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ISL: From a Sister Who Converted from Hinduism

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EXPERIENCES OF A RECENTLY CONVERTED HINDU WOMAN

 

MY EXPERIENCES AND HOW I FIND THAT Islam DOES NOT

OPPRESS WOMEN

 

Sister Noor

 

I came from a purely Hindu family where we were always

taught to regard ourselves (i.e. women) as beings who

were eventually to be married off and have children and

serve the husband - whether he was kind or not. Other

than this I found that there were a lot of things which

really oppressed women, such as:

 

* If a woman was widowed, she would always have to wear

a white sari (costume), eat vegetarian meals, cut her

hair short, and never re-marry. The bride always had to

pay the dowry (bridal money) to the husband's family.

And the husband could ask for anything, irrespective of

whether the bride would have difficulty giving it.

 

* Not only that, if after marriage she was not able to

pay the full dowry she would be both emotionally and

physically tortured, and could end up being a victim

of "kitchen death" where the husband, or both the mother-

in-law and the husband try to set fire to the wife while

she is cooking or is in the kitchen, and try to make it

look like an accidental death. More and more of these

instances are taking place. The daughter of a friend of

my own father's had the same fate last year!

 

* In addition to all this, men in Hinduism are treated

literally as among the gods. In one of the religious

Hindu celebrations, unmarried girls pray for and worship

an idol representing a particular god (Shira) so that

they may have husbands like him. Even my own mother had

asked me to do this. This made me see that the Hindu

religion which is based on superstitions and things that

have no manifest proof , but were merely traditions

which oppressed women could not be right.

 

Subsequently, when I came to England to study, I thought

that at least this is a country which gives equal rights

to men and women, and does not oppress them. We all have

the freedom to do as we like, I thought. Well, as I

started to meet people and make new friends, learn about

this new society, and go to all the places my friends

went to in order to "socialise" (bars, dance halls,

etc.). I realised that this "equality" was not so true

in practice as it was in theory.

 

Outwardly, women were seen to be given equal rights in

education, work, and so forth, but in reality women were

still oppressed in a different, more subtle way. When I

went with my friends to those places they hung out at, I

found everybody interested to talk to me and I thought

that was normal. But it was only later that I realised

how naïve I was, and recognised what these people were

really looking for. I soon began to feel uncomfortable,

as if I was not myself: I had to dress in a certain way

so that people would like me, and had to talk in a

certain way to please them. I soon found that I was

feeling more and more uncomfortable, less and less

myself, yet I could not get out. Everybody was saying

they were enjoying themselves, but I don't call this

enjoying.

 

I think women in this way of life are oppressed; they

have to dress in a certain way in order to please and

appear more appealing, and also talk in a certain way so

people like them. During this time I had not thought

about Islam, even though I had some Muslim

acquaintances. But I felt I really had to do something,

to find something that I would be happy and secure with,

and would feel respected with. Something to believe in

that is the right belief, because everybody has a belief

that they live according to. If having fun by getting

off with other people is someone's belief, they do this.

If making money is someone's belief, they do everything

to achieve this. If they believe drinking is one way to

enjoy life then they do it. But I feel all this leads to

nowhere; no one is truly satisfied, and the respect

women are looking for is diminishing in this way.

In these days of so called "society of equal rights",

you are expected to have a boyfriend (or you're weird!)

and to not be a virgin. So this is a form of oppression

even though some women do not realise it. When I came to

Islam, it was obvious that I had finally found permanent

security. A religion, a belief that was so complete and

clear in every aspect of life. Many people have a

misconception that Islam is an oppressive religion,

where women are covered from head to toe, and are not

allowed any freedom or rights. In fact, women in Islam

are given more rights, and have been for the past 1400

years, compared to the only-recently rights given to non-

Muslim women in some western and some other societies.

But there are, even now, societies where women are still

oppressed, as I mentioned earlier in relation to Hindu

women.

 

Muslim women have the right to inheritance. They have

the right to run their own trade and business. They have

the full right to ownership, property, disposal over

their wealth to which the husband has no right. They

have the right to education, a right to refuse marriage

as long as this refusal is according to reasonable and

justifiable grounds. The Qur'an itself, which is the

Word of God, contains many verses commanding men to be

kind to their wives and stressing the rights of women.

Islam gives the right set of rules, because they are NOT

made by men, but made by God; hence it is a perfect

religion.

 

Quite often Muslim women are asked why they are covered

from head to toe, and are told that this is oppression -

it is not. In Islam, marriage is an important part of

life, the making of the society. Therefore, a woman

should not go around showing herself to everybody, only

for her husband. Even the man is not allowed to show

certain parts of his body to none but his wife. In

addition, God has commanded Muslim women to cover

themselves for their modesty: "O Prophet! Tell your

wives and your daughters and the women of the believers

to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when

outdoors). That is most convenient that they could be

known as such (i.e. decent and chaste) and not

molested." (Qur'an 33:59)

 

If we look around at any other society, we find that in

the majority of cases women are attacked and molested

because of how they are dressed. Another point I'd like

to comment on is that the rules and regulation laid down

in Islam by God do not apply just to women but to men

also. There is no intermingling and free-running between

men and women for the benefit of both. Whatever God

commands is right, wholesome, pure and beneficial to

mankind; there is no doubt about that. A verse in the

Qur'an explains this concept clearly: "Say to the

believing men that they should lower their gaze and

protect their private parts (i.e. from indecency,

illegal sexual acts, etc.); that will make for greater

purity for them. And God is well aware of what they do.

And say to the believing women that they should lower

their gaze and protect their private parts (from

indecency, illegal sexual intercourse, etc.); and that

they should not display their beauty and

ornaments . . . " (Qur'an, Surah Al-Nur 24:31)

 

When I put on my hijab (veil), I was really happy to do

it. In fact, I really want to do it. When I put on the

hijab, I felt a great sense of satisfaction and

happiness. Satisfied that I had obeyed God's command.

And happy with the good and blessings that come with it.

I have felt secure and protected. In fact people respect

me more for it. I could really see the difference in

behaviour towards me.

 

Finally, I'd like to say that I had accepted Islam not

blindly, or under any compulsion. In the Qur'an itself

there is a verse which says "Let there be no compulsion

in religion". I accepted Islam with conviction. I have

seen, been there, done that, and seen both sides of the

story. I know and have experienced what the other side

is like, and I know that I have done the right thing.

Islam does not oppress women, but rather Islam liberates

them and gives them the respect they deserve. Islam is

the religion God has chosen for the whole of mankind.

Those who accept it are truly liberated from the chains

and shackles of mankind whose ruling and legislating

necessitates nothing but the oppression of one group by

another and the exploitation and oppression of one sex

by the other. This is not the case of Islaam which truly

liberated women and gave them an individuality not given

by any other authority.

 

Sister Noor has been a Muslim for over a year and a half

and is currently in her second year of undergraduate

study in the Department of Biology at University of

Essex, U. K.

 

ARTICLE FROM: Islamic Awareness

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