Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book: At-Taqarrub Ila Allah - Drawing Close to Allah

A new book At-Taqarrub Ila Allah - Drawing Close to Allah
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Introduction:
All Praise is due to Allah the Lord of the Worlds who said in His Kitaab Al-Kareem:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Indeed, those who have said "Our Lord is Allah" and then remained on a right course, there will be no fear upon them, nor will they grieve (Al-Ahqaaf 13).
And He (swt) said:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ
Verily those who believe and act righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures (Al-Bayyinah 7).
May blessings and peace be upon his Messenger Al-Ameen and the leader of the Muttaqeen. He purified the Muslims; he taught them the Kitaab and Al-Hikmah (wisdom) whilst before that they had been upon clear and manifest error. One day Sufyaan Bin ‘Abdillah Ath-Thaqafi approached him and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, Inform me of a matter that I can hold on to firmly’. He (saw) said:
قُلْ آمَنْتُ بِاللهِ ثُمَّ اسْتَقِمْ
Say: I have believed in Allah, then stand firm (upon that) (Muslim).
Indeed the thoughts of Islaam are concepts and they are not merely information to improve one’s knowledge but rather they represent that which regulates human behaviour in the life of this world. These thoughts have come as a guidance, mercy and exhortation, and as solutions for the human’s actions whilst also specifying the way in which he conducts himself and his behaviour. For this reason, it is necessary for the Muslim to fully perceive and comprehend that the Sharee’ah texts have come to be acted upon and that they have come specifically in relation to his behaviour within life. Therefore it is obligatory for the Muslim to comprehend that Islaam has come with concepts (Mafaaheem) to regulate his behaviour in the life of this world, so that he adopts every thought as a law and his conduct is regulated within the remits of this law. For this reason the practical aspect manifests in him and not the educational aspect. It must be clear, that if he was to approach the Islamic thoughts and concepts from an educational angle alone, then he would have lost and strayed from their original purpose, which is to discipline and regulate the conduct. These thoughts would then become knowledge like History and Geography and therefore they would lose the vitality that exists within them, in addition to losing the reality of being a complete and comprehensive ideology (Mabda’). In other words it would lose its description as an intellectual belief (Aqeedah) from which a detailed and complete system emanates. It would just become Islamic knowledge which the Muslim will strive to encompass and delve in to. His concern would be to increase his information and knowledge base whilst being driven by a taste for academia. He will proceed along this path without it crossing his mind that he should be taking these thoughts and concepts for the purpose of disciplining and regulating his behaviour within life.
For this reason the previous ‘Ulamaa from amongst the righteous predecessors paid attention to the characteristics and attributes reflecting the view that one should act in accordance to his knowledge and that his speech should not contradict his actions.
Allah (swt) said:
أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنْسَوْنَ أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ
Do you order the people upon righteousness and forget yourselves whilst you are reciting the scripture? Will you then not reason? (Al-Baqarah 44).
They would pay careful attention and ardently avoid falling within the category that Allah (swt) described when He ‘Azza Wa ‘Jalla said:
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا
The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it onboard is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books] (Al-Jumu’ah 5).
It has been narrated from the Nabi (saw) that he said: <>. Those meant here are those who hear the speech but do not act upon it. Similarly the Nabi (saw) said:
أَهْلَكَ أُمَّتِي رَجُلانِ: عَالِمٌ فَاجِرٌ وَجَاهِلٌ مُتَعَبِّدٌ
Two types of men have destroyed my Ummah. The sinful corrupted scholar and the ignorant worshipper.
It was then asked: ‘Which of these two is of greater evil?’
He (saw) said:
العُلَمَاءُ إِذَا فَسَدُوا
The scholars when they are corrupted.
