21 October 2016

Nigeria: Does Your Wife Belong to the Kitchen?

Photo: Daily Trust
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari and First Lady Aisha Buhari

There is a lot of excitement over the dramatic outburst of Aisha Buhari followed by chauvinistic reply of the President, all providing comic relief to the battered nation. The most interesting part of it was the kitchen and inner room position of the first lady, sorry, the wife of Mr President.

While some consider it as being too harsh and relegation of the status of women, others say it is a fact especially from the standpoint of comparative experience of both the President and his wife in governance and taking care of the home. Yet, other see it as a comic relief, a joke to whittle down the gravity of the issues raised by Aisha in the BBC interview.

However, from the standpoint of Islam, the president may not be wrong afterall, just as the religion recognises the rights of woman to work and own money, real estate, or other properties. Whether married or single, she has a right to seek employment, go into politics, she retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Islamic Law that a woman is less important or less dignify simply because she is a female. No!

The extent of her crucial position at home is that since the husband has the responsibility to fend for the family, the wife, has the duty to look after the home, supervises what goes on at home. Her primary role of good upbringing of her children and in being a dutiful wife is placed above every other roles. She is encouraged to carry out all the duties she takes up with devotion and enthusiasm. Islam regards her role in society as a mother, a wife and as the most sacred and essential one for building a society. Neither maids nor house-helps can possibly take the mother's place as the educator of an upright, complex free, and carefully-reared children. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as "lowering the estimation of women" in the society".

Again, it should be noted that the role of the Muslim woman is clearly defined and outlined in Islam. The duties of a wife toward her husband, according to Islamic law, are well defined. They do not include doing any cleaning, ironing, cooking or any other household work. But it should be noted that she is the second in command of the house in terms of working together to consolidate the matrimony and move the family forward. Marriage is a contractual relationship which allows a man and woman to fulfill their desire in a legitimate way.

So, in essence, Allah (S.W.T) has made men and women different and in terms of roles.

"Men are the protectors and maintainers (qawwamun) of women, because Allah has given men more strength than the women, and because they support them from their means. . ." (Qur'an 4:34)

The Prophet (s.a.w)'s wife, Khadijah (r.a) was a successful businesswoman. His wife Aisha (r.a) was widely renowned as an authority of hadith who memorised and related a large number of hadith.

Muslim women are not only allowed to receive education and work but should be given the opportunities to excel in their areas of expertise, without also losing focus of their primary responsibility of the home front.

Women limitations as leaders

Limitations such as being ineligible for leadership or lead prayers in Islamic circle do not in anyway lower the estimation and dignity of women in general. It is however, related to the differences in the biological and psychological nature of women. Some non-Muslims may disagree with this but that is the standard in Islam. Consider a medical fact that during the monthly menstrual periods, pregnancy periods, the pre-natal, ante-natal and post-natal periods, of women, the physiological and psychological changes that occur in women may not make them effective in the position of leadership during that period. Of what essence is terminal and ineffective leadership? Islam is a very practical and pragmatic religion that offers answers to every question.

The inconvenience truth is that they may not be there when there is need for them during these periods. All the same, it is not about backwardness as some may say, much as we know that the Great Britain is being led by a woman, who may possibly find a mate in Hilary Clinton of the United States, but the development cannot erode the fact that women are different in nature. If in our clime we agree to cope with the gap as a result of women abandoning their home responsibilities and struggle to carry out the responsibilities of men in the society is a different matter. From this perspective therefore, the President may not be wrong. Just as the President conceded that his wife has more experience in managing the home than he has, his wife cannot contest to be more experience in governance than her husband.

For every Muslim, husband, compassion and dignity of the status of women is a rule.

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