Women in Islamic countries held a power whereby they could have changed the traditions, old systems, social relationships, ethics, spiritual values and, most important of ail, consumption (in‑ the same way that they held a power to preserve them). Why? Because of the sensitive spirit which they have, in particular in the East. They tend to accept the luxuries of civilized life and new products more quickly and more easily. This is especially true when they are confronted by bright, new, eye‑catching things of beauty especially when opposed to these, they find nothing but ugliness.
During the time of the exploitation of Africa, European imposters would move among the black tribes offering glass beads and fake jewelry, which is usually even brighter than the natural stone,. and in all of the ceremonies, the better‑off among the tribes, the kings, the large farmers and the feudal lords could all be pointed out. This was particularly true of the local ceremonies and weddings because their actions were based one hundred percent upon psychological laws. Those who like the fake things the most, were the most primitive.
We see that today, those who worship luxiourous ornaments are the Arab Sheikhs, the heads of the Black Africans, the Movie Stars and the newly wealthy people. So a few of these fake lights and glass beads were given to the heads of African tribes and in return they received a herd of sheep or a great pasture land or the rights to mine diamonds or permission to plant coffee. It is obvious from this how important the role of the newly modernized African woman is.
It is also apparent how sheltered, Eastern women suffer from social rules presented to them in the name of religion and tradition like the present day Islam. They are presently denied learning, literacy, many of the human rights, social possibilities and freedom to develop. They are not able to explore and. nourish the spirit and their thoughts. Even the rights and possibilities which Islam itself has given to women, have been taken away from them in the name of Islam. They have placed her in the same category as a washing machine. Her human values have been lowered to `mother of the child'. She no longer even has a name but is called by the name of her child even if her child happens to be a boy. She is called Hasan's mother. This is exactly like paralyze her and then saying that because she is paralyzed, she is rived of everything. The sorrow lies here.
Oppressors and the Oppressed
Hazrat Ali said two parties are required in order to bring about oppression. One is the oppressor and the other is the one who accepts the oppression. It is the co‑operation of these two which brings about oppression. Oppression cannot be one‑sided. An oppressor cannot perform oppression in the air. Oppression is like a piece of iron which is formed by the striking of the hammer of the oppressor upon the anvil of the oppressed.
Not only is oppression a result of corruption, deviation and misery, but it requires two sides working together to come, into being. In the defeat of a society, it is not just the victor who breaks it; society must also be broken. For instance, in the 7th century A.H., it was not Chengis Khan who defeated us. It was we ourselves who were corrupted from within. From the 5th to the 6th century, we were preparing ourselves to be defeated. It was because of this that Chengis defeated us. He only kicked the corrupted states once and we fell down and were defeated. The termites who had built their homes inside our tree and had begun eating away the body from the inside, left it empty, dry and without roots. These termites caused the tree to fall to the earth and not the strong wind which blew upon the tree. Strong winds always blow in the forest. Why is it that just this tree or that one falls down?
The creation of superstitions and the spreading of ignorant backward beliefs of family traditions, the inherited faulty systems of order along with servitude, the tradition of `father power' in the community, the lack of psychology, all weave themselves together like a spider's web. And it is this very web which impoverishes the woman within itself. She becomes known as `someone who is behind the curtain'. All of this occurs in the name‑ of Islam, in the name of religion, in the name of tradition and worst of all, in the name of `similarity to Fatima'.
It is explained to her in terms of chastity and the necessity to nourish her children. I don't know how a person who is herself incomplete and useless, who is missing a part of her brain and who is excluded from literacy, books, education, discipline, thought, culture, civilization and social manners could possibly be worthy of being the nourisher of tomorrow's generation.
Most probably they mean fattening their bodies when they say nourishing their children. What can this weak creature of the house, born to sit behind a curtain without thought or culture, who has not been educated, do for the development of her child? How can she develop her child's sense of completeness? Can she awaken the depths of the spirit within the person? How can she learn to accept the complicated ideas and feelings of her child?
What can she do other than nurse her child and change her baby's diapers? In disciplining her child she can only swear at it or use lewd language or cry or scream or curse her fate. If none of these have any effect, she strikes the fear of an older brother or the father within the child. If this doesn't work, she calls upon the jinn and the angel of death or threatens the basement or the well.