(Note: I could not find the reference for the exact wording of this Hadeeth apart from the last part stating ‘the ‘Ulamaa when they are corrupted’ which came in a Hadeeth in which the Messenger (saw) was asked: ‘Who are the worst of people?’. I did find a number of narrations with a similar meaning such as: ‘The destruction of my Ummah is in the sinful corrupted (Faajir) scholar and the rational ignorant person and the worst of the worst are the bad Ulamaa and the best of the best are the best Ulamaa’. The Hadeeth has been narrated by As-Sibky in the ‘Tabaqaat Ash-Shaafi’iyyah and very similar have been related by others however it appears that the Isnaad for all of these narrations have weaknesses in them).
It is narrated that Abu Ad-Dardaa’ (ra) said: The matter that I am most fearful of when I fall before Allah is that He (swt) will say to me:
قَدْ عَلِمْتَ ... فَمَاذَا عَمِلْتَ
You have learnt ... so what then, have you acted upon?
Based upon this, gaining knowledge of the Islamic thoughts and Shar’iyah rulings, without paying attention to the fact that they represent the regulation of the human’s conduct, is a knowledge that is rotten and it results in these thoughts and rules having no real affect upon the conduct of many people. This is in addition to the great sin that is earned and a severe punishment on the Day of Judgment, a Day in which no amount of wealth or number of sons and offspring can bring any benefit, with the exception of the one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.
يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ (88) إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ
A day in which wealth and children will not bring benefit. Except for the one who comes to Allah with a sound heart (Ash-Shu-araa 88-89).
Islaam took special care to shape and form the Islamic personality (Ash-Shakhsiyyah Al-Islaamiyyah) by the Islamic Aqeedah, as the personality’s ‘Aqliyah (mentality) and Nafsiyah (disposition)is shaped by it. The Islamic ‘Aqliyah is the mentality that thinks upon the basis of Islaam by making Islaam alone the general measure for all thoughts about life. The Islamic Nafsiyah (disposition) is that which makes all of its Muyool (inclinations) accord to the basis of Islaam, by making Islaam alone the general measure for all of its satisfactions (in terms of organic needs and instincts). Similarly Islaam has also commanded the increase of the Islamic culture, to develop the ‘Aqliyah so that it becomes capable of measuring every thought. It has likewise commanded the performance of the Waajibaat (obligations) and to perform the Mandoobaat and Mustahabbaat (recommended acts) a lot and regularly. It has also forbidden the Muharramaat (prohibitions), the Makroohaat (disliked acts) and the Shubuhaat (doubtful/suspicious acts) so that the Nafsiyah is strengthened and becomes capable of deterring every inclination that is in opposition to Islaam. All of this is for the purpose of elevating the Shakhsiyah (personality), so that it proceeds upon the high and elevated path, whilst attaining the pleasure of Allah Tabaarak Wa Ta’Aalaa in this life and the next.
The entire Dunyaa is hostile towards Islaam and the Muslims. The disbelievers are Awliyaa’ (friends, helpers and protectors) to one another. All of their schools of thought possess a strong and unified resolve in regards to plotting against Islaam day and night, secretly and openly. Their minds cannot rest, their eyes cannot sleep and they cannot find peace until the light of Allah has been extinguished. At the same time, they exert all of their efforts to prevent the establishment of the Islamic Khilafah State and to prevent Islaam from returning to the reality of life.
