Free Essay

Purdah

In: English and Literature

Submitted By varunasharma
Words 1560
Pages 7
PURDAH

_____________________________________________________________________

Using Imtiaz Dharker’s collection Purdah, this essay will attempt to question the understanding or imagining of religious and cultural structures in reference to their effects—intellectual, emotional and spiritual— Islamic women. The first part of the essay will delve intodifferent viewpoints concerning feminism and Islam. The second shall attempt to juxtapose the opinions of traditional Islamic religious fundamentalists and those of social activists. There are a variety of themes which bring out these opinions via the help of Dharker’s collection. These themes lead us to question these opinions which may or may not hold true. [EDIT]

_____________________________________________________________________ 1
Fundamentally, “the word ‘Purdah’ is used as a title for the set of injunctions which constitute the most important part of the Islamic system of community life. (Al-Ash’ari, 19) Purdah is the result of the “feudal ruler’s concept of izzat(honour-here used in the sense of inviolable feminine chastity)” This concept of izzat and its protection by men itself implied male superiority. It’s essential message was that woman needed to be protected and that man was her protector” (Asghar Ali Engineer,6) Hence, the men put ‘their’ women in Purdah and in doing so emphasized their dominance over women. In order for women to protect their ‘izzat’, it was essential as per the holy book of Qur’an, that “They should draw their over-garments close on to their breasts, and should not display their decoration except before their husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law, sons, step-sons, brothers, nephews, their own women, male attendants lacking sexual urges, or boys who are not yet conscious of feminine secrets.”(24:30-31) (Translated by Al-Ash’ari,183) Women, hence, had to protect themselves from the lustful eyes of men by wearing a Purdah, long enough to cover their breasts. The easiest justification for this by men was the fact that women are objects of sexual desire and evoke feelings of lust within them. They (the women) must learn to hide their sexuality and pose as model figures of virtue rather than desire. Besides this, one might question the need for ‘being protected’. Is it really because women ought to protect themselves from the uncontrollable desires of men? Or is it simply because these men are untrusting of their own ‘brothers’ and possess an utter lack of self-control when it comes to looking at a woman? And if they are unable to look at a woman without stripping her down in their mind’s eye, must the women be blamed and wrapped up for simply being ‘female’? Or shouldn’t these ‘protectors’ attempt to bring their emotions under control?

Feminists, thus, view women as having been set apart from the rest of the society as objects of lust. “There are two 'instruments' of seclusion: the physical segregation of living space, and the covering of the female face and body. They have different psychological and physical concomitants and affect women's mobility in different ways.” (Hanna Papanek, 294) [EDIT]

However, there exists a relation of distress between feminism and Islam. While feminism continues to be a movement to emancipate the rights of women, “Muslim women have argued that feminism is an ideology relevant only to the lives of western affluent women and that for them it has only resulted into making them quasi men or sex objects.”(Muhammad Legenhausen, 255). Also argued by Legenhausen (237), is the basic fact that “Islam places greater emphasis on marriage and the family. Islam dignifies these primary concerns while feminism tends to undermine them.” That it places a greater emphasis on marriage and family may be correct but that it dignifies these concerns may not hold true in my opinion. We may argue that the concern lies not with the emphasis on family and marriage as much as it does with the means of [means adopted to manifest this ideal..phrase better]this emphasis which rather then being undermined by feminism is highlighted as more oppressive, patriarchal and fundamentalist in nature. So, is it possible to view the Purdah as ‘dignifying’? Purdah as observed by Sehmina Jaffer Chopra (< http://www.al-islam.org/about/contributions/liberationbythe veil.html/>) is an “an act of faith” which is “not oppression but a liberation from the shackles of male scrutiny and the standards of attractiveness.”[1] Hence, what western feminists consider oppression, Muslim women consider liberation. A decisive conclusion cannot be made from these extractions but before we go more extensively into the subject of decoding Purdah, let us examine the viewpoints of Islamic feminists who try to balance out the apparent extremist views of feminism and Islam.

