Muslim women in India are in miserable condition: Uzma Naheed

By Md. Ali,

Uzma Naheed comes from a family of the founders of Darul Uloom Deoband. She is a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and has been working for the upliftment of the Muslim women in India and abroad.

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Though she comes from the religious establishment she is very critical of religious establishment for keep Muslims in intellectually and socially miserable condition.

In a candid interview with she talked about the situation of Muslim women in India, her work with IQRA, and the launch of IQRA International Women’s Alliance (IIWA).

Her background:

Uzma Nahid comes from a family of the founders of University of Deoband. Her father Moulana Ahmad Salim Qasmi is the vice chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband Waqf.

Moulana Qasim Nanutwi the founder of the Darul Uloom Deoband was her grand grand father. The very famous Vice Chancellor of the Darul Uloom deoband, Qari Tayyab was her grand father.She was born in 1960 in Deoband. She completed her graduation from Aligarh Muslim University and did her masters in Islamic studies from Deoband itself.

On the situation of Muslim women in India:

She considered the situation of Muslim women in India as “miserable”.
“We have visited all the states in India and we found Muslim women in miserable condition. I can feel their plight very well. They are neither opinion maker nor the decision maker. The most unfortunate thing is that they are not able to realize their loss. They don’t know what kind of status they have got from Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).”

She came down heavily upon the men folk of the Muslim community. She pointed out that “the most tragic thing is that Muslim women have accepted happily and internalized the kinds of roles their men want them to live with. They are told that this is what they are made to do and which they should be happy doing”
She said the situation has gone so bad that they have surrendered their rights to men. “You go and ask any women be it a simple women or any Aalima about the concept of Talaq in Islam. They will simply tell you that it is the right of men. They don’t have any idea whether even they have got some rights or not.”
She criticized men for confining their women folks to only the household works and for making her feel that she is doing every thing. She said that it is not always the case that women are happy doing the household work. They can not be happy as such only by doing the household chores because this is what they do usually.

Apart from that she questions that if a woman doesn’t want to do the household work does Islam compel her to do all the things which are otherwise portrayed as her aim of life?

She said categorically that there is no legal sanctity through which the Muslim men can justify the roles they have provided to the women.

Uzma Naheed speaking to

About IQRA International Women’s Alliance (IIWA):

IQRA’ International Women’s Alliance is (IIWA) is “an international association of Muslim women and NGOs to be formed to facilitate development initiatives with the mission to empower the women by building their capacities through education, health and skill based development through community participation.”

IIWA leaflet describes it as a “social initiative of Iqra Education Foundation. IIWA has been established to strategize alliance of Muslim women’s organizations and individuals, working for equal opportunities of women in all spheres of life.”

IIWA is “committed to serve as leading information, consultative and training center, an active participant in the international consultative process, and an advocate for gender equality and partnership of the sexes, in compliance with international standards in this field and the Shariah.”

Uzma Nahid pointed out that Muslim women in India are largely marginalized, faceless and voiceless in their own social circle in particular and in the larger Indian social context in general. So IIWA was launched with a long term project to give exposure and voice to this marginalized section of the Muslim community.

Apart from this there are many misconceptions and stereotypes to demean Islam with particular reference to women. IIWA provides a platform for Muslim women to come forward, express their views and work positively for the Ummah strictly within the framework of Islamic Shariah thereby break those stereotypes.

IIWA was formally launched in a program convened from 7th to 9th November’ 2008 in Mumbai.

“I really want to bring them out. They should feel that the household duties which they think as their only responsibility actually depends upon their wish and will. These are not their “Maqsade Hayat” (purpose of life) in Islam. I feel that the purpose of life can be different. It can be service to humanity and Islam but it should be in ideal manner” she added.

She also pointed out that “we have always raised this question and even now we raise this, that by saying “Naqisul Aql” do you (read male dominated Muslim clergy) refer only Muslim women or all the women of the world?
[It is repeatedly pointed out in the traditional Muslim circles in India that women are “Naqisul Aql (intellectually inferior” than men).]

“So we question if it is the women gender itself then one needs to see that the women of other communities are no where behind their men folk. They are the CEOs of companies, they lead organizations and in certain areas they lead even men.”