This is the true state and condition of the disbelievers and their people. So how is it possible to confront and stand in the face of this great plot and clear trial? Indeed the Nahdah (revival) that we desire and the resumption of the Islamic way of life that we hope for, requires and necessitates a bitter struggle with the weapon of enlightened thought. It is essential to stand against the Kufr (disbelief) and its agents from amongst the rulers and those smitten by the Kufr civilisation. This work requires Nafsiyahs that are unrivalled and elevated, formidable and purified. There is no way to achieve this except by strengthening the connection and relationship to Allah Ta’Aalaa the Lord of the worlds and all creation. He Subhaanahu must be relied upon alone for help and full Tawakkul must be placed upon Him alone, whilst the attainment of His pleasure must be made the highest aim of this life. It was necessary to reawaken the Nufoos (hearts) with Taqwaa of Allah and obedience to Him, with the fear of His punishment and yearning for His gardens of paradise. The one who carries the Da’wah is in the greatest need of being obedient to Allah and to stand firmly upon His Deen. If he was to do that then the Dunyaa would become insignificant in front of his eyes, the affair of the disbelievers would be diminished before him and the difficult matters would become easier. He will burden the torture and those who attempt to stand in the way of Allah’s path, he will flout and brush aside the threats of the disbelievers whilst embracing the promise of Allah and he would be able to see the victory of Allah coming in which he would have no doubt.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا إِنْ تَنْصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنْصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ (7) وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَتَعْسًا لَهُمْ وَأَضَلَّ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (8) ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَرِهُوا مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (9) أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ دَمَّرَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ أَمْثَالُهَا (10) ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ مَوْلَى الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا وَأَنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ لَا مَوْلَى لَهُمْ
O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant your feet firmly.
But those who disbelieve, for them is misery, and their actions are wasted.
That is because they disliked what Allah revealed, so He rendered their deeds worthless.
Have they not travelled through the land and seen the end of those before them? Allah destroyed [everything] over them, and for the disbelievers is something comparable.
That is because Allah is the protector of those who have believed and because the disbelievers have no protector for them.
(Muhammad 7-11).
The following are some of the Qurabaat (Acts of gaining closeness to Allah) and Taa’aat (Acts of obedience pleasing to Allah), which generate the Jaw Al-Imaani (Atmosphere of Imaan) within the Da’wah carrier and increase the realisation of his relationship and connection to Allah Ta’Aalaa. This atmosphere then strengthens the Nafsiyah of the Da’wah carrier and causes him to regulate all of his inclinations in line with the commands and prohibitions of Allah. In this way the binding between the ‘Aqliyah and the Nafsiyah is completed and the personality of the Da’wah carrier would become a distinguished personality. This personality’s ‘Aqliyah and Nafsiyah would be of one and the same type and based on a single basic principle; the Islamic Aqueedah.
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
لاَ يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدَكُمْ حتَّى يَكُونَ هَواهُ تِبْعأً لِمَا جَئْتُ بِهِ
None of you believes until his desires are in accordance to that which I have come with.
(An-Nawawi Hasan Saheeh).
Fawzi Sanqart
Rajab 1411h
January 1991.


Book: The Shar’iyah Methodology for the Resumption of the Islamic Way of Life

Muhammad Hussein Abdullah
Second Edition 1423h/2002
The introduction:
All praise belongs to the Lord of the worlds and all creation, who revealed the Qur’aan as guidance for the pious and sent Muhammad (saw) as a Rahmah (mercy) for the whole world. He sent His Messenger to bring mankind out of the darkness of disbelief and to bring them to the certain light.
The Muslims, since the destruction of their Khilafah in the year 1924, at the hands of the disbelievers and their agents, have lived and continue to live a life of divisions, instability, weakness and insignificance. So after they were the leaders of the world they have become led and after having been one Ummah to the exclusion of all people they have now become divided peoples separated by manufactured borders that lie between them. They are ruled by man-made systems and their weak entities, that number more than fifty, do not benefit them or take them away from being considered part of the third world and they are helpless before the disbelievers if they wish to usurp and take away parts of their lands like they have done in Palestine amongst other lands.
They have experimented with and been experimented upon with thoughts and man-made systems which have been taken from both the East and the West. These were taken so that they could revive and unify however these foreign imports gained nothing for them except further weakness upon weakness. This led them to reassess themselves and to search deeply within themselves for the reason of that great glory which had made them leaders and for the reason for this new weakness that had made them into followers of others. They were then guided to the first reason which was their holding fast to Islaam as an Aqeedah (Belief) and system of life and the second reason which was their abandoning of Islaam as a system of life. This sensation within the Muslims was focused in individuals and groups who held a higher level of sensation above others. So they started to embark upon calling for the return of Islaam and the resumption of the Islamic way of life whilst being armed with the Ijtihaadaat (derived opinions) that they had arrived at in regards to this issue. Therefore movements, political parties, groups and individuals arose in most of the Muslim lands calling towards that.
