Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Introduction never restricts Muslims to acquire knowledge either for


Feminism is a current confusing issue
for most people to determine and understand the real meaning behind this word. Traditionally,
as regard by Merriam-Webster, feminism is the organized activity for the sake
of women’s rights and interests. However, the modern feminists tend to change
this view in order to be treated more than men. They wanted more rights and
advantages than what men get instead of being equally treated such as getting
more salaries and having less working period. This view is contradicting to the
real meaning of feminism. Islam also promotes feminism where both women and men
are equally treated based on the religion and eventually having their own
duties and responsibility to be carried out. A graduate of al-Azhar University
and Oxford University, Dr Margot Badran, defines Islamic feminism as a feminist
discussion and practice that derives its understanding and taken out from the
Qur’an, seeking rights and justice within the framework of gender equality for
women and men in the totality of their existence. Islamic feminist interprets
the religious texts in a feminist perspective to seek the equality of both
women and men in the public and personal domain. Feminist text is a literary
criticism informed by feminist theory to promote women’s rights. While Islamic
feminist text is a literary criticism promoting women’s rights in accordance to
the Quranic verses and Islamic teachings. Some people do blame Islam for not
giving enough rights for women yet they did not explore and understand the
teachings of Islam itself. As being mentioned before, Islam promotes feminism
and it teaches Muslims that women have a high status in this religion.  Love in a Headscarf has shown many skeptical
views of society towards women and how Shelina deals with them according to the
Islamic perspectives.

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Islam never restricts Muslims to acquire
knowledge either for men or women. As Allah mentioned in Surah Fatir verse 28, “so
only those of His servants who have knowledge (of these realities with a vision
and outlook) fear Him. Surely, Allah is Almighty, Most Forgiving” This verse shows
that Allah does not specify seeking knowledge only for men servants but He
generalizes this duty towards His servants who are both men and women. However,
the society has been culturally taught that women should not have a high
education for some invalid and unacceptable reasons. Love in a Headscarf listed
out some of the reasons why the society or in her book known as the Buxom
Aunties limits women’s education such as the place of women after marriage
would be besides her husband, doing chores, taking care of her children and
these duties do not require much education. “The girl should be less educated
than the boy. The husband should be able to say in response to any question:
“It is because I am your husband and I am more educated than you, so I must be
right. Do not question me!” in a surly yet dignified manner”(Love in a
Headscarf, 2009) This cultural view tells us that by having higher education than
men, it will challenge their credibility as a leader. Shelina as a graduate
from University of Oxford was regard as outspoken, independent and too modern
to be a wife. Another example shown in the book is when the Buxom Aunties
jokingly questioning the purpose of women’s education by saying, “What you need
a master’s for to clean the kitchen I don’t know!” it is culturally believed
that a woman should be traditional enough where education is not required since
their duties after marriage would be taking care of their mother-in-law,
husband and children. Yet, Islam highlights the importance of knowledge where Muslims
can get to know their creator deeper and on the same time being grateful and
thankful for everything created by Allah. As narrated by Muslim in al-Sahih, “Allah
Almighty makes the path to paradise easier for him who walks on it for getting
knowledge.” Both women and men are obligatory to acquire knowledge as it is one
of the duties given by Allah to His servants. In the case of ‘A’isha al-Siddiqa,
she was a hadith narrator, scholar, intellectual and jurist of great standing.
She is believed to have reported 2,210 traditions. Reported by ‘A’isha bint
Talha who was her servant, she was known to be very intelligent that many
students would come or write letters to her asking questions and she will
answer his or her queries. It is also narrated by al-Bazzar in al-Musnad that
the prophet said we should acquire knowledge even if you may have to go to
China for it.


The Messenger of Allah has said,
“Of my tradition is to marry. So then whoever turns away from my tradition
(Sunnah) is not from me (my nation).” Marriage is obligatory as many
Quranic verses stress on the importance of marriage. One of them is in Surah An-Nisa
verse 1, Allah said “O’ mankind! Have consciousness of your Lord who has
created you from a single soul. From it He created your spouse and through them
He populated the land with many men and women. Have spiritual awareness of the
One by whose Name you swear to settle your differences and have respect for the
wombs that bore you. Without doubt, Allah keeps watch over you all.” He
has placed love and mercy between both sides so that they can live a lovely,
peaceful and harmony life together. However, selecting your spouse should be
based on your willingness and freedom to choose instead of being forced in
accepting someone as your partner. As shown in Love in a Headscarf, Shelina’s
parents give her the freedom to make her own decision whether to accept or
decline the suitor. Even though it is called as arranged marriage, the parents
will only be giving advices and opinions instead of making the decision for her.
In Islam the prophet has mentioned that there are four criteria to choose a
good spouse which are based on their wealth, noble ancestors, beauty and
religion. However, the religious aspect should not be overlooked because that
is the main criteria in choosing good spouse.

Culturally, in order for women to marry,
they should act as a traditional woman who knows how to do chores, cook and be
very dependent towards men. This could be seen from the Buxom Aunties’ attitude
in Shelina Janmohamad’s book where women should not have the desire to do other
things like seeking for education, working or even having hobbies since they
will eventually need to stop doing those things after marriage. Meanwhile, from
the Islamic perspective, this religion allows women to seek for knowledge and
even working outside the house to benefit the society as long as her family
obligations are met and she complies with the Islamic code of dress and
conduct. Furthermore, regarding the duty of doing chores, nursing the children
and cooking, those are the responsibility of husbands to be carried out. The
wife is free from those responsibilities as she needs to serve the husband.
However, if the husband is not capable to handle everything, a maid or servant
should be hired and provided for the wife. A wife can help doing those duties
out of love and mercy towards her husband instead of being forced to do so.

