This article is in response to a piece written by Muhammad Ammar Faizan for Roznama Express, that was published last year — on March 7, 2013 — titled Naya aurat ka janam, which roughly translates to, “The birth of a new woman.” The article can be accessed at this link.
I was supposed to publish this to my blog last year, as soon as this despicable piece was published, but for some reason I never got around to doing it. I did, however, write on this a long while back many thanks to my dear friend, Ayesha Sultana, who helped translate the piece for me, as my Urdu-speaking and writing/reading skills are a little weak. We both felt it was necessary to write a response to this article, despite it being in Urdu, because it is extremely misleading; Ammar Faizan makes a lot of blatant claims, which are thoroughly inaccurate and defaming to women. I tried my best to cover most, if not all, of the distasteful, narrow-minded allegations that Ammar Faizan made about women in his article, so if I missed anything or if there is anything else that I should have also addressed in this piece (for those who can read and understand Urdu), please do not hesitate to bring it to my attention in the comments section below.
Anyway, so, why is this article so deeply problematic, you may perhaps wonder? Well, first off, Ammar Faizan starts the piece with a quote by Allama Muhammad Iqbal, saying that Iqbal claimed that the woman is of the “weak mind” and that her “creative function” belongs to her womb, which explains why women who give birth are more intelligent than those women who don’t, or can’t, have children. While it is understood that Iqbal was a renowned poet, philosopher and a politician, it is senseless for Ammar Faizan to quote Iqbal on his ‘supposed’ views on women, without any scientific research or proof to back it up.
The fact that Iqbal considered motherhood to be a woman’s most important role does not mean that he was not aware of women’s trials. He took serious note of the socio-legal problems faced by Muslim women in India, and wrote as early as 1904, ‘The most sensitive issue in…social life is the rights of women…Western scholars have wrongly criticised Islam on the rights of women. This criticism applies not to Islam… but to those legal opinions of the Muslim jurists which they have derived from the more general principles of the Quran…These individual opinions are not essential components of the religion.
Hence, Ammar Faizan has deeply misunderstood Iqbal’s quote for although, as Dr. Hassan said, his views about women were deemed to be culturally conservative, it did not, however, encompass his total philosophy. And certainly, he did not think women to be “weak” or “unintelligent” simply due to biological complexities.
Another claim that Ammar Faizan makes is that women who don’t/can’t have children are not only intellectually lacking, but that they also lack leadership abilities, whereas men are “natural-born” leaders, and are hence made for creating ideas. Ammar Faizan basically asserts that the reason we do not have any great women leaders and scholars is due to the reason that we do not have “great,” “pious” and “respectable” women anymore. It is erroneous for Ammar Faizan to make this claim, without any scientific source or historical proof to back it up. What makes him think that women can’t lead or become leaders? There are and have been many women leaders, albeit some corrupt while others very influential, in our history and even in our time; these include Cleopatra VII, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, and Aung San Suu Kyi – to name a few. In addition, women, especially in the West, typically have power and influence in both political and economic life, displaying autonomy from men in their pursuits, and rarely find themselves confronted or constrained by a male strength.
Thus, education for women is eminent in their development as great leaders. Yet, Ammar Faizan disagrees, for he tended to agree with “scholars,” who believed that women shouldn’t be sent to school, nor that they should be taught how to read or write, because if they learn and attain these skills then they will become “immoral” and end up writing love letters. This ridiculous and obtuse way of thinking clearly indicates that Ammar Faizan does not understand at all the importance and purpose of education, especially for women. He mindlessly assumes, without any evidence or proof once again, that women become “corrupt” as soon as they get access to a pen and paper — a typical mind-set common in many societies around the world. Yet, this is a highly erroneous assumption and is hence very degrading to women. There are many women who genuinely want to learn for the sake of knowledge and learning, and in turn want to become great professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, scientists, politicians, etc., and serve for the betterment of humanity.
Moreover, the concept of modernism is also misunderstood, for it is more than often assumed that in order to be modern is to become corrupt, or, in other words, become “westernized.” There are many like Ammar Faizan, who misconstrue modernism and think it to be synonymous with being “western” and that it has led women to break all rules of Islamic life. Yet, what they fail to realize is that in order to be modern is to be progressive – and progressive in the sense that is perfectly aligned with the rapidly changing world. Progression has nothing to do with breaking Islamic rules – rules that are not necessarily stagnant. And, so, for Ammar Faizan to state that a modern woman is nothing but a “disgrace” to womanhood because he believes that all “modern women” scream on the street, publish violent writings, and speaks in seminars is misogynistic and deeply flawed.
Ammar Faizan seems to romanticize the “oppressed” woman to a high degree, claiming that that was the best thing for her. He shows immense praise and support for women who are obedient housewives and tend to their husband’s needs, for, to him, these are “true” and “real” women, whereas those who don’t are not, and hence a disgrace to society. Indeed independent, strong, rebellious and opinionated women are a huge disgrace to society! And the sooner we get rid of them before they spread their “disease” to other women, the better! (Strong sarcasm intended.)
However, the only massive disgrace to society are people — pitiful men — like Ammar Faizan, who live to devalue and demean women, based on their own weaknesses and insecurities, making them appear less human, if at all, while glorifying other fellow men and making them appear superior. Men like Ammar Faizan, who are obviously suffering from a superiority complex, also realize and know how strong, how influential, and just how brilliant women can be. And it is their fear of women’s capabilities that is giving them the courage to abhor and resent them so much.
This reminds me of a brilliant quote by our very own dearest Malala Yousafzai, when she was asked why men were so afraid of women. And this is what she replied with, pretty much hitting the nail on the head:
They are afraid of us. They are afraid of women. A woman is powerful but when she gets education she becomes more powerful. They do not want women to take part in society, in the development of a society. They think that the only job of women is to cook food, to serve the family, to give birth to children, to feed them.