By Fehmeeda Qureshi
Hijab and Oppression: Two words that are often taken as synonyms. Is it really what the world sees or thinks? The answer is NO. It is totally a different perspective.
According to the modern capitalist concept, women empowerment is when women come to the field of attraction. When the western world talks about the long pros of women empowerment, we forget that the term women empowerment according to the western i.e. capitalist system is a mere investment.
The term got its origin back when the women in the Western civilisation were slaves of the patriarchal system they had created. They were victims of all kinds of evils. And the capitalist system focused just on their economy and how they increase their income. That is when they realised that woman was one of the best commodities that could be used for their own economy.
They knew it that the woman would not directly step into this capitalist system as a source of income. Therefore, the term women empowerment came into being and the women who were deprived of their essential rights got attracted with the terms and conditions of this great phrase. And this is when the purpose behind bringing the term women empowerment got successful when women left their houses and stepped into this capitalist system just as a source of commodity – and moreover unknowingly.
In the name of women empowerment the capitalist system has made them naked. And our poor fellows are getting dragged and dragged towards this abyss. They are unaware that the kind of women empowerment they’re following is just a strategy to gain economy. Today they’ve become mere commodity.
The true spirit of women empowerment lies when we accept them the way they want to be. Let them make their own definition of it and not object to anything whether it’s working out or staying in, or whether it’s being wearing Hijab. Women empowerment is the process of empowering women. This puts a strong emphasis on participation in political structures and formal decision-making and, in the economic sphere, on the ability to obtain an income that enables participation in economic decision-making.
Empowerment is the process that creates power in individuals over their own lives, society, and in their communities. People are empowered if they have an access to opportunities without any limitations or restrictions such as in education, profession and in their way of life.
Empowerment stems from self-respect. It includes the action of raising the status of women through education, raising awareness, literacy, and training and also give training related to defend themselves. Political empowerment supports creating policies that would best support gender equality and agency for women in both the public and private spheres.
THE WEST AND HIJAB
Taking the former definition, the West perceived that Hijab prevents from education, taking up employment and social participation and hence, Hijab all in all affects the growth of Muslim women and makes them less empowered. But the past and present says it all different. During the prehistoric period mankind was deprived of clothes to wear. But when the revolution began our focus was added towards our clothing and that is when mankind started to create fabric to cover his body. This is what we call development. Similarly, how can a piece of cloth meant for covering can oppress women?
Woman is not defined by high heels, lipstick, make-up, pink or purple colours, whether covering her body but by confidence and potential. And Islam never objected their freedom of expression, freedom of choice, etc.
Women are ignored, or even worse, sometimes are pitied and felt bad because of their Hijab. But people are not wise to understand that they are proud of their Hijab and it can never oppress them rather protect them in their field of development.
Sikhs wearing the turban, Jews wearing the kippah, Christians wearing the crucifix or Hindu women wearing ghoonghat: these are all the same expressions of faith as our decision to wear the Hijab.
In Pre-Islamic Arabia and other societies status of women was very low and their condition worse. They treated their women brutally and gave them no rights. They looked down upon them. Advent of Islam brought a complete change in women’s lives. Islam has raised women’s status so high from below the earth that the heaven lies under her feet. The message that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ brought gave women rights in the domestic, economic, social and political spheres. The same message, Islam, has also given both women and men their dress codes.
There are no such Islamic laws that refer women to confine themselves in household duties / chores. Instead, we find earlier women who practised Hijab in every walk of life.
Aisha – Wife of the Prophet ﷺ – was an astounding scholar of Ahadith. After death of the Prophet ﷺ, Aisha’s home had become a centre of knowledge and learning.
Due to her immense knowledge in fiqh, she became one of the seven fuqaha. Khadija – the first wife of the Prophet ﷺ – was a very successful businesswoman in Arab.
Nusaybah bint Ka’ab (Umme Ammarah) was a well-known name in Islamic history who fought with bravery in battles.
Al Shifa bint Abdullah (Laylah) – She practised medicine and was highly knowledgeable. She was also assigned as a market controller during Hazrat Umar’s caliphate.
There are even great examples of women of the 20th century who have made remarkable contribution.
Zainab al Ghazali: The most recent scholar who was an Egyptian activist. She had started a group named Muslim Women Association at the age of 18 in 1936 which had a membership of three million people throughout the country.
Maryam Jameelah – A revert Muslimah who was a great author and has written over 30 books. She played a pioneer role as an activist Muslim intellectual.
Ibtihaj Muhammad – An American sabre fencer and member of United States fencing team. She is the first American Muslim woman to have competed in the Olympics with her Hijab as well as winning an Olympic medal wearing it.
Time and again, Muslim women have shown how Hijab has never been a hurdle or a barrier in their development.
WHAT REALLY HAS TO BE DONE?
It’s so sad, to see Muslim women wearing Hijab being denied their fundamental rights in today’s times. Many Muslim women face discrimination in their workplaces and are denied jobs just because they are practising Hijab and following the religion of their choice. And not only this, the Muslim students are denied their right to education. The news of Muslim students in Karnataka being denied access to their classrooms just because they were wearing Hijab, was a clear evidence to this.
It’s high time, we realise that it’s not the Hijab that is a hurdle or barrier to Women Empowerment, but it is simply the line of thought of people that is becoming a hurdle to their development.