Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Can I Run For President?

Is there something in Islam that prohibits a woman from becoming a head of state?I don't know what is the 'official' or conventional wisdom on this issue. Thinking logically though I can't see why not but if anyone has a conclusive answer I'd be glad to hear it.

Some arguments I have heard against:

1) There is this hadith:

"The hadith, related by Abu Bakra, states "God has benefited me from a word I heard from the Prophet (PBUH) on the day of the Camel, after I had been about to join the ranks of the people of the Camel. [Abu Bakra] said ‘When the Prophet was informed that the people of Persia had crowned the daughter of Kisra as their ruler, he said: No people will ever succeed if they hand their affairs to a woman.’" Sahih al-Bukhari, trans. by M.M. Khan, Kazi Publications, 1983, vol. 5, p. 508, no. 508; vol. 9, p. 170-171, no. 219."


2)And this Ayah:

"And the divorced women shall undergo, without remarrying, a waiting period of three monthly courses: for it is not lawful for them to conceal what God may have created in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. And during this period their husbands are fully entitled to take them back, if they desire reconciliation; but, in accordance with justice, the rights of the wives with regard to their husbands are equal to the husbands’ rights with regard to them, although men have a degree (darajah) over them. And God is almighty, wise. "
(Quran 2:228).

So if the interpretation here is that men are somehow superior to us by a degree then I guess the argument is we shouldn't be allowed to rule over them.

3)And this Ayah:

"Men shall take full care (qawamuna) of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly[preferred] (faddala) on some of the former than on some of the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded."
(Quran 4: 34).

So again if we interpret this to mean qawama(guardianship) belongs to men over women then a woman cannot be the head of state because she would have to listen to whoever her 'guardian' is.

4)Women are forbidden to lead prayer so they should not lead countries.

5)Women are emotional & may start a war because they have PMS.

When I was in the States, these verses & hadiths were often thrown at me by people who were anti-Islam as proof that Islam subjugates women. When I tried to do research into their context & interpretations there were too many different answers so I declined to comment because I didn't want to present my personal opinion as Islam.

Now after the incident in New York where an American Muslim woman lead a Friday prayer & also after women finally got the vote in Kuwait I'm beginning to hear them over here a lot - from Muslims this time. I noticed them coming up in social discussions more & more as people debate current affairs & contemporary issues.

Personally I think No. 4 doesn't make sense. Even if it's true that women can't lead the prayer that is a matter of ritual. It has no practical reason. You can't really question rituals like prayer. It's just like asking why we have to do rukoo3 once & sujood twice in every rak3a?No special reason. That's just the way it is.

But being a head of state is a matter of political rights. It's a matter of Sharia.That IS open for debate. So fine if a woman is President & she can't lead Friday prayers, get someone else to lead them. Don't see why that should stop her from being President.Who says the head of state must head the prayers anyway?

No.5 I simply present but refuse to comment on or on the whole naqisat 3aqlin wadeen interpretations because I find that when I get into these discussions I forget that my mother raised me to be a lady.

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10 Comments:

Blogger doshar said...

i have not researched or read about this issue much, and sometimes this women thing in general i would like to read into. i think i discovered late that i am a bit feminist. i only find that out in general discussions when other girls appear so sunmissive and agreeable in comparison to me!
considering this issue or any other woman related issue, what God had decreed i will abide to ISA but sometimes we like to understand why. if i don't understand, i will still abide ISA, but i pray God always to make me love what He wants and make it close to my heart.

my personal gut feeling about why we shouldn't be president is this:

1. a head of state should more or less be available all the time for matters of the state. if you are a mother, being pregnant and nursing an stuff can really distract you from being a good president or being a president will distract you from being a good mother.

2.we do tend to be very emotional and passionate. there are some hard decisions taken as president (like wars and punishments) that i for one would probably cry over. we are not as practical as men.

3. your husband can actually affect your decisions and so he would be Co-president? not just we do what they ask, but if you really love a man you usually want to listen to him.

4.in beginning of islam, the leader would always be in the midst of the battle. and yet women are not required by islam to fight. so there is a conflict here.

these are from the top of my head, i haven't thought about it indepth before. there could be other reasons, that is if indeed we can not head a state. but i know for a fact that women can hold strong positions. i think in 3ahd omar ibn el khattab a woman was responsible for the treasury. i have to make sure about that though.

if you do become president matenseenash:)

7/05/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Doshar,

"a head of state should more or less be available all the time for matters of the state. if you are a mother, being pregnant and nursing an stuff can really distract you from being a good president or being a president will distract you from being a good mother."

