By Aseel Elborno
To begin, I will recount the message from God Almighty, who tells us in the Quran:
People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognize one another. In God’s eyes, the most honored of you are the ones most mindful of Him: God is all knowing, all aware [Qur’an 49:13]
I attended the 62nd Commission on the status of women at the United Nations (aka CSW) this past week and left having so many thoughts and ideas to unpack and reflect on. The panels I participated in ranged from Empowering Women and Promoting Gender Justice in the Muslim World to launching the Global Consultation on the Islamic Gender Justice Declaration drafted by Islamic Relief Worldwide. And while the efforts of this commission are commendable and impressive, it left me with one important conclusion.
The true enemy of justice is greed of power.
God created people so that we may recognize one another, or in other translations, so that we may know one another. He created us to worship Him. That’s it. There’s no other purpose of our existence beyond that. And God commanded us as an act of worship to uphold justice. He plainly states:
“You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly–if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.” [Qur’an 4:135]
But the greed of power starts off from the very inception of our existence, including the relationship between husband and wife in their home. How are we to uphold justice, which is the duty we have all been ascribed to, when in our homes we find our men abusing their wives and children? Not giving their wives their due justice? Not giving their children their due justice? It left me wondering, how will we ever achieve gender justice in the world when we (advocates included) can’t achieve it in our own homes?
Until male leaders in our community who live by the example of the Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah (May Peace and blessings be upon him) confidently encourage and teach other men, no amount of women wishing and declaring justice will make true significant changes.
We need men who can tell their brothers that it is their duty to do their part in household chores (laundry and cooking included) and by not doing so, he is being unjust. Men who can show their brothers how the Prophet and his companions took counsel from their wives and weren’t too arrogant to heed their advice. Men who can encourage their brothers not to have arrogance towards their wives. Men who call out their brothers for abuses they see them doing towards their wives or children. This takes courage.
And it also takes men who are willing to share power.
We, humans, were put on this Earth to worship God alone. God commanded us to know one another and to uphold justice. At the very root of all conflict on Earth is the struggle to maintain and keep power. If we, Muslims, bearers and witnesses to God’s commands, can teach one another to share power for the sake of justice (starting from our homes), only then can we truly see peace. Only then will declarations on gender justice make a true difference.
So while the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women laid out well-constructed plans on how to achieve gender justice on a global scale, I believe we’d see greater success by starting with plans for our own households.