So what is Islamic feminism? According to Margot Bradan (242), “Islamic feminism is a feminist discourse and practice articulated within an Islamic paradigm. Islamic feminism which derives its understanding and mandate from the Qur’an, seeks rights and justice for women, and for men, in the totality of their existence.”
Bradan(219) also has a broader look at Muslim women's re-visioning of Islam through ijtihad[2] as part of the global project in which feminist and Islamist women are engaged today. She says that “both religiously oriented women and feminist women are rereading the Qur'an and other religious texts, brining to bear their own experiences and new critical methodologies to enact readings that are more meaningful to modern women.” They attempt to re-construct meanings of the passages in the Qur’an which suit modernity. They understand the points western feminists make but at the same time, they do not disregard their holy book. By re-reading the Qur’an from a modern yet Islamic point of view, they attempt to balance out two extremist viewpoints. Also, Muslim women , who are more highly educated in greater numbers than ever before, have begun gender-progressive readings of Islamic sacred scripture that will achieve—and indeed have already achieved—significant "feminist" breakthroughs. Only the language of an "Islamic feminism" can potentially reach women of all classes and across urban-rural divides-or, to put it slightly differently, the majority of Muslims can associate only with a "feminism" that is explicitly "Islamic" (Margot Bradan, 219) But we must note that most of these Islamic feminists are women of the upper-middle class, who speak good English and have been educated.

2
At the end of the above section, I am left with a singular question. Considering the viewpoints discussed, I realise that we cannot come to a definite conclusion as to what the Qur’an says or means to say. Does the religion appear to repress women? Or does it dignify them? Has the religion been misinterpreted by western feminists or is it the other way round? The debate surrounding this socio-religious and socio-political paradigm of Islamic women and their rights may never stop.

However, let’s consider the fact that women who have spoken ‘for’ the rights of Islamic women, be it the western feminists or the Islamic feminists, are themselves women. Who are women in this society of ranks? Where do they stand? Are they subalterns[3]? As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak(83) puts it, “The subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow." She says this in the context of post colonialism and Marxism. This however, can be applied to women of Islam from a religious-gender perspective. The subaltern is not heard. The sulbatern is spoken for. The subaltern is not an agent of communication but requires an agency to communicate for them. This agency, in the case of women both Islamic and otherwise is men. So, if women are subalterns and need an agency to communicate, then can we can that feminists all over the world, speak through an agency? So does the subaltern actually speak? Is she her own agent?
“When we come to the concomitant question of the consciousness of the subaltern, the notion of what the work cannot say, becomes important.” (Spivak,82)
3
Let us now examine the representation of religious fundamentalism as well as it’s effects on the minds of Islamic women with the help of Dharker’s Collection ‘Purdah’. Imtiaz Dharker writes as a voice for Muslim women. She attempts to bring out their emotions and thought patterns concerning their religious obligations. Dharker succeeds in creating— among a variety of other things— vivid images of puberty, lust, sacrifice, dejection, societal approval, geographical segregation and mother-daughter relationships

-----------------------
[1] Purdah is a very positive and respectful practice that actually liberates women. It is viewed as liberating because it brings about an aura of respect. Women are looked at as individuals who are judged not by their physical beauty but by their inner beauty and mind. For them, Purdah is an act of faith that entails the acts of honour, respect, and dignity. Islam exalts the status of women by commanding that women should enjoy equal rights with men and remain on the same footing as them. When a woman covers herself she places herself on a higher level and allows men to see and respect her for her intellect, faith, and personality. The physical person is to play no role in social interaction.
[2] Ijtihad is a methodology which feminist and islamist women have used to reread the Qur'an and other religious texts to expose patrichial interpretations and to advance more gender- just understadings of islam. (Margot Bradan,32)
[3] Meaning of Subalterns.

