Zainah Anwar – searching the true meaning of `uswatun hasanah’.
(A response to “Ending the Patriarchy”)
versi bahasa Melayu disiarkan oleh Laman Web Pemuda UMNO
Reading, the first paragraph from Zainah Anwar’s article, published by Time Magazine, for the 10th March 2003 issue, could silence those who took up religious study and the protectors of Malays’ values for a few seconds. In her article, entitled “Ending the Patriarchy”, Zainah wrote; “I also love the Beatles, I dance, swim, dive, hug and kiss my bosom buddies— male and female. I am a feminist and I am an activist.”
Actually, each and every times the quarters, which are represented by Zainah and those, which are represented by Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat express their thought, we are made worry that their thought might confuse the mind of the genuine truth seekers. This is because both quarters claimed that their thoughts are Islamic based, although they have gone astray from the true soul and spirit of Islam.
One quarters tried to describe Islam according to what they believe as `fundamental’, and on the other hand, the other tried their level best to `liberalise’ Islam via the approach of the `liberalist’.
Are we being made confuse? Al Hassan al-Basri had once warned “religion will be lost as a result of the practice of both the excessive and negligent.” The former tend to prohibit almost everything and the latter will make everything lawful and permissible.
We are facing two extremist groups, which are opposite to each other. Both are far from the true `ummatan wasatan’ or `moderate Muslim’ model. One group is holding tight to rigid traditional interpretation, whereas the other depends too much on plastic kind of logic. In another word, the first bear a resemblance to the `wahhabies’ and `kharijites’, the latter resembles the `qadariites’ and `muktazilites’.
The neo-qadariites and neo-muktazilites frequently use mind logic above other sources, even though sometimes their arguments do not come from Islamic tradition and are purely rhetorical. Based on the logic hold by one of them; “…Islam is an egalitarian creed that recognises no essential hierarchy between individuals. The universal message of Islam was sent to mankind as a whole and not to a select grouping only. The emergence of the ulama — now with their costumes and accessories—is a later phenomenon which has no basis in Islam.”
This argument is not solid. As we understood, Al-Quran was revealed in Arabic. Although it was sent to the mankind as a whole, the least assistance that a non-Arabic speaking people need would be the translation from Arabic to their language. Islam was not sent to the Arabs only, but they have the advantage to understand the Quran instantly since it was revealed in their mother tongue.
The language of the Quran is not ordinary to the Arabs. It possesses high literature value. The Arabs, themselves need assistance to comprehend the Quran. An ordinary `badouin’ would not be able to understand fully the teaching of the Quran although they could understand it literally.
As we also know, the Quran does not reveal Islamic teaching in detail manner. Therefore a messenger, the prophet Muhammad SAW was sent to explain the teaching in detail. The best description of the teaching was well observed by his closest companions. His companions learned what he taught by heart and after his demise, they wrote them on goats skin. They practiced, recited and passed his teaching to the next generations.
Along the way, of course there are people who tried to distort the teaching by creating things that were never said, or done by the Prophet in order to support their own interest. Due to this, the previous ulamas such as at-Tabari, al-Baghawi, al-Khazin dan al-Baydawi have created methods and come out with regulations and conditions to eliminate such falsehood. With the solidness of their arguments, these ulamas managed to eradicate the arguments brought by the literalists.
May be, due to the excitement to interpret Islam without concrete methodology, these quarters end up having the conclusion such as “ketaatan kepada Rasulullah SAW hanyalah kerana beliau dilihat sebagai pemimpin kabilah” (Farish Noor). Or, the saying that “Allah sendiri tidak meng`ISA’kan Iblis, walaupun Iblis menderhakainya, disebabkan itu ISA tidak diperlukan dan bukan merupakan sesuatu yang Islamik.” (Chandra Muzaffar)
We accept the fact that, ‘wisdom is not monopolized by any individual or any group’. Anyone, from the Greek, Athens, Indian, Persian or Chinese civilizations could come out with his own wisdom to deal with various problems arise every day in the world. One of the occasions, where they might fail is when they try to `find, describe and illustrate god’. The other that might make them slip away is when they try to determine `akhlaq’ and the virtues of a human.
On these matters, to the Muslims, the Quran is the best guide. But, any effort to interpret it should come with `adab’. `Adab’ in the sense that, those involved must give due respect to specialty, express thought in civilized and sincere manner, and respect the methodology used by the faculty of knowledge.
Above others, the most important aspects that should be given priority are the `taqwa’ and carefulness in the quest to find Allah’s blessing. (Above all the desire for recognition, respectful position and wealth.) This is the true `soul’, which the companions were adhere to when performing `ijtihad’ after the demise of the Prophet SAW.
