By Presidential proclamation, March celebrates Women’s History Month and honors women. One stands to wonder, why women’s history and why in March? It started in 1908 when thousands of women, fed up with poor working conditions, marched throughout New York City in protest. They decided to return the next year and make it official. In 1909, the first Women’s Day was held in New York and soon after Europe followed suit and the observance became international, reaching into other countries as well. In 1981, the US congress passed a bill designating the week of March 7 th as Women’s History Week. In 1987, the US Congress officially declared the month of March as Women’s History Month. The day and the month have become a global observance, with various countries celebrating it much more than the country of its origin, the USA. But does this auspicious recognition include Muslim women?
As Muslim women who are inclined towards socio-economic, moral activism in our struggle to be witnesses unto mankind, many of us are left wondering about how this month fits into our narratives. Women’s History Month presents opportunities for us to connect with our sisters from other faiths, to dispel misinformation about women in Islam, and to work towards establishing justice, within our Muslim communities as well as our general population. After all, Islam does elevate women and brings them out of oppression, and the responsibility also falls on Muslim women as well as Muslim men to spread this message far and wide. “And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” (2:226) “Who so does that which is right, and believes, whether male or female, him or her will We quicken to happy life.” (16:97)
While we should avoid getting caught up in catchy slogans and vulgarity that creeps up in events and marches at times, we cannot deny the oppression and mistreatment of women within the Islamic sphere. It is imperative that we understand that the oppression and injustices in Islamic communities do not come from Islam. Many a time women do not know the rights given to them in the religion. Islam liberated women from the oppression so prevalent at the time. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught the Muslims, “Fear Allah in respect of women.” Sahih Muslim. He (peace and blessings be upon him) consulted women and weighed their consult seriously. In Islam, a woman is independent, able to make her own contracts, such as the freedom to choose her husband, attend the mosques without blame or hindrance, involvement in business transactions, and seeking knowledge and teaching it to others, even to the men. They are fully-functioning, autonomous members of the society. Till this day, many a woman are following in the footsteps of the righteous women before them, active in various spheres of life.
This month presents an opportunity for us to initiate dialogue and educate the masses. Women are the backbone of our communities and without them societies would collapse. Education and empowerment of women will lead to stronger communities and healthier, impactful futures for generations to come. “O mankind! Be mindful of your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Revere Allah, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and revere the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you.” (4:1)