Similar Documents

Free Essay

Islamic Dress Codes

...By Marko ********* 07-11-2012 Islamic Dress Codes Summary of Text 2 Text 2 is written by Arifa Akbar and Jerome Taylor and is a text about the problems that occur when you're "wearing your religion on your sleeves". The headline itself already tells us what the text is all about. It's clearly noticeable that this text is about Islam and Muslim women who wear their headscarves, veils, hijab etc. In the first part of the text we get a short but very clear and accurate summary of the problems and issues of having to wear a veil or any other Islamic dress that is supposed to cover your face, hair etc. Not to mention the questions being raised by the abolitionists. Rahmanara Chowdhury who is a 29 year old woman tells us her story and experiences with the hijab. Rahmanara's sisters and herself were already from a young age taught about hijab. Unlike her sisters she began to understand the spiritual reason behind the veil much more as she grew up. She was the first one in the family who had made the decision to wear a veil, and yet she was accepted by everyone. She thought she would have problems while interacting with people or doing group work in university, but it quite the opposite happened; she discovered that it was much easier to interact with people while wearing the veil. She would get a couple of stares every now and then, but it never bothered her. Text 1 is a short story about the former British minister and his experience with Islamic dresses. At first he...

Words: 808 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

Women Veil

...Muslim Women and the Veil For this critical review analysis paper, I have chosen to do set four of the project. I will begin to analyze and break down the fundamental themes in each of the articles from the sources provided by the professor. My examination of the texts, Islamic and Body Politics by Asma Barlas and Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil by Katherine Bullock, will be purely academic. Both these articles share similar views of the concept of veiling and portrayal of the female body by opposing the monolithic and secular views given to the veil by the majority of the world. The view given to the veil is simple and is explicitly cited in Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil, it is that "the popular Western notion that the veil is a symbol of Muslim women's oppression is a constructed image that does not represent the experience of all those who wear it." My stance on the subject of veiling will be in support of: those who wear the Veil (or as I will interchangeably mention it in this paper, "Hjiab" - Arabic term for head scarf) do it so by their own will and not to represent the view of oppression that has been deemed on it, also, to reiterate that the Qur'an or any other Islamic text do not support the views of oppression of women. Through my investigation of the two given articles, I will support my view with the help of three different articles that share the same type of commentary on the issue of Veiling. My inclusion of the article Eastern Veiling, Western......

Words: 2393 - Pages: 10

Free Essay

Hijab, Niqab, and Burqa

...Hijab, niqab and burqa The hijab, niqab and burqa are head and full body dresses that are traditional to Islam. While these accessories and clothes have some similarities, there are some differences to be highlighted. The hijab is a veil that mainly covers the head, but also covers the chest. This veil is worn mostly by women who have reached the age of puberty. The veil is usually worn in public or in the presence of males that are not a part of the immediate family. The hijab represents a sense of modesty and it is said in Islam that the hijab also separates the world from God, thus, a divine accessory. While the above is a metaphorical separation, the hijab also has a physical separation, which is said to separate women from men in the public realm. Other than the hijab representing modesty, it also represents morality and privacy. To go even further a little, some women who wear the hijab see this accessory as a part of their identity, connected to their culture and religious beliefs. The wearing of the hijab for many women is a sign of respect and devotion to God as well as their religious belief system. The burqa, also called chadri, is a dress that covers the entire body and it is predominantly worn by women. In some Islamic beliefs, the burqa is suitable for women when in public, because it is a garment that covers their entire body. Differently than the hijab, where hands and the face can be exposed, the burqa includes the veiling of......

Words: 641 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Women

...and clean. In other words, Ladyland is an imaginary country where women are dominant over men, and women hold supreme power. Additionally, Ladyland turns out to be futuristic ideal world where women are beyond the segregated Purdah, and men live in isolation and secluded in quarters called mardana (Hossain 1905; 8-9). Ladyland is ruled politically and socially by women and they take place in a public sphere whereas men are confined to private and hidden world. Men are not taken into much consideration in Ladyland. By creating a fantasy world in which women play a dominant role, “Sultana’s Dream” compels us to perceive women’s potential to innovate, to create our own world and to exercise power in men’s world in which women are not demoralized. The proverb “Men and women are two wheels of the same chariot, without one the other cannot exist” or “Men and women are two sides of the same coin” tend to equalize men and women in every aspects of life. However, both the proverbs turn out to be fictional. Here, in world of discrimination, no women get equal priorities and opportunities that men take advantage off. The fact is that the world is conquered by men only from generations, where as women suffer from sub ordination and oppression. The practice of Purdah is tied with family status and honor that reflects respect in the community. Women are...

