In today’s world, there has been a growing awareness of ensuring equality among gender. From changing individual behaviours to campaigning for institutional change, people all across the world have been seeking justice to ensure that women get what they deserve.
As a result, people are looking into even the tiniest details that could lead to gender inequality, such as the colours used in everyday products, the languages teachers use to refer to their kids, how gender-neutral parenting should be done, and even hand gestures.
Islam too cannot avoid this scrutiny. Especially since sex-based responsibility is laid out very explicitly in Islam, we cannot escape the eyes of people watching and commenting on every single sex-based task differentiation that we have. As a result of that, Muslims either become defensive for the sake of protecting their faith, or they might be advocating as well but to the point of exaggerating or even promoting inaccurate information about Islam.
Why the sex-based responsibility in the first place? I’m not an Islamic scholar, so I won’t go deep into that.
What I do know is…
Misogyny & failed patriarchy among Muslims are real.
“But Islam has given extensive rights to the Muslim women, well beyond the years of modernity!”
But that does not change the fact that a lot of the Muslims, the Muslim men themselves, failed to execute the rights as trusted by Allah. Because while Islam is perfect, Muslims are not. Imagine women who have been mistreated, oppressed, and abused by men in their life, coming into Islamic institution to seek for help, only to be told that “Islam gives rights to women, you should be grateful.” That is so cruel.
Now, why the failed patriarchy in the first place?
Let me clear it first and foremost, at least from my understanding. Islam at the very core, is patriarchal. There is no denying that. It is as patriarchal, as some society is matriarchal. Are we saying that matriarchy is anti-men or oppressing men? Of course not. The same goes to patriarchy. It is a system in and of itself; one that’s meant to be as neutral as matriarchy.
But as time goes by (even before and after Islam emerged), there should be no surprise that men make mistakes, and they try to make up for their mistakes by ensuring that the women do not speak up. As time went by, they scale; both the mistakes, and the ways of shutting and shunning off women. They became deeper and more engraved into the systems (hence why the word systemic), that even good-hearted men will not be able to avoid such oppressing systems working around their lives.
This is failed patriarchy, and it is as real as it gets. And the Muslim community is not an exception from making the same mistakes.
So what does it means for us Muslims?
Even if we don’t like it, the scrutiny is good for Muslims.
I know, there are Muslims who are getting tired about having to keep defending themselves when being asked about the sex-based differentiation. But as I said, failed patriarchy and misogyny is very much real. So it’s normal that when the awareness is increasing, people are becoming more strict with men. That is just how awareness work.
So here’s my message to the guys out there.
Be a man. Take that extra scrutiny. Allow yourself to be examined even more.
Because to ensure justice in gender equality, it needs the cooperation of everyone; both men and women. If you don’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of. And maybe you would be pointed a few things that you thought is not wrong, but it actually is. Do not take it personally; you didn’t know better, as it is systemic. So now that you know, acknowledge it.
For example, there was a seemingly harmless Tweet in the Malaysian community talking about how she as a wife kisses her husband’s hand. Things escalated when that Tweet became a hotbed of debate between two camps; one views it as a form of oppression born out of failed patriarchy, and another views it as just one of traditional gesture made out of respect that is not needed to be fought about.
You as a husband who your wife does kiss you, might be worried right now, “Am I really enabling gender inequality with such simple gesture?” Fret not, you don’t have to stop doing what works with your wife. If people come to you asking about it though, answer them respectfully according to your belief. More importantly, show kindness and compassion, knowing that they are just concerned about gender injustice (although the way they interrogate you might be like a jerk, and I’m not endorsing that either).
This is an example on how to handle people asking on a faultless sex-based practice in Islam. But what about real mistakes that are always disregarded because they are coated ✨Islamically✨?
I’ll take an example from a popular behavior for Muslims husbands across nation; joking about having second, third, and/or fourth wife. Joking about sensitive topics in is wrong, regardless if the person you’re joking towards is fine. And the fact that this is very normalized across Muslim community, to even the point the wives themselves joke about how they are easily replaced, is showing misogyny.
So, even if your partner is okay with you, do not joke about it. If it’s hard for you to stop, at least don’t do it too much. Because the act itself is wrong. There are always more jokes to be made. If that’s the only joke you can do (again, even if the wife is okay), that tells a lot about what kind of person you are. (BTW, the admirable sunnah of the Prophet is monogamy, not polygamy)
So there you go, my thoughts about misogyny and failed patriarchy among Muslims. I know, it’s easy for us Muslims become defensive, but that won’t help non-Muslims understand where is the justice in our religion. Do not be afraid to join the field and advocate together for equality, not only regardless for gender, in fact regardless of anything about a person. Everyone is human, and deserves equality. With that being said, be careful that we do not lower our bar too much just to fit non-Muslims’ narrative. What Allah has stated clearly is not to be denied.
May Allah reward us for fighting for justice and truth.
“Surely, Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, and the men who give Sadaqah (charity) and the women who give Sadaqah, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the men who guard their private parts (against evil acts) and the women who guard (theirs), and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember (Him) – for them, Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” – Quran 33:35.