Ever wondered what all the fuss is about gender equality, patriarchy, male dominance, domestic violence? On one hand, the liberals, with their self-defined ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity have tried to attack the Islamic ideals on social life which are divinely ordained by Allah, so vehemently that it has created a whole generation of Islamic Apologetics, who on the other hand, have interpreted those ideals so sweetly (eat a handful of sugar while reading sweetly, that sweet!) that it ceases to be what it was intended for. The consequent confusion, lack of knowledge and misinformation from the part of some eloquent speakers has diluted the belief and enthusiasm of the Muslim youth. Unless these terms are presented from the sources and in their most blatant forms, this fuzzification of the Muslim mind will not cease. Let’s take a look at arguably the most controversial of these terms: Qawwam
The term Qawwamun appears in Surah Nisa verse 34
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.
The Definition: Let us understand it in the context of what Allah said – men are qawwam over women. Qawwam usually stands for a person who is responsible for the right conduct, safeguard and maintenance of the affairs of an individual, an institution or an organization. Thus man is governor, director, protector and manager of the affairs of the woman.
The Rationale: For any organized system, it is rationally and customarily necessary that it has some head or chief or authority so that he can arbitrate in the event of a difference and take decisions to run its affairs smoothly. That such authority is needed in the running of countries, governments and states is universally accepted and practiced. This need, as felt in modern times, was also felt in the older tribal social organizations where the chief of a tribe was taken as the authority for that tribe. Why would a family organization, a micro-sample of the larger organizations, not need someone to head, maintain and run the system? And if so, comes the obvious next question – who? Men or Women?
According to the Quran, it would be the Man. But Allah has not left it there. He describes two reasons for the same. The Quran further says that Allah has made some excel the others (in some qualities) under His exclusive wisdom and consideration. This is like the special honor given to Masjid al Haram or Bayt al-Maqdis amongst all the places in the world. It is a God-given authority. Men have done nothing to get it and there is nothing wrong with women that they do not have it. It is simply based on the wisdom of creation, an exclusive privilege of the Creator. The second reason relates to what is achieved with effort. The Quran says that men spend their money, pay mahr and are responsible for meeting women’s needs. This describes the social structure in Islam. The man is responsible for earning and spending for the family. The responsibility of being mothers of children and that of managing and holding the house and the family has been placed upon women. In Islam, Qawwam is responsible for fulfilling every need of the woman which, beside the basic financial and security needs, include psychological needs, entertainment and so on. It essentially encompasses provision of all that is required for her to contribute towards Islam effectively. The term also extrapolates to men as a whole being the qawwam over women. If man fails to fulfill his responsibility of a qawwam, apart from what must be done legally about it, it is a question on his ghairah. On the other hand, if a woman desires to transgress the bonds of qawwamah, it is the matter of her haya.
Many feminists consider this legislation as threat to the safety of woman, children and to the family institution as it codified supreme power of husband in the family sphere. Contrary to this, Islamic teachings protect a woman from worldly troubles and command men to protect her and maintain her for all worldly necessities. It must be understood that the woman has been bestowed with different set of responsibilities. So this rules out the competition between man and woman altogether, thus the case of superiority/patriarchy and feminists’ craving for gender war rests in peace. Furthermore, if a hakim(ruler) does not perform his duties and oppresses its subjects, do we rebel and resort to anarchy? If parents oppress their children, does it give children the right to deny the institution of parenthood altogether? No, we rather make parents realize their responsibilities. What an anarchist seeks in the state, the feminists seek in individual and family life, which makes them better anarchists than the anarchists themselves. Someone rightly said:
Femininity is like a flower bud which can grow and bear its fruit only under the shade of qawwamiyat. Because real women need real men!