However the disbelieving states and other nations who follow other than the Deen of Islaam felt the seriousness and danger of this matter. Therefore they stood in opposition to it, to prevent it, using all available intellectual and material ways to accomplish that whilst employing many different styles and means. They described everyone who called for the return of Islaam to life as a political system with labels of extremism, militancy and terrorism. They began to hold conferences and seminars in the name of interfaith dialogue or a dialogue between civilisations. They made money available and recruited men in the name of dealing a decisive blow against terrorism and extremism. This was all to stand in the face of the return of Islaam whilst seeking assistance from some of the sons of the Muslims to stand by their side who had abandoned their Ummah because of their own ignorance of Islaam or due to their love for money. They did find this enough though but rather they attempted to influence some of the movements, political parties and groups. So they beautified some western thoughts about Islaam to them by portraying them to be from Islaam and this was in order to divert them from the Shar’iy (legal and legitimate) method that leads to the return of the Islamic Khilafah.
The Tareeqah (Methodology) to resume the Islamic way of life must be taken from Islaam alone because it is a complete and comprehensive ideology containing the Fikrah (thought) and the Tareeqah (method). Indeed it is a thought and a method and its method must be of the same type and kind as its thought. For this reason it is not permitted for those working in the Da’wah, to be diverted by even a hairs breadth away from the method because Allah (swt) has made this method Fard (obligatory). It is the Method that the Messenger of Allah (saw) proceeded upon until he established the Islamic State in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, the Islamic State that lasted for over 1300 years before it was destroyed at the hands of the disbelievers.
Then after the destruction of the Khilafah State the Muslims did not have at their disposal clear, prepared and ready Shar’iyah rulings explaining the method by which the State should be restored and re-established. They had other Shar’iyah rulings (Ahkaam) at their disposal which were abundant in the books of Fiqh dealing with ‘Ibaadaat (worships), Mu’aamalaat (societal transactions) and ‘Uqoobaat (punishments). This was because the Muslims had been living an Islamic life within the Khilafah State and they had not imagined nor had it crossed their minds that this State would ever disappear. And because Fiqh according to the understanding of the Muslims is the ‘Knowledge of the practical Shar’iyah rulings’ then the Ahkaam (rulings) of the Tareeqah for the restoration or reestablishment of the Khilafah State were not previously looked in to. This is because the State had been present and had not yet been removed from existence. So this reality that we face today (since the removal of the Khilafah State) had not previously existed.
However after the Khilafah State was destroyed and the Muslims began to sense the new reality in which they were living, it became obligatory upon them to begin to deal with this reality in accordance to the Ahkaam (rulings) of Islaam. So they began to move towards the Shar’iyah method of resuming the Islamic life by examining the Seerah (life) of the Nabi (saw). As a result some of them viewed the method as raising arms and fighting anyone that stood in the way of the return of the Khilafah whilst some others viewed the method as being related to At-Tassawuf or Siyaahah in the way of Allah. Others still saw that the method for resuming the Islamic life rested upon charitable associations and the propagations of moralistic virtues, some viewed the method as being linked to reviving the Islamic heritage represented in knowledge of Tafseer, Hadeeth and Fiqh, whilst others saw that the methodology involved intellectual and political work. Every one of these views was based upon a Daleel (evidence) or a Shubhah (semblance) of a Daleel from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. As such this study that we are concerned with, relates to the Shar’iyah Tareeqah (method) that is extracted and deduced from the Kitaab and the Sunnah, after first including a study of the current reality that we are living in.
