The way things are…

  In a candid discussion on a social site the topic under discussion was if men are superior to women in the context of Islam. I, personally believe that superiority of any kind, is always earned. It’s never simply bestowed on anyone. Not even in the form of one’s gender.
“I for one, do not believe in a God who does not see humans as equals, it goes against everything He says He is.”- was a comment later made by someone in person. I was asked to write a blog on this and to put the following information to clarify this topic further. I never thought I’d ever write on such a thing but it only seems right to do so.
 The Quran says: “You are members, one of another.” (3:195)
The following Hadith gives an apt description of the role of women: Men and women are two equal halves of a single unit. (Al Tirmizi)
The Quran says that men are in charge of, that is, they are ‘maintainers’ of women (4:34)-This leads to a common misconception that Islam gives a higher status to men than women. When did being maintainers become the same as being superior in status?
  An example given in Quran about the woman who was strong enough to rule was given with reference to the people of Sheba. They lived in Yemen. The famous dam of Marib made their country very prosperous and enabled it to attain a high degree of civilization. The Quran tells us that they were ruled by a woman (27:23) without disapproving of her rule. Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba was very wise and sagacious. It is an accepted principle with the commentators of the Quran that when the Quran reports something without any disapproval, that means that has been approved of. Thus the example of the Queen of Sheba having found mention in the Quran shows that rulership is not man’s monopoly. 
Of all the Qur’anic passages about men and women perhaps the one most often misunderstood or misused by both Muslims and non-Muslims is verse 34 of Surah an-Nisa. That verse is the one they all like painting wrong because it states, men are ‘qawwam’ over women. ‘Qawwam‘, they translate as superior. This made a huge confusion for a long time till it was cleared. The clarification was the addition of a bracket, which said (in responsibility) The verse begins with the statement that “men are qawwamun over women”. The root of the key word, qawwamun (pl. of qawwam), is qama which means “to stand or to make something stand or to establish something”. It is often used in the Holy Qur’an in the sense of establishing religion or prayer. A related word is qa’im which means “one who stands or makes something stand”. Qawwam is an intensive form of qa’im and has a sense of continuity in the action involved. So it means one who is continuously standing over something (as, for example, a guard or caretaker) or one who is continuously making something stand, i.e. is maintaining it. In the Qur’anic usage of qawwam and related words there is almost always present an idea of propriety. For example, aqamah of salah is not only praying but also praying properly. The function of qawwam is also understood in the Qur’an to be characterized by fairness. Thus in 4:134 and 5:8, the only other passages in the Qur’an where the word is used, the believers are told: “O you who believe! Be qawwamin with fairness…” “O you who believe! Be qawwamin for God as witnesses to fairness…” From the statement that God has favored men more than women in some ways we should not conclude, as many careless readers of the Qur’an do, that Islam views men superior to women. For this statement does not exclude the possibility that in some other ways women may be favored more than men. In the words of the Holy Qur’an: “The nobler among you in the sight of God is the more muttaqi (righteous) among you.”
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There was Something in that Place to which the Mind could not be Indifferent!

The summer of 2014, I  happened to visit this place, I never knew existed, a few months back. In the heart of a street crowded with workshops and greasy mechanics, was the gate of this quiet place, whose inhabitants were absorbed in their own pace and visibly oblivious to the life outside. The building was said to be about a century old but I personally always doubted this information for a century old building could not be in such a good shape…..not when it is located where it was located.

Luckily I had a chance to meet a lot of new people and though it does not happen very often but, I wish not to forget the people I met.  

That sturdy, old woman with big blue eyes behind those big round glasses was a class of her own. A woman from a foreign land but her apprehension of the locals was remarkably astute.

The old man, short stature, bald and the kind of man who kept his half moon spectacles at the tip of his nose. Someone with not a very good sense of humor. His company I never fancied. A man of principles and discipline. But he valued his principles more than the people around. I won’t say his preference was wrong but it certainly did not match my taste. 

A man in his early thirties. Over- weight, curly black hair. He looked much like some afro-american except his thick mustaches that curled upwards from the edges. He was always good at making jokes and especially parodies. But otherwise, a shy person. 

I knew that ‘R’ was christian. She was a happy person who loved to talk. She seemed very animated when she told me about her experiences in Malaysia. I bet she regrets not marrying those Hindus and Sikhs who had proposed her but much as I can tell, she has a happy home. She was the kind of person who make the whole place come alive. 

The best one was ‘I’. That young skilled man who knew what he was doing and why he was doing. I must above all appreciate his patience as a teacher.

‘S’ was a good kid. I know I intimidated her because she never stopped smiling when I was around. I believe that was a good thing.

I always found it strange the way ‘S.B’ always fought and resisted taking her medicine and injections, but she never said a word to me and always did what I asked her to do. Although I was glad that she showed me some respect but her silence with me always left me uneasy.

It was hard to swallow that ‘R’ died. He was in a terrible condition. His leg looked awful. What still haunts me is the time his every breath had become visibly painful yet, when asked, he did not as much as complained. Not able to reply, he sufficed to smile. In the world where we strive to be heard. Trying in vain to make our insignificant selves sound significant. Crying at every little thing. There was this man, wise enough to keep his dignity when disease and poverty had taken the rest away from him.

‘N.Z’ , the pushtuun, also had incredible patience. That gangrene and daily dressing must hurt a great deal. I’m certainly not proud of it, but I could never look at his foot without getting nauseated every time. I once forced myself not to look at his foot. On the face of that old man was always this child like innocence. He always looked the way a child looks with curiosity and bewilderment at people, trying to figure out whats going on with all these  serious looking people.

I wonder who was the lady with the camera. I never got to know her. With her incomprehensible German, she sounded as if she is cursing someone while she was smiling as she talked. I imagined Hitler speaking like that, all the time she was there.

And I feel obligated to give honorary mention to the beastly german shepherd with whom my encounter was most unusual and thrilling but certainly not pleasant. I once happened to go to the administration block when I passed by an office whose door was open. Walking at my leisure, I was just passing by when I noticed a bull size dog staring at me from inside the office. The dog apparently did not like me much and started barking. As he stood up, he was as tall as me. For a second or two I just stood there trying to figure the magnitude of severity of the situation when I finally realized that someone was angry and someone was coming towards me and might actually bite me. I practically ran and did not look back till I was safe. I was terrified then but I must admit that I loved the adrenaline it gave me. And now to think of it, anyone watching the whole thing must have found it pretty hilarious.

For that place where I may not go again, I can borrow Metcalfe’s words that he had said about the Indian subcontinent in 1800’s, “There is something in this place to which the mind can not be indifferent”.

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