Opinion: Islam: Religion vs. Culture

Fiza Shah

Fiza Shah

Fiza Shah is a freshman news major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

The column was updated at 3:48 p.m. Tuesday.

I wanted to make a few points before starting my column:

I need to stress that this column is NOT an argument. An argument would mean that we each are trying to convince the other they are wrong. You very well might think I am wrong, which is totally fine.

But, I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking: that would be both an impossible and arrogant goal.

My purpose in starting this column was to promote a better understanding of one another. So, I want to make a request to those who are responding. Please don’t respond with just an ethnocentric point of view.

Also, please note that I’m not purposefully ignoring your points or questions. You have to understand that people are writing several comments, with multiple points each comment. Therefore, it might take me a few columns to respond to everyone.

This is my first time doing something like this, and it’ll take me a while to figure out a process. Thank you for your patience.

“Does Islam encourage inequality between men and women, and if so, is it morally inferior to western culture?” –RandomKSUStudent

My purpose in writing this column is to promote better understanding of ISLAM, not MUSLIMS. And, unfortunately, there is sometimes a difference between the two.

When a reverend speaks on Christianity, he/she will never say, “Well, according to how Christians act, Christianity is…” Instead, he/she will always use the Bible and the teachings of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) to show how Christians should act. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that many Christians don’t act as Christianity dictates they should.

Therefore, when someone poses an argument or question, I will look at what Islam says, not what Muslims say.

This brings us back to the question posed.

I am not trying to negate the fact that women all around the world are abused (both in secular and non-secular countries).

There are bad people all over the world, within every faith imaginable, including Islam.

Rather than following the religion, some people choose to follow their culture instead.

RandomKSUStudent, in a previous comment, pointed out a scenario that describes someone doing just that.

He wrote: “I am not Muslim, but my best friend is. He is married with three children, the oldest being 7. He has never changed one diaper […] I have seen a lot of Muslim culture from the inside, and I can tell you first hand that women get the short end of the stick… As good of friends as we are, I have never been able to shake my friend’s wife’s hand.”

Firstly, there is no such thing as a Muslim “culture.” It is a religion.

If RandomKSUStudent’s friend’s wife doesn’t shake his hand, it is because of her religion. There is a respectful barrier in place between men and women and her shaking his hand crosses it. The this barrir should be set into place by the woman.

If you want to know the extent of this barrier, I would be happy to write a separate column. But, whether you agree that said barrier should exist or not, the point is that it does. And, his friend’s wife obviously feels very strongly about maintaining it.

However, his friend not helping his wife with household work is an example of culture. A culture that, in my opinion, exists in the west as well, though it is better concealed.

A man CANNOT force his wife to cook, clean, etc., according to Islam. She must do it of her own accord. In fact, if she does decide to do household work, she can ask for compensation because she is doing something that is not her job.

This is not coming from me, but rather from Hadith (example of the Prophet), the Qur’an, and Islamic scholars from both Shia and Sunni sides.

However, many men (both in the East and West) will fight me on this because in these words they see their worlds crumbling before them.

You asked, “Does Islam encourage inequality between men and women, and if so, is it morally inferior to western culture?”

My answer, as a woman practicing Islam, is no. There is sexism in the culture of some countries (just as there is sexism in the American culture as well). However, we need to distinguish the difference between these culture and religion.

I am adamant that Islam not only doesn’t degrade women, but in fact respects them, because no matter where you turn in the Qur’an or in the Hadith, women are in the forefront. They are respected, sometimes, even more than the men.

Did you know that Kadijah (Peace Be Upon Her), wife of the Prophet (PBUH), was a successful and wealthy businesswoman in Arabia?

Women have had the right to work and own property hundreds of years before such a right was introduced in the West. Muslims all over the world are indebted to her because she graciously donated all of her wealth to the cause of Islam. Muslims acknowledge that Islam would never have spread had it not been for this woman.

Honor killings were also brought up in a comment. Did you know that before the time of the Prophet, girls were being killed upon birth? They were seen as a burden on the family. It was Islam that put an end to such an obscenity (which, unfortunately, still pervades the world today).

In fact, there is a great reward for those who raise girls.

The Prophet said, “whoever takes care of two girls until they reach adulthood – he and I will come together on the Day of Resurrection (like this)” as he crossed this two fingers together. In fact, in Islam, girls are considered to be blessings from God.

Another honored woman in Islam is Fatima (A.S.), daughter of the Prophet. The Syed Family Line (the lineage tracing back to the Prophet) was continued after the Prophet not by a man, but by his daughter Fatima.

In fact, it is said that the Prophet (PBUH) used to stand up, out of respect, whenever his daughter entered the room. All Muslims (male or female) revere her as one of the most important people (not just women) in Islam.

Another important female: the Virgin Mary (A.S). Jesus (PBUH) is considered to be one of the greatest prophets in Islam. Mary (A.S.) is given great status because she gave birth to and raised a Prophet without a man. In fact, Mary has a chapter in the Quran named after her, an honor given to only eight people.

This list could go on forever.

RandomKSUStudent also said conservative Islam involves arranged marriages, among a list of others. The simple answer to this is no, it does not. If you were talking about before Islam, you would be correct. However, countless Hadith and verses from the Qur’an state exactly to the contrary. In fact, in an Islamic marriage, a woman is asked several times if she takes the man as a husband to stress the importance of consent.

I, in no way, negate the fact that there are many women around the world suffering at the hands of sadistic men (both in predominately Muslim countries and secular countries).

But, these men do not author the religion billions of people around the world follow. And, judging by how they act, religion obviously doesn’t dictate their actions.

A request to RandomKSUStudent: I truly appreciate your comments and opinions. I will be more than happy to continue this discussion with you via email (you can post both of our responses to the comment sections of my articles for others interested in the discussion). However, I do feel like I’m neglecting everyone else who is so kindly posting comments and questions.