I ask Allah (swt) for this study to act as an incentive for those who are proceeding upon the correct method to enrich their path so that their objective can be achieved. At the same time I ask Allah (swt) to make this study to be a spur and incentive for others in order for them to scrutinise and to be thorough in respect to the rulings of the Method. This is so that the Muslims as a whole can collectively proceed upon the correct path to achieve the honour of the Dunyaa and the reward of the hereafter:
وَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ وَلِرَسُولِهِ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
And the honour belongs to Allah, and to the His Messenger and to the believers
(Al-Munaafiqoon 8)


PART 1: The Marriage between Feminism and Colonialism in the Muslim World

A Historical Perspective
"Anthropology, it has often been said, served as a handmaid to colonialism. Perhaps it must also be said that feminism, or the ideas of feminism, served as its other handmaid."
Leila Ahmed, Egyptian American writer on Feminism in the Muslim World
For over a century there has been an indisputable marriage between feminism and colonialism in the Muslim world that continues into modern times. Successive Western governments and politicians have employed the language of feminism and its movements in order to further their colonial interests in the region. They generated and propagated a narrative that Muslim women needed saving from the 'oppression' of Islamic laws and rule as well as liberating through the Western culture and system. This was in order to morally justify their colonial intervention and wars in the Muslim lands and strengthen their foothold in the region. In truth however, their apparent concern for the wellbeing of Muslim women was feigned emotion, for such intervention worsened the lives of women in the Muslim world and stripped away their rights. An academic, Janine Rich, in an article published in the International Affairs Review entitled, "'Saving' Muslim Women: Feminism, US Policy and the War on Terror" wrote, "The complex discourses surrounding women in the Islamic world have a long and deeply political history, and this narrative has been renewed and re-utilized numerous times to garner widespread public support for Western military intervention in the Middle East. Yet when examined critically, it becomes apparent that U.S. foreign policy and military intervention in the Middle East has both worsened the status of women's rights in the region, and subsequently used the discourse of women's rights as a justification for the "war on terror."
Today, as the concept of the 'Caliphate' is attacked from all sides by Western politicians and media, fear-mongering towards the status of women under Islamic rule has once again intensified. At this time it is perhaps more pertinent than ever to understand that for Western governments, talk of 'Women's Rights' in the context of the Muslim world – both historically and at present times – has only ever been used as a smokescreen and tool to further colonial aims.
The Western Colonial Strategy to Undermine Islamic Rule under the Khilafah:
In the 19th and 20th century, the lust of European powers for expansion of wealth and territory was satisfied through the occupation and colonisation of many Muslim lands, due to their abundant resources and rich revenue potential. Lord Cromer, British Consul-General who ruled over Egypt from 1883 to 1907 stated, "The European would not reside in Egypt unless he could make money by doing so."
However, these powers realized that strengthening and expanding their domination over the region could only be achieved through undermining the political and cultural authority that Islam held within the Muslim world, that was manifested in the presence of Islamic rule under the Khilafah state, alongside replacing it with Western-inclined values, laws and systems. The Western colonial rulers therefore devised a strategy to weaken and ultimately destroy the Khilafah and prevent its future re-establishment; for this state had always stood as the fiercest obstacle to European control of the 'East'. This plan included distancing Muslims intellectually and emotionally from their Islamic beliefs and values and hence re-aligning their loyalties and attachment away from their Deen to the Western secular culture and system. They recognized that the strong adherence of Muslims to their Islamic beliefs and practices carried a potential of the re-emergence of Islam as a powerful political state. This would herald the greatest threat to continued colonial rule in the region and had to be fought at all costs. Hence the European powers employed all means to mould the cultural loyalty of their Muslim subjects towards the West, understanding that this was vital for political loyalty: that cultural colonization held the path to continued physical, political and economic colonization. Lord Cromer for example, viewed by many as the mastermind behind British imperialism in the Arab world, wrote in his book, 'Modern Egypt', "...it is essential that, subsequently to our evacuation, that (Egyptian) government should.....act on principles which will be in conformity with the commonplace requirements of Western civilization.....It is absurd to suppose that Europe will look on as a passive spectator whilst a retrograde government based on purely Muhammadan principles and obsolete oriental ideas, is established in Egypt. The material interests at stake are too important...It is nothing less than this: that the new generation of Egyptians has to be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of Western Civilization."
