Indian Muslim Women in Contemporary Age

The position and status of the Muslim Women in India is struck between the trends of textuality and legality. The issues of the Muslim women in India are guided by the Muslim Personal Law which is not codified and blamed of being patriarchal in their mindset while on the other hand the constitution of India which is above all provided fundamental rights for all its citizens of India.

Reclaiming rights by Indian Muslim Women in Contemporary times attracts the reader to read about the initiation of Muslim women in India about re-asking of the rights by the Indian Muslim Women in the era of twenty first century. The Indian Muslim women repossess and claimed back the rights and privileges which are given to them by the Quran.

The Quranic verses or the exegesis of Quran was interpreted mainly by the earlier male scholarship who were mostly in their views are observed as orthodox and customary hence, the women who themselves felt the curse of discrimination through ages in name of Islam stood and decided to fight back against all patriarchy and gender injustice in the name of Islam.

Habiba Abugideiri states that the earlier interpretations claims the male authoritativeness and thus shaking the very foundations through the interpretive lens for understanding the religious knowledge from the women perspective and claiming the earlier authority as an authoritative incontestable, constructed, value laden and context specific.

In the era of modernity and change where world is moving from better to the best in adapting the new technology, resources and livelihood , the India Muslim women asked for the reinterpretation of the Quranic exegesis with the mode of flexibility, and rationalism which was already in Quran but largely ignored under the patriarchy and male superiority .

The implementation of the rational and logical interpretation of the Quranic exegesis according to the contemporary issues and challenges is not new rather it was justified from the Quran and the prophet himself in the name of ijtihad i.e. logical reasoning.

Several groups like Mutazzilities followed the concept of logical and independent reasoning but they got accused of extremism and going too far in their questions while in the tenth century the four major schools of jurisprudence came and they closed the gates of ijtihad as they began to see that questioning may results in their ability to rule and can create confusion in their autocratic rule .

So, they focused themselves on the method of taqlid or the imitation of the earlier sources and officially closed the gates for an independent reasoning. Nevertheless in the 12th century the rationalistic and deductive reasoning attempts were initiated by the doctrine of Sufism which focused on the self and independent reasoning.

Several scholars like Al Farabi, Avicenna, Al marri, Averroes rejected the closure of the gates of ijtihad and asked for the strict rational methods to decide the matters in contention and discussions. 

While later in 18th century the rationalistic approach was favored more openly by the pioneers of ijtihad like Muhammed Abduh from Egypt, Shah Wali Ullah and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan from India who favored the scientific inventions and techniques from the west and also asked Muslims to adapt themselves according to the time and conditions for the attainment of a standard livelihood focused on education and the doctrine of ijtihad.

On the advent of 20th century the doctrine of ijtihad or independent reasoning was favored by the Muslim scholars like Rashid Rida, Syed Mawdudi and the revivalists like Mohammed Iqbal and Fazlur Rehman.

Discussing interpretation the most debated question of the role of Women and gender justice arises with its issues and challenges of the 21st century. The journey of the women from past experiences of Pre modern Arab society i.e. jahilya to the present time is full of thrilled experiences and changes, where women were considered only as commodities and today they are considered as the power of change.

Their roles have been totally changed from the private spheres to the public spheres. Several women themselves took the initiative to re-read the Quran and to know about their rights and privileges which were given to them by their God.

The first step of attempting an exegesis of Quran was relied with no other than the wife of prophet Hazrat Ayesha who herself was an independent scholar and teacher of many including men as well as women. The other were Ziyb an Nissa begum, Nusrat Begum Emin, Ayesha binti Sati who firstly involved a women perspective while reading Quran, Zainab al Ghazzali, Sema Kurun Cekmegil, Fevkiyye as Sirbini who focused on the women perspective while interpreting the Holy Quran and criticized the male scholarship for being too dominative and manipulative on the social and economic rights of the women which are equitably instructed by the words of Quran.

While following 19th and 20th century the women scholars of Quran came in front of the picture reclaiming the reform and the re-interpretation of Quranic exegesis from the women’s perspective. These interpretors were Riffat Hasan, Azizah al Hibri, Asma Barlas, Sadiya Sheikh, Kecia Ali and Amina Wadud who re-read the exegesis the popularize the versus from the Quran which shows that the Quran has provided equal rights to men and women with a sense of flexibility according to the circumstances.

They accused the most of the classical male scholars for adopting patriarchy and suppressing the role of women as not being equal as male. Their interpretation of Quranic exegesis realized that the suppression of women is not valid in the name of Islam, she was not born to be obeyed and to perform the duties of merely an inferior being but she is also given a matter of choice as significantly focused in the matter of her marriage as a contract.

The position and status of the Muslim Women in India is struck between the trends of textuality and legality. The issues of the Muslim women in India are guided by the Muslim Personal Law which is not codified and blamed of being patriarchal in their mindset while on the other hand the constitution of India which is above all provided fundamental rights for all its citizens of India.

The Muslim Women who basically got discriminated under the Muslim personal law knocks at the door of the legal measures and at the same time the tussle between the Muslim Personal Law and the legality of Indian Law came in contrast to each other in form of chaos in the society at both sides. Muslim personal law in the habit of thinking itself as superior to all laws at the end violates women by tagging them as un-Islamic if they ask the Indian law as seen in the case of Shah Bano, 1985.

However, the Muslim women activists in India started to raise their voices against the oppression and the discriminatory practices of the Muslim Personal law. Several organizations stood for the cause like All India Muslim personal Women law board to counter the practices which discriminate women’s rights, Awaaz e Niswaan, Federation of Muslim women of Bangalore, Muslim Women’s rights network and most importantly Bhartiya Muslim Mahilla Andolan who on their individual behalf have done a lot of improvement for the betterment and welfare of Muslim women.

These organizations with the help of the Women interpreters of the Quran made a broad understanding of the legal issues of the Muslim society like divorce, khula, mehr, contraception, veil, polygamy, domestic violence, women’s qazi etc. and they also ask the interference of the Indian law to end these ill and evil practices in the name of religion.

Thus, in Indian context the Muslim women has recognized the need of the time and raised their voices against the oppression and the discrimination they faced from the male clergy over a long period of time. From the view of different Muslims this initiation of voices from these oppressed women are termed merely as political game or as a nonsense demand but according to me the reality is only understood when the individual himself, who feel the curse of dominancy and the supremacy. Thus for me this initiation of Muslim women voices will make a landmark on the history as well as on the patriarchal mindsets of male towards an equality , respect and dignity of a woman as provided by the Quran.

Sania Jamal

 

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3 Responses

  1. Mohd Faisal says:

    Woman of spirit,
    Nicely presented….

  2. Mini sharma says:

    Well written

  3. Dr. Nazly Fatima (PT) says:

    Good work u r doing ☺….. Very well written dea

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