By implication she questioned that why it is that only Muslim woman is made to feel “naqisul aql.”?
She pointed out that the psychology of woman is very different from that of a man and men usually issue fatwa without knowing their psychology and circumstances and this has been disastrous for the whole Ummah.
Explaining her point further she said for instance the curriculum and the syllabi which are being followed in girls Madarsa across India is not ideal for them.

That curriculum is actually was formulated for men 150 years back keeping in min the needs, rights and responsibilities of men.

It didn’t take into account the complexities and differences between a man and a woman. The rights, responsibilities, complexities and status of women are not dealt with in detail in this syllabus.

So if one asks a question from an Alima (a woman clergy) she will reply in the same manner Aalim (man clergy) replies ignoring the complexities and difference of circumstances that a woman goes through she argued.
So the result of this is that thousands of Aalimas graduate every year. They couldn’t produce an ideal generation which has been the aim. But if you will look in the areas of Hyderabad, Malegaon Surat and the pockets of madarsas of girls then the divorce rates have increased manifold among them.

“If we are not going to look into this matter then there are some other destructive groups are looking for the opportunities to make the issue controversial and thereby defame Islam” she added.

So IIWA wants to raise this question also and will try to bring about a viable solution for this.
IIWA has called for an international conference of clergy on November 7, 2008 to think seriously about the women question. Fortunately on this issue we are getting support from the clergy. There is going to be a discussion on all the aspects and complexities on the question of woman.

IIWA wants the clergy to raise the women question in its Juma khutbas and lectures so that the awareness level increases among the general masses.

Then IIWA also wants to bridge the gap between the women NGOs and the Islamic clergy. There is a huge communication gap between the two equally important classes because of which the two always criticize each other. So in order to bridge this gap IIWA has called for an international gathering of the women NGOs.
She informed that IIWA has adapted all the modern art and crafts like Fashion Designing, Textile Designing, Interior Designing, Cooking, Beauty Culture, Computer Skills, Journalism, Photography, Handicrafts, Candle Making and Soft Toys Making, etc. within the parameters of Islamic Shariah and we have imparted empowered Muslim women by teaching them these arts and creating a market for them.

She also explained the issue of economic empowerment of women on which IIWA wants to work.

There is a big class of women among the lower classes and poorer section of society which make their living by handicraft, but unfortunately they are not able to get more than 40-50 rupees a day because a big percentage is taken by the exporters.

IIWA wants to make these women its sleeping partners and it will make their work directly available to the market without the middle men.

“We are putting the advertisement of their products on our website and whatever money it will fetch will go directly to the woman concerned.

We also have the plan to convene an annual exhibition of Muslim women artists so that they get an exposure and an opportunity to interact with each other.

There will be a three days exhibition of handicrafts produced by the women artisans supported by IIWA from different parts of the country from 7 to 9th November’ 2008.

IIWA also want to get in touch with the youths particularly the Muslim girls because they are increasingly becoming disenchanted from the Islamic way of life because of which they are becoming rebels. Inter-caste marriage is increasingly becoming a norm for them because they have always been suppressed.

They have not been allowed to speak their wishes and views instead only the “do’s” and “don’ts” have been enforced upon them.

So IIWA has also called for delegation of Muslim girls across India and they have been encouraged to speak freely as to what they think of certain issue because it wants them to tell their frank views so that the problems which exist in the way the community is treating its children could come to the fore and the leadership of the community can think about those problems.

IQRA International Education Foundation (IIEF) was established in USA by Aabidullah Ghazi 25 years back with an aim to impart knowledge to children about Islam in a moderate way and according to their psychology.
She is the Convener and the Executive Director of IQRA Education Foundation in India.

She explains that to educate the children about Islam in a globalized world, one needs a new and innovative approach. So IIEF has formulated a syllabus and a methodology after its consultations with hundreds of the educators and curriculum designers across the world.

For this it trains around 3000 teachers across South East Asia the methodology of how to teach the children about Islam today. It organizes a two day workshop where they are introduced with the methodology of teaching Islam to the children in the globalized world. The teachers are encouraged to practice the methodology in their schools.

After this extensive workshop IQRA constitutes a group to supervise the situation of Islamic education in the schools. It also provides the syllabus and books about Islamic education to the schools at lower prices.
It remains in continuous touch with them in order to help them with any further difficulty that the teachers may face while teaching Islamic education to the children. It has been launched in 2000 schools in India since its introduction in 1998.