I came from a purely Hindu family where we
were always taught to regard ourselves (i.e. women) as beings who were
eventually to be married off and have children and serve the husband
-whether he was kind or not. Other than this I found that there were a
lot of things which really oppressed women, such as:
If a woman was widowed, she would always have to wear a white sari
(costume), eat vegetarian meals, cut her hair short, and never re-marry.
The bride always had to pay the dowry (bridal money) to the husband's
family. And the husband could ask for anything, irrespective of whether
the bride would have difficulty giving it.
Not only that, if after marriage she was not able to pay the full dowry
she would be both emotionally and physically tortured, and could end up
being a victim of "kitchen death" where the husband, or both the
mother-in-law and the husband try to set fire to the wife while she is
cooking or is in the kitchen, and try to make it look like an accidental
death. More and more of these instances are taking place. The daughter
of a friend of my own father's had the same fate last year!
In addition to all this, men in Hinduism are treated literally as among
the gods. In one of the religious Hindu celebrations, unmarried girls
pray for and worship an idol representing a particular god (Shira) so
that they may have husbands like him. Even my own mother had asked me to
do this. This made me
see that the Hindu religion which is based on superstitions and things
that have no manifest proof, but were merely traditions which oppressed
women could not be right.
Subsequently, when I came to England to study, I thought that at least
this is a country which gives equal rights to men and women, and does
not oppress them. We all have the freedom to do as we like, I thought.
Well, as I started to meet people and make new friends, learn about this
new society, and go to all the places my friends went to in order to
"socialise" (bars, dance halls, etc.). I realised that this "equality"
was not so true in practice as it was in theory.
Outwardly, women were seen to be given equal rights in education, work,
and so forth, but in reality women were still oppressed in a different,
more subtle way. When I went with my friends to those places they hung
out at, I found everybody interested to talk to me and I thought that
was normal. But it was only later that I realised how naive I was, and
recognised what these people were really looking for. I soon began to
feel uncomfortable, as if I was not myself: I had to dress in a certain
way so that people would like me, and had to talk in a certain way to
please them. I soon found that I was feeling more and more
uncomfortable, less and less myself, yet I could not get out. Everybody
was saying they were enjoying themselves, but I don't call this
I think women in this way of life are oppressed; they have to dress in a
certain way in order to please and appear more appealing, and also talk
in a certain way so people like them. During this time I had not thought
about Islam, even though I had some Muslim acquaintances. But I felt I
really had to do something, to find something that I would be happy and
secure with, and would feel respected with. Something to believe in that
is the right belief, because everybody has a belief that they live
If having fun by getting off with other people is someone's belief, they
do this. If making money is someone's belief, they do everything to
achieve this. If they believe drinking is one way to enjoy life then
they do it. But I feel all this leads to nowhere; no one is truly
satisfied, and the respect women are looking for is diminishing in this
In these days of so called "society of equal rights", you are expected
to have a boyfriend (or you're weird!) and to not be a virgin. So this
is a form of oppression even though some women do not realise it. When I
came to Islam, it was obvious that I had finally found permanent
security. A religion, a belief that was so complete and clear in every
aspect of life. Many people have a misconception that Islam is an
oppressive religion, where women are covered from head to toe, and are
not allowed any freedom or rights. In fact, women in Islam are given
more rights, and have been for the past 1400 years, compared to the
only-recently rights given to non-Muslim women in some western and some
other societies. But there are, even now, societies where women are
still oppressed, as I mentioned earlier in relation to Hindu women.
Muslim women have the right to inheritance. They have the right to run
their own trade and business. They have the full right to ownership,
property, disposal over their wealth to which the husband has no right.
They have the right to education, a right to refuse marriage as long as
this refusal is according to reasonable and justifiable grounds. The
Qur'an itself, which is the Word of God, contains many verses commanding
men to be kind to their wives and stressing the rights of women. Islam
gives the right set of rules, because they are NOT made by men, but made
by God; hence it is a perfect religion.
Quite often Muslim women are asked why they are covered from head to
toe, and are told that this is oppression -it is not. In Islam, marriage
is an important part of life, the making of the society. Therefore, a
woman should not go around showing herself to everybody, only for her
husband. Even the man is not allowed to show certain parts of his body
to none but his wife. In addition, God has commanded Muslim women to
cover themselves for their modesty:
"0 Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the
believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when
outdoors). That is most convenient that they could be known as such
(i.e. decent and chaste) and not molested. " (Qur'an 33:59)
If we look around at any other society, we find that in the majority of
cases women are attacked and molested because of how they are dressed.
Another point I'd like to comment on is that the rules and regulation
laid down in Islam by God do not apply just to women but to men also.
There is no intermingling and free-running between men and women for the
benefit of both. Whatever God commands is right, wholesome, pure and
beneficial to mankind; there is no doubt about that. Averse in the
Qur'an explains this concept clearly:
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and protect
their private parts (i.e. from indecency, illegal sexual acts, etc.);
that will make for greater purity for them. And God is well aware of
what they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower
their gaze and protect their private parts (from indecency, illegal
sexual intercourse, etc.); and that they should not display their beauty
and ornaments. .. " (Qur'an, Surah AI-Nur 24:31)
When I put on my hijab (veil), I was really happy to do it. In fact, I
really want to do it. When I put on the hijab, I felt a great sense of
satisfaction and happiness. Satisfied that I had obeyed God's command.
And happy with the good and
blessings that come with it. I have felt secure and protected. In fact
people respect me more for it. I could really see the difference in
behaviour towards me.
Finally, I'd like to say that I had accepted Islam not blindly, or under
compulsion. In the Qur'an itself there is averse which says "Let there
be no compulsion in religion". I accepted Islam with conviction. I have
seen, been there, done that, and seen both sides of the story. I know
and have experienced what the other side is like, and I know that I have
done the right thing. Islam does not oppress women, but rather Islam
liberates them and gives them the respect they deserve. Islam is the
religion God has chosen for the whole of mankind. Those who accept it
are truly liberated from the chains and shackles of mankind whose ruling
and legislating necessitates nothing but the oppression of one group by
another and the exploitation and oppression of one sex by the other.
This is not the case of Islam, which truly liberated women and gave them
an individuality not given by any other authority.
Article taken (with Thanks) from