Oct 20, 2010, 1:14 PM
The East today is simmering with a furore over the rights of woman and a demand in her behalf for perfect equality with man. The most noteworthy among the feverous champions of women’s rights are those men and women who in the name of Islam rave most foolishly, some mischievously alleging that Islam has in all respects maintained perfect equality between the sexes, while others, thanks to their ignorance of Islam or negligence thereof, claim that Islam is an enemy of woman, for it degrades her and lowers her status holding her intellectually deficient and assigning her a position very much as to that of animals. She is reduced to no more than a mere means of sensual gratification for man and a machine for the propagation of the human species which is sufficient to show how subservient to man she is in the sight of Islam with the result that man dominates her and enjoys an all-round superiority over her.
Both of these classes of people are equally ignorant of Islam or they intentionally confuse the right with the wrong in order to deceive others and sow the seeds of discord and mischief in society so as to further their own nefarious designs and facilitate the foul game they are out to play.
Before embarking upon a detailed discussion of the position of woman is Islam, we propose first to touch in brief upon the history of the movement for women’s emancipation in Europe, for it is this very source of mischief whence all the defecting trends in the modern East flow.
The woman in Europe and all over the world was looked upon as a mere nonentity. She formed the theme of many a discourse of the learned “scholars” and “philosophers” who wrangled among themselves over questions such as these: Has woman got a soul or not? If yes, then what precisely is the nature of her soul, is it human or animal? Supposing she does posses a human soul then what social and human position should she occupy in relation to man? Is she born as a slave to man or dose she hold a position.
This situation remained unchanged even through those relatively short spans of history when woman appears to have occupied a central position in the social set-up of the time e.g., in Greece and Roman Empire. But all this exaltation did not mean the exaltation of women inhabiting the capital cities because of some of their personal qualities which made them the life and soul of social parties. They were no more than means of diversion and entertainment for the licentious rich who applauded their appearances in public out of sheer vanity and self-conceit. But this did not signify and respect towards woman as a human being and apart from the pleasure she brought to men.
This position of woman in Europe remained unaltered during the periods of serfdom and feudalism. She in her ignorance was blandished sometimes by luxury and license and at times was content to live as animals-eating, drinking, bearing children, giving birth to others, and working day and night.
When the industrial revolution took place in Europe it brought in its wake the worst possible sufferings for woman yet experienced by her throughout the history of mankind.
Europe has throughout the ages exhibited such a rigidity and avarice of nature as lack both generosity and liberality. It made men undergo hardships without a promise of any immediate or remote material gains return. However, the economic conditions of life during the periods of slavery and feudalism along with the prevalent agricultural milieu were such as made man responsible for the support of woman. It was quite natural and in complete harmony with the spirit of the age. The woman nonetheless at that time worked in some simple cottage industries such as are found in any agricultural society. In this way she paid back the price to men for supporting her.
But with the industrial revolution the whole of the social scene underwent a radical change in the country no less than in cities. The family life was completely ruined, and the ties holding together its members were torn asunder when women and children were, thanks to the industrial revolution, forced to go out and work in factories. The working classes slowly and gradually left the country life, a life based on the principle of mutual responsibility and cooperation, and came over to cities where everybody lived a solitary life and where nobody was interested in his neighbors nor was anyone in a mood to support others but worked and earned to support his ownself. Here, there were no more any rulers of morality observed or cared for. Men and women no longer bothered about moral scruples if they but once found an opportunity to graft their sexual urge. As a result thereof the will to marry and support a family suffered decline among these people or if it still persisted in some hearts the trend was to postpone it at least some years longer.
We do not intend in these pages to dwell on the history of Europe. We are merely concerned with the factors that influence the career of woman in European history. As we said above, the industrial revolution overburdened women and children with work. This weakened the family ties, which in turn led to a complete disintegration of family life. But it was the woman who has to pay dearly. She worked harder than ever before, and lost her honour, but was still far from being satisfied psychologically and materially. Man not only shrank back from taking upon himself the responsibility of supporting her-be his wife or mother-but also charged her to provide for her ownself. In the factories, she was exploited most ruthlessly by the factory owners; she worked there for long hours but was paid far less than the men doing a kindred job in that very factory.
It is needless to ask why all this happened as we know that Europe has been for ever known for its miserliness, rigidity and ingratitude. It has never been known to respect men as men, nor to render a voluntary act of goodness while it could with impunity infect others with evils as its record of the past as well as of the present testifies; and it might as well remain unchanged in the years to come except if God Almighty should lead it to the right path and elevate it spiritually. However, weak and helpless they were, women and children suffered a most ruthless exploitation.
There were, however, some conscientious men who could not silently bear the perpetration of these vile iniquities against weaker section of the population. They struggled to put an end to this cruelty towards the children (please note, the children, not women!). The social reformers denounced the employing of children as workers in factories at an early age, burdening them with work that retarded their natural growth besides paying them scanty and inadequate wages for the burdensome and rough work they did. The protests against social in injustice did not, however, go unnoticed. They bore fruit; the age of employment was gradually raised; the wages were increased, and the working hours were cut down.
But women still remained without anyone to champion or advance their cause, as it required an intellectual refinement such as Europe did not possess. As a result thereof women pressed on her way through this ordeal overworking herself in a desperate effort to support herself but receiving in return wages far less than those given to her male counterpart-for a similar work.
In the first Great War tens of millions of Europe and American young men were killed leaving behind them millions of widowed women. These poor women suffered the worst tribulations and trials of labor. They had none to support or look after them, for the bread-winners of most of these families were either killed in war or crippled for life, or has suffered such a nervous breakdown because of fear, nervous tension or poisonous gases as had left them incapacitated for work, or they had just been released from a prison house after serving a four years’ term and now would enjoy themselves to regain their nervous self-composure. All such people has lost the will to get married and support a whole family, thus putting themselves to physical as well as material inconvenience.
The war had caused so great a shortage of men that the survivors could hardly supply their place. The factories could not restart their production nor could the war damages be repaired due to the shortage of working hands. Thus it fell upon women to go out and take the place of men, for if they did not, they as well as their dependents-old women and small children-were threatened by hunger. To go and work in the factories, however, required that woman should ignore her moral temperament as well as her feminine nature which had now become a positive hurdle in earning her living. Moreover, factory-owners did not want working hands merely; they wanted to satisfy their lust as well. The helplessness of woman now promised them an excellent opportunity of which they fully availed themselves. The woman thus has to discharge a two-fold duty: work in the factories, and try her level best to please her employer. The woman was not plagued by hunger alone; sex too claimed its share and gratification. As the number of men had fallen too low due to the war, not all the women could achieve that gratification through marriage. But the creed and religion prevalent in Europe did not allow polygamy-as Islam does-in such periods of emergency. Thus the woman in Europe was left at the mercy of her passions that swept her away bon gre’ mal gre’. Her need for bread and the urge to achieve sexual gratification beside her love for costly clothes, cosmetics etc. Were the factors that forced her to this course of life?
To be continued