Zeerak (Islam: A Superior System of Life, 2012) considers the relationships between men and women and the role women play in Islam and the world.
“Both men and women are the wonderful creation of the Almighty God,” Zeerak writes. It is on this premise that the entire book rests. After a brief tour of feminist schools of thought and relevant issues, Zeerak formulates the ideal role women play in society. He is firmly committed to the idea of equity over equality—that is, he believes men and women to be complementary to one another rather than strictly equal, and he believes tying women’s power to traditionally masculine roles is detrimental to women as a group. While acknowledging that emotional, sexual and physical violence against women is endemic across the world, Zeerak takes great pains to outline the ways in which the texts of Islam protect women against societal ills: “The objective of Islamic modest dressing is not to restrict the liberty of women, but to protect them from harm and molestation.” Not particularly interested in the third wave of Western feminism, Zeerak isn’t keen on the second wave: “This debauchery of society produced many social evils like increased divorce rates, increased single parent families, neglected children, sexual exploitation, objectification, unwanted pregnancies, and the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).” Gender relations are an incredibly complex topic, Zeerak admits, and he pursues the best outcome for society based on his strong faith, guided by tenets not found in Western feminism. In the chapter “What is Islam?” Zeerak offers a concise, well-developed snapshot of what Islam means to him. Using relevant passages from the Quran and the Hadith, he concludes that Islam is a positive force for women. Islam, he says, gives women and girls the rights to get an education, own property, inherit, choose their own husbands and work outside the home. Readers looking for Western feminist ideals in Islam may be disappointed, but those who are open to an Islamic perspective on gender relations will find plenty of material to contemplate.
A worthwhile read that corrects several misconceptions.