Samuel Zwemer's book, Our Moslem sisters: a cry of need from lands of darkness interpreted by those who heard it, is a masterpiece in terms of its content, organization and structure. However, the introduction of this book stands out in the way that it addresses the problems surrounding women in Muslim lands. This paper intends to provide an approximation of a Muslim reply to the characterization of the problems surrounding women in Muslim lands and weigh the solutions that Zwemer recommends to the problems. This paper also aims at taking a stance of whether Qur'anic teachings that are adequate in solving the problems surrounding Muslim women or it is necessary for Christians to play a role in freeing Muslim women from the rising oppression caused by their adherence to the Muslim culture.
First of all it is important to understand that women in the Muslim world comprise of more than half the entire Muslim community. In fact, Samuel Zwemer explains that the whole Muslim population is about 233 million (Zwemer 6). Bearing in mind that women constitute more than half of this number, it means that they comprise a huge proportion. We therefore have every reason to be concerned about the struggles and problems that are surrounding them within their society. One of the major problems that women in Muslim land are experiencing today is that they are confined to the domestic sphere of the society. They are home keepers who should not be involved in the external matters that surround the Muslim community today. Their fate wholly lies in the hands of men. Men are their ambassadors, what they decide is what should be followed without questioning. Samuel Zwemer points out that the idea of confining women in this domestic sphere within the Islamic religion arose from one of the founders of the Islamic religion named Mohammed. Mohammed claimed that he had a divine revelation that barred women from every appearing uncovered in front of members of their opposite sex. This idea was noble, in its initial stage, in that Mohammed aimed at promoting chastity within the Muslim culture. However, the inclusion of this verse in the holy Qur'an led to the problem surrounding Muslim women today. This is because this verse was open to more interpretation within the Muslim culture eventually resulting in the suppression of women freedom within the Muslim society. This verse was used to create a notion within the society that women do not have a place in the Muslim world. They should rest in the shadows of men. This is literally unfair. This has led women to always remain stagnant in terms of development and making other forms of social progress. This notion about woman in the Muslim world denies them the opportunity to move from the social cocoon created for them by the society. They cannot engage in entrepreneurial endeavours that can increase their independence on mean. Some of things that Muslim women are not allowed to access include education and career opportunities. Without education, Muslim women are not empowered. Without education, they cannot understand their rights. In addition, when men are allowed to access things like education while Muslim women are not there is creation of gap between the two segments of the society. This accounts for reason as to why most political, social, and economic spheres within the Muslim world are controlled by men.
The second problem surrounding Muslim women is physical abuse. Zwemer points out the Muslim woman have been treated objectively more that subjectively. Most of the men see women as being property that should be controlled in any manner that pleases them. Zwemer explains that this is the reason as to why women have been treated as sex toys by men. Most Muslim women do not have respect for their wives. They just use their women as objects to satisfy their sexual pleasures. This is a clear indication that men within marriages do not take their wives for companionship. They take them as being their own servants or slaves. They want their wives to do all that they say. Men are there to be answers and pleased while women are there to suffer. Zwemer also explains that man is there to command and women are there to follow commands (Zwemer 7). In addition, the notion of man being a commander within the family structure accounts for the increased incidences of domestic violence within the Muslim society. Most Muslim men see their wives as not been qualified enough to hold negotiations with them. In their view, women should follow blindly what they are told to do. Failure to follow the orders of men leads to moral evils like wife beating and other physical attacks on women. This shows the deep seated male chauvinism surrounding the Muslim world today.
This leads us to weighing the solutions that are recommended Zwemer proposes the idea that holding conferences to address the problems surrounding Muslim women is Muslim lands is a good idea. I agree with his argument in that the conferences are aimed at bringing in other women in other parts of the world who have already taste the sweetness of women freedom. These women can help mobilize Muslim women in trying to fight for their rights. Zwemer's idea rests on using Christian women in doing so. However, it is important to also women from other religions in these conferences. This will help promote unity of women all over the globe in their efforts to free the Muslim women from the atrocities surrounding their societies. In addition, when woman participate in women affairs, they are the best people to do so in that they understand the feminine sphere better. It also gives Muslim women the hope that social freedom and economic independence is achievable in that women in other parts of the world have already achieved it.
The other solution that Zwemer proposes is the idea of using Christian missionaries to help spread the gospel of love and equality within society. This idea is great but it is important to bear in mind that it might create animosity between the Muslim and Christian religions. Muslims would not be very welcoming to Christian ideas in that they have used Islamic ideals for a long time. It is difficult to convert people to Christianity. In fact, people who convert to Christianity might be regarded as being traitors to the Muslim religion which might cause them to be treated in a harsher manner. Therefore, if the use of Christian missionaries is going to be used as a way to solve the problems surrounding women in the Muslim world it has to be done in a skilful and cautious way in that it might add salt to injury
This brings as to the point of weighing Zwemer’s recommendations. It is important to either to recondition the antiquated view of (imperialist) Christianity afforded by Zwemer, or to suggest that Qur'anic teaching is altogether adequate on its own to repair any faults that may arise in Muslim culture, i.e., that Christian missionaries are simply not needed. In my case, I do not support Zwemer’s idea that Christian missionaries should be involved in matters surrounding Muslim women. I believe that we should only rely on the teachings of the Quran to realize women freedom in Muslim lands. There are three important reasons as to why I take this stand; First of all, it is important to understand that teachings of the Koran are divine and written under a framework that had the aim of promoting peace and love for every human being on earth. In fact, the holy Quran clearly states that” “you shall not do evil in the land” (Dawood 11). This is a clear indication that the teachings of the Holy Quran are teachings of peace. Using Christian missionaries in Muslim lands will not help. All what is needed is that Muslim people in the Muslim world should follow the teachings of the Quran to the letter. They should not interpret the Quran for their own selfish gains. Secondly, Christian missionaries should not be used in resolving the problems facing women in Muslim lands in that they are likely to create tensions in Muslim lands. They will be creating disunity within the Muslim community by introducing Christian ideals. It is important to note that the Islamic religion is a uniting religion that causes everyone to see each other us their own brothers and sisters. When women are lured into joining Christianity their community bonds will be lost which will eventually cause Islamic communities not be united. The third reason as to why Christian missionaries should not be used in solving matters surrounding Muslim women is the fact that there is a likelihood of bias. Christian missionaries might have the assumption the Islam as a religion causes men to disrespect women. However, this is not the case. Therefore the Muslim world should be allowed to solve their own problems in that there are the people who understand themselves better compared to the scattered and scanty ideas that external actors would have regarding the community of Islam.
In conclusion, Samuel Zwemer in his book Our Moslem sisters: a cry of need from lands of darkness interpreted by those who heard it, talks about the problems that surround women in Muslim land today. These problems include male chauvinism and being denied opportunities like education which are only available to men. Samuel Zwemer recommends two important solutions which include using women conferences so that the world can sit down and decide the way forward for our Muslim sisters. Another solution is the use of Christian Missionaries. These solutions are worthwhile because teachings of the Quran have proven futile in solving the problems surrounding the female strata of the Muslim culture.
Dawood, N J. The Koran. New York: Penguin Classics, 1956. Print.
Zwemer, Samuel Marinus. Our Moslem sisters: a cry of need from lands of darkness
interpreted by those who heard it. New York: F.H. Revell Company, 1907.