Islam's response to contemporary world problems (22)


We discussed in Issue 21 the roles that Islam has assigned to both men and women.

Those who speak of equality in all spheres forget that the issue of equality becomes irrelevant in those areas where men and women are constituted differently.
Only women can give birth to children. Only they alone can spend nine months nurturing the seed of the future human generation. It is also only women who can care for their little ones, at least during the first period of infancy and childhood, as no man would be able to. Because of the long intimate, blood relationship with her offspring, it is the woman who has a closer psychological bond with her children than the man.

If social and economic systems ignore this constitutional difference between men and women and their corresponding difference in the role of the two sexes in society, then such a system is destined to fail in its attempt to create a state of healthy balance. It is primarily because of these constitutional differences between male and female that Islam proposes correspondingly different roles for the two.

The woman should remain free, as far as possible, from the responsibility of earning bread for the family. This responsibility should, in principle, fall on the shoulders of the man. However, there is no reason why women should be excluded from doing their share in economic affairs, provided they are free to do so without neglecting their primary responsibility for human reproduction, family care and other concomitant commitments. This is exactly what Islam proposes.

Also, women in general have a more fragile and weaker constitution. Surprisingly, on the other hand, she has been endowed by God with greater psychic resilience. These attributes are due, above all, to the presence of half an extra chromosome in their cells, which is responsible for the difference between men and women. Obviously, this has been given to them to meet the extraordinary challenge of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. However, this ability does not make women externally stronger or more resilient. They should not be relegated to hard domestic or other tasks in the name of equality or any other slogan. They must also be treated with greater gentleness and kindness. Women should bear less of the daily burden and should not be forced to carry the same weight as men in public activities.

It follows from the above that if the task of running a household constitutes a special area of responsibility to be assigned either to the man or to the woman, it is obvious that women are far more worthy than men of such responsibility. In addition, women, by nature, are assigned the duty of caring for children. This duty can only partially be shared by men.

Women should possess the right to stay at home much longer than men; and if, at the same time, they are absolved of the responsibility of earning their livelihood, the free time they have at their disposal can be used for their own benefit or for the benefit of society as a whole. In no way does Islam infringe on the rights of women by preventing them from going out in their free time to perform any task, or to engage in any wholesome purpose they wish, as long as, again, they do not harm the interests and rights of the future generation of humanity entrusted to them. This, among other reasons, is why Islam discourages the free mixing of the sexes or excessive social life. For Islam, making the home the centre of women's activities is a wise and practical solution to most of the ills of modern times. When women move their interests outside the home it is at the expense of family life and the neglect of children.

Building family life around the central figure of the mother requires the strengthening of other blood ties and the re-establishment of genuine affinity between relatives and friends. Although each unit lives separately, this broad concept of family is supported and promoted by Islam for a number of reasons, some of which are as follows:
It prevents social imbalances.

If intense family affection and affection between brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons etc. were promoted, it would naturally result in the consolidation and protection of a healthy family unit. This natural bond would be strengthened by a system of surrounding relationships through genuine affinity and closeness between aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and grandparents. New avenues for the pursuit of healthy well-being, derived from the awareness of belonging to this group, would open up for this wider family system.
The family institution in such cases is more difficult to fragment. Sharing the same roof in the name of the family would cease to make sense as is generally the case today. Family members would continue to gravitate around the central guidance of the elders of the group; most family activities would revolve around this axis. There would be no lonely, forgotten, dejected individuals relegated to the attic or basements of the social order, or cast out of families as useless articles.

This is exactly the Islamic concept of the home and the family which is considered to be the most important central unit of society. It is mainly because of this difference in attitudes that we find today, in modern societies around the world, a very high incidence of abandoned, old or handicapped parents, who are considered a burden on the family.

(To be continued in the next instalment, number 23).