Reaching out to the Battered Half
Why Scramble for More?
By M. H. Sharief
Sharifa receiving Dr. Durgabai National award with
Rs. one lakh cash prize from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
for her service to Women’s Welfare.
On that day, when Sharifa revealed her resolve to take to working for the betterment of women in distress, her mission and way of life, everyone including her whole family, was aghast over her ‘queer decision’. All of them, concerned as they were, about her life, explained to Shrifa that a Muslim girl like her from an ordinary family should never think of a life of her own making, leave alone the one she had chosen.
But, Sharifa being different and having a mind of her own, stood her ground. Steadfastly and stubbornly, come what may! On that day, when Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee presented Dr. Durgabai Deshmukh National Award with a cash prize of Rs. One Lakh to Sharifa for her, “innovative work on issues relating to Women’s Rights and Empowerment”, everyone, including her whole family was overwhelmed with joy.
No sooner had Sharifa became the first awardee of Durgabai prize, recognition of her, “ongoing Global Efforts for Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women” came another, “Hundred Heroines” award presented by the First Women’s Rights Convention Committee of USA on its 150 anniversary celebrations.
From assisting women in distress to organising campaigns to creating awareness about Women’s Rights among the socially downtrodden and poor women, Sharifa has come a long way in transforming her dreams into reality.
The non-governmental organisation, Steps’ Women Development Group’, that Sharifa has established in Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu serves her purpose and programmes.
Unlike other NGOs, Steps is neither involved in community development projects nor has adopted villages to carry out all the welfare projects. Instead, Steps concentrates on all issues affecting women as individuals. Moreover, its programmes are not sponsored with organised sources of funding.
Issues related to violence against women on marital problems, dowry harassment, sexual abuse, domestic violence and other cases are given counselling and moral and legal support at Steps. Violence against women on marital problems has been alarmingly on the rise and is the single most lot of complaints Steps receives regularly like the following one received recently: Syed Umar married to Nurunissa for five years had been ill-treating her all along. He would beat her in front of the relatives for trivial reasons. Though Nurunnisa could conceive, she was forced to abort on and off and later humiliated for her barrenness. She was forced to comply with Umar’s lust that knew no time and place. If she resisted, she was beaten blue and black. On receiving complaints from the parents of Nurunnisa, Steps petitioned the all women police station at Pudukottai and as a result the couple had been arranged to live separately under the custody of her parents.
Another unique facility, probably the first of its kind, is the women’s centre put up near the bus terminus of Pudukottai.
The centre offers shelter to women in distress for a period of time and serves as a ‘Waiting Room’ for stranded outstation women during night hours. With a sense of keen observation of women’s problems and working out the right solutions, Sharifa has really done path breaking work on women’s problems and the women’s centre, one of the several schemes, has added one more feather to her cap.
During the course of a survey that Sharifa conducted for the International Women Research Action Group, Bombay on the social status of Muslim women in five districts of Tamil Nadu, she found that 90 per cent of Muslim girls had got married before they attained the age of eighteen, 90 per cent of girls who knew Qur’an by heart did not know the meaning, and the ‘Mehar’ fixed for the bride never crossed the paltry amount of Rs. 2000.
Another commendable task that Sharifa accomplished was to convince the state administration to register the freely given house plots in the name of the Woman of the House or a Joint registration in the name of the Man and Wife. Nearly 3,000 house plots have so far been given to women in Pudukottai alone.
As Pudukottai has a sizable Muslim population, Sharifa has plans to start a literacy programme. “The high degree of awareness among women is a major achievement of Steps”, asserts Sharifa. Timely assistance to women in distress has made Steps, the popular and sought after organisation.
By Nigar Ataulla
If only Muslims could realise that their existence on this planet is a temporary sojourn
Eight years after the battle of Uhud, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) visited the site of the battle and prayed for the martyrs. His prayer was that of one about to leave the land of the living. Then he ascended the pulpit and said: “I shall be the first to reach the Hauz (a reservoir of water in the heaven for the believers), I bear witness before you that we shall meet at Hauz which I can see from this very place. By God, I do not fear that when I am gone, you will set up others beside Allah. What I do fear is that greed for worldly things that will make you fight among yourselves. That is what will destroy you as it destroyed those before you.”
