by Sarah Waseem, Mahida Javed and Alia Rehman – MTA Intl.
2013 year marked an important anniversary for women in the UK – it was the centenary of the Women’s Suffragette Movement which fought for their emancipation, fought for their right to education, right to inherit, to work and to vote. So dire was the situation of women at that time in the UK that it has been reported that Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby of 1913 to attract attention to the plight of women.
As Muslims we often speak with pride when discussing the rights that Islam accorded us 1500 years ago – the right to an education, to property, to inheritance, to vote, to work, to divorce, to marriage, and most important of all, Islam recognized the spiritual equality of men and women.
When we look around at the Muslim world today, the rights of women are not always upheld. I recall a conversation I recently had with a Bengali woman, who told me how she had been brought up to believe that if a man entertained any indecent thoughts about a woman, the fault for this, lay with the woman, rather than with the man. As she spoke, I recalled a speech by Hazoor on the topic of purdah, where he reminded the Jama’at that the first instruction concerning purdah was directed at men ‘to cast their eyes down’ and I thanked God that I had been born an Ahmadi, and had been taught the true teachings of Islam. When I told this woman about this injunction in the Holy Qur’an she expressed her anger and then sadness for having been exposed to this corrupted misogynistic version of Islam!
The tradition of a separate address to the ladies, was started by Hadrat Khalifatul Messih II (ra). His concern for the education and welfare of Ahmadi women has been well documented and it was under his Khalifat that the women’s organization of the Jama’at, the Lajna Immailah, was established in 1922. This organization, started off in Qadian with 14 women, and now numbers thousands around the world.
Hadrat Khalifaul Messih II (ra) had very high aspirations for women. On January 3rd, 1925 he wrote in Al Fazl,
‘I believe no nation can make any progress without educating its womenfolk. Our community makes tremendous progress but I would never feel proud of it, if our women remain ignorant of religion’.
Tomorrow, when Hazoor enters the Ladies’s jalsa gah, he will be addressing BOTH Ahmadi men and women on issues that are of special relevance to women. His admonitions encompass the rights and responsibilities of women with relevance to their children, families, the wider society and spiritual state. His words will guide all of us, and women especially will benefit from his message. Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at there is a right that is unique to all Ahmadi Muslim women –direct recourse to the Khalifa of the time. We can write to our spiritual head and request his prayers. We can also request personal meetings with him. This institution of Khalifat-e-Ahmadiyya ensures all Ahmadi women the right to absolute justice. There are few, if any, other institutions, religious or secular, that guarantee this right.
Ahmadi women have been blessed with the institution of Khalifat. We have no need for suffrage movements. We have no need for so-called ‘religious scholars’ to ‘educate’ us about our faith. Our Khalifa is our source of empowerment. Our Khalifa is our guide, our mentor and our spiritual restorer. Through him we attain our true destiny, for he is our link to the Almighty.