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Women’s socio-political role in an Islamic government

Enlightening Women’s Social and Political Participation

Within a real social environment, women’s socio-political contributions and participation may be utilized in such a way that shows collective activities based on a free, voluntarily conscious and active will of society’s individuals, to run social affairs and escalate their organized acts directly or indirectly to shape the social and political life of the society.

To clarify this important topic we must mention that the purpose of political participation lies within the will of an individual to act individually or collectively to gain the power of ruling through legislative or administrative power to gain a high-ranking governmental post and strive to organize policies either within or outside the government body. He also strives to participate in legislative mechanisms or decision-making to gain the ability of observing political power or criticizing the governmental body as well and taking part in shaping political groups and parties.

As far as the holy Sharia’h has not neglected women’s roles in the society and never considered the finer sex as a neutral part of the community and the Holy Qur’an along with Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) Sunna recommends equality of the two genders towards the society's changes and events, women have the right to study their society and Ummah and observe the acts of politicians and decision-makers as relates to the needs of the society. Taking into regard such a principle, women are free to express their views, announce their acceptance or refusal and to criticize the acts of the government if it fails to solve society’s problems and to accept the responsibilities due to the order of the Almighty God which places this task on the shoulders of men and women equally, when He says:

“And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Apostle; (as for) these, Allah will show mercy to them, surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.”  (9:71)

The Dimensions of Women’s Socio-Political Participation

a)  Participating in the country’s destiny (Policy and Rule):

When the late Imam Khomeini (RA) was living in Paris (France) a reporter addressed him with this question: “To what extent are women allowed to take part in shaping the Islamic government according to the Islamic Sharia’h (rule)?”

In responding to the reporter, he said: “In Islam, women have a great and sensitive role in organizing the Islamic society because this religion has promoted women to extend them to gain their humanitarian positions in the world and to rid themselves of the stereotype of being mere material objects.”

Obviously, getting involved in the country's destiny and ruling the administrative trends, shows us that governing isn’t considered an absolute sovereignty that emerges due to a kind of ruling which is derived from Divine Principles or the teachings of Allah's Apostle and Imam’s regulations. But it is a kind of ruling that is shaped within the law framework and governmental establishments and organizations that grant the ruler a power to serve the masses not due to his or her own wishes and wants but according the Consultative Institutions of which the Queen Sheba’s tale in the Qur’an is considered to be a clear example. “The Queen’s policy of justice and fairness, consultation in running her kingdom together with people’s trust instead of following a hostile policy was visible in her acceptance of Solomon's invitation. She had the choice of being proud but instead decided to accept the reality of the situation."

The above-mentioned story shows women’s natural power for ruling and managing in an overall view. A comparison between Queen Sheba’s treatment and that of the King of Egypt towards two famous Apostles in their invitations to the principles of the Almighty God, shows their wisdom and justice together with fairness.

Basically, human beings and truth are considered by Islam to be the main two very important issues I don’t know why some of us try to separate the sexes and regarding them as two separate genders? Actually human beings are considered to be a unique essence that emerges from two different sources and there isn’t even a slight difference between the outcomes of this unique essence as the Holy Qur’an says:

            “O people! be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created you from a single being.” (4:1)

Among all political aspects that may be observed within Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) era regarding his own being, his prophecy, his mission and the way of encountering and treating challenges, disputes and the defensive wars that Muslims experienced to protect their own ideology and entity, women were not neglected and restricted to the acceptance of the new ideology but they played a great positive role in this field.

“They bore tortures to protect the new faith and belief and emigrated to gain a similar aim and helped the fighters and if there was a necessity, this part of the society shared in the war as combatants.”

Women therefore have the right to participate in the various political activities. There is an argument among the Islamic legislators that women’s right to participate in social activities prevents them from acting righteously and prevents the finer sex from performing their responsibilities as relates to family relations and the training children.             There are others among these legislators who believe in banning women from electing their candidates for the municipality elections and from being elected as ministers or members of the parliament. Some believe that women have the right to elect but not be elected; others say that they could be elected as parliamentary members but do not have the right to take responsibility as ministers or managers. There are legislators who believe that women can participate in  all kinds of managerial activities but the present legislative body as well as the past one with slight exception, believe in banning women from being  president based upon the sharia’h’s laws and regulations. To provide evidence for their opinion they quote the following Qur’anic verses:

Men are maintainers of women because Allah made some of them to excel others and because they spend their property…” (4:34)

Concerning the interpretation of the above Verse, we do encounter the word “maintainers” which equals the Arabic word “Ghawam” which has different meanings. Some linguists believe that the above-mentioned word is derived from the word “Ghawama” which means superior, and if we accept this meaning, it will contradict Verse 13 of Surah Hujurat, that believes “superiority is based on virtue”:

             “O you men! surely We have created you of a male and a female and made you tribes and families that you may know each other, surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most carefully (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” ( 49:13)

Other meanings of this word are: protect, guide, support, etc. We have to note that when we discuss jurisprudence we mean that this kind of discussion doesn’t apply to women alone, but it relates to the both sexes. Based on such an argument we may conclude that the above-mentioned verse, doesn’t apply to governing family affairs which relates to a different matter. Finally, it is stated that “The superiority of men in finalizing their role in the family, relates to their capacities that never grants them a higher position in all fields.”

            “… and they have the rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them, and Allah is Mighty, Wise.”  (2:228)

The above Qur’anic Verse, doesn’t mean that men are superior to women concerning governing and the Verse which apparently dismisses women’s governance cannot be understood to have a general meaning. The Arabic word “Darajah” shows men’s superiority in specified fields and cannot be generalized to all areas. And as far as the discussion relates to the bilateral rights of men and women, most legislators believe that the Verse deals with family affairs only.

            “And stay in your houses and don’t display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore.” (34:33)

The above Verse deals with the spouses of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and orders them to avoid displaying the ignorance of that era and doesn’t deal with the issue of ruling and governing.

The most famous narration is the one that deals with a saying referred to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he was told about Kasra’s daughter’s ruling of the Sasanian Dynasty shows: “A nation that puts its destiny to the hands of a woman never experience salvation.” This narration has been quoted within the sayings of seven narrators but Shi’as believe that it does not have enough power to form a basis. We have to notice that experiencing absolute sovereignty isn’t fair either for men or for women. If we regard the first type of governance which is based on consultations, ruler gains power through a consultative committee and allow people to have their own observations upon the governmental body through their own elected parliamentary representatives and other civil society instruments.

 I hereby prefer to refer to one of the late Imam Khomeini’s (RA) sayings that enlightens women’s political participation and regards it as a duty for them, that: “Women have the right to intervene in political issues as this will show their responsibilities.”

And on a different occasion he [Imam Khomeini (RA)] noted that women must participate in social activities along with men within the framework of the Islamic laws (Shari’a). Therefore, the border is ‘Right’ and the duty is ‘Choice’.

However, the Founder of the Islamic Revolution believes that women’s participation in elections and other social activities is a duty as he denotes: “All men and women and those who are experiencing the right of voting are sharing in the election.”

Similar to men, women must take part in elections, because there is no difference between the two sexes in drawing the destiny and fate of the nation and the State of Iran. This means that: “the services provided by the faith of Islam to women are greater than that of men."

Involvement in the Society’s Guidance

Due to Imam Khomeini’s (RA) view, righteousness and corruption of the society is subject to the righteousness and corruption of the finer sex10, because the key to the society’s development and esteem is based on the status of women and is in their hands. Women are considered to be the leaders of the society and every community  because they play the main role in training the makers of the society.

The Late Imam Khomeini (RA) draws a beautiful picture of the Fatima Zahra (SA) and her role in guiding the society by the following words:

“A woman who guides the universe from her tiny home and trains human beings such that their shining lights and luster shine forth from the earth to beyond the spheres to the heaven.”

According to Imam’s point of view, the responsibility of society’s training is within the hands of women either in the field of culture or in social changes. It is obvious that this trend goes back to the women’s abilities and confidence together with knowledge and wisdom.

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