It seems, the Prophet’s prophecy is coming true in our own times. One can see it happening day after day. It is a frightening scenario to witness Muslims getting embroiled in a feud over wealth. While one cannot dismiss the importance of money, the security it provides, the things it can buy and the position it bestows on people, the fact is that wealth makes and has made a large chunk of people arrogant too, corrupted their soul, weakened their conscience. Unfortunately, these days one sees the Muslim society too getting plagued by the malaise. The timely Eid sermon by the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sheikh Abdel Rahman al Sudais this year, was focused on this very issue. Often choking back emotional tears, Imam Sheikh Rahman pleaded with the crowds gathered at Haram to shun western traditions and discard materialism.
One does not have to go very far to catch up with the state of affairs. Go back to the past and reflect on the tragic accident of a businessman accompanied by his two little daughters in Bangalore who were knocked down by a speeding Ceilo on a posh shopping mall in the city. While the daughters survived, their father was not so fortunate.
According to reports the owner-cum-driver of the car was a ‘rich kid’ fond of fast cars, thoroughly pampered by his Dubai-based father. And the intoxication of the newly acquired wealth and his car had apparently gone to his head so much that he lost control over his life and the brakes of his cars. If this is not arrogance that comes out of wealth, what is?
Feud over property too is pretty common in our community. The trend these days is to grab it all as fast as one can, even if it means grabbing the father by the collar to demand one’s share. This is no fiction, it is happening! Walk into the sophisticated Muslim households where parents have taken pains to send their children to the best of schools, packed them off to the US for better prospects and sacrificed their own comforts to see that their kids make it big in life.
The children grow up pursuing their careers in the best institutions here and abroad, and live a luxurious life. On the face of it, all looks hunky-dory. And then one day hell breaks loose after the death of the father. There is a scramble for the proverbial pie and the assets left behind by the dead. Soon brothers are up in arms against one another soon after they bury the dead. One can see them in their true colours. What is intriguing is that Islam has given clear indications about the share of property, but despite these directives, people choose to hurt each other, all for a share of land, some piece of gold, or a tiny part of the ancestral house. They fight with all their might to acquire these things for temporary pleasures and comfort, not giving a thought to the fact that it is all going to be dust one day. Call it materialism, plain greed or simply the tendency to hoard, how does it help? If the Almighty has bestowed some with more wealth than the others, then simply thank Him for it, why flaunt it around making oneself cheap and petty.
Then there are our marriages. It’s one place to witness how much one’s worth in gold is. With the exception of those women who arrive in the Hijab, the sight of women there who come ‘dressed for the occasion’ competing with each other to see who’s the best is far from pleasant. Most women take these occasions as an excuse to show off their jewellery or the latest silks they have acquired. But who are they trying to impress? It’s fine to love good clothes and good things in life, but if it makes one arrogant then it’s a total washout. Hazrat Aisha, wife of the Prophet (Pbuh), narrates how one day she put on a new garment and as she looked at it in delight, her father Abu Bakr said: “What are you looking at”? At this reminder, Aisha asked her father why he rebuked her. “Why don’t you know that when God’s servants become conceited over some worldly adornment, he brings down upon himself the displeasure of the Lord. He should then cast off that adornment if he has to regain the Lord’s good pleasure,” explained Abu Bakr. Hazrat Aisha reports that she took off the garment and gave it away in charity. “Perchance this charity will count as your penance,” said Abu Bakr.
Probably it is over attachment to worldly possessions that is plaguing our community, especially the youngsters. Being moderate is something that simply does not appeal to them. Incidents of the humility of Caliphs like Hazrat Umar who wept when the booty of war arrived from Qadsiyah because he was afraid that the riches could stir up enmity among his people, does not seem to touch their hearts. Being ambitious is great, but turning reckless to reach goals does not make sense. A passion to own a mansion may be natural, but if it blinds people to the extent that they wage a war to grab their piece of cake, in the process breaking the rules set by God, then it is simply not worth it.
If only our community could realise that their existence on this planet is a temporary sojourn and ultimately what they will badly need is just a little space on the earth to rest in peace until the day of resurrection. So why scramble for more?