Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gheerah & Qawaamah - Between Misogyny and Ihsaan

'Gheerah' and 'qawaamah' are two terms which elicit a variety of reactions - on one extreme, they're used to browbeat women into complete silence and diminish their own self-worth, and on the other, they are derided as being misogynistic and antithetical to all women with self-respect.

The issue, however, is less that of the actual concepts of gheerah (honourable protectiveness) and qawaamah (committed responsibility based on justice) than how they've been co-opted, misinterpreted, and abused - and, even amongst those who have not used them to abuse, there has been poor communication and explanation of those terms.

While I have discussed each term in detail and in separate articles, I did want to emphasize that what we don't seem to understand is that within an Islamic context, both gheerah and qawaamah are meant to facilitate stronger, happier, and healthier marriages.

When gheerah is displayed by a man for his wife, it shouldn't be done in a controlling, irrational manner that has nothing behind it except a negative type of possessiveness. Men and women both have preferences for their spouses - and instead of viewing it as a competition for control, it should be seen as a sign of love, care, and concern for each other.

Rather than 'laying the smackdown,' if a man cares about his marriage, he should actually communicate with his wife *why* he has certain preferences and requests. Even if she doesn't agree with them, the very act of communication and discussion (assuming that, too, is done healthily) will engender positivity and an appreciation for the concern being displayed.
Men should also keep in mind that just as they make requests of their wives, they ought to respect their wives' requests of them - as Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (radhiAllahu 'anhu) said, "I love to do for my wife as I expect her to do for me."

When qawaamah is correctly implemented as well (and I shall forbear from using analogies such as 'CEO of the household' or going into detail over my own specialized theory about it......... ahem), and when a man has sincere intentions to *not* abuse his power, it is highly unlikely that a woman would become resentful.
To the contrary, a competent qawwaam is the type of man who earns respect from those around him - a man who does not flaunt his authority, but ensures that his wife knows that she is respected in turn and considered to be a meaningful partner in their relationship and their household.

The concepts of gheerah and qawaamah are not something we should be ashamed about, but something we *do* need to be aware about and implement correctly.

I for one understand all too well why and how many women have an averse reaction to the very idea of these words - the Muslim Ummah has far too many brutal examples of the abuse committed in the names of gheerah and qawaamah.

Unfortunately, too many people of knowledge and authority have also remained silent in the face of this abuse and done little to alleviate it, choosing to place greater importance on the authority of irresponsible, oppressive men than on the need to enforce 'adl (justice) in the Ummah.

One cannot throw around words like qawaamah and gheerah without linking them to, and emphasizing, the need for Ihsaan that comes with them. We cannot have lectures about 'the ideal Islamic marriage' and tell women to accept the unconditional authority of men without first addressing the men themselves - ingraining in them the severity of what the position of qawaamah entails, and the brutal consequences in the Aakhirah for abusing it.

The Qur'an speaks about marriage in positive terms - why else would words such as 'mawaddah' and 'rahmah' be used? - and we cannot isolate related terms and concepts from the holistic approach that was embodied in the life of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam).

Allah wishes only good for us - He wants our relationships with each other to be based on love for Him, and compassion with each other - and only by understanding these types of ideas in such a light will we be able to move forward from shallow, one-dimensional, and frankly dangerous interpretations and towards something which exemplifies the spirit of Islam.

1 comment:

Susan Bloom said...

May Allah bless you, sister.