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Expectations from the Muslim Woman
Part 1

Dr. Ali Shariati


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سايت فارسى

Prior to beginning my lecture, I would like to propose some practical suggestions. Speaking about women's rights, women's personality and Islam's view of women differs a great deal from the realization of the actual value which Islam gives to human beings, and to women, in particular. Most often we are satisfied by pointing out that Islam gives great value to science or establishes progressive rights for women. Unfortunately we never actually use or benefit from these values or rights. We could benefit from these if we were to act according to the understanding which we acquire from them.

A great many people are acquainted with Islamic views of society, social relations, women's rights, children's rights and family rights, but these same people then actually follow non-Islamic, ancient cultural traditions and do not dare to base their lives upon Islamic values. That is, they do not practice what they preach. Thus we always remain at the level of talking.

We must complete Islamic views and intellectual discussions with practical solutions. We must find a way whereby we reach these values and rights in practice. After proposing my views, the question should be asked as to how we can actually put them into practice?

Throughout history the problem of women's rights and their role has always been considered to be an intellectual problem. Thus, various religious, philosophical and social systems have reached varying views in this respect.

From the 18th through the 20th centuries (particularly after W.W.II) any attempt to address the special problem of the social rights of women and their specific characteristics has been seen as a mere by-product of a spiritual or psychic shock or the result of a revolutionary crisis in centers of learning or as a response to political currents and international movements. Thus, traditional societies, historical societies, religious societies, either in the East or in the West (be they tribal, Bedouin civilized Muslim or non-Muslim societies in whatever social or cultural stage of civilization they may be) have all been directly or indirectly influenced by these thoughts, intellectual currents and even new social realities.

Unfortunately the crisis of the problem of women and their liberation which began in the West and has been strengthened by the ruling superpowers in the 20th century has influenced all human societies, even closed traditional and religious societies. There are only a few cultural, traditional and even religious societies which have been able to properly stand against this flood.

Such societies have frequently been confronted by a peculiar modernism which they have adopted, under the guise of liberation of women, either by rejecting old traditions or by under-taking blind struggles. None of them have succeeded in standing against this attack.

In such societies the newly educated class, the pseudo-intellectuals, who are in the majority, strongly and vigorously welcome this crisis. They themselves even act as one of the forces that strengthens this corrupting and destructive transformation.

In traditional religious societies, including Islamic communities, neither group could stand against the attack of the modern view of the liberation of women as announced by the West. The pseudo-intellectual and modern class of Islamic and non-Islamic societies in the East considered the modest dress to be the symbol of modern civilization, progress and awareness. The old, traditional group passed through and confronted this crisis with non-scientific and illogical tactics due to their lack of experience. It is a general law that when there is a fire resulting from a spill of oil, if someone tries to hurriedly and unskillfully put the fire out, it only spreads more rapidly and more vigorously!

Thus such unskilled struggles against the West have frequently been performed in a manner that has created complexes and various reactions inside such societies. In this way they have paved the way for acceptance of Western ideas and innovations. There are very few societies who have been able to stand against, to adequately resist, and to show an effective reaction to the modern West by consciously selecting their manner and form of lifestyle.

One of the most important factors that can assist Eastern societies in confronting and standing against the intellectual and cultural attack of the West (as it relates to the view of modern woman) is to have a rich culture and history full of experiences, values and ideas. It is important to have progressive human rights and, in particular, to have perfect and complete human models in the religious history of those societies and communities.

Fortunately from this point of view (although they have not been able to consciously stand against the colonial attack of the West), Islamic societies have cultural power and possibilities, have a very progressive history, value system and religion and are in this way very rich. Thus they can, by relying on these values and sources and by reviving and progressing towards the high humanitarian values existing in their culture and their past history encourage their new, young generation to stand and resist the West's attack.

The most effective weapon to confront Western values and the most important factor for creating a conscious struggle within the new generation of our Islamic societies against the West's seduction is to hold up very high, distinguished and characteristic symbols, real personalities of Islamic history. If the lives of such personalities are known in detail, are shown precisely, are revived and introduced properly, scientifically, consciously, are scholastically recognized and presented to our societies, the young generation will sense that there is no need to accept the seductions of the West, no need to decline in the guise of modernism. Rather, they will sense that there are very high, elevated symbols in their own history and religion to be followed and to be considered as models for self-reconstruction.

It must be taken into consideration that all matters related to women, to science, to life-style, to class relationships, to scholastic understanding, to one's world view all have been designed, described and discussed in Islam. We have only to solve our present difficulties, to answer the intellectual challenges, and to reduce our sensual needs. How can we understand our values? How can we use and obtain actual results from them? Our essential aim must be to solve the problem of proper understanding and recognition.

The members of the Prophet's family, in the view of all of the intellectuals of Islamic countries (who possess a more distinguished image of them) have always been the manifestation of the most elevating and liberating humanitarian and Islamic values. These values are not limited to a particular tribe or even to all Muslims. Thus, all of the people of the world can easily see and understand these symbols and examples which have come out of a small house which is greater than the whole of history.

Anyone who believes in the values and virtues of humanity will admit that the symbolic role of the members of this family in various dimensions and fields is beyond historical values of class or tribe. They are rather the highest, meta-historical, meta-tribal values. They are permanent symbols and examples of humanity.

Thus, anyone who is a human being respects them. Anyone who is aware of the values of humanity, any committed intellectual in the world, will admit the values and virtues which this small house created within the arena of human history.

Therefore, when we describe the biography of Fatima, as one of the members of the Prophet's family, we must learn lessons from her personality, her role, her social, mental, and political status and use them to guide our lives in our groups and in our societies.