Heads of state are not usually young people.They're people who are at least in their late 40's, 50's or 60's so I don't think pregnancy is much of an issue at that age.Most of the time their children are grown-up by the time they get to that position.

And about bringing up young children how is this different for a man?Don't you think a man needs to be a good father?Children need 2 parents you know. And having a father who is always absent is no less damaging than having a mother who is always absent.

Besides is it only heads of state who are required to be available at all times?What about women in engineering professions or doctors or nurses or journalists or programmers or TV correspondents?All of these professions require crazy hours & that you should always be on call. So by your logic it's not just the head of state who shouldn't be a woman.


"we do tend to be very emotional and passionate. there are some hard decisions taken as president (like wars and punishments) that i for one would probably cry over. we are not as practical as men."

Emotionalism is a matter of individual temperament & personality. Sometimes it's a matter of culture & upbringing. I haven't seen any statistics to prove there are more cold men than women. When we elect a leader I would try to choose someone who can control his/her emotions regardless of their gender.

Howard Dean - an American presidential candidate in the last race - was doing quite well until one incident where he was screaming on TV during a speech. That was the end of his chance because people thought he was too 'emotional'. And he was a man.On the other hand, Margaret Thatcher is famous for being cold & without emotion.

"your husband can actually affect your decisions and so he would be Co-president? "

Again & this is not true for men?Come ON!When history is full of Kings, Caesars & Caliphs & Sultans who were ruled by their mothers or lovers or wives?Men will listen to a woman they don't even love if they just want to sleep with her!

"in beginning of islam, the leader would always be in the midst of the battle. "

Yes but that is not valid today anymore. Most modern systems of governance assume a seperation between the military & the political leadership.

The question of whether women can be in the military & military leaders is another debate. Modern warfare is becoming so hi-tech that it's no longer a matter of physical strength or skill with a sword or even a gun anymore. In the future wars will be fought from behind a computer screen which women can do as well as men.

7/05/2005 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger doshar said...

my comments were more related to why this hadith was said in those times. when they were applicable. and now, from an islamic point of view, our leaders are supposed to take part in the battles. and in those times alot of wolah were young and would be of a child bearing age if they were women.


the thing is, there are alot of examples that you said are true but are more of exceptions . rules are usually based on the generality of issues.
margarette tatcher was said to be an iron woman. but,the general rule is that women can be more tempramental and emotional. and maybe howard dean's emotional outburst was one of the reason's he never became president?


for jobs like nurses and doctors and stuff, you can easily let someone else fill in with out much loss. if you are the head of state it would not be so easy to find a replacement :) and the consequences are very enormous.

as for fathers, and mothers, kids need their mothers and fathers yes, but they need their mother much more. in houses where the father works less hours than the mother, and she is always away, children do tend to feel that they are missing something. more than if the father is always away.

i am not defending we khalas by the way, if i am left to my own opinions i would be a raving feminist. wanting to prove that we can do it as well as them. and maybe we can, but at what expense? and i know that if God has decreed something, it must be for the best and i was brainstorming to possible ideas.

i am not sure actually that we are forbidden to head a state or not. needs furthur reading.
we matez3aleesh awy ya loulou. it doesn't mean we are inferior to them Wallahi.

i have a good book about islam and it discusses equality between men and women in Islam. i have it online if you wouldlike me to send you something.

7/05/2005 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger haal said...

'and now, from an islamic point of view, our leaders are supposed to take part in the battles.'
Interesting? well, no, not interesting at all?

'and i know that if God has decreed something, it must be for the best and i was brainstorming to possible ideas.'
What did God decree? Did He say that women shouldnt run for president?

7/05/2005 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

"for jobs like nurses and doctors and stuff, you can easily let someone else fill in with out much loss."

Not always true. My mother spent most of her life as an emergency room doctor & most of the time they were so understaffed there WAS no one to fill in.

And for me if there is a problem with one of my projects & it's an emergency I can't just tell them to find someone else to fill in. It might take him days just to figure out what am doing. My friend D.(the one K. operated on) is a safet engineer & the only one in her company. If there is an accident she can't just tell them to let the place burn while they try to hire someone else to replace her.

