Islam and Patriarchy

The Quran came as a sacred text, a word of God that introduced us to the message of universal equality among all humans irrespective of gender, class, or race. However, once tampered with individual interpretations, this holy text lost its actual meaning over time.

How Islam is conceived by Westerners is frequently misunderstood as innately patriarchal and man-dominated. Wearing the hijab or niqab are frequently seen to illustrate Muslim women’s repression. Further, indeed within Islamic countries, there does live a station of man superiority and domination that contributes to a generalist misreading of Muslims which is a misinterpretation of the Quran. Rather, the patriarchal standpoint is a result of historical and cultural events that are not in connection to Islamic values. Islam isn’t patriarchal, but patriarchy has been heavily involved in the history of the Middle East and has latterly strained into the ways Muslims exercise their faith and patriarchal traditions colored the early and dominant interpretations of the Quran.

The foundations of Islamic Law are grounded in the Quran. In addition, the Sunnah (the hadith and the example of the prophet) is used as a secondary source for further explanation and guidance. When the Quran and Sunnah leave an issue unresolved, Muslim scholars resort to ijtihad – the science of interpretations and rulemaking, where they can supplement Islamic Law with local customs. Naturally, scholars from different communities and schools of thought disagree in their ijtihad, which is unobjectionable as long as these scholarships are based on religious and linguistic knowledge and are conducted piously and in good faith. While Muslims are free to choose the interpretations most convincing and satisfying to them, these individual interpretations are inevitably influenced by the patriarchal customs and beliefs of their surroundings.

While the history of patriarchy in the Middle East is complex, virile dominance evolved historically alongside the growth of Islamic nations. Feminist Gerda Lerner traces a “creation of patriarchy” in Islam through the continual repetition of virile-dominated rituals and events in Islamic society over time.

When Islam appeared in the 7th century, along with the handover of Islamic practices throughout the Middle East, certain social practices were also assessed on women in the name of Islam – for case, unsexed sequestration (or the splitting up of men and women outside of the home). Historians suppose this circumstance as linked to mimicking the life of upper and middle classes in Middle Eastern cosmopolises at the time – and that an emergence of a middle class during the time of Islam’s indigenous handover contributed to gender insulation, it means what is now seen as gender inequality within Muslim societies is not linked to Islam at all, but rather profitable structures that favored the concealment of women within the home. But the practice of dividing the places of men and women into “separate” areas has been common throughout history. Women are traditionally seen to be “internal” or linked to the home while men are seen as “external”-or involved in the outside world.


About the author:

Salma Larabi is a 20 years old young Moroccan feminist. She is a computer science student and is also interested in feminism and gender equality. She is currently a member and volunteer in numerous organizations in order to contribute to improving the role of women in society.

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