Challenges Before Muslim Women (October 22, 2009)
New Delhi, October 15: Muslim women are faced with a number of difficult choices in a fast globalising world as they have to make their personal and public decisions in the light of “the Islamic paradigm”.
Dr Zainab Alwani expressed these views here this evening in her lecture at the Institute of Objective Studies auditorium. Dr. Alwani is programme director Arabic Language Studies, North Virginia Community College, USA.
In her thought-provoking lecture attended by many young women, a few young men and some elders, she elaborated upon her idea of the Islamic paradigm. “The paradigm’s core ideas are based on istikhlaf (vice regency)”. That, in short, means, human beings (men and women) are God’s viceroys on earth.
Quoting the Quran’s Surah Al-Baqrah and Surah Taubah she said men and women were here to “bear witness” to God’s Will. “A witness is always present, active and involved to be a real witness”, she explained. The viceregent has to ensure a balance and sense of proportion in both the private and public, personal and political domains.
“That entails spreading the good, checking the evil and establishing payer”, she pointed out. To live such life one has to be responsible and enlightened as an individual. Such individuals build a pure society.
The topic of the lecture was “Challenges Before Muslim Women in the Global Scenario”. She restricted her lecture largely to theoretical issues and to her experience as a Muslim woman in the United States.
She said the drift and uncertainties of a post-modern world had once again put women (particularly Muslim women) at the centre of life. “Women are natural teachers, as were the Ummahatul Momineen (wives of the holy Prophet PBUH) who imparted Islamic learning to the first and second generation of Muslims”.
That model still works, she pointed out, as mothers are still the first teachers of children. She talked about the challenges of an appropriate education for young generations. Women have to come forward to meet this challenge and guide their children’s education, she said.
She particularly emphasised the development of an appropriate methodology in Islamic jurisprudence as yesterday’s methodology cannot solve today’s problems. “Sometimes US imams in the mosques quote rulings by Arab, Indian and Pakistani ulama, but they may be right for the Arab, Indian and Pakistani situation, not necessarily for the reality of Muslim life in the US”.
She talked about “different layers of US Muslim society”, with their own sets of challenges. First, there are the immigrant Muslims who have to adjust to the realities of US life. Then there are the local converts to Islam who have to learn the ways of Islam and adjust to the Muslim society. Above all, there are African-American Muslims who have been there for the last two centuries, but have started getting empowered in the last five decades only.
At the centre of all this flux is the Muslim woman in the United States. There are similarities between the US woman’s life with that of her sisters everywhere. In the midst of so much change it is the Islamic paradigm that hold everything together.
At the end of it there was a lively question and answer session. Chairman of the IOS Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, who for a change was sitting in the audience all through the proceedings, came up to the lectern to propose a vote of thanks.
He had an advice for the many young women and young men to involve themselves in the Ummah’s affairs and also contribute to the continuing discourse on Muslim life.