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The major of the book
The characterization of women in customary Muslim society has been guided by many books which specifically address their strengths and weaknesses. One of these books is called Perfecting Women, written by Maulana Asharaf. The book has its focus on women in societal Muslim, how they are treated and various attitudes towards them.
Women in the Muslim world are supposed to be guided by certain virtues according to the Holy book. This work examines the behavior, weaknesses and strengths of Muslim Women in the 20th century. There is strong criticism against women’s behaviors in some particular customs. In fact, when reading the book initially it seems that women are suppressed by numerous traditions and rules.
It becomes clear that a number of rules which are imposed by Asharaf do not aim at suppressing women. Still, the same book and the rules mentioned do not make women free and independent to develop their knowledge and skills which may be used to gain necessary respect and recognition in society. It is necessary to point out that the role of virtuous woman in society is very high since women are responsible for the household and children rearing.
Moreover, the book stresses the essential role of education which women should obtain and encourage their children to become educated as well. Thus, it is crucially important to remember that it is a woman who stimulates the development of society; and the main theme of the book under consideration is to portray the oppressed women and reveal the honorable status of women and hew essential role in the society chosen.
Oppression in the book.
There are several instances in the text which evoke thoughts about oppression to the women. By all means, the First Book is the most affluent in passages which may be regarded as evidence of oppression. In this part Ashraf provides a very interesting task for improving one’s reading which is a kind of a code of laws which women should obey. Some of these rules may seem too strict or oppressive.
For instance, the rule “to consider beating” from parents “to be an honor” at first sight suggests an image of a resigned woman who can be punished and has no right even to defend herself or even run from beating (Ashraf, 53). Other rules are even more striking since they assign what hands to use while eating or drinking, how many gulps to make while drinking, etc (Ashraf, 5). The existence of such strict prescriptions makes the reader feel the oppression women seemingly experience.
Other instances are especially associated with customary religious practices. However, it is necessary to point out that the most of these practices is regarded as sinful by Ashraf. For instance, ostentation is done when the barber’s wife displays the outfit as part of the wedding ceremony (Ashraf, 119). Maulana goes ahead to acknowledge this as a fine assembly of sins. This is because in the whole practice there is display of pride.
The cultural practice in which the new mother is taken out to see the stars on the sixth day also invokes strong criticisms by the text. After the mother is bathed and dressed expensively, she is taken out to the courtyard at night with her eyes covered. She is made to stand on the platform after which the women uncover her eyes so that she can only see the stars. The book criticizes this custom by stating that it is pretty irrational to make a normal person blind (Ashraf, 103).
The woman and seven other married women are often fed with many types of foods because they believe that by doing this, no food will ever harm the child. The chosen example is rather powerful to prove how oppressive the attitude to women could be. First, it is always mentioned that something is done over women and some people make a woman take this or that step. Women are limited in their actions as well as in their thoughts about their rights, possibilities, and duties.
The act of women gathering at the home of the deceased thinking that they are sharing in the sorrow of the house is also considered an illegitimate act. This is because women usually engage in cooking activities in the home of the deceased. If they do not get food, they will roam around the society claiming that that home has no food.
These are among other reasons why the custom is considered illegitimate (Ashraf, 153). Women often visit the deceased home wearing showy clothes and sit in groups in which they tell stories which do not concern with consolation of the bereaved.
They embrace them and begin to weep instead of comforting and settling the bereaved hearts. Thus, as the writer says, their main reason for coming is to avoid reproach (Ashraf, 153). So, even during the meetings when women think they can become free or, at least, follow their personal interests and demands, they are still oppressed and cannot do anything they find interesting.
They can gather together, but still, they can do it only under the already defined conditions and limitations. They can discuss any themes, still, their main purpose is to avoid reproaches. And to realize how dependent women are, it is enough to comprehend the rules which are set and have to be followed precisely.
The power of women.
Nevertheless, it soon becomes clear that women are not at all suppressed, especially if they behave in accordance with basic virtues. By highlighting certain customary issues which have been misconstrued by the society, the book actually helps the society function better. It instructs women to read because it is easier for them to learn because this gives a real taste for knowledge. It is also easier for women to learn than it is for boys since women do not have to go out to look for money (Ashraf, 294).
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Women are involved in child rearing from the time the child is conceived to the time of their adulthood. The powerful role of a woman in child rearing is shown in this book when a woman gives birth to a young one. Women will converge to celebrate with the new mother in a series of cultural practices (Ashraf, 101).
Much as we may be able to see how the writer criticizes Muslim women, we can also demystify the importance of women in the Muslim community. Women have been mentioned in almost every aspect of the communal events. In some sense this shows that most of those events mentioned cannot take place without the presence of women because “there is no man in our house able to work, and we [women] must work” (Ashraf, 265).
The text also highlights the importance of women in the Muslim family. These strengths are exemplified in child rearing, education and domestic rights among many others. That is why the change from criticism to appreciation of women’s role in the family is a pretty important theme of this text.
The status of women in Muslim society.
Women in the Muslim world have been taught many issues by the Zewar. These teachings have contributed much in the welfare and maintenance of order in the Muslim world particularly to the women. It can be deduced that characterization of women in certain ceremonies should be such that there is no pride or show offs or even habits which aim at avoiding embarrassing natural prevailing situations. A characteristic attribute of this text is the way it changes its criticism to exposing and appreciating the strength of women.
It does not order women to refrain from certain important religious customs. It only appreciates their role in these customs and guides them on how they should conduct. In fact, the book reveals the crucial role which women play in Muslim society keeping their homes in order and rearing their children in accordance with religious traditions and orienting them at their self-development.
This crucial position of women in society is respected and appreciated by men. By all means, women help their husbands in many ways so men can concentrate on their major tasks of supporting their families and working for the sake of their country.
Moreover, being highly educated many women help their husbands, children to make some crucial decisions, for instance, encouraging their children to obtain the appropriate education. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the book reveals the beneficial correlation between the power of men and the power of women in Muslim society.
Ashraf, M. (1941). Perfecting Women, Ali Thanawi’s Bihishti Zewar. California: University of California Press.