Words: 1018 - Pages: 5

Free Essay

Changing Gender Roles

...A problem of perspective Over the past two centuries the developed world has evolved a single dimensional worldview. Advances in technology and living standards have glossed over and in many places erased, the regional and class differences that characterised the world for previous generations. This is particularly obvious in countries like Australia where the national ethos has an ingrained commitment to egalitarianism. A view compounded by the dominant Christian belief system with its underlying conviction of personal and social equality. Westerners react to India as a paradox, an enigma, an absurdity. India is a complex, multidimensional and truly multicultural society which outside observers with their one dimensional worldview become completely confused. A population of almost one billion and a history of over 4000 years has developed with a belief system that institutionalises social difference and inequality yet underpins the world's largest and most vibrant democracy. The western visitor sees the complexity and confusion, the high rise apartment blocks being built next to the slum but fails to comprehend the rich and important connections between these seemingly irreconcilable establishments. To appreciate India a good starting point is any intersection on any day in the city of Jaipur1. The traffic will come to a halt at a red light and wait. Vying for position are hand carts, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, bullock carts, camel carts and a plethora of......

Words: 2095 - Pages: 9

Free Essay

Sylvia Plath

...century feminism. Sylvia Plath’s poetry is mainly about 20th century feminism and women’s social injustices. "The poem Daddy criticizes the male aggression and depicts men being responsible for all the social injustices" (Hunt). In Sylvia Plath's versification Daddy, she illustrates how men are dominant over women, by comparing herself to Jews, and men to the Nazis. “I may be a bit of a Jew. I have always been scared of you” (Plath, "Daddy"). She outlines how women are a minority, and don’t have a voice in society by describing the sense of suffocation that women feel towards men. “Lord of the mirrors! It is himself he guides” (Plath, "Purdah"). In Purdah, the message, she conveys is that woman always hide in the shadows of their husbands, meaning they are afraid of them, reflecting their shadows thus acting like a mirror which is like a Purdah or a veil. In Jailer, Plath...

Words: 1042 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Hinduism Paper

...Hinduism Paper HUM130 University of Phoenix, Axia College * Hinduism known today as Sanatana Dharma lacks a uniting belief system. It is still considered a religion due to a number of factors, because of this Hinduism is a challenging religion to define. The Hindu religion varies vastly, and is considered both monotheistic and polytheistic. Various cultural and societal influences have made Hinduism vital to India the origin of Hinduism. A Hindu’s karma is the deciding factor of reincarnation. Once a Hindu’s karma is worthy of liberation then their soul is no longer reincarnated and is release from earthly miseries. Hinduism like Christianity has several denominations or categories. Millions of deities are worshiped by Hindus because they feel the divine does not have to have just one face, but can have many faces. “Three main groupings of Hindus are the Saktas who worship a Mother Goddess, Saivites who worship the god Siva, and Vaishnavites who worship the god Vishnu. Every follower has a preferred deity while honoring other deities also.” The collective belief system of Hindus is what makes up the religion. It is described by the Indian supreme court as “Acceptance and reverence for the Vedas as the foundation of Hindu philosophy. A spirit of tolerance, and willingness to understand and appreciate others points of view, recognizing that truth has many sides. Acceptance of the belief that vast cosmic periods of creation, maintenance, and dissolution continuously...

Words: 692 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Nice Stuff

...Mark Roehlen                                                                     Module 3 formal paper.                   Women, in today's modern time they have involved amazingly. Women's  suffrage is at an all time high in america. It's hard to truly picture how anyone could  consider women anything less than a independent, professional, and major role in their  culture, and  politics . However that's where the United States culture and Malalas  culture in pakistan differ when it comes to the role of women. Good examples of this is  the women's role in the house, the woman's right to go to school, and how a woman  acts, dresses, and etc in both cultures. Each example shares a role in the differences of  cultures.               Up until about the 1960s, both United states and Pakistan's culture were similar  in the role of a woman's place in the household. It's referred  to as the traditional family,  wife stays at home and cooks, cleans, and cares for the children. In many ways this was  expected of the women in both cultures and education for women never exceeded very  high results. But after the 1960s into the 1970s,  women in the united states started to  get better careers and realize there is no need for a man's dependence. They did not  need to be confined in a house all day and could become more independent in their  fields. This is where the cultures started to fall completely different. In islam culture and  in Malala culture, the women is ex......

Words: 919 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

Women in Saudi Arabia

...religious reasons. Saudi Arabia is known as the birthplace of Islam. Consequentially, the country adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic religious law called the Sharia. For example, in Saudi Arabia, men and women are not permitted to attend public events together. Furthermore, men and women are segregated in the work place with men getting finer office spaces and women getting offices that alienate them from public view. In Saudi Arabia, there is an obvious divide of gender roles where men basically have majority of the power while women are afforded very limited rights (Mackey 10). I will be evaluating women’s rights in Saudi Arabia to show how they are denied their basic rights as human beings like economic rights, marriage, and purdah (concepts for separation of men and women) as well as analyze how changes to their unequal treatment (compared to men) can be implemented. Proponents of the continued mistreatment of women in Saudi Arabia argue that such a treatment is sanctioned by the Koran. Anthony Giddens (who is a well renowned British sociologist) says “in most western countries,...

Words: 3112 - Pages: 13

Free Essay

Economy

...Positive and strong interventions on women’s development can obviously reduce the gender gap and acknowledge the role of women in the society as well as in the countries economy. Bangladesh a poor developing nation with a huge population of around 140 million (July 2011 EST.). Although women in Bangladesh make a direct and equal contribution to that of men in economical contributions, their productive worth is not acknowledged by this male dominated society. Lack of education remains as one of the root causes of the lack of recognition for women. As an intervention, increasing of women’s participation in regular schooling and continuation of study can have great potentials for development of women. The Female Stipend Program (FSP) was established in 1982 to raise girls participation in secondary education and eradicating early marriages and childbearing. This project was initiated and implemented with the help of The Bangladesh Association for Community Education (BACE), a national non-governmental organization (NGO) and later scaled up with technical and financial support of international organizations. The objective of FSP have shifted in line with changes in social/political environment, in development policies and in general understanding. The main priorities were higher secondary enrollment and retention, indirectly linked to fertility control, delayed marriage and population reduction. The Female Stipend Program (FSP) was primarily introduced in six areas......

Words: 1387 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

Pesticide Pills for Girls

...phones and television, milna-julna (interaction between the sexes) is too much. What can parents do except kill a daughter who disobeys?" says a local teacher defensively. Girls who survive their mother's womb are brought up as daughters of the village. Not just Sanghi's daughters, but of 12 neighbouring villages, says a khap member. All 12 villages form the Khidwali Bara khap, a Jat territorial unit. It decrees that boys and girls within these 12 villages cannot marry. Interestingly, the entire onus of 'siblinghood' rests on the girl. She is the keeper of village honour. Exceptions may be made for a boy, if the khap decides, but a girl is never allowed to bend the rules. "If a girl married in her community's villages, she will be in purdah in her own house. How can we allow that?" asks middle-aged Bedo.. (originally published in Times of...

Words: 286 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

The Status of Women

...wives into the family > Village is exogamous unit. No exchange marriage • South represents the principle of immediate exchange and a policy of consolidation of existing kin network > Intra-kin marriages and marriages within a village 4 Women’s Economic Roles • Opportunities for women’s participation in the labour force • Perception of women and their kin group Women in North India are less likely to be doing work and in waged activity Women’s participation in labour force : Rural areas (Source: Registrar General of India,1987) % of women UP Tamil Nadu In labour force 5 22 Cultivators 48 23 Agricultural labourers 35 53 -----------------------------------------------------------------------Ownership of sewing-machine (%) 22 8 5 Purdah or female seclusion • Origins: marriage and kinship patterns, history of invasions, Islamic influence etc. • Practiced by 45 % of women in UP, 5 % in Tamil Nadu • Effect: differential use of space by women like avoidance of outdoors when there are men. Example from the study 6 7 8 9...

