesh and Pakistan, but I am only stating a principle of Islamic legislation. [Added: A woman is not permitted to lead a congregation that has even a single man in it - Also refer the next question.]

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )