By Omar Bihmidine
By Omar Bihmidine
Morocco World News
Sidi Ifni, January 24, 2013
“You should get married to an uneducated girl,” a Moroccan Sheikh from my home village once advised me. “An uneducated girl will make a good wife for you, unlike an educated one,” the Sheikh added. As I intervened to disagree with the Sheikh, he interrupted me to add that most educated girls of today are impure, too particular, and boastful. I did my utmost to convince him that educating women is power, and it is the latter that has made developed and powerful countries what they are today. Educating women, I explained to him, is akin to educating a society or even a generation.
No matter how hard I tried to prove him wrong, he never seemed to be convinced. In reality, I did not find his adamant attitude surprising, for I very well know how this Sheikh and his likes think about women and how they lead their unreasonably conservative lives. I was lucky to talk over the issue of educating women with him, particularly that I know many of his female relatives, including his daughters. The Sheikh has four young daughters and one son. His young daughters are now in their teens without having ever been to school. Their father swore an oath that his daughters would not enter a school.
He didn’t send any daughter of his to school. “What is a school for? I am educating my daughters at home. I am teaching them the basics of Arabic so as to recite the Quran and to read about the teachings of our prophet Mohamed (PBUH). Isn’t this much better than sending my daughters to school where they graduate and dress irresponsibly and outlandishly,” the Sheikh told me.
It is true that this Sheikh is quite well-versed in Islamic teachings, but it appears that he misunderstands the point of educating girls and women. Not all Sheikhs deny women education. But, many of them, in underdeveloped Muslim countries in particular, still ignore the importance of women’s education.
From the Sheikh’s perspective, I should not get married to an educated girl for the sole reason that education might spoil my marriage. Now, let us try to analyze the Sheikh’s advice to me and to many others on the verge of marriage. An educated girl, for the Sheikh, must have a serious defect, which is her education. Here, the latter can make a girl independent, whereas the absence of education makes them dependent.
Education makes girls stand on their own, whereas illiteracy makes them over-rely on their husbands. Education makes women argue with their husbands over certain issues, which is their right, whereas illiteracy forces women to blindly obey their husbands even if the latter happen to be wrong. I still remember how my late grandfather’s words in the home were not disputed. No doubt, the Sheikh was hinting at all these so-called advantages to guarantee a successful marriage.
I am writing in response to the Sheikh and his likes mainly because so many people listen to their speeches and get easily convinced by them. Many people, especially the uneducated, hold their Sheikhs in high regard and take their advice and orders for granted. I am talking about a number of remote villages in Morocco where Moroccans do what their Sheikhs preach. As Alexander Pope brilliantly put it, a little learning is a dangerous thing. Here is the case with many Sheikhs who do not think critically, who do not understand the importance of education in Islam, who do not read about the secret of the West in developing themselves, and who do not keep track of and catch up with what is going on in the world, particularly in the education field.
In this respect, to our consternation, we have not moved forward anywhere as our developed counterpart countries did long ago. At a time when we still believe that women must not be educated in order to serve as good wives or that we associate educated graduates with impure women, unworthy of marriage, we are making it harder and harder to develop ourselves in a number of respects. Just think of the role women play in raising children. Educated women usually educate their children in the most appropriate way possible and take care of their schooling even as far away as China. Uneducated women, however, misunderstand the role education plays in guaranteeing a good future for their children.
Whether we are aware of it or not, so many illiterate women think that sending their daughters to school is a waste of time and a threat to their daughters’ dignity. Unaware, Sheikhs with this handicapped attitude are conspiring in making the lives of our women onerous, including those of their children. Educating girls and women, such Sheiks must bear in mind, is empowering our civilization.
Educating women is getting out of the ditch of illiteracy that some of today’s children still fall into. Educating women is the secret to today’s development. So many women are behind the world powers, such as America, England, France, Canada, Russia, and Israel. Is it not high time then we Muslims re-considered educating more and more of our women? Is it not common sense that without empowering women through education, we will remain as we still are: underdeveloped, crude, uncivilized, trivial and good-for-nothing as the West views us.
If the Quran prohibited educating women, it would not insist on seeking knowledge throughout our lives. If our prophet Mohamed (PBUH) had deigned educating women, he would not have stressed the pursuit of knowledge as far away as China. So long as Islam has given women an equal status in society as their male counterparts, why are not women and men in the Muslim world on an equal footing as far as education is concerned. If our prophet had banned educating women, he would not have prayed for more education during his entire life. Is not the first Quranic verse “Read”?, This stubborn Sheikh and his likes must remind themselves of this. By the way, there are many Sheikhs in Morocco that have disallowed their daughters from pursuing their studies at university.
Why are these Sheikhs contradicting their baseless decisions with the teachings of Islam?
Misunderstanding and misconception of the inestimable role women play in a society are behind what we are witnessing nowadays: mass ignorance. Here, the crux of the matter does not necessarily lie in the absence of facts that prove that educating women is a key factor to going forward, to overcoming today’s stumbling blocks, and to walking shoulder to shoulder with developed countries, but rather in the complexes and misconceptions some Muslims Sheikh and Muslims have about and towards women.
Probably, fear of the power that women gain from educating themselves is a motive behind some Muslim men’s hesitancy. Yet, is not power better than retardation, especially that the former makes our lives better than before, while the latter makes us lag behind and therefore lead miserable lives? As Maciver, Robert M. cogently put it, “When you educate a man you educate an individual; when you educate a woman you educate a whole family.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
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