Unscrupulous attacks on Islam in the question of women

The preceding discussions have hopefully given an idea about the notion that the Western world conceived regarding women in recent history. These were simply some tips of the iceberg and it is not possible to present a complete picture of the whole situation in the span of this study. Before going to discuss the gender issue from Islamic perspectives, to keep the readers well informed, it may seemuseful to talk something about the malicious assaults some Western writers made on the noble religion of Islam in the question of women, despite the gloomy picture of women in their own philosophy, religion and literature.

The most common picture of Muslim world that the ‘Western literary Orientalism’ presents is that the whole of the Muslim world is dominated by patriarchy under which women are most oppressed. In their effort to 
assail Islamic belief, they are more interested in referring to the Muslim societies with a view to judge the status of women in Islam without paying necessary attention to its normative teachings i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Both the Western writers and some secularists (with Muslim names) touched some areas of gender issues like Hijab (Islamic dress code), polygamy, Mohr (marital gift), Daraba (wife chastisement), inheritance, consent of women in marriage, legal witness, the question of Hur (companion in the Paradise), etc. We will try to discuss such issues individually in the coming chapters, Insha-Allah. This part of the study mainly focuses on the general representation of Islam in the question of women in the Western 

C. Meredith Jones, in "The Conventional Saracen of the Songs of Geste” (1942), depicts Muslim women as most unhappy with Muslim men as they are confined in their home and thus subjugated and hence are crazy to marry the Christians even at the expense of their religion? The depiction of a Muslim woman in the Songs is as follows:

“She seems to have no other objective in life than to fall in love at  first sight . . . with a Christian knight whom she will eventually marry and for whom she is eager to relinquish her religion. These ravishing and 
highly sensual ladies are not secluded or sheltered, but pitch their tents in the forefront of the armies so as to display their charms to the Christian heroes whom they are unable to resist. They are ready to sleep with 
them at once. They ceaselessly engineer opportunity for intercourse.” (Pp. 219-21)

According to Dr A. R. Kidwai, professor of English at Aligarh University, India, “That such notions had gained a general currency in Western literary Orientalism is corroborated further by study of the plot summaries of the Songs of Geste. In at least twenty Songs some Oriental female readily converts to Christianity. She is usually the wife of daughter of a Saracen ruler who seduces some Christian knight who, in his turn, gallantly rescues her from the shackles of familial tyranny. Occasionally male Oriental characters also appear denouncing their former faith on finding it out as utterly false.”(Orientalism in Lord Byron’s "Turkish Tales"; Lewiston: Mellen U Press, 1995; pp.144-45)

Such is the delineation of Muslim women presented in "The Conventional Saracen of the Songs of Geste” (1942) that Muslim women are always ready to accept Christianity as they suffer familial tyranny at home? God knows what planet Meredith Jones means because the reality is completely reverse as Islam is ever the fastest growing religion in the world and the rate of female conversion to Islam is bigger than that of the male for some obvious reasons.

In Renegado (1624), Philip Massinger (1583-1640) presents Muslim women as most sensual and, on the other hand, Christian women as most pure. Dr Kidwai says, “Philip Massinger’s Renegado (1624) provides us with an apt illustration. In an almost polemical vein reminiscent of medieval times, the play contrasts Christian purity with Muslim sensuality. Donusa, a Muslim princess, like her counterparts in The Songs of Geste, falls in love at first with Vitelli, a Christian dealer, and offers her body to him, for ‘her religion’ allows all pleasure.’ Driven by her promiscuity, she seduces Vitelli to her ‘private room’ and asks him passionately for ‘the second entertainment the next day.”(ibid; p.146)

John Dryden’s Don Sebestian is another example of prejudicial remark against Islam in the question of women. He presents a Muslim home as full of wives and concubines. In both Massinger’s Renegado and Dryden’s Don Sebastian (1691) the conventional Orientals stand out—a male Muslim tyrant and a Muslim heroine who forsakes Islam and converts to Christianly. Muley-Moluch, the Muslim ruler in Don Sebastian, is a ‘shining . . . character of brutality’ and luxurious, close, and cruel, /Generous by fits, but permanent in mischief’ (1,i, 25-26). Then we have the despicable character of the Mufti (a title properly used of a respectable Muslim religious scholar) who embodies sheer opportunism and unbridled sensuality, with his long train of wives and concubines. To gratify his lust Muley-Moluch flagrantly flouts the commands of his religion, and in so doing he is assisted by the cringing Mufti who not only turns a blind eyes to theemperor’s transgression but actively sanctions and sanctifies them. (ibid; p.146)

English poet Robert Southey (1774-1843), in his poem Thalaba the Destroyer, depicts almost the same picture of Muslim women. In the section of the poem ‘The Paradise of Sin’ he portrays the Muslim paradise as a place of sensual indulgence where gratification of base desire proffered by ‘a troop of females’(?):

Anon a troop of females form’d the dance, / Their ankles bound with bracelet-bells, / That made the modulating harmony/ Transparent garment to the greedy eye/ Exposed their harlot  limbs,/Which moved, in every wanton gesture skill’d./With earnest eyes the banqueters/ Fed on the sight impure; (vi, 362-69)

The Indian writer Gurcharan Das (who represents a religion i.e. Hinduism that is dominated by the Law of Manu which said, ‘the woman whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjugation acquires high renown in this world and the next’ and where it is said that women have no business with the books of Vedas—the religious book— and the laws derived from it and where the wife had sometimes to enter the funeral pyre to die with her dead husband; ref. Dr Jamal Badawi; Islamic Teachings Course—vol-3) has made an 
unscrupulous statement in his book “A Fine Family” that Muslim  women are under religious oppression and that the Muslim women in ‘burkha’ (Hijab) are tantalizing and sensualist? (Stranger Than Fiction: Images of Islam and Muslims in English Fiction” ed. AR Kidwai; India: APH Publishing Corporation, 2000; p. 130)

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