Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The ever constant power struggle

As I watched two women discussing finance and business on news it dawned on me that the times have definitely changed and with this has the roles of men and women. Now there’s nothing wrong with women knowing about business issues, indeed we have the role model of Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her), as a great business woman in the time of the Prophet (saw). But I remember days when the only thing women were called upon for were the more trivial issues; or at least things that were regarded as trivial by men (cooking, beauty, etc).

This got me thinking about how things have changed over the years and how the entire system has moved from “the powerful male”, to “the powerful female”. Of course there are many societies where men still believe they need to have ultimate power, but if we look around in mainstream society, we will see this shift very easily.

Popular television shows are one example of this. In the past male dominated shows, with male lead characters were the most popular; you’ll recall McGyver, Knight Rider, The A-Team (well at least those of us who were growing up in the 80s will). Now we have shows like Desperate Housewives, Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City... I’m sure you can find many more, and the common element is dominant female lead characters, with males in the background, mostly feeling emasculated and needing to find ways to assert their power... and this is the way of the world today.

In their bid to display their masculinity men revert to strange things, and in their bid to keep their power, women do even stranger things, and I’m thinking, “Is it that hard to live together in unity, with mutual power sharing”?

Once again this gets me thinking about the Islamic system, and I’m not talking about people’s own system of Islam which has been tainted with cultural practices and beliefs, I mean true Islam, the way we were taught to practice it by our beloved leader and teacher, Muhammad (May Allah shower His peace and blessings upon him).

Despite what people may argue, the Prophet (saw) lived the example of a true man, one who did not need to assert his masculinity or power in overt and sometimes harsh ways, this was a man who naturally had power, and because of this he was not afraid to seek advice from women, or regard women as equals.

Now, I’m not going to get into a gender debate here, my personal opinion is that gender debates become unnecessary within the true Islamic system. Men and women are given equal stake within a true Islamic system so there should be no need to debate this issue. Yes, there are different roles, especially so within a family context, but these roles are complimentary and are meant to maintain tranquillity.

What happens in this ever constant power struggle is that men and women become opponents of each other. They are constantly trying to find ways to outsmart each other, assert their power and integrity, demand respect and show who is really in charge, and thus the power struggle continues.

Allah (swt) tells us in the Holy Quraan that He created men and women as a comfort for one another, “garments”, to live “together in tranquillity”. So, basically, we’re supposed to be on the same team, are we not?

An important factor here is intention. When we do things for the love of Allah Almighty and submit to Allah’s will completely, then the power struggle becomes a joke, because we realize that in reality we are all powerless, when the One who has all the power is in control of everything, how can any of us still waste our time, fighting for power.

Again, let me just make it clear that I am not talking about oppressed people fighting for their rights. This is another story altogether. The everyday power struggle that we see occurring between genders, when oppression is absent, that’s what I’m talking about.

So yes, instead of investing our time in this strange power struggle, why don’t we try to invest it in attaining the peace and tranquillity that our Creator, Allah Almighty, intended us to have. I think that the more we look at it, the more we’ll realize how futile this power struggle really is.

Image from: dreamsincredibles.blogspot.com/2007/04/unders...


  1. the changing dynamic which is gender relations is something we all need to be more cognitive about.

  2. Well written sister. I agree wholeheartedly. I think however, just for our own sake Muslim women need to know that during the time of the Prophet and the Sahaba that it was quite normal for Muslim women to be appointed in positions of authority and influence especially when it came to the law and education.

    Muslims have lost a sense of their own history I believe which is detrimental for ourselves when relating with the other gender.

    As for what is now becoming the norm in terms of "powerful" women, it seems that most of these women (as you mentioned) only gain power in emasculating men...through dominance which really is sad...its like if we arent being more sexual or assertive over a male counterpart then we become a loser. Such a narrow minded framework....

  3. It is so true, we need to make ourselves more aware of crucial issues so that we know what stance to take as Muslims, I also agree with you Is-za that Islamic history has been forgotten, and many Muslim women dont even know about the important roles that women played in the time of the Prophet (saw). The ideas presented by people today are indeed very narrow minded and most of the time they dont come from Islam but are believed to be Islamic ideas, for this reason especially, I think its very important for us to educate ourselves and become aware.

  4. You're absolutely right. I think culture is sort of responsible for all this, at least it's responsible from where I'm from. I'm from Pakistan, and the society is very narrow-minded over there. Men are valued more than women. Education is extremely important in this case. Is it really that hard to accept that women and men are equal, but in their own distinct ways?

  5. Aminah, it should'nt be a difficult thing to accept, because Islam makes this equality clear. When men and women dont understand this equality, (as you say in distinct ways) then problems with power begin. Its really sad when societal and cultural rules become regarded as religion because this makes Islam complicated and takes away the peace that Islam is supposed to provide. Unfortunately we can't change everybody's opinions, but yes, we definitely can educate ourselves and those close to us.May Allah Almighty guide us all insha'Allah!

  6. I agree, it is sad, but you're right, we should start with ourselves and our close ones first. Inshallah, that should help increase awareness.