Friday, January 11, 2008

Role Differentiation

Role Differentiation

One of the other practices aimed at strengthening the home and minimising promiscuity is that of the seclusion of women. The verses of the Quran on which those who practise it base their custom say:

"O wives of the Prophet you are not like any other women. If you would keep your duty, be not soft in speech, lest he whose heart contains malice may thereby be encouraged. Employ suitable speech. Stay in your houses and do not dress to display your finery in the way they dressed during the time of primitive ignorance; and keep up prayer, and give welfare due and obey Allah and His Messenger; for Allah desires only to remove from you abomination (Of vanity since you are) the household (of the Prophet) and to purify you by a perfect purification" (The Qur'an 33:32-33).

Literally these verses are addressed only to the wives of the Prophet and some authorities maintain that it applies only to them. Other theologians and legists however interpret it by implication to apply to all Muslim women, and this opinion is widely accepted in a number of Muslim countries where women generally stay at home, coming out only for some over-riding reason.

Some of the people who agree with this may nevertheless take into account the other verses of the Qur'an exhorting women to cover themselves when they go out, and urging both men and women to lower their gaze and behave modestly in the presence of the opposite sex--implying that women could go out on their legitimate business. They may also consider the necessity of some Muslim women going out to study and practice certain occupations, such as medicine, nursing and teaching at all levels, which for Muslim women and girls ought to be done by fellow women.

One may therefore note that the two opinions exist, and that in practice one may see various degrees of seclusion or otherwise in different parts of the Muslim world.

In most parts of the world social functions among Muslims are either family affairs or celebrations by men and women in separate groups. To a Westerner accustomed to mixed parties with dancing and drinking this may sound an unexciting social life. However, the family circle in the Muslim world is generally a wide one, and the feeling of brotherhood is so strong and the hospitality of Muslims so warm and welcoming that alcohol and the presence of the opposite sex are found to be unnecessary ingredients of the enjoyment.

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