It is essential that Muslim leaders and scholars speak out against the treatment of women in Afghanistan and promote their equality.
Recent news reports about the Taliban banning women from attending universities brought me, as a Muslim, great dismay and disappointment. Years of progress seems to be vanishing very quickly under Taliban rule. The Taliban are clearly violating the principles of Islam and showing blatant disregard for the rights and dignity of half of their society.
Islam values equality and justice for all, and there is no room in its teachings for the oppression and subjugation of women. For instance, the Holy Qur’an states that both men and women are equal in the eyes of God (Chapter 4, verse 125). Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad once said, “Seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim, male and female.” (Sunan Abu Dawud).
One of the first revelations to the Prophet in the Qur’an was to “read” in the name of the Lord who created humankind and taught them by the pen (Chapter 96, verse 2). This commandment recognizes the importance of reading and writing for all of humanity, including women and men.
According to Islamic teachings, women and men both have the right to education, work and participation in public life. What the Taliban are doing is not only unjust and oppressive, but completely at odds with these principles.
Stranger still is the fact that their actions are sharply disconnected from those in other Muslim countries. No other Muslim-majority country denies girls an education. The Taliban regime is isolated in trying to implement a so-called “interpretation” of Islam that has nothing to do with Islam itself.
Even in Saudi Arabia, despite a questionable track record on women’s rights, in 2017 women graduating with a bachelor’s degree outnumbered men in biology, information technology, mathematics, statistics and physics. In Iran, close to 70 per cent of university STEM graduates are women. Even in these countries with limited rights for women, their education is promoted to very high degrees.
I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (community) and we greatly value the right to education for both women and men. We see the Taliban’s actions as a gross distortion of teachings of Islam and completely unacceptable.
His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, once noted, “It is important for any person, male or female, to gain an education and to use it to serve their nation. However, it is of even more significance for a girl to be educated because in later life she will then be able to educate and raise her children in the best fashion.”
As a result, in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, we have a larger share of women going into higher studies as compared to men, and we are proud of this.
The Taliban’s treatment of women is not only a violation of human rights, it is also harmful to the development and prosperity of society as a whole. When women are denied access to education, they are unable to contribute their skills and talents to the public sphere and the economy suffers as a result.
It is essential that Muslim leaders and scholars speak out against the Taliban’s treatment of women and work to promote the true teachings of Islam. By standing up for the rights and dignity of women, we can work towards a more just and equitable society for all.
In Muslim countries, such a society will only be achieved if the true teachings of Islam are spread far and wide. It is an essential goal for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community to spread these true teachings. For instance, the Qur’an states:
“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.” (Chapter 49, verse 14)
There is no mention of the superiority of male over female or female over male in this verse of the Qur’an. The only superiority that is mentioned is for the righteous. To be righteous in Islam is to give equal rights to women.
Imam Farhan Iqbal is a member of the Ottawa Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (Community).