We can deal with feminism

The organizer of gender equality festival, blogger Aya (Kazakhstan), tells us about women’s security, feminism and female sahaba.

Elya: What is exactly your branch or direction you are studying in (As I know it is related to gender issues)?

Aya: My branch is not related to gender issues. I mention gender issues from time to time on my Instagram account. I am one of the organizers of gender equality festival in Central Asia named “FemAgora” and we are also working on TEDxAbayStWomen organization. I suppose it is the only thing that connects me with gender issues. I am just studying gender as a hobby. I am interested in the theme of gender economy. I am willing to study it deeper.

Economic gender inequality is the main reason for the violation of women’s rights.

Statistics show us that women are paid less than men of the same profession. In spite of the fact that women are more qualified than men (there are more women with a bachelor degree, master’s degree, Ph.D.), there are very few women who occupy high positions, very few rectors, there is no woman mayor in Kazakhstan, few ministers, few deputies, etc. There should be equal numbers of men and women at posts where serious decisions are made in order for society and the country to flourish. Men are not able to understand women’s character and it is the same for women. It is only joint consolidation that fosters development.

E.: Do you think feminism (as I understand it is the struggle for women’s rights, women’s security, the right to vote, the right to education and so on) can take place between practicing Muslims? Islam has already given women rights and guaranteed inviolability and fair treatment in all aspects of life. Islam is perfect.

Islam gives us rights but country and society don`t.

A.: Islam gives us rights but country and society don’t. We are living in a society that has its own mentality and in a country that has its own code of laws. What is more, there are very few people who practice Islam. There are many divorces among practicing Muslims, there are also many fathers who do not pay alimony to their children, male abusers under the guise of religion, who cause moral and physical harm to their wives. All this is contrary to Islam. Let’s look at the situation from a real perspective. People often take only what they are comfortable to take. P.S. I don’t want you to think I am a men hater or that I am demonizing men. There are a lot of decent men, but there are many dishonorable ones too. I am just looking at the problem from the view of women.

E.: I heard such a statement from one of your posts on Instagram:

safety = well-being.

Tell us three points or conditions that a Muslim woman must remember in order to be protected and to be in harmony with herself.

A.: Firstly, it is financial safety. Many women who are beaten and humiliated, cannot divorce because they are financially unstable. I think you must not be completely dependent on the finances of a man. Another example: in a case where a woman doesn’t have any income and stays at home with children, her husband is the only breadwinner. If her husband suddenly dies, then she has a high risk of being in poverty, because she can hardly get a job due to lack of experience. Moreover, she will have the responsibility of her children, which will make things much harder on her, therefore she will face a big problem. I realized how important it was when I went with philanthropic friends to give out food boxes to the poor. I saw a lot of Muslim widows/divorced women with children. Women with children are more often below the poverty line all over the world.

Always develop comprehensively. Education is the best investment.

Well, and most importantly, respect yourself and respect other people, build your personal boundaries and do not cross the boundaries of other people. Be open to the world, bring goodness, smile, saying more radically – infect everyone with goodness.

E.: Is a woman able to provide herself with this security, or should we better allow a man to do this? (Father/brother/spouse). Is it necessary to be flexible and obedient, as the Sharia bequeaths to us?

A.: We now live in a relatively safe time: we have communication, transport, houses are somehow guarded, and video surveillance is available throughout the city. Some hundred years ago there was nothing of this, therefore the risks were big. However, now a woman is not completely protected from violence due to her physiological factors, she is physically weaker, so any, even the most physically weak man can harm her.

Physical security is provided by man. A man can be a protector, but sometimes some men can cause harm themselves.

This is the worst thing when a person who you trust in your own security harms you. 35% of women in the world are physically abused by a spouse or a relative. About 400 women die every year from domestic violence in Kazakhstan. It may seem that this does not apply to religious men. Unfortunately, there are a lot of abusers among them too. Looking religious does not say anything about a person. I don’t know what we should take as a reference point and how we should choose. Listen to your heart and rely on Allah. Allah is our protector. Girls should be very selective when it comes to marriage: do not be bribed by wealth, do not fall for empty words and promises, for “100 roses” and other romanticism.

E.: You call yourself a feminist. And you say you are close to such concepts as liberalism, capitalism and individualism. If I am not mistaken, liberalism implies the liberation of a person from the framework and constraints of a person imposed by any religion, traditions, etc. How do you manage to combine the code of Sharia law and the position of liberalism in your life?

A.: Liberalism is a freedom of choice and human rights. I have a right to believe in what I want (to believe in Allah for Muslims), I have a right to wear what I want (to wear hijab for Muslim women), etc. A Christian will also demand respect for his rights, and it is the same for an atheist. This is the only way to live in peace with each other in a secular country with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. I am a realist.

E.: Life positions of which people have authority for you? Tell us about two of them. One from modern times and one among Prophet`s (peace be upon him) sahaba.

A.: I cannot tell only one person. There are people whose lives inspire me. Yes, all of them are women. I am a woman and it is understandable that I am inspired by women.

It is Hadija (radiyAllahu anha). She is the first person to convert to Islam, a rich successful businesswoman of that times who contributed a lot to Islam, and who proposed to a man (and what a man!) herself.

As well as all the wonderful women sahaba (radiyAllahu anhum). They are the most courageous women and the biggest reformers. They did a tremendous job in the name of deen.

Taking only Aisha (radiyAllahu anha), she transmitted a huge part of the ilm, which we are now following. A lot of women sahaba fought in battles along with the Prophet Mohammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). Nasiba`s (radiyAllahu anha) hand was chopped off and she had 12 wounds. There were doctors, nurses who treated wounded people during battles among women sahaba. Some of them taught medicine. A lot of women sahaba were educated, loved literature, history. Oh, how much we do not know about them…

By the way, the first university in the world was built by a Muslim woman! Neither Harward or Oxford are the oldest ones, but it is Karauin university in Fez, build by Fatima al-Fikhri in 859. She opened the doors of her university for people of all confessions.

There are a lot of examples of the merits of Muslim women in various fields of scientific and social life, given that many of the merits of women were ignored and did not remain in history.

Compare what these women were like, because they were the best women of our ummah, to the ideology that is being promoted to Muslim women nowadays. The difference is tangible. I always wondered we are reading in Prophet`s (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) sira about women sahaba, we see the examples of very brave, free, intellectual women who have always benefited society. And now look at how the “place” of a Muslim woman is interpreted.

Among modern women, I choose all the Muslim women who achieve success in the political arena (influential activists, women who become members of the government of developed countries), sportswomen, in general, all the women who are visible and who make everything for the sake of general well-being. This is very important since one of the main claims of islamophobes is that Muslim women are infringed on their rights. Successful Muslim women break these stereotypes today. They are very courageous and, I suppose, they are warriors of their kind. They are fighting against informational islamophobic propaganda, defending their deen and changing people’s attitudes towards Islam.

Translated by Alsu Ay

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