Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Women's Empowerment Vis-a-Vis Hajj

Hajjis are also more likely to back education for girls and work for women, the study found.

Khwaja suspects that is because men and women mix so freely on the hajj, even at prayer -- partly because it is impractical to segregate the sexes when more than 2 million people converge on Saudi Arabia en masse.

"Men and women interact with each other, actually praying side by side," he said.

That can be a new experience for many men from Pakistan, where women sometimes are discouraged from attending mosques.

But some responded positively, the researchers found.

"The fact that men and women can pray together is good," one 45-year-old man told them. "You cannot dislike anything about the Kabaa," the cube-shaped building within Mecca's Great Mosque toward which Muslims worldwide face during daily prayers.

Going on the hajj, which all Muslims must do at least once if they are able, can also embolden women to challenge religious authority when they return home.

"A woman may not be encouraged to go to the mosque or seek education or work in Pakistan -- in fact, she may face resistance in doing so, particularly by local clergy," Khwaja said.

Khwaja said if she has not been on the hajj, "she has no authority for challenging that."

"But on the hajj, she might see a woman who is leading her group, in control of a group, in this most holy of places. If she sees that this is allowed in Mecca and Medina, now she is armed to say to her local cleric, 'I saw this in Mecca, so who are you to tell me it is wrong?' " Khwaja said.

Full Story: CNN

This reminds me of how a few of us, women, were yelled at by some misguided men on my previous Hajj. It was a Friday afternoon, and there was literally no other comfortable location to situate ourselves at so we sat down where we found space. It was just our luck that the open space happened to be surrounded by men. We knew we were OK though, because there is no prayer segregation there and the guard who tried to move us backed off when I told him I was aware of these rules. This did not however, stop numerous men from numerous different ethnic backgrounds from trying to intimidate us into moving. We got a wide variety of responses, everything from dirty looks to being called "jahil". I think we stayed out of a combination of knowing that if we attempted to relocate we may not find another spot and indignation. It was indignation at the fact that people would attempt to speak to us so disrespectfully in the house of God. I'm thinking if I had been less empowered pre-Hajj, this incident would have done exactly what the CNN story describes.

1 comment:

Trapped In This Dunya said...

Wow! Nice article, its pretty said too how some woman just dont have enough knowledge or common sense and are always looking for ways to fit their personal preferances into how they want islam to be represented. Plus some men just need help, I hope woman in pakistan have some strenght to rise up, its even affecting muslim sisters lives in america, we deal with a lot of pakistani uncles who cant seem to understand that a sisters section in a masjid is a MUST! lol :)

jazakh Allahu Kheir