The Western Colonialist Attack on "Women and Shariah" to Aid the Destruction of the Khilafah
Reforming the thinking and identity of Muslim women was a primary target in this colonial plan to destroy and prevent Islamic rule, for European powers recognised that in the Islamic society, women were the centre of the family, the heart of communities, and the nurturers of future generations. Hence capturing their minds and hearts would be pivotal in re-shaping the mentality of entire Muslim societies. If they could get Muslim women to despise and reject the Shariah by presenting it as 'the enemy' of the woman, then they could create staunch opponents to Islamic governance within the Muslim world. If they could couple this with enticing them towards the Western identity and system so that they view them as the path to liberation and salvation, then they could also generate strong advocates and ambassadors of Western culture and Western-orientated rule. Christian missionaries also openly advocated targeting the women of the Muslim world due to them being the primary shapers of the thinking and inclinations of the region's children. S. M. Zwemer, a well-known missionary to the Middle East argued, "Owing to the fact that the mother's influence over the children, both boys and girls.....is paramount, and that women are the conservative element in the defence of their faith, we believe that missionary bodies ought to lay far more emphasis in work for Moslem women as a means for hastening the evangelization of Moslem lands."
Therefore, to achieve their goal, the colonialists engineered a specific narrative: that Islam and Islamic rule oppressed women and hence it was their moral duty to save her through removing the cause of her subjugation – the Shariah laws – and to 'civilise' her people through the imposition of Western rule and the Western system. This narrative provided moral justification amongst their own public and those they occupied for their continued colonisation of the Muslim world, also aiding them in their goal of maintaining and strengthening their foothold in the region. Joan Scott in 'The Politics of the Veil' writes regarding France's colonization of Algeria in the 19th century, "From the outset, the violent imposition of French rule was justified in terms of a 'civilizing mission' – the bringing of republican, secular, universalist values to those who lacked them.....the colonizers aimed to assimilate these underdeveloped peoples to French culture."
A host of lies and misinformation was therefore constructed and widely disseminated regarding the position, rights and mistreatment of women under the Shariah. They also promoted the idea that if Muslim women continued to accept the Qur'an and Sunnah as the basis of their beliefs and actions, they would be condemned to oppressed lives. To achieve their aims, colonial rulers also employed the malicious accusations of numerous Western orientalist writers who had over many years conjured up false tales about the mistreatment of women under Islam. Some had even suggested that the backwardness of the Muslim world was due to Islam's degradation of women, and that Muslim societies could only progress towards modernization and civilization if Islam's practices and laws were discarded in exchange for European culture, social customs, and mores. Stanley Lane-Poole for example, the early 20th century British orientalist and archaeologist wrote, "The degradation of women in the East is a canker that begins its destructive work in childhood, and has eaten into the whole system of Islam." Lord Cromer's writings mirror such views. He wrote in his book, 'Modern Egypt', that the reasons, "Islam as a social system has been a complete failure are manifold." However, "first and foremost," he asserts was its treatment of women. He claimed that unlike Christianity that teaches respect for women and causes European men to "elevate" women due to their beliefs, Islam degraded them, and it was due to this degradation, epitomized in 'veiling and segregation of the sexes' that the inferiority of Muslim women could be traced. He wrote that it could not be doubted that 'veiling' exercised, "a baneful effect on Eastern society. The arguments in the case are, indeed, so commonplace that it is unnecessary to dwell on them". He stated that it was essential, "that the new generation of Egyptians has to be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of western civilization", and to achieve this it was necessary to change the position of women in Islam, for it was Islam's degradation of women through 'veiling' that was "the fatal obstacle" to the Egyptian's, "attainment of that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilization", and only by abandoning this could they attain, "the mental and moral development" which he (Cromer) desired for them.
