Discrimination against women in Pakistan
Response to an Article in Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan
I am writing in response to Shafaqat Munir's article "Gender bias creating social imbalance" (May 31, 2000) where in the opening paragraph he blames the gender bias in Pakistan Muslim society on "Hindu influence on society, people in general misinterpret Islam, mixing it with some of the worst traditions of Hindu culture which usually discriminate against women."
Pakistan's obsession with India in general and Hindus in particular has gone beyond credible limits. It is rooted so deep that a senior US senator introduced visiting Benazir Bhutto, as Prime Minister of India. When confronted with the misstatement, he replied that during his private conversation, all she talked about was India. So he assumed she was the Prime Minister of India.
On the topic of discrimination of women, a casual walk in India and in any Muslim country from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan will make it clear how women are discriminated in Hindu and Islamic societies. Contrary to Munir's assertion, if there is still some freedom for the women of Pakistan, it is because of the left-over Hindu cultural influence of the days when the Pakistanis were still Hindus. Afghanistan, where Hindu influence has been completely erased is a classical example of treatment of women in Islamic society.
He then goes on to say: " The wrong we do with women is that we consider them not trustworthy or lacking wisdom -- which is not the case in real life."
Where does the concept of women being "not trustworthy or lacking wisdom" comes from? It definitely does not have origin in Hindu culture. I am glad that Munir mentioned it in his article.
As the following Hadith will confirm it was Prophet Muhammad who believed women to be "ungrateful to their husbands and lacking in common sense"
"(142) It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdallah b. 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah observed: 0 womenfolk, you should give charity and ask much forgiveness for I saw you in bulk amongst the dwellers of Hell. A wise lady among them said: Why is it, Messenger of Allah, that our folk is in bulk in Hell ? Upon this the Holy Prophet observed: You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion " but (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of the wise, besides you." Upon this the woman remarked: What is wrong with our common sense and with religion? He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Your lack of common sense (can be well judged from the fact) that the evidence of two women is equal to one man, that is a proof of the lack of common sense, and you spend some nights (and days) in which you do not offer prayer and in the month of Ramadan (during
the days) you do not observe fast, that is a failing In religion. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Abu Tahir with this chain of transmitters."
True, Pakistan, like any other Islamic country, has problem with status of women in their society. Some in Pakistan may regard it as unjust but most scholars of Islam don't. Whatever Muslims want to do is their concern but blaming the Hindu society is hardly the way to resolve the issue and remove the discrimination against the women.
Yes, Hindu society has problems of its own but the kind of discrimination Munir is talking is not one of those.