Bint Ahmed Sulaymaan

Chivalry is dead. And so is femininity. They died when the exploitation of women and feminism were born. Their murder was prolonged and painful, like that of cutting steak with a butter knife. We’re living in a world of too many pseudo men (feminists and the like), men in touch with their feminine side, metrosexual men and very few real men.

I went to pick up an abayah for a friend not long ago. While I waited to be served I watched as a young lady stepped out the fitting room. Her father stood waiting for her. She looked radiant. Facing the mirror, she removed her headscarf, loosened her hair and began to style it in various ways. Her father – and the three or four male tailors watched.

Here she goes again. Being Judgemental . Harsh. Her self-righteous pen spitting ink to paper.  But this isn’t about the woman or her modesty (Hijab) and shame (Hayaa). This is about the men’s, her father who stood by and unconsciously just watched while his jewel unwittingly “paraded” herself. And the men who carelessly found their eyelids unburdened by work fatigue or the weight of their own shame.

Reality is harsh and the truth hurts. It’s easily gulped when we utter it for selfish gain. It’s applauded when spoken by a man in front of an audience paid to tell the amusing, horrible truth. The truth is, while women have “gained” from feminism, men have profited and the world sadly has lost.

We’ve “gained” a female workforce, lost male leaders, “gained” a female identity at the expense of modesty and lost male providers and caretakers, we’ve “gained equality”  by abandoning the roles given to us as men and women. While women yearn to be men, men have sat back happily relinquishing their true roles as men. We write about the faults and flaws of women but rarely, if ever, do we speak about men.

Men are meant to be the protectors of their children, even more so of their daughters’ – and their wives’ – modesty and chastity. But the rise of girl power has planted the seed that a man speaking out against immodest dress and habits are oppressive. Men have silently allowed this plant to entrench its roots in the 21st Century and grow into an ugly tree. Men forget they will be questioned about this “failure”. But this is being harsh. Perhaps I should calm down and not care.

There are brothers who take this responsibility very seriously. In a show of sincerity or machismo they express how they will break the men who make attempts on their sisters. But they could not be bothered about ogling and playing the sisters who shamelessly flaunt themselves on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Whatsapp etc.

While these girls may have forgotten themselves or their brothers and fathers may neglect their rights over them, men are brothers to every Muslim sister and even every non-Muslim woman. That’s the level of shame, respect and Islamic chivalry (Futuwwa) a man should strive for.  Men are not just protectors of the women in their circle but women of the Ummah.

Remember the khalifah Mu’tassim who sent an entire army to the Roman Empire upon hearing that a Muslim woman had been dishonoured by a Roman soldier. But our Muslim leaders devoid of consciences hand our sisters over to disbelieving men to be dishonoured, tortured and oppressed. In social circles our men will not stoop to take advantage of  vulnerable women, entangling them in secret second marriages or worse, stringing them along as puppets.

Oppression of women extends to the women entrusted – not sold – to their husbands.  This is not to say men only are responsible for problematic marriages but what about the cruelty men wield over women by entrapping them in marriages they are oppressed in. While this issue isn’t black and white, the control of Talaq lies with a man and is not meant to be abused.

Single mothers also bear the brunt of the lack of extended support. Brothers will employ women for next to nothing and still find fault when mothers need to be mothers within their time. Neither do community leaders make provision for a system similar to the Baitul Maal for these women and many other needy Muslims, as existed in the time of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Furthermore men are loath to a practice that was perfectly normal and acceptable for our leader, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) – marrying older or previously married women. Women are of the opinion that if they are not married by twenty-five then they are not just at the back of the ridiculous, proverbial and demeaning shelf, but off it. Delaying marriage is a no-no but destiny is not in our hands.

It is not uncommon for men who are remarrying or who have put off marriage until they are older to marry someone half their age and overlook a generation of women who are intellectually and psychologically more compatible with them. Not only have women become slaves to the popular western culture of commercialism and superficiality, so have men. Their decisions are driven by this rather than the aspects of a woman that actually matter.

The exploitation of women by placing them in the workforce as cheap labour and feminism has created so called stronger women and made men weaker. While women unnecessarily  juggle the roles of wife, mother and provider to the detriment of themselves, their homes and children, men happily watch them do it. They have no qualms with their wives or daughters driving from A to B for their needs just to escape the “burden” of having to see to those needs.

Men and women have distinct roles and have both been blessed with rights by Allah SWT accordingly. But westernisation has diluted this such that too few men are taking seriously the role of being the leaders, guardians, protectors and educators of Islam as per their roles and too many are falling into the traps of this world.

Men, just as women, are the slaves of Allah SWT and we will all return to Him to account for our actions as husband, wife, mother, father, daughter, son, Muslim. But Allah SWT did not just throw us into this world and expect us to swim without a lifeline. We are blessed to have His Deen, and Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his Sahabah (Radiallahu anhum) as guiding stars. Men are meant to shine alongside the jewels of the Ummah, not stamp on them, flaunt them, or bury them.