It was clear therefore that to achieve this 'Westernization' of minds, the colonizers sought to dismantle and eliminate any aspect of Islam that prevented them from having control over or access to Muslim women, such as the Islamic family structure of male guardianship over women, the segregation of the sexes, and the Islamic dress. Frantz Fanon, the Afro-French philosopher and writer, commenting regarding French colonialism in Algeria in the 50's, noted, "There is also in the European the crystallization of an aggressiveness, the strain of a kind of violence before the Algerian woman. Unveiling this woman is revealing her beauty; it is baring her secret, breaking her resistance [to colonial rule]. There is in it the will to bring this woman within his reach, to make her a possible object of possession."
Indeed, accusing the Muslim woman's dress of subjugating the woman was an essential part of this colonial project of 'capturing hearts and minds'. As the most visible marker of the difference between Muslim societies and the West, it became a key target of the European onslaught against Islam and came to represent the conflict between the culture of the colonizers and that of the colonized. For example, in the 20th century, in response to an uprising of Algerian Muslims in 1954 aimed at ousting French control of the country, French authorities attempted to maintain their grip over the country by trying to enlist Algerian women to their cause by establishing a network of 'feminine solidarity' centres across the country, run by the wives of the occupation's military officers. The aim was to inculcate Algerian Muslim women with French values and the orientalist narrative on Islam and the Islamic dress in order to win their loyalty to the French cause. The wife of Brigadier General Jacques Massu who led the movement in the capital Algiers once said, "Nourish the mind and the veil will wither by itself". On May 16th, 1958, the women from the organization, accompanied by the French army unveiled a hundred women in a public square. The Muslim women apparently cried, "Let's be like French women" and "Vive L'Algérie francaise". It was a symbolic gesture, aimed at propagating further the engineered idea that these 'native' women wished to be set free from their covers and Islam, and that continuing French rule was the means to achieving this. However, later historians have suggested that these unveiled women were impoverished women and maids of the colonial government who were coerced into taking part in this carefully managed event under the threat of losing their jobs if they did not comply. Joan Scott writes in 'The Politics of the Veil', "It (the veil) was the piece of cloth that represented the antithesis of the tricolore, and the failure of the civilizing mission.....For a long time, much longer than the duration of the war of independence, the veil was – for colonized and colonizers alike – an impenetrable membrane, the final barrier to political subjugation."
The issue of 'women' and their status under the Shariah therefore became a centre-piece in the colonial assault against Islamic rule. Indeed it is interesting to note that the European campaign against the Islamic social laws was not undertaken initially by Western feminists – whose influence came only later – but rather by colonial rulers and their administrations. Leila Ahmed, the US Professor on Women's Studies writes in her book 'Women and Gender in Islam' regarding this colonial feminism, "It was here and in the combining of the languages of colonialism and feminism that the fusion between the issues of women and culture was created. More exactly, what was created was the fusion between the issues of women, their oppression, and the cultures of Other men. The idea that Other men, men in colonized societies or societies beyond the borders of the civilized West, oppressed women was to be used, in the rhetoric of colonialism, to render morally justifiable its project of undermining or eradicating the cultures of colonized peoples.....Colonial feminism, or feminism as used against other cultures in the service of colonialism, was shaped into a variety of similar constructs, each tailored to fit the particular culture that was the immediate target of domination – India, the Islamic world, sub-Saharan Africa. With respect to the Islamic world, regarded as an enemy (and indeed as the enemy) since the Crusades, colonialism.....had a rich vein of bigotry and misinformation to draw on."