And btw heads of states do take holidays. Unless you're talking about a medeival Third World Dictatorship there are institutions that are able to function & run the country without complete dependence on one individual. There are parliaments & vice presidents & presidential assistants & ministers.

"and maybe howard dean's emotional outburst was one of the reason's he never became president?
"

Yes that was my point. If I was a voter & I had a choice I'd pick Thatcher over Dean. I'd judge by personal quality not by gender.

"and i know that if God has decreed something, it must be for the best and i was brainstorming to possible ideas.
"

God would not decree something illogical. It's just convenient for some of us sometimes to interpret His words to mean illogical things. And since so far most religious interpretation has been done by men it doesn't surprise me that they'd come up with things like this.

"i have it online if you wouldlike me to send you something.
"

Sure thanks.

7/05/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger doshar said...

ok haal and loulou, you both quoted things from what i said and did not see the part

"i am not sure actually that we are forbidden to head a state or not. needs furthur reading."


but if it is a fact, then it has to be for the best. i don't know the proper interpretation, i am not saying it is correct or not, i am not qualified to interpret properly ahadith or quran. but i stand firmly that IF it is true, then it is for the best,because if averything else i doubt i do not doubt that God is the most wise and also the most just. i might not have the correct logical reasoning for you. my reasons are based on faith in GOd. if turns out it is ok we head states, i would be the first to be happy. believe me it takes me sometimes alot of effort to supress the feminist in me sometimes.

and why is it not intersting Haal that leaders should be in battles?
are we not supposed to follow the sunna of the prophet? there were ghazawat that the prophet's presence was key to the morale of the soldiers. i know there were a lot of battles later where leaders were not personally involved, but that is my personal opinion.
anyway, i give up. loulou, i can't convince you i guess. these are different times now, different than any other in all of the days of the islamic nation. all i said was definitely applicable till 60 years ago maybe. but i knoow that islam is for all times. and its teachings and wisdom are forever. If it is indeed true that we are forbidden, then there has to be a wisdom there, applicable even now.
i just can't debate it without knowing furthur. i never really thought it was much of an issue for me actually this presidency thing. doing house work though, that is what comes on my mind alot. would like you to do a post about that. :)

if there is em email link on your blog, i will send you the book. it is called "Islam in Focus" maybe you have heard about it

7/05/2005 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger KM said...

She may not be president, but Benazir Bhutto is Muslim. I watched her do a debate at the Oxford Union on the subject: Islam is not compatible with the West. She was obviously on the opposition. She is amazing. And we also used the ladies' room and tinkled in next door stalls. Anyhow, she is a person of power and influence...

7/05/2005 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger doshar said...

loulou, i did ask a quran teacher who has learnt alot of islamic studies about this and this is what she said:


she doesn't think there is an absolute forbidding of the subject. it is just more of a logical thing as men are given the job to look after us in general (quawama) and the general description of the job, so it makes more sense. but exceptions could be discussed and nothing is absolute as long as not specified as 7aram. so i think you can have a shot at presidency after all!

7/06/2005 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger haal said...

'are we not supposed to follow the sunna of the prophet? there were ghazawat that the prophet's presence was key to the morale of the soldiers.'
Hellooooo!! we are in the twenty something century. No leaders go to battles. All with buttons and technologies. And neither Umar, abu bakr, nor Uthman went to battles when they were leaders of the ummah.

7/06/2005 02:19:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Km,

Yes. Good point. Several Muslim countries have already had female presidents or prime ministers. Examples are Turkey, Bengladesh & Pakistan.

Doshar

" loulou, i can't convince you i guess. "

You can't convince me because you are not convinced yourself.Because you are suppressing what you call the feminist in you & what I call your common sense.

There is a difference between 3ibadat or rituals like Hajj & Prayer which stay the same for all time & matters of Sharia. Sharia is the process of applying religious text to real-life situations. And real-life situations are not fixed. They change with time & place. So trying to 'fix' Sharia & make it into an absolute black & white immoveable ritual is a waste of time.This is why we have fiqh & qiyas & ijma'a & ijtihad.

"if there is em email link on your blog, i will send you the book."

Yes there is. Thanks.

7/06/2005 03:40:00 AM  

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