The problem of proper understanding is the most important and essential problem of our time. At the present time, the struggles of the committed Muslim intellectuals should be directed to a proper understanding and recognition of Islam's history and religion. This proper understanding, including the proper understanding of Fatima, is the key to our salvation. After W.W.II, the problem of woman was designated as being the most important and sensitive problem in the West. The war itself was the main cause for family relations to be split and destroyed. Traditional religious values such as ethics, morals and spirituality collapsed. Also, due to the war, crimes, cruelty, aggression and plunder increased.

From the intellectual and ethical point of view, it had a very diverse effect, causing decline upon the post war generation. Its inauspicious effect after a quarter of a century [since W.W.II] can be seen in the spirit, thought, philosophy and even the art of the present time.

Those who have seen France, Germany, England and even the USA [the last of which was far from the actual field of battle], prior to the war and visited those countries after the war, can clearly see that, although it seems as if centuries have passed, actually the cultures collapsed within one generation. Therefore, the fall of ethical values was one of the natural results of the war, and woman was its bearer.

But the point must be noted that prior to the war, the West had already started a multi-dimensional fight from the various philosophical, mental, social, productive and cultural points of view with the Catholic religion, the ruling religion in the Middle Ages, and thus had unconsciously destroyed all of the ethical, intellectual and ideal values, as well as the restrictions and limits which the church had defended in the name of religion.

One of the values which the church defended in the name of religion was women's rights women's values, both spiritual and social. This defense combined with the declining, anti-female traditions, bonds and limitations.

But after the Renaissance and the development of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeois revolution, the bourgeois culture which is the culture of individual liberty defeated the church and consequently, with this victory, the rule of the church over moral, spiritual, scholastic and legal values was abolished. Thus, all of the restrictions and values concerning women which the church had defended and supported in the name of religion, succumbed to the rise of the bourgeoisie and its culture.

Then suddenly the problem of sexual liberation appeared. Women realized that through the slogan of sexual liberation, all of the anti-human limits, restrictions, and bonds which restrained them could be destroyed. Women welcomed this change vigorously to the extent that sexual liberation entered the arena of science!

What is normally designated as scientific understanding of religion is not a pure scientific and scholastic understanding. It is rather a bourgeois cognition. After the Middle Ages, science which had been in the service of religion and the church, was made to serve the present ruling bourgeois system. If nowadays science appears to oppose religion and moral values, it is not really science that opposes these, but it is the ruling bourgeois which does soy just as in the Middle Ages, it was feudalism which defended aristocratic social-moral traditions in the name of religion. It was Christianity which was, in fact, defending feudalism, and now it is science which, in fact, defends the bourgeoisie. It is intellectuals those who believe that economic and materialistic social foundations are the basis of all social transformations who will more easily accept my argument and logic.

Up to the appearance of Freud (who is one of the agents of the bourgeoisie), it was through the liberal bourgeoisie spirit that scientific sexualism was manifested. It must be taken into consideration that the bourgeoisie is always an inferior class. Although feudalism was an anti-human system, it, nevertheless, relied on an aristocratic elite and their moral values even though these moral values led to a decline. Bourgeoisie mentality negates all of the high, ascending human values and believes in nothing except money.

Therefore, a scholar or scientist who lives, thinks and studies during the bourgeois age, measures collective cultural and spiritual values (the sacrifices of mankind, the martyrdoms, struggles, literature, art etc.), with only the scale of naked economy, with production and consumption and with nothing else. One who studies psychology or anthropology, looking at all the dimensions and manifestations of the mystic spirit of human beings that which religion believes to be the spirit of God and the manifestation of metaphysical virtues sees only unsatisfied sexual appetites. Belief, culture, mental illnesses all are related to the struggle to release an imprisoned and condemned sexual complex. The bourgeois social scientist looks at all of the delicate human sensations and feelings (even a mother caressing her child, the worship of the beloved by the lover and all other issues) in relationship to sex.

Freud, a modern bourgeoisie, armed himself against all moral and human values, against all high and ascending manifestations of the human soul and called it realism. Freud's "realism" was not that of the bourgeoisie, but rather of the scientist, scholar, philosopher, psychologist, and anthropologist who serve the bourgeoisie classy for all of these bring the human being down to the level of a sexual and economic animal! Thus, the bourgeoisie, by alienating all values and virtues, made only one religion, one school, one temple and one messenger for all miserable men of this age for whom all must be sacrificed.

This messenger was named Freud. His religion was sex. His temple was Freudianism, and the first one who was sacrificed on the threshold of this temple was woman and her human values.

We who live in the East always speak about Western colonialization, but I would like to explain that this does not mean that Western colonialization only colonizes or exploits the East. It is a world-wide power and class that exploits and colonizes both the East and the West.

If I had the opportunity, I would explain that this power has alienated the European masses even more than the Eastern masses. The European has been captured by colonialization's legacy of unemployment and misery and will continue to be so in the future. They will continue as victims of anti-colonialism. This ruling colonial power influences Eastern people in many ways such as, emphasis upon unimportant, sensational and emotional matters; rumors, discrimination, and hypocrisy; and sowing discord and pessimism to keep Easterners occupied with mundane and unimportant issues. By these means Easterners are kept in a state whereby they are unaware of what Western colonialization is doing to them, unaware of their fate and destiny. These conspiracies, then cause young Europeans, likewise, to become alienated and destructive, and perform more tricks and crimes. All of these acts are performed in the name of colonialization in Eastern countries without the Easterners realizing it.......

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