The Deterioration of the Rights of Muslim Women under Colonial Rule
Whilst European governments employed feminist rhetoric to attack the 'apparent' low status of women in Islam, they cared little about the subjugation of women within their own societies in the West who were denied basic educational, economic, political, and legal rights of citizenship at the time. In fact colonial rulers such as Lord Cromer, who in Egypt adopted the self-appointed role as liberator of Muslim women from their so-called 'oppression' under Islam, while in England was a founding member and one time president of the Men's League that opposed the suffragette movement and their fight for equal legal, political, and economic rights. Indeed, the predominant view within states such as Britain and France during this period was that women were biologically inferior to men in intellect and rationality. Even Western thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and Montesquieu had described women as incapable by their nature to develop the full faculty of reasoning. They had depicted them as creatures of emotion and therefore unsuitable for the public sphere. Rousseau had argued that the abilities of men and women differed and this is what defined their roles such that men became citizens and women became wives and mothers. Women at the time also lost all legal existence upon marriage, their property and wealth were placed under their husband's authority, and they were denied the right to seek divorce even in an abusive relationship.
In relation to this lowly view and poor treatment of women by European rulers in their own lands, Leila Ahmed writes, "Even as the Victorian male establishment devised theories to contest the claims of feminism, and derided and rejected the ideas of feminism and the notion of men's oppressing women with respect to itself, it captured the language of feminism and redirected it, in the service of colonialism, toward Other men and the cultures of Other men." Therefore, feminism on the Western home front was resisted while exported abroad and used against Islam. It illustrates clearly therefore that all talk of the rights of Muslim women by the European powers was born purely from a colonial will to dominate the Muslim lands rather than any noble altruistic intent to improve the lives of the region's women.
It is therefore not surprising that the rights of Muslim women deteriorated rather than improved under colonial rule. Firstly, European economic penetration into the Muslim world adversely impacted its rural and urban working-class women. European textile imports as an example flooded the Egyptian market, negatively affecting the local textile industry due to competition with the Western goods. Textile production in many of the Muslim lands had for centuries been an area in which women had been employed and able to gain a good income. However, under European economic reforms, countries such as Egypt became mainly an exporter of raw materials such as cotton and an importer of finished European products. This naturally caused a decline in employment, business, and income of those local women involved in the industry. Similarly women in Syria and Aleppo employed within the cotton industry lost their important position within the sector due to imports of European twists and dyes. Other local traders were also affected with local merchants pushed aside due to European companies. Women who invested in local business were therefore also negatively affected.
Secondly, under British colonial occupation of Egypt, the education and training of Muslim girls and women in various fields was minimized hence reducing their possibilities for employment. Lord Cromer as an example placed restrictions on Egyptian government schools and raised school fees which naturally held back girls education. He also discouraged the training of female doctors, closing down the School of Hakimas that had given women as many years of medical training as men received in the School of Medicine, restricting it to midwifery. He argued, "I am aware that in exceptional cases women like to be attended by female doctors, but I conceive that throughout the civilized world, attendance by medical men is still the rule". Additionally, the colonizers introduced British women into the labour force of Egypt in the fields of education and healthcare. This reduced the employment opportunities of Muslim women in these sectors while simultaneously increasing the dependence of the colonized on their colonizers for teachers and medical care.
Thirdly, the imposition of British laws upon the Muslim world, stripped women in the region of their rights ordained by the Shariah that they had enjoyed under Islamic rule. Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, wrote in a 2008 edition of The New York Times Magazine, regarding 'The implementation of Shariah', "As for sexism, the common law (of European countries) long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them".
All this clearly illustrates that the historical attack on the Islamic social laws and the status of women in the Shariah by European politicians and governments had no association whatsoever with furthering the call for women's rights. Neither did it bear any relation to the true problems facing Muslim women at the time. It was unequivocally driven purely upon securing colonial political interests in the Muslim world. The accusation that Islam and Islamic rule oppressed women while the Western secular system liberated them from subjugation was therefore nothing but a false, deceitful, self-seeking narrative born from a colonial will to dominate the region. Present day attacks against 'Women and the Shariah' by Western politicians, governments and institutions are replicating this same strategy.
Written for The Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir