In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful
Ladies and Gentlemen
God's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon you.
At the outset, it gives me great pleasure to express my sincere appreciation for Dr. Amal Abdullah Al-Qubaisi, President of the Federal National Council, UAE, as the first female leader of an Arab parliament and first Arab woman holding this highly significant legislative position. Congratulations are due on her success to host the 11th summit of the Parliament Female Heads in the dynamically promising energetic state of the UAE, which spares no effort to extend happiness and promote peace for all with dedicated endeavors to enroot the values of good-neighborliness, stability and coexistence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is no exaggeration to say that your summit is of paramount importance and far-reaching effects on the Middle East and the entire world at large. Not only does it epitomize the world cultures on the land of the UAE, in reflection of a variety of international experts with highly significant weight in predicting the future of nations, but it also analytically addresses some tremendous challenges encountering the Arab and Muslim communities in realities. In this regard, facing the epidemic of terrorism comes as the first priority; the situation is getting worse and worse with increasing dangers in the east and the west. Upon its first rise, many kept silent and paid no due attention to the sources harboring terrorist thoughts as if they would not go beyond their birth land. To their surprise, they went everywhere to impart terror and horror among humankind in all corners of the world.
The summit is also discussing another challenge which poses no less a threat than terrorism. It is the unyielding strategies of modern policies insisting on dividing nations and fragmenting them. Such strategies are resolute in their endeavors to fragment the stable countries and detach them, turning them into tottering maps plagued with religious, sectarian and racial conflicts and potential ruinous battlefields. It seems as if our region was decreed to be a profitable market for makers of destructive weapons, following the new imperial strategies and tactics to make it a theatre for conflicts replete with hotbeds of tension and merchants of wars.
It goes beyond the purpose of this speech to explore the causes of these immoral wars of vanity. I am mainly concerned with commenting on the assembly of fifty female leaders who are the heads of world parliaments in the hope that this parliamentary summit, to be followed by other summits, can put an end to these flaming wars. I find no hesitation to describe such wars as shameful to humanity in an age claiming democracy, freedom, human rights, world peace organizations and societal stability. Surely, the news of yesterday's outrage must have come to you. It left many innocent casualties, who were offering their prayers in an Egyptian church, with horribly inescapable and unforgettable pains and soreness in the hearts of Muslims, together with their Christian fellows. Such an atrocious crime does not only hurt the Egyptian Christians but it also hurts Muslims all over the world and desecrates the commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad's Birthday.
Furthermore, the summit faces another special challenge, seemingly restricted to the Arab and Muslim world. However, any elaborate consideration shows its near and distant future consequences as a major concern to the entire humanity. This is the position of women in the current human civilization. I deeply thank those in charge of the summit for the attention they pay to this topical issue. As a researcher in Islam, I know no other issue exhausting more intellectual energies of scholars, thinkers and researchers, males and females over the past century as this issue. For example, the Arab and Muslim modern library store has thousands of books, papers, conferences and seminars on women's issues. They explored them thoroughly and presented varieties of studies and suggestions. However, the topic continues to pose originality and novelty as if no mind ever approached it. After long and elaborate consideration, I think the issue may be examined from three perspectives:
First: The Islamic Perspective:
Indeed, Islam has liberated women and relieved them from the chains and injustices of the past civilizations, which were contemporary to the rise of Islam. Injustices against women prevailed in the Greek civilization with its famous figures “Plato and Aristotle”, the Roman civilization and the religions of India, let alone some sacred scriptures blaming woman for the original sin. The pre-Islamic era of ignorance in Arabia was not an exception. They denied women the right to life, education, ownership and inheritance, among many injustices well known to you, of which time limit allows me no chance to remind you . It is enough to say that in this rigid climate suffocating to women, Islam made its rise and imposed a strict vision of justice to them. Had Islam kept silent at this past time, no one would have ever blamed it for such injustices and humiliation. Simply, the entire world of that time seriously acted against women and against their rights and their human dignity. Yet, Islam went against the mainstream and declared it loudly, “Women, in all equity, have rights similar to men” (Qur’an, 2:228); “Do not retain them [women] against their will in order to hurt [them]” (Qur’an, 2:231). Strikingly signifcant indeed is the last speech of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), which averred, “Women are equal partners of men.”
Fourteen centuries ago, Islam forbade female infanticide forever and graced women with absolute rights to inheritance, education, choice of husband, independent ownership, and personal name unaffected by her husband's. Both man and woman shared the same duties and responsibilities. Evidently, these rights allowed women to be a creative element in society, not less—if not better, than men. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been authentically quoted to have said, “Had I been allowed to give preference to any, I would have preferred women to men.” This is not a compliment to the weak or oppressed gender but an alerting declaration to draw attention to the unique qualities and characteristics of female excellence and their respective superiority to men.
Second: The Customary Perspective:
This perspective is more affected by habits and customs than explicit texts and rulings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Though, it attributes high merits and a significant scientific, social and human position to women. Such approach still takes women back to the time preceding the revelation of the Qur’an. It denies women many rights guaranteed in Islam. as it recalls odd juristic views to keep women in seclusion and isolation insomuch that they may cope with alienation and isolation. Nevertheless, Islam has only come to liberate women from seclusion and help them act effectively in society and bear responsibilities of development and advancement.
Third: The Western Modernity Perspective:
This aperspective is firmly associated with a special set of concepts and philosophies, which deny many well-established values deeply rooted in the history and beliefs of their own societies. Here, I should hasten to say that I have clear differentiation between modernity with all its potential dangers, and modernization. The latter is just a process of interaction and vigorous update of religious and ethical heritage togain the best benefit therefrom. By contrast, in its Western concept, modernity is the optimal example worthy of international and global circulation and promotion. Therefore, I am not to underestimate the positive effects of modernity, such as scientific, human and technological progresses as well as the critique of habits and customs for which the heavenly-revealed religions came to redress and refine. To sum up, I present the following potential worrying warnings to your consideration as legislative figures and leading intellectuals: 1.Relativity of ethics and exclusion of sacred texts from designing the governing ethical patterns, entirely entrusting the individual, filled with personal desires and lusts, with decision-making on ethical issues. To my mind, excluding religion from acting in society leads to marginalization of the human life from the true sight of life essence.
2.Marginalization of family role in social upbringing, referring that role to alternative institutions and enterprises to undertake it. Really, this trend creates a merciless society devoid of emotions, social relations and human affiliations. This will sooner or later lead to a destabilized society deprived of psychological balance and social solidarity and empathy, the merits which can only grow within families. Actually, this negatively affects all political, social, and pedagogical systems. I may even venture to claim that this threatens the very future of humankind.
3.The progress achieved in genetic engineering has several potential dangers, a case which forces us to inquire whether modernity is the optimal alternative for a society with faith in the values of motherhood and family, not disregarding the violations committed in the name of religion. Or else, we may accept this reality with endeavors to change and renew it in reliance on our different entities and cultures. Simply, the other alternative is nothing but destruction and disastrous catastrophe at both material and moral levels. I wish this question, which is pivotal for me, will draw your attention while aspiring for a new strategy to empower women and create a state of balance between women and men in the various different areas of life.
Thank you for listening.
Al-Salamu Alaykum wa Raḥmatullah wa Barakatuh
God's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be with you all
Professor Ahmad At-Tayyeb
Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar
Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders