Press release from Ahmadi Muslims
Western concepts around gender roles were taken to task at the UK’s largest Islamic gathering, which closed on Sunday 7 August, with a keynote address by the leader and Caliph of Islam Ahmadiyya.
More than 26,000 Ahmadi Muslims were in attendance to listen to the Caliph speak at the Jalsa Salana, which took place over three days in Hampshire.
The Caliph, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, said:
“Today there are many social movements and organisations promoting ‘gender equality’. Yet their way of establishing ‘women’s rights’ is rarely based on fair principles or for the sake of establishing true equality for women. For example, they raise slogans in favour of women’s rights, whilst at the same time they deny religious women the freedom to act upon their faith and force them to abandon their religious teachings.
“Rather than bringing men and women closer together, all they do is drive them further apart.”
The Caliph went on to present numerous examples of how Islam had given fundamental rights to women, centuries before the West, in a way which empowers both them and wider society – such as the right for women to inherit property – which was denied to women in the West until the twentieth century.
“Almost all the Islamic references I have presented today refer to the rights Islam gives women, whilst the rights of men have not been stipulated separately, or certainly not to the same degree as women’s rights have been.
“This is because in every society one sees that men have sought to assert their power and dominance, sometimes unjustly… Thus, Islam has given much stronger emphasis to establishing the rights of women. Yet despite this, the opponents of Islam claim that Islam does not give due rights to women.”
Heroic Muslim women
On Saturday, the Caliph delivered an address specifically to the ladies of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in which he related stories of inspirational women in Islamic history, who had performed deeds of heroism and sacrificed much for their faith.
The Caliph said:
“Nowhere in Islam does it say that women should stay locked up at home and neither did Muslim women in early Islam do this.
“Rather they would come to listen to the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and take part in (defensive) battles, take care of the wounded and ride horses. They used to learn from men and also teach men… thus they had complete freedom.”
The Jalsa Salana is an international convention held over three days every year. This year only attendees from the UK and limited representatives from abroad were permitted to attend due to precautions over Covid.
Editor’s story of meeting a Muslim woman at the University of Kent:
I was standing at the bus-stop on the University of Kent campus during the Lambeth conference, reading a newspaper, when my eye caught a swirl of purple; another Bishop I presumed. It was a young woman covered head to foot in polyester cotton of the exact episcopal hue.
“Hello,” I said in surprise, “Why are you wearing that?”
“It’s my hijab. I have just come from the Mosque.”
She had with her a young son, who was clutching a small prayer mat.
She explained that she had come from Folkestone on that Sunday afternoon to attend the Mosque on campus.
“But surely there is a mosque in Folkestone?”
“Yes, there is, but I like this one.”
A new convert to Islam
She explained that she is a new convert. She is a primary school teacher who got interested in Islam from the primary school religious curriculum.
“And you had no contact with Islam before that?”
“When I was a student, I had a friend who came from an Islamic family but he was not religious. But I learned from him about fasting, Eid and that.”
“So, you don’t have a Muslim partner now?”
“No, I am a single mother.”
“And what do the people at this Mosque say about that?”
“They are okay with it. They keep trying to recommend me a suitable partner.”
I would have liked to find out how she was getting along with reading the Qur‘an, but my bus came along at that point.
A question of interpretation
Having read the Qur‘an in an English translation, I think that verses on which Muslim dress codes for women are based are open to question. Al-Noor 24.30 reads “Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes away from temptation and to preserve their chastity, not to display adornments (except such as are normally revealed), to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to display their finery except to their… [long list of male relatives, and including “male attendants lacking in natural vigour, ie eunuchs]…” And let them not stamp their feet when walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets.”
One would like to be able to visualise the actual clothing of the women this text targets. What were the adornments “normally revealed”? Bracelets? Shoulder pins to hold the garment in place?
No photos, please
I would have liked to take a photo of this woman, hijabbed in purple. But then I recalled that observant Muslim women shun photos, presumably as a threat to chastity. (Significant to note that the Ahmadi Convention photos sent to KBL did not.)
But this young woman at the bus-stop was clearly making a statement. She was proclaiming to the world that she is a new convert. Or, as the women in the Mosque hint, she may be seeking a good Muslim husband. Less than 1% of the population in Kent is Muslim, so she has to go to the right places, including I would have thought, Folkestone Islamic Cultural Centre whose website has more information about that.