And if this bad child with a roguish father, should die young, if he should be burned in the fire of brawls, there is nothing this hidden creature can do when news of the death of her child is brought to her. She herself had created additional hidden creatures who are more terrible than the devil. She had called forth the dead, dark monsters.
Yes! These are the ways and means of educating and disciplining a child in a system where the only duty of a woman is to nourish her children. It is perfectly natural to think that if she spent her time making use of her cultural and social abilities, if she were to become part of civilization, she would not be able to perform her special mandate which is to bring up children. If she were to develop and nourish her thoughts and her spirit and become aware of the system she is part of, some would obviously conclude that her mandate would suffer.
Thus we see the fate of women in our traditional, conservative society which has had false undertones of religion added to it. She grows up in her father's home without breathing any free air. She goes to her husband's home (her second lord and master) in accordance with an agreement which is made between a buyer and a seller. She is transferred to her husband's house where the marriage license or ownership papers shows both her role and her price. She becomes a respectable servant. A married man means someone who has a servant who works in his house. She cooks food, nurses babies, watches the children and sees to the cleaning and ordering of the house. She manages the inside of the house.
She is a household laborer and a nurse but because she works without any wages, she has no rights. Because she does the work of a servant in the name of common law, ritual or civil law, and as she could not be a servant, she is called a lady. Because her lord is her husband, she is called wife. As she acted as a nurse to the children, she is also called mother.
At any rate; she is working for herself. She is an expert at her work even though the level of work she does is equivalent to the work of a servant or a nurse. It is no more than this because she has not been trained to do more than this. She is uneducated.
We must point out here that our objection is to the well‑established fathers and wealthy husbands who condemn their daughters or wives and who do so cautiously because they are women. They keep her from an education and from self‑completion in the name of religion and inclination towards faith. There are many women in Islam who reached the level of being authorized theologians, established centers of learning and wrote important texts on science and ethics.
But girls who do not have the economic means to pursue education and who work hard in their father's or husband's house, are most worthy of praise. Such a girl is the woman of the tribe or the farm who helps her husband, who shares in production, either by taking care of the animals or by helping in the fields, who brings in an income as well as doing the household work. She weeds, gathers greens, spades the earth, gathers fruit, grapes and cotton. She gives water to the animals and milks them. She then makes butter, yogurt or cheese for her family's consumption or for selling at the market. She beats cotton and wool; she spins thread, she weaves cloth; she sews clothes. At the same time, she nurses her child, she cooks food, she cleans the house. Often she produces handicrafts within the home as well. She is a wife, a nurse, a mother, a worker, and an artist. She grows as freely as the trees of the gardens. She gives her love with the purity of a turtledove. Like the deer of the plains, she gives loving, motherly birth. She remains faithful in this free house though no force is applied. She gives freely of her love to her family. Yes! She has the freedom to give‑and she has something to give, as well. Her freedom has not been taken from her so that she can no longer move. It is not as if she would want to run away if a force were taken from her. Finally, she pushes her fingers into the earth of the fields to cultivate it. She plays with her child in her home. In the bedroom of her husband, she removes his tiredness. She creates the most beautiful and colorful handicrafts for the bazaar. She is the woman we praise.
The funniest woman, on the other hand, who must be called 'absurd', is the lady of the house. She is a frightening creature. The absurd woman is neither traditional nor European. She is not like the European woman who is a member of a household of two partners where the husband and wife are equal, where both work outside of the home and where both do the household duties inside the house. When the European is a girl, she is free exactly like a boy. She is free to grow amidst everything society has to offer. She is experienced from her encounters. She has seen everything. She has come to know all types. She has seen corruption and the correct way, the right way and the wrong way, the bad way and the good way, treacheries and kindnesses and finally, all of the colors, designs and architectures of life and society. She has seen all the things in her own environment. She has sensed them. She has received an education like any boy. Like a boy she has specialized. She has achieved social independence. She has her own economic income. She makes her own choice of husband or partner in. life.
The absurd woman is the woman who sits at home and is good for nothing. As she can afford it, she has a servant, a cook, a nurse and it is they who actually do the work. She is a woman who stays at home to take care of it but others actually do the work for her. As she is not a village woman, she does not work and co‑operate with her husband in the fields. As she is not literate, she does not read books, nor does she write books. Because she has no artistic talents, she is not productive. Because she has a wet nurse, she does not nurse her children. Because she has a man servant, she does not do the shopping for the house. Because she has nurses, she does not care for her children. Because she has a cook, she does not cook. Because she has an F.F. system, she does not even open the door of her house!
What does this living creature do? Nothing. What role does she play in the world? None! Can it be that a woman does not fit into either an eastern or a western mould, modern or old‑fashioned? Neither a woman of the office nor of the factory? Neither a woman of a school nor of a hospital? Neither a woman of art nor one of science, nor of the pen nor the book? Neither a woman looking after the home nor a woman looking after the children? Not even the most common‑place woman of women's magazines. Yes, she is a Saturday night woman!
Really, what is her work? Who is this person? She is the lady of the house, Daddy's lady of the old days. What is her profession? Consuming and only consuming. How does she pass her time? Her time? As a matter of fact, she is very busy. She is busy night and day. She is a thousand times busier than the village woman: For instance, what does she do? She gossips, she develops jealousies, objections, affectations, ornamentation, rivalries, pride, false friendship; she complains, grumbles, ogles, has a mincing air, full of coquetry and falsity. This lady of the house is always busy. In her type of society, and in her social relationships, she fills her frighteningly empty life.
The public woman's bath was a weekly seminar where all of the chaste women , who had nothing to do, who suffered no pain and‑who were with welfare, went. They gathered together and each one told the biggest and most important event of her weekly life, either honestly or dishonestly, through insufficient explanation. They sold each other on their pride; they told their stories one after the other; their imaginations took flight; their sweet ignorance implemented their lack of intelligence. Surprisingly, all of them were also aware of these groundless pretentions which only compensated for their spiritual complexes.
Each one had such a scenario. Each one listened to the lies and exaggerations of the other ‑one with relish, amazement, deep understanding and faked feelings. Each would believe the other until it was her turn when she became indebted to them for listening to her. Thus the others gave her a free chance and a carte blanche so that she could speak of all of her bruised beliefs, namelessness, lack of excitement, uselessness and ineffectiveness. Her existence, her inner emptiness and hollow life to be was spread out to show off her ability, her current price, her fantasies and her revenges.
Now the public women’s bath has been closed to women of this class. Modern living has prevented these women from such social halls of 40 columns and 40 windows, where one full day a week would be spent. To replace them, they have opened women's clubs under various names. Absurd women leave their homes and enter these cold women's clubs which even lack the steam and water of the previous establishment.
If our women today are crazy and constantly changing color and look like foreign dolls (not foreign women), if we look at the other side of the border, we see the innocent economics of exploitation, whereas on this side of the border, we see ourselves, working hand in hand with them. We caused our women to run away. Then they very simply hunt her out. We call her the weak one', `broken legged', `servant of her husband', `mother of the child', and even `lacking manners' and `goat'.
We separate her from humanity. When assuming she could learn, we thought that if she had a beautiful handwriting, she would write to her lover. (With this type of thinking it would have been better if we had blinded her so she would never see a `forbidden' person). In this way, Mr. Jealous; who feels the weaknesses of his personality, would not have to worry about the disloyalty of his wife. He would be safe to the end of his life.
The virtue and chastity of women is preserved in this way, with a wall and chains, not as a human being who thinks and who nourishes common sense and comes to know things. We present her as a wild animal, incapable of being disciplined. She will never be tamed. The only thing to do is to keep her in a cage. Whenever you leave the cage‑ doors open, she will slip away. Her chastity is like dew. When it sees the sun, it is gone. Women are placed in a prison which neither leads to a school nor a library nor to society. Like an unclean creature, like the untouchables of India, she is not counted as a human being by society. People who are called human beings are men, social animals. Women are kept apart from society.
It was the Prophet Mohammad who said, `Education is necessary for Moslems, both men and women.' But it is always men who have had the right to be educated, and women, other than those wealthy women who are educated with private tutors, are denied education. They cannot take advantage of this important Tradition .
