Gender equality and Eid

2012-08-18 12:32

Ramadan is a time of deep spiritual reflection – when Muslims undertake fasting from dawn to dusk in order to attain a heightened sense of God-consciousness.

To mark the end of the month, Muslims celebrate the day of Eid al-Fitr – a day of feasting and festivity, spent with family and friends, beginning with a very special prayer in the early part of the day, traditionally held in a large field or park.

Sadly – in much of the Johannesburg Muslim community – women are barred from this blessed occasion.

Women are led to believe that they are “not allowed” to attend this prayer, as they will cause fitnah (mischief, discord, temptation).

This kind of reasoning, disguised as a dogmatic religious decree, teaches men to view women as sexual beings before they are regarded as moral and spiritual beings, contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an.

While Islam is a religion that promotes the equal spiritual status of men and women, there remains an stubborn culturally patriarchal ideology among many local Muslims which is a stumbling block to attaining this ideal.

I am fortunate to belong to an egalitarian Muslim congregation where I have complete access to the sacred space. So my Eid, for the last six years, has been markedly different from many other Muslim women.

Every year my husband and I, joined now by our twin daughters, make the short drive to the nearby suburb of Brixton (the mosques close to me do not allow women at their gatherings).

This is one of the only congregations in Johannesburg which affords women equal rights of inclusion, participation and respect.

I always delight in seeing so many men, women and children, dressed in their finest attire, come out to thank God for the day of celebrating fitrah (a person’s natural inclination to God).

After a short sermon followed by prayers and the collective incantation of the Muslim litany Allahu Akbar (God is great), everyone stands up and wishes each other “Eid Mubarak” (a blessed Eid).

Families and friends congratulate each other on completing the month of fasting. Children are given special Eid gifts, balloons and sweets.

The atmosphere is spiritually charged and festive.

Last year, as I greeted my husband, and we exchanged prayers for each other, I remember thinking to myself that we had both fasted, we had both stood for the long nightly prayers, we had both increased the remembrance of our Lord and we had both read the Quran.

So we both deserved to come out on the Eid morning and thank God for the day, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers, men and women did, a century and a half ago.

I believe this right belongs to every person who observes Ramadan, not just the men.

The women in most cases, deserve it more, for not only did they fulfil fasting, which is one of the pillars of Islam, they also prepared dawn and dusk meals for their families and communities.

I look forward to Eid al-fitr when I can join my community in supplicating together, and I pray for a Muslim society where men and women can worship together in an environment of mutual respect, as the Qur’an says: “The believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin right and forbid wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (9:71)

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.