We agree to the opinions from this quarters that ` Islam, is simply too important to be left in the hands of the ulama.”(especially the kind of Nik Aziz). However we also believe that, `Islam is much too important to be left to any Tom, Dick and Harry to come out with an edict, especially when they do not have appropriate knowledge.’
May be in Zainah’s world, Islam has the elasticity like a plastic. She may pull, stretch, bend and curve it the way that she wanted to. In her excitement, Zainah might forget about the `hadd’ (limits), regulations and the basis of `taqwa’. To hug and kiss my bosom buddies— male and female, is not a good example to other Muslim. Zainah, may be able to do wonders in her plastic `Islamic world’, but she can never do one thing – being the `uswatun hasanah’ or good example to other Muslims.
Ending the Patriarchy
By Zainah Anwar
FROM THE MAR 10, 2003 ISSUE OF TIME MAGAZINE; POSTED MONDAY, MAR 3, 2003
I am a Muslim woman. I believe in God and the prophet Muhammad. I pray, I fast, I read the Koran, I've been to Mecca for umrah (the mini-hajj pilgrimage) and hope to go on the big one soon. I also love the Beatles, I dance, swim, dive, hug and kiss my bosom buddies—male and female. I am a feminist and I am an activist. I see no contradiction in being a Muslim and being a modern person who leads a joyous and meaningful life inside and outside the home.
In my world of Islam, I witness both the progressive and the regressive. There are women who are better educated than men and men who are better educated than women. There are husbands who maintain their wives and wives who maintain their husbands. There are men who love to cook and stay home, and women who prefer to eat out and hang out. But I also encounter women who yearn for husbands to share the housework and child rearing, just as they, as wives, share the financial burdens of the family. I meet women who cannot accept that their husbands have taken second wives, women who cannot believe that God has given the husband the right to beat his wife, women who cannot fathom how they, as long-suffering dutiful wives, are only entitled to one-eighth a share of their deceased husband's estate while other family members get more.
But the mullahs tell me of a different world of Islam. The mullahs say all men are superior to all women and therefore women cannot be regarded as equal to men. They tell me that a Muslim man has the right to divorce his wife at will, the right to take second, third and fourth wives, the right to demand obedience and the right to beat his wife if he thinks she is misbehaving. They say I cannot question these rules as they are God's law.
As a thinking and believing woman, I cannot accept such pronouncements made in the name of my faith and my God. What the mullahs are doing is using God and religion to justify patriarchy—and they don't like it when someone questions what they preach. Last year, a group that called itself the Ulama Association of Malaysia tried to get me charged for insulting Islam. They claimed that I, and the group I represent, Sisters in Islam, question the word of God when we assert that polygamy is not a right in Islam, and that the mullahs do not possess a monopoly on understanding, interpreting and codifying religion into law.
What I and my sisters are actually guilty of is asserting that there are deep differences between the revealed word of God and human (read: male) interpretation of the message. For centuries, men interpreted the Koran and codified Islamic rules that defined for us what it is to be a woman and how to be a woman. The woman's voice, the woman's experience, the woman's realities have been largely silent and silenced. This absence of the female voice in the interpretation of the Koran is mistakenly equated with the voicelessness of the Koran itself on female concerns. And this voicelessness is perpetuated these days by men who not only isolate Koranic verses from the sociohistorical context in which they were revealed but also isolate them from the context of the contemporary society we live in today.
Where Koranic verses appear to discriminate against women, I read it within the sociohistorical context of revelation. It is not God's intent to perpetuate injustice and discrimination. But how justice was served in 7th century Arabia was specific to that time, place and circumstance. Thus asking a woman to assist another woman as a witness in a contractual transaction was never meant to lead to the eternal principle of two women equals one man but to ensure that justice was done at a time when few women were managing their own businesses.
Women can no longer leave it to a God appropriated and defined by men to solve the problems and conflicts they face in their daily lives. So what is the choice before me? Rejecting religion so that I can live my life as a feminist is not an option. I am a believer, and I want to find solutions from within my own faith. So I have gone back to the Koran to search for answers. The Koran I read talks about love, mercy and equality, justice, freedom and dignity. It talks about equal responsibility of men and women in this world and equal rewards in the afterlife. The Koran says, "Be you male or female, you are members, one of another." In the final verse revealed by God on the relationship between men and women, it says we are "each other's protecting friends and guardians." I do not read of the superiority or inferiority of either sex in the Koran I know.
The more I read the Koran, the stronger my faith becomes. It is this conviction in a God who is just that gives me the courage to speak out and to try to end the injustice women suffer in the name of religion.