Parties centering on religion or old religious traditions are no longer open to today's young woman. Ceremonies for gaining favour and seasonal lamentation are not interesting to her, nor are the special animal sacrifices, nor the cooking of a special stew on the third day after someone departs on a journey, nor wedding activities prepared without the groom nor hunting parties for a groom.
The young women sense the loneliness and nothing to‑do‑ness of their mother which is covered over by religion and tradition. This, they know, gives their mothers a feeling of positive action. It gives them a sense of responsibility. They are busy with comings and goings, attractions, work, sensitivities, designs and false plans. But to the young women these channels have all been closed.
The opportunities which their mothers had to show their beauty, the latest mode, ornamentations, jewelry and the method of fixing themselves are now gone. Younger women no longer force themselves into the falsity of these sessions and parties. If they go, they take on an unattractive, cool, strange appearance and it is obvious that they are looking for a way out.
The daughter of this woman, who belongs to another generation and another season, lives in an intermediate world having two meanings, The world of the grandmother is for her a complex of stupidity and structured rites full of ugly men and restrictions. They want to keep their gathering, their circle of friends, and lamentation ceremonies like they were in the olden times. While for her, books, translations, novels and art products are important. She has more or less sensed the cultural spirit of the world. She has whiffed the scents of learning, knowledge and progress in school.
The sermons which are given for women at their ceremonies, which were mostly ceremonies of praise or lamentation, are usually given by illiterate lamenters. The exhausting continuation of this is unbearable. She wants to fly away. But to where? There are hundreds of invitations for parties. There are dancing parties, surprises, bars, night clubs and dirty cafeterias which look upon her as a free and easy hunt. They pull her to themselves.
But she wants to retain her human characteristics with faith, ethics and loyalty, but she sees that what her mother, father, uncle and other members of her family, offer her in the name of religion, ethics, character, chastity and strength is a collection of : `No, don't go, don't do that, don't sing, don't see, don't say, don't know, don't write, don't want, don't understand!'
We see that the mother lives in a type of comfortable, empty wasteland. She has no direction, no responsibility, no philosophy of life and no meaning to her existence. She has money and no problems and no reason for living. Day and night she turns her house around but there is nothing to fill her life. Out of boredom, she leaves the house to go shopping and then, under a veil, she tries to compensate for her losses with amusement, exaggeration in jewelry, make up, the multiple changes in decorations that it can bring about and expensive purchases of strange things so that she can induce wonder‑and amazement in others.
But her daughter is not moved by these wonders. She breathes a different air. She is like a doll found in the second grade school books. She is caught between two bearded children who understand nothing. Each one pulls her towards themselves until the doll is torn to shreds. She becomes crushed and steam‑rolled.
Now, her heart is in colorful clouds, romantic thoughts, the attractions of freedom and love, the whisperings of her budding sex, the crises of youth, blossoming, intellectual endeavours and. attractive images of the new world which exist outside her wall. Sometimes she looks through a peep hole or turns to the windows like a thief. She is drowned there but her body is under the influence of the commands of her mother and the advice of her father. She is like a fly caught in the spider's web of no! no! She remains imprisoned. She feels that the only crime she can be convicted of is being a young girl. She is an illegal, dangerous entity who must remain hidden in a corner of the house until an authorized thief comes and takes her as his mate to his haram. And there, the only rambling sight of her existence will be the space between the kitchen and the bed. It is only the man's stomach and that which is under his stomach which can give her existence meaning and her human mandate! The man doesn't even allow her to attend religious meetings or entertain religious feelings. Even religion is separated in this system of thinking.
Speaking, chanting, the lamentation ceremony and table offerings for gaining favour, is the religion of women, whereas centers and sources for schools, libraries, lessons, discussions and lectures constitute the religion of the man.
The Cries of Exploitation
What has prepared the groundwork for exploitation which cries out, `Free youself!'
It is no longer important to know from what. You should be freed. Your breath is cut‑off. You have nothing. Free yourself! Be free of all things.
The one who is burdened under the heaviest of loads and is drifting off, only thinks about awakening, getting free and rising above those things which cause one to drift and which bring about pressure. She does not think, `How should I arise?'
They said, "Women will be freed but not with books or knowledge or the formation of a culture and clear‑sighted vision or raising the standard of living, common sense and the level of feeling and the level of vision of the world but rather with a pair of scissors. Yes. Putting scissors to the chador! " This is how they think that women will all at once become enlightened!
The complexes of Moslem and Eastern women have become the greatest documents of psychologists and sociologists in the service of exploitation and world economics as they describe women in the following way:
`A woman is a creature who shops!'
The description of a society and its barriers which Aristotle gives of humanity when he says, `A human being is a rational animal, is transformed when it relates to women. It becomes, `A human being is an animal who shops.' She knows nothing other than this. She has no feelings and essentially , plays no role. She has no spirituality, no beliefs. She is valueless.
In one of these magazines devoted to Eastern women, it was written that in Tehran from 1956 to 1966, the amount of cosmetics and beauty centers increased 500 times.
500 times is a very great quantity. It is a miracle. It has never happened before in the whole history of humanity. The consumption of economic goods usually increases 8%, 9%, 10%, 20% but not 500%! This is a symbolic consumption. That is, if 10 years ago the consumption of cosmetics in Tehran was 100,000 tomans per year, today it is 50,000,000 tomans.
In a society, a new consumption is followed by other consumptions. For instance, as soon as the traditional coat, the qaba changes, the coat and trousers replaces it. The old type of shoes, giveh are replaced by leather shoes. Traditional styles of hats are replaced by new ones. In homes, carpets change to modern furniture and old houses are replaced by new ones.
Thus, when Europe sends a new product to our society, it paves the way for consumption of further new products. When consumption changes, it is a sign that a person, a consumer, also changes because there is a very sensitive relationship between a consumer and a product.
In order to change consumption, the type must change as well as the taste, tradition and history. Society must be destroyed. This is why the capitalists put a fire in the royal palace for the sake of a handkerchief.
Women in Islamic societies must not only be changed from being consumers of goods exported from Europe and America 'but they must also become active participants within their households. They must learn to relate according to today and tomorrow's generations. They must change the form of society. They must have an effect upon the ethics, values, literature and art. They must have a deep revolutionary effect upon everything. They should be put to work upon this way.
Time, culture, social possibilities, new economics, changes in social relationships, new thoughts, all of these conditions in an Islamic society by and of themselves change the types and traditions. Women become obliged to change internal and external conditions because the past conditions for women today are no longer practical nor sufficient.
Now that things must be changed, now that the new thinkers and the newly awakened ones of our society are inexperienced and unaware, isn't it logical that capitalists should get busy and prepare their moulds so that as soon as a woman puts aside her traditional mould, their mould can be forced upon her? They make her into a form they want and then place her instead of themselves in a position to corrupt society.
What Should We Do?
In the midst of this disruptive thought which has been imposed upon us and will continue to impose itself upon us, what can we do? Who is it that can take up the mandate?
The one who can do something, and, in saving us, play an active role, is not the traditional woman who is asleep in her quiet, tame, ancient mould nor is it the new woman who is a modern doll that has assumed the mould of the enemy and in the process has become full and saturated. Rather, one who can choose the new human characteristics, who can break the fastenings of old traditions which were presented in the name of religion, but in fact, were national and tribal traditions ruling over the spirit, thoughts and behaviour of society, is a person who is not satisfied with old advice. Slogans which are given by doubtful sources do not enthuse her. Behind the prepackaged. slogans of freedom [of the monarchy], she sees ugly, frightening faces which act against the spiritual, which oppose humaness. She sees that they are in contradiction‑to the spiritual, the rational, the human. They are against women and the human reverence of women.
It is these people who know where those things which are forced upon ‑us come from. They know where they get their orders from . What creatures they have sent to the market place! Creatures without sensitivities, without knowledge, without pain, without understanding, without responsibility and even without human feelings. Fresh, clean dolls, 'worthy ones'. It is obvious what their worthiness is in and for what work. Their means of support and its derivation are also obvious. This is thrown at our women and they know why.
It is because of them that 'Who am I? Who should 1 be?' is pertinent, since they neither want to remain as this, nor become that. They cannot surrender themselves to whatever was and is, without their own will and choice playing a role.
They want a model.