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“..but some animals are more equal than others”
Asif Iftikhar

‘All men are equal’. There is no doubt whatever about that. But I am sorry I must change this one slightly before those nice ladies from APWA sue me for discriminating women. So let’s begin again: ‘All human beings are equal’. Logic, you see, is a very effective tool for drawing conclusions, especially when it is used by someone who does not know how to use it, or knows too much about its use. All men are human beings, women are too. So if men can fly aeroplanes, women can fly them too; if men can be soldiers, women can be soldiers too; if men can only soccer, women can play soccer too; if men can ‘father’ children.... (be logical, fill in the gaps); if men can grow moustaches....

No, no, don’t laugh. This is not Tom and Jerry’s show, this is Pakistani culture under license from manufacturers in USA. Besides when something gets popular it ceases to be silly even if it has been. No wonder, when Monsieur Popularity stands up with all his dark charms and asks some ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ for any foolery it may have, there is always someone more than willing to say, ‘Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.’ Such ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ as most Pakistanis should know (though they don’t) are called scholars and intellectuals in our society.

So what happens when Monsieur Popularity requires acquiescence in the general demand for Muslim (Pakistani) women to publicly participate in SAF games? Elementary, my dear Watson! A ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep,’ say, a professor from a local college, writes an article -- a very logical one -- displaying how easily logic can be ‘used’ and how nicely it can serve its master.

My friend likes smoking, I don’t. He says to my, ‘You know Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan?’ I say, ‘Yes’. ‘You know’, my friend continues, ‘he was a great man?’ I utter a ‘Yes’ again. ‘You know he made great sacrifices for our country’? Again I say, ‘Yes’. ‘He smokes cigars’, concludes my friends. There’s a technical knockout! What can I do? Nothing but accept my defeat. I like Jinnah. I think he was a great man, but to say anything about smoking now would impair my reputation as a patriot. Bear witness, logic is powerful!

Every ‘intellectual’, I think, knows how to ‘use’ logic even if he is not logical. People like Lord Russell, for example, do not like to say: ‘Extramarital relations are quite desirable, just use contraceptives. Enjoy yourself; eat drink and be merry, that is life. Don’t worry even if you get a girl pregnant. God probably doesn’t even exist; nobody’s responsible to anybody. Enjoy your life, enjoy! So what do they do? They get hold of somebody ‘big’ -- and ‘use’ logic1: ‘Here is a great scientist. He serves humanity; contributes to the welfare of society. He work eighteen hours a day, and late at night enjoys himself for eighteen minutes with his neighbour’s wife. And there is this man, a bum; does nothing, creates nothing. He is married. Which of the two is better?’ In appreciating the scientist’s contribution, one finds oneself approving adultery, and in condemning the bum, one ends up condemning the very concept of marriage, though, I believe, in this country at least, nobody would like to fin out that his ‘mama dear’ had contributed to the society by being the scientist’s neighbour even if ‘daddy dear’ had been a bum.

But all this is nothing, ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ -- I mean Professor Sahib -- does even better. To glorify Islam he talks about the Prophet (sws), ‘The Prophet (sws) used to race his wife, Ayesha (raa).’ That is the premise to which Professor Sahib ‘adds’ a context not known to any other Muslim scholar in fourteen hundred years. He says, ‘It is a well-known fact that the event was held in public, and the Companions of the Prophet (sws) witnessed it.’ He goes on with his baa baa: ‘Racing with his wives was Prophet’s (sws) way of encouraging women to participate in sports.’

What is the result? Professor Sahib gets his popularity, and Pakistani women show more of themselves than their performance in SAF games. However, the desire for popularity is not always ill-intentioned. In our society, popularity is sometimes indispensable to even express an honest opinion. Besides, sincerity of intentions is something which nobody except God can judge. So a ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ is not necessarily someone whose sincerity can be doubted, but one who has more ‘baa baa’ (ie power of speech) than a solid basis for his or her point of view2. Nevertheless, it may be of no use your trying to convince Professor Sahib that it would be a sacrilege to any Muslim to even imagine Ummul-Mo’minīn, Ayesha (raa) wearing a track suit and taking part in SAF games, if these games are what is being justified; no use your trying to quote Sūrah Ahzab where the wives of the Prophet (sws) were specifically asked to stay in their houses much, and where to the Companions were told not to ask any thing of them unless from behind a curtain; no use your trying to inform APWA that according to the same Sūrah it appears that preferable demeanour for Muslim women going out of their homes is that they should wrap themselves up with large cloaks (called Jilbab). Even if you try, you’ll be branded a downright fanatic, an extremist, and simply narrow-minded. Some ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ will ask you sternly, ‘You don’t believe in the equality of men and women? If you say ‘No’, you’ll never be able to prove yourself broad-minded thenceforth. (Don’t worry, you really don’t have to, the way I see it a broad-minded person is one who has nothing but ‘broads’ on his mind). If you say ‘Yes’, you lose Hallelujah! Our ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ not only use popular personality, but also popular (and often misleading) concepts. Equality of men and women, for example, is one, democracy, another.