Today’s society tends to have the
perception that women should not make the first move but they need to wait for
the men to approach them first.  Janmohamad
(2009) has stated that culturally, the society thinks it is shameful for a girl
to show any interest to get married because they are not supposed to be
interested in worldly matters such as men. By making the first move, she can be
considered “desperate” and if she really wishes to create a discussion with a
potential spouse after the arranged meeting, they need to go through a third
party who will make the idea comes from the boy’s party instead. The question
is does Islam restrict a woman to make her first move approaching a man she is
interested with? The answer is no. Taking the case of Khadija bint Khuwaylid as
an example where she sent her close friend, Nufaysah, to make an indirect
approach on Muhammad and ask him either he wants to marry her or not. After
getting positive answer from Muhammad, she then invited him to meet her and
made proposal that they should get married. This shows how women can approach a
man if she thinks he will be a potential spouse.


            Islam is an oppressive religion
would be the most famous idea people have to go against us. Muslims are being
called the oppressors since we “force” Muslim women to cover their head and
wear loose attire. However, it is important for people to know that wearing
hijab and loose attire is up to one’s own will and choice. As Islam promotes
peace, love and harmony, this religion never forces people nor uses any kind of
violence towards them. Everything that Allah asks us to do have its own reason
and wisdom. In Surah Al-Ahzab verse 59, Allah says “O Prophet, tell your
wives and your daughters and the woman of the believers to bring down over
themselves (part) of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will
be known (as free respectable women) and not be abused. And ever is Allah
Forgiving and Merciful.” Women are asked to cover up in order to protect
themselves from the bad nafs and to
only display their beauty to her husband and family. Wearing hijab or covering
up as mentioned by Allah is not specifically to cover women’s hair but also
their chest. Men are not asked to wear hijab since chest is not considered as
their private parts. In short, Women are not oppressed by wearing hijab but
instead she is allowing people to judge her for her intelligence, kindness,
honesty and personality not for her good looks or the shape of her body.


The status of women in

            Women have a high and unique status
in Islam compared to the previous religion. They were given rights and
privileges that show how this religion values women. One of the stories related
to this issue is the history of Safa and Marwa where the wife of Prophet
Ibrahim (A.S), Hajar was left alone with her baby, Ismail, in the valley of
Makkah where there
were no water or trees, to test their faith. He left his wife and baby there
with some food and water but that did not last too long. The baby started
crying out of extreme thirst and Hajar went to search for water as she was
trying to save her baby. She went back and forth from Safa and Marwa seven
times to look for any help in the surrounding area. Then Allah helped them by
giving the Zamzam water for Hajar to drink and suckled her child. This act of
running between Safa and Marwa by a woman who was sacrificing for her baby was
so much loved by Allah that it is made compulsory for everyone to perform
during Hajj.

            Moreover, the status of women will be
uplifted especially after she became a mother. When a man came approaching the
prophet to ask about goodness to parents, he then told him that kindness to
parents should be made a mother’s right three times prior to a father’s.  As mentioned in Love in a Headscarf, the
Buxom Aunties tend to have the perception where a woman is not worth to be
treasured during her life as she will only have to do things like doing chores,
family management and cooking which can prepare herself as a traditional woman.
However, Islam dignifies the status of women as mothers, wives and daughters where
they are not only playing minor roles in a man’s life instead there is always a
great woman behind a successful man. Imam Sadiq once said “He, who wishes
to pass easily through the agony of death, should act benevolently towards her
kinsmen, and treat his mother kindly. Then the agony of death will become easy
for him to bear, and in life he will not suffer from indigence.”

Freedom of action

As being mentioned continuously, Muslim
women have been given their own rights and privileges by Allah which means that
they can do anything as long as it is not against the Islamic compliances. Shelina
has decided to climb a very big mountain known as Kilimanjaro at the highest
point in Africa. She was then told by the Buxom Aunties that nice girls do not
climb the mountain as people will talk about it. It can be seen that
culturally, women are supposed to meet a certain perceptions and characters
like shy, dependent and timid. Yet, in the case of Khadija bint Khuwaylid, she walked
the long miles for hours and climbed the 860-meter-high Mountain of Light to
bring food for her husband. She would even go back and forth climbing the
mountain as she misses her husband or worries about his safety and condition. Therefore,
society should not limit the action of a woman because they are free to do
things they want which are not opposed by the Quran and Sunnah.


            It is a normal culture where people
have the perception that women should always stand behind a man. They are not
given equal rights, privileges and freedom to choose or act as those will overpower
a man which the society view this as culturally wrong. The idea of men has to
lead everything while women becoming their followers are not what Islam taught
us. In Islam, both men and women are equally treated. In Surah Al-Imran verse
195, Allah says, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of any worker among
you, whether male or female; you are of one another. So those who emigrated or
were evicted from their homes or were harmed in My cause or fought or were
killed – I will surely remove from them their misdeeds, and I will surely admit
them to gardens beneath which rivers flow as reward from Allah, and Allah has
with Him the best reward.” This verse has clearly shown that Allah will
reward and punish His servants equally either men or women. Furthermore,
Shelina Janmohamad has given valid arguments and wisdom according to Islamic
teachings regarding the cultural view of society about women. Muslims
are supposed to think and act according to the religion not the cultural


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