Words: 280 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Effective Marketing Tools

...Bangladesh has a subtropical monsoon climate characterized by wide seasonal variations in rainfall, moderately warm temperatures, and high humidity. Regional climatic differences in this flat country are minor. Three seasons are generally recognized: a hot, humid summer from March to June; a cool, rainy monsoon season from June to October; and a cool, dry winter from October to March. In general, maximum summer temperatures range between 32°C and 38°C. April is the warmest month in most parts of the country. January is the coldest month, when the average temperature for most of the country is 10°C. Winds are mostly from the north and northwest in the winter, blowing gently at one to three kilometers per hour in northern and central areas and three to six kilometers per hour near the coast. From March to May, violent thunderstorms, called northwesters by local English speakers, produce winds of up to sixty kilometers per hour. During the intense storms of the early summer and late monsoon season, southerly winds of more than 160 kilometers per hour cause waves to crest as high as 6 meters in the Bay of Bengal, which brings disastrous flooding to coastal areas. Heavy rainfall is characteristic of Bangladesh. With the exception of the relatively dry western region of Rajshahi, where the annual rainfall is about 160 centimeters, most parts of the country receive at least 200 centimeters of rainfall per year (see fig. 1). Because of its location just south of the foothills of......

Words: 6715 - Pages: 27

Free Essay

Women in India

...“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking, or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity, the female sex”-Gandhi. The struggle women face for equality is a battle fought all over the world, but especially so in India. India was recently rated the worst place in the world to be a woman, defeating Afghanistan and Somalia. Women of India struggle to survive at every age from birth onward, facing hardships of neglect, rape, murder, poor healthcare and diet, violence, abuse, prejudice, and discrimination. The notion that Indian men have a hatred for women has really hurt India’s economy. Female tourist have become scared and turned off by the idea of visiting the country.   India is the world’s largest democracy yet women there are treated as lesser beings. India has had women as prime ministers, a president, and other high ranking political positions and still they struggle to fight for equal rights for its women. This is ironic because many current politicians and powerful people in India are women. Although many politicians have made promises to change the poor treatment of their women little change has been seen. Many politicians in office currently have been charged with crimes against women as well. People are standing up to their politicians and government and letting their voices be heard.   India has had an up and down battle with gender equality through the ages. It is believed that in ancient India......

Words: 4255 - Pages: 18

Free Essay

Gas Gas

...INDIA(Federal Republic) New Delhi ang kabisera ng India.Indian Rupee naman ang uri ng pera ng India. -ang India ay isang tatsulok na tangway.Pangalawa rin ito sa may pinakamalaking Muslim Nation. -kabilang ito sa sampung may pinakamataas na daloy ng ekonomiya at pang-pito sa may pinakamalawak na lupain sa Asya. *Mandarin,Hindi at Arabic ang mga pangunahing lenggwahe sa India. *May tatlong kultura at tradisyon ang mga Indians: •sutee-tradisyon kung saan magsasama ang mag-asawa hanggang kamatayan. •purdah-pang-aalipin at pagbabawal sa mga babaeng sanggol na isilang sa mundo. •thuggi-relihiyosong kulto kung saan buhay ng tao ang kanilang inaalay. Sistemang Caste- ang tawag sa paguuri-uri ng tao sa India. Kshatriyas-rulers & warriors Brahmans-priest, scholars & wise men Vaishyas-traders, merchants & landowners Sudras-farmers, servants & workers Outcaste/Untouchables/Impure-pulubi at basurero *May limang relihiyon sa India. 1.Hinduism- napapaloob ang dharma o ang pangkalahatang batas, ang karma at ang samsara o ang siklo ng pagkabuhay. 2.Buddhism- isang organisadong relihiyon na may pangakong paglutas sa lahat ng mga paghihirap at pagtitis ng mga tao. 3.Islam- “Walang ibang Diyos maliban kay Allah at si Mohammad ang sugo niya”. Ito ang ibig sabihin ng relihiyong Islam. May limang ritwal ang mga Muslim, ito ang tinatawag na Five Pillars. Dito napapaloob ang lahat ng kautusan at ritwal ng mga Muslim. •Shahadah(Pananalig)- ito ang......

Words: 610 - Pages: 3