Women. Ladies. Girls. Females. So many different names for us. Here in Scotland women can be referred to as lassies or hens. All over the world there are different colloquial terms. Some of them derogatory.
There’s no denying there is still sexism present today – in all sectors of society. Institutional and systemic sexism which at times can be so discreet that it can’t even be called out.
My whole life, women have inspired me. Strong women, struggling women, persistent women.
Despite having the odds stacked against us; despite being pushed between a rock and a hard place, women have been able to make amazing achievements. History rarely acknowledged or recognised these women; especially not in their time but I think it’s important that we are aware today. ‘Women who are empowered, empower other women’. As women, we need to stop putting each other down, competing with one another and degrading one another with remarks that we learnt from misogynistic men.
I wanted to start a series on my blog dedicated to women. I want to write fictional stories inspired by real women who I have come across. I want to write about fictional characters who have been inspirational role models as opposed to damsels in distress. I want to write about current and historical female figures who have made an impact in some way and who have resonated with me.
However insignificant a woman’s story may seem, it is bigger than she is.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.
– Maya Angelou
To kick the series off, I want to talk a little bit about the regard of women in Islam. Contrary to the widely discussed notion that Islam oppresses women, it actually gives women rights and status which were previously unheard of. Islam gave rights to women over 1400 years ago which western women were only given in recent centuries. In English and American law up until the 19th century, wives were completely subordinate to their husbands. Legally they became one entity and the wife had no legal rights to property and her husband had complete control of everything including her. In Islam women have the right to their own property and their own earnings. In Islam, women are in fact – contrary to popular misconception – allowed to work. Furthermore, the money she earns is solely hers to do with as she wishes; whereas it is the Muslim husband’s duty to provide for his wife and the household.
In pre-Islamic Arabia baby daughters would be buried alive at birth or before the age of 7. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade this practice and set the example of treating his daughters in the most loving and respectful way, something which was very unusual at that time. Islam gave importance and status to women which was non-existent and unimaginable before that.
In his last sermon before he died the Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoined all Muslims to treat women well.
“Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Mothers have an extremely high status in Islam. One hadith (saying) shows the importance of parents in general but especially mothers.
A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).
In another very well known hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother”. This has been interpreted in the sense that mothers teach their children their religious duties and therefore their means of entering paradise and also in the sense that through serving and being dutiful to one’s mother, one will be granted Paradise.
It is not only mothers who are regarded as a means of entering Paradise through treating them well but also daughters. Not all women are mothers but all women are daughters, therefore in Islam the good treatment of all women is paramount. Here is the hadith which demonstrates this:
“Whoever becomes the father of a girl, he should neither hurt her nor treat her with contempt nor show preference over her to his sons in kindness and affection. (Both boys and girls should be treated alike.) Allah will grant him Paradise in return for kind treatment towards the daughter.”
There is a negative stereotype that Muslim women are meek, quiet individuals who don’t have a voice and are merely there to serve and be ordered by fathers and husbands. This is not the case at all. Muslim women who wear the hijab and the niqab are much more likely to be perceived in this way but each Muslim woman has her own story and has her own personality and voice.
I will not just be sharing the stories of Muslim women but ALL kinds of women. Any colour, creed, ethnicity, shape, size and background. My aim with this series is to empower all women and encourage all women to do the same.
“I always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.”
– Gloria Vanderbilt.