Now, let us have a look at the major premise. Even though I may be  branded a fanatic, the exercise, I think, would be worth while, ‘All human beings are equal’, are they? So why don’t we let an ordinary peon do the work of a managing director, and ask the chartered accountant in our firm to be the gatekeeper, and let a mason teach nuclear physics? If we don’t, does it mean we don’t think all human beings to be equal? Certainly not! The answer is obvious: all human beings are equal, and a peon as a human being deserves the same respect as a managing director does, but we don’t let the chartered accountant be the gatekeeper because his services can be utilised more effectively in the accounting department. Division of labour, to take help form natural, but also indispensable to any society. So, all human beings are equal, there is no doubt about that, but all human beings are not the same, nor are they all alike. God Almighty says:

We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world and [have apportioned it in such a manner that We have] raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labour from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than that which they amass. (43:32)

If all human beings are not the same, then men and women too are not the same. (Oh, boy! I am beginning to like this syllogism). Just as men by their very nature are not good ‘mothers’, women are not in a position to ‘father’ children. An article in fortune (July 30, 1990) discussed reasons why women still don’t make it to the top in business. The reason (as this writer perceives it) was only one. They can be either of the two: chief executives, or (normal) women. Islam tells us that a woman deserves respect as a man deserves, even when she is not jumping from roots or flying aeroplanes. She deserves all the respect just doing what she as a woman can do best. That is why as a mother she has to be respected by her son three times more than he respects his father, but as a wife has to obey her husband within certain limits. Nobody’s deprived of the reward he or she deserves; a poor man giving ten rupees as charity may deserve as much reward as a rich man spending hundred rupees deserves, depending on the sincerity of each, which is something only God can judge. A mother doing her duty properly may be no less in the eyes of God than the head of a state doing his part well. The Qur’ān says:

And in no way covet those things in which Allāh has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn; but ask Allāh of His bounty, for Allāh has knowledge of all things’ (4:32)

The verse points out the fact that if a peon does his job well, he may be rewarded by God a s much as He may reward on honest and hardworking managing director. A women -- a mother -- who rears up a Mujahid may have as much chance of entering the Kingdom of Heaven as the Mujahid who has been sent to the front to risk his life for the nation. A woman’s role as a daughter, a sister, a wife, or a mother is no less important than the role of any man. In the words of a Muslim scholar: ‘You give me Muslim mothers, and I’ll give you a Muslim nation.’

Now, let us consider the following verse of the Qur’ān:

Men [as husbands] are in charge of women [ie as their custodians and protectors] because Allāh has given the one more [strength to discharge this particular responsibility] and because [it is their -- men’s -- responsibility that] they support them from their means. (4:34)

Again the verse points out the fact that men are inherently better in some spheres of life, just as women are in others. Government, for example, is one area where only men should be responsible (being the custodians and protectors of women). Women, though they may express their points of view, would certainly be able to find other areas where they can contribute more meaningfully. This is not discrimination. This is justice. This is Divine revelation -- the Qur’ān. But I am rushing in where even angels fear to tread. If men and women are not the same, and if all human beings are not the same, then all politicians too are not the same. (Warning: Logic can be dangerous too!) By that contention not every Tom, Dick and Harry can participate in the elections. Three cheers for aristocracy! Only those who are wise and competent, pious, and altruistic can participate. But I must stop before I step on the tail of someone like another ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, say, a professor again, but this time also an ‘inspired leader’ and, essentially, a parvenue. After all he is popular, and to him popularity is ‘the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.’ Perhaps, that is why people like him criticise scholars (this time genuine scholars) like Amin Ahsan Islahi. ‘Ha! Ha! Look at what a small audience the old man has,’ they would like too say. They probably have Madam Nur Jehan as their ideal, who attracts a larger audience with only one of her many items (including her ownself) than most mullahs can hope to manage. I must stop, as I said earlier, before this Professor Sahib sends his bodyguards after a young writer who is committing the unpardonable crime of speaking the truth. Poor people, unlike the rich, are supposed to mind their tongue. Freedom of speech is not everybody’s right, for in our society, even where equality is desirable, there are some animals more equal than others.

1. See, for example, Bertrand Russell’s Best, chapter III (Sex and Marriage), last paragraph, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1975.

2. This article, therefore, should be taken as a criticism on some opinions rather than as one on those who have them. By the way, though it may be immodest to say this here, the writer of his article is himself a ‘black sheep’, even if he likes to think that he has basis for his ‘baa baa’. Therefore, gentle reader, use your own intelligence and intellect to judge whether the opinions expressed in this article are congruous with the Qur’ān and the Sunnah or not; if they are, accept them; otherwise just think